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Stop being polite and take a tougher stance on Europe

 Published on: 26th March 2013   |   By: Nik Allen

euro signThe financial fiasco currently taking place in Cyprus raises two important questions.

Firstly, why, five years after the initial world banking crisis, has no banker really been brought to book over this whole mess? Middle class Cypriots are now being asked to pay the price (for some a whopping 40 per cent of their savings) for greedy bankers. At what point will those really responsible for the banking chaos be made to pay for their avarice?

Secondly, is the EU a workable model and should the UK be part of it at all?

What the financial crisis demonstrates is that it is one thing to put a large number of countries under the EU umbrella, but it is another to actually unite them. The economies of Spain, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus are vastly different from the likes of the mighty Germany. Is it a good idea to have one economic policy for such diverse cultures and economies? Five years after this crisis erupted the EU is still struggling to sort itself out.

I am glad will still have the pound and certainly wouldn’t shed a tear if Britain were to leave the EU. Far more people walk into our country than we walk into theirs.

At a time when British taxpayers are being asked to tighten their belts and accept widespread cuts, it seems only right that we toughen up on our European policies too.

As I have said in the past (see January’s blog Behind the Immigration Headlines) I have complete respect for people who come to the UK from other countries and work hard to build a business or a career. I just don’t have any time for people who turn up and expect a hand-out.

PM David Cameron said this week he will toughen up the rules for migrants seeking unemployment benefits. This is a step in the right direction but doesn’t go far enough.

I understand that the issue of a benefit culture is not isolated to any one particular group of people – figures show 17% of working-age UK nationals claim a benefit, compared with 7% of working age non-UK nationals.

However will these percentages change later this year when transitional restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians working in the UK are relaxed?

About 150,000 Romanians and Bulgarians currently reside in the UK. This is likely to increase later in the year when they will be able to claim the same rights for welfare and NHS care as foreign nationals from the other 24 EU nations.

I will leave you with another small example of how we are too generous. Friends of friends recently arrived from New Zealand to live in the UK. The couple are in their (I’m guessing) late 60s/ early 70s and want to enjoy a gap year of sorts in their retirement. They are funding their stay by renting out two properties they own in New Zealand. However they are also eligible to free bus travel in the UK.

It is only a minor thing, I know, but after a lifetime of working and paying tax in the Antipodes I wonder why we are handing them free bus passes.

It seems out of step with the current economic situation. Perhaps it is time for us Brits to stop being so polite and start being a little more assertive.

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