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Posts tagged with: George Osborne

Ideology, the state, legal process and bankers’ bonuses

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 15.27.47So the UK has lodged a legal challenge with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on new EU rules on pay in the banking sector, specifically about bankers’ bonuses (framed as “Osborne to take EU to court” (see FT for example)). The Gov.uk news story about it is here.

There are for me two issues at stake here: the political, and the legal and procedural. Much of the reaction to the news has completely messed up this distinction.

Take these two tweets for example, from Claude Moraes MEP (Labour) and Daniel Hannan MEP (Tory):

Moraes, rather than stating that the Tory government is politically wrong to try to overturn the new bankers’ bonus rules, instead plays a legal cost argument. For someone like Moraes, the Tories should be politically or ideologically wrong to challenge the bonus cap, but it should procedurally be fine for any government to test the legality of EU law.

Hannan tries another tactic. His tweet sounds like a judgment about what MEPs should be for – that they should be looking at Eurocrats’ pay, and not bankers’ pay. But this is essentially a political point, dressed up as procedure. Whether you cap bankers’ bonuses or not is a matter of political ideology, not a question of what MEPs are for.

We would all be better off if those defending the bonus cap did so on principle, and those opposing it also did so on principle. Then we let the legal process run its course to see whether the proposal as it currently stands is legal or not.

What happened at last night’s Ecofin? A lesson for today’s re-publica debate

I’m at re-publica in Berlin, appearing at 1315 on a panel about the European public sphere online. You can follow the panel here (Stage 5).

This morning we started debating these issues with a speech from Euroblogger Ronny Patz, whose ideas are summarized (in German) on Spiegel Online. Ron’s approach is similar to my own, namely that blogs about the EU are rather few and the EU blogosphere helps to slightly enlarge the Brussels bubble, but doesn’t take EU matters to a wider audience. Why, asks Ron, are the EU bloggers sleeping through the Euro-crisis?

News in the mainstream media this morning helps explain it.

I saw tweets like this from Bruno Waterfield, the Daily Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent, last night about a tetchy Ecofin Council where Osborne refused to agree to Basel-III banking reforms at EU level. The problem is: what actually happened?

Take a look at the news stories about the Council from the Daily Telegraph and Spiegel. Can you actually tell from either why the discussions failed and why – substantively – the UK argued the agreement was not tough enough? OK, we know Osborne was angry (seems at least as much to do with missing a dinner in London than anything else? But he has form on being an arrogant sod in Ecofin), but what solution – if any – did he propose? And if the UK opposes weaker rules, what would the consequence be of the UK sticking with tougher rules while the rest do not? We just do not know. We have a partial picture of what happened, and there is very little bloggers can do to fill in the blanks – we don’t have the resources to be there.

This summit was an EU issue covered through partial, national lenses by the mainstream media. Therein is the lack of a European public sphere, even when it’s an EU issue at stake.