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Jacob Rees-Mogg enlightens the House about "flexicurity" and other baffling European jargon

By Matthew Barrett
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ReesMoggParliamentJacob Rees-Mogg, the Member for North East Somerset spoke yesterday at the Annual Growth Survey 2012 debate of the European Standing Committee. His argument was neatly summarised by his conclusion: 

"The Commission’s heart is in the right place and it wants to do good things, but it works on the basis that the state knows best, that nanny knows best, rather than a policy of having free markets and free competition. Not least through the leadership shown by our Government, our great virtue is that we are free from such regulations. We are outside the euro, which saves us from many of them. The document is of fundamentally poor quality."

However, the speech, which touched on subjects as varied as Alfred the Great and Indonesia's foreign exchange controls, had a particular highlight - an amusing look at the "incomprehensibility" of parts of the Annual Growth Survey due to European jargon:

"I want to highlight the incomprehensibility of parts of the document, because it is in a particular form of language. There is a wonderful column in the Financial Times every Monday by a lady called Lucy Kellaway, which exposes corporate jargon and phraseology in a way that makes people laugh. Nothing is better than the European Union in that respect. If I may, I shall offer a few snippets. 

Unemployment is perhaps the most important issue that we have to deal with. It has to do not only with economic growth and the contribution to gross domestic product, but with people’s lives. So what does the European Union say? It calls for “the implementation of balanced flexicurity policies”. As far as I am aware, “flexicurity” is not a word. The document gives absolutely no idea what the word aims to mean, except that it will be a policy. 

There is an even better one, which is slightly longer: “Moving forward”—that is always a bad phrase and can almost always be deleted from any text—“with the agreed recommendations on revising wage-setting mechanisms, in conformity with national social dialogue practices”— I do not think I have ever had a social dialogue practice with anyone, but perhaps it will come one day—“to better reflect productivity developments, and adapting unemployment benefits further, combined with more effective activation and appropriate training and support schemes, to facilitate the return to work.”

What I think it means is cutting pay and making it easier to get into work. Why on earth does it not say that? Why do we have to battle through this persiflage of jargon that is there simply to confuse people? To bring the matter to an end, it is the supply side: there are not simple solutions to the biggest credit explosion that we have had in several generations. To get through credit cycles, we require time and supply-side reforms. The document finally gets to that, when it states that “Reforming employment protection legislation” should be done, which is a deregulation agenda. Every week, however, the European Commission sends us regulations—the European Scrutiny Committee ploughs through 20 or 30 more regulations from Europe each week—even though, to get the economy growing, it recognises the need for the opposite in the form of a deregulatory approach."

The full debate can be read in Hansard.


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