Deputy Editor's Comment: Looking beyond the EU rhetoric

Mairi MacDonald

Is it impossible for anyone in public office to talk about the European Union without expressing or feigning anger for their own side’s short-term political gain? It seems that way this week.

The timing of the ‘surprise’ €2.1bn (£1.7bn) bill to top up EU finances – after the UK underestimated its gross national income for the years 2002 to 2013 – affronted a Prime Minister already beleaguered by his Eurosceptic colleagues and the increasingly powerful voice of UK Independence Party sympathisers among some parts of the electorate.

David Cameron has two obvious choices regarding the bill; cough up or incur a fine and the wrath of the European Commission, while suffering the mirth of his political opponents – with Labour accusing him of being asleep at the wheel and Ukip leader Nigel Farage’s chiding that the retrospective bill is all part and parcel of the European club, along with bans on abnormally bendy bananas and the like.

And as Cameron tried to beat Ukip at its EU-bashing game, there has been a raft
of EU‑related stories affecting the insurance sector this week. One that will raise sceptical eyebrows is the European Court of Justice ruling that all motorised vehicles – including lawnmowers and golf buggies – will need motor insurance following the case of a man being knocked off a ladder by a tractor on a Slovenian farm. And the second part of our State of the Broking Nation survey documents the feelings of brokers towards European influence on UK regulation.

Many of the brokers we spoke to share some of the distrust towards the EU and would prefer to see its powers curbed. Imposing rules on underwriting in the form of the Gender Directive, on distribution via the Insurance Mediation Directive and the open-door policy towards passporting insurers from jurisdictions with lower solvency requirements were among their main gripes.

As for their personal politics, although our respondents were overwhelmingly blue in their voting intentions, parties’ policies towards EU membership has certainly muddied the waters.

However, a notable fact among the EU-related stories to come out this week was that £3bn of premium income in 2013 written in European offices outside the UK and Ireland was overseen by London company market operations, according to statistics published by the International Underwriting Association. IUA CEO David Matcham said the figure “illustrates the vital economic importance of the trading rights afforded by the EU’s financial services passport” to London market companies. That’s something to consider for those who want the UK to withdraw from EU membership altogether. 

Mairi MacDonald, deputy editor

This article was published in the 30 October edition of Post magazine.

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