On the EU and mobile roaming charges

We've been barraged in recent days with the propaganda about how the European Union has reduced mobile roaming charges for us all. This, obviously (and one minister has expressly stated this) is meant to be taken as evidence of how wonderful it is to be a member of the European Union. Perish the thought that it might be just propaganda to sway the upcoming vote.

Roaming charges across the European Union has been capped, meaning UK consumers can expect to spend much less when using their mobile phones in mainland Europe.

“Roughly a million Brits stay the night in Europe every day, and they spend around £350m a year on roaming charges,” said Ed Vaizey, the minister for the digital economy.

“So by realising these changes, we’re going to save British consumers millions of pounds a year.”

And yet that's not in fact the whole and absolute truth. Here is that truth, an examination of roaming charges by the international body that actually deals with such things, the ITU.

Countries that are not in the EU have managed to reduce or eliminate such charges. Further, countries that make no determination on such matters have companies within them that do eliminate roaming charges and other that do not. That is, consumer choice is increased by not regulating.

For of course, the elimination of roaming charges means that companies are likely to tweak their solely domestic charges to compensate. And those who would gain from the lower prices of solely domestic patterns of use will now not benefit. We would thus regard this regulation of the market as being a cost to consumers, not a benefit.

But the rather more important point is that just because something is coming from the EU does not mean that it is necessary to have the EU to gain that thing. Sr. Barroso has told us that the point and purpose of the EU is to stop Germany invading France. Again. The invasion hasn't happened, this is true, and the EU exists. But we're deeply, deeply, unconvinced that the EU is the reason the invasion hasn't happened.

So it is with much of what is claimed as being benefits of the EU. The argument is not and should not be whether these are nice things to have. It's whether it is necessary to be in the EU to get them.