What has the EU ever done for us? Mostly, a lot of harm.
Consistently favoured corporate interests over public interests
The EU is far more insulated from public pressure than national governments but even more prone to listening to corporate lobbyists. It is not transparent enough about lobbying for us to even know what the real expenditure is, but we know it a lot.
The greatest single case of this is in the supposedly free trade, but really corporate welfare, TTIP treaty which the EU is pushing hard, despite widespread public opposition. Who wants the treaty? Corporate lobbyists. It also binds countries permanently to particular policies, undermining democracy.
Made the financial crisis a lot worse, and that is just the start
The Euro ties many, very diverse economies, into a single interest rate. Without full political union (e.g. the EU cannot directly raise tax, and there are limits on its spending power) means the EU cannot quickly take money away from countries where Euro rates are too low and give it to countries where rates are too high. This weakness is what lead to the crisis in countries like Greece.
Most single currency areas are countries, and that redistribution happens and it largely happens automatically (regions that are doing well pay more tax, regions that are doing badly get more welfare). The EU has a currency union without the political union that is needed to make it work.
The UK was lucky to be outside the Euro, which reduced the damage – but it still suffered some indirect damage. It also faces the prospect of this happening again and again, and on top of that EU policy will increasingly be set by the needs of the Euro area – so the UK can stay out of the Euro and have unsuitable policies, or join and get the full blow of each crisis. A great choice.
Helped crooked politicians and paedophiles keep their past secret
The EU’s right to be forgotten (part of EU law, not human rights under the entirely separate European Convention) has allowed people with unsavoury pasts to remove references to their offences on the web. In the case of the politician this undermines democracy (because information about how a candidate behaved in office is hidden from voters) and in all cases in undermines free speech.
What is even better is that people outside the EU can find this information.
Imposed stupid and harmful regulation
Those in favour of the EU point to tabloid examples of bad regulation that turn out to false. However, the fact is that the EU does create a lot of harmful, and down right stupid, regulation. Two that I have dealt with is the cookie law and VATMOSS.
The only way sites can track whether or not you have agreed is to set a cookie, so anyone who turns cookies off, or only allows selected sites to set cookies, gets bombarded with notices on every page or every EU based site. This is deterrent to protecting your privacy with things like Cookie Whitelist. I have also notices a sharp increase in the sites I use that will not work without cookies since the cookie law was passed.
It has also encouraged tracking without cookies, by using browser fingerprinting, which is much harder to protect against.
VATMOSS is even worse. It is more expensive to comply with, particularly for small businesses that are below the VAT in their home countries, who now have to register for VAT if they make a single sale (of affected products) to another EU country. Some small business have stopped selling digital products to other EU countries, others have closed or faced huge costs. Here is the story of a company that relocated from the UK to Singapore as a result.
In short, the EU’s regulations seem to achieve the opposite of the stated purpose of the EU. It undermines trade, and complete fails to understand small business or technology.
Made books, and a lot of other things, more expensive and less easily available
The EU requires a minimum copyright duration of life + 70 years. This is great news if you are a publisher, or a successful author’s or painter’s grandchild who wants a pension boost. For the rest of us, it makes books and other works, more expensive, and it also means that anything that remains in extended copyright that it is not commercially attractive to publish (e.g. will sell in large numbers) will simply be unavailable, as free ebook distributors will be unable to give away copies.
The EU’s excuse for this was that it would harmonise copyright laws, so we could freely trade copyright works across the EU without worrying about legal differences. The odd thing is that it did not make life + 70 a fixed copyright duration, but a minimum, so countries like the UK and France can have extended copyright on some works, so the law is not actually harmonised.
I will not discuss the ludicrousness of a duration that means works created while Queen Victoria was on the throne remain in copyright in the 21st century (for example, many of Shaw’s works were written then, and remain in copyright until 2020).
The EUs counter arguments are that recent changes (“greening” measures) to the regulation mean that this is either no longer true, or less true, or and harm is now down to how national governments implement things. However all these relate to changes in the last few years, ignoring the damage done over many decades.