The Brief: Innovation fetish has created rubbish jobs

The Brief is's evening newsletter.


Few words have been so ruthlessly fetishised in Brussels as innovation, jobs and growth.

The desperation, especially under the Barroso Commission, to be more like Silicon Valley and less like Europe was palpable and pitiful.

We saw it with the now thoroughly discredited Neelie Kroes, the ex-Digital Commissioner and current  lobbyist, who spat her dummy out when Belgium stood up for its taxi drivers and banned Uber.

The signals being sent by the European Commission then were unambiguous. Digital entrepreneurs should be allowed to act first and get permission later.

The rules don’t apply to these often US companies because, according to the quasi-religious narrative, innovation creates jobs and growth.

Innovation doesn’t necessarily create jobs and growth. It can destroy jobs. It can also create rubbish, precarious jobs.

Take a look at the poor sod on his Deliveroo bike. Does he look like someone with social protection or someone able to form a union? Does he look like a self-employed mini-entrepreneur? Or does he look like a Ken Loach film in the making?

Often the disruptive business model’s innovation is to pay its workers less and offer them fewer expensive rights than the traditional model. They also tend to pay a lot less tax. That’s why the service is cheaper.

There are a lot of nauseatingly-entitled Smartphone junkies who are happy to forget or ignore that fact because they don’t want pay what a service is worth. So swollen is their self-regard that they put their convenience above the welfare of entire families.

Jean-Claude Juncker has said he wants to resurrect the idea of a “Social Europe”.  There is work underway to ensure people are insured against risk whatever their employment status.

That’s not a bad start but there needs to be more firm direction from policymakers on how the app and gig economy treats its staff. If it is left to the market, old jobs will be replaced with crap new jobs and employees will be turned over.

Examples also need to be made. Just because you can get in the Apple Store doesn’t mean you are exempt from paying tax or granting basic rights to your workers.

The Juncker Commission wants to create a Digital Single Market. At some point, it will have to identify the point at which it sacrifices the ideals of “Social Europe” on the altar of innovation.


Donald Trump’s staff asked EU officials over the phone what countries will be next to leave the EU, departing US ambassador  Anthony Gardner said today. Gardner also praised former UK ambassador to the EU Ivan Rogers and said he might meet Nigel Farage.

Farage responded this afternoon, insisting he sent Gardner a “very courteous letter”.The ambassador’s comments are “the last desperate defence of Obama’s pro-EU policy”, Farage said.

The race for the European Parliament presidency has had some twists and turns. EPP candidate Antonio Tajani sent a written question to the European Council in 1996 saying that children of homosexual parents are “certain to have serious psychological problems”. Danish S&D MEP Jeppe Kofod called Tajani’s statement “deeply offensive”.

ECR candidate for the European Parliament presidency Helga Stevens wants to be “your voice in the European Parliament”. She also wants to get sign language recognised as an official EU language.

The mood is bleak ahead of the World Economic Forum next week: a pre-Davos report cautioned that democracy is in (even) “deeper crisis”.

Wolfgang Schäuble has some thoughts about what an EU solution to the Greek bailout could be if the IMF pulls out.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat wants the EU to clone its Turkey deal to curb migration from other countries in Northern Africa.

France needs to cut its corporate tax rate to compete with other EU countries, the Court of Auditors warned in a new report. But on the bright side, France might see a boom of one million new jobs creating renewable energy.

Most Europeans are unhappy with how the EU spends money on agriculture.


MEPs will elect a new European Parliament president on Tuesday. The World Economic Forum starts the same day.

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