Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Openly Lying Europe (2)

Being a polite gentleman of an English persuasion I would never dream of accusing Mats Persson from Open Europe of being an insidious, dishonest, and deceitful liar.

However, despite that Persson has been corrected many times over the issue that Norway does have a say -indeed more than the UK - over EU Single Market rules, Persson persists in the Daily Telegraph with his inaccuracies. With this in mind I complained to the Press Complaints Commission. Obviously I'm under no illusions that little will change but a marker has to be put down. I reproduce my complaint below in full:
Dear Sirs

I’m writing to you wishing to draw your attention to an article on the Daily Telegraph website by Mats Persson Director of the think tank Open Europe. He writes about the important issue of the UK’s membership of the European Union - more specifically in this case the possible method of leaving. The website URL in question is below:

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/matspersson/100026967/leaving-the-eu-how-article-50-could-make-the-divorce-very-tricky-for-britain/

My reason for contacting the Press Complaints Commission is that I have deep concerns that much of the article is incorrect and factually wrong. In particular I wish to highlight this paragraph regarding the debate about the UK’s role in the EU:
"If only it was that simple. There’s no good off-the-peg model that the UK can simply adopt should it leave the EU. The Norwegian (“regulation without representation)…"
Persson's dismissal of the Norway option (“regulation without representation”) has been repeated before despite being corrected personally to Persson himself and in the comments (url below)

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/matspersson/100022087/brixit-why-the-norwegian-model-simply-wouldnt-work-for-the-uk/

Mats Persson's argument relies heavily on the false doctrine that Norway has "no influence" in making EU law. However this is simply factually untrue, Norway has more influence than the UK regarding Single Market rules as illustrated below:

A) Many of Single Market laws are made at an international level for example the WTO – Norway gets to represent itself while the UK has only 8% influence with the EU which represents us on our behalf.

B) Norway is also on over 200 EEA (Single Market) committees which influence EU law from the outset –Anne Tvinnereim, former State Secretary for the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development in Norway for example said this: “we do get to influence the position".

C) Norway can then contest that laws don’t apply to their EEA agreement – currently they have over 1,200 in dispute.

D) Ultimately Norway can veto any EU legislation, as they did with the 3rd EU Postal Directive while the UK had no choice but to implement it by the 2011 Postal Services Act.

Another inaccurate assertion by Mats Persson in the same article is:
“Under Article 50 [of the Lisbon Treaty] and in continuity deals, France, the European Parliament and others could consistently block market access for the UK’s exporters of IT, insurance, banking and other services."
The Lisbon Treaty and Article 50 is covered by international law, notably by Article 54 of the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties, for the EU – an international organisation - to block market access would be in fundamental breach of international law. The EU would be obliged to adhere by its international Treaty agreements.

The UK’s membership of the EU is clearly a very important topic of debate and regardless of various views of our membership rigorous but accurate debate in our media is essential. The Press Complaints Commission confirms on its website it considers that accuracy of the press is of upmost importance:
1 Accuracy

i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and - where appropriate - an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance.

iii) The Press, whilst free to be partisan, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.

iv) A publication must report fairly and accurately the outcome of an action for defamation to which it has been a party, unless an agreed settlement states otherwise, or an agreed statement is published.
The issue of the UK’s membership of the EU has clearly taken a more prominent role in UK politics, signified by David Cameron’s promise of a referendum in 2017 (if he were to win the 2015 election) and the current debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg. Thus it’s imperative that the public are accurately informed. In this spirit we note the Press Complaint Commission’s conclusion with an untrue story about EU rules on eggs in 2010:

http://www.pcc.org.uk/case/resolved.html?article=NjU5OQ==

With this in mind I wish to formally complain that Mats Persson’s article breaches the code of conduct of accuracy – it is misleading and is an attempt to severely distract readers of a very popular newspaper from forming a proper and considered opinion.

Yours faithfully

TBF

31 comments:

  1. Mike Spilligan2 April 2014 at 22:11

    Well done, particularly as it's so comprehensive and cannot be misunderstood. I become irritated every time I see the title "Open Europe" because we all know by now that's not that group's intentions at all.

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    1. Yes, and Open Europe's dangerous as well - it is taken seriously and masquerades as a Eurosceptic think tank. It's one of the Anti-EU movement's biggest enemies.

      Delete
    2. boiling frog why dont wou create your own think tank

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  2. I'm thinking there will be a claim that the article is an opinion piece and therefore not subject to the same scrutiny? I'm no expert of course.

    If the complaint is taken seriously and some rebuke is issued, I'll take it as inspiration to start a letter writing campaign!

    Akabilk
    (Posted as anonymous as I need to get an online persona sorted!)

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    1. I'm not an expert either on complaining to the PCC, so this is a tentative toe in the water, if you like, gauging what response I get back. However I'm going by the following on their website which I believe applies to Mats Persson:

      "It is the responsibility of editors and publishers to apply the Code to editorial material in both printed and online versions of publications. They should take care to ensure it is observed rigorously by all editorial staff and external contributors, including non-journalists, in printed and online versions of publications."

      Delete
    2. These sorts of articles usually have the word "Advertisement" written in small-print italics at the head.

      It gives considerable latitude for what's allowable as legitimate hyperbole and commercial 'puff'.

      Maybe it was a printer's error that it was left out?

      Delete
  3. TBF: I have posted the following on Perrsons blog post
    Knoweuro • 12 hours ago
    Norway does not have 'regulation without representation'. At the United Nations where more an more legislation emanates, Norway has an independent Sovereign voice and can make its voice heard whilst the UK is represented as a 1/28th voice by the High Commissioner Baroness Ashton and her staff. The European Union countries could be argued to obey the 'faxes' of the UN.

    Article 50 states1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

    2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

    3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

    4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.

    A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

    5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.

    It seems to me that sub paragraph 3 above is crucial: "The Treaties SHALL CEASE TO APPLY to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

    The UK would not lose access to the single market if it joined EFTA/EEA as a halfway house following triggering Article 50.

    This is just Fear Uncertainty and Doubt from Mats Persson

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice one Anon, most valuable.

      The trouble with Persson is he doesn't do debate - if you pick out problems in Open Europe's arguments he'll simply do a hit and run piece in the Telegraph, ignoring any comments.

      What he can't stop though is everyone else reading them, and if he continues down this Norway "no say" route he's going to increasingly lose all credibility - as all Europhiles do like Clegg.

      Delete
    2. Since even the most basic things about the reform line can't be explained, (how it's to be done and what happens when the others say no) we can take it that it isn't a serious strategy in itself. It's a blind in a wider strategy - that of keeping us in the EU.

      It's a smoke screen, a diversion. What credibility it has depends entirely on repeated assertion. The Norway Fax baloney is a part of the blind and has to be defended by assertion in the same way.

      Delete
  4. I just love pieces in the form of your letter - it puts things nicely together, and can be revised and used when the sons and daughters of deceit present themselves on our doorsteps.

    And - should I muster up the courage, the information can be used at upcoming hustings.

    Thank you TBF

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Anon, I'm pleased the info is of use. Good luck at the hustings meetings if you choose to use it

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  5. Replies
    1. Thanks Sue... :-) Will make public the response if I get one...

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  6. Being a polite gentleman of an English persuasion I would never dream of accusing Mats Persson from Open Europe of being an insidious, dishonest, and deceitful liar.

    Quite right too - confine yourself to calling him something you scraped off the bottom of your shoe, a toffee-nosed, malodorous pervert.

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    1. You might think that, I couldn't possibly comment :-)

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    2. but norway does not want your country in efta

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    3. "but norway does not want your country in efta"

      A link please...

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    4. no you go and find it

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    5. He who asserts must prove. You made the claim. Back it up with evidence.

      Delete
    6. fact norway they do not want you fact iceland they do not want you fact usa want you in the eu ergo your country will stay in the eu brexit flexit will not change this do more home work based on fact

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    7. on balance mr persson has the more correct viewpoint

      Delete
    8. Using the word "fact" does not mean it is so. You have failed to prove proof, links and evidence for your assertions.

      By failing to do so means we can only conclude that you're either a troll or that the "Flexcit" option worries you. It's interesting that you use Anon as a sign in.

      Until you do provide evidence, I will be ignoring any similar comments from an Anon account.

      Delete
    9. Anon

      I'm a tolerant chap when it comes to comments on this blog - criticism, however harsh (as long as it's not racist or gratuitous) is welcome, however I will not allow my hospitality to be abused.

      Please refrain from using capitals - it's shouting and please refrain from repeated posts. Failure to do so and I'll remove the lot.

      TBF

      Delete
  7. Bravo TBF! I look forward to your post with the PCC's response.

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    1. magwitch how much do you know about norwegian politics

      Delete
    2. Thanks Magwitch, I've not had a response yet, apparently it can take an average of 35 days.

      Delete
  8. This piece of yours is garbage, and factually wrong on many levels. Going by your points from here

    "A) Many of Single Market laws are made at an international level for example the WTO – Norway gets to represent itself while the UK has only 8% influence with the EU which represents us on our behalf."

    No. The UK is dually represented in the WTO by itself, and by the EU. They have equal powers. It's listed on the first paragraph here on the WTO website: http://www.wto.org/english/thewto_e/countries_e/united_kingdom_e.htm

    B) Norway is also on over 200 EEA (Single Market) committees which influence EU law from the outset –Anne Tvinnereim, former State Secretary for the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development in Norway for example said this: “we do get to influence the position".

    Yes, they have influence. But the UK is *also* on these committees, and that's nothing compared to *actually voting on legislation which the UK can do, but Norway can't, so this in no way supports your premise that Norway has more influence in making single market rules than the UK does.

    C) Norway can then contest that laws don’t apply to their EEA agreement – currently they have over 1,200 in dispute.

    Well, these then go through a dispute resolution mechanism and ultimately implemented, or accepted as outside the scope of the agreement. In comparison, *the UK can vote on these proposals to reject them, can make agreements with other countries to reject them, and so on*.

    D) Ultimately Norway can veto any EU legislation, as they did with the 3rd EU Postal Directive while the UK had no choice but to implement it by the 2011 Postal Services Act.

    Norway has agreed to implement it, link here: http://www.euractiv.com/innovation-enterprise/norways-government-promises-redu-news-531759

    E)The Lisbon Treaty and Article 50 is covered by international law, notably by Article 54 of the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties, for the EU – an international organisation - to block market access would be in fundamental breach of international law. The EU would be obliged to adhere by its international Treaty agreements.

    This is factually wrong. Mats specifically mentioned trade in services, which only have a framework for operation under the WTO and do not forbid blocking a country from blocking access. If it were denying market access to goods, you would be absolutely right, but it was only services that were mentioned.


    Your argumentation is sloppy, your spelling is bad (seriously, 'openingly' instead of 'openly'?), and you're wrong on all counts.

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    1. "D) Ultimately Norway can veto any EU legislation, as they did with the 3rd EU Postal Directive while the UK had no choice but to implement it by the 2011 Postal Services Act.

      Norway has agreed to implement it, link here: http://www.euractiv.com/innovation-enterprise/norways-government-promises-redu-news-531759"

      And there your argument falls down. “Norway have agreed”. In other words they have domestic choice. We don’t. Thank you. QED

      Delete
  9. I notice you conveniently ignored the rest of my argument. It'd be great if you read the actual quote from the article which states:

    "Norway will also inform the EU that the country will implement the EU's postal directive and make it possible in the future for the EFTA supervisory body ESA to fine Norwegian enterprises which breach the rules on marketing of medicines. This is also part of Norway's EEA agreement."

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    1. "Norway will also inform the EU that the country will implement the EU's postal directive…”

      And how precisely does that negate my point that it is a Norwegian domestic issue? They have the opportunity to inform them “no can do”.

      As per your other points Mats Persson clearly said "regulation without representation" That statement is an absolute, despite calling my piece “garbage” you then concede via your own comments that this is not true – as an example “Yes, they have influence”.

      Norway does have representation and it does influence. The Telegraph article is incorrect.

      Cheers for pointing out the typo though, appreciated.

      Delete
  10. Because if they didn't implement, they could have essentially been sanctioned under clause 102(5) of the EEA. It's not a domestic issue, continued refusal to obey the directive would have meant suspension from the EEA agreement, the only reason that didn't happen was because the EU wanted to keep negotiating to try and find a compromise. They were well within their rights to suspend the EEA with Norway. I would like to direct you to point 9 : http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmfaff/writev/futunion/feu01.htm

    "you then concede via your own comments that this is not true – as an example “Yes, they have influence”."

    Representation in the context Mats was using means the ability to vote. As has been made clear, Norway doesn't have that ability. They have influence - as you mention, they are on many EEA committees - but they do not have representation.

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