Sunday 29 September 2013

Europe Without Britain

Europe Without Britain (Assessing the Impact on the EU of a British Withdrawal) is the title of a paper by Tim Oliver from the German Institute for International & Security affairs. A paper very kindly brought to my attention by Sean O'Hare in the comments of my previous blog piece.

Undoubtedly the irony will not be lost that the Germans appear to have considered the wider implications of the UK leaving more than the UK itself, despite us being by some distance the most Eurosceptic of all EU nations, a feeling promoted often by ill-disguised German-phobia. As yet we still haven't seen an official 'EU-exit' paper by the biggest Eurosceptic party in the UK.

Instead, as Mark B observes on the same blog piece, when it comes to all matters EU "[the UK's] political class have a tendency to talk to the electorate as if we were like children. The "let's give them one last chance", sounds like a mother warning their wayward child before punishment".

Onto the paper itself, regular readers will recognise many of the themes that run through the paper - themes which have been rehearsed many times on numerous Eurosceptic blogs - only in this case it has been fleshed out to 30 pages and largely concentrates on the impact on the EU of a UK exit.

What the paper acknowledges, far more than our own House of Commons research paper, are the problems the EU itself would face were the UK to leave. It's tempting to take an indifferent view to this, but the fact remains that it will still exist on our doorstop, and we would still have to trade and deal with it. Further exacerbating the EU's problems, and consequently the Eurozone, is not in our own self-interest given that circa 40% of our exports depend on it.

Tim Oliver specifically highlights three problems for the EU on UK exit. The first of these is that it will be unprecedented and until now "something of a taboo". As the report notes:
The withdrawals of Greenland in 1985 and Algeria in 1962 had prompted concerns they set precedents for the withdrawal of a member state, but as overseas territories they provided little by way of a guide to how an actual member state might withdraw.
Not only would the EU be concerned with future relations with the UK but far more pressing for itself and its own survival are internal problems and their resolution. The necessity to prop up a fragile Eurozone would be paramount but also, as the report notes, negotiations would need to take place within the EU to amend its own institutions, voting allocations, and quotas. These are issues which are rarely settled easily. Not least the EU budget which would need to be rebalanced, requiring inevitably more contributions from France and Germany undoubtedly to the dissatisfaction of their taxpayers.

There would also need to be decisions on changes to the system of QMV, so as to reflect the disappearance of the UK with its 29 votes. In the ensuing negotiations, all the nation states will be mindful of the numerous scenarios for how this could change the balance of power within the Council. Undoubtedly this would cause conflict and protracted negotiations between smaller states versus large states, northern countries versus southern ones, protectionist versus more liberal and so on. Given the enormity of the consequences and ramifications both economically and politically of the UK leaving and the uncertainty and vagueness of Article 50 one wonders whether it would better for a smaller country to leave first, ahead of the UK, as a kind of dry run.

The UK's 73 seats in the European Parliament would need to be redistributed. The report notes that the process of allocating seats has always been an unclear one, subject as it is to numerous formulas, solutions and political horse-trading. Depending on the date of a UK withdrawal arrangements may need to be put in place for British MEPs to leave the Parliament before the elections due in 2019.

Other institutional changes would mean the loss of an EU Commissioner, the loss of UK judges from the ECJ. Then the question would be whether English would remain the working language of the EU, as a UK exit would leave only Ireland and Malta remaining as the only countries where English is the official language. Given France's track record on that issue this would be in serious doubt - putting the Eurozone at further disadvantage in trading relations with the rest of the world. All of these problems leave us in no doubt that a new EU treaty would be required as changes have to be made to the founding treaties.

The second issue the EU faces is the lost of one of its biggest members. A country that provides an important link to the United States, a country that holds a unique position in the world and one that gives the EU extra credibility, as a member. The EU is bound to lose self-confidence, feel more isolated and probably move further towards protectionism as a result. It would also alter the balance of power within the EU...
A British withdrawal raises a whole host of possibilities about changes to the balance of power and leadership of the EU. A withdrawal could boost the Franco-German axis. This, however, ignores that both Paris and Berlin have often used London to balance the other, something London has often gone along with in the hope of turning the axis into a triangle. Even with other states such as Poland or Italy filling the UK’s place, we cannot overlook how the Franco-German axis has struggled to provide leadership thanks to the widening of the EU. The Franco-German axis and the wider EU have also struggled to adapt to Germany’s increasingly dominant position. The disappearance of a large state such as the UK, one often willing to use its weight to challenge EU thinking, could further embolden Germany’s position and agenda.
The final issue is how the EU deals with the UK after exit....
Despite what British Eurosceptics and Britain’s critics in the rest of the EU might wish, Britain and the EU will remain deeply interconnected. Indeed, the title of this paper itself highlights a common way of thinking that needs to be qualified: a withdrawal could never mean the end of Britain in Europe, only of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. A withdrawal itself may take several years to action, and there exists the possibility of formal relations continuing afterwards in some way
Both the EU and UK would need to come to terms with the ongoing relevance each would have for the other. For the EU, the UK would remain a European power if not an EU-power. A European power that would remain part of the Commonwealth, the UN and NATO. If the UK leaves it sets a precendent, clearing the way for other members to do so thus unravelling quickly the project itself.

The paper is by no means comprehensive, issues such as; free movement of people, civil aviation, overland transport, agriculture, technical barriers to trade, public procurement, scientific research, Schengen, fraud, education, statistics, environment, media, taxation of savings, pensions, Europol and Eurojus are not discussed in detail.

But what it does illustrate is that negotiations of our exit will be just as taxing for the EU as it will for the UK – a point made via a German paper.

Meanwhile in the UK we have to suffer the superficial nonsense of Cameron at a Tory party conference.

Saturday 28 September 2013

One Last Chance?

The tedious metronomic Tory policy on the EU strikes again...
[Cameron] says the European Union deserves “one last chance” to change before voters are given a say over whether Britain should quit in a referendum by 2017, ruling out a vote before the election. While he can “understand” the appeal of Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party, Mr Cameron tells voters who want a referendum: “I am the one person that can give it to you”;
I don't think I need to insult anyone's intelligence by pointing out the copious fallacies in Cameron's assertions. But I guess it's still conference season...

Friday 27 September 2013

Good Riddance

I guess there are constitutional criticisms we could put forward, or make the obvious point this was an MP supposedly representing her constituents but then resigned in a hissy fit, or that Cameron's judgement on having an A-list has proven to be disastrously wrong.

But in truth I can't be bothered. The headline and the article say it all. A reflection of where our political system has gone badly wrong. Not that Ms Mensch cares though.

Thursday 26 September 2013

King's Cross

I guess it's the sentimentality part of me that comes to the fore in this case, but news that the King's Cross station refurbishment has again revealed the original façade of the station, as pictured above, has lifted my spirits somewhat.

Defaced by the ghastly, dreary and unwelcoming 1970's frontage...

...King's Cross appears to have returned back to the 'train temple' most Victorian stations were intended to be. It's worrying, and a lesson from history, to think that both it and the next door Victorian masterpiece St Pancras were at some points earmarked for demolition.

There's architectural progress, and there's architectural vandalism, nothing demonstrates that more than nearby Euston station with an equally communist steel box design of the 1960's...

 which replaced the Euston Arch...

However at least some mistakes of history are being rectified, albeit in a relatively small way.

Shake And Make Up?

According to Adam Boulton from Sky news...

I think we can safely say if the assault had been the other way around, Plod's response would have been different. A point made by Mr Holmes himself:
Asked whether he would press charges against the publisher and LBC presenter, Holmes said "it is up to the police to do their job. You've got to ask what would you do if the roles were reversed and if I did that, I'd be in a police cell."
Update: Iain Dale receives a Police caution which means he must have accepted his guilt.
In order to safeguard the offender's interests, the following conditions must be met before a caution can be administered:
  • there must be evidence of guilt sufficient to give a realistic prospect of conviction;
  • the offender must admit the offence;
  • the offender must understand the significance of a caution and give informed consent to being cautioned.
And he issues an apology

And deletes his "absurd bravado" post. Sorry 'tough boy' it don't work like that on t'internet. And he deletes the post even though writing this as part of his apology:
On the first point [of removing the blogpost], I felt it important people should be able to have their say. I will have to live with the justified criticisms for a long time.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Daley Bust Up

There's usually nothing more undignified than a physical altercation between two chaps who are clearly not used to it, and so it proves with Iain Dale confronting a protester in the video above.

However the "comedy" aspect of the confrontation belies a more serious point that, as Richard North notes, Iain Dale has taken it upon himself to attack a lawful protester in the street  - in essence carry out common assault. An allegation over which Dale is being questioned by Police.

Astonishingly, in a complete lack of self-awareness, he makes light of it on his blog, beginning his piece with the words;
"I knew I shouldn’t have had three weetabix this morning…
This describing a situation where a pensioner is assaulted by 6 ft 5, well built bloke nearly 20 years his junior. A pensioner who was exercising his right of free speech, lawfully, peacefully and harmlessly in a public space over an issue that is not without merit. One wonders if Dale would have been so keen to act if the protester was a chap who was younger, fitter and more able to look after himself? One suspects if he had done so he would have needed more than Weetabix. It certainly shows Dale for the bully that he is.

Dale concludes his piece:
Everyone has an inalienable right to protest, but no one has a right to make a continual nuisance of themselves and interrupt interviews like that.
Well actually yes they are, if they do so in peaceful and lawful manner which was clearly the case here. Interestingly Dale has a different take when it came to Walter Wolfgang at the 2005 Labour conference or more recently Ian Tomlinson, which had far more serious consequences (my emphasis):
I know in these situations one shouldn't prejudge until the IPPC reports its findings, it is difficult to see how anyone could be anything other than revolted by the pictures. It's not what we expect from the British police force. Mr Tomlinson was not involved in the G20 protest. He was trying to go home after working on his newspaper stand. He wasn't abusing the Police, he wasn't doing anything wrong.
It's worth remembering that in 2009 Dale applied to become a Tory Parliamentary candidate (and failed), if this is his reaction to a law-abiding "nuisance" what would he be like when dealing with not always complimentary members of the public when out campaigning knocking on doors?

What is largely being overlooked is that Dale did not respond like this out of "public duty" but instead for commercial reasons - personal profit - protecting an interview by Damien McBride who is plugging his book which happens to be published by Iain Dale's company.

Oh the irony, that a former Labour thug is protected by...a Tory one.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Farage Supports Article 50 To Exit

Albeit reluctantly and not entirely unequivocally it has to be said. Farage mentions first certain arguments of the "sudden exit" advocates, I guess in order to try to appease them, but he certainly acknowledges that Article 50 is "the law of the land". (1st question in):
...the one problem is this, that under the current treaties (under the Lisbon Treaty) the only mechanism by which we can withdrawal is Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. 
Now A50 can be cited to renegotiate a relationship or to lead through to a divorce that takes 2 years. I have difficulty … recognising the legitimacy of A50 because it’s part of a Treaty that should have been put to a referendum that was actually bullied through Parliament…However I have to accept that it is the law of the land.
And I would say this if legally what we have to do is to enter into full divorce proceedings by using the legal article of that treaty we will do so in an open and amicable spirit…
Incidentally what he said is not far removed from the email I received from Tim Aker the contents of which I was not allowed to make public.

hattip: JO on eureferendum forum

Friday 20 September 2013

Carry That Weight

This morning I handed my nomination papers in to stand in a local ward by-election. A little while ago I attended a meeting with like-minded enthusiastic talented UKIP minded people discussing the way forward in future elections. One such topic was a thoughtful discussion on constructive ways of professionalising UKIP's relationship with the local media. Much potential to the party was evident.

Thus with that in mind I now look with so much despair at the above piece - comments by a senior MEP. It leads me to conclude why bother? UKIP candidates, particularly in General Elections, often spend £1000's of their own money they can ill-afford. Now it seems that their hard work is to be undone by a drunken, racist fuckwit who is on the MEP payroll who as a consequence has no such monetary concerns. Months of hard graft by activists undone by an arse in seconds. Now every hustings meeting, every doorstep conversation will inevitably mean having to wearily quantify or try to justify Blooms' comments. The real message of leaving the EU will be lost in the noise.

I don't care about justifications of whether Bloom's comments have been taken out of context nor whether it's just a crap joke - they are simply unacceptable and unfit for a party wishing to take itself seriously for MP's elected to Parliament. This is also conference season, the idea is supposed to be about positive messages, but no, some imbecile has ruined UKIP's conference message and over-shadowed Farage's speech. This is amateur's-ville writ large.

I guess some will try to justify it by suggesting the media is bias, lies and is useless. Well so it is, that's nothing new. And don't we know it. This is a BBC piece at the 2010 election on Polyclinics. Yours truly is quoted at the end. The problem is I wasn't. The first I knew about it was when my dad rung me up to tell that I was on the BBC website, information which was much to my surprise. The BBC never rang me, the quote was made up.

But that's how it is. Essentially we have to deal with media bias - we have to play the cards we're dealt not the ones we wish them to be. The pro EU media love nothing better than an excuse, provided on a plate, to knock the anti-EU message. To bumble about complaining will not get us anywhere.

Yet again UKIP demonstrate that when facing an open goal, instead of trying to score they are determined to move the goalposts themselves, insist on the ball being made of concrete and using clown shoes to try to score, all with the intention of doing precisely the opposite of scoring.

More seriously, I'm not prepared to associate myself with a party that condones Bloom's comments - by either refusing to condemn them or removing him as an MEP. If he remains in his position then it will be with a heavy heart and much regret that I will no longer be able to be an active member. I will resign from my local committee and allow my membership elapse (again).

Thursday 12 September 2013

Island Monkeys

As I discovered when I was seconded out to Germany as part of my job over a decade ago and lived there for 2 years, the above term was used often by Germans to describe those who lived in the UK. Like most simple and blunt characterisations it comes with more than a grain of truth, however much the term may prickle.

This description is no more obvious than when tackling our membership of the European Union. Not only according to some so-called eurosceptics can we arbitrary remove ourselves (6th largest economy) without any kind of consequences for the world economy but that many of our institutions are unwilling - or unable - to admit where our real government lies. Every story in the media, every MP's phrase, has to be planted with a UK flag thus ignoring (wilfully or otherwise) the bigger picture.

Nothing illustrates this more than the complete silence from nearly all newspapers, and the BBC, regarding the news today that the Royal Mail is being privatised as a direct result of EU laws - the arguments of which have been rehearsed on here, and elsewhere, many times to the point of tedium. So instead we see, for example, privatisation discussed in purely domestic terms:


Depressingly the insular nature of the reasons that lie behind privatisation of the Royal Mail is echoed in many of the comments, across all media platforms. Words like; "back to the '80s", "Thatcher", "Same old Tories". Phrases that starkly betray short memories of Labour attempting the same in the run-up to the last election. But no matter it seems, everything must be seen in tribilism of party politics, in the false vertical dividing line of so-called left and right. All the while it ignores the fact that it's always a useful guide, if Labour and the Tories agree on a policy - and it goes against their party members' wishes - then more often than not Brussels lies behind it.

But, nevermind, it's conference season so we'll see the same old tribal bollocks trotted out en masse as before. The Lib Dems last year:

The Lib Dems this year

One wonders why bother? It bores me to tears let alone, I guess, most of my readers to keep mentioning the EU's effects on the Royal Mail. And for what reason, when so many cannot accept that therein lies the real cause - that they are in denial. In the words of Kenneth Williams; "what's the bloody point?"

Friday 6 September 2013

Notes From A Small Island

“Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.” Margaret Thatcher
Perhaps it's me but I find this latest response, to Russian jibes, from Cameron just deeply embarrassing. Where have all our dignified statesman gone...?

Perhaps, unbelievably, the England national team might manage a more dignified defence tonight of our country than Cameron.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

EU, Norway And BBC Bias

That the BBC is bias when it comes to all matters EU won't come as a surprise to most. And so it proves again with the film above by Matthew Price, the BBC's "Europe" correspondent as spotted by Richard North

Posing the question: "Would Norway's special EU arrangement work for Britain?", Price wastes no time in effectively dismissing the idea in terms which would greatly please pro-EU Cameron himself, including the old canard that Norway has "no say". Price's exact words are (1 min in) - and it's worth bearing these words in mind:
Norway has to obey the trading rules of the European Union,. And yet, unlike the 28 member countries that make up the EU, it has no say in what those rules actually are. They are, literally, imposed by Brussels".
This assertion is, as readers of this blog will be aware, entirely false. Richard ponders whether the BBC feels it necessary to lie so freely is not just because of inherent bias but also in part because of ignorance. Well there's only one way to find out, ask the man himself...which I duly did last night via twitter.

My first tweet began:

Price's subsequent reply was interesting:

Straight away he admits Norway can "lobby to affect EC proposals". Now, that's somewhat different to his assertion that it has "no say". By using the term lobbying Price is clearly referring to the fact Norway, and other EEA states, sit on EEA committees and help formulate Single Market rules from the outset. 

The term "lobbying" is downplaying the EEA member's role in this by some distance, yet even that term alone is still an admission that his report is wrong. Thus this is a Norwegian position that he is clearly aware of but chose not to mention in his report. Price justifies the omission instead with the argument that Norway complains of a "democratic deficit". This implies that being members of the EU somehow would solve that deficit, an implication which is ludicrous - even the EU itself acknowledges the "democratic deficit" problem for EU members.

I next put to him that Norway has a veto, again I receive another very 'interesting' response:

And there we have an admission from a BBC reporter - Matthew Price - that he is fully aware that Norway has a veto, again undermining his report that Norway has "no say". He somehow tries to justify this by saying that the EEA agreement would swiftly unravel as a result of EEA states exercising this right. We know this to be untrue.

Norway has used its veto when it came to the 3rd Postal Directive - a Directive the UK had no option but to implement via the 2011 Postal Services Act. The EEA agreement did not unravel. In addition Norway has threatened to use it on other occasions, a threat that enhances its negotiating position when sitting on EEA committees. Again somewhat different to the argument of "no say".

I then put to Price the issue of Norway having a greater say on the WTO than the UK which is represented by an EU "common position":

That Norway assimilates 75% of EU law into national law is a reflection of Norwegian democracy not a reflection of its lack of say within the EEA, as I noted here. We also have an admission that Norway does indeed have a say on the international stage - it has "pushed back" GMO's (Genetically Modified Organisms). And indeed they have (my emphasis):
Despite the close relationship between Norway and the EU through the EEA Agreement, which inter alia means that Norway is part of the internal market for trade in goods, Norwegian authorities have so far pursued a policy on marketing of GMOs that differs significantly from that of the EU. Given the fact that Norway is depending on the political will of the EU in order to continue its cooperation with the EU through the EEA Agreement, which gives Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein a unique possibility to participate in political processes within the EU, it is remarkable that Norway has been willing to deviate from the policy of the EU on such a politically important issue as the marketing of GMOs. This indicates the extent to which Norwegian politicians have considered GMOs to be a major political issue. 
So at the end of a relatively short twitter exchange, Matthew Price has admitted that Norway has a veto, helps formulate EU laws from the outset and has a say on international laws which could be contrary to the EU's position. This in stark contrast to what he says in the report above:
...[Norway] has no say in what those rules actually are. They are, literally, imposed by Brussels".
It should be remembered at this point that I'm querying the sentiments of a supposedly "impartial" BBC reporter, yet if I didn't know better I would think I was arguing with pro-EU Cameron. The responses I encountered are exactly what I would expect - and have received - from those who support EU membership and disagree with the Norway model - the same model which is a convenient antidote to the economic 'hang onto nurse' arguments.

Bias laid bare...a complaint is on its way.