Meeting my Member of Parliament

5848117278_84a0febff8_David-Cameron
By Dave Phipps, author of the Witterings from Witney blog. Used with permission

In politics, a lie unanswered becomes truth within 24 hours.

This afternoon I had a meeting with my Member of Parliament, David Cameron, the object of which was to take him to task for being less than candid on ‘matters EU’. When requesting the meeting some weeks ago I had suggested that as the subject matter was of a complicated nature it might be more productive if an extended interview period could be granted. This suggestion was turned down by his constituency assistant based in the House of Commons, the reason being given that David Cameron had a packed schedule. It was suggested that I produce the points of contention in writing and that he would respond in due course.

As a result the following ‘dossier was handed to him:

Economical With The Actualité

Contents:

Introduction 1

European Treaty/Budget/Bailout Mechanism 2

Norway 4

Treaty Change 6

In the EU to trade with the EU 7

Brexit 9

EU Council Conclusions 10

Introduction:

How can we sensibly answer the question ‘in or out’ without being able to answer the most basic question: what is it that we are choosing to be ‘in or out’ of[1]

When considering the mountain of words that have been uttered or written by anyone, be they of the pro-EU or anti-EU factions, never has anything so true been uttered than those words above.

How can the British electorate make an informed decision in respect of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, in any referendum that is granted, when the true facts relating to that subject have been hidden from them – deliberately, it would seem.

Unfortunately, where you are concerned, that which you have said, or written – other than the words quoted above – has been far from the complete truth; in fact the accusation of misleading the British public can be justifiably levied against you.

I would offer for your consideration – and subsequent response – the following:
[1]http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newsvideo/uk-politics-video/9820375/David-Camerons-Europe-speech-in-full.html

On the Marr programme[2] (BBC1: Sunday, 29th September 2013) you stated: They also said you can’t cut the European budget. I have cut it. They also said you can’t veto a European treaty. I did veto a European treaty. They said you’ll never get out of the bailout mechanism. We got out of the bailout mechanism.

I have cut it [the European budget]:

It was in May 2013 that the finance ministers of the EU member states, including Mr George Osborne, agreed to provide an additional €7.3 billion for the 2013 budget (as set out in Draft Amending Budget No. 2)[3], as the first tranche of an overall figure that would eventually reach €11.2 billion with the addition of £470m in September of that year[4] EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski was quite blunt, at the time, about needing the money[5].

Your claim to have cut the EU budget is therefore not strictly correct, yet still you continue to maintain that a budget cut was achieved. You may have succeeded in a cut of the initial budget, but that has since increased – so should you not be clarifying this claim?

I did veto a treaty:

In relation to the Euro crisis of 2011 you let it be known that you effectively vetoed a treaty[6]; you also stated, in your report to the House of Commons, on 12th December: and so I did not agree to the treaty[7]. You repeated your statement that you vetoed a treaty in the Conservative Party European Election Manifesto of 2014[8], a statement which bears your signature.

Those claims immediately beg the questions: what was the name of the treaty you vetoed? For any draft treaty to have been on the table for discussion there would have had to have been a need beforehand for a Convention, followed by an intergovernmental conference (IGC). – in which case perhaps you can advise when and where were both held?

The truth of the matter is that there was no draft treaty on the table, so you could not have applied a veto.

We have got out of the bailout mechanism

This statement is also incorrect and is nothing more than a ‘smoke and mirrors’ argument. It has never been the case that the UK could not end the commitment made by Gordon Brown, when the EU terminated its temporary European Financial Stability Facility and created the permanent rescue mechanism, the European Stability Mechanism[9]. But it does not end UK involvement in bailouts though the IMF and the Balance of Payment Facility[10].

Your statement ‘We have got out of the bailout mechanism’ implies that the United Kingdom is no longer liable for any contribution – yet our continued participation through the IMF and the Balance of Payment Facility demonstrates that the United Kingdom is still liable.

All it required was the insertion of the letters ‘EU’ immediately prior to the word ‘bailout’ in your statement for it to be correct. Would you not agree, on reflection, that your omission of those two words was less than candid on your part?
[2]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wm2GGqdWfpM
[3]http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ecofin/137122.pdf
[4]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24286784
[5]http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-857_en.htm
[6]http://www.channel4.com/news/cameron-vetoes-eu-treaty-deal
[7]http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16136672
[8]http://www.conservatives.com/europe/~/media/Files/Downloadable%20Files/MANIFESTO%202014/Euro%20Manifesto%20English.ashx
[9]http://www.efsf.europa.eu/about/index.htm
[10]http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/economic_and_monetary_affairs/institutional_and_economic_framework/l25005_en.htm


Norway ‘governed by fax’

I think it is worth understanding what leaving would involve – there is the Norway option. You can be like Norway – and you can have full access to the single market but you have absolutely no say over the rules of that market……In Norway they sometimes call it ‘Government by fax’ because you are simply taking the instructions about every rule in the single market from Brussels without any say on what those rules are.

You stated in that speech that a key part of your international ambitions for the UK is our place at the top table. At the UN. The Commonwealth. NATO. The WTO. The G8. The G20 and yes – the EU.[11]

You have repeatedly made the accusation that Norway has no voice in the formation of EU law and that she is forced to accept law by fax from Brussels – nothing, as you are no doubt well aware, is further from the truth.

Where the World Trade Organization is concerned, we all know that, within the EU, trade policy is an exclusive competence of the commission[12]; subsequently we also know that in dealing with the WTO, the framework for negotiations is decided at EU level by consensus, and we are then represented at the WTO “top table” by the European Commission[13]. Yes, membership of the EU gives us access to the “top tables” of EU institutions, but the very fact of our membership means that the United Kingdom, in her own right, is excluded from the WTO top table.

As you must be aware the WTO situation is not unique; take for example the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations – known as WP.29 and held under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Council Europe (UNECE) – where we have no direct membership and our interests are represented exclusively by the European Commission. (Oddly, Norway, which has no automotive industry, sits as a member of this body in her own right.) Or take the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (on which Norway again has her own seat), which jointly manages the fisheries in the region, where the UK interest is represented by the European Commission and where we are not even parties to the enabling treaty, the EU having taken over our seat. On both bodies Norway has a voice in the formulation of standards and decisions which are then handed down, in the form of dual international quasi-legislation for implementation by governments and trade blocs.

The point has to be made that it is from this dual international quasi-legislation that the majority of the bulk of the Single Market regulation originates, making the EU no more than an intermediary player, processing standards agreed elsewhere, over which it has no direct control – at which point it becomes obvious that a seat at Brussels is not one at a top table.

On this question and your assertion that we need to retain our full membership of the European Union in order to have a seat at the top table, once again I can but suggest you are being less than candid.

Where the setting of global standards is concerned, with food standards Codex is the top table – and there are many others, all under the aegis of the United Nations. There is also, for example: the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) based in Rome; the United Nations Economic Council (UNECE) based in Geneva; the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) based in Paris; the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) based in Montreal; the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) based in Basel; and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) based in Bonn.

Norway has a seat on all these organisations and thus exercises just as much influence as the European Union in the framing of global standards.

Let us turn to the relationship twixt Norway and the European Union.

Decision shaping is the phase of preparatory work undertaken by the European Commission to draw up new legislative proposals. The Commission has an exclusive right of making proposals for new legislation but is obliged to call on advice from external sources when so doing. The EEA Agreement contains provisions for input from the EEA EFTA side at various stages before new legislation is adopted. Input can take the form of participation by EEA EFTA experts in EC committees or the submission of EEA EFTA comments.[14]

According to the EEA Agreement, the EEA EFTA States have the opportunity to contribute to the shaping of EU legislation at the preparatory or pre-pipeline stage by participating in the Commission’s experts groups, committees and other advisory bodies. As the initiator of EU legislation, the Commission is responsible for the preparatory work leading to draft proposals. For this purpose, advice is often sought from experts of the Member States. EEA EFTA States’ influence on the shaping of legislation is significant at this pre-pipeline stage, as the EEA Agreement provides for extensive participation by EEA EFTA experts in the preparatory work of the Commission[15].

Not bad for a country which you maintain has no voice in the formulation of EU rules, yet has a veto over those rules, something it employed over the Third Postal Directive – would you not agree?
[11]http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9735644/We-will-be-governed-by-fax-from-Brussels-if-UK-quits-EU-David-Cameron-says.html
[12]http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/policy-making/
[13]http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/eu-and-wto/
[14]http://www.efta.int/eea/decision-shaping
[15]http://www.efta.int/media/publications/bulletins/EFTA-Bulletin-October-2011.pdf

Treaty Change:

During your interview with Andrew Marr on 11th May 2014 you stated that you were confident of achieving the renegotiation elements you sought so that a referendum could be held by the end of 2017, while also confirming that some of what you wanted would require treaty change – for example removal of the requirement for ‘ever closer union[16]’.

If there is to be treaty change then you must be aware that (a) you need the agreement of all Member States; (b) a Convention is required; (c) that said Convention would be followed by an IGC; and (d) that some Member States would require a referendum to be held as part of the ratification process..

That scenario could not be accomplished within two years as you must surely know, so why are you promising something that cannot be achieved?

Yet you have promised a referendum towards the end of 2017 regardless, which would mean that any referendum held would be a referendum requiring a decision by the British electorate on an incomplete ‘renegotiation’ process. How can this be logical?

Is that not misleading – and, in effect, another example of being less than candid with the British people?
[16]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWVrTZksQRI#t=400

In the EU to trade with the EU:

There has always been a mantra put forward by politicians in favour of EU membership that the United Kingdom has to be ‘in Europe to trade with Europe’ – a mantra that is palpably false. An example of this is that ‘3 million jobs’ depend on our membership of the EU.

An article appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 24th June 2014 relating to a speech Danny Alexander was due to give in Washington in which he was to say that 3.3 million jobs are connected to this country’s continued membership of the European Union[17].

Let us re-wind to 30th October 2011 and an appearance by Nick Clegg on BBC’s Today programme[18] in which he stated:

There are three million of our fellow citizens in this country, men and women, whose jobs rely directly on our participation and role and place in, what is after all the world’s largest, borderless single market with 500 million consumers right on our doorstep.

This figure of three million jobs has been quoted since 2000, by Stephen Byers[19] (Trade and Industry Secretary) and by Tony Blair[20]. In the same year a report was issued by the South Bank University[21] in which the figure of three million is mentioned. Yet another report was published in 2000 by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in which it is stated that: “detailed estimates from input-output tables suggest that up to 3.2 million UK jobs are now associated directly with exports of goods and services to other EU countries” and went on to state that: “there is no reason to suppose that many of these [jobs], if any, would be lost permanently if Britain were to leave the EU”.

Reported in Hansard[22] (col: 604W) of 2011 a figure of 3.5 million was mentioned during a BIS debate in the HoC about overseas investment, based on an analysis apparently conducted in 2006. Further, a BIS report from February 2011, on the UK Government Response to the European Commission Consultation on the Single Market Act[23], stated that “the single market has also contributed to increased growth of at least 1.85 per cent and the creation of 2.75 million new jobs across the EU since 1992.”

There was a further report in 2008, by the predecessor to BIS, namely the BERR, which found that: “approximately 3 – 3.5 million British jobs are linked (both directly and indirectly) with exports to the EU”.

Yes, without doubt there are British jobs linked with exporting goods and services to the EU-27, but these jobs are not linked to our membership of the EU, they arise from our membership of the Single Market. You know as well as I that it is possible to be fully functional participants in the Single Market without being members of the EU, something which can done by applying to re-join EFTA and remaining within the EEA.

Another interesting fact is that, if this figure of three million can be traced back to 2000, it seems a tad strange that current estimates are the same as those made over a decade ago – not least because we have seen a significant recession during this period.

Where this example of being economical with the actualité is concerned, when and where have you corrected this instance of what can be classified as misinformation?
[17]http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/10923865/Treasury-figures-show-more-than-3-million-UK-jobs-are-reliant-on-the-EU.html
[18]http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/nick-clegg/8859374/Nick-Clegg-close-ties-with-Europe-are-absolutely-essential.html
[19]http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/650295.stm
[20]http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/652963.stm
[21] http://www.eabcn.org/research/documents/ukjobs.pdf
[22]http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110906/text/110906w0008.htm#11090819000362
[23]https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/32275/11-760-uk-response-single-market-act.pdf

Brexit:

I believe it correct to state that in everything you have written, or said, on the subject of renegotiating and thus repatriating powers from the EU not once have you explained how you hope to achieve this. The word ‘repatriation’ does not appear anywhere in the Lisbon Treaty, so under which article of that treaty do you intend accomplishing that which you seek? There is only one method of renegotiating the UK’s terms of membership of the EU and that is by invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon (TEU); therefore the question has to be raised whether it is your intention to so do?

On the question of repatriating powers, the following questions arise:

1) Repatriating powers requires Treaty change with the unanimous agreement of all other 27 member states. How do you intend to persuade the other member states that it is in their interests to make the UK a special case and to have a competitive advantage in the Single Market?

2) It appears that the EU has Treaty changes of its own in mind. With the release of a draft version last year – Fundamental Law of the EU – the EU intends to go for another step forward in integration for the Eurozone. This will leave the UK behind with an “Associate Membership” status which means limited access to EU institutions. Is Associate Membership status something you would accept for the UK?

3) A referendum obviously has two variables. No doubt you would be confident of winning to stay in, however there is also the possibility that the electorate vote to leave instead. In the event of that happening what are your contingency plans? How would you negotiate with the EU to leave thus ensuring that exit was as smooth as possible?

4) Returning to the ‘Norway Question’, the UK could repatriate powers successfully by invoking Article 50 and adopting the Norway model of remaining in the Single Market. This would then allow an opportunity to negotiate a new form of relationship with the EU, with no detrimental effect to financial markets or businesses. Do you rule out this option – and if so on what basis?

5) While you are carrying out your process of ‘renegotiation’, what steps do you envisage taking in order to calm the financial markets and business?

EU Council Conclusions:

In the Conclusions following the European Council meeting of 26th/27th June 2014, point 27 stated:

The UK raised some concerns related to the future development of the EU. These concerns will need to be addressed.

In this context, the European Council noted that the concept of ever closer union allows for different paths of integration for different countries, allowing those that want to deepen integration to move ahead, while respecting the wish of those who do not want to deepen any further.[24]

That is not what the Commission website states when explaining what is EU law and/or ‘ever closer union’:

The main goal of the EU is the progressive integration of Member States’ economic and political systems and the establishment of a single market based on the free movement of goods, people, money and services.

To this end, its Member States cede part of their sovereignty under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which empowers the EU institutions to adopt laws.

These laws (regulations, directives and decisions) take precedence over national law and are binding on national authorities.[25]

In your statement to the House of Commons, on 30th June 2014, you said:

We broke new ground, with the Council conclusions stating explicitly that ever closer union must allow for different paths of integration for different countries and, crucially, respect the wishes of those such as Britain that do not want further integration.[26] (Emphasis mine)

The Council Conclusions stated no such thing – perhaps I might ask that you read point 27 again?.

It should be noted that the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines ‘concept’ as: a general notion; an abstract idea.

Is the foregoing not another example of your being economical with the actualité, or not being candid – or, even more serious, misleading the House?
[24]http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/143478.pdf
[25]http://ec.europa.eu/eu_law/introduction/treaty_en.htm
[26]http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmhansrd/cm140630/debtext/140630-0001.htm#1406308000001

I only spent just over 5 minutes with David Cameron as I did not wish to give him the opportunity of providing a short verbal response, wishing him to commit himself to a written response. Skimming through, he repeated that he had vetoed a treaty and cut the budget; although he made no mention of negating any bailout. The section on Norway appeared to ‘stop him in his tracks’ and when he began to respond, I intervened suggesting that, as his assistant had proposed, it would perhaps be better were he to read the dossier when he obviously had more time and replied at a later date. This he agreed to, stating that his response would be ‘punchy’ – adding that he understood my concerns as the subject matter was one of importance.

I hold out no hope that a satisfactory answer will be received, least of all one which contains an apology for that of which I accuse him; but when said response is received, it will be published on this blog as is my usual practice.

Original Article at Witterings from Witney http://witteringsfromwitney.com/meeting-my-member-of-parliament/

Daniel Hannan’s brilliant vision of Britain unshackled from the EU corpse

This article, by Kathy Gyngell, is typical of the feelings of many Eurosceptic Conservatives who want to see a lot more action from the top of the party over to sorting out our relationship with the EU.

It is ironic that arguably the most brilliant politician in Britain today – a Conservative MEP who believes the United Kingdom would prosper better outside the EU – has no power, no position and, in essence, no party. I am talking about Daniel Hannan.

He has no chance of becoming the Prime Minister we need. The Prime Minister does not even see fit use him as an adviser on the EU.

But if Hannan achieves his one aim – to get Britain to vote ‘out’ in a referendum – his job will have been done. This man of principle, a rarity in today’s self-interested and opportunist political world, will have voted himself out of a job.

Yet he is a better speaker than William Hague who I heard at his best and most confident back in 1998 at the Carlton Club. He casts the populist eloquence of Nigel Farage (whose party Hannan has emphatically declared he will not join) into the shadows – though Farage’s ‘note free’ speech to a Midlands Industrial Council event I was at last summer impressed me. He is better too, by far, than David Cameron whose recent conference speech – praised across the conservative spectrum from Lord Ashcroft (who welcomed him back to the Party) to Max Hastings – has been enough to shoot him ahead in the polls.

If anyone doubts my dramatic assertion then please just follow this https://www.facebook.com/CentreforPolicyStudies?ref=stream&fref=nf to Dan Hannan’s analysis of all that is wrong and stultifying about our relationship with the EU and his vision of a re-energised Britain out of the EU, in his speech to the 1900 Club and the Centre for Policy Studies last Thursday evening.

This was no speech drawn up by spin doctors or pondered over by ministerial special advisers. As with Churchill, his words came from his own mouth and reflected his own convictions. He was witty. He was erudite. Above all he made total sense. My only sadness was that a wider audience did not hear this passionate and erudite speech. It deserved it.

He had just come back from witnessing the EU’s Commission hearings – which he characterised as a competition between nominees in outdoing each other in zeal for more Europe.

Britain’s nominee, Lord Hill, one of the more democratically acceptable of the nominees, he said, was no slouch. This former lobbyist had assured his hearing panel that he would put the EU’s interests above those of the City of London. Dan thought we we would like to know. We did.

If that was bad, it went to worse. Other nominees, in that classic European tradition, had come to the Commission having just been thrown out by their own voters. This he said appeared to be the key criterion for nomination. Jean-Claude Junker was a case in point. Slovenia’s outgoing Prime Minister another – (having just lost her own election, she had, in the nick of time, appointed herself as her country’s Commissioner to the EU).

Only the Brits would find this funny. We did.

But warning of the perils of pessimism, Dan set out his positive vision of a Britain unshackled from the corpse that is the EU. Our past and our future is as a nation of global traders, yet, we have allowed ourself to “be trapped in the only trade block in the world that is dwindling economically”.

At our nadir, at the end of the 1960s, we had turned our back on he world and towards a then ascendant Europe. Now ascendant ourselves our membership today puts us at an almost unique disadvantage with the rest of the world.

According to Hannan, to thrive and realise its full potential Britain needs:

1.An independent trade policy – the right to sign bilateral trading agreements with countries like India and Australia

2. An end to the Common Agricultural Policy – “If I tried to invent the most corrupt, expensive, immoral bureaucratic system of farm support I would not come close to the Common Agricultural Policy.”

3. An end to the Common Fisheries Policy – which has unnecessarily but inevitably decimated our waters of fish.

4. An independent Diplomatic and Foreign Policy – “why do we need to be routing our foreign policy through Baroness Cathy Ashton? … What an extraordinary thing that we of all countries do not think we are able to have influence in the world independently”.

5. British rather than EU citizenship – “how many of us are enriched by it? From that stems most of the things that cause popular discontent – reciprocal residents rights, reciprocal welfare claimants …. These should be a matter of voluntary bilateral agreement.”

6. An end to the symbols and trappings of EU ‘statehood’ – “we are now expected to stand to attention in the European Parliament when they play Beethoven’s 9th symphony!”

7. Fiscal autonomy – no Financial Transaction Tax, no Carbon Tax – “Why do we allow the EU to dictate levels of indirect taxation? Shouldn’t we be encouraging tax competition not tax harmonisation?” And, “If the rest of the EU is determined to maim itself in this fashion, I don’t see why Britain should feel obliged to follow suit”.

8. Common law not EU law – “Why are we part of the Orwellian entitled Area of Freedom, Security and Justice – a single market for law?” – “A fairly major issue if you are one of the two ‘common law’ countries in the EU, which we are.”

I hardly need mention what Dan made of the European Arrest Warrant – the King parents, who removed their son from Southampton Hospital and who were then pursued as fugitives, were his constituents.

9.The repatriatriation of social and employment policy – once also the policy of Clegg, Cameron and the Coalition but dropped – “like everything else that might require a Treaty change”.

10. A reassertion of the supremacy of the House of Commons – “British Law on British soil.”

We have wasted a generational opportunity to make these changes. At present Her Majesty’s Government is not pushing for any of them, he said. None of David Cameron’s seven aims for renegotiation include them. None of Cameron’s ‘aims’ require a Treaty change as all these ten conditions do.

In effect, Cameron has sold the British public a pup, though Hannan was not so impolite as to put it that way. He simply said, “there is a biggest mismatch, ever, between what has been said officially on the record and what the public has understood. Bizarrely, this hasn’t sunk in but if there are no intergovernmental talks, if there is no inter-parliamentary ratification involved, nothing has changed.”

Since Britain has lost this opportunity to negotiate over the return of any of these powers the only way now to secure them is (Hannan is emphatic) to vote to leave the EU; to strike such a bargain from the outside, as has been done by the EFTA countries.

But this, he insists, must be done optimistically, positively not negatively: “If (tiny) Norway and Switzerland can, are we not as a global maritime nation capable of surviving as an independent power? How much bigger do we have to be to run our own affairs in our own interests?”

Mr Hannan is without doubt a man on a mission. He is truly inspiring. He leads from the front.

Recalling Judi Dench quoting from Tennyson’s Ulysses in the film Skyfall, he magisterially ended his oration by repeating these famous lines:

“We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are.”

Eat your hearts out David and Nigel. Daniel Hannan is in a different league of leadership

Cut the EU budget? Pull the other one, Dave!

Many readers will be familiar with the How much does the European Union Cost Britain? booklets. The first four editions were produced by UKIP’s London MEP Gerard Batten who then handed over the task to Professor Tim Congdon. The most recent edition appeared earlier this month. It includes a comprehensive rebuttal of the claim by David Cameron to have cut the EU budget.

However, the Prime Minister chose to repeat the claim on the Today Programme this morning. During the course of being interviewed by James Naughtie, he said, “People say you’ll never be able to cut the EU budget. I’ve cut the EU Budget… I’ve got a track record of doing what I say I’m going to do.”

Tim Congdon’s comments on this classic case of a politician – and a very senior one at that – ‘being economical with the truth’ are worth reading:-

This is untrue. In fact, it is so untrue that Cameron must now be labelled a liar, a brazen and outright liar. (If the Prime Minister wants to take me to court for libel, I look forward to the legal action. My description of him is undoubtedly ‘fair comment’, as I have no doubt any lawyer would tell him.)

This story goes back to February 2013. On 7th and 8th February at an EU Budget summit, Cameron and other EU leaders agreed a €908 billion limit for the seven-year period 2014 – 2020. This was 3% lower than in the seven-year period 2007 – 2013 which was then approaching its end. This was trumpeted as the first-ever cut in real terms spending in the EU’s history, with Cameron taking plaudits for his ‘tough talking’. But Cameron himself had no way of enforcing the agreement or of protecting the UK’s own share of the payments needed to cover the expenditure.

Unfortunately, the agreement’ of 8th February did not stick. A few weeks later the EU’s finance ministers had their own council meeting. On 15th May they in effect overrode what Cameron thought had been settled with Europe’s prime ministers. A big increase in the 2013 EU Budget was pushed through, with the UK’s own additional bill in that one year amounting to £770 million. As the decision was taken by qualified majority voting, the UK could not stop it. The Daily Mail noted, ‘Conservative MEP and former European Commission chief accountant Marta Andreasen said yesterday that [the outcome] “made a joke” of the recent budget agreement and “sets a terrible precedent”.’

It is very important to emphasize here that the UK could neither prevent EU over-spending nor refuse to pay its share. If it had refused to pay its share, the Commission would have taken our government to the European Court of Justice, resulting in a large fine. No doubt George Osborne, our Chancellor of the Exchequer, registered loud and angry protests. But he could do nothing against the brute fact of a qualified majority in favour of more spending.

Worse was to follow. At another meeting in December 2013 the agreement of February 2013 was more or less torn up. A new medium-term budget was put in place, with the UK’s contribution soaring relative to the numbers envisaged less than a year earlier. I have to confess that it is not easy to dig up newspaper stories on exactly what was decided, but the following is from the report in The Daily Telegraph by Matthew Holehouse on 5th December,

Britain will give an extra £10bn to the European Union because of the weakness of struggling eurozone economies, it has emerged. The British contribution to the EU will rise dramatically from £30bn to £40bn over the next five years, the Office for Budget Responsibility said. It includes a surprise £2.2bn jump in funding to £8.7bn this year.

Let it be acknowledged here that a 2nd December press release from the EU Council on the 2014 – 2020 multi-annual financial framework says that the February 2013 agreement remained in place, and that it implied reductions of 3.5% on expenditure commitments (and 3.7% in expenditure payments) relative to the 2007 – 13 MFF. However, it is clear that

1. The split of payment commitments between countries was altered in December 2013, with very adverse consequences for the UK, and

2. In practice the Commission has now started to overspend relative to agreed budgets, in the expectation that at Council of Minister finance meetings the overspending will receive retrospective endorsement from a qualified majority. The UK then has to stump up its share.

In the 2014 edition of How much does the European Union cost Britain? I have set out the consequences of these events for our net and gross contributions in the 2012/13 and 2013/14 financial years, and the 2012 and 2013 calendar years. I have used official sources, principally the balance-of-payments data prepared by the Office for National Statistics and the annual White Paper on European Union Finances from the Treasury. The figures are appalling, showing that

– the UK’s net payments to EU institutions in 2013 were more than double the 2009 level, and

– successive government White Papers admit massive overspending relative to the original so-called ‘plans’.

Given the above, it is preposterous for Cameron – or indeed any of his ministers – to claim that the present government has ‘cut the EU Budget’. Absolutely preposterous. In yesterday’s e-mail on this subject, I set out some of the statistics and suggested that someone should call Cameron a liar if he continued with his nonsense about ‘cutting the EU Budget’. He has repeated the claim in this morning’s Today programme. I am therefore going to call him an outright and brazen liar, and invite him or any member of his government to challenge me in court.

The cost of our EU membership is an important part of public policy. Honesty, transparency and respect for the facts are vital if a proper debate is to be held. Cameron and his ministerial colleagues have been cavalier in their disregard for the facts and realities of our EU membership, and it is high time that they were brought to account

Why Je m’en fou will be the end of the EU

France is going backwards, Le Pen is going forwards, Italy is going nowhere, and the Brits just want to go.

France’s insuperable problems are still by far the most likely to unravel the EU and its currency….as well as push Merkel to the East. The Slog analyses why ‘most likely’ has become a certainty.

Anyone here on the ground in France is acutely aware of just how dire the private sector’s performance is at the moment. The most obvious example of this is in the multiple retail sector, where the drop in prices has now spread even to cheap foods. Everything here in France is on offer….and has been on constant offer since April. The Folie du Printemps turned into the Foire de l”Ete, and today the signs just say Solde! Solde! Solde! in huge letters everywhere.

Comparing French prices to those in neighbouring countries – and this general rule applies to everything from flights to tools via paint and even mousetraps – French goods for export are expensive. So are French workers at home. Worse still, French delivery times remain woefully long and frequently unreliable. In a nutshell, exports have collapsed, and it’s easy to see why: imports from other EU countries are cheaper, freely available, and better made.

Tax receipts too are in a bad way, a crisis to which (it seems to most foreign residents) President Hollande is oblivious. The reasons for the shortfall are more workers being paid in cash (tax free and at lower rates), a flatlining economy, and not least the archaic (and arcane) collection system.

In France – you may find this hard to believe, but it’s true – the job of tax calculation and liability is largely given to Notaires – legals – when things other than basic salary are under consideration. After 13 months of trying to get two separate Notaires to agree to a simple share transaction between my estranged wife and I, we have given up and decided to have Jan pay the tax in England. When things came to a final impasse (after long periods of what appeared to me to be sheer incompetent idleness) the Notaire‘s office simply said, when told of our intentions, “Je m’en fou, we can’t take the risk”. Risk?

Thus, one attitude just cost France a delayed tax payment, which has turned into no tax payment. But obduracy about the silly nature of tax decisions – for example, demands that entrepreneurs pay upfront, and the astonishing level of social benefits – are a serious obstacle to French growth. The only thing growing in France is the public sector….and it is out of control. I’ve been posting for nearly five years now about the splurge of infrastructural spend on everything from road surfaces and signage to Mairie restoration. What’s more, eccentric French definitions of ‘public’ and ‘private’ massively underestimate the real size of the State.

**************************************

Sarkozy infamously promised that France would “feel the pain” but the public sector has clearly been given the keys to the paracetamol cabinet. Hollande is under pressure from his fellow Eunatics to reform: but the politics and practicalities of doing so are beyond the man.

If you think you can hear the Troikanauts slavering at the bait and straining at the leash, forget it. The neoliberal scammers would love to position the French mess as very much a job for them to solve, but this is not Greece. The syndicats and Nationalists would ensure that, beyond any notable level of interference in French internal affairs, bondholders would be heading for the tumbril…..and an appointment with Madame la Guillotine. Somehow, I doubt if Notaires would be consulted during the process.

In truth, there are two fundamental problems France faces that are far more important than any other consideration. First, the bureaucratic feather-nesting and self-protection; and second, the gross lack of productive jobs as French goods – like British goods and Italian goods – fail to compete. The two are connected – held together almost – by the bindweed of unemployment. But bindweed throttles everything in the end.

Last month, the jobless totals fell by 11,000 – 0.3% of the working population. That’s August…a time when seasonal tourism and farm jobs come into their own here. It is the only month this year that has seen a fall, and not even PS politicians are seeing it as a lifeline. The French are hazy on ‘new jobs’ largely because there aren’t any.

In the light of this, employment group Medef has called on the Government to scrap its 35-hour work week, raise the legal retirement age and lower the minimum wage to bring down chronically high unemployment and stimulate growth. Medef believes such moves would create a million jobs over the next five years; they just don’t say how. the plan will fail as long as bureaucratic, bloody-minded obduracy remains as the hard face of protected interests in the legal/functionnaire sector. And as long as there are moves in hand to cut worker benefits, strike and transport chaos will surely follow.

In short, it’s the usual list of suspects: those who produce nothing – lawyers, notaires, bureaucrats, tax offices, union leaders and politicians – have combined to create the system, and then ensure nobody has the power or balls to deconstruct it.

There is an obvious way round this, but it would involve the lower paid and the Hard Right working together in order to push through radical reform that would benefit both sides. Lest we forget, they are in a large percentage of cases the same people. One dislike in particular unites them: Muslim immigrants.

France has around 7 million immigrants – roughly 11% of the population. Of these, a staggeringly high percentage are Muslim North Africans – 6.5 million, or just over 10% of the population. Yet this 10% receive 22% of all social benefits. In total, the deficit from immigration shouldered by the taxpayers is estimated to be €26 billion. Such figures are freely available because, unlike in pc-ridden Britain, the Government publishes them – and others take advantage of it.

So for racists, this is fertile ground: and to the trade unions, it’s an obvious threat – especially given that an estimated 500,000 immigrants evade tax by working on the noir – a loss to the State of €4 billion. Many French ouvriers now grumble that their jobs are threatened by Muslims because their benefits costs are so high, but the State gets nothing in return. This is erroneous on two grounds: first, the great majority of noir workers are English or Polish; and second what makes French workers expensive is the degree of assurance they want the employer to pay.

But what in turn unites the Front Nationale, the farmers, industry and the Unions is a detestation of bureacratically bloated procedures that mean higher costs, slower reactions, and a regime generally unfriendly to start-ups. This is where Le Pen will score across the board, by presenting the problem as Brussels as much as France-based.

**********************************************

All of the above presents Brussels-am-Berlin with a problem I now believe to be insoluble – for the following reasons:

1. France is the EU’s second biggest economy. Italy is the third. Without a dramatic solution, sooner or later both will default. Italy is now showing obvious signs of a descent into chaos; for the reasons outlined in this think-piece, France could do the same on social, political and economic dimensions. There is no way either the EU or the euro could survive these events in anything like its current form.

2. If Marine Le Pen wins the next Presidential Election, she will immediately begin negotiations to withdraw from the EU, and change the immigration laws dramatically. She already claims that B-am-B is lying about the facility to withdraw from both the Ezone and the EU: she says it exists, and she will exercise it.

3. Having tried the bonds raid once already to bring Hollande into line, the Wall Street/Brussels manipulators now need to be careful what they wish for: such an attack could easily get out of control, and produce at least one collapse in the French banking system.

4. As things become economically worse and more politically uncertain, there will be a capital flight which, at some point, will turn into a panic attack. Such would have terrible economic recovery ramifications for l’Hexagon, but more immediately put the ECB into a position where it found itself in very deep waters indeed. To replace that capital with support would bring the German Constitutional Court and the Bundesbank roaring out of their cages…and require printing by Mario Draghi on a hyperinflationary scale.

5. At the first moment that France is seen as able to face down the Eurocrats, I think we can be sure that Italy for certain, probably Greece and possibly Spain – Catalonians and Andalucians especially – will begin agitating for an end to Big Centre, top-down fat Government from Brussels. I think it also highly likely that anti-German feeling will increase further.

6. From my own parochial standpoint, if any of the above began to roll before May 2015, I think we would wind up with a disastrous Left/Right stalemate in the UK, with Labour as the largest Party and UKip securing big gains from the Conservatives. That would be the end of Camerlot, which would be eclipsed by the harder-edged europhobes. The two sides Miliband and (Boris?) would be utterly incapable of working with each other.

*******************************

It would be a miracle if Chancellor Merkel was not adding such thoughts to others about which I posted three days ago. And it all points in the same direction: closer to Moscow, with an economic future in Asia.

I’m still no nearer to getting a handle on what the grown-ups are preparing in Berlin, but I can tell you this: the French love affair with je m’en fou is stronger than any ideas they might harbour of a powerful Europe. France has and always will come first for the ENAs who – unlike the average cement-head tax inspector – do on the whole tend to plan ahead on energy, food and road infrastructure development.

If a Gallic revolt were to bring down Brussels-am-Berlin, I would of course be a very happy bunny. (I’d also be in schtuck, because my health insurance would dispappear, but that’s a minor point). But once that’s achieved, and the economies of Europe start emerging from the wreckage, there will be no place for any of the corrupt professions, obdurate functionaries, or politicians seemingly capable of incontinence and impotence at one and the same time. Fat bankers and globalist headcases will also not be required on voyage.

However, the biggest thing France will have to eradicate is Je m’en fou.

(From The Slog blog, By John Ward. Used by permission)

GMB Union puts pressure on Miliband over EU referendum,

From the Herald, Scotland

Ed Miliband is facing growing pressure after the leader of the UK’s second biggest union called for voters to be offered a referendum on the European Union.

Paul Kenny, the general secretary of the GMB, said the public should get a say on EU membership.

His comments follow warnings by Len McCluskey, the leader of the UK’s largest union, Unite, who told The Herald earlier this month that Mr Miliband’s refusal to offer a vote could cost Labour next year’s general election.

The calls intensify pressure on the Labour leader as his party holds its annual conference in Manchester.

Mr Kenny said: “I think people should have the argument about Europe. I think Labour should offer a referendum on Europe. I have always thought that they would.”

He warned that the issue could “hurt” Labour at the general election.

Mr Kenny said that the European Union of which the UK was currently a member had changed considerably in recent years – and that voters should get a say on the future.

It was time to have a discussion about “what the public’s views on the European Union are,” he added.

Mr McCluskey warned that Labour could lose the next general election if it did not offer voters an EU referendum.

He predicted that the party’s political opponents, including the eurosceptic UKIP, would paint Labour as unwilling to trust voters.

In an interview with The Herald he said: “He is going to be portrayed as somebody who is afraid of asking the British people their views, and we think that is tactically dangerous for him.”

Asked if the tactic could lose him the election, he said: “In a tight election, it could do, that is exactly right. That is our view. Which is why we would prefer to take a position of saying ‘let’s call a referendum’.

Mr Miliband has said that Labour will not hold an EU membership vote unless there are proposals to transfer greater powers from London to Brussels.

The move was designed to draw a line under the issue following arguments from some within Labour that the party should meet Mr Cameron’s referendum pledge – or risk being punished in May’s poll.

Othes warned that offering a vote could tie Labour’s hands unnecessarily after next May, and leave it fighting another lengthy and difficult referendum battle just months after the Scottish independence vote.

Mr Miliband’s stance appears to have the backing of business leaders.

Earlier this year Sir Michael Rake, the chairman of the CBI, told the Prime Minister that his decision to offer an In/Out referendum was causing “uncertainty” for business.

But others within the Labour movement are pressuring for Mr Miliband to perform a U-turn.

John Mills, who gave £1.5m to the party last year, is also putting money behind a lobbying campaign, Labour for a Referendum.

While many Labour MPs still believe UKIP party still poses the greatest threat to the Conservatives, there is increasing concern about the party’s growing popularity in some Labour-held seats.

Mr Cameron has previously said that he would campaign for the UK to stay in the EU.

He has also pledged to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with Europe before the 2017 vote.

But reports suggest that the Conservative leader could change his stance – and announce that he will back a Yes vote only if the UK gets a good enough deal from Brussels at his party conference next week

What kind of country are we living in?

Lord StoddartTHE PRESS OFFICE OF  The Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Independent Labour)

Peer speaks up for imprisoned parents

of boy suffering with brain tumour

Responding to the increasing controversy over the imprisoning of the parents of Aysha King, the independent Labour peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon has demanded to know “what kind of country we are living in when doctors report their patients’ families to the police, if they disagree with the doctor’s diagnosis.”

Lord Stoddart said: “I am deeply concerned that a European Arrest Warrant has been issued against British citizens, leading to their being separated from their children and their mortally sick child, Aysha and incarcerated in a Spanish jail. By all accounts, these poor parents were simply trying to get the best possible treatment for their son, which wasn’t available in this country.

“I have always opposed the EU’s European Arrest Warrant but we were told they were for chasing after organised crime, people traffickers and terrorists etc, not the desperately worried parents of a very sick little boy, who, according to the NHS, has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.

“A very worrying precedent has been set here, which could lead to people being afraid to take their children to a hospital in case they disagree with the doctors and end up having half of Europe’s police forces hunting them down. Even more disturbing is the complete silence from UK politicians, particularly in the South East of England, who seem to have nothing to say on the matter despite it involving their constituents.

“We really do need to start asking what kind of country we are living in when we see the appalling way these deeply troubled parents have been treated. They are not common criminals and they shouldn’t be treated as if they are.”