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

Is Praemunire returning through the back door?

For ceunturies, it was illegal to appeal to any foreign court. The three acts of Praemunire, passed in the 14th Century, made it a criminal offence. These acts remained on the statute books until the 1960s, rarely (if ever) used in the last few hundred years, but still symbolising the concept that a self-governing nation should have its own legal system. The Praemunire acts were repealed with little fanfare in the run-up to the UK’s accession to the EEC. Our courts ceased to be the final authority in 1973.

It must be pointed out from the start that the European Convention of Human Rights, which the Conservative Justice Minister Chris Grayling has talked recently of giving our judges and the power to overrule or ignore, was not created by the EU but by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe. This organisation, founded in 1950 by a number of European countries including the UK, shares the same flag as the EU – the so-called “ring of death” – and also exists to promote European integration. However, it is a separate organisation which, unlike the EU, cannot pass binding laws and does not require its member states to transfer any sovereignty. The European Convention on Human Rights was drafted as far back as 1960, although it was not incorporated into UK law until 1998, through the Human Rights Act, even though the UK was one of its founding members. One reason for the long delay was the reservations felt particularly by some Conservative MPs that it would result in a replacement of the older common-sense UK concept of human rights with a more politically correct variant. Their reservations have proved well-founded. It has been the ECHR appeals system which delayed the deportation of the extremist Moslem cleric Abu Qatada by 10 years and the ECHR which is insisting that the UK ends its blanket ban on prisoners being allowed to vote.

So talk of pulling out of the ECHR appears at first glance to be a good move towards reasserting the sovereignty of our courts and indeed, of our Parliament. Perhaps Praemunire is sneaking in by the back door. Well, possibly, but there are some serious questions which need to be answered.

Firstly, would the EU allow us to ignore the rulings of the Strasbourg judges? The Open Europe think tank thinks it is a possibility and Grayling has insisted his proposals are consistent with EU membership. However, the outgoing Justice Commissioner Vivianne Reding made it clear that while we are part of the EU, the UK must be a signatory of the ECHR and implement its decisions. In other words, withdrawal from the ECHR would require not just withdrawal from the Council of Europe but withdrawal from the EU. If this sounds confusing, things get even more complicated. The Lisbon Treaty gives the EU the legal basis to acceded to the Convention in its own right. This could see the European Court of Human Rights court ruling on EU laws which apply in Britain and greater use of the convention by the EU Court of Justice. The new European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he would like to see the EU accede to the convention under his term. Would the UK seek to veto such a proposal as part of its plans to shake off the yoke of the ECHR?

Secondly, if the desire of Chris Grayling and other senior Tories is to return power back to the UK judiciary and Parliament, they will need to tackle the European Court of Justice and repeal the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. This is as equally stuffed with political correctness as the ECHR. It was an ECJ ruling which, for instance, banned insurance companies from using gender as a factor when setting motor insurance premiums. It also fined the National Museum of Labour History in Manchester £7,223 for failing to display a representation of the EU flag on a billboard. If the Tories are serious about cracking down of foreign interference in our nation’s legal system, they cannot ignore the ECJ. So far, there has been no mention of standing up to this EU institution. Is it possible that the Tories are just engaging in window-dressing to attract back disillusioned voters? After all, many ordinary people are unaware that the ECHR is not an EU institution. Is this a ploy to confuse people into thinking that power is being reclaimed frim the EU when it is nothing of the sort? Given the enthusiasm of Theresa May, the Home Secretary, to opt back into 35 Justice and Home Affairs measures contained in the Lisbon Treaty which were among the 135 which the UK initially opted out of, some degree of scepticism is justified.

Finally, there is a plan to replace the ECHR, which was incorporated into UK law in 1998 through the Human Rights Act, with a specifically UK Bill of Rights. This would be fine if it is based on, for example, the 1689 Bill of Rights and rooted in our historic Common Law. If so, it would give the lie to the critics who claim that withdrawing from the ECHR would put us on a par with dictatorships like Belarus, Common Law has historically given us far greater freedoms than anything available on the Continent, be it a dictatorship or even a democracy like France or Germany. However, concerns have been expressed that this new bill of rights, supposedly based on “British Values” will turn out to be a medium for enforcing political correctness. Andrea Williams of Christian Concern has pointed out that on some occasions the Strasbourg Court has overturned some pretty daft decisions by the UK courts. She therefore has reservations about Grayling’s proposals. “This is a very worrying development,” she wrote recently. “Our national courts have seriously let down the Christian community and do not have a track record of recognising and respecting Christian faith. The European Court of Human Rights has shown a better understanding of Christian belief and a greater commitment to protecting Christian freedoms than we have seen in the UK courts in recent years.”

So while the restoration of national sovereignty is to be welcomed, if the Tories are serious, they must combine it with a root and branch clear-out of political correctness and a restoration of true “British values” that do not penalise people for holding positions which were mainstream in our country for hundreds of years.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

The West Lothian question and the elephant in the room

Scotland may have voted narrowly to remain within the UK but the concessions promised by David Cameron to keep the country together have opened a real can of worms. At the heart of the growing debate on a new constitutional settlement for the UK is the so-called West Lothian Question – the power enjoyed by Scottish MPs to vote on issues which concern only England and Wales. This contentious subject, named after the constituency of MP who first raised the issue in 1977, Tam Dalyell, has acquired even greater potency since devolution and the creation of a Scottish parliament. It has also ruptured the uneasy alliance between the two biggest pro-unionist parties as Labours fears that if it won the next General Election with a narrow majority, it would be unable to pursue some of its policy agenda without the votes of its Scottish MPs.

The Scottish referendum campaign, besides stirring great emotions north of the border, has raised the broader question of just how best this country should be governed. Far less power is devolved to parish, town and county councils than to their equivalents in many other democracies. However, press reporting on this issue has conspicuously ignored the elephant in the room – the European Union.

The Campaign for an Independent Britain feels that it is pointless to discuss devolving powers down from Westminster when so much power has been sub-contracted to Brussels. Any move to take democracy down to a grass roots level will be no more than window-dressing unless we have the right to govern ourselves. While English people may resent the voting power of Scottish MPs in issues that do not concern them, at least the Scots are our own kith and kin; at least some voters in these islands have actually given them a mandate to speak as their representatives. How many of the UK electorate voted for Angela Merkel? Or Matteo Renzi? Or Viktor Orban? Not one. Yet these foreign heads of state can do far more damage to England by voting in support of unhelpful legislation in the European Council than any number of Scottish MPs in Westminster. What about the European Commission? Not one of these men and women were elected. All were appointed to their posts by their respective governments. Is it right that these unelected overpaid bureaucrats should have more power than our own elected representatives?

CIB believes that it is vital to ensure that the EU dimension is not excluded from any discussion about a new constitutional settlement. Unless this is the case, we may find that the EU, through its malevolent supporters in our Parliament seeks to hijack the debate for its own advantage by reviving the issue of regional assemblies. Thanks to the superb campaign led by Neil Herron, the North East, the only “region” in the UK to vote on the creation of a regional assembly, rejected the idea comprehensively. This was a great blow to John Prescott, but it did not see the abolition of the regional structures already in place, such as the Regional Development Agencies, which remained in place until 2012. Calls for greater powers for our larger cities need to be watched closely for any hidden agenda to bring back these assemblies by the back door.

There is a strange irony in reviving the constitutional debate inasmuch as what is in effect a demand for more levels of government comes at a time when trust in politicians at all levels is at rock bottom. This is not to ignore the genuine proposals to bring power closer to the people, such as Douglas Carswell’s book The end of politics and the birth of i-democracy or the Harrogate Agenda of Dr Richard North. It is significant that both these men are also supporters of EU withdrawal. It is also significant that the country which has most successfully brought power closer to the people, Switzerland, has twice voted not to join the EU. While the imbalance in favour of England means that it would be impractical to replicate much of the Swiss Federal system of government, the message is pretty clear:- if we want a political system which is fairer for all voters in the UK as a whole, let us have less politicians, not more, and let us start by ridding ourselves of those least entitled or qualified to have a say in the UK’s future – in other words, let us withdraw from the European Union..

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