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
European Treaty/Budget/Bailout Mechanism 2
Treaty Change 6
In the EU to trade with the EU 7
EU Council Conclusions 10
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
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:
On the Marr programme (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), 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 EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski was quite blunt, at the time, about needing the money.
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; you also stated, in your report to the House of Commons, on 12th December: and so I did not agree to the treaty. You repeated your statement that you vetoed a treaty in the Conservative Party European Election Manifesto of 2014, 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. But it does not end UK involvement in bailouts though the IMF and the Balance of Payment Facility.
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?
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.
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; 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. 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.
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.
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?
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’.
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?
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.
Let us re-wind to 30th October 2011 and an appearance by Nick Clegg on BBC’s Today programme 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 (Trade and Industry Secretary) and by Tony Blair. In the same year a report was issued by the South Bank University 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 (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, 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?
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.
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.
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. (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?
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/