Mistaken Assumptions about the EU Referendum battle

1. Business supports staying in the EU. WRONG.
Many businessmen make speeches about the advantages of staying in the Single Market. It is perfectly possible to stay in the Single Market and leave the EU, as detailed in the FLEXCIT plan, supported by us. Businessmen do not make speeches about supporting any other part of the EU membership.

2. The referendum is about business. WRONG.
By staying in the Single Market there will be no change to jobs, investment or trade.

3. The referendum is about the UK’s trading arrangements. WRONG.
Staying in the Single Market means there will be no change to jobs, investment or trade. Deciding future trading arrangements will be done at a future date by the democratic discussion in an independent UK.

4. The alternatives are presented as staying in the EU as it is or leaving it for an unknown future. WRONG.
There is no option of staying in the EU as it is. The correct alternatives were put by Jacques Delors, in 2012:: “If the British cannot support the trend to more integration in Europe, we can remain friends
but on a different basis. I could imagine a form such as an European Economic Area or a Free
Trade Agreement.

5. The referendum is about whether or not Cameron’s reforms are satisfactory. WRONG.
The referendum is about ‘remain in’ or ‘leave’ the European Union, not choosing between an ‘unreformed’ and ‘reformed’ European Union.

6. A ‘remain in’ vote proved to be a blank cheque in 1975.
The British government took a ‘remain in’ vote as authority to push through numerous further treaties, further integration and loss of independence. A new ‘remain in’ vote is another blank cheque.

7. The referendum is about British influence and sitting at the ‘top table’. WRONG.
The UK is not, and does not want to be, a member of the inner core of the EU either in the eurozone or the Schengen agreement on open borders. This lack of involvement has not diminished British influence because the EU long ceased to be the ‘top table’ and is nowadays more a transmission belt for regulation from global bodies.

8. It is safe to stay in the European Union. WRONG.
Staying in the EU means the UK is involved in the eurozone crisis and the refugee/migration crisis in the rest of the EU. These crises arise from the supranational nature of the EU and can be termed ‘existential’. It also means that the UK voters proclaiming they are not concerned about these
crises are willingly giving up their strong opportunity to change matters. The EU institutions will conclude they can move towards much faster integration.

Cameron in a spot of bother

The European Union Referendum Bill was finally published by Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, on 28th May. If you wish to read it in full, click on the link here. David Cameron seems determined to rush it through the Commons as quickly as possible. It has already passed its second reading, with only 53 MPs voting against.

However, he is already facing some bother from his MPs over the technical details. The procedures for referendums have not been as well developed as, for instance, the rules governing elections, which have evolved over a period of centuries. It was only 40 years ago that the first referendum, on whether we should remain in the EU, was held.

The biggest challenges he is facing revolve around the concept of “purdah” – a 28-day period before the actual referendum when ministers and civil servants are unable to make official announcements. This reduces the opportunities for one side to rig the debate. It was first introduced in 2000 and banned the publication of promotional material by central and local government in the 28 days prior to the holding of a referendum. Hammond tried to argue that it would be “unworkable” to expect ministers not to explain where the national interest lay in the referendum campaign or to continue their day-to-day business with the EU. However, he was challenged in a superb speech by Owen Paterson MP, who has emerged as David Cameron’s most vocal critic since the election.

Cameron also got into a muddle about whether members of the Government would either have to support him in selling his renegotiation strategy or resign. At first it appeared that this was what he was saying, but according to several newspapers. he claimed that his statement had been “over-interpreted” and that he was just talking about ministers having to abide by collective responsibility during the negotiation process. Several prominent Tories, including Boris Johnson, have argued for flexibility. “It would be safer and more harmonious” to allow those with different views to articulate them, he said. Meanwhile, Graham Brady, who chairs the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, said that, when the referendum campaign gets underway, “I would urge the Government to treat EU membership as a matter of conscience for front and backbenchers alike.”

A new grouping of Tory MPs has emerged which might further upset the Prime Minister. Led by Steve Baker, the MP for High Wycombe, Conservatives for Britain appears to belong to the “wait and see” camp that purports to support the renegotiations and will not declare their hand until they find out what deal Cameron has brought back. However it does appear that this group is setting the bar so high that there is no chance of their wish list being granted. Freedom to strike our own trade deals and the right of Parliament to throw out EU legislation will unquestionably be rejected by the other member states – not that Cameron has any intention of even bringing these subjects to the table.

What is clear is that Cameron’s desire to steamroller through a “yes” vote as quickly as he can is already causing cracks to appear in the solid wall of Tory unity that stood them in such good stead in the election campaign. At this stage, it is impossible to guess how many MPs will ultimately rebel and make a clear commitment to support withdrawal. They will certainly face great pressure from the whips, but we can but hope enough of them will put country before party to ensure that Cameron is unable to repeat Harold Wilson’s 1975 trick that he is clearly so wishing to emulate. He has clearly upset a good few of them already. Given that the general Election took place barely a month ago, this is a more promising start than many of us could have imagined.

As if that was not enbough, Labour has attacked him, not only over the “purdah” issue, but on his denial of the vote to 16- and 17-year 0lds. The SNP are also unhappy with the exclusion of 16- and 17-years olds as they were allowed ot vote in the Scottish independence referendum. The bill goes to the Committee stage next week. As Richard North argues, It is yet possible that an alliance between Labout, the SNP and those Tories unhappy with his steamroller tactics may inflict a defeat on the government, leaving Cameron’s strategy in tatters.

Photo by derekskey

Lessons from Austerlitz

Napoleon Bonaparte, watching the Austro/Russian army deploying at Austerlitz, is recorded as saying:
“Let us wait twenty minutes; when the enemy is making a false movement we must take good care not to interrupt him.”

The EU referendum campaign has begun and cool strategy is required.

Those who wish to see a ‘NO’ outcome are concerned about the barrage of pro-EU, or pro-Single Market to be precise, statements by political leaders and big banks and business, as well as EU Commissioners, and so on.

And these people are not bothering with Cameron. They are in favour of staying in the EU without any of Cameron’s reforms. Judging by the ICM poll, the ‘stay in’ side is 10-18 points ahead, even before Cameron returns with his ‘reforms’ or those polled have any idea what is likely to be renegotiated.

But did any reasonable person think that this would not happen?

I welcome this barrage on various grounds.

First, a lot of rhetorical ammunition has been expended for nothing.

Second, the EU side is exposed as obviously bereft of any new ideas since 1975. There are no new arguments.

Third, the idea that this is a stitch up, a fudged referendum, a pretence, a fraud, is gaining ground. As Iain Martin says, in CapX:
“The government’s renegotiation with the EU is bordering on the comical.”
and
“No-one likes to be taken as a fool.”

Fourth, there are already signs of infighting between those few who genuinely believe it is possible to have a ‘reformed’ Europe and those who are just using this as a cynical phrase.

Fifth, all those who the electorate most distrusts are climbing into the same lifeboat without bothering about any navigation:-

  • All the political parties and their leaders
  • The directors of big banks, even those presiding over the banking scandals
  • Big Business directors
  • EU Commissioners and Eurocrats generally.

But, of course we need to counter-attack properly with:

  • A proper aim
  • A proper plan
  • All fighting in one direction
  • No room for complacency

It is also worth considering the melting away of the great polled predicted pro-EU vote during the Dutch and French referendums on the European Constitution.

The recent YouGov poll shows the ‘OUT’ side ahead in the key voting groups: over 40s and over 60s.

Most commentators, such as Iain Martin and James Forsyth, tell us that the referendum is about ‘supporting the status quo’. Nothing could be further from the truth. A ‘yes’ vote is a vote for ‘more integration’, as laid out in Juncker’s presidential statement in 2014.

The real choice was put by Jacques Delors, former head of the EU Commission and the main driver of the EU in his day, and a man highly respected in Brussels, in December 2012, to the Handelsblatt newspaper:

“If the British cannot support the trend to more integration in Europe, we can nevertheless remain friends, but on a different basis. I could imagine a form such as a European economic area or a free trade agreement.”

This correctly stated the alternatives for the UK, “Supporting the trend to more integration in Europe” or ‘friends’ on the basis of membership of the EEA/EFTA.

Photo by – = Duke One = –

Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

Everything to play for

With a few recent opinion polls suggesting support for withdrawal from the EU has fallen in the last few months, a report in the Independent summarising a recent poll by Survation offers some hope. Some 70% of the electorate have yet to make up their minds and the enthusiasm of Tony Blair to play a prominent role in the “yes” or “in” campaign is likely to be a great boost to his opponents as he is seen as so untrustworthy in matters relating to the EU (is he trustworthy about anything at all? Well, that is another question!)

This does mean that the barrage of horror stories about the dangers of withdrawal, with one chief executive after another being wheeled out in support of staying in, have not convinced over 2/3 of UK voters. The tactics of fear, uncertainly and doubt have so far not been as effective as the “in” camp have hoped. Our fellow-countrymen (and women) are obviously still open to a well-presented, bullet-proof argument in favour of withdrawal. In short, there is everything to play for, even though time is short. To quote Dr Richard North, we have to present the EU as a problem, offer the solution and paint a glowing picture of the outcome. If we can do this, our opponents will have few arguments with which to beat us down

Photo by The hills are alive*

Rebuttal of the Europhiles’ Arguments

On 30th June 2011 The Rt Hon David Lidington MP, Minister for Europe, claimed a number of benefits that follow from Britain’s EU membership. In this rebuttal the Bruges Group addresses the main points he raises.

1) Access to the Single Market is of central economic importance to the UK

The Single Market is a Customs Union with the institutions of the European Union making regulations which govern businesses within it. There are no important customs unions anywhere else in the world.

EU membership is not a prerequisite for access to the Single Market. Switzerland and Norway which are outside of the EU, export more in relation to their GDPs and per capita than the UK does. Furthermore, both China and the USA each export more to the EU than the UK does and without having their economies burdened by costly EU regulation.

Countries as far afield as Mexico, Turkey, Chile and South Africa have tariff free access to the Single Market. Without having to pay the huge costs associated with the EU. As shown later in this report the costs both the taxpayer and the British economy amount to many 10s of billions of pounds per year.

The Single Market with its four freedoms of free movement of goods, capital, services, and people is not just reserved for EU members. Those four freedoms also apply to members of what is known as the European Economic Area (EEA). Britain is also a member of the EEA and this guarantees that Britain will always enjoy those four freedoms regardless of EU membership.

 2) The EU is one of the world’s most important trading zones

Less that 10% of the UK economy is involved with trading with businesses in other EU member- states. However, 100% of our economy must comply with the EU’s excessive regulatory burden.

Single Market trade is also becoming less important to the UK. With the growth of emerging markets the amount of British foreign trade with the rest of the world is set to increase so that by
2020 around 70% of Britain’s foreign trade will not be with the EU. Presently, the EU accounts for approximately just 40% of the UK’s trade.

 3) The benefits of EU membership… include free movement

As previously stated citizens of European Economic Area member-states have the opportunity for free movement throughout both the EU and the EEA. If the government continues to support the free movement of people then this can be achieved via the UK’s membership of the EEA.

ree movement into the UK is also an issue of great political concern in the UK, yet government cannot address this whilst governed by EU rules in this area.

 4) That 3.5 million jobs, 10% of the UK workforce, are reliant on exports to EU member states

This misleading claim first emerged in the year 2000 from the now defunct Britain in Europe group which unsuccessfully campaigned for Britain to join the euro. They apparently based this claim on research they commissioned into how many jobs were involved with the EU. However, Dr Martin Weale the Director of The National Institute for Economic and Social Research described Britain in Europe’s spin as “pure Goebbels” and said, “in many years of academic research I cannot recall such a willful distortion of the facts.” The report had in reality came to the conclusion that the jobs would still exist regardless of whether the UK was a member of the EU or not.

It is surprising that a Conservative Minister is repeating that erroneous claim.

British people and business do not need to remain within the EU, a supra-national political structure, to trade with other people and businesses on the continent.

The UK is a member of the European Economic Area and EEA members have tariff free access to the Single Market. Furthermore, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) would prevent the EU discriminating against British exporters. What is more, Articles 3, 8 and 50 of the Lisbon Treaty legally requires the EU to negotiate “free and fair trade” with non-EU countries.

The UK is the single biggest purchaser of exports from the other 26 EU member-states. They sell far more to Britain than British businesses sell to them. Perhaps the government should take action to address structural trade deficit which effectively means that Britain losing jobs to the continent.

 5) Collective action gives us more negotiating power

Britain, with only 8% of the votes in the Council of Ministers has little formal power over the determination of EU rules, whereas a sovereign state would have 100% authority over its own affairs.

Outside of the EU Britain can retake its seat on the World Trade Organisation and negotiate according to our best interests instead of being represented by an EU trade commissioner who is currently from Belgium. Britain will then be able to negotiate without being encumbered by the differing interests of other EU nations that often have a different outlook to the UK. And as one of the largest WTO members the UK can support the many other members who share our global trading outlook.

Britain is having its own foreign policy decisions being subjugated to common EU positions. Both national and EU embassies will have to cooperate. As a result of the common foreign policy the UK diplomatic service will be receiving direction from the EU’s High Representative.

EU rules also state that “The High Representative shall represent the Union for matters relating to the common foreign and security policy. He or she shall conduct political dialogue with third parties on the Union’s behalf and shall express the Union’s position in international organisations and at international conferences.”

They also state that “When the Union has defined a position on a subject which is on the United Nations Security Council agenda, those Member States which sit on the Security Council shall request that the High Representative be asked to present the Union’s position.”

Furthermore, Defence integration is already underway.

One of the areas cited by Mr Lidington included the ability to reduce crime, catch criminals and take action to tackle abuse of the asylum system

What Mr Lidington may be unaware of is that Britain cannot deport foreign EU criminals because of an EU directive, number 2004/58/EC. The EU’s increasing involvement in areas to do with Justice and Home Affairs such as the European Arrest Warrant and the European Investigation Order are seen as threats to our civil liberties and should not be welcomed.

The attempt to claim that EU control over Britain’s asylum policy as a benefit of EU membership is also surprising.

 6) Mr Lidington was confident in the UK’s ability to move the EU in the right direction

The EU is unreformable, it is not proposing to return any powers to the member-states and the EU continues to legislate thus continually deepening the centralisation within the EU.

 7) The governments EU referendum lock was also cited in the letter as part of moving the EU in the right direction

It does no such thing. The Government have introduced the EU Bill, containing the so-called ‘Referendum Lock’; however this does not prevent the EU expanding its powers without a referendum. It can still do this by legislating in new areas which it has not as yet done so but are granted to it as shared competences under the terms of the treaties. Once it has done so this becomes another EU occupied field and national Parliaments must then confirm to EU law and can only legislate in those areas if they obey the principles of the EU legislation. The EU Bill does not cover referendums in such circumstances and only in the event of there being a new Treaty and then only if the Government considers a Treaty change a ‘significant’ transfer of power.

In conclusion what Mr Lidington has failed to address is the enormous costs of Britain’s EU membership:

  • Britain has to hand over to the EU more than £10 billion each year excluding contributions to the bailout schemes
  • The Common Agricultural Policy costs Britain at least £16.8 billion per annum. According to the Consumer Nominal Assistance Coefficient (CNAC), on average, agricultural prices paid by European consumers are 23% higher than those prevailing in international markets. It means higher food prices for an average family in the UK of £1,500 per year.
  • The Common Fisheries Policy costs Britain over £3 billion in lost commercial opportunities each year. This figure is derived at by calculating the proportion of the value of the EU’s total catch, approximately £5 billion per year, of which it is estimated that 70% comes from previously defined British waters. Furthermore, in 1970 there were 21,443 fishermen in the UK. By 2007 that figure had dropped to 12,729: a decrease of 40.64%.
  • Over-regulation from the EU on business costs Britain over £20 billion per annum holding back UK economic growth by 2% each year. The British Chamber of Commerce Burdens Barometer, counting regulation from Whitehall and Brussels, puts the cumulative figure of total regulation upon British businesses much higher. At least 50%, and perhaps as much as 70%, of this legislation originated from Brussels, therefore the cost of EU regulation is at least 2% of GDP and that is a conservative estimate. Peter Mandelson told the 2004 CBI conference that the cost of regulation amounts to 4% of Europe’s GDP. Also in 2004 the Dutch Vice Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Gerrit Zalm stated that the administrative burden on business in the Netherlands was estimated at 4% of GDP. In October 2006 Gunter Verhuegen, the European Commission Vice-President for industry and Enterprise estimated that the annual cost of EU regulation across the EU amounted to €600 billion per annum (around 5.5% of GDP), while the benefits of the Single Market amount to only €160 billion: therefore the costs exceeded the benefits by €440 billion. Later, in a letter from Commissioner Verhuegen to Bill Newton-Dunn MEP, dated 18th June 2007, he gives the overall EU figure as an average of 3.5% of GDP for all member states and the figure would be similar for the UK. Therefore, the £20 billion per annum and 2% figures are erring on the side of caution.

The question needs to be asked if this is a cost worth paying and ask for a genuine explanation of what we get in return. If the Treasury disputes those figures then there should be an official cost benefit analysis into Britain’s EU membership.

THE BRUGES GROUP

The Bruges Group is an independent all–party think tank. Set up in February 1989, its aim was to promote the idea of a less centralised European structure than that emerging in Brussels. Its inspiration was Margaret Thatcher’s Bruges speech in September 1988, in which she remarked that “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re–imposed at a European level…”. The Bruges Group has had a major effect on public opinion and forged links with Members of Parliament as well as with similarly minded groups in other countries.

The Bruges Group spearheads the intellectual battle against the notion of “ever–closer Union” in Europe. Through its ground–breaking publications and wide–ranging discussions it will continue its fight against further integration and, above all, against British involvement in a single European state.

For more information about the Bruges Group please contact:

Robert Oulds, Director
The bruges group, 227 Linen Hall, 162-168 Regent Street, London W1B 5TB
Tel: +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Email: [email protected]

Now we know the question

In spite of much speculation in the press, it is highly unlikely that the referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU will be held before 2017. However, we can now be more confident about the wording of the referendum question. The European Referendum Bill was published last week and had its first reading in the House of Commons and consequently, we now know that the proposed question is “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”

This means that supporters of withdrawal will become the “No” campaign. While some reports suggested this question was a replacement for “Should the United Kingdom be a member of the European Union?” on the grounds that some people didn’t even know that we were a member, it does make our task somewhat harder as there is an innate desire among the uninformed to want to please and to be positive – in other words, to say “Yes”. No doubt Mr Cameron is aware of this.

The “Out” campaign, as Robert Oulds said recently at CIB’s annual rally, must therefore be positive and talk not so much about leaving something but rather about joining something better – the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which we should never have left in the first place.

Incidentally, to answer any critics who fear that EFTA may not want us back, Mr Oulds has pointed out that in a reply by the Prime Minister of Iceland, S. D. Gunlaugssson, to a question about Cameron’s promise of an EU referendum in an interview with the “Liechtensteiner Vaterland” on 9th May 2015, he said “I would certainly welcome Great Britain into EFTA. An entry into EFTA could be a good solution for Great Britain and would be equally good for EFTA. We would at all events be open to taking the British back into EFTA.”