Going round in circles

Photo by Karva Javi

It was all happening on the news today! Firstly, Sir Stuart Rose, who heads up the “BSE” campaign organisation was spelling out what a huge risk it would be to withdraw from the single market. At the same time, Open Europe staged te first part of its “EU War games” event, simulating the “Brexit” discussions with the help of two former Prime Ministers and various ministers from overseas, trying to analyse the results of various scenarios including withdrawal.

Earlier this morning, Civitas released a report stating that the trade benefits of the Single Market have been “mis-sold”.  All this was dutifully reported on BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme and one has to say that if those of us who follow politics keenly found it a bit tedious, the impact on the majority of listeners must have been at best confusion, at worse, outright boredom.

The debate about trade has been going round in circles for the simple reason that we, the “Leave” side, have not been able to coalesce around  a single post-independence scenario. Therefore, any attempt to say that leaving the EU would increase or decrease our overall GDP by any given percentage or amount carries very little weight as there is no agreed “counterfactual”.

Today’s developments do, however, make it apparent that any post-independence scenario which does not preserve our acccess to the Single Market will cause problems for some sectors of business, problems which the BBC and pro-“remain” politicians will be keen to exploit for their own benefits.

The EEA/EFTA option does address their concerns, ensuring that “Brexit” would not be the “huge risk” that Sir Stuart Rose claimed, but this in turn means that the “no influence” myth regarding the EEA needs to be shattered. The BBC recently gave it yet another airing which included an interview with a Norwegian businessman who clearly had little idea of how EEA applicable legislation is created. Predictably, there  was no discussion with anyone from Norway’s influential No2EU campaign.

Without a clear agreement on exit strategy among “leavers”, we are likely to suffer more of the same for months on end – barrages of meaningless statistics. It is vital to nail the economic and job arguments once and for all, for untl this is done, we cannot move the debate onbto a higher level – looking at the failings of the EU project as a whole and the appalling behaviour of many of our own politicians and civil servants. With trust in politicians at a very low ebb, there will be a ready audience for our arguments, but the crucial swing voters can only be won round if they can be assured that jobs and economic prosperity will not be threatened.

PM under fire for his tactics in Brussels

THE PRESS OFFICE OF                                                           

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon

(Independent Labour)                                                                                          

News Release

22nd January 2016

The Prime Minister, David Cameron has come under fire from the independent Labour Peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, over his contradictory tactics in Davos.

Lord Stoddart said:  “How can we give any credence to a Prime Minister who one day says “Trust the people” with the European Union membership referendum but then at Davos appeals to international financiers and multinational industries to help him make the case to stay in, if he achieves the minor concessions he has so meekly demanded?

 “Comically, the EU countries at Davos are wringing their hands about the dire consequences for the EU and the United Kingdom if our country decides to leave.  We know that the EU would suffer from UK withdrawal because it has treated Britain as a milch cow for more than 40 years.  In the process, it has crippled some of our great industries through over-regulation and prevented our own governments giving early aid to ailing industries, without its permission.

“Freed from paying billions of pounds every year to the EU coffers to subsidise our competitors and no longer subject to bureaucratic impositions from the unelected European Commission, our country would be able to thrive in the wider world and our young people could then look forward to happy and successful futures in an independent, democratic country, of which they could be justly proud.”

Muddying the waters

David Cameron is keeping us guessing regarding the finer points of the “deal” he hopes to sell to us, in order to persuade us to remain in the EU, but a few key features are leaking out.

The most important of these is his claim that he will change our domestic law to state that Parliament is sovereign. “I think there is a good case for it,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme earlier this week. Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary has been asked to look into this. At first glance, it sounds like an important significant agreement has been made with the other member states, allowing us a major concession. This may well be his cynical tactic. “We’ve won power back from Brussels” could be a rallying cry for the all-important swing voters.

Nothing, however, is what it seems and Mr Cameron is deceiving us again. He is clearly determined to try to keep us in the EU or else he would not be trying to muddy the waters in the hope that we, the people, won’t look beneath the surface. While we only have the scantiest of clues to guide us at this stage, it is already obvious that talk of restoring sovereignty to Parliament is just smoke and mirrors and should not therefore make anybody waver in their desire to leave the failing political experiment of the EU with its aim of creating a Europe-wide centralised Superstate.

Let us start by taking Mr Cameron at face value and assume that he will come back with an agreement with the other 27 member states to allow the UK Parliament to veto ALL EU legislation; not very plausible. Firstly, what status will this “agreement” have? Without a treaty to back it up – and there is no sign of a new treaty in the offing – it will have no legal force within the EU or in this country. Furthermore, even if it did, we are faced with the uncomfortable reality that the majority of our MPs are Europhile. Six years ago, had Parliament so decided, it could have struck down the Lisbon Treaty – indeed, our MPs could have killed off every new treaty since the Single European Act of 1986. They already had sufficient powers back then, but did not choose to use them.

Analyse how Parliament handles its existing powers and Cameron’s great deal rapidly loses much of its force. Take the EU (Approvals) Bill of 2014. This Bill covered a number of EU-related issues, but most of the debate centred on the Europe Citizens’ Programme, a five-year programme costing €185 billion to fund educational projects that seek to enhance both the understanding of EU institutions and European integration. In other words, as one MP put it: “this grant-making exercise is aimed at providing propaganda, as I see it, for purposes of political union.”

In the House of Commons, only 32 MPs opposed it at this second reading, and just a couple of weeks later it went through its final stages with only 30 MPs opposing. Can we really trust our Parliament to stem the flow of European legislation? Its track record to date suggests we cannot.

Sometimes, of course, Parliament isn’t even given a say by our own Government ministers. The shambles last year over the opt-in to the 33 law and justice measures in the Lisbon Treaty from which the UK had earlier opted out is a classic illustration of this. MPs opposed to the opt-ins ended up accusing ministers of “tricking” them when it emerged that they would not be given an individual vote on the controversial European Arrest Warrant after being initially told that they would.

If MPs are not told the truth, giving them any extra power is of little value. As readers to John Ashworth’s series on fisheries may recall, Edward Heath deliberately misled the House of Commons over the nature of the UK’s “transitional derogation” from the Common Fisheries Policy. He assured them that we held a veto whereas we had nothing of the sort. Can this Conservative Europhile Prime Minister Mr Cameron really be trusted any more than the previous Conservative Europhile Prime Minister Mr Heath?

Indeed, we can go back to the vote on the original accession treaty. MPs were forced to vote on a document that most of them had not even read. Heath knew that in those days, when MPs were more likely to stick up for their country than their successors 40 years later, he would never have succeeded in passing the bill if his colleagues in Westminster knew the full truth.

So this ‘power’ which the UK Parliament may gain, according to Mr Cameron, is in reality, a paper tiger. Of course, so far we know nothing about its scope. EU legislation comes in three main forms: regulations, directives and decisions. Currently, only directives need to be run past Parliament. Is Mr Cameron proposing that Parliament has the power to veto regulations and decisions as well, instead of automatically rubber-stamping them? It would be good to know. Much EU legislation currently goes onto our statue books by Statutory Instrument, which means that Parliament is bypassed altogether

For all the smoke and mirrors of Cam’s great Sham, this latest “rabbit out of the hat” nevertheless requires a slight change of tactics by “Leave” campaigners. When the positions of UK and Norway have been compared, which they recently have been on this blog and elsewhere, it has been noted that Norway refused to implement the Third Postal Directive, even though it was marked as EEA-relevant. There is no point in trying to sell this to undecided voters. Cameron will be claiming to offer our toadying MPs similar powers; the problem, as we have outlined above, is that they won’t use them.

Instead, the focus of our campaign must be to tell all and sundry just how untrustworthy the majority of our politicians are. No doubt we will soon have ample evidence of this when scores of “Eurosceptic” Tory MPs all fall in line behind their leader saying what a wonderful new deal he has secured. Convince the country that they are talking rot and we may stand a chance not only of leaving the EU but of addressing a good few other failings in the way we are currently governed.

Photo by treehouse1977

Why the EU would benefit from a free UK

The advantages to the European Union (the EU) of the United Kingdom leaving its failing political Superstate experiment are seldom mentioned. Yet “Brexit” would benefit the countries of Europe even if the political class and bureaucrats don’t or won’t acknoweldge these benefits. There is plenty of historical evidence to prove that a strong, free UK is much better for Europe generally, especially for its ordinary peoples. We would be far more use to everyone as an independent country than as a subservient vassal administered by EU puppet politicians.

The UK, the Empire and Commonwealth have often come to the rescue our European neighbours in their ‘hours of need’, not least during the Napoleonic and World Wars. It is somewhat humbling to read a letter of gratitude dating from the 1920s from the British colonial administrator to the local inhabitants in Bechuanaland (now Botswana) thanking them for their generosity in helping to save the poorer starving people of Poland.

The positive impact of these islands on mainland Europe goes back many centuries. During the Dark Ages, Christianity was kept alive on the Celtic fringe whose missionaries subsequently helped to re-introduce the faith to a largely heathen continent. John Wycliffe’s ideas and teachings spread from Oxford to the Continent and provided an intellectual spark which was taken up by Jan Hus in Bohemia and later by Martin Luther, becoming the Protestant Reformation. Many of the foundations of Enlightenment thought and its predecessor, the revolutionary scientific thinking of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, were laid in these islands by such great luminaires as Isaac Newton, Adam Smith, John Locke and David Hume. In the nineteenth century our country saw great advances in science and technology as the Industrial Revolution gathered momentum.

These are a small selection of the cultural, intellectual, industrial and political developments which have spread outwards from this enterprising country.

Over the centuries, the United Kingdom has provided Europe with stubborn military resolve, preventing the subjugation of the continent by ambitious, delusional, autocratic leaders. At the same time our ideas have contributed to the advance of enlightened material progress. How could such a small place, with so few people, achieve so much? The simple answer is because our history, philosophical outlook and national characteristics are so different from those of neighbouring countries.

Our history, somewhat by serendipitous accident, has evolved over a long period, traceable from at least as far back as King Alfred of Wessex and moving – at least until 1973 – towards increasing rule by consent under just and equitable (common) law. The concept of government of the people, for the people, by the people first appeared in 1384.

Our philosophical divergence (mainly empiricism, where knowledge and reality come from experience, versus idealism, where reality is a product of the mind) can be traced through William of Ockham, David Hume, John Locke and others; their empiricism providing a stark contrast to the idealism of continental Europe, exemplified by, for example, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Immanuel Kant. This is a subject briefly explored by Peter Oborne in an article entitled ‘Europe’s dogmatic ruling class remains wedded to its folly’.

Our behaviour tends to be more individualistic than our European counterparts as shown through research by John W. Hunt (Professor of Organisational Behaviour). He noted, “This helps explain why talented people in Britain often prefer to work in the media and professions or start their own businesses, where there is greater freedom and teamwork is less important.”

We appear at our happiest and best when can exert our colourful, irreverent individuality instead of being forced to conform to some drab overpowering orthodoxy. This national characteristic is powerfully expressed in our great literature. For example, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which features sometimes bawdy individuality, rather than pious conformity or Jane Austin’s opinionated heroine, Elizabeth Bennett, in her popular novel Pride and Prejudice.

Yet it is in our attitude to the future where our national temperament really stands out, for we believe –  sometimes against formidable odds – that tomorrow can be better than today and many of us share the belief that we have a responsibility as individuals to make life better for family, friends and indeed, society as a whole.

By nature, we don’t feel comfortable with  EU solidarity, EU autocracy and pursuit of (naked) power over others. So it is obvious that our country, differing from the European mainstream, will always sit uneasily within an ideological federalist EU superstate, and as long as we do so, our potential will be dramatically diminished.

However, politicians and bureaucrats are happy with the current direction of EU travel; it means more power to them  – indeed, they are free to increase the degree of control over ordinary people both here and in the rest of the EU because there is no restraint except that which they impose upon themselves. There is no alternative political socio-economic model for their performance to be judged against. An emasculated UK within the EU can be ignored and dissent suppressed.

The situation changes dramatically for the better  – both here and in the EU – with the emergence of a free, independent UK. We can do our own, democratic, self-reliant, enterprising thing and provide an  alternative model for to the peoples of Europe and beyond  – a model they could possibly emulate and from which they could certainly gain inspiration. An independent UK would provide a reality check on the EU’s ruling élite and act as a potential facilitator of popular restraint upon their self-delusional excesses. It would be harder for the EU élite to continue to ignore the wishes, hopes and fears of their subject peoples when people could look across the Channel and see the benefits of, for example: lower tax,  fewer and better thought out regulations, more transparent, accountable and therefore, effective government, greater personal liberty, less corruption and waste, the rule of law and protection against arbitrary actions by an overbearing state.

Our example, as a free country, independent of the EU and focusing on what we do best could help ‘toughen up’ the rest of Europe, helping our neighbours survive in a dangerous world and inspiring them to build prosperity in a competitive one. Most of all, Brexit could provide the peoples of Europe and the wider world, with something that is sadly missing these days – hope for tomorrow.

Der Spiegel is ahead of the game

Sometimes you get a better idea of the direction of Cameron’s renegotiations by reading the foreign press than you do from our national daily newspapers. Certainly this article in Der Speigel online seems to have the measure of the play-acting going on between David Cameron and the various powers-that-be in the European Union:-

The victor in this game has already been determined. On Feb. 19th in Brussels, David Cameron will prevail with all of his most important demands. The British prime minister, to be sure, will be standing alone at the summit, faced with opposition from his 27 EU counterparts. But in the end, following tough negotiations, he will get his way.

Such is the result envisioned by EU leaders and in fact European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have already written the script for their own defeat. “We want Cameron to return to London victorious,” say EU officials in Brussels, in an uncommon display of unity. In Berlin, a Chancellery official says: “We will be extremely helpful.” Anything that isn’t a complete betrayal of European values is negotiable, the Berlin official says.

Their goal is that of providing Cameron with the political tailwind he needs to keep the United Kingdom in the European Union. This summer, Cameron is planning to hold a referendum on Britain’s future in the EU. Only if he returns from Brussels in February with a better deal for Britain does he stand a chance of reversing the widespread EU-skepticism that characterizes the country.

So there you have it – a stage-managed confrontation which will see Cameron seemingly winning against  the odds – talking tough and somehow, browbeating all the other 27 countries to get his way, except in reality they are more than happy to be browbeaten because of the fear of Brexit.

For Tusk, Juncker and Merkel, a Brexit would be a nightmare scenario, and one that they are seeking to avoid at all costs. It would shake the EU to its core, continues the article, perhaps with some truth. However, advocates of “remain” on both sides of the Channel have failed to face up to the fact that two contradictory forces are in play that can never ultimately be  reconciled.

The EU leadership is unbending in its commitment to “Ever Closer Union.”  Angela Merkel herself has said “We need a political union, which means we must gradually cede powers to Europe and give Europe control.” The problem is that the majority of the UK electorate doesn’t want to do this. It’s a bit like Jeremy Corbyn having someone in his shadow cabinet who not only rejects unilateralism but actually rejects socialism altogether! Such  a person is clearly in the wrong place.

So, for all the fears of the shock of Brexit, it really ought to be a benefit for the peoples of Europe. If they are at one with their elected (and unelected) leaders in still wanting ever-closer union, then getting rid of the foot-dragging Brits will enable them to achieve their objective a lot quicker.

If, on the other hand, the peoples of Europe are falling out of love with the European project, then we can lead the way towards a  peaceful, orderly dismemberment of the EU rather than the chaotic scenes we saw 25  years ago when the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia fell apart. After all, the EU has no divine right to eternal life. Brexit is actually a win-win situation for everybody, but first, we need to ensure that our own countrymen are as well-informed of the true nature of David Cameron’s charades as Der Speigel so manifestly is, so that we’re not taken in.

The EU – Mr Cameron’s greatest (phoney) acting role

All the world’s a stage, ..And one man in his time plays many parts (As you like it. Shakespeare)

As the ruling élite, particularly our Prime Minister, continue to strut around on the world stage, stage-managing artificial disputes and triumphs, how much is genuine and how much is just acting a part, perhaps many parts or ‘going through the motions’, to deceive us of their real intentions about the European Union (EU)? How can we reliably tell the difference?

We could start with integrity, for example. Does our PM actually believe in anything? Does he have (conservative) values and principles? His track record of destruction, for example, decimating the armed forces, closing working power stations, his railroading of HS2, does not appear consistent with a conservative ethos or compassion. Then there is the obsession with remaining in the European Union (EU) at any price and handing increasing control of our destiny as individuals and a country to unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels. Hardly evidence of high principles, but then for great acting, principles could be a handicap rather than a help.

So, leaving aside principles, does our PM have a track record and skills in deception (or acting)? A reasonable place to start looking for an anwer could be to consider his relationship with the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, whose trust in the integrity of the Prime Minister appears to have been betrayed. Having worked closely with Mr Cameron as coalition government partners for nearly five years, Mr Clegg found the Conservative Party pouring resources into Lib Dem held constituencies in the last General Election rather than Labour held ones. The result was a wipe-out of his party. With political friends like Mr Cameron, who needs enemies? And how much of it was a deceitful act to keep Mr Clegg and his colleagues off their guard and for how long did it go on?

Election strategies are not planned or implemented overnight. Based upon this and other examples of somewhat disreputable behaviour, (such as the use of induced fear to manipulate us in the General Election) it would be prudent to treat all mainstream politicians, their acolytes and fellow travellers with at least some caution, and the PM with more than most.

Our PM did not have a normal job before going into politics. His early career could be summed up by Rudyard Kipling (in Epitaph to a Dead Statesman) ‘I could not dig: I dared not rob: Therefore I lied to please the mob.’ His time out from politics (as Director of Corporate Affairs) appears to have been in public relations – handling the Press and facilitating make-believe corporate images of Carlton Communications whose main business was in make-believe (film and TV media) products. In such an environment, fiction and fact are somewhat interchangeable, as was said succinctly in the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: ‘This is the West, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.’ Such a background would be eminently suited to a young, ambitious career politician, as Winston Churchill observed of a PPC (prospective Parliamentary Candidate) ‘He’s asked to stand, he wants to sit and he is expected to lie’.

Mr Cameron certainly appears to be a consummate politician; at ease with power and at home  in the company of the international ruling élite;. He possesses the accoutrements of the modern successful career politician – namely,  being able to outmanoeuvre others, work alliances, use people and the weapon of fear to gain advantages and to use spin and undeliverable ‘promises’ to manipulate and conceal the true situation.

There are naturally various downsides to this political acumen, not least a worsening of actual governing competence, changing priorities to the spurious (spin, sound bites and appearances etc.), undermining democratic transparency and accountability, and a general deterioration in ethical standards and integrity. Some effects are subtle yet potentially significant.

Spin negates the need to deliver actual results and restricts the ability to analyse and to think outside the ‘spin-box’; sloppy, vague and confusing language undermines clear, logical thought and rational ideas. George Orwell in Politics and the English Language wrote about political language being used to deceive, to conceal the true horror and give substance to pure wind. He also pointed out its limiting or negative effect on ideas ‘English …… becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.’ This is readily apparent in the superficiality of supposedly important parliamentary debates and policy documents where high standards of observation and analysis are largely absent.

The consequence is self-evidently poorer performance by the government and a failure to assess properly any negative impacts of policies and thus to introduce timely mitigations. Less obviously, a modern advanced society, especially in the Internet age, needs a high level of trust in order to function efficiently and create future per capita wealth. Consequently, setting a poor example at the top must filter through negatively into the performance of the economy and society’s mores.

Yet, fortunately, there are pointers in the forthcoming referendum on EU membership which will enable us to distinguish between the phoney and acting from the real thing.  For example: over-acting the part and being too in earnest or emphatic; making unbelievable claims (for example, about EU ‘renegotiations’) or statements that defy logic or available evidence about the EU; endless repetition of known falsehoods about the EU, our relationship with it and life as a free and independent country; telling different stories to different audiences or at different times; all presentation and soundbites, without any actual substance or thoughtful analysis. Although this play-acting sounds impressive at the time, it is almost instantly forgettable.

The greatest triumph in acting is to convince the audience at the time to the extent that they accept the persona of the part, rather than that of the actor; and some actors appear to believe their roles are real. The greatest accomplishment of Mr Cameron in deception (and acting), and PR triumph would be to convince us, the electorate, and win the EU referendum, without his having a genuine belief in the cause, but just through acting or over-acting the part of the ‘statesman’.

And so to paraphrase Shakespeare’s tale of power politics and betrayal, Julius Caesar:
‘Friends, Britons, EU leaders, lend me your ears;
I come to bury UK, not to praise her.
The evil that I do lives after me as PM;
UK’s goodness will be interred with her bones;
So let the end be with the former GB.’