That speech six months on

(C) Mrs M Westrop, 2015

In David Cameron’s speech to the Confederation of British Industry last November, he set a benchmark for his negotiations  with the EU. The reasons for the current “fear” campaign becomes apparent if you compare Cameron’s stated objectives an what he actually achieved.

Here are a few examples:-

“…reducing the pressures that we face through immigration.” It soon became apparent that any hopes of any exemption for the UK from the “free movement of people” principle was going to be a non-starter. The best Cameron could achieve was to claim to have agreed an “emergency brake” on welfare payments to new migrants. All this amounts to in reality is availing ourselves of a 22-year-old provision written in the European Economic Area Agreement, fiddling with minor provisions in existing EU law which now need European Parliament approval and which can be overturned at a drop of a hat. 

…making sure we’re out of an ever-closer union.” We already have opt-outs from both Schengen and the Euro – the two motors of ever-closer union. Did Mr Cameron’s “deal” strengthen those opt-outs? Not according to many legal experts. The Lawyers for Britain group says that “Ever Closer Union” will remain in the treaty and the summit deal makes no difference to the UK’s legal obligations.”

….proper fairness between those in the eurozone and those out of the eurozone.” Similar issues apply here.  In a speech last month,  Owen Paterson MP said “if we Remain, we will be excluded from the very “top tables” in Brussels where the key decisions are taken by Eurozone members. They call it a “lasting settlement” in which “Continued allegiance would be required, but political engagement would be reduced.”

Mr Cameron did make one statement with which we would agree:- “Some people seem to say that really Britain couldn’t survive, couldn’t do okay outside the European Union. I don’t think that is true. Let’s be frank, Britain is an amazing country. We have got the fifth biggest economy in the world. We are a top ten manufacturer, growing steadily strong financial services. The world wants to come and do business here, look at the record of inward investment. Look at the leaders beating a path to our door to come to see what’s happening with this great country’s economy.”  Absolutely! However, we haven’t heard anything anything remotely as positive as this from him recently.  He warned that Islamic State and Vladimir Putin would both welcome Brexit. Big deal. So would John Howard, the former Australian Prime Minister, who said that he would have voted for Brexit.  Cameron also recently warned of the threat of war if we vote to leave.

However, when he said that “If I can’t achieve them {i.e., these objectives}, I rule nothing out“, it was obvious that this didn’t include campaigning to leave the EU, for he completely misrepresented the safest exit route and one which would have achieved all his objctives, the Norway option:-

They pay more per head into the European Union than we do.” WRONG!  One study suggests that Norway pays £1.66 per head of population per annum to access the EEA. Our net EU contribution is much higher, over £100 per head of population per year.

“They don’t have a seat at the table to determine what the rules are.” WRONG! Norway doesn’t have a final vote, but it is consulted in the framing of EEA-relevant legislation, so it DOES have a “seat at the table”. Furthermore, it only has to apply barely 25% of all EU legislation. The rest, not marked EEA-relevant, doesn’t apply .

“It is not a good deal.” But it is vastly better than EU membership. Norway is outside of the Common Agricultural and Common Fisheries policies, it is not subject to the European Court of Justice. if the Eurzone or an EU Member state got into financial difficulties, Norway wouldn’t have to pay a single øre, but we would.

In summary. Mr Cameron came back with nothing of any substance. Given that polling suggested that many swing voters would base their final decision on how successful his negotiations were, he knew that he had to divert attention away from his failure in Brussels. With no sign of the Leave side building up a lead, in the polls, maybe it’s time to return the focus of the referendum campaign to this dodgy “deal.”

Paterson: Leave is the safe option

One bright spot in what hasn’t been a particularly encouraging week for “leave” campaigners was yesterday’s  speech by Rt Hon Owen Paterson entitled The future of Europe

Mr Paterson spelt out what both “leave” and “remain” would look like in 2020. “Remain” would not be a vote for any sort of status quo. “To remain is a leap in the dark, It is a commitment to an undefined relationship to a completely new country”, he emphasised.  “You may not like the EU you have got now. you will like the new one even less.”  He went on to mention how the Eurozone countries were determined tt forge ahead with closer political union. This would leave the  UK out on a limb, not part of the Eurozone but sufficiently interlinked that “it is inevitable that its decisions will have an impact on us.”  Paterson goes on to question the validity of the Cameron deal and calls it “the worst of both worlds” adding that “The Prime Minister’s second-tier ‘associate membership’ or ‘special status’ is an ill-defined sham..”

He goes on to warn us not to repeat the mistake of the 1975 referendum. “Don’t be fooled again”  – a message the electorate needs to be told over and over again.

By contrast, Leave is called “the safe, bright, optimistic choice” and Paterson goes on to explain why. Following on from the Obama visit and the focus on the trade issue,  he points out that “The EU is a lousy negotiator of free trade deals. It moves as fast as the slowest lame donkey in the caravan – the deal with the US is holding up a deal with China, in turn holding up a deal with India. Free from the EU we will be able to strike our own bilateral deals as other countries like New Zealand do.” He points out the often overlooked role of global organisations in world trade.

However the issue on which Paterson provides far more detail than most other recent politicians on the “leave” side is how we would leave. He rightly points out that withdrawal is a process not an event and life on the day after we leave won’t be that different from before.  “We can leave the political arrangements of the Union and still enjoy access to the market”, he points out. Yes indeed, Mr Paterson. You have hit the nail on the head. We cannot jeopardise our access to the EU’s Single Market. It needs replacing with something better in the long term, but it is too important a market for our exporters to be put in jeopardy during the post-Brexit period.

A few more speeches by leading pro-leave politicians on these lines are sorely needed.

That booklet!

We have received a number of e-mails from people very angry about our money being spent by the government producing the booklet which landed on our doormats last week.

Some people have very kindly responded by making a donation to us, for which we are most grateful. “I don’t want my taxes used on propaganda… so I have to do my bit to redress the balance” said one kind contributor.

But what of the booklet itself? It has been criticised  – and with good reason – both for its style and content. Rosalind Moffitt, an inclusive communications consultant at Inklecomms, said of the former, “I….am astounded by the long and complex sentences within the leaflet. It also uses many unnecessarily difficult words. The leaflet is written at a complex level for average-low literacy readers, so it will be difficult for many to read and understand” Good news for the Brexit campaign!”

Turning to the content. Lord Wemyss did not mince his words, calling it “senseless twaddle – insulting to the intelligence of the recipients.”

This is indeed a good summary. If the “twaddle” can be categorised, most of it comes under three headings:-

  1. So-called “benefits” which aren’t actually very beneficial.
  2. Benefits which we don’t actually need to be in the EU to enjoy
  3. Untrue and misleading statements.

In the first category comes the European Arrest Warrant, which is mentioned under “keeping us safer”. Since 2004 (when the EAW was first introduced), we are told “over 1,000 suspects have faced justice in  UK courts and over 7,000 have been extradited.” Fine. You try telling people like  Andrew Symeou or  Edmond Arapi how wonderful the EAW is. These men suffered gross miscarriages of justice, being exposed to judicial processes on the Continent which do not include the legal safeguards we are accustomed to in the UK. It is so easy to forget that Magna Carta may have crossed the oceans, but it never crossed the Channel. One consequence of this is that you can be tried in absentia, tried on hearsay evidence or kept in detention for ages without being charged. The EAW potentially exposes any one of us to all these horrors.

Also sold as a benefit, on page 12, we are told that “the EU is leading the world on tackling climate change”. Try telling those made redundant in the now defunct UK aluminium smelting industry what a good thing this is! Perhaps when we suffer blackouts because our government has signed up to unachievable emissions targets we will console ourselves with how virtuous the EU is being!

Turning to the second category, the phrase “Single Market” comes up no fewer than eight times. There are probably few regular visitors to our website who aren’t aware that we can retain access to the Single Market on leaving the EU by re-joining EFTA and availing ourselves of the European Economic Area agreement.  The booklet boasts how the EU “guarantees many employment rights” without mentioning, of course, that most employment legislation originates with global organisations like the International Labour Organisation. These benefits would not disappear if we left the EU.

“EU reforms in the 1990s have resulted in a drop in fares of over 40% for lower cost flights”, proclaims the booklet.  Once again, one has to question whether this benefit would disappear if we left the EU. to help us answer this question, guess which airline won the “Best low-cost airline in Europe” award in 2015? It was called Norwegian and furthermore, this airline which seems to hoover up awards, flies to a number of European destinations but isn’t based in the EU.

What about the untrue and misleading statements? It’s hard to know where to begin. Going back to the Single Market. we are informed that “No other country has managed to secure signficant access to the single market without having to follow EU rules over which they have no real say /pay into the EU”. Shoddy work here. As we have pointed out, Norway is widely consulted  in the framing of EEA relevant legislation (which amounts to less than 25% of the total Acquis)  and the price it pays to access the singel market is peanuts compared with how much we pay per capita to the EU as a memebr state.

The first page proclaims that “the UK has secured a special status in a reformed EU.”  Oh really?  The legality of the agreement has been widely questioned, with Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, the vice-president of the European Parliament, describing it as “nothing more than a deal that has been hammered out down the local bazaar”.

Part of the “deal” is that “we will not join the Euro” Didn’t we secure that opt-out over 20 years ago? What about the “tough new restrictions on access to our welfare for new EU migrants”? Well, suppose that, say a  Latvian decorator moves over here after 2016, falls off a ladder and breaks both legs after living here for three years dyring which time has only worked for 29 months. In theory, he shouldn’t get much out of our system under Dave’s new deal. In practise….?

Keeping our own border controls is another benefit which is part of our “special status” so we are told. Once again, if this means that we are not part of Schengen, this is not exactly a show-stopper. We secured an opt-out here many years ago.

The biggest criticism, however, is that nowhere in this booklet does the word “sovereignty” come up. The  EU’s unique selling point is that it requires member states progressively to hollow out their national institutions and surrender soverignty to supranational institutions. These other issues are peripheral. the creation of a federal superstate is the EU’s raison d’être. Failing to mention it is rather like a supplier of fruit trees illustrating its products with lovely pictures of apple blossom but failing to show a single picture of a nice ripe apple or to mention that the reason you buy an apple tree is to eat of its produce.

To be blunt, this reluctance even to mention what the EU is all about is just plain dishonest. If the referendum is won by the “remain” side without this issue being at the centre of the debate, it will have been a pyrrhic victory which will leave us stilll being the EU’s awkward partner, always dragging our feet and being outvoted more than any other member state.

Is this really what Mr Cameron  wants? it will be a most unsatisfactory legacy. Best for his sake and for our country if we deny him such an opportunity by securing a vote to leave.

 

 


 

A voice from Dave’s back yard

Readers may be interested to read this letter which appeared in the Witney Gazette earlier this week. How power corrupts! Whatever Dave really believes about sovereignty, he said something very different when first seeking election as an MP to what he is saying now. Can we trust this man?

Sir, Watching the BBC Andrew Marr Show a couple of weeks back, I was perplexed to hear David Cameron, our Witney MP and Prime Minister, dismiss the return of sovereignty to the people of this country as being inconsequential, or words to that effect.

Sovereignty means the recognition that a people actually count and in the same way that we have district councils and county councils to create a degree of order and to avoid anarchy, so we need sovereignty at a higher level for the same thing. Perhaps Mr Cameron thinks that we would be better off with a sovereign EU, but experience has shown that that entity is, apart from being unlovable, puts accountability and understanding out of reach of we ordinary citizens because of its sheer mass and the fact we cannot get rid of those who run it, – the larger the size, the more remote it becomes.

Anyway, apart from the philosophical argument, my bewilderment arises from what it was that prompted Mr Cameron’s epiphany conversion, for when first seeking the Conservative Party candidature for Witney in early 2000, he had a very different view of sovereignty, regarding it as a major issue in Britain ’s relationship with the EU. Then he publicly declared that he opposed any further transfer of sovereignty from the UK to the EU.

In fact Mr Cameron went further than that complaining that ‘politicians have given up far too much sovereignty’ and wanted no further transfer of power from Westminster to Brussels and went so far as to say ‘If that’s being a Europhile, then I’m a banana’.

Well it could be that Mr Cameron now has a much deeper understanding of the issue, and that in spite of the transfer of huge swathes of the people’s power (and we are ultimately talking about the power of you and I through the ballot box to influence things for the better) since millennium year, he has something to tell us that we should all know about.

I believe it is the duty of our elected representatives to explain the thinking that lies behind their decision making, especially on an issue which I know to be dear to most people in this constituency and in the country in general.

Shall we be enlightened? Well let’s wait and see.

Photo by bazzadaramblerimages

Associate membership – dead or just sleeping?

The deal on which we wil be voting on June 23rd has been exposed on this website and elsewhere as lacking in substance and entirely conditional on the signing of some future EU treaty – in other words, not worth the paper it is printed on as things stand.

Only a few months ago, it looked like Mr Cameron was going to return from Brussels with at least a commitment to a new treaty formalising the UK’s status as leader of the EU’s Second Division. It became clear by February, however, that the blueprint for this treaty, the Fundamental Law of the European Union, was being kept on the back burner for the time being and was essentially irrelevant as far as our referendum was concerned. Furthermore, both Angela Merkel and France’s President Hollande stated that there was no plan for a new treaty  – indeed Frau Merkel went as far as to say that “on the question of amending treaties, we do not know if we ever will have a change of them.”

Obviously, it is the hope of everyone at CIB that our country will vote to leave the EU in June, but if we don’t, one hint has recently appeared suggesting that a new treaty may be back on the agenda at some point in the future.

William Hague, writing in the Daily Telegraph, discusses Turkey’s relationship with the EU. Hague has been a long-standing supporter of full Turkish membership, but not only does he acknowledge that other EU member states are considerably less enthusiastic than he is, but he admits that Turkey’s “authoritarian direction means that it cannot be a full member of the European Union, and that continued pursuit of that goal, for the time being at least, will achieve nothing.”

Hague therefore proposes “a kind of associate membership. This could involve Turkish membership of the single market and participation in Europe’s trade deals with the rest of the world, but without full freedom of movement of people. It could be based on co-operation in foreign affairs but no linking of criminal justice systems. Like Britain, Turkey would not be committed to ‘ever-closer union’, and there would be no question of joining the euro.”

He then makes the obvious point that associate membership is not yet on offer, but is he right in saying that “the EU….would be frightened to create it”? Hardly. The two-tier Europe of the Fundamental Law  enjoys the support of a number of ardent EU federalists including the UK’s own Andrew Duff, a former Lib Dem MEP. This proposal was doing the rounds in 2014 and 2015 and even its recent quiescence does not imply that the EU has suddenly become running scared of the idea. At some point, by some means or other, the Eurozone wil want to forge ahead with closer integration will inevitably be on the table and whatver Merkel or Hollande may say, the Fundamental Law looks like the obvious starting point.

Hague’s article is headed “Will Turkey”s EU relationship be a model for sceptical Britain?” which suggests that he is fully familiar with the Fundamental Law.  It is possible that other non-EU member states such as Norway and Switzerland could be offered associate membership too.

Hague may just be putting forward his own ideas, but clearly some accomodation will have to be made for Turkey and the prospect of such treaty proposals being dusted down in a few years’ time would, of course, give us a second bite at the cherry. Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are all blessed with well-organised independence movements and are unlikely to take kindly to any attempt to shoehorn them into the EU, even if accompanied by a threat to wind up the EEA, which an unanimous vote by the EU member states could bring about. The EFTA countries will most likely react strongly to such bullying; indeed, earlier this month, the Swiss Parliament finally withdrew its application to join the EU – admittedly only a symbolic gesture as Swiss membership has essentially been void since 1992 anyway.

Whatever form this new treaty takes, however,  it would be hard for any future UK government to avoid offering us a referendum and, working in conjunction with the other non-EU countries, we could well, given a longer timespan, persuade the electorate to reject it, showing how much better life is outside of the EU which could well lead to a renewed opportunity to put UK withdrawal back on the agenda.

This, of course, is hypothetical. Our objective is to secure a “leave” vote on June 23rd, rendering  Hague’s speculations irrelevant, but those of us who have campaigned all these years for withdrawal are not going to go away if Dave’s cut and run campaign succeeds in scaring the electorate into staying in. He might win this battle (although hopefully he won’t) but we will win the war.

Photo by Chadica

Ten Years? not likely

It could be a full-time job just to debunk all the nonsense that is doing the rounds at the moment.

The latest scare story to do the rounds is a suggestion that UK withdrawal would trigger “ten years of uncertainty.” This is partly based on fears about the validity of trade deals negotiated by the EU on our behalf (and the other member states too, of course).

Lord Lawson, interviewed on the World At One, disputed this and he is right. At a recent seminar Robert Oulds, a CIB Committee member, explained that there was a “presumption of continuance” when one party to a trade deal underwent a change of circumstances. Thus, we would still be able to participate in such trade deals as those negotiated between the EU and Chile, Mexico and South Korea on leaving the EU. Let’s face it, this is sheer common sense; why would either party not want to continue?  All that would be needed is for the two parties to sign an agreement stating that they wish the deal to continue.

Of course, trading with the EU could be more complex and this is why there has been much support for using the so-called Norway Option (re-joining EFTA to allow sealess access to the EEA) to tide us over. It is possible that the desired Europe-wide genuine Free Trade agreement which would replace the EEA COULD take another 10 years, but as long as trade continues seamlessly throughout the withdrawal period, as it would with the EEA/EFTA secnario, no one need be worried. Indeed, as Richard North has put it, this ten years would be a Decade of opportunity.

While we’re at it,  claims that we need ot stay in the EU for security grounds have also been dismissed by Richard Walton, Scotland Yard’s former head of Counter Terrorism.  According to an article in the Daily Telegraph, he said that reducing terror plots is “absolutely not” dependent on being a member of the European Union. “So let’s not scare the horses with fears about Brexit.”  How many more scare stories are we going to have to debunk?

Returning to the World At One feature, it was correct on one point. An academic was quoted saying that once Article 50 is invoked. “the train has left the station” – in other words, withdrawal MUST happen.

Is this scary? Hardly. If you were told, “After 43 years in prison, we’re going to let you out soon, but beware! Once you go through that prison door, we’re never going to let you back in again”, would you really worry about that?

Photo by infomatique