With one bound the UK will be free – or will it?

Dick Barton – Special Agent was a popular BBC radio thriller serial in the late 1940s. It often featured the line “With one bound Dick was free!” No matter how dangerous Dick’s dilemma, he would always escape by the easiest – and usually most contrived – method.

Some supporters of withdrawal still favour a similar approach to leaving the EU – repealing the European Communities Act of 1972. With one bound, the UK would be free – no need to bother with Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – the EU’s prescribed method for withdrawal. However, in international law, states cannot use changes in their own internal constitutional arrangements or indeed existing constitutional arrangements as reasons to abrogate a treaty unless they were specified at the time of making the treaty.

Therefore, while such an approach may seem appealing, it would be a gung-ho, John-Bull-in-a-china-shop sort of thing to do, leaving us with all manner of problems. It would not help at all in the very necessary negotiations which will have to accompany leaving the EU in an orderly manner with a seamless continuation of mutually beneficial trade. It would be exactly the sort of “leap in the dark” with which Sir Stuart Rose is trying to scare people. It would immediately put the UK in the wrong in the eyes of the international community. It would be an initial declaration of bad faith – not the right foot to get off on.

It would also have a great many side effects which would be disadvantageous. For instance, all our food safety laws originate in an EU Regulation, not an Act of Parliament and they would be gone in an instant – a great hazard to domestic public health, placing our own considerable food exports to the EU in regulatory limbo so they would lose their access to the Single Market. Each delivery would have to be detained at the port of entry until it had been thoroughly tested before being released.

It is a proposal which would help the Europhiles greatly and show every businessman in the country what clots were running the Leave campaign. They will be praying for people to suggest it loudly.

A couple of years ago I wrote an article suggesting a way in which reasonable safeguards against any EU trickery might be built in to the process whilst observing the normal rules of civilised international conduct. In fact I am far more worried about our own officials, very comfortable in their EU servitude, than I am about the EU Commission. As Lord Tebbit remarked “It’s called the Foreign Office because it works for foreigners”.

The Independence Movement will not be the negotiators of the post-referendum settlement. Unless the Fixed Term Parliament Act is repealed, the task will fall to a government enjoying a majority in the present Parliament. Given that Mr Cameron has insisted that no preparations should be made for a referendum vote to leave, it will necessary for that government to establish wide public confidence in the expertise and bona fides of the independence negotiating team. Leave.eu is already urging commitment to steps in this direction.  Otherwise there would be no public confidence that the Europhile majorities in Lords and Commons would press for a settlement, fully respecting a vote to leave.

Our Referendum Review exposes Cameron’s latest “deal”

DoYouBuyItDarkerScan(c)MWestrop2015-2

As some of the details of David Cameron’s draft agreement with European Council President Donald Tusk have been published today, the final page of our Referendum Review underlines how poor a deal it will be.  Of course, it is only a draft agreement. It has to be agreed by the other 27 member states at the forthcoming European Council, something which can by no means be guaranteed. However, even in draft form, Cameron’s proposals are nothing like as substantial as what he initially claimed he would be seeking, nor as ambitious as the Conservatives’ promises in their election manifesto. The Conservative MP Steve Baker said what was on offer was so trivial, he accused ministers of “polishing poo”. He is correct. As the chart in the Referendum Review shows clearly, there is no substantial change in our unhappy relationship with the EU. We would do far better by leaving.

Lord Stoddart said today:-

“It is quite obvious that in his haste for a rapid public relations victory, the Prime Minister has allowed himself to be fobbed off with vacuous promises that amount to little or no substantial change and abandoned most of the key commitments he has previously made.”

Lord Stoddart continued:  “So many things are missing from this ‘deal’ that I hardly know where to start.  We were promised that we would regain control over social and employment policy, we were promised an opt out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, we were promised an end to the EU overriding our common law, we were promised an end to the rulings of the European Court of Justice taking precedence over our criminal law, we were promised treaty changes before the referendum, and reform of the CAP and of EU structural funding.  None of these things appear in this so-called deal.

“Mr Cameron has not even been able to put an end to child benefit being sent abroad to support children who will never live in this country, something about which he was particularly passionate.  The best he has been able to achieve is for the payments to reflect local living standards rather than those prevalent here but the point is that large amounts of money will still be siphoned out of our economy and sent as well as spent abroad.

“It is particularly humiliating to see the Prime Minister begging for our freedom in so many areas and being treated with such contempt by the EU.  If he expects the British people to vote to stay in the EU based on this watery brew, then he is taking the electorate for fools.  If this deal is a victory for Britain, I would hate to see a defeat.”

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

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.’

The CBI’s foolish games

Towards the end of the 1990s, during drinks after at a debate at Bath on joining the euro, Mr Idris Francis, a long-standing supporter of withdrawal from the EU, asked Kate Barker, the CBI’s chief economist at the time, why she had not produced any calculations on the effects of joining the euro. She replied, in front of several others, that, “There are so many effects subject to such wide margins of error that it is impossible to know what the consequences of joining would be.” But he then asked her “But do you and the CBI want to join anyway?” to which she replied “Yes.”

Mr Francis quoted this exchange at several later meetings. At one Labour-organised meeting in Bournemouth, he was threatened with eviction by a senior figure in the Britain in Europe campaign. He also received a letter from Kate Barker, objecting to him quoting her words, but at the same time she confirmed what she had said.

Kate Barker must now be regretting her foolish support for the Euro. The CBI was thankfully dissuaded from supporting it as far back as 1999, thanks to the Business for Sterling campaign group. However, it has certainly not changed its policy of supporting our membership of the EU, come what may.

The Vote.Leave campaign recently gained access to the leaked minutes of the CBI’s president’s committee in July 2015, where former Chairman Sir Michael Rake told the meeting, “It is important not to overplay our hand in the negotiations with Brussels, like Greece, and that [the] CBI should be strong in making the case for competitiveness within Europe”. The meeting was attended by Lord Maude, Minister for Trade and Investment, as well as other government officials.

It should be noted that this is the same Sir Mike Rake, who was the deputy chairman of Barclays Bank, which was fined £284.4 million by the Financial Conduct Authority over “brazen” currency rigging.

It seems from his comments that no lessons have been learnt by the CBI in the years following its misjudgement on the Single Currency. Indeed, it is frightening to think that the CBI will almost certainly end up supporting another leap in the dark as untried and as doomed to failure as the Euro – namely UK associate membership of an EU. This will place the UK permanently in the EU’s powerless second division while the First Division  – the Eurozone members  – call all the shots.

It is so obviously a bad solution ot the UK’s “problems” with the EU, but it is almost certainly what  David Cameron will be offering us in the forthcoming referendum, aided and abetted, no doubt, by the CIB. It is sad indeed that an organisation claiming to be “the voice of business” dopes nothing more than play silly games.