Turkey, EU visa liberalisation and Schengen

The Government has told us that the liberalisation of visa restrictions on Turkey only appliues to the Schengen area. However, this post, from John Redwood’s blog, raises the issue of whether we are being lied to – again. 

I drew attention to the fact that the official minutes of the 7 March EU/Turkey Agreement made clear that all member states need to lift visa restrictions on Turkey by June this year. The UK government keeps saying this does not apply to the UK.  I suggested they have the minutes amended in that case.

Far from doing so, the minutes of the European Council held 17-18 March  reconfirmed the minutes of the 7 March “Following the decisions of the Heads of State of government of 7 March”  the European Council “calls for the full implementation of the EU-Turkey statement”.  So if we assume the UK is not actually going to lift visa restrictions we are left wondering why official statements of the Heads of State and government which we are asked to rely on in other contexts are wrong on this matter. We also need to remember how assurances that the UK would not have to bail out Euro countries were swept aside when it came to a new loan for Greece.

There can be no opt out for the UK when it comes to possible Turkish membership of the EU. There we are told clearly in the minutes of the Council meeting that ”the EU and Turkey reconfirmed their commitment to re energise the accession process” for Turkey to become a full member.

Visa liberalisation even if confined to the continent means many more people having easy access to the EU and possibly establishing citizenship and free movement rights to the UK  as well as the rest of the EU. Full membership of course brings complete freedom of movement. In view of the pressure on us already from the many people in the rest of the EU who want to work and live here, we do need to consider this Turkish issue more seriously. One of the failings of William Hague’s Referendum Act was it does not give the UK people a vote on new members joining the EU, though they can represent a big change to the EU and to our obligations as a result.

How Brexit could save the EU from itself

This article by Allister Heath first appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 14th March. while not addressing the issue of how we withdraw, it does draw attention to the basic failings of the EU project – the fact that the nations of Europe do not constitute a single people which, in the author’s view, dooms the EU to either totalitarianism or collapse.  A UK withdrawal, rather than being seen as a disaster for the EU may be of great benefit to the continent as a whole. 

It is those who love Europe, its diversity, its history and its humanity who should be the most enthusiastic about Brexit. A paradox? Not at all. The European Union, as currently constituted, has run out of road. It is doomed to fail, sooner or later, with catastrophic consequences for our part of the world, and the only way forward is for one major country to break ranks and show that there can be a better alternative consistent with Europe’s core enlightenment values.

It would be far better if we, rather than a more socialist or nationalistic country, were the first to break the mould: Britain would have the opportunity to show that free trade, an open, self-governing society and a liberal approach could ensure the peace and prosperity at the heart of the European dream. Others would soon join us. If we vote to stay, we will lose the moral authority to speak out, and other, less benign, inward-looking, illiberal approaches may triumph instead.

The eurozone is broken, and another, far greater economic crisis inevitable. The next trigger could be a fiscal meltdown in Italy, or another banking collapse, or a political implosion in Spain or France, or another global recession. Nobody can be sure what the proximate cause will be – but there will be one, and the fallout will be turmoil of a far greater magnitude than anything we saw in Greece. At the same time, the tensions fuelled by the migration crisis will grow relentlessly, especially if hundreds of thousands or even millions of people are settled across the continent over the next few years.

Many in the Remain camp agree that the eurozone requires drastic surgery, but their solution is naive. They believe that even more integration – a pan-eurozone welfare state, greater transfers between countries, central powers over fiscal policy – would help cancel out the currency’s inherent defects. I doubt that this would actually work in purely economic terms, but even if it did, it is delusional to believe that such a model can be politically sustainable.

Democracy, the term, is derived from the ancient Greek: it denotes a system whereby the people (dêmos) are in power or in which they rule (krátos). One cannot, by definition, have a genuine democracy in the absence of a people; and there is no such thing as a European demos. The French are a people; the Swiss are a people, even though they speak multiple languages; the Americans are a people, even though Democrats and Republicans hate each other. But while Europeans have much in common, they are not a people. Danes don’t know or care about Portuguese politics; the Spanish have no knowledge or interest in Lithuanian issues.

One could hold pan-European elections, of course, with voters picking multi-national slates of candidates; but, then, one could also ask every person on the planet to vote for a world president. Such initiatives would ape democratic procedures, but would be a sham. They would be Orwellian takedowns of genuine democracy, not extensions of it. There would be no relationship or understanding between ruler and citizen, zero genuine popular control, nil real accountability; coalitions of big countries would impose their will on smaller nations, and élites would run riot. We would be back to imperial politics, albeit in a modernised form.

Governments can forge cohesive cultures by using state schools, propaganda and government media; they can impose languages and a common, national identity where none existed before. There was plenty of such nation-building in the 19th and 20th centuries, with national cultures created from scratch. Yet to construct a new Euro demos today would be totalitarian: it would require, despicably, wiping out many of Europe’s cultural differences and rewriting history.

Given that there can be no meaningful Euro-democracy any time soon, the only other logical solution would be to ditch the very idea of rule of the people, embrace a radical fiscal and political centralisation of the eurozone, and entrust power to unelected bureaucrats.

Such a solution would have equally disastrous consequences. While retaining a few trivial trappings of democracy, a new, fully integrated eurozone would become a technocracy: a trans-national conglomerate run by officials. Some intellectuals privately argue that the nation state was merely a momentary aberration in humanity’s long history, and that representative democracy is failing.

But the public would rightly reject such nonsense: the real problem is that the people have too little, rather than too much, power. The next European treaty, which will represent another integrationist leap when it is eventually drawn up, will be an almost impossible sell.

We are therefore at an impasse. The EU faces a long-term economic, demographic and cultural implosion, and is staring down the abyss of illegitimacy. A small subset of European countries may be able to pull something off, and merge. I’m sceptical even of that, but it’s certainly one possibility. But we need a new model of European cooperation for those who realise that neither the status quo nor more integration is the answer.

That is where Brexit comes in. A British departure from the EU, if executed correctly, could save Europe from itself: it would create a plan B, a workable alternative for those countries that want to be part of an integrated Europe but are unhappy at the direction of travel.

Within a few years, Britain could be at the head of a network of at least six or seven self-governing but closely integrated countries; these would surely include Norway, Switzerland and Iceland, but others would join in too, including perhaps some non-euro nations such as Denmark and even the Netherlands, an increasingly anti-EU country. As to the eastern Europeans, membership of the EU was the way they redefined themselves as post-Soviet, with Nato membership the route to security.

But if Europe were to split into two, very different groups, a decentralised one led by the UK and another, increasingly integrated bloc controlled by Berlin and Paris, there would suddenly be more than one option. Some Eastern European nations would hopefully end up following Britain.

The UK’s new economic community could even be extended to other, non-EU states in the Mediterranean, such as Israel, or even further afield. Preaching and whining is no longer enough: Britain needs to lead by example, and show our neighbours that being good Europeans no longer requires being part of the EU.

Photo by Jon Ingram

The wrong lady

Such has been the frenzied level of debate about the merits of withdrawal from the EU this past week that all but the most arrdent political anoraks may well have been tempted to switch off.

It is important, however, that anyone aspiring to see our country regain its independence keeps abreast with the debate, even though there have been so many barbs traded in recent days that it is impossible to summarise every development on this one website.

Two particular issues need addressing. The first concerns the threat by some French ministers to scap the Le Touquet Treaty, which alllows the UK to implement border controls in France. It’s hardly surprising that the Mayor of Calais doesn’t like this arrangemement, as this has led to the creation of the so-called “jungle” on his doorstep. It’s also no surprise that an ambitious minister like Emmanuel Macron should jump on the bandwagon and threaten that France could (note the word “could”, not “would”)  pull out of the treaty if we withdrew from the EU.

The Le Touquet treaty was seen by both governments as the least bad way of addressing a situation which neither country really wanted. Its abolition wold be in no one’s interests. If the French were to allow refugees to pass unhindered to an independent UK, we could  repudiate the 1951 Convention on the Treatment of Refugees (and the 1967 Protocol), and also the European Convention on Human Rights, which would allow us to send them straight back on the next ferry or shuttle. 

M. Hollande and his government want us to stay in for domestic reasons as much as anything else. He is not a popular president and a UK withdrawal would encourage Marine le Pen’s Front National to exploit Hollande’s unpopularity and offer France an in/out referendum. Also, her party would be have been keen to exploit opposition to the Le Touquet Treaty, so it pays for Macron and co to claim this space first, even if all they intend to do is huff and puff. 

A more serious issue is the claim by Philip Hammond that he intended to “smoke out” the Leave campaign and show that no independence scenario on offer is economically viable. In many ways, it is good that he has raised this issue so early in the campaign, as it gives us time to tighten up our act.

Predictably, the EEA/EFTA route, or rather the use of Norway as template, was a prime target. As always, the BBC provided a willing Norwegian whinger, this time in the shape of Erna Solberg, Norway’s Prime Minister, who said she would like her country to be in the EU because it “lacks influence”.  The BBC, as always, spoke to the wrong woman. Solberg, like most of Norway’s political élite, is still wedded to the idea of EU membership, even though the majority of her coutrymen and women are not.  She is therefore prepared to lie, keen to avoid Brexit as it would finally kill off any chance of her country ever joining the EU. The BBC should have instead spoken to Helle Hagenau of the Norwegian nei til EU campaign (depicted above), who wold have pointed out that Norway DOES have influence in the framing of EEA legislation, even if it does not have a final vote.

You wil be able to hear Helle speak at our annual Rally on May 14th, but before then, you can read two helpful leaflets she and her team have written (See here and here). Furthermore, Anthony Scholefield has produced a detailed comparision of EEA membership and Norway’s relationship with the EU which features in our Referendum Review and which gives the lie to any sense that Norway has a worse deal by being out of the EU.

Norway has full representation on international bodies; it has to implement less than 1/3 of EU legislation – i.e., anything marked “EEA relevant”  and if it refuses to do so, it cannot be taken to court by the ECJ. Of course, using this option as a template for a newly-independent UK would require us to accept free movement of people. This isn’t popular with some “leave” supporters, but it’s still better than Cameron’s so-called “deal” as we could invoke Articles 112-113 of the EEA agreement unilaterally rather than having to ask permission for all the other countries and we could keep these articles in force for as long as we want.

Furthermore, advocates of the EEA/EFTA route only see it as a stepping stone. fully admitting that it isn’t ideal in the long term. When other supporters of “leave” say that we could do better than Norway, they are quite right, but reaching that point will take time. We need a safe route through the exit door first.  For anyone wishing to find out more about the most detailed exit plan written thus far, you are welcome to attend the launch of the Leave Alliance on Wednesday 16th March. The strategy to be unveiled will answer all the issues which the “remain” camp have raised and thus enable us to concentrate on attacking the dodgy deal which our dodgy Prime Minister is trying to sell us as a full revision of the country’s EU membership. It is nothing of the sort and the country needs to be made aware of this.

An interesting read while we wait..

While we await the conclusions of the European Council meeting and wonder what exactly David Cameron will emerge with,  this article by Lord Lawson which appeared in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph (slightly amended here), sums up how far the Prime Minister has fallen short of his original objectives.

The Prime Minister has clearly failed to achieve his objectives, and  the time has come for us to leave

In four months’ time the British people are likely to be asked to take the most important decision for the future of our country in their lifetimes. It is not about Europe as such. It is about whether we should remain within a deeply misguided and troubled institution known as the European Union. No one could have been clearer about the problem than David Cameron, in his Bloomberg speech three years ago, when he committed himself to securing a “fundamental, far-reaching reform” of the EU. He has conspicuously failed to do so.

He committed himself to ending the notorious ratchet, and ensuring that “power would flow back to the member states, not just away from them”. He has conspicuously failed on this front, too: not a single power is to be returned to the United Kingdom; and the doctrine of the so-called acquis communautaire, which holds that powers once transferred to the European Union cannot be taken away, remains firmly in place.

He also promised that whatever he did achieve in his negotiations would involve “proper, full-on, Treaty change”, without which they could not be legally binding. No Treaty change has been secured.

The Prime Minister cannot be blamed for the abject failure to achieve his objectives. The European Union is adamant against any change other than further integration. What is unacceptable is presenting the so-called concessions he does appear to have secured, which range from the wholly inadequate to the completely meaningless, as constituting success.

Let us have a look at them. He claims that he has secured a “red card” system to prevent new EU legislation that is damaging to the UK. Some red card! The draft agreement states that this will only come into play if and when more than 55 per cent of the EU wants it to – a highly unlikely state of affairs in the first place – and, even if it does, all that follows is that the presidency will put it on the agenda for “a comprehensive discussion”.

He claims to have addressed the serious problem of uncontrolled and uncontrollable levels of immigration by securing what he likes to call “an emergency brake”. Some brake! All that is provisionally agreed is an offer by the EU to allow us to bring in a temporary reduction in the level of some benefits (which no one who has studied immigration into the UK believes would make any significant difference, anyway). This is an offer which the EU would be free to withdraw at any future date – such as after a vote by the UK to remain within the EU.

And as for the City of London, and our ability to flourish outside the dysfunctional Eurozone, we are sternly told that we must “refrain from measures which [in their opinion] could jeopardise the attainment of the objectives of the economic and monetary union” and that “the existing powers of the Union institutions to take action that [in their opinion] is necessary to respond to threats of financial stability” remains untrammelled. We have been warned.

So what was presented as a drive for fundamental reform has turned into an exercise in damage limitation: how to limit the damage that EU membership inflicts on us. And even that has scarcely been achieved. The only way to end the damage is to leave.

As Chancellor, I became increasingly aware that, in economic terms, membership of the EU did us more harm than good. And that was before the arrival of European monetary union, which occurred after I had left office, and which has had such a disastrous economic effect on the EU.

But it is unsurprising that it brings no economic benefit, for the European Union has never been an economic project. It is has always been a political project, with a political objective which we in the UK do not share. That is the fundamental reason, above all others, why we must vote to leave.

That objective is the creation of a full-blooded political union, a United States of Europe.

That is what “ever closer union” is all about. As the 1983 Solemn Declaration on European Union makes explicit, this is not simply a union of the peoples of Europe but a wholehearted political union of the member states.

That is what monetary union is all about. The father of European monetary union was Jacques Delors, the former President of the European Commission. I knew him very well, since before he became President of the Commission he was France’s finance minister and my opposite number. He fully understood that you cannot have a workable monetary union without a fiscal union, and you cannot have a fiscal union without a political union. That was the object of the whole exercise.

Hence the proposal, in the European Commission’s so-called “Five Presidents’ Report” of June last year, for a single Eurozone Finance Ministry and a single Eurozone Finance Minister by 2025. This is clearly not right for us, and we must leave. Otherwise, although we have a notional “opt-out” from the political union, we will still be obliged to accept EU laws framed with this object in mind.

I have been asked “what, then, is your alternative to being in the European Union?” A more foolish question is hard to imagine. The alternative to being in the European Union is not being in the European Union. Most of the world is not in the European Union – and most of the world is doing better than the European Union.

So far as the detail is concerned, the morass of EU regulation, much of which is costly, unnecessary and undesirable, would become UK regulation, which we would then be free to accept, repeal or amend as our national interest requires.

Above all, we would become once again a self-governing democracy, with a genuinely global rather than a little European perspective. We would prosper, we would be free, and we would stand tall. That is what this referendum is all about.

Our Chairman’s comments on the “British Model”

Edward Spalton, Our Chairman, sent the following letter to several local and national newspapers:-

Sir,                                                                 “The British Model”
Just as the pantomime season has ended, Mr. Cameron is putting on a show of this title. It is the name for his new romance with the EU, which will lock us permanently, formally and happily ever after into second class membership but with a first class subscription.
The script and choreography are written although some of the parts still remain to be cast. It could be a one performance show with a finale in June or it may run and run until the end of 2017.
One sketch is called “The Emergency Brake”. This is the mechanism by which the British government can restrict the influx of EU migrants if there are too many of them to cope with. But it’s not a matter for the driver’s decision, as is usually the case in emergencies. He first has to stop, get out of the cab, go to Brussels and ask permission to apply the brake. If it is granted, he comes back again and applies the brake. If not, the vehicle continues to gather speed. It makes an interesting comic interlude.
The independent countries in the European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) have an Emergency Brake too. They don’t have to ask anybody’s permission to use it.
Little, tiny Liechtenstein has done so, said “enough is enough” and specified just how many EU migrants they will admit in a year, so that their social services and budget can cope.
Yet with all the supposed influence and “clout” which Britain’s place at the “top table” of the EU is supposed to afford, Mr Cameron is asking for arrangements inferior to those already enjoyed by Liechtenstein. There is a strong comic content.
The show is a successor to Harold Wilson’s 1975 imaginative fantasy  “Fundamental Renegotiation”, which attempted even less but went down well with the public. The opinion of critics is divided this time.
Yours faithfully,
Edward Spalton

Asylum and mass migration:- how Switzerland is tackling the problem.

These two articles from Swiss News have been passed on by CIB Vice Chairman Anthony Scholefield. They depict a very different, much tougher attitude. Are there, perhaps, lessons for the UK here?

http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/army-exercise_swiss-troops-train-for-mass-migration-scenario/41674004

As thousands of migrants continue to cross land and sea to reach western Europe, Switzerland is making sure it is prepared if groups mass at its borders.

This weekend, thousands of migrants were stuck at the Hungarian/Austrian border, while more than 4,000 people fleeing their homelands were rescued in the Mediterranean on one single day.

It coincided in Switzerland with a large-scale army exercise codenamed “Conex 15”. Soldiers are training with border police so they know what to do if large groups head for the alpine country.

The army has been planning the exercise for several years: it is not specifically in response to the present crisis. But defence minister, Ueli Maurer, says Switzerland has a pool of 800 soldiers who could be sent to borders at any time to help question new arrivals, carry out patrols and assist with transport.

Several hundred people demonstrated against the Conex army exercise in Basel over the weekend, leading to clashes between police and protestors.

http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/asylum-price_why-switzerland-takes-asylum-seekers–assets/41896774

Denmark’s decision to confiscate valuables from asylum seekers is similar to the practice in Switzerland, which has been in effect for more than 20 years. It is coming in for criticism too.

Swiss law states that asylum seekers have to disclose their assets. According to certain criteria – such as the amount and/or lack of proof of the origin of the assets – the authorities can demand that it be handed over. According to Léa Wertheimer from the State Secretariat for Migration, the law says that asylum seekers – that have some means – contribute towards the costs they incur in Switzerland. These are the costs from asylum request procedures and receiving shelter.

More than 100 asylum seekers had to hand over their savings to the Swiss authorities last year. Those arriving without money or valuables will also have to pay eventually. When working, they must give up to 10 per cent of their wages during the first 10 years of their stay or until they have paid back a total of 15.000 francs. The Swiss Refugee Council is critical of the practice.