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.

How they do it in Switzerland

Referendum proposals in Switzerland are drafted by those who call for the referendum but, if passed, have to be carried into effect by the Federal Swiss government.

So those winning a referendum against the advice of the government, as has happened for example in the recent minarets’ referendum and the referendum on limiting the number of migrants, have to ensure that the result is actually effected.

Of course, in Switzerland the federal government can, and will, implement referendum results even if it disagrees with the result.

Three matters are of interest. These are, first, the clarity of plan which was behind the majority vote. Second, there is the method as to the meshing in of the referendum result with existing laws and treaties. Third, there is sometimes a long stop included in the referendum proposition.

The minaret vote was straightforward. The referendum was a clear instruction from the people – no more minarets – and the Federal Swiss government did not have to take account of other matters.

In the case of the referendum of April 2014 which approved limiting the number of migrants by national quotas, this also included a recognition that Switzerland would have to renegotiate its bilateral accord with the EU on the free movement of people by 2017 or else revoke it. The Foreign Minister, Didier Burkhalter, said: “The people have decided and the government will implement the decision for the best of the country.” The EU objected strongly and threatened to end all other bilateral agreements, as it was entitled to do by the bilateral Swiss-EU agreements. The current position of the EU is to demand Switzerland call a new referendum by the end of 2016. So, in this referendum case, there has not yet been an outcome and the vote of the electorate has not been implemented. In September, on a visit to Berne, Angela Merkel asked for negotiations to continue. (One should note that the referendum endorsed a limitation on the number of asylum seekers as well.)

All three aspects of Swiss referendums are, therefore, relevant to the UK EU referendum. These are the clarity of argument and plan behind the winning vote, the meshing in of the result with existing agreements and a long stop to actually enforce the result.

[The exact wording of the Swiss referendum is attached as an appendix.]

Moreover, Swiss news reports “The bid to seal an agreement has been stalled by EU member Britain’s similar demand to limit immigration from within the EU, making it hard for the EU to offer the preferential deal for Switzerland before it has settled matters with Britain.

The Swiss government has made it clear on 4th December 2015 that it takes the referendum result seriously and has taken action.

If there is really no solution … we would be ready for a suspension of a part or all of the bilateral agreements.” Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter told a news conference. Also, Swiss news reports “The government has asked its justice department to draft unilateral curbs on immigration by March 2016 in the event that there is no breakthrough.”

Thus the critical path outlined by the referendum proposers is being followed in Switzerland.

APPENDIX
Initiative populaire fédérale ‘Contre l’immigration de masse’

I
La Constitution1 est modifiée comme suit:
Art. 121 Titre (nouveau) Législation dans le domaine des étrangers et de l’asile
Art. 121a (nouveau) Gestion de l’immigration
1 La Suisse gère de manière autonome l’immigration des étrangers.
2 Le nombre des autorisations délivrées pour le séjour des étrangers en Suisse est limité par des plafonds et des contingents annuels. Les plafonds valent pour toutes les autorisations délivrées en vertu du droit des étrangers, domaine de l’asile inclus. Le droit au séjour durable, au regroupement familial et aux prestations sociales peut être limité.
3 Les plafonds et les contingents annuels pour les étrangers exerçant une activité lucrative doivent être fixés en fonction des intérêts économiques globaux de la Suisse et dans le respect du principe de la préférence nationale; ils doivent inclure les frontaliers. Les critères déterminants pour l’octroi d’autorisations de séjour sont en particulier la demande d’un employeur, la capacité d’intégration et une source de revenus suffisante et autonome.
4 Aucun traité international contraire au présent article ne sera conclu.
5 La loi règle les modalités.
II
Les dispositions transitoires de la Constitution sont modifiées comme suit:
Art. 197, ch. 92 (nouveau)
9. Disposition transitoire ad art. 121a (Gestion de l’immigration)
1 Les traités internationaux contraires à l’art. 121a doivent être renégociés et adaptés dans un délai de trois ans à compter de l’acceptation dudit article par le peuple et les cantons.
2 Si les lois d’application afférentes ne sont pas entrées en vigueur dans les trois ans à compter de l’acceptation de l’art. 121a par le peuple et les cantons, le Conseil fédéral édicte provisoirement les dispositions d’application nécessaires par voie d’ordonnance.
______________________________
1 RS 101
2 L’initiative populaire ne vise pas à remplacer une disposition transitoire en vigueur de la Constitution: c’est pourquoi le chiffre de la disposition transitoire relative au présent article ne sera fixé qu’après le scrutin, en fonction de l’ordre chronologique dans lequel les différentes modifications constitutionnelles auront été acceptées. La Chancellerie fédérale procédera aux adaptations nécessaires avant publication au Recueil officiel du droit fédéral (RO).

https://www.admin.ch/ch/f/pore/vi/vis413t.html/17.11.2015

The Euro And Schengen: Common Flaws And Common Solutions

This article, written by Professor Paul de Grauwe of the London School of Economics, was brought to our attention by Dr Anthony Coughlan of Dublin.  It illustrates the threat to national sovereignty that both the EU’s flagship projects pose.

What do the Euro and Schengen have in common? Both are projects that have the same flaw: they’re unfinished business. And therefore they risk falling apart.

The Eurozone is a monetary union, with one currency, the euro circulating in the Union and managed by one central bank, the European Central Bank. What’s wrong with that? One may ask.

The fundamental problem of the Eurozone is that national governments have their own budgets and issue their own debt. When recession strikes, the system gets into trouble. During a recession government budget deficits automatically increase. Countries that are hit hardest by the recession show larger budget deficits and debt increases.

Financial markets that are fully integrated in a monetary union are lurking, ready to strike when observing signs of weakness. Countries hit hardest by the recession experience “sudden stop”: investors massively sell the government bonds, raising the interest rates and pushing these countries into illiquidity.

The other countries in the system profit from this, as investors in search of a safe haven buy these countries’ government bonds. Thus during recessions, free capital movements destabilize the Eurozone and plunge the weaker countries into a “bad equilibrium” of ever deeper recession and rising unemployment.

What about Schengen? As the Eurozone, it is an unfinished project. The residents of the Schengen area move freely within the area. The problem is that the architects of that area forgot to integrate the police and the intelligence services. Moreover, they forgot to transfer the authority to control the external borders to one European body.

As a result a problem arises in the Schengen area that is similar to what happens in the Eurozone. Criminal gangs move freely within the area. They commit burglaries in one country and flee to another one. In contrast police forces have to stop at borders. Terrorists are planning from Brussels how to attack Paris and escape from the radar of the national police forces and intelligence services. National police forces and intelligence services are not integrated and can no longer guarantee the security of their citizens.

The danger of unions that are unfinished is that they will disintegrate. Without a fiscal union free capital movements will create great instability when the next recession strikes the Eurozone. In the long run, governments that can no longer guarantee a minimum of economic stability to their citizens will be tempted to leave the Eurozone.

The choice we have today is simple. If we want to keep the Euro we will have to create a fiscal union. This implies that a significant proportion of national budgets and national government debts will have to be centralized. A formidable transfer of sovereignty from the nation states to European institutions. If we want to preserve the Schengen area, we will have to integrate police forces and intelligence services while creating a joint control at the external borders. Failure to integrate further dooms both projects, the Eurozone and the Schengen area.

The Eurozone and the Schengen area have fundamentally weakened national governments while nothing has been put into place at the European level to offset this loss of power of nation states. The Euro and Schengen can only be saved if we create European institutions that can do what national governments no longer can do, i.e. to ensure economic stability and security for the citizens of Europe.