Peer calls on Government to honour commitment to keep President Obama out of EU debate

THE PRESS OFFICE OF                                                           

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon (Independent Labour)  

News Release

24th July 2015

Peer calls on Government to honour its commitment to keep President Obama and other foreign leaders out of EU debate

Lord Stoddart of Swindon, the independent Labour Peer, has called on the Government to honour a commitment made by Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in a reply (17th June) to a written question from him, in which he was promised that efforts would be made to keep foreign leaders out of the debate about Britain’s future in the EU, ahead of the referendum.

The Baroness said that ‘the decision in the referendum will be one for British voters to make’ and that ’The Government will make this clear as necessary in its discussions with foreign leaders and EU officials.’

Lord Stoddart has written to Baroness Anelay to remind her of the commitment she made, in light of the latest statement from President Obama in which he has blatantly involved himself in the debate about the EU, ahead of the referendum.  He has urged her to ensure that the Government makes representations to the President on the matter.

The full text of Lord Stoddart’s message of 24th July, to the Baroness is as follows:

FAO: The Rt Hon. the Baroness Anelay of St Johns DBE

Dear Joyce

Further to your written reply of 17th June 2015 (see web link below) and the Prime Minister’s article in the Daily Mail of today’s date, may I assume that the Government will be making representations to President Obama in relation to yet another statement from him, reported this morning, urging the UK to stay in the European Union.  His interventions are improper and are a gross interference in British politics that is widely resented.  They also do nothing to dispel the impression that the UK is the USA’s poodle in the EU.

Voting for the status quo is not an option

We are very aware that opinion polls are consistently showing that supporters of outright withdrawal are in a minority. Of course opinion polls can be wrong, with both the UK general election in May and Greece’s bailout referendum earlier this month producing results somewhat at odds with the pollsters’ predictions. Having moved to my present home in East Sussex less than four months ago, I am still at the stage of meeting local people for the first time and being asked what I do for a job. When I mention my work for CIB, in the great majority of cases, the reaction has been along the lines of, “I think we should leave the EU too; good on you!” or similar. This in and of itself by no means proves that the pollsters are wrong, however. Rural East Sussex cannot be taken as representative of the UK as a while and even if supporters of withdrawal really are more numerous than they appear in surveys, there is no room for complacency.

Having said this, however, there is good reason to believe that quite a lot of support for “in” is actually quite soft. The more detailed analyses of UK public opinion which go beyond the simple in/out question find very little support for closer integration. A poll by Ipsos Mori back in October of last year showed that while support for remaining in the EU stood at 61% excluding “don’t knows”, only 14% supported closer economic and political union. Even though support for staying in the EU has increased still further since then, there are still only a small minority of people who want to see further powers surrendered to Brussels.

So, to put it another way, potential support for voting to leave could be as high as 86% if it were made clear that there is no status quo on offer. It is either closer political integration or withdrawal. The dream of ever closer union is still alive and kicking on the Continent, as François Hollande, the French President, made clear over the weekend. “What threatens us is the lack of Europe, not the excess of it,” he said in a speech at an event to celebrate the 90th birthday of Jacques Delors. He went on to talk of accelerating the process of integration within the Eurozone – a common budget for the single currency areas and a separate parliament too – or at least, separate sessions of the European Parliament exclusively for the MEPs whose nations use the Euro. Of course, this is only one man’s opinion – and one man who is very likely to be booted out of office in the next French presidential election, but it was sufficient to elicit a response from Magdalena Andersson, Sweden’s finance minister, who felt concerned that Sweden (and by implication, the other EU member states who still use their national currencies) could be relegated to second class members of the EU.

But is there any alternative? The concept of a “two-speed Europe” has been touted for some years and for all the competing visions of how to move forward and the lack of enthusiasm for closer integration among the populations of some Eurozone states, including France for that matter, there are enough politicians within the governments of the Eurozone countries itching to press on with the primary agenda of the EU – the creation of a federal superstate. They are not prepared to wait for Sweden to decide whether or not it ever wants to adopt the Euro and they do not wish the UK to slow down the process either.

What looks likely is that some form of “associate membership” may be offered to the UK. What it would involve is not totally clear, but it will inevitably be a far inferior relationship to the EU than the EEA/EFTA option. It could well be designed in such a way as to inculcate a sense of inferiority among the non-Euro members in the hope that it will encourage them to join the “vanguard”. It could be far closer to “government by fax” than the former Norwegian premier Jens Stoltenberg’s infamous parody of his country’s relationship with the EU.

To put it another way, “associate membership” would be rather like travelling down a slow, bumpy country lane in a clapped out old banger while the “vanguard” cruise along the autobahns in their sports cars. The duration and quality of the journey on the two roads are very different, but neither route allows you to spend long in lay-bys. You have to keep moving towards the destination whether you travel slowly or quickly (although there will be a few side-roads allowing quick access onto the autobahn from the narrow road) and more importantly, whether you switch to the fast road or continue bumping along the farm track in your banger, THE DESTINATION OF BOTH ROADS IS THE SAME. In other words, an opt-out from ever-closer union is utterly meaningless.

This is the key point – joining the EU means joining a project that has only ever had one goal. Economics comes second to the political objective of creating the United States of Europe and this is where the withdrawalist campaign can, with a good campaign, whittle away at the “soft” supporters of continuing UK membership. I have yet to see the results of any poll asking these people why they want to vote to stay in, but it would be a pretty reasonable assumption that, for many of them, the answer would most likely be, “to keep my job”, “because we need to trade with the rest of the EU”, “I’m nervous about a step into the unknown”, “I’ve been offered an Erasmus scholarship” or “I want to continue living by the Mediterranean and I’m worried I would be forced to return to cold, grey England if we left the EU.” In other words, their big concerns revolve around issues which are peripheral to the aim of the EU. Convince them that there is an “out” option that will address their concerns while at the same time allowing the country to escape from a political project which few believe in and support for staying in the EU will peel away. Or course, we must also convince voters that the idea of keeping the level of EU interference at its current level is a non-starter. It’s either more EU or goodbye EU. Those supposedly hard-won derogations are only humps in the road. They slow your progress but they don’t force you to stop, let alone turn back.

The EEA/EFTA option fits the bill precisely. It also has the advantage of being practical rather than aspirational. Not only have “aspirational” books and leaflets made unrealistic claims (for instance, “Leave the EU and we can control immigration”, or “Leave the EU and we can slash regulation”) but your aspirations – in other words, your picture of what you would like an Independent UK to look like 10 years after we leave, whether or not it is achievable – may be very different from mine. Withdrawalists are united on regaining our sovereignty and in opposing the unaccountability of the EU structure. This in itself is sufficient to provide plenty of “sunlit uplands” and avoids focussing on issues which only divide supporters of withdrawal.

There is, however, one potential pitfall. Plans for closer Eurozone integration and the alternative of “associate membership” may be developed in such a way as to replace the EEA altogether. Richard North flagged this possibility up on his blog last month. Within the EEA agreement, there is provision under Article 127 for members to withdraw on 12 months’ notice. In other words, if all 28 EU countries simultaneously gave notice to quit, there would no longer be an EEA. Whether there is some sort of cunning plan being hatched in Brussels to force Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein into the EU by pulling the EEA rug from under their feet we cannot say as the discussions are being held behind closed doors. However, in the same article, Dr North shows that there is a way of maintaining a “shadow EEA” arrangement if this is indeed the EU’s plan which will avoid being forced into associate membership. With Iceland’s government distinctly unenthusiastic about EU membership and Norway boasting a strong and well-organised anti-EU movement, any attempt to shoehorn these countries into the EU through sheer naked coercion will be fiercely resisted and the shadow EEA idea will no doubt be widely canvassed.

All this is still speculation at the moment, but a quick move to a two-speed Europe with the UK of necessity in the slow lane must surely cause many of those who favour a status quo to realise that it isn’t going to be an option. A vote to stay in means more integration, however much David Cameron’s sham renegotiations will leave us lagging behind the federalist front-runners in the Eurozone.

Countering EU Spin, Fear and Negative Campaigning

The use of spin, (hyperbole, selective information, dubious comparisons, endless simplistic repetition etc.) and deceit to mislead, and negative political campaigning, that almost exclusively attacks opponents to induce fear or distract the electorate, says a great deal about the perpetrators. In particular such behaviour shows that they have contempt for truth, voters, and democracy which exist only to be manipulated to serve their own ends. It also demonstrates intellectual laziness and a lack of competence at delivering high standards of performance for the People; results usually speak louder than empty or shallow words. They have also ignored or discounted the effects of such behaviour on performance of government and enterprise both of which work better and more efficiently if elements of professional integrity, trust, honesty, and self-imposed restraint are present.

Unfortunately, in the forthcoming referendum on membership of the EU there is a high probability the staying IN the EU camp, with its plentiful political and ruling class representation, will make extensive use of these methods. After all, these techniques have been shown to work in politics and can cover up the weak case for continuing EU membership, with its obvious and painful disadvantages, by resorting to shallow fallacies, misleading the electorate and spreading concocted fear of leaving. The following are suggested as the basis for specific and more detailed countermeasures that could be available to the more poorly financed and resourced OUT campaign:

Verification and Logical Analysis – The use of spin, deceit and negative campaigning can only work if they are accepted as being true or reliable, that the electorate can have confidence in them, probably through impartial verification from elsewhere, experience etc. Where this empirical verification does not exist, or can be challenged, then use of such tactics will undermine their proponents, especially where they have a previous record of similar less than reputable methods.

Spin by its very nature is superficial. Analysis, drilling down into the detail, comparison with a wider view or actual evidence can reveal its shortcomings, contradictions and unreality.

Real raison d’être – Where the ends are thought to justify the less than reputable means, it would be helpful to understand and expose the real motives or reasons; vested interests in particular. For the professional politician it could be a case of putting ideology, party, promotion and power before principles and people. For Big Business, especially those of the ruling establishment, it could be a case of taking a very narrow, even monopolistic, self-interested or historical, perspective which does not consider effects on the whole economy or wider national interest; underlying feelings of patriotism, national identity and unique heritage may also be weak in an internationalised ‘Power Set’.

Spin side-effects – 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, 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.’ The side effects can be serious although the connection to spin etc. is subtle.

Fear mitigation – The positive case of leaving the moribund EU is strongly advantageous and as a sovereign country we would be better placed to mitigate problems and risks as they arise, in some cases in voluntary co-operation with others. Remaining within the EU is the riskier and constraining proposal. Over the years the EU’s institutions, Eurocrats and political actors have shown repeatedly that they are unable to act quickly and appropriately in our interests, for example, on economic, security and migration issues; it is all a slow, cumbersome, disjointed, secretive and attenuating process. They have also created serious otherwise avoidable problems, such as the common currency, the Euro and bureaucracy. Giving the EU carte blanche over us is ‘throwing caution to the EU wind’.

Sham and Distraction Alert – Expose the reality, exaggerations, unsupported claims, misrepresentations and other efforts to create something of substance out of nothing more than spin. Great claims for renegotiation success are likely to be nothing more than shams of little worth. Distractions are likely to be used to divert attention from the positive case for leaving, continuing EU crises and the really important issues facing our country and us individually.

The EU Dream (and nightmare) – The ‘devil is in the detail’ of any holistic EU-centric vision of the future, in particular the practicalities of delivery and its supposed benefits. The detail from Europhiles could display ‘pie in the sky’ naïve emptiness, cliché and muddled, narrow thinking. How will an EU-future facilitate individual liberty, democracy, justice (including the rule of law and social justice) and free enterprise based prosperity? So far the EU hasn’t changed its ‘dead hand’ ways, which are holding back our traditionally hugely talented and dynamic country.

The Positive Leaving Case – The most powerful antidote to negative fear-inducing spin is, probably, cogent presentation of the positive case for leaving the EU and the status quo, for example Selling the Dream – the Case for Leaving the EU now and A Simple Approach for Considering EU Membership.

Olive Branch – Conversions from the fanatical or fantasist IN camp are more likely and easier when treated with magnanimity and acceptance. Reconciliation will obviously strengthen our country’s capabilities in the years ahead and there are many causes that can unite our diverse opinions and backgrounds.

Our country deserves much better than cynical machinations and manipulations by our rulers determined to retain EU membership. It is a truly worthy cause to help liberate the aspirations and great potential of a free, sovereign, democratically governed people.

Photo by russellstreet

Foreign Office’s “Sticky fingers” all over Queen’s speech in Germany

THE PRESS OFFICE OF                                                           

The Lord Stoddart of Swindon

(Independent Labour)                                                                                          

 

News Release

 

25th June 2015

 

Queen’s speech in Germany has “sticky fingers of the Foreign Office all over it” says Peer

The independent Labour Peer, Lord Stoddart of Swindon has expressed his disappointment with Her Majesty the Queen’s speech in Germany, on European unity, accusing the Foreign Office of using the Royal family as “pawns” in the pre-referendum debate.

Lord Stoddart said:  It is very unfortunate that the emphasis on European unity in the speech has led to speculation that Her Majesty was supporting the pro-EU side of the referendum debate.  The speech has the sticky fingers of the Foreign Office all over it and I believe it was a clumsy attempt by them to place the monarchy on the side of the UK remaining in the EU.

“The division in Europe referred to by Her Majesty in her speech derives from the chaotic nature of the EU and its attempts to extend its empire eastward while, at the same time, pursuing financial, economic and social policies within its borders that are leading to huge reductions in standards of living and rioting in some nation states.  The Foreign Office should beware of using the Royal Family as political pawns in the debate about this nation’s future as a member of the EU.

“Her Majesty should reflect on the fact that her status has been reduced to that of a European Union citizen, without so much as a by your leave.”

 

Mistaken Assumptions about the EU Referendum battle

1. Business supports staying in the EU. WRONG.
Many businessmen make speeches about the advantages of staying in the Single Market. It is perfectly possible to stay in the Single Market and leave the EU, as detailed in the FLEXCIT plan, supported by us. Businessmen do not make speeches about supporting any other part of the EU membership.

2. The referendum is about business. WRONG.
By staying in the Single Market there will be no change to jobs, investment or trade.

3. The referendum is about the UK’s trading arrangements. WRONG.
Staying in the Single Market means there will be no change to jobs, investment or trade. Deciding future trading arrangements will be done at a future date by the democratic discussion in an independent UK.

4. The alternatives are presented as staying in the EU as it is or leaving it for an unknown future. WRONG.
There is no option of staying in the EU as it is. The correct alternatives were put by Jacques Delors, in 2012:: “If the British cannot support the trend to more integration in Europe, we can remain friends
but on a different basis. I could imagine a form such as an European Economic Area or a Free
Trade Agreement.

5. The referendum is about whether or not Cameron’s reforms are satisfactory. WRONG.
The referendum is about ‘remain in’ or ‘leave’ the European Union, not choosing between an ‘unreformed’ and ‘reformed’ European Union.

6. A ‘remain in’ vote proved to be a blank cheque in 1975.
The British government took a ‘remain in’ vote as authority to push through numerous further treaties, further integration and loss of independence. A new ‘remain in’ vote is another blank cheque.

7. The referendum is about British influence and sitting at the ‘top table’. WRONG.
The UK is not, and does not want to be, a member of the inner core of the EU either in the eurozone or the Schengen agreement on open borders. This lack of involvement has not diminished British influence because the EU long ceased to be the ‘top table’ and is nowadays more a transmission belt for regulation from global bodies.

8. It is safe to stay in the European Union. WRONG.
Staying in the EU means the UK is involved in the eurozone crisis and the refugee/migration crisis in the rest of the EU. These crises arise from the supranational nature of the EU and can be termed ‘existential’. It also means that the UK voters proclaiming they are not concerned about these
crises are willingly giving up their strong opportunity to change matters. The EU institutions will conclude they can move towards much faster integration.

Deconstructing the case for staying in the EU

We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow. (Lord Palmerston)

Responding to arguments for staying IN the European Union in the forthcoming referendum will be difficult given the ‘YES’ campaign’s overwhelming ‘firepower’. It is likely that any direct rebuttal of YES claims, however weak and/or disingenuous these IN claims are, will go largely unheard; shut down immediately by much of the media or drowned out by noisy, on-message repetitions from YES supporters. Can anything be done by the OUT of the EU (NO) campaign to effectively expose and disabuse the weaknesses, inconsistencies, contradictions or duplicity of the YES case?

Any attempts to examine YES arguments need to include honest, precise, perceptive analysis and logical conclusions. These efforts should also present a better alternative and realistic implementation plan, and if possible, use the firepower of the YES campaign to validate this dissection. Obviously, just referring to a different politician, expert, news report or study etc. is inviting the YES campaign to respond in kind with their own of these and pile on more of the same using their vastly superior resources. Any examination that stands a chance of helping the electorate reach an informed judgement and further democracy needs to hit the YES arguments where they have difficulty arguing back directly, and if they, do it undermines their overall case.

Expose the missing elements – The YES campaign is likely to present arguments with important elements missing; they are being selective and the items missing are needed to complete the ‘Big Picture’. So, for example, the superficial sound-bite ‘at the heart of Europe’ (and development of this theme) is missing clarity as to what it actually means, why it is important and how best to achieve it compared with alternatives. Also claims that the EU has maintained peace in Europe are unlikely to explain how the EU’s bureaucracy deterred Soviet aggression or a prevented militaristic dictatorship in Germany.

‘Every silver lining has a cloud’ could also potentially be true. So, for example, the full story and downside may be missing as part of manipulating and deceiving the electorate, or through following secret agendas. The ultimate truth is admitted only as actions on the ground become visible and irreversible.

Find, understand and challenge underlying paradigms – A paradigm or conceptual framework, in this context, is the collection of ideology, aspirations, knowledge and assumptions that are present and influence a relevant analysis, action, opinion, policy and priorities, etc.. (The terms ‘paradigm’ and ‘paradigm shift’ were used by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, to explain how dramatic changes occur in science.) Highly influential paradigms relate to this country, the EU and the future.

One major UK focused paradigm predicating the YES case can be characterised by the decline, humiliation and failure of our country as a sovereign and trading nation – consequently we need membership of the EU whatever its shortcomings in order to stop or delay our national and economic decline, accept whatever humiliation the EU inflicts on us, and recognise we’d be failures (at almost everything) without subservience to the ‘benign’ EU. Unfortunately this paradigm is self-fulfilling when the Establishment manages this country in accordance with it, which is what they are actively doing.

One major EU focused paradigm predicating the YES case can be characterised by the More EU the Better (perhaps with some minor fine-tuning or renegotiation). Consequently, acceptable, or even desirable, are: more EU integration and homogenisation; EU expansion into different areas of centralised top-down control; loss of individuality and freedom; omission of democratic accountability and transparency; increase of injustice and redistribution of jobs/people; high levels of taxation, corruption and waste; implementing destructive EU favoured ideologies without compassion.

A YES campaign’s paradigm of the future is very much steady state – the future needs the slow moving, orthodox, grandiose and regimented solutions of the past (such as the EU) to fix its problems or create opportunities. Consequently, acceptable are fixing the wrong problems or ones that no longer exist; losing competitiveness, missing fast moving opportunities and being left behind; discouraging spontaneous, informal, voluntary initiatives and collaborations (outside official channels); creating unintended or unwanted societal and economic side effects.

There are major problems in the EU, not least political, economic and demographic. It is difficult to see how being a part of this grandiose and costly experiment to create a European Superstate is in our interests. Rudyard Kipling in The Elephant’s Child has given us the succinct questions to deconstruct the YES/IN campaign:

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

Photo by Horia Varlan