Monday, 28 February 2011
No doubt the EU will take credit for that even though it didn't even exist at the time it was made.
Saturday, 26 February 2011
A European diplomat, from a large eurozone country, told The Sunday Telegraph that "the more the Irish make a big deal about renegotiation in public, the more attitudes will harden".Astonishing arrogance, please, please say this to the UK as well. Then all bets are off.
"It is not even take it or leave it. It's done. Ireland's only role in this now is to implement the programme agreed with the EU, IMF and European Central Bank. Irish voters are not a party in this process, whatever they have been told," said the diplomat.
'I like you just the way you are, drunk as shit dancing at the bar/can't wait to get you home so I can do some damage, can't wait to get you home and take advantage.'Ms McCarthy isn't impressed:
I can’t believe that anyone has allowed this record to be made.Well I can.. er.. because it's a free country. You can see precisely where Ms McCarthy is going with this - she is 'shocked' so the record must be banned.
It's worth remembering that her taste in music largely consists of late 70's and early 80's punk, that well known genre of politeness and good taste. In fact one of her favourite groups is Joy Division which were named after a... forced brothel in a Nazi concentration camp.
I love the hypocrisy of the left.
Friday, 25 February 2011
Above is a Daily Mail photograph of Gaddafi's foreign mercenaries. Without wishing to be flippant in the circumstances, but it looks like a dodgy tunnel line up in a Champions League game; one Manchester United Badge, a Real Madrid badge and two Juventus badges.
I bet those clubs are overjoyed at the free publicity.
The Accession Treaty for the UK (and Ireland) is the only one not available in English.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Can the noble Lord give us a clear assurance that there will be any British embassies left in 10 years' time? If he can give that assurance, will he tell us where they will be? If he does not have the answer at his fingertips, would he be good enough to put a letter in the Library?And in October last year Peter Oborne of the Telegraph received an email regarding the implications of the Spending Review for the future of British diplomacy, a key part of which was this:
This will reflect a fundamental shift in UK diplomatic influence and activity.
Fast forward to today and we have the shambles that is the Libyian evacuation of British citizens:
Civil servants and diplomats follow the money. It is one of the reasons why historically in Brussels the best quality civil servants and diplomats tend to come from Ireland and other smaller states – because the EU budgets far exceed their own home country’s ministry budgets. That was never the case for the larger countries in the EU, until now.
A young diplomat from the UK joining up in 2015 will be faced with option of joining the UK diplomatic corps or an EU corps with twice the funding. Which will the most ambitious opt for?
This revolution in UK diplomacy is taking place against a backdrop of a Foreign Office already thrown into internal confusion by David Cameron.
A coincidence? Shurley sum mistake.
Like the Treasury, the Foreign Office is supposed to contain the brightest and best of Britain’s civil servants. But just as the Treasury failed to anticipate the banking crisis, so Carlton-Browne of the FO seems to have been caught on the hop by the collapse of regimes across the Middle East.
This is, of course, a department of state which is said to pride itself on an intimate knowledge of Arab affairs. Yet the uprisings in Egypt, Bahrain and Libya appear to have come as a complete surprise to our diplomatic elite.
Thursday, 24 February 2011
Catherine Bearder MEP said (Oxford Mail, February 14) that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is independent of any government or political interference.
That is largely correct, but it means by logical conclusion that it is also independent of the views of the ballot box.
The perfect irony with the issue of votes for prisoners is, should the ECHR force us to abide by its ruling, that in effect will deprive the rest of us of exactly the same human right – the right to change this law by the ballot box.
That is fundamentally wrong.
This issue should be decided by our democratically elected parliament not by an unaccountable foreign court.
In this judgement the ECHR has gone beyond the wishes of its creators and is overstepping its remit.
It’s sad to say, but if it continues to do so we have no option but to withdraw for the sake of our democracy, and the human rights of the vast majority of our law-abiding citizens.
When asked who was in charge, Mr Clegg, who is on a skiing holiday in Switzerland, said: 'Yeah, I suppose I am. I forgot about that. I'm holding the fort but I'm hoping to take the end of the week off with my kids. Someone else will have to do it then. It sounds more haphazard than it probably is.'Truly I'm speechless, I really don't know what else to say.
The WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault. Assange will appeal, his legal team has confirmed. If they lose he will be sent to Sweden in 10 days.Prima facie evidence in this country is no longer required for extradition:
So it became official. The highest court in the land [House of Lords] did not think it of general public interest if one of our citizens is consigned to a foreign prison system on trumped up charges.And so it proves:
The defence had argued that the allegations against Assange were not offences in English law and therefore not grounds for extradition.So:
Outside the court Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, said the ruling had not come as a surprise and reaffirmed the Assange team's concerns that adhering to the European arrest warrant (EAW) amounted to "tick box justice".Therefore, democracy takes a back seat:
Stephens suggested Riddle had been "hamstrung" by the EAW. "We're pretty sure the secrecy and the way [the case] has been conducted so far have registered with this judge. He's just hamstrung," he told reporters.As I blogged here, the Guardian are outraged but not enough to campaign against our membership of the EU - you reap what you sow.
Update: Assange is in the Telegraph (my emphasis):
The ruling against him came as a result of "a European arrest warrant system run amok", he claimed.
He said: "There was no consideration during this entire process as to the merit of the allegations made against me, no consideration or examination of even the complaints made in Sweden and of course we have always known we would appeal."
Wednesday, 23 February 2011
Friday, 18 February 2011
You have to wonder why on earth the Tories continued to deny that they were holding back on the election. Did they really think that their spending figures were never going to be released? Are they really that stupid? Going by the form of the Tory chairman the answer is quite clearly yes they are.
The figures submitted by each of the major parties to the local election authorities by the deadline of today (Friday) show that each of the major parties spent as follows:
Cons £39,432Throughout the campaign the Conservatives denied accusations that they were not taking the by-election seriously.
Lab £97, 085
Lib Dem £94,540
In effect the democratic will of our Parliament and the people is being disregarded. Apparently we will lose 'international credibility' on human rights unless we comply with an unaccountable unelected foreign court. Er...hello? I'm not sure how the UK obeying the democratic will of its own Parliament loses us credibility. Unless I'm mistaken, the argument seems to run that if our goverment does not defy its own people it will become a diplomatic laughing stock. Have I just woken up in a Salvador Dali dream?
- The Strasbourg judgments on Hirst and Greens and MT are binding on the UK and no action that could be taken now – even withdrawal from the ECHR – will remove the legal obligation to implement them.
- The sanctions at a European level for failure or refusal to implement the judgments (and non-compliance with any subsequent order by the Strasbourg court to pay compensation in the 3,500 clone cases) are primarily political: criticism by the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg. In theory the UK could be suspended or expelled from the Council of Europe (CoE) and EU, but this is highly unlikely. The timing of any criticism, compensation decisions and suspension/expulsion depends on the UK’s stance. Outright refusal to implement is likely to result in a much quicker reaction (eg. Court rulings on compensation in a matter of months).
- Failure to implement the judgments is also being challenged in the domestic courts. 585 domestic cases are pending and could lead to declarations of incompatibility and, in relation to Northern Ireland or European elections, order for compensation.
- In addition, as we have previously discussed, the UK would lose international credibility on human rights. In CoE, our ability to press other states to implement human rights judgments (eg. Russia on Chechnya) would be completely undermined. So would our broader international dialogues on human rights with countries like China.
Regardless our government will still capitulate:
The UK’s position in the Strasbourg and UK litigation (under the previous and current administrations and with collective agreement) has been that the government accepts that the current law is incompatible and intends to remedy it. The issue has been about when and to what extent to extend the franchise.At a time when our government is praising the actions of people in the Middle East who are defying their government, they are expressing a different message at home. It's about time we got on the streets and voiced our own concerns and told our regime where to go. In the words of the Prodigy; fuck 'em and their law.
I, however, will not partake. I intend to spoil the ballot with the words; "where's our EU referendum". My reasons are simple.
In 2005, 631 out of 646 MPs stood on a manifesto promise of a referendum on the EU constitution (in fact the EU - and related issues - is the subject that has the most promised referenda on).
Here's the Labour manifesto from 2005 (page 84):
It is a good treaty for Britain and for the new Europe.We will put it to the British people in a referendum and campaign whole-heartedly for a ‘Yes’ vote to keep BritainAnd the Lib Dems manifesto (page 27):
a leading nation in Europe.
We are therefore clear in our support for the constitution, which we believe is in Britain’s interest – but ratification must be subject to a referendum of the British people.And the Tories (page 26):
We oppose the EU Constitution and would give the British people the chance to reject its provisions in a referendum within six months of the General Election.and Cameron on the Lisbon Treaty (my emphasis):
Today, I will give this cast-iron guarantee: If I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations.Of course we all know how worthless these promises turned out to be, a referendum asked for and voted on by the electorate was ignored. Conversely we now have one that wasn't promised. The utter arrogant conceit of the political classes is astonishing, but not surprising. There's plenty of weasel words like 'cleaning up politics' and 'accountability blah blah blah', but they have no interest in cleaning up politics at all. If there was a genuine desire to reform and improve the electoral system then the referendum would be on all available election procedures: AV, AV+, STV or FPTP. Allow the British people to decide.
Instead we are only granted a referendum on their terms; we end up with a 'miserable little compromise' where the only choice is between what we currently have and a system that no-one wants or genuinely supports. It truly is insulting to our intelligence.
Why should we take part in such a sanctimonious sham? I say we don't. Avoid voting, make the result as low as possible by spoiling your ballot paper. I'm proud to say my ballot paper will be emblazoned with the words:
Where's my EU referendum?I hope I won't be the only one.
Thursday, 17 February 2011
Wednesday, 16 February 2011
The experts were on their third mission to the country prior to releasing the fourth 15b-euro tranche of the 110b-euro bailout loan Greece received last May.And today:
The European Central Bank is being forced to print money to bolster banks in bailed-out Greece and Ireland, leaving the region’s taxpayers on the hook as the final guarantors of those nations’ debts.And this bit must really delight German taxpayers:
“What you have here is micro-quantitative easing, or money printing,” said Cathal O’Leary, head of fixed-income sales at NCB Stockbrokers in Dublin. “The banks are issuing unsecured loans to themselves.”And now the problems with Portugal have resurfaced; it is heading for a double-dip recession and a bailout now looks ever more likely amongst the political blame game (my emphasis):
A solution to the euro debt crisis has to be reached at the European level and does not just depend on Portugal, Treasury Secretary Carlos Pina said on Wednesday, adding that Europe has been dragging its feet. " Portugal is continuing to do its work," Pina told Reuters in an emailed response to questions. "Europe has fallen short."And the consequences are:
The Euro is so obviously doomed, sadly though it is a political project not an economic one, therefore it is vital for the EU that they prop it up at all costs even at the disastrous economic costs to the peoples of Europe. In the words of Dr Richard North:
The cost of insuring Portuguese sovereign debt against default rose again Wednesday after an auction of 12-month treasury bills and a €250 million debt buyback earlier in the day. Ten-year Portuguese bond yields were trading at 7.304%, well above the benchmark German bund yield of 3.225%.
Some analysts said the sale was lackluster, noting the cost of funding for the Portuguese was higher than in a previous auction.
I have found that there is one constant in life: a bureaucracy is a means by which good men do evil.Amen to that.
The British Government has put the Commission "on notice" that the accounts, which have not been signed off by auditors for 16 years because of apparent inconsistencies, are unacceptable.The UK Government follows where UKIP leads. However what's amusing is that the Telegraph accompany the story with the above picture, which rather mischievously shows anything but Mr Osborne standing up to the EU (it looks like he's being told off). The chap on the left is EU commissioner Ollie Rehn, who has form on expressing his views on democracy and adopting budgets.
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
David Cameron is embroiled in another Cabinet row over European demands for expensive employment rights for millions of workers.and he's not just very angry, he's also furious:
The Prime Minister is understood to be furious that Business Secretary Vince Cable has failed to find a way to halt a tide of legislation from Brussels that will hit struggling businesses.And not just furious either, he's incredibly frustrated:
Several Tory Cabinet ministers, including Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, are understood to have objected to revised legal rights for more than a million agency workers, required by the EU...The Prime Minister is incredibly frustrated that officials have not been able to find a way round this,’ said one.
Monday, 14 February 2011
After the tragic and bizarre circumstances of two horses being electrocuted at Newbury racecourse, you would have thought that phrases like; 'spectators were shocked or stunned' would be avoided but oh no. The above is from the Telegraph.
This morning on BBC local news - South Today - a trainer said he was shocked by events, and Sky Sports News just now has interviewed the trainer, Nicky Henderson, of Kid Cassidy a horse that survived, who's just said he's stunned by what he saw. And a commentator on SkySports here says he was 'shocked' (1:25 mins in).
Sunday, 13 February 2011
One of the most powerful problems in arguing for exit is the fear of the unknown. Holding onto nurse will be a seductive argument and one which will be reinforced by scaremongering, for example:
Leaving the EU would be absolutely disastrous for our economy.This has been echoed by a comment left on Autonomous Mind's fine post about the EU and the Tories:
...or get out altogether, and the latter would, at this point, be disasterous as we would be exposed as a very small player literally farting against an economic powerhouse. Getting out at this point would damage the UK economy termnally [sic].It's another example of the language that will be used during any campaign that tries to conjure up an image of the four horsemen traipsing over the horizon towards us, should we decide to leave. And it would be used time and time again. To suggest that it would be disastrous economically for the UK to leave when it is one of world's leading economies, a member of NATO, the UN, G8, G20 etc, and when other non-EU countries such as Norway and Switzerland exist quite happily, seems rather overblown. But it does hide a more accurate argument; would we be better off or worse off?
I believe we would be better off, others do not. However the world, and especially the EU, has moved on since we joined in 1973 so for all the arguments over trade figures and regulation, in truth there is now only one way to find out. It's akin to asking a captain how deep can his submarine really go, he doesn't know until he tries it.
So why not try it? There's the implication that if we did exit then that would be final. In other words if we ended up worse off then there's no turning back. But that's not true and this is where Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty comes in, which says:
Any European State which respects the values referred to in Article 2 and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union. The European Parliament and national Parliaments shall be notified of this application. The applicant State shall address its application to the Council, which shall act unanimously after consulting the Commission and after receiving the assent of the European Parliament, which shall act by an absolute majority of its component members. The conditions of admission and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the Union is founded, which such admission entails, shall be the subject of an agreement between the Member States and the applicant State. This agreement shall be submitted for ratification by all the contracting States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. The conditions of eligibility agreed upon by the European Council shall be taken into account.In short it's a mechanism by which countries can apply to join the EU. So if the UK left and found that being outside was more disadvantageous than being in, it can hold its hands up and say; "sorry, we were wrong" and reapply for membership under Article 49. Not only can we leave but we can rejoin and it's a way of finding out for sure which side of the argument is correct.
Now I appreciate that I have taken a simplistic nature to the implications of leaving; the upheaval politically and economically for both the EU and the UK would be tremendous, but the essential point remains, our exit may not have to be final. There is a mechanism to backtrack and this can help resolve one of the most poisonous divisions that infect our politics.
I suspect part of the reason is that Mr Letwin and his Tory colleagues have been taken back by the scale of the interference now, considering that they were last in power in 1997 - EU power has dramatically increased since then:
Constantly being told what you can and can’t do by Brussels is driving Ministers and No 10 deeper and deeper into the Eurosceptic camp.
Oliver Letwin, Cameron’s mild-mannered and cerebral Policy Minister, has become so frustrated by this constant interference that he has told colleagues he thinks Britain should leave the European Union if it won’t give us all the opt-outs the Government wants.
And it's not just the Tories who are frustrated either:
Letwin is not alone in thinking this. In one department, a recent meeting between a Secretary of State and a junior Minister ended with the pair agreeing that the only solution to the problem they were discussing was to get out of the EU.
Cameron’s strategy guru and close friend Steve Hilton is getting fed up with the way Brussels bureaucracy is blocking his agenda for a post-bureaucratic age.
...even the Lib Dems have been shocked at how much influence Brussels has on decisions that should be taken at a national level. Nick Clegg was appalled when officials told him that the EU wouldn’t allow VAT to be set at a local level.Was Clegg, a former MEP, really unaware of this? That an EU tax, controlled by the EU could not be set at a local level. If so, he is far more stupid than I thought.
But I little sympathy for ministers whinging, in fact it's more than a little irritating. It's fine example of wanting it both ways; you can hardly complain about having no power if you give it away.
They know the EU is a bureaucratic monster yet they sign up to more of it. They always vote for more EU interference, they always deny us a referendum on EU matters, not one of the 3 main parties advocates EU exit. If MPs and ministers think that remaining in the EU is good thing then EU interference is something that they will have to put up with.
If ministers, and MPs, don't like being powerless then they have a simple choice; get us out of the EU. And until then they should shut up.
Saturday, 12 February 2011
Pyracantha, often called Firethorn (from pur = "fire" + akantha = "thorn") is an evergreen shrub which is excellent for growing against walls. They like to be planted in shade or semi-shade, and grow well against north or east facing walls. Some varieties have bright red glossy berries from late summer which last well into the winter.
Their main feature however is that they have large thorns which makes them rather impregnable; something which can be quite useful in certain circumstances.
Friday, 11 February 2011
Thursday, 10 February 2011
But will it matter? No not really. Firstly the House of Commons' vote is not binding. Although it will undoubtedly exert some political pressure on ministers to go against the ECHR's decision, ultimately the vote does not change our international obligations to honour the European court’s judgments.
Instead matters have become somewhat complicated. It’s now not clear how the government will be able to satisfy both the ECHR and Parliament - who must approve any change in the law. A fight between Europe and Parliament? Well on experience we all know which way that will eventually go, as Attorney General Dominic Grieve has indeed hinted:
...he anticipated “a drawn-out dialogue between ourselves and the court” over the issue.
In other words how can we amend or implement a European law / ruling that will be able to get rammed through Parliament against the electorate's wishes. We've been here before.
And today's scenes in Parliament give an illustration. On a debate that was supposedly reasserting Parliament's authority, the green benches were empty; far fewer than half bothered to vote - 394 out of 650 MPs were absent. Of those that took part in the debate, there was plenty of passion, and references to voters' anger and indignant claims of "laws should be made in this place". Well, where have they been since May? Especially when this coalition Government has passed more laws over to the EU faster than you can say Cameron is a liar. Indeed only 12 voted against approval of the Lisbon Treaty.
Despite all the talk in Parliament, and Cameron's carefully worded PR dog whistle sound bite that it made him; “physically ill to contemplate giving the vote to prisoners”, Parliament or this Government has no intention of repatriating powers back to the UK. As Mary Ellen Synon argues:
All I can say to the Commons over this votes for prisoners dispute is: just shut up and pull the trigger and get out of the Council of Europe. Or admit you are too timid to pull the trigger, so shut up anyway and submit in the manner that suits men who are cowards.Exactly, if we really wanted to stand up against Europe (EU or otherwise) we would threaten, or take, the nuclear option. Otherwise, the mantra; "we're fighting for Britain's interests by standing up against Europe" is what it's always been;
Update: Witterings From Witney has the latest that Cameron plans to overrule Parliament's / our wishes. It's oh oh so so predictable.
Wednesday, 9 February 2011
Monday, 7 February 2011
Before my readers get the wrong impression regarding my blog post title, I would like to express that personally I'm against prisoners' having the right to vote for two main reasons:
The report, written by a former government adviser, Dr Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, says the UK has become "subservient" to the Strasbourg court.
He says it also ignores the traditional British freedom of the press.
The report claims the 47 Strasbourg judges have "virtually no democratic legitimacy" and are poorly qualified compared to Britain's own senior judges.
Lord Hoffman, a former Law Lord, who wrote the foreword to the report, said Strasbourg has "taken upon itself an extraordinary power to micromanage the legal systems of the member states".
The report says the ECHR is a "virtually unaccountable supra-national bureaucracy".
- Firstly it is my view that the right to vote is a contract between our country's citizens and the Government. As responsible citizens we have an obligation to respect the rule of law. As part of that contract to abide by Government laws (even ones we don't agree with) it is only fair and justified that there is a process which gives us the opportunity to remove them from power and vote in a different Government who can change existing laws (no Parliament may bind its successor etc)
Therefore it follows that criminals who have broken the law have - by choice - refused to abide by their side of the contract, so it is only right that while they are incarcerated temporarily (however long temporarily is) that the Government removes their right to have a say on law making - for breaching the terms and conditions of being a responsible citizen. In short, if you want the right to vote don't break the law.
And this contract works both ways: if a Government removes the right to vote (effectively hands over power to foreign undemocratic and unelected bodies) then it has broken its side of the contract and so removes law abiding citizens from the obligation to abide by its laws. A la Egypt and us; it's a two-way process.
- More importantly and connected with the first point, my main objection is that this decision regarding prisoners' right to vote is not being made by democratic discussion in Parliament, with parties voted in by the will of the people. It is being made instead by an undemocratic, unaccountable foreign court. The dazzling irony is that prisoners are being given 'democratic rights' by an unelected, unaccountable court against the democratic wishes of the British people. That position is fundamentally wrong, as well as strangely surreal.
As I argued here the problem with fighting the EU is its Directives. Essentially the electorate at large do not care about the EU technicalities of food safety, the intricacies of foreign treaties or the differences between the EU and the Council of Europe. And this is exacerbated by the fact that laws - which get made in Brussels - aren't articulated clearly by our traitors in Parliament. Our so called government does its best to hide EU laws.
That's why the prisoners' voting saga matters, it does resonate, it can't be hidden and our political class cannot pretend otherwise. Instead of having to constantly recite EU Directives that lead to Post Office closures, higher fuel bills etc there is now a demonstrably direct link with a toxic issue and Europe. Even the BBC can't hide it - having it on the front page of their web site today.
Quite simply it's another example that the unaccountable European elite will implode because it will over reach itself - with power comes greed. The more power the EU / Europe gets the more it reveals itself. And this is its fundamental weakness - it will intrude more and more on issues that do cause electoral heartache: taxes, health, crime etc - something the EU acknowledges itself.
It was only ever a matter of time before politically toxic decisions were made that could no longer be hidden by UK politicians.
In effect John Hirst has unwittingly helped the UK move nearer the EU exit door, which in turn will repeal prisoner voting rights without interference from unelected foreign judges.
and some didn't speak out because they read the Guardian / BBC.
Then they came for the students,
and some didn't speak out because they read the Guardian / BBC.
Then they came for the football fans,
and some didn't speak out because they read the Guardian / BBC.
Then they came for the business men,
and some didn't speak out because they read the Guardian / BBC.
Then they came for the holiday makers,
and some didn't speak out because they read the Guardian / BBC.
Then they came for the Guardian /BBC reader,
and it's whoops perhaps this European Arrest Warrant is not such a good thing after all (my emphasis):
Hardly a surprise - the EAW means that UK magistrates no longer consider prima facie evidence for extradition.
One of the arguments Mr Assange's lawyers will raise concerns what is known as "double" or "dual criminality". This principle ensures that no one is extradited unless the allegations against them from the requesting state, amount to a criminal offence in English law.
His lawyers will argue that the first three allegations which cover unlawful coercion and sexual molestation do not constitute an offence under English law.
The equivalent offence would be sexual assault, which requires a lack of consent. It will be argued that the arrest warrant doesn't allege a lack of consent.
Double criminality, however, doesn't apply in the case of the fourth allegation, rape.
This is one of the list of offences under the European Arrest Warrant framework where the extraditing country has simply to tick a box.
Mr Assange's lawyers will seek to argue double criminality here by reference to European law, but it may prove a difficult argument to win.