Wednesday, 30 January 2013

"A Powerful Reputation For Accuracy"

It is of little wonder that the media cannot grasp the complexities of our membership of the EU when they fail to even try to grasp the basics of a Football Club's boardroom politics, particularly when it involves poker games between rich men, one of whom happens to be the founder of a gambling site called Betfair.

I will spare my readers of most of the details, just give a quick summary. First we come to the, very well funded, BBC who breathlessly reports this on 17th January:
Swindon Town has been put up for sale in order to avoid administration, with debts thought to be around £13m....Around £9m is set to be wiped from the deficit if Swindon enter administration for a third time in their history, but they may then face a points deduction.
Strangely enough there's not one quote in the BBC piece that backs its assertions up and seems instead to be based on this:
When asked if he could guarantee the club could avoid administration, Patey responded: "Not a single chairman in the country could do that." 
Still, it feeds into the lazy narrative that Swindon has had a long and dubious history of financial problems. Yet since a successful takeover in 2008 it doesn't owe a penny to creditors who are knocking on the door, doesn't have an overdraft, doesn't owe the taxman.

The main creditor is Swindon’s owner Andrew Black and it exists in the form of soft debt of his own money. Swindon’s current situation is that Mr Black, the main shareholder, for personal reasons has decided to sell, and it’s been that position for many months.

But the BBC, in their wisdom, ran with Swindon financial 'crisis' story, picking up on a quote which was taken out of context. As a result it has lead to constant accusations from other media outlets that are of a very untrue nature. No wonder Swindon Town received an apology and damages from the Football League Paper, for blatant libel. And now today the Daily Mail has this:

Paolo Di Canio is facing an increasingly uncertain future at Swindon, amid claims the financially stricken League One club will go into administration in the next 24 hours. 
A desperate search for new investment to help offset debts of around £13m appears to have failed and left club bosses fearing they may have little alternative but to call in the administrators. 
As a consequence, Swindon’s entire first-team squad would be put up for sale, in a move that would leave Di Canio agonising over his next move.
But...oh dear...
A DEAL has been reached which will see Swindon Town taken over by a consortium led by Jed McCrory subject to Football League approval, the Advertiser understands.
It is believed that the new owners and the current board, led by Andrew Black, will hold joint responsibility in the running of the club until the deal is ratified by the authorities.
Still, "a powerful reputation for accuracy" is what the media has, despite that you get a far more accurate picture of what's going on from a humble internet forum.

Update: Just simply marvellous:
Today's report in the Daily Mail which suggested Swindon Town's players were all up for sale and that the club was about to be plunged into administration appears to have been the result of an erroneous email.
The Advertiser has learnt that an agent issued the missive, which intimated that every member of the Town squad was available for transfer, last night.
The Adver has also been told that several agents have been claiming to represent players who are not their clients.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Government By Fax? EEA Member Iceland Says No

Contrary to the consistently clear... naked... lie from David Cameron (and he is aware his assertion is untrue) that Norway - and thus other EEA members - have "no say", Iceland demonstrates yet again that membership of the EEA does in fact mean having a say in Single Market rules.

As documented on this blog recently Iceland has been involved with one of biggest rejections of the EU there has ever been by an EEA member, one which centred around two legal arguments, over the collapse of Icesave. This has been an ongoing legal battle until the judgement today.

The Telegragh reports:
After the collapse four years ago of Iceland's top lenders during the credit crunch, the British and Dutch governments stepped in to repay savers in the online "Icesave" account run by Landsbanki and wanted Iceland to pay them back directly.

Iceland did not comply, triggering a row between the governments and potentially complicating the island's bid to join the European Union.

But the court of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) ruled that Iceland did not break depositor protection laws by refusing to return the money. 
In other words the EU said "you have 20 seconds to comply", Iceland, with a population of only around 313,000, said with success:

"no"

The assertion that Norway et al is governed by fax is looking more ridiculous by the day. I wonder if the Telegraph editorial team will even take note of its own report...?

Iceland says no, files its fax in the bin, and tells EU member states that it does not comply...

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Article 50, 2 Years And EU Law (Part 1)

If nothing else the prisoners’ voting saga at least demonstrates that if the UK government is willing, it can delay decisions and rulings from European institutions for many years – we’re now in the eighth year of ECHR’s ruling without implementation.

With this in mind, I wish to follow on from my previous piece regarding invoking Article 50. Should we do this, there would be a two year notice period (or earlier if there’s an agreement) where the UK is still an EU member and so subject to its laws until we leave. That exit is not immediate leaves open to some the accusation that the EU will, apparently in a hissy fit, force the UK to adopt all sorts of onerous laws with a specific view of damaging us. It is an accusation that plays on the emotions rather than one that is borne out by facts.

In essence the assertion has many fallacies, but two in particular are very significant - ones which pose insurmountable hurdles for the EU to overcome even if they wanted to as they both are contradictory to the defining characteristics of its existence. I will deal with each problem in two separate posts.

The first problem covered here is, ironically, answered by David Cameron’s recent EU speech. As is well documented, not perhaps fully acknowledged by the media, repatriation of powers from the EU to the UK is not possible. There is no mechanism within EU treaties to do it and as Van Rompuy says it would lead to the end of the defining principles of the Single Market:
"If every member state were able to cherry-pick those parts of existing policies that they most like, and opt out of those that they least like, the union in general, and the single market in particular, would soon unravel,"
In this he is not wrong, even if he is in everything else. The fundamental principles of the single market according to the EU are laid out here:
The cornerstones of the single market are often said to be the “four freedoms” – the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. These freedoms are enshrined in the EC Treaty and form the basis of the single market framework.
Naturally the only way this can be established successfully is to implement laws that apply to every member state the same – which is precisely why the Single Market is used as a Trojan horse to facilitate ever closer political and economic union. To ensure the Single Market runs according to the same set of rules, it needs a body of a bureaucratic makeup to impose those rules, and one which is aloof from its member states. That is the EU's raison d'etat - thus to behave contrary to that would be in breach of the fundamental discrimination principles of the Treaties as well as its intentions. An example of those principles are laid out clearly by Article 34 onwards of the Lisbon Treaty (page 56).

It’s the same reason that UK minimum pricing of alcohol is illegal under EU law as it discriminates against similar cheaper alcoholic products from elsewhere in the EU, in direct conflict with the principle of free movement of goods.

So by logical conclusion what applies to the UK also applies to EU institutions; they are duty bound by EU treaties for EU laws to apply equally and it is in their interests to do so. There is no legal mechanism for the EU to deliberately tailor onerous laws to target a specific country without it applying to the other members as well, in the same way a particular country cannot tailor the Single Market for their own ends. This is borne out again by the nature of the two main forms of EU law; Regulations and Directives.

EU Regulations are defined under Article 288 of Lisbon, described as (my emphasis);
“…binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States”.
Clearly then Regulations cannot be used as a targeting exercise. Therefore we come onto Directives, the second major form of EU law, which are also defined in Article 288 (my emphasis);
A directive shall be binding, as to the result to be achieved, upon each Member State to which it is addressed, but shall leave to the national authorities the choice of form and methods.
At first glance there appears to be some scope to address each country directly - a form of targeting. However not so. It merely allows flexibility to account for the differences in the makeup of countries such as for geographic reasons. So for example as an island we have to implement a directive dealing with coastal pollution while conversely, and for obvious reasons, landlocked Austria does not. But the Directive still has to have a general effect, as outlined here:
Furthermore, a directive...is a text with general application to all the Member States.
Discrimination is prohibited on the grounds of nationality, under EU law, in accordance with Article 7 of the Treaty of Rome. Accusations of discrimination on grounds of nationality is one of the reasons for the ongoing legal battles with Iceland over Icesave.

So it is clear, even if the EU wished it, deliberately forcing upon us, in the event of invoking Article 50, onerous laws for the sake of it out of spite is very limited under current EU treaties. They would have to find a reason that was completely unique to this country so that any law passed would not affect the other 26 Member States as a consequence.

In the unlikely event they discover one, they will hit upon another very serious problem - timescale - and it is that I will address in part 2.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Pro-EU

Your humble Frog has been accused of many things but writing pro-EU propaganda has never been one of them...until now:
I regret to say that the article to which I am here responding, although very well researched, reads like nothing more than EU propaganda. Who wrote it?
So I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to my readers who may be labouring under the impression that this blog is Eurosceptic. A small number of readers would have already been aware of the deception of course, donning special 'truth sunglasses' akin to those in the film They Live, which reveal the pro-EU subliminal messages that permeate this blog.

So in the style of Scooby Doo, it looks as if I have finally been unmasked. I beg forgiviness for the lie

Yours ever
TBF

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Article 50 And Withdrawal

Not so long ago, it seemed unlikely that any country politically was willing to contemplate leaving the European Union. Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that all of the treaties pre-Lisbon were silent on the question of withdrawal. There were a number of theories for this; partly it would have been contrary to member states’ commitment to “ever closer union”, partly it could have encouraged members to make the outcome more likely and partly that the process of leaving is a significant legal challenge best left unspecified in a treaty – a legal challenge made more complicated the longer member states remain within an ever integrating Union.

So in the absence of a specific provision for exit, international treaties are usually covered by Article 56(1) of the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties which states:
1. A treaty which contains no provision regarding its termination and which does not provide for denunciation or withdrawal is not subject to denunciation or withdrawal unless:
a) it is established that the parties intended to admit the possibility of denunciation or withdrawal; or
b) a right of denunciation or withdrawal may be implied by the nature of the treaty. 
Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, these provisions of the Vienna Treaty did not cover EEC / EU Treaties before Lisbon. The spirit and terms of those treaties as epitomised by “ever closer union”, with the long-term goal of full political and economic integration, meant the “right of denunciation or withdrawal” was never implied. Quite the opposite in fact. Thus it could’ve been argued therefore that exit of the EU was not specifically allowed under international law.

Crucially this was reinforced, by virtue of its absence as a clause, that the Vienna Treaty also does not list sovereignty as a means of automatically absolving countries from their treaty obligations. There is no legal defence within the Vienna Treaty for a country who wishes to withdraw unilaterally from its obligations as it sees fit. This became especially true due to the nature of EEC/EU Treaties. The European Court of Justice has a well-established interpretation that EU treaties are permanently binding on the Member States and limit their sovereign rights as per Flaminio Costa v ENEL [1964] ECR 585 (6/64) – (my emphasis): 
“By creating a Community of unlimited duration, having its own institutions, its own personality, its own legal capacity and capacity of representation on the international plane and, more particularly, real powers stemming from a limitation of sovereignty or a transfer of powers from the States to Community, the Member States have limited their sovereign rights and have thus created a body of law which binds both their nationals and themselves … The transfer by the States from their domestic legal system to the Community legal system of the rights and obligations arising under the Treaty carries with it a permanent limitation of their sovereign rights” 
However the problems and arguments with Article 56(1), and pre-Lisbon, are now largely moot points, as the Lisbon Treaty explicitly makes provision for the voluntary secession of a Member State from the EU and this provision comes via Article 50. Therefore exit from the Lisbon Treaty, and subsequently from the EU, is instead covered by Article 54 of the Vienna Convention on the Law on Treaties (my emphasis):
The termination of a treaty or the withdrawal of a party may take place:
(a) in conformity with the provisions of the treaty; or
(b) at any time by consent of all the parties after consultation with the other contracting States. 
For the first time in an EU treaty there is an exit clause and one that is backed up by international law. One should note at this point that Article 50 does have two areas of a lack of clarity particularly for the EU – for example over the issue of more than one member wanted to withdraw at the same time, especially if there was a mass exit, and more importantly it contains no special provisions on the requirements for the withdrawal of a Member State which has adopted the euro. However these are concerns which should not affect the UK, so this piece will concentrate on a UK exit only.

One overlooked factor with Article 50 is that it actually contains two choices of withdrawal not one; it allows for a negotiated agreement where the Member State in question and the EU agree terms but it also recognises a unilateral right of withdrawal – a Member State simply hands in their notice and serves out their two year notice with no desire for negotiation whatsoever. This is clearly defined by Article 50 (3):
3. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period. 
The unilateral right of withdrawal has the added benefit of acting as a longstop – as a negotiating tool – that prevents the EU from imposing impossible conditions upon a Member State with the intention of trying to stop their exit.

So in practice, should the UK want to change its relationship with the EU, Cameron would, using the Royal Prerogative and as per Article 50 (2) notify the European Council via President Van Rompuy of our intentions. Then, as per Article 50 (2), there would begin a period of negotiations:
In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament. 
Though it’s left unsaid with Article 50, any country leaving would necessitate a new EU treaty as it would require amendments to the founding treaties. Though there is no precedent to draw on regarding a country leaving the EU under Lisbon, we can find an imperfect example with Greenland in 1985 who left the then EEC which required a treaty – unsurprisingly called The Greenland Treaty of 1985, documented by Hansard 20th July 1984. It’s worth noting Teddy Taylor’s comments at the time, about how very complex the whole process of leaving was:
First, my hon. Friend the Minister will agree that, judging from the papers that he and the Department kindly made available to us, the formula adopted to arrange Greenland's withdrawal from the EEC is a highly complicated one. There is a very good reason for that. There is no clear procedure in the treaty for the withdrawal of a part-member state or indeed a member state. In view of our experience with Greenland, is there not a case for saying that the Common Market should consider its rules and treaties with a view to providing a clear arrangement for the withdrawal of member states which wish to withdraw, if other member states agree? 
Post EU and the Lisbon exit clause means the Greenland example is no longer really relevant; instead a better example of how we leave may lie with the process of accession treaties. Similar to Article 50 the accession clause in Lisbon – Article 49 –also does not mention specifically the need for a new Treaty. Yet if a country applies to join the EU a new treaty is ultimately required for precisely the same reasons as leaving – that it requires amendments to the founding treaties. A recent example is the Treaty of Accession 2011 concerning Croatia's accession to the EU which comes into force 1st July 2013.

Under Article 49 a country formally applies for membership, then begins a period of negotiation mainly based on whether the country wishing to apply is able to sufficiently execute EU law. This is a process which only ends when both parties agree that Acquis Communautaire has been sufficiently implemented, then a treaty of accession will be signed, which must then be ratified by all Member States of the EU, as well as the EU itself, and the applicant’s country.

This process would be remarkably similar to Article 50 but obviously for opposite intentions. The UK would formally notify intentions to leave, negotiate, and then sign the resulting treaty which is ratified by the EU and all Member States. Those countries wishing to join the EU have the option of saying no by changing their minds if the terms aren’t right, those countries wishing to leave have the option of saying no by not accepting the withdrawal agreement if the terms aren’t right.

One quirk with Article 50 though is as a member of the EU - the European Council and the Council of the EU - the UK would ending up sitting on both sides of the negotiating table regarding the new treaty. So this is where Article 50 (4) comes in (my emphasis):
4. For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.
This is entirely logical otherwise the UK would end up negotiating with itself. This exclusion is entirely consistent to Article 49 where accession countries are also absent from the European Council and the Council...by virtue of not yet being EU members.

In summary Article 50 allows us to fulfill our international obligations, abide by our EU treaty agreements and allows for an orderly exit with minimum of disruption particularly with regarding trade.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Hidden Trap

David Cameron's speech this morning, which I described earlier in robust terms, seems to have done its intended trick and united his party albeit temporarily (the divisive gay marriage vote is yet to come). So it's no surprise to read Daniel Hannan singing his master's praises, despite him knowing that the renegotiation option is not possible.

On the domestic political front, Cameron's speech is a superficially clever old wheeze. Cameron gets to outflank the Labour party who now seem embroiled with confusion over their EU policy (perhaps less time faffing about with the Nash Equilibrium and more time developing principles might help), while leaving UKIP with a conundrum I'm not confident that they will resolve adequately. Time will tell I guess.

The potential trouble for Cameron though comes down to detail - can he maintain, for five years, the assertion of repatriating powers despite it not being possible? We've had form from Mr Cameron on this before with the 'fake veto'. Initially it gave him a poll boost, yet when reality hit home, less than two months later, the picture was somewhat different. In that context five years is a very long time to keep up successfully a lie, and as Richard North writes a massive lie is exactly what Cameron's speech was.

Yet despite the so-called clear water, a description beloved of the media, between Labour and the Tories on the EU issue, this is immaterial. The Tories are very unlikely to win the next election, for various reasons, but a referendum on the EU, or lack of one, will not be one of them.

Nor indeed does the next election necessarily rest on the performance of the economy. Despite the political cliche of "It's the economy, stupid", elections in this country in the last 20 years, since the phrase was coined, don't bear that out. John Major won in 1992 in the midst of a recession, yet lost heavily when the economy was picking up in 1997 (When told by Treasury officials in 1997, the economy handed over by the Tories was better than expected, Gordon Brown's response was; "Do you want me to write a thank-you letter"?). Yet ten years later Brown's popularity sunk, not because of the credit crunch that was to come, but because of the election never was. Brown's dithering displayed a lack of leadership - the killer weakness is incompetence, or the impression of it. Here the coalition has displayed it in spades, epitomised by Osborne's disastrous budget of last year

But despite that by far the biggest threat to a Tory majority government is none of the above nor indeed UKIP but the electoral system. The electoral bias is significant according to the UKPolling Report (my emphasis):
It is far easier for Labour to secure a majority in the House of Commons than it is for the Conservatives. If Labour lead in the vote they will secure an overall majority, if the parties are neck and neck then Labour will be by far the largest party. In contrast, depending on how well the Liberal Democrats do, the Conservatives need to be in the region of 9 or 10 percent ahead in the polls to secure an overall majorty.
Currently the Tories are 5 points behind. So without implementing a boundary review, the Tories are at a huge disadvantage, and it looks as if the latest boundary review has been knocked on the head for this Parliament. Then there is postal voting, a system of electoral fraud that benefits Labour more than the Tories. Without resolving these issues, the Tories are more than likely to be dead and buried at the next election. Thus I'm not convinced a referendum on the EU will be enough to save them.

Therefore Labour don't actually have to promise one to win and, unless they reverse their own policy, we won't be getting a referendum. One wonders if this is why Cameron has promised one in the full knowledge he won't ever be called on to deliver?

And even in the miraculous event he does win the next election, his reluctance to make explicit what he would do in the face of the inevitable failure of renegotiation is very apparent as highlighted by Norman Tebbit in the Telegragh:
He was quite clear that if his negotiations not just to repatriate powers, but to reform the very structure of the EU and bring into question the concept of "ever closer union" were successful, he would campaign for a Yes vote. He was rather less clear about whether if they failed, he would then campaign for a "No" vote. Indeed he repeatedly dodged that question.
In other words; "we won't let matters rest there"? We've been here before.

And there lies the hidden trap. By promising an EU referendum we're either faced with voting for a liar who won't deliver or, with the odds heavily stacked against Cameron winning the election, the Tories inevitably losing the next election thus prompting the accusations yet again that EU promises don't win elections. In such circumstances one can see the issue being 'parked' for another generation.

Perhaps that's the point all along?

Bullshit Bingo

"I believe that our renegotiation objectives have been substantially though not completely achieved, and that the government would recommend a vote in favour of continued membership".  Harold Wilson 11 March 1975
Having to listen to Cameron waffle on about the EU at eight in the morning, with nothing stronger than a cup of tea, is not the best way to start the day. Therefore a game of bullshit bingo was necessary to get me through. Yep there they were, phrases and imagery like; "peace in Europe since WW2", "isolation if we left", the lie about "Norway having no say" and so on. Interestingly he also tells another lie:
If we left the European Union, it would be a one-way ticket, not a return.
That's not true, we can rejoin under Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty.

The full transcript is here. The key promise (if you don't want to read through all the waffle) is:
The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament.

It will be a relationship with the Single Market at its heart.

And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum.

Legislation will be drafted before the next election. And if a Conservative Government is elected we will introduce the enabling legislation immediately and pass it by the end of that year. And we will complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next parliament.
It begs a number of questions:
If Cameron can't (which he won't) negotiate a new settlement, then do we still have a referendum or do we leave anyway?

What if he can't get all of his demands, do we still get a referendum on say for example only one power returned, of half of them or three-quarters?

What if there's no new EU Treaty for Cameron to threatened to veto within the next Parliament and so no opportunity arises for negotiation does that mean no referendum?
The whole thing is one damn fudge to keep us in.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Control C + Control V Journalism

Currently the main headline on the Daily Mail website is the one pictured above. Topical you would think given that a fluttering of snow has fallen in this country in the last few days.

In 2010 the BBC reported this:

Reading carefully one notes a familiarity of phrases.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

"Repatriation Of Powers Is Possible"

Those were William Hague's words on Sky News at around 11:20 this morning in response to my question posted via Twitter:

Sadly, Sky News presenter, Dermot Monaghan didn't read out the complete question but instead he said (from memory);
"A direct question from PWilliams, do you agree repatriation of powers is possible"
Disappointingly but not surprisingly this allowed Hague to waffle untruths unchallenged.

That aside, Hague appeared also to confirm that Cameron is not giving his speech tomorrow, instead Cameron will be announcing tomorrow the date when he will give it - some time this week apparently.

One can be forgiven for thinking that the government is making it up as it goes along. What a shambles...

A Good Question!

From today's Telegragh Letters:
SIR – In all the political manouevrings ahead of the Prime Minister’s “renegotiating” speech on Europe, none of the media discussed Christopher Booker’s point that under article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, renegotiation is not possible without prior withdrawal. Why?
J D Mortimer
Harwood, Lancashire

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Burying Bad News

After yet another cancellation due to the Algerian crisis, after much dithering hitherto, it appears that Cameron will now deliver his much awaited EU speech on Monday. As Your Freedom and Ours notes the same day as President Obama's second inauguration ceremony.

It really does display a special kind of ineptitude for Cameron to make such a mess of this as he has, an ineptitude that almost places him in genius territory. It's hard not to escape the conclusion that after all the build up, Cameron is aware of the mess he is in, so what better than to hide the speech behind another more prominent story that will dominate the headlines.

As a consequence of such weak indecisive leadership, another nail has been firmly driven into, not only the 2015 election for the Tories but also their existence as a party.

"Makulering"


Friday, 18 January 2013

Met Office Advice


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Deluded...

...and supremely arrogant. Cameron's Prime Minster's Questions answer today speaks for itself:
I do not think it would be right for Britain to have an in/out referendum today, because we would be giving the British people a false choice. Millions of people in this country, myself included, want Britain to stay in the European Union, but they believe that there are chances to negotiate a better relationship. Throughout Europe, countries are looking at forthcoming treaty change and thinking, “What can I do to maximise my national interest?” That is what the Germans will do. That is what the Spanish will do. That is what the British should do.
This following that one of the proposals of "Fresh Start" to repatriate powers should include;
The abolition of the Strasbourg seat of the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions.
In the face of such stupidity I'm not sure what else to say...

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Pravdagraph

In anticipation (if that's the right word) of David Cameron's long awaited, much delayed, speech on Friday attempting to outline the Tory party's position on our membership of the EU, the Daily Telegraph has been running a series recently of very ill disguised pro-EU articles. The prospect of a referendum has revealed its, and the rest of the media's, true EU colours.

Nearly all of the Pravdagraph's articles either falsely, dispute that the Norway option means we would have no say or that Cameron can really repatriate powers while remaining an EU member. Yet it must know this position to be untrue, not least because of the comments that appear underneath many of its articles but also by publishing letters like this - as its main one - that appeared today:
SIR – The problem facing David Cameron is that he cannot renegotiate the terms of our EU membership in any meaningful way from within the existing model (report, January 14). The aim of the EU is, and always has been, ever closer union, culminating in a single federal state. Brussels will not allow the repatriation of power back to member states.
Mr Cameron has also made it clear that he believes it is in the national interest to remain in the EU, and this position goes unchallenged by the Lib Dems or Labour...
Thus, despite Leverson's assertion that mainstream journalists have; "a powerful reputation for accuracy", the Telegraph still insists on maintaining a completely false position. Even in the face of a large proportion of its readers who can see its falsehoods for what it they are. It seems content to invite ridicule. And neither is it just the Pravdagraph, here's the Spectator, for example.

Newspapers, like politics still haven't come to terms that increasingly, we are becoming less tribal: membership of political parties is now a "minority pursuit", the classic Yes Prime Minister sketch on who reads the papers is increasingly more irrelevant as the newspaper industry suffers terminal decline. And it's not just because information is now largely free that is initialising decline but that the monopoly of information according to the social make-up of its readership no longer applies. In response akin to circling wagons Pravdagraph is retreating into an ever decreasing circle of relevance - using it as a comfort blanket. In short it's in denial.

So instead we turn to bloggers and the internet for the real details. Here we have a fantastic blog from Richard North, titled EU politics: decoupling from "little Europe". A long and detailed piece, well worth reading in full, that not only gives lie to the 'government by fax' argument but lays out the true origin of our laws that will never be found within the framework of "mainstream journalistic standards".

Monday, 14 January 2013

The Date Changes Again

First Cameron was supposed to deliver his long awaited EU speech on the 15th of January, then it was pushed back to the 22nd of January, according to the Sun:
The Sun has learned the PM will spell out his vision of a post-crisis Europe on January 22.
And he will almost certainly make the speech in The Hague. Dutch leader Mark Rutte will back his bid to fight for powers and money to be returned to nation states.
"Almost certainly" turns out to be a slightly prescient phrase used by the Sun because...oh whoops... that date upset the French and the Germans:
David Cameron has astonished Berlin by looking to make his controversial Europe speech on the same day that France and Germany stage lavish celebrations marking their postwar reconciliation.

To add to the diplomatic drama, Mr Cameron is considering making his speech in Germany on the day hundreds of French and German politicians gather in Berlin to mark the 50th anniversary of the Elysée treaty.

British officials insist the provisional date “is not intended” to be provocative.
So...Cameron's long awaited speech has been moved again:
David Cameron's...speech on the UK and Europe will take place on Friday.
Now only four days to go...bet we can't wait.

Nonsense On Stilts

Even BBC's Nick Robinson is openingly mocking Cameron's EU referendum position (ignoring the superfluous use of the phrase "in other words"):
You hear David Cameron saying on Today people feel increasingly left out of the debate, you hear him say he wants the country to give its full-hearted consent. Ha! You say, yes he's going to give us a referendum on Europe at last.
But just be a little careful - the prime minister has ruled out an in/out referendum now on Europe. In other words a choice now about whether we stay or go - he's ruled it out before the next election.

In other words, what we learned from the Today programme interview, which is a dramatic shift - we'd had hints and nudges before - is that he has set out how we might get that referendum on Europe after the next election, but there is a series of ifs:
  • If he wins the next election alone (in other words doesn't have to get this past Nick Clegg)
  • If he can persuade other European countries, particularly Germany that they need and want treaty change
  • If Britain can then get what it wants in negotiations
  • If he thinks he can then win a referendum
If all that happens, well then, yes, there will be a referendum which he thinks will approve a new better settlement for Europe.

But his difficulty in giving that big speech on Europe in about a week's time is what if he's wrong on any one of those ifs?

Because then the pressure will remain on him from within his party and from outside, not least the UK Independence Party, saying they are not willing to wait for those ifs, saying they are not willing to wait all that time, saying that they are not willing, in other words, to trust him.

Saying, in short, "we want our choice now".
But essentially, what has happened today is that the prime minister has shifted to say you WILL get a referendum one day - in certain circumstances.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

2018 - The New 2014?

One of the overriding themes of climate change advocates is issuing never-ending warnings that we must do something by a certain deadline or else it's game over. Language that quite deliberately is supposed to scare us into acting irrationally. A notorious example is Prince Charles and his 100 months to save the world speech.

Sadly this seems to be a condition that also affects certain elements of the eurosceptic movement. Firstly this condition revealed itself in the assertion that if we don't leave by November 2014, then it would be impossible to do so due to changes in the voting system in the Council, regarding the exit clause of the Lisbon Treaty (Article 50). An assertion I debunked here.

Now it appears that a new 'scare' is popping up, in newspaper comments, and also for example via an email I received yesterday from Tim Aker of the Get Britain Out campaign linking to an article dated October 2012. The email said:
Time is running out and a vote in 2018 is unacceptable.  Article 16 of the Fiscal Union Treaty incorporates fiscal union into EU law by 2017.  We are bound by EU law and will find ourselves in fiscal union as a consequence.
Article 16 of the Fiscal Union Treaty states:
Within five years, at most, of the date of entry into force of this Treaty, on the basis of an assessment of the experience with its implementation, the necessary steps shall be taken, in accordance with the Treaty on the European Union and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union [Lisbon], with the aim of incorporating the substance of this Treaty into the legal framework of the European Union.
"With the aim" is not the same as "will", (despite what the Nevin Economic Research Institute says on page 13). In addition one would note by reading the 1st two pages that a certain country does not appear as a signatory - a "contracting party" as it is known - the UK. Then in Article 14, it makes clear that the Fiscal Compact only applies to those "whose currency is the euro". For those who don't use the Euro, Article 14 (5) applies:
This Treaty shall apply to the Contracting Parties with a derogation, as defined in Article 139(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, or with an exemption, as referred to in Protocol (No 16) on certain provisions related to Denmark annexed to the European Union Treaties, which have ratified this Treaty, as from the date when the decision abrogating that derogation or exemption takes effect, unless the Contracting Party concerned declares its intention to be bound at an earlier date by all or part of the provisions in Titles III and IV of this Treaty.
In short, it doesn't apply to those whose currency is not the Euro, unless they agree to implement it by choice or adopt the Euro as their currency. Regardless of whether this is incorporated into the Lisbon Treaty, the terms cannot be changed of the Fiscal Union Treaty without a new treaty or new agreement. The UK therefore would remain exempt. Get Britain Out then says:
This is new from Brussels and is a cynical way to get round vetoes or ‘no’ votes in referendums.  Instead, just incorporate it into the acquis or, better still, amend the Lisbon Treaty, which is a self-amending treaty.
A self-amending treaty, Lisbon is, but it's not as simple as that. Firstly the self-amending mechanisms are limited to what they can and can't do to the Treaty (and don't affect the exit clause) but as Article 48 (page 29) makes clear it cannot just change the Treaty on a whim as and when.

Article 48 has 'implicit' and 'explicit' clauses. All bar one are explicit, i.e. any self-amendment to the Treaty requires the UK Parliament's permission (along with the other 26 member states):
The amendments shall enter into force after being ratified by all the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.
Conversely the 'notorious' 48.7 clause is implicit; so basically Parliament always agrees to amendments unless it specifically objects within a certain time period:
Any initiative taken by the European Council on the basis of the first or the second subparagraph shall be notified to the national Parliaments. If a national Parliament makes known its opposition within six months of the date of such notification, the decision referred to in the first or the second subparagraph shall not be adopted. In the absence of opposition, the European Council may adopt the decision. 
Therefore as we can see from Article 48 the key point is that Parliament still has a say in any potential amendments to the Lisbon Treaty. That it can choose largely not to is a failing on its part not Brussels; impotence that is inline with every other EU treaty that it has passed.

Thus time is not running out, Brussels isn't forcing EU rule on us, instead the political establishment on our behalf choose it. Nothing can illustrate this better than the pickle Cameron has got himself into over his much awaited EU speech, as Richard North demonstrates.

Cameron wants us to remain members while pretending not to, adhering to the long tradition of the pro-EU values of the Conservative party. That's where our real enemy lies - at home, not some obscure clause in an EU Treaty.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A Stitch Up

Calling England picks up on further evidence that the 'Great Debate', as Ted Heath called entry to the EEC between 1970 -1975, was fixed and particularly "engineered to produce a yes vote [in 1975], funded by the CIA" And surprise surprise the BBC helped in the deception "by removing anti-EEC broadcasters and providing extra air-time for the pros together with slanted pro-EEC programming."

From a pamphlet titled Britain Overseas Spring 2000, the relevant extract below begins page 12 (Calling England's original link seems broken but here it is via Wayback Machine):
Tucker: I went to the European Movement, and talked to them, and they helped to put the funding together for breakfasts which we held at the Connaught Hotel. Ernest Wistrich (Director of the European Movement) was there, actually to be briefed in many ways. Norman Reddaway (an official at the Foreign Office) was
the person given to us by the Government, as our liaison man and he came to the breakfasts.
Cook: The Information Research Department (of which Norman Reddaway was a member) at the Foreign Office seems to have had links with the intelligence community. Certainly, earlier in his career Norman Reddaway’s Information Research Department played a part in destabilising the Sukarno regime in Indonesia in the 1960s.
Tucker: During that time … we got an extra five minutes on the ITN News in the evening added for us to give information.
Cook: That five minutes came out of a direct negotiation with (ITN News Editor) Nigel Ryan at one of those breakfast meetings?
Tucker: Yes – I mean it was a wonderful, wonderful news opportunity.
Cook : And Radio?
Tucker: Jack de Manio was a (Radio 4 Today programme) presenter who was terribly anti-European, and we protested privately about this and he was moved.
Cook : By Ian Trethawan, Director of BBC radio and a known friend of Edward Heath.
Tucker: We issued a newspaper, called the ‘British European’, edited by that famous cartoonist, Phillip Zick, and we distributed massive numbers of them freely. We used to have, for instance, in the Summer, on the beaches, young women giving them away and they used to wear T-shirts with the message ‘Europe or Bust’.
Cook: T-shirts, a newspaper, bumper stickers, posters, a pop song, not to mention breakfasts at the Connaught Hotel. Making friends and influencing people on this scale never comes cheap. So who was picking up the tab?
Spicer: Within business and industry there was a great deal of support and of course money … the figure of £5 million has been bandied about … which flooded in to the European Movement and to the Conservative Group for Europe.
Cook: And who paid for the breakfasts at the Connaught Hotel?’
Spicer: I think this was … you have to talk to Geoffrey Tucker.
Cook.: Who paid for the breakfasts?
Tucker: Well, I’ve never had much knowledge of the funding. The European Movement certainly paid for some of them. I don’t know …
Cook: It is sometimes alleged that the funds that came to the European Movement had come in rather curious ways from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the United States. Is that something you’ve heard?
Tucker: Yeah … and I was absolutely astonished by it. I was rather tickled about it. Frankly, I didn’t care where the money came from. I didn’t know about it. It could come from anywhere as long as it was there to do the job.
Cook: That allegation that the CIA was involved in promoting a united Europe. It was the simplest of questions which led to the most surprising discovery about Edward Heath’s campaign to persuade the British people that to join the EEC was in their best national interests. Who paid for the European Movement? Who financed the publicity campaign?
And:
Aldrich: I was absolutely astonished to discover that the library had the entire archive of a CIA front organisation which documents from start to finish funnelling millions of dollars into Britain – with all its accounts, with all its receipts and correspondence, for example from British Labour MPs to individuals in American intelligence organisations. So I was absolutely astonished when I opened these dusty brown cardboard boxes not considered to be terribly important … and discovered one of the most exciting intelligence archives of the post-war period.
Cook: That begs a question – why was Washington so interested in Western Europe?
Aldrich: The US had invested a great deal of money in European recovery with the idea that only a recovered Western Europe would be able to resist Soviet encroachment … and the US was keen to see a federalist Europe because it views Europe almost in its own image. The Americans continually talk about the United States of Europe.
Cook: So if the CIA were bankrolling European Union, how come no one noticed who was paying the piper?’
Aldrich: The whole accounting structure of the European Movement was designed to hide the fact that CIA money was coming in. And the way this was done was to have a core budget which covered the fairly mundane activities of running the European Movement’s office, paying for the cleaners etc. All this came out of money that was generated in Europe. The CIA money was hidden by putting most of the operational costs, for example, the European Youth Campaign, into special budgets which were not subject to the normal accounting procedures. It was possible to hide CIA money and to make sure that most people in the European Movement were unaware that this CIA money was coming in. Very few people at the top were actually aware of where this funding was coming from.
And nothing has changed since:
America has publicly voiced its concern about the consequences of Britain leaving the European Union, stating that London's "voice" within the EU is "critical to the United States".

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Iceland And The EEA

It's been quite heartening and uplifting in the last few days that a handful of bloggers, and committed commenters, have rattled Open Europe's cage to the extent that they now acknowledge, albeit very very grudgingly, far from having no influence Norway does in fact have a say within the EEA Agreement. Given the tone of Mats Persson's Telegraph article, one suspects that Open Europe is not used to having its 'eurosceptic' credentials questioned, particularly with simple things like facts. This is especially important given that our esteemed Prime Minister reads blog comments.

Autonomous Mind has another example of Norway saying no to the EU regarding EU plans for harmonisation of environmental policy relating to oil and gas energy:
The Norwegian government has taken the view that the proposed regulation by the European Commission falls outside the geographic and substantive scope of the EEA agreement.
As AM notes:
Oh dear, David Cameron and Open Europe caught out lying again. You would think the media would be all over this, unless of course they have vested interests or are getting pressure from their owner barons to exercise bias by omission and ignore this important story…
Open Europe also seem oblivious that the EEA is not just Norway, but also Iceland and Liechtenstein. And it is to Iceland we turn our attention as it is involved with one of biggest rejections of the EU there has ever been by an EEA member. The dispute relates to the collapse of the Icesave online savings account in 2008 which infamously prompted the UK to invoke terrorist legislation against it. Crucially, when Icesave collapsed, EU countries, notably the UK and the Netherlands, attempted to force Iceland to fulfill its EU obligations. The arguments centered around two legal arguments:
  1. ...that the Icelandic government is obliged to guarantee at least the first €20,000 in Icesave accounts;

  2. ...that Iceland's actions surrounding the collapse of Landsbanki are discriminatory against non-Icelandic creditors.
The first challenge comes under EU Directive 94/19/EC, which was incorporated into Icelandic law in 1999, the second is that Iceland is in breach of its obligations under Article 4 of the EEA Agreement which says:
Within the scope of application of this Agreement, and without prejudice to any special provisions contained therein, any discrimination on grounds of nationality shall be prohibited.
The second is in accordance of Article 7 of the Treaty of Rome. Iceland's reluctance to reimburse foreign countries for money lost in its banks prompted, at the time, the following conversation between Alistair Darling and the Icelandic Finance Minister Árni Mathiesen (now hidden behind the Times firewall):
(AD) Do I understand that you guarantee the deposits of Icelandic depositors?

(AM)Yes, we guarantee the deposits in the banks and branches here in Iceland.

(AD) But not the branches outside Iceland?

(AM) No, not outside of what was already in the letter that we sent.

(AD) But is that not in breach of the EEA Treaty?

(AM) No, we don’t think so and think this is actually in line with what other countries have been doing over recent days.
Curiously, Alistair Darling in his book, Back from the Brink doesn't mention this conversation nor indeed any reference whatsoever to the EEA. Yet Iceland wasn't for backing down - a resolution of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of the EEA (opens as a Word Document) adopted unanimously on 28 October 2009 emphasised:
...the Directive’s lack of clarity over the legal obligations of governments if national guarantee funds, which are funded by contributions from relevant credit institutions, do not suffice for payments following a banking crisis, and more importantly if an entire banking system of a country collapses;
And:
...underlines that the shortcomings of the Directive became apparent in October 2008 when the banking crisis in Iceland spilled over to the economies of other EEA States;
In other words Iceland, via the EEA, is contesting both charges, charges that are still ongoing amid complex legal arguments after four years and two referendums later. A judgement that rather than be passed by an EU court will be ruled on by the EFTA court instead, and is due on 28th of this month. Iceland's case for the defence can be found here.

And that is the point, Iceland is a small country with a population of circa 313,000; a country with fewer people than the London Borough of Croydon which has 363,000, yet here it is with resilience, influence and the ability to say no. One can only look on in envy.

Iceland's main problem is unfortunately its size. That it may have to capitulate is less to do with flaws in the EEA/EFTA agreement but instead that it is being bullied, shamefully by, as the Icesave episode demonstrates, the UK. Being a member of the EU will not resolve that, ask Ireland, Czech Republic or Luxemburg

However, that Iceland can stand up for itself, while the UK will have no choice, but to adopt the attributes of a nodding dog within the EEA, is quite frankly absurd.

More to follow...

Monday, 7 January 2013

A Stain On Society

Perhaps Cameron thinks this kind of language is clever or helps him connect with us ordinary people - in that patronising tone he likes so much, but in truth it's pathetic, unstatesman-like and fake (my emphasis):
"To me the [coalition] is not a marriage," Cameron said at the launch of their midterm review, which is designed to rejuvenate the government after battles over House of Lords reform and climate change. "It is a Ronseal deal. It does what it says on the tin. We said we would come together, we said we would form a government, we said we would tackle these big problems. That is exactly what we have done."
Doing what it says on the tin is the last attribute that can be applied to this coalition, given cast iron promises, student tuition fees and just bog standard plain lies. Perhaps they think we're all so stupid to notice?

But at least Clegg is not debasing politics further by hosting a radio show in an attempt to "learn what the people really think". You would assume that as a member of the government, and as an MP he should already be aware of that - but apparently not. If not he could at least use the tried and tested "Google is your friend" technique, and take comfort in the fact that it's the only friend he's got.

Meanwhile the rest of us are actually trying to take politics seriously and make this country better.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Quote Of The Day

"Of course, Britain could survive outside the EU...We could probably get access to the Single Market as Norway and Switzerland do..." 
Tony Blair, speech in Ghent, 23rd February 2000

"Norway Has To Obey All Laws"

"Norway has to obey all the rules of the Single Market...and it has no say over those rules". So says David Cameron on this morning's Andrew Marr (from 43:00 mins in).

This is not the usual politician's trick of avoiding the question, or answering a different question to the one asked or indeed waffling as to be meaninglessness. Instead the Prime Minister has willingly told a blatant untruth.

Aside from the veto, and Norway's influence duly noted on here and here, it's worth highlighting this - EEA 20 years on, page 18 (my emphasis):
To ensure the functioning of the EEA, the EEA EFTA Member States have to implement all EEA relevant EU legislation. Nevertheless, the EFTA Secretariat has so far identified more than 1 200 EU acts marked as EEA relevant by the European Commission that were contested by experts from the EEA EFTA Member States. An analysis by the Liechtenstein Institute concludes that these rejections were quite consistent with the EEA Agreement because most of these were excluded for technical reasons.
I'm aware that keep pointing this out may soon get monotonous, but when journalists like Andrew Marr cannot call out a lie when they see one, despite that as a BBC journalist he knows full well the situation is otherwise, we have to keep going.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

"I Get It"

In truth I can't be bothered to fisk Cameron's latest article in the Sunday Telegraph, via his 'soap picky-up extraordinaire' Matthew d’Ancona, suffice to highlight just this (my emphasis):
“What I’d say to Sunday Telegraph readers is 'I get it’. Britain has a role in Europe ... but we’re not happy with the way the relationship works at the moment and so we want change.”
Funnily enough in May last year, we had this in the Telegragh, after some dismal local election results for the Tories:
The message people are sending is this: focus on what matters, deliver what you promise – and prove yourself in the process. I get it
It's akin to keep having to say you're famous. If that's the case it, by conclusion, means you're not.

Dare Not Speak Its Name

If you look at the above picture, published in the Daily Mail, you'll spot a very big clue, one that even the government acknowledges, as per this (specifically page 12):
(d) information specific to the licence issued, numbered as follows:
4. (a) date of issue of the licence;
(b) date of expiry of the licence or a dash if the licence is valid indefinitely under the provision of Article 7(2)
6. photograph of the holder;
Yet amid the outrage not once does the Daily Mail even mention it:
More than two million motorists are unwittingly getting behind the wheel with an out-of-date driving licence that could land them with a fine of up to £1,000, a survey reveals today.

The problem stems from drivers wrongly believing that the photo-identity card they carry is for life. In fact, it must be renewed every ten years.

This, say insurance experts, is causing confusion and could  also render drivers’ insurance policies invalid.
Apparently the Daily Mail is a Eurosceptic paper.

EU Law And Norway

It's been rather revealing that online comments made by myself, and others, on MSM sites in recent days regarding the Norway model has prompted copious numbers of vigorous and often detailed, albeit incorrect, strawmen rebuttals in response. While the Norway model is by no means perfect, and hopefully only a temporary solution to help negate the inevitable 'economic disaster' arguments in a referendum, that it has struck such a nerve indicates the option has merit, at least in the short term.

Sadly though as, Witterings From Witney points out, so-called experts such as the Adam Smith Institute still remain resolutely of the opinion that EEA/EFTA members; Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland have no say over EU law:
The EU Federalists have already written the script for the UK’s new relationship as an “associate member”.  We will be subject to all the regulations and costs of EU membership without any influence or voting rights.  That is roughly the deal Norway currently has.
Which is completely untrue...by a country mile. Such assertions go against the Norwegian Government, the Norwegian Parliament, the Unions in Norway, the Norwegian Postal Service, Iceland (page 15):
On few occasions EEA directives have however been disputed to the extent that it has spurred a general political debate over the possible veto right, among them were the directive on electricity providers, the one on sewers, and most recently, the service directive.
And even Liechtenstein, who on their website, link to this short EEA Factsheet which says:
In the joint bodies, which are responsible for the preparation of decisions, decision-making and despite resolution, each EEA/EFTA State has one vote. The EU states speak with a single voice in these bodies. Since the decisions are reached unanimously, each EEA/EFTA State on its own and the EU States jointly have a veto.
That to argue being a member without any influence or voting rights is to effectively accuse three whole countries of being entirely wrong, not withstanding EFTA itself.

Crucially though the significance of a veto takes on more potency when we look at secondary EU legislation. Here EU law is made up of Regulations, Directives, Decisions and non-binding Recommendations and Opinions. The most common are Directives and Regulations. Directives according to the EU:
...lay down certain end results that must be achieved in every Member State. National authorities have to adapt their laws to meet these goals, but are free to decide how to do so. Directives may concern one or more Member States, or all of them.
Not only do they not always apply to every member state but there is a degree of flexibility on how it is to be implemented domestically. Unfortunately in practice rather than take the minimum option, a number of countries, including the UK adopt a gold plating strategy. And Norway is no exception:
...the changes in the Norwegian legislation go beyond what the [European Agency Workers] Directive requires.
But that is an issue for individual countries and their pro-EU parliaments, which means that any kind of 'influence' in the EU doesn't stop member states gleefully adding to laws that apparently they were trying to water down within the EU.

Then there are EU Regulations which are (my emphasis)...
...the most direct form of EU law - as soon as they are passed, they have binding legal force throughout every Member State, on a par with national laws. National governments do not have to take action themselves to implement EU regulations.

They are different from directives, which are addressed to national authorities, who must then take action to make them part of national law, and decisions, which apply in specific cases only, involving particular authorities or individuals.

Regulations are passed either jointly by the EU Council and European Parliament, and by the Commission alone.
Regulations therefore completely bypass a country's elected Parliament, in the EU's words; "This Regulation shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States".

However while we have but no choice to accept EU Regulations that don't even come anywhere near Parliament, being a member of the EEA means we can give back power to Parliament the choice to veto. As an example here is below page 3 of the Draft Joint Committee Decisions under consideration by EEAS and EFTA, dated Monday 17 December 2012 (click to enlarge):

Four EU Regulations, two of which have an EU compliance date of 2007, are still under consideration in December 2012.

Aside from the veto there is also influence, confirmed by just a cursory look at the EFTA website:
...the EEA EFTA States can participate in shaping a decision at the early stages of preparing a legislative proposal. The EEA Agreement provides for input from the EEA EFTA side at various stages of the preparation of EEA-relevant legislation:
Which can take the form of:
- First, representatives of the EEA EFTA States have the right to participate in expert groups and committees of the European Commission. They participate extensively in the preparatory work of the Commission and should be consulted in the same manner as EU experts. The Commission may seek advice from the EEA EFTA experts by phone or by correspondence, or in meetings. The experts may also be associated with the preparatory work through regular committee meetings.
- Second, the EEA EFTA States have the right to submit EEA EFTA comments on upcoming legislation
Examples of comments by EEA EFTA on upcoming legislation can be found here, going back to 2001:
One of the ways in which the EEA EFTA States participate in shaping EC legislation, i.e. when the Commission is drawing up legislative proposals, is by submitting comments on important policy issues.
The comments are elaborated by working groups, cleared by the relevant subcommittees, endorsed by the Standing Committee and officially noted by the Joint Committee after they have been sent to the relevant services in the Commission and the European Parliament. 
So it's clear, that while the Norway model is not perfect, that it has no "influence or voting rights" is high deception on stilts. That the likes of the Adam Smith Institute can regurgitate such arguments when a simple and quick look on the internet proves the fallacy of their position begs one to ask what is the point of them?

Friday, 4 January 2013

A Real Choice?

Cameron's much 'vaunted' and long delayed speech on the Tory party's position on the EU takes place in middle of this month - currently planned for the 15th. One suspects it has been much delayed because Cameron doesn't know what to say. He doesn't want to leave the EU but he knows he won't be able get away with a fudge - his 'cast iron' reputation lives on. Nothing short of real concrete options are going to save his Premiership from defeat in 2015.

But going by the Belfast Telegraph today, a fudge it most certainly is going to be:
Voters will be offered a "real choice" on Britain's future relations with the European Union, David Cameron said ahead of a keynote speech on the issue this month.
The Prime Minister refused to be drawn on precisely how he will respond to backbench Tory eurosceptic demands for an in/out referendum on future membership.
A real choice? How kind of him, a real choice that probably look something like the stitch up that was the AV referendum. This is confirmed by the repeat of the 'lie'
"I don't think it's right to aim for a status like Norway or Switzerland where basically you have to obey all the rules of the single market but you don't have a say over what they are," he said.
We all know this to untrue of course, but helped by his friends in the media it is a lie that will be half way around the world before we've even got going. Therefore what is looking increasingly likely is the referendum will consist of the following options;
  • The status quo.

  • A fake renegotiation option while remaining members (not going to happen).

  • Or out (which we will lose).
The obvious question though is if we have so much power and influence as members of the EU then why are we having to claw back powers?

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Comitology

Wow, for the first time I can recall, the Telegraph has a piece about the EU process of Comitology, not only that it is written by a UKIP member called Alexandra Swann. She writes:
With the best will in the world the UK government has no idea what is going on, nor does it have any idea on how to influence the process. Most specifically because the nation states are excluded from the process; the system is designed to ensure that accountability has no purchase and transparency is near impossible.

For these reasons, any attempt to rewrite our relationship with the EU, which includes the UK remaining subject to single market rules, means that we are left entirely devoid of control of our laws.
She concludes:
The distressing truth is that the legislation inflicted upon member states is all about mastery of detail; and the masters of the numbing detail do not sit in Whitehall, but on the Rue de la Loi.
My flabber is ghasted. That the Telegragh is even publishing such an article must be seen as progress, and must surely add to the pressure on Cameron for his 'much vaunted' speech on 15th  January.

And to Open Europe it's more proof that our influence as members of the EU is tantamount to...absolutely nothing.

"It Serves Us Well"

From Norwegian Prime Minster Jens Stoltenberg in 2011:
“We have no plans to study alternatives to the EØS agreement [the EEA], the agreement serves us well.”
Someone might want to let Open Europe know...

The French Regret Loss Of The Franc

In answer to, one has to admit a slightly leading question, "Eleven years after the introduction of the euro, do you regret the loss of the franc?" the French news website, Atlantico, has a poll which found that 62% of French people now regretted the loss of the French Franc. As shown in the table above (click to enlarge) in 2002, just 39% regretted the loss of the French Franc.

Such numbers are obviously not surprising given the Eurozone turmoil, but it is a reminder of the precarious position the EU finds itself in. To govern a country, or a population, you need either consent or fear. The EU has neither.

So launching a fundamentally flawed currency in those circumstances is folly on sticks. This poll merely demonstrates once again that the concept of the EU is built on sand, and when it starts to all go wrong it has no where left to go.
hattip: The thoughts of an independently minded MEP

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Liar, Liar...

It's with a little amusement, considering my last post, I stumble upon this from CORDIS (Community Research and Development Information Service) courtesy of the EU Commission:
Liar, liar nose on fire

European researchers have made a major advance in thermal imaging techniques that is bringing to life an old fable. Everyone is familiar with the children's story of Pinocchio, a wooden puppet, with a nose that grew every time he told a lie. Now researchers from Spain are seeing parts of this tale ring true.

The researchers from the University of Granada, Department of Experimental Psychology have discovered that when a person lies he or she experiences what they have termed a 'Pinocchio effect'. During the Pinocchio effect the subject may experience an increase in the temperature around their nose and in the orbital muscle in the inner corner of their eyes. In addition to this, the researchers discovered that when people perform a considerable mental effort, temperature around the face drops, and when we have an anxiety attack our face temperature rises. These are some of the conclusions that were arrived at in their pioneering study and as a result of their new applications in the field of thermography.
Given that the Spanish University of Granada "in most cases [receives]funding from the European Union", via the European University Association, I'm sure we are all agreed that this research is a wonderful use of our money.

But more importantly what would Cameron or Health look like using thermal imaging techniques, one wonders whether it would need significant recalibration just to register an image, given that it would otherwise go off the scale.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

40 Years Ago Today

That such an unnecessary and irrational project as building a European super-state was ever embarked on will seem in future years to be perhaps the greatest folly of the modern era. And that Britain . . . should ever have become part of it will appear a political error of the first magnitude.’ Lady Thatcher
Sadly among the New Year celebrations, we must note that today is 40th anniversary of one of the biggest mistakes this country has ever made in its history - entry to what was then the EEC (euphemistically called a Common Market).

The EEC was nothing but a staging post onto the final goal of full political and economic union. Britain was joining a project that was designed to eradicate democracy and sovereignty. Despite Heath's assertions that, “there is no question of Britain losing essential national sovereignty”, the politicians at the time, particularly Heath, were well aware this was not true and kept the true nature of the project hidden from the British public. And so began the underlying characteristic of our membership - monumental deceit; lied to on entry, lied to during membership and lied to about the nature of exit.

Inevitably a number of articles have appeared today, but it's Christopher Booker's in today's Daily Mail that lays out fully the nature of our 40 year membership.

Thankfully though there seems to be light ahead, as there now appears a significant shift in the mood music if not momentum. For the first time politicians, including Cameron, are openingly discussing exit as an option, and not just in the UK either. These comments by Jacques Delors indicate that a UK exit is also being considered by those in Brussels:
"If the British cannot support the trend towards more integration in Europe, we can nevertheless remain friends, but on a different basis, I could imagine a form such as a European economic area or a free trade agreement," Delors suggested.
20 years ago when I started out actively campaigning against our membership not once did I imagine that Delors would ever utter words such as those. It's a sign of how far we've come and how the sentiment is shifting. For the first time in 40 years, our withdrawal looks to be a realistic prospect.

Such a situation though was always inevitable. Not only because the UK is such a reluctant member as Booker notes: 
During those 40 years the British have never been happy members of this club. Too often we have been out of step, and even bitterly at odds, with the rest — as in our refusal to join that single currency.
More importantly though the nature of the EU project makes such a clash unavoidable. With idealism that firmly resides in make-believe territory, Monnet's EU vision was by removing the nation state and democracy and instead leaving power in the hands of bureaucrats he could create "an organised world of tomorrow". But the nation state and democracy are so fundamental to human needs that such an artificial system that tried to defy the laws of human nature would be unworkable. I didn't choose to be English, I just am. And nothing will alter that fact, certainly not a system or a government foisted upon me against my will.

Monnet knew this, and subconsciously acknowledged this fundamental flaw in his plan, by determining that his project should be implemented by stealth, gradually constructing it without ever acknowledging the ultimate goal. He hoped, as did British politicians in the early 70s, that by the time the project revealed itself it would be too late to change anything. That situation of the project revealing itself is now coming to pass.

And it is not without some irony, that the EU who abhors the nation state, adopts many of the characteristics itself; it has a flag, a national anthem, and a capital city. Rather than try to abolish the nation state, it in effect is trying to force through a change of allegiances, from one flag to another. How anyone thought this could work successfully beggars belief. But think it would work Heath, Monnet et al did. That we embarked on such a folly of the first magnitude is testament that ending 40 years of membership won't bring back our democracy on its own, instead 40 years is a reminder that we never had it in the first place.

But above all else, exiting the EU does mean I, like many of my fellow countrymen, will no longer live and die as an EU citizen. I truly hope I live to see the day we leave.

Happy New Year.