Category Archives: Europe

Civitas Meeting  – The trouble with Europe  19 May 2014

Robert Henderson

The sole speaker was Roger Bootle of the Daily Telegraph and Capital Economics

Bootle was  promoting his book The trouble with Europe.  The main thrusts of his argument  were

-          Europe is a declining political and economic power.

-          The growth rate within first the EEC and then the EU has been poor overall compared with economies outside the EU.

-          The EU has undermined European economic performance through promoting too generous welfare states.

-          That much of the regulation comes not from the EU but national governments within the EU.

-          That the EU has smothered competition between nation states and this has hindered innovation and enterprise.

-          That Europe’s period of  greatest world dominance was a time of intense competition between European powers.

-          That EU countries have suffered a loss of identity through mass immigration and those with empires had  a further blow to their national self-confidence through their loss.

-          That European elites have had their energies eaten up with trying to create uniformity within the EU to the detriment of such things as investment and productivity.

-          That the Euro is the biggest  economic disaster the EU has suffered,  dwarfing the Common Agricultural Policy.

-          The EU as it is presently constituted is obsolete.

Bootle laid down his terms for Britain  remaining within the EU: an end to ever closer union,   a guarantee of no second class status for the UK if she remains a member, a reduced EU budget, repatriation of powers to EU member states. National governments to be empowered to reject EU legislation and restrictions on the free movement of labour.

These conditions  are  so improbable that it is reasonable to conclude that Bootle in reality wants Britain out of the EU. If Britain does leave the EU, Bootle is in favour of what he called the WTONLY option if a good free trade agreement with the EU cannot be arranged. The WTONLY option is to simply leave the EU and then rely on World Trade Organisation rules to give Britain access to EU markets.

During questions it was heartening to see how many of the questioners were utterly hostile to the EU, despite the fact that many  of those there came under the heading of the great and the good, the sort of people who would normally be considered unvarnished  Europhiles.   Most promisingly, voices were raised against the wholesale takeover by foreigners of British business and the ill effects of multinationals.

I raised the question of how Britain should deal with the mechanics of leaving bearing in mind that the entire British political elite were Europhiles who would do everything to subvert the wishes of the British electorate by stitching Britain back into the EU through an agreement which included the four so-called EU freedoms, the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour within the EU. I suggested to Bootle that Article 50 was a poisoned chalice which would enable British politicians to do just that.  Rather surprisingly Bootle said that he did not think that the mechanics of leaving were important.  I was not able to question him further because of the number of people wanting to ask questions. However, I have addressed the subject and others in the email I sent to Bootle after the meeting. If I receive a reply I will add it to this blog post.

———————————————————————————

E mail sent to Roger Bootle 31 5 2014

Dear Mr Bootle,

A few points I  was unable to put to you at the Civitas meeting of  19 May.

1. How much do you think the status of the  Euro as  the second largest reserve currency has contributed to the survival of the Euro?  I enclose a note on this at the bottom of the email.

2. You advocate giving both sides of the story, of admitting that leaving the EU will not be without costs both material and moral.  The problem with that is twofold.

a) political knowledge and understanding amongst the electorate  as a whole  is  minute. Most will respond to the fear factor points not the reassuring points simply because they do not know enough to assess the situation rationally.

b) all the STAY IN camp will be peddling is the fear factor. Hence, the electorate will be hearing the fear factor language from both YES and NO camps but only the reassuring points from those who wish Britain to leave.

3. How the UK leaves the  EU is not a trivial matter as you suggested. The danger is that regardless of the wishes of the electorate ,  the British political elite will stitch us back firmly into the EU if they are given a free hand over the negotiation. This is so because we have a political class – especially the leading members of the class -  which is  overwhelmingly prepared to act as Quislings (Quislings in the service of the EU in particular and internationalism in general) to ensure that Britain does not escape the tentacles of the EU.

Of course such a betrayal could apply regardless of whether article 50 is activated or a simple repeal made  of the various Acts binding  us into the EU, but  Article 50 carries far more dangers for those who want us out of the EU than a simple repeal of the Acts  would do.  If Britain accepted the legality of Article 50  we  would have to put up with any amount of prevarication and dirty tricks for two years.  Worse,  the time to reach any  agreement between Britain and the EU under article 50 can be extended if both parties agree.

As those negotiating on behalf of Britain would inevitably be politicians who have sold their souls to the “European Project”, the odds are that they would use any obstruction and delay by the EU to justify making an agreement which would practically speaking nullify the vote to leave.  As sure as eggs are eggs, the agreement would  place  us  firmly back into the EU’s clutches  by signing Britain up to the four EU “freedoms” (freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and labour)  and all the rules regulating the single market.  If the break with the EU is done simply by repealing the various Acts which bind us in, our politicians will not be able to use the restrictions and difficulties raised by Article 50 as an excuse for selling the voters down the river with an agreement such as I have described.  Instead, they would have to take full responsibility for whatever they agree to.  Article 50 is a particularly toxic poisoned chalice.  Don’t drink from it.

It is essential that before any referendum takes place that all mainstream UK parties make it clear that whatever  agreement  is reached by those negotiating on behalf of Britain this should only be ratified if the British people vote for it in a second referendum.  Unless this happens the political class will give us something which binds us back into the EU.

5. It is a dangerous argument to claim that competition between governments is a good thing if you are relying on the historical example.  In your Telegraph article Europe’s politicians must embrace competition or face slide into obscurity (19 May) you write:

It is very striking that Europe’s golden age, when European countries bestrode the world and European influence was at its height, was an era of competition between nation states. Admittedly at times this competition went too far and spilled over into war …

The reality of European history is that it has been primarily a history of war as far as you care to go back. War not peace has been the norm. The period of European ascendency was no exception to this and because of technological developments became more and more efficiently brutal.    Use the European historical example and you are simply inviting the Europhiles to say “Told you so. Nation states can’t be trusted to behave”.

6. At present I also have a problem with  all political discussions  and especially those referring to the economy.   We are within striking distance of the production of general purpose robots which will be able to do not only most of the jobs humans now do but most of any new ones which arise.   The implications of this are so profound that they bid fair to render any political solutions or policies currently in play obsolete.  Politicians should be planning for such developments but they are simply ignoring them.  If you read  these two pieces you will see where I am coming from:

http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/robotics-and-the-real-sorry-karl-you-got-it-wrong-final-crisis-of-capitalism/

http://livinginamadhouse.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/technology-out-of-control/

Yours sincerely,

 

Robert Henderson

 

 

 

BBC 2 Farage versus Clegg debate  2 April 2014

Chairman  David Dimbleby

The full debate on IPlayer can be found at http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0401ht2/The_European_Union_In_or_Out/

It will only be up until 10th April so catch it while you can.  Here is what may be a permanent recording link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fd9rsmD4HiM

The re-match between Farage and Clegg resulted in an even more humiliating hour for Clegg than the first debate. YouGov and ICM polls taken shortly after the debate had Clegg and Farage scoring as follows:

The YouGov poll gave Farage 68%, Clegg 27% Undecided 5%

As last week, this YouGov survey for The Sun questioned just over 1,000 people who viewed the debate. We weighted the data to ensure that it was representative of Great Britain as a whole by voting intention and attitudes to the European Union, but did not weight demographically; it therefore reflected the actual audience by age (older than average), gender (more male) and social class (more middle class). It was a fresh sample: we did NOT re-interview people we questioned after last week’s debate.  

It is clear that Farage gained ground most among the very people LEAST likely to support his party or his cause:

The proportion of Labour supporters saying Farage performed better rose from 42% after the first debate to 57% after the second

Among Liberal Democrats, Farage’s figures are: first debate 20%, second debate 33%

Among people who told us ahead of the debate that they supported British membership of the EU, his figures are: first debate 30%, second debate 45%  (http://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/04/03/farage-wins-round-two/)

An ICM Poll had Farage at 69% and Clegg on 31%

These  polls compare with a 57% Farage, 36%  Clegg  7% undecided  YouGov poll result after the first debate.

This was a tremendous result under any circumstances, for, as  I wrote after the first debate, it is rare indeed for such a crushing advantage to exist in  a two-horse debating race.   In the context of Clegg’s many advantages over Farage  – the profile of being deputy PM, endless appearances   before the TV cameras, widespread  mainstream media contempt for Farage and UKIP , leading a party with sixty odd seats in the Commons and, compared to UKIP, considerable financial and organisational resources plus the experience of  a public leaders’ debate  behind him – the results of the two debates are nothing short of  astonishing.  It was nothing short of an humiliation.

Why did Clegg do even worse in this debate than the first one? Many of the media commentators are putting this down to a more aggressive attitude by him and certainly his adolescent  gibes at Farage will not have helped his cause. Here are few samples:

“He’s [Farage] one of those people who see conspiracy theories everywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if he tells us next that there wasn’t a Moon landing, Obama isn’t American, and Elvis isn’t dead!”

“If I’m the leader of ‘the party of in’, he’s  [Farage] the leader of the party of Putin!”

The general problem with Clegg’s aggression is that it looked, as with everything about his public persona, manufactured. The hand and arm gestures were wooden and studied to the point of being ridiculous, the voice insincere and tremulous by parts. He was a very bad advert for whoever provided his media training and an even worse one from those who advised him on how to approach this debate.

Worse of all  Clegg did what Europhiles have long done, simply chant pro-EU mantras without giving any thought to justifying them or of rebutting opposing arguments with anything more than  a bald assertion that they are wrong.  This was unsurprising because Europhiles are almost invariably intellectually lazy. Instead of doing the hard graft of mastering the facts they simply take on board   dubious assertions  such as “three million British jobs are dependent on the EU” and “the EU has prevented war in Europe” which they present not as the highly questionable opinion they are but as objective fact.

While the Europhile  ideology dominates and controls public life generally and  in particular  the mainstream media, they can get away with reciting slogans which are not only debatable but  often palpably untrue.  I dare say that Clegg has gone through his entire life until these debates without ever  having to defend  in public the subject of the EU in circumstances where he had to either produce arguments in favour of the EU  which stood up to real scrutiny or find replies to the ideas of an opponent who was radically opposed to the EU. There was nowhere for Clegg to escape to. Being unused to having to think on his feet or provide reasons other than the well-worn Europhile clichés,  Clegg simply fell back on those clichés with adolescent abuse mixed in. Often he simply repeated, almost  verbatim, what he had said in the first debate,  the most blatant and extended example occurring when the subject of  an In/Out referendum arose, viz: ‘I [Clegg] believe that when the rules change, when there’s a new treaty, when powers which rightfully belong to you are being given up to the EU, it shouldn’t be for the Government to decide – it should be for you to decide…

In contrast, Farage was vastly  more impressive in his energy, verbal delivery and body language. What nervousness there was in the first debate had vanished.  There was nothing coached about his manner.  He looked and sounded like someone voicing simple truths.

On both  immigration and an In/OUT referendum  Clegg  refused to meaningfully engage with the questions. Farage produced the LibDem poster from 2008 which Nick Ferrari had introduced into the first debate.  This had Clegg promising a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. During the first debate Clegg had claimed the poster promised  the same position he occupies now, namely, that the LibDems would support a referendum on any further Treaty which removed further substantial powers from Britain.  Farage pointed out that the poster had no such qualification of  its general promise of a referendum. Clegg waffled so blatantly at this point that Dimbleby asked him the important  unasked question  I highlighted in my account of the first debate, namely, why not have a  referendum on all that has already been passed without a referendum:, viz:  “ We last had a referendum 40 years ago. You have described everything that has happened since, the Lisbon Treaty  and all those things. Why can’t there be a referendum  on  all the things that have happened ? Why wait for even more change before you agree to a referendum, why not have one now? (Go into debate at 50 min 30 sec).  All this produced was  reiterated Clegg waffle  about waiting for a new treaty. On the face of it this is really very stupid of Clegg because he could quite easily commit the LibDems to an In/Out referendum knowing full well he would never be in a position to deliver it  because his party will never command a Commons majority. Clegg  does not do so because he is trapped by his Party’s mainlining addiction to the EU.

On immigration Farage  told the simple truth ….

‘We have no idea how many people are coming here from the European Union next year, the year after or the year after that, because unconditionally we have an open door to 485million people.

‘Immigration on this scale has changed fundamentally the communities, not just of London, but actually of every city and every market town in this country. But worst of all what it’s done socially, it has left a white working class effectively as an underclass. And that I think is a disaster for our society.

‘[Large scale immigration] is good for the rich because it is cheaper nannies and cheaper chauffeurs and cheaper gardeners.

But it is bad news for ordinary Britons. We need to have a control on immigration, on the numbers who come here and over the quality who come here.’

….while Clegg  lied and dissimulated:

 “He [Farage] claimed that 485million people were going to vacate the whole of the rest of the European continent and turn up in Britain.(This was a direct lie because Farage had already made his position quite clear in the first debate when he said correctly that 485 million had the right to come to the UK).

 “Let me just show you, this is a leaflet from UKIP. It’s a picture of a very unhappy-looking native American.

It says, “He used to ignore immigration, now he lives on a reservation.” We are not – by staying in the EU – going to be cooped up on a native American reservation. What are you going to say next? That you’re Crazy Horse or Sitting Bull?”   (Farage said that he had no knowledge of where the leaflet had come from and disowned the message).

Clegg’s dishonesty on immigration was shown vividly after Farage  quoted a Migration Watch report that immigration to the UK  over the next four to five years  would mean ,  even at its current rate, the building of a city the size of Manchester  which has a population of 500,000. Clegg said this was nonsense because the Greater Manchester area had 2.7 million. Clegg must have known that Greater Manchester is not Manchester and consequently  deliberately tried to mislead. Clegg also repeated the falsehood  from the first debate that  UKIP’s claim of  29 million Bulgars and Romanians  who could come to Britain was absurd because there are  not 29 million Bulgars and Romanians.  The 2012 census figures for both countries  show they have  is a combined population of more than 28 million. Why Farage did not thrust the census figures at Clegg is a mystery.

When Dimbleby pressed Clegg (Go into the recording at 22 min 46 sec) on the  effect of massive immigration on infrastructure such as schools and  hospitals Clegg responded hesitantly and  incoherently  with “There are always problems when you have people”.  Dimbleby was palpably  surprised and he asked Clegg what he meant.  Clegg waffled on about how there would be such problems whether or not Britain was in the EU.

Clegg was positively  shameless when Farage raised the matter of Clegg’s claim in the first debate that only 7% of  legislation going through Parliament was inspired by the EU. Farage produced a copy of the House of Commons Library note which Clegg had relied on and read out the passage which showed that that the HoC paper note was much more nuanced and undogmatic and gave estimates of its own of between 15% and 50% percent of UK law from all sources . (http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/briefing-papers/RP10-62/how-much-legislation-comes-from-europe) .

Clegg tried to wriggle out of being caught  in what to any normal human being would count as a straight forward lie by referring to the 6.8% primary legislation figure quoted by the HoC note. However, as Clegg must have been well aware there is a great deal of  EU inspired law which consists of statutory instruments (the secondary legislation which provides the mechanics to implement primary legislation). Farage called a spade a spade, viz: “You are lying willingly to the British people about the extent we have given away democray”.

Inevitably Farage was taxed with his remarks about admiring Putin as an operator. However, this rather backfired because  both Dimbleby and  Clegg manifestly misrepresented Farage as being a general admirer of Putin  and Farage used the opportunity  to not only  expose that misrepresentation (which gained him the sympathy of the audience)  but to lambast Clegg as one of the cabal of career politicians who had kept Britain interminably at war:

Farage: “I don’t admire Putin, what I said was, he’d outwitted and outclassed you all over Syria. I also said I didn’t like him as a human being and I wouldn’t want to live  in Russia.’

 “You were absolutely hell bent on getting involved militarily in the war in Syria and I personally am delighted we didn’t go to war in Syria.

“This country has had enough of getting involved in endless foreign wars, there is no evidence that our intervention is making life better. I don’t want to be part of a European foreign policy.”

Farage’s strictures against the British political elite’s  warmongering got the loudest applause of the night. (Britain has de facto  been continuously at war for nearly a quarter of a century starting with the first  Gulf War).

Another strong Farage showing was on energy, viz: “The Chinese and Indians have gone for coal on a scale we can’t fathom, the US has gone for shale and we have gone for wind energy.” He  warned that the European Union’s “unilateral” approach to climate change was damaging businesses by pushing up energy bills and driving energy greedy industries such as metal smelting to the wall  and concluded that Britain should  “Scrap wind energy, scrap the subsidies, get shale”.

Farage also pointed out  that many leading politicians who were significant landowners had  benefited from the wind industry.

Clegg response was to call for more renewables to prevent e “over reliance on oil and gas from Nigel Farage’s friend Vladimir Putin”.

The final question from the audience was “What will the EU be like in ten years?”

Clegg said that he thought it would be much as it is now, which tells you how far his head is buried in the sand. In ten years three scenarios are more probable than the present status quo,  namely, a federal super state,    a free trade area or it will have simply disappeared..

Farage  foresaw a Britain outside of the EU after a referendum, hoped that other countries in the EU  would also leave  and warned against the dangers of  violence if change in the EU could not be achieved by democratic  means, pointing to support for nationalist parties such as Gold Dawn in Greece as evidence of the frustration which was building:

“We see in Madrid, we see in Athens, very large protests, tens of thousands of people, a lot of violence.

“You take away from people their ability through the ballot box to change their futures, then I am afraid they tend to resort to aggressive means.”

Clegg’s thoroughly shoddy performance did not help his case but the prime reason why  he was beaten so comprehensively was the simple  fact that he has a thoroughly bad case to argue.   It is impossible to make a sound case for being within the EU on any grounds which are acceptable to either  the British public now or which accord with what politicians from all the main Westminster Parties have claimed since Britain became part of what is now the EU.  For over forty years British mainstream politicians have repeated the sordid, treasonous lie that no real sovereignty  has been given away and that  Britain is still a fully functioning  Parliamentary democracy. The naked lie has been modified over the decades as the loss of sovereignty became ever more apparent  to the casuistry of saying Britain has not lost her sovereignty but merely pooled it with other countries. The more adventurous Europhile fantasists or liars (take your pick) say  that by joining with 27 other EU states British sovereignty has been amplified.

In addition,   the Labour, Tory and LibDem parties still  claim that Parliament is  sovereign because in principle Parliament can refuse any  legislation put before it or simply repeal any legislation relating to the EU up to and including the Act which gave  power to the Treaty of Rome, the European Communities Act of 1972. The reality is that even where the  national veto on EU law has applied it has very rarely been used – and is now very restricted because most EU decisions are made these days  by qualified majority voting – and there has been no instance in over 40 years of Parliament rejecting legislation introduced because of the EU. Practically, British sovereignty has been a dead letter since Britain joined the EEC.

The audience reaction throughout  was decidedly interesting, both because of its consistent support for Farage and for the fact that the BBC had not done their usual and packed the audience to reflect Europhile views. This could either be because a strategic decision has been made by the BBC that they will move with the political wind and allow Eurosceptic views on air  because to do anything else would be too blatantly biased as public interest in and anger about the EU grows or simply because they could not find enough unquestioning Europhiles applying to be audience members . I suspect it was the latter because not only is Europhilia growing more and more unpopular, even many of those who say they support the EU often have a considerable dislike of certain EU issues such as uncontrolled immigration and the imposition of regulations which interfere minutely both with business and the intimate details of their private lives.

The two debates told  us is this:

That the British are deeply dissatisfied with  their  political class.

That the British want an IN/OUT  referendum on the EU

That the British deeply dislike the EU as it is whether they are in favour of leaving or not

That for the British  immigration  is a prime political issue, probably  the prime political issue

That the British detest the perpetual  liberal internationalist warmongering

That Clegg is a very empty vessel indeed .

It remains to be seen whether the  British political class will respond to what the British people want . On the evidence of  the past 40 years don’t hold your breath.

LBC Nigel Farage versus Nick Clegg EU debate 26 3 2014

Chaired by Nick Ferrari

(The full debate can be viewed here http://www.lbc.co.uk/watch-lbc-leaders-debate-live—26th-march-87667)

Robert Henderson

Farage walked the debate with a YouGov poll of 1003 people giving this result:

57% Farage

36% Clegg

7% undecided

Even that figure probably understates the size of the victory because YouGov weighted the data to in practice favour Clegg by assuming UKIP supporters would be disproportionately likely to watch or listen to the debate:

1,003 completed this survey between 8.00 and 8.10. We weighted the raw data to (a) the voting intentions in our latest regular daily poll for the Sun (Lab 37%, Con 35%. UKIP 11%, Lib Dem 9%) and (b) to our most recent data on whether the UK should remain in the European Union.

An alternative approach would have been NOT to have corrected the political skew among our original 3,000 sample. The argument for doing this is that any assessment of audience reaction should take the audience as it is – in this case, accepting that UKIP supporters were much more likely to watch or listen to the debate than supporters of other parties. Had we done this, I estimate that the verdict of the audience would have been Farage 65%, Clegg 28%. Those who prefer to cite this figure, rather than to adjust for the UKIP-rich nature of the audience, are of course free to do so. ( http://yougov.co.uk/news/2014/03/27/farage-wins-debate-clegg/)

It was also telling that many of those who were not UKIP supporters thought Farage had won, viz:

Not surprisingly, almost all UKIP supporters preferred Farage. But he was also considered the winner by: 

  • 69% of Conservative supporters
  • 42% of Labour supporters
  • 20% of Liberal Democrats
  • 30% of those who said before the debate they would vote to keep the UK in the EU  (Ibid)

 

It is rare in a two man debate on any subject for a win to be so crushing and that is doubly so when politicians with  such polarised views are put up for the judgement of the public.

Why was the result so emphatic? Well, negative messages are always a very  hard sell. Clegg’s   position was one of fear and mistrust of Britain and Farage’s one of confidence in his country.  Clegg was selling the message “Britain isn’t up to looking after itself”, Farage the message  “ Britain could and should be independent and sovereign”.    While Farage was saying things such as “Surely the benefit system is for the citizens of this country” , The Anglo-Saxon rule of law”  and “The best people to govern Britain are the British”, Clegg  was tedious ly  intoning  “We get more power rather than less by being part of an economic superpower “ and  talking about the ill effects of “pulling up the drawbridge “ to exclude immigrants. (Clegg spent a great deal of time worrying about  drawbridges being pulled up).

Farage also displayed much more energy in his delivery than Clegg,   who as ever sounded like a prefect ineptly playing the role of a weary adult before  a school debating society. He was  deeply irritating for that reason alone, but his whole persona seemed manufactured, from  the deeply wooden arm gestures he makes  to the studied use of questioners’ names.    Farage  was perhaps  too shouty at times and  weak in his responses to some important questions, such as failing to explain how UKIP’s claim that  75% of British laws are being made in Brussels was calculated. But he  had one massive advantage over Clegg: he was able to tell the truth all the time or at the least not tell deliberate lies.  Farage at least seemed like a real human being, with unmanufactured  body language,  and if he allowed his ill-temper to intrude, judged by  polls such as the YouGov one,  it must have seemed like justified irritation with the British political class as represented by Clegg  to the majority of those watching and listening.

Clegg’s wilful dishonesty is perhaps best exemplified when the subject of immigration from the EU came up. Clegg referred to a recent UKIP pamphlet which claimed that Farage had claimed that “29 million Romanians and Bulgarians” were coming to Britain. This was untrue said Clegg because “They’re aren’t even 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians in Romania and Bulgaria”.  Apart from  not being what UKIP had said  – the party had simply pointed out that 29 million would have the right to come to Britain -  as of 2012 Bulgaria had a population of 21.33 million and Bulgaria 7.305 million, 29 million bar a few hundred thousand.( https://www.google.co.uk/#q=population+of+roumania). Not that it would have mattered in they were a million or two short of 29 million. The point at issue was the existence of millions of people from countries with living standards a fraction of those in Britain who were now entitled to come here.

Unlike Clegg , even when he was making a bit of a mess of things Farage  attempted to answer questions directly even when they raised real difficulties for him.  For example,  a question from the audience raised the subject of  the trustworthiness of politicians and  cited the LibDems’  broken promise over tuition fees and Farage’s employment of his wife as a paid helper as examples of things which destroyed trust.  Clegg failed to explain why the Lib Dems had broken their promise and just waffled about the importance of  trust,  while Farage answered the question directly  by saying the responsibilities of leading the party meant that he  needed someone on tap at home to help him. He also denied that he had ever said publicly that he would not employ his wife.   On another occasion the subject of UKIP’s opposition to gay marriage came up and Farage again dealt with a  potentially very tricky question by simply saying that UKIP would review the situation if the threat of European judges imposing  gay marriage on religions was removed.

Farage was generally  very forthright  and nowhere was this shown to better effect than when he attacked the  EU’s interference in the Ukraine’s dispute with Russia.  This naturally caused  a tempest of  politically correct huffing and puffing after the debate and clearly appalled Clegg. Such forthrightness will  have appealed to most of the general public who are sick of politicians presenting weasel words to them.

Clegg  shamelessly trotted  out the tired old discredited Europhile mantras because any Europhile true believer really has nowhere else to go. These included

-          3 million  British jobs are at risk if Britain leaves the EU  (After Ferrari had intervened to say there are  questions marks over the research on which the claim was based,  Clegg tempered his bald statement by saying  it would not be three million but it might be  two million, one million, 500,000 and so on ).

-          Immigrants are a boon to Britain and pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits (Farage pointed out that Migration Watch recently demolished this argument http://www.migrationwatchuk.co.uk/press-release/380)

-          Britain needed to be in the EU to get the best trade deals (Farage pointed out the Iceland had recently negotiated a lucrative trade deal with China)

-          The European arrest warrant is allowing Britain to  extradite murderers, terrorists and paedophiles  (Farage pointed out that it was a grotesque breach in the protections for the individual provided by  British law )

-          One and a half million Britons live and work in other EU countries and if Britain does not have freedom of movement within the EU then those one and half million  Briton  will be put in jeopardy.  (Farage missed a trick here. Apart from the fact that forced expulsion of EU foreigners  from Britain or Britons from other EU countries is wildly improbable, he should have pointed out that the British  living in other EU countries are  likely to either be someone doing a skilled job or be retired with money, while the EU foreigner  in Britain is likely to be doing a low skilled or unskilled job. Hence, if it did come to a forced exchange of Britons abroad for EU foreigners in Britain,   Britain would be the material  gainers. )

The Lib Dem leader also had a new statistic to play with, namely, that only 7% of British laws come from Brussels (patently  absurd because the massive range of supranational competence the EU now has).  Clegg said the source was the Commons Library and did not qualify in any way his claim by, for example, by saying it was difficult to quantify and only a broad range could be offered.   The 7% turns out to be false.  This position is much more complicated. Here  is what the 2010 HoC research paper entitled How much legislation comes from  Europe says:

“EU regulations, unlike directives, are not usually transposed into legislation at national level, but rather into quasi-legislative measures, administrative rules, regulations or procedures etc which do not pass through a national parliamentary process. How, then, can one be worked out as a proportion of the other? The term ‘national obligation’ might be more appropriate, but is it possible to identify the sum of national obligations arising from EU laws? Increasing use of regulations, particularly Commission regulations, “decouples national transposition procedures” (Christensen), thereby increasing the unquantifiable element of EU activity. All measurements have their problems. To exclude EU regulations from the calculation is likely to be an under-estimation of the proportion of EU-based national laws, while to include all EU regulations in the calculation is probably an over-estimation. The answer in numerical terms lies somewhere in between the two approaches, and it is possible to justify any measure between 15% and 50% or thereabouts. Other EU ‘soft law’ measures under the Open Method of Coordination are difficult to quantify as they often take the form of objectives and common targets. Analyses rarely look into EU soft law, the role of EU standard setting or self-regulatory measures.”

And

“In the UK data suggest that from 1997 to 2009 6.8% of primary legislation (Statutes) and  14.1% of secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments) had a role in implementing EU  obligations, although the degree of involvement varied from passing reference to explicit  implementation. Estimates of the proportion of national laws based on EU laws in other  EU Member States vary widely, ranging from around 6% to 84%. (file:///C:/Users/robnefrt/Downloads/RP10-62%20(2).pdf)

You can take your choice between Clegg shamelessly  lying or Clegg being stitched up by researchers who supplied him with false information.

In this context, it is very  important to understand what  Statutory  Instruments  (SIs) are. They provide the mechanism by which primary legislation is implemented. Frequently, SIs will expand the remit of primary legislation  beyond what is envisaged by those drafting the primary legislation and the politicians who vote for it. The “gold plating “ of EU directives is largely accomplished through SIs. Consequently, to concentrate on primary legislation stemming from Brussels is grossly misleading. The fact that SIs relating to EU derived primary legislation are not routinely   scrutinised by Parliament makes the opportunity for greatly expanding the powers of the primary legislation. It is worth describing  the Treaty obligations which place horrendous limitations on British sovereignty:

1 Types of EU legislative acts

There are three types of EU legislative acts. Under Article 288 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU):

A regulation shall have general application. It shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States.

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.

A decision shall be binding in its entirety. A decision which specifies those to whom it is addressed shall be binding only on them.

Opinions and Recommendations have no binding force.

EU Legislation  Standard  Note SN/IA/5419   http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN05419.pdf

On the question of a referendum on the EU, Clegg squirmed as he tried to represent the LibDems as  having a consistent position from the time when he promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty  in 2008 until now.  There was an element of farce about the way the discussion began when Clegg answered  a question  (go into recording at 8 minutes 33 secs) from Ferrari about a Lib Dem poster  of 2008 which seemingly promised an unqualified  referendum by saying that people could not read the small print. Clegg actually meant that they literally could not read the small print of the poster Ferrari was holding up to the audience and cameras,  only the headline.  There was a ghastly serendipity about this,  because whatever Clegg meant  he then made very  clear there was indeed small print surrounding any LibDem promise of a referendum.  Clegg said  that in 2008 his position was exactly the same as it is now,  namely, a referendum should be held if there were substantial powers taken away by further treaties.

Farage picked Clegg up on this very strongly, pointing out that if only powers taken away by Treaty would trigger a referendum, this might well be a dead letter because  there was a strong possibility that new treaties would not be forthcoming  (this could well be the case because so much is decided by Qualified Majority Voting now) and that in any case there is a constant drip drip drip of new EU legislation which whittles away sovereignty, some of it substantial such the expansion of the EU’s foreign policy and the EU’s attempt to control the City of London. Clegg had no real answer to this.

Frarage should have asked Clegg to  explain why the British people could not be asked (in an IN/Out referendum) about all the powers which had been taken away without any referendum over the past forty years. Sadly the question went unasked.

It has to be admitted that Farage was weak in answering some  questions on statistical detail. The two worst instances were the proportion of British laws which originate from Brussels – when asked where the 75% UKIP figure came from Farage feebly said it was their own calculation with out explaining how they had reached it – and  on the cost of the EU to Britain and.  Ferrari asked Farage to justify the £55 million a day cost in a UKIP pamphlet.  Farage fumbled his reply by failing to make clear immediately that it was the gross amount  paid and taking too long to explain that even though it was the gross amount what money Britain received back had to be spent as the EU determined . However, I would doubt whether such statistical lacunae would register significantly with the general public, who will have largely switched of their minds when politicians start hurling stats at them.

After the debate the  politically correct media and politicians flapped around after the thumping poll win for  Farage claiming variously  the result was unimportant  (absurd), it was score draw, (http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2014/03/the-room-spun/) or that in reality Clegg had won (utterly fantastic).   This might have been expected from the likes of the Guardian and Mirror, but the supposedly Eurosceptic   Daily Telegraph also had a full hand of regular commentators – Mary Riddell,  Dan Hodges, Tim Stanley,  Toby Young – who all , with varying degrees of enthusiasm, stated that Clegg had come out ahead  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10725571/Verdict-who-won-in-the-Clegg-v-Farage-debate.html). The widespread  dismissal of  the YouGov poll by the mainstream media and politicians encapsulated the inherently anti-democratic mentality of those with power and influence in Britain.

The debate  was not deeply penetrating nor did it address all the important EU  issues adequately, for example,  the loss of democracy resulting from the UK’s EU membership  was barely touched upon.  Nor was it clear why the subject of gay marriage was raised within a debate on the EU unless it was simply to try to embarrass Farage and UKIP.  No matter. The value of the debate lay in giving the British public an opportunity to express their feelings through polls such as the YouGov one cited above  and  its naked demonstration, in the form of  Clegg,  of the chasm between the l public and the British elite.  Most of the British public display the natural human instinct of wanting their own national interests to be protected by their own people; the British elite wish to either submerge Britain into a united states of Europe or labour under the pathetic  delusion that the imperial tendencies of the  EU can be restrained from within.  Faced with a choice between Farage and Clegg it was no contest; they plumped for someone who shared their natural instincts.

 

 

 

Don’t take the Swiss vote on immigration quotas as a done deal

Robert Henderson

The Swiss have  voted to end the free movement of labour between Switzerland and the EU  (http://tinyurl.com/SwissEUvote).. The result was very close:  50.3% Yes  49.7% No

This is potentially very significant because even though the Swiss are only European Economic Area (EEA) members, if they can get rid of the free movement of labour (one of the four so called EU freedoms – freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and labour) it provides a lever for the UK (and other EU states) to obtain  a similar arrangement and an example which countermands the EU propaganda that any breach of EU rules will be disastrous for any nation which tries to radically change matters. Once a breach in the EU dyke is made inundation could easily follow.

But before rejoicing amongst those who wish Britain to leave the EU becomes unconfined it must  be pointed out that it is far from clear what the restrictions on EU migrants will be (and Swiss politicians have three years before they need to bring forward any legislation)  and there is the possibility that the referendum result could be overturned by another referendum.

The Swiss political elite are, like our political elite, Quislings in  the service of internationalism. They will do everything possible to circumvent this result. There are two possible tactics they could pursue. The first is to put forward restriction which are no more than tokenistic. A more likely scenario is for another referendum to be held . This would not have to be citizen initiated referendum. It could be a compulsory one based on a claim that the change in the immigration law had constitutional implications (Article 140 of the Swiss Constitution).  But even if it was not a mandatory referendum, bearing in mind the closeness of the result just obtained,  it would probably be easy to get enough voters to petition for a citizen initiated referendum ( Article 139).  Article 141 also provides a basis for a referendum.  The relevant Swiss Constitution Articles run as follows:

Article 139  Formulated Popular Initiative for Partial Revision of the Constitution

(1) 100 000 citizens entitled to vote may within 18 months of the official publication of their formulated initiative demand a partial revision of the Constitution.

(2) A popular initiative for the partial revision of the Constitution may take the form of a general proposal or of a specific draft of the provisions proposed.

(3) If the initiative violates the principle of unity of form, the principle of unity of subject matter, or mandatory rules of international law, the Federal Parliament declares it invalid, in whole or in part.

(4) If the Federal Assembly is in agreement with an initiative in the form of a general proposal, it drafts the partial revision on the basis of the initiative and submits it to the vote of the People and the Cantons. If the Federal Assembly rejects the initiative, it submits it to a vote of the People; the People decide whether the initiative is adopted. If they vote in favour, the Federal Assembly drafts the corresponding bill.

(5) The initiative in the form of a specific draft is submitted to the vote of the people and the Cantons. The Federal Parliament recommends the initiative for adoption or rejection. It may contrast the initiative with a counterproposal.

Article 139b  Procedure for Initiative With Counterproposal

(1) The voters cast their ballot at the same time for initiative and counterproposal.

(2) They may vote in favor of both proposals. Regarding the priority question, they may select which proposal they prefer if both are accepted.

(3) If the priority question results in one proposal to receive more votes of the people and the other more votes of the Cantons, that proposal is set into force that has the highest sum of voter’s percentage points in popular vote plus cantonal vote.

Article 140  Mandatory Referendum

(1) The People and the Cantons are voting on the following:

a. the revisions of the Constitution;

b. the entry into organizations for collective security or into supranational communities;

c. the federal statutes declared urgent without constitutional basis and with validity exceeding one year; such federal statutes have to be submitted to the vote within one year after their adoption by the Federal Parliament.

(2) The People are voting on the following:

a. the popular initiatives for total revision of the Constitution;

b. the popular initiatives for partial revision of the Constitution in the form of a general suggestion which were rejected by the Federal Parliament;

c. the question if a total revision of the Constitution is to be carried out with disagreement of both chambers.

Article 141  Optional Referendum

(1) On the demand by 50’000 citizens entitled to vote or 8 Cantons, within 100 days of the official publication, the following instruments are submitted to the vote of the People:

a. Federal Statutes;

b. Federal Statutes declared urgent with a validity exceeding one year;

c. Federal decrees to the extent the Constitution or the law provides for it;

d. International treaties which:

1. are of unlimited duration and may not be terminated;

2. provide for the entry into an international organization;

3. include important legislative provisions or require the adoption of federal Statutes.

(2) { abolished }

http://www.servat.unibe.ch/icl/sz00000_.html

It is all too easy to imagine a Swiss electorate browbeaten with dire warnings of what will happen if the Swiss do not fall into line with EU policy voting to reverse the decision.

Bruges Group International Conference 9 11 2013

Which Way Out?

Speakers

Prof. Tim Congdon  (Economist)

Prof. Ivar Raig (Tallinn University)

Prof. Roland Vaubel (Mannheim University)

Ian Milne (Banker and Industrialist)

Prof. Patrick Minford (Prof of Economics Cardiff Business School)

Christopher Booker (Telegraph journalist)

Dr Richard North (Long time EU campaigner)

Mary Ellen Syon (Irish Daily Mail Journalist)

Kieran Bailey (15-year-old who is shortlisted for the Brexit prize)

This conference is important because it brought together some of the people who are likely to be part of the public face of the OUT campaign if and when a referendum is held on Britain’s future in the EU.  Frankly, it was not encouraging,  both because there was great deal of conflict between the views of this supposed panel of Eurosceptics and  many of the proposals had a Utopian ring for they did not take into account the likelihood or otherwise of their plans being put into operation.

Prof. Tim Congdon

Congdon was the most forthright of the speakers. He wants Britain out of the UK full stop: no Lisbon Treaty Article 50 exit,  just the Westminster Parliament repealing the Act which binds Britain  into the EU. His main reason for taking this stance was that to commit to the use of  Article 50 would mean accepting its legitimacy. That has its dangers because if its legitimacy is accepted before  Britain activated the Article , the EU might extend the maximum two year waiting period the Article stipulates  before a member state can leave to a much longer time.  As this would require a Treaty change over which any member state would have a  veto I think this is not a realistic threat provided a referendum is held soon.

Nonetheless, Congdon’s instincts are right,  for to tie us into a two year waiting period would allow the EU to create a good deal of mischief. Using the Article 50  route would also provide an escape route for our Europhile political elite because they could argue that b ecayuse of the Article the best deal they could get was one which left us still within the coils of the EU, for example, a similar  relationship with the EU to that of Norway or Switzerland, both of whom are signed up to the so-called four EU freedoms: the freedom of unrestricted movement within the European Economic Area (EEA) of capital, services, capital and labour.

Congdon was just as unequivocal on the claims that Britain would lose greatly if she  left. He pointed out that the vast majority of UN member states were not EU members but were able to trade successfully both generally and with the EU, and cited various examples of countries, some small,  outside the EU which had made treaties with much larger nation states  such as the USA and China.  Congdon also made  much of the EU’s declining share of world trade, which is only around 12% now and is set to decline further.

As for Britain needing a plan as to what exactly she would do after leaving the EU before leaving, Congdon said this was completely unnecessary and cited the fact that some  65 independent  countries today had gained their independence  from Britain without having such a plan.

I agree wholeheartedly with Congdon’s  overall strategy,   but there is a presentational problem with the man. This is the first time I have heard him speaking in person. I was astounded by the eccentricity of his delivery.  He would be speaking normally when suddenly he would explode into what I can only describe as an hysterical rant. This he must have done at least half a dozen times in his twenty minutes or so of speaking. As he is very likely to figure in any OUT campaign this is worrying. It is odds on he will not go down well with the general public, because eccentricity of any sort, even that which has some charm,  will alienate as well as attract and frankly this  was not an engaging eccentricity.

Congdon was also caught out by a questioner from the audience. He had cited the recent Canada-EU trade treaty as evidence of what could be done by Britain once she is outside the EU.  A questioner asked him for details of the treaty. Congdon had to admit he did not know what they are. That is just plain sloppy. If you are going to cite something as evidence common-sense tells you to mug up the facts  because as sure as eggs are eggs you will be challenged on the evidence.

Prof. Roland Vaubel

Vauble detailed the vested interest of  the various  instruments of the EU – Commission, Parliament, Court of Justice.  In every case centralisation of EU powers increased their power. Hence, he saw no likelihood of any repatriation of substantial powers unless Article 50  is activated.

As for the process of leaving, Vauble took a legalistic approach. He  maintained that the activation of Article 50   was the only way Britain could leave the EU because he considered the acceptance of the Lisbon Treaty by Gordon Brown made any other exit  illegal.    The answer to that is simple: treaties signed by a government which cannot be repudiated by a future government are utterly undemocratic.

Assuming Britain activated Article 50, Vauble said that the EU elite would give nothing much  to Britain over the two years and the odds were that at the end of two years no agreement would have been reached and Britain would simply exit the EU without any agreement.  Because of this Vauble claimed that Britain had to have a strategy for what was to happen after Britain left without a Treaty. Vauble’s solution was for Britain to make alliances with other EU members, especially the smaller ones.  His overall message was that Britain could not survive on her own.  Vauble further envisaged that a Britain which had left the EU and had some form of alliance with other states, both within and without the EU, could act as a lever to change the centralising tendencies of the EU.  He seemed much  more interested in using Britain as a tool for other states’ ends than suggesting  the best strategy for Britain.

Prof. Ivar Raig

Even making considerable allowances  for the fact that English was not his first language, Raig was an awful speaker, mixing incoherent passages with statements of appalling banality , all delivered in what I can only describe as a prolong yell.

Out of the incoherence came a desire for Britain to wrap itself in another  supra-national bloc, in this case one based on North America, Germany, Scandinavia and other Northern European states. This he grandiosely labelled the New Atlantic Project. Like Vauble he believed Britain would not be able to go it alone.

Ian Milne

Milne was in  favour of using Article 50, although he was less committed to it under all circumstances than Raig and Vaubel.. For Milne activating the Article was more a question of showing willing to preserve legal form than a commitment to observe it.  If the EU showed they were going to be obstructive after  Britain activated the Article, then he was happy for Britain to simply leave by making a unilateral declaration.

He was far from pessimistic about Britain being able to negotiate a reasonable settlement with the EU, not least because of the disruption of EU’s  trade with Britain if there was any serious delay.  Milne emphasised how advantageous the EU’s trade with Britain is to the EU , both because of the large trade deficit Britain runs every year with the EU and the supply of goods to EU businesses such as the German car industry.  He also pointed out the rest of the world would not take kindly to uncertainty because they also had an interest in Britain and the EU resolving their differences.

The most useful part of his speech was his detailed plan for how the exit should be administratively planned. He wanted a Ministry for EU Transitional Arrangements (META) set up to manage the business. He took his inspiration from large projects such as the Olympics and Crossrail.

There are contentious points in the detail of his ideas, not least his rather too trusting belief in the efficiency of private industry compared with public service. But his basic idea of a ministry devoted solely to the administrative, economic, legal and political issues arising from our departure is sound because it will be a complicated business.

The problem with his plan is that it is difficult to envisage any conceivable British government implementing it,  not least because for a government to develop such a detailed plan would be to hamstring both the government of the day and any future government.

Prof. Patrick Minford

A decent speaker but completely out of touch with reality because he is in thrall to the laissez faire quasi-religion. A clear example of a man being captured by one of Richard Dawkins’ memes, in this case by a very harmful one. The problem with Minford is that he has spent his entire working life in either public service or academia. This allows him to maintain his fantasy of  perfect markets with perfect information without the evidence of real life intruding.

Minford wants out of the EU because he has the fashionable but untrue idea that the British are in favour of free markets and free trade while the other EU members are locked in a socialist mindset.  Towards the end of his offering he made the comment that the British had always been free traders including during the Industrial Revolution.  This was a truly incredible statement because the British Industrial Revolution occurred whilst  Britain operated arguably the most successful protection system ever seen through the Navigation Acts and the Old Colonial System. That  tells you Minford either has a very tenuous grasp of economic history or is willing to deliberately fabricate to maintain the plausibility of his ideology.  He might also ask himself how unions became so powerful in Britain  if support for free markets and free trade is so heavily stitched in British minds.

From this misreading of both British history and indeed  her current realities,  Minford  built his case for leaving the EU.  He wants Britain to depart  because he views the EU as a protectionist syndicate which prevents Britain from following her supposedly free market ways.

Having laid out his general scheme of objections to the EU he wandered into the ground of employment and extolled Britain as a far superior job creator than most of the EU whose unemployment was much higher. This difference he attributed to Britain’s free market instincts.  From there he moved to the question of immigration and blithely told the audience that immigrants do not take jobs from Britons. He produced what he fondly imagined to be a knock down argument by trotting out the crude classical economic argument about how Britons would find jobs if only they would accept lower wages (which would be facilitated by less welfare provision)  or were better qualified.   This caused a good deal of anger amongst the audience with quite a few calling out.

When questions were taken I managed to get myself called. I told the meeting that on the question of immigration and jobs I had special knowledge from my time as an Inland Revenue investigator. I proceeded  to detail some of  the ways that huge numbers of jobs never came onto the open British market because of foreign gangmasters employing only their own nationals, ethnic minority employers employing only their own people, foreign companies bringing in their own nationals and the recruitment of foreigners for jobs by not only British companies but British public service employers.  I further pointed out that around 5 million people who were counted as being in work in Britain were not meaningfully employed because they had to draw benefits to provide a living wage. If this 5 million is added to the 2.5 million officially unemployed, the real rate of unemployment in Britain is running at over 20% (the official unemployment rate using the Labour Survey count  stood  at 7.7% for 2.49 million unemployed in October 2013).  That is not so very different from much of the Eurozone.

Having done that,  I  attacked the idea that Britons were wedded to the idea free market economics, pointing out the evidence against this belief such as I have already mentioned, and ended by asking from where exactly Minford got his fantasy view of Britain and the British. All of this was very warmly greeted by the audience and many came up to afterwards to express agreement.

What was Minford’s response? It was feeble to the point of embarrassment. He just kept on repeating various forms of “You are wrong” with  absolutely no attempt to address the detailed objections I had raised to his words.

On the plus side he did reject the “Norwegian Option” on the grounds that it would not only tie us into the single market legislation but force acceptance of the four so-called EU freedoms, namely, the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour within the European Economic Area.

Minford was also on the right track when he pointed out the quite small part of the British economy which is devoted to exports (he put it at 10%).  He was also generally confident of Britain’s ability to be successful outside of the EU.

Christopher Booker

Booker is a promoter of the use of Article 50 as the only means by which the EU could be forced to open negotiations.  That begs the questions of what negotiations would result with the Europhile  British political elite bargaining for Britain and the probable response of the EU if Britain simply announced it was leaving.

The answer to the former question is that the Europhile politicians  who would be leading the British side of the negotiations would try to tie Britain firmly back into the EU. If Britain simply repudiated the European Acts which have led to  her entanglement in the EU by repealing them that would make it much more difficult for the British political elite to tie us back into the EU. This is  because Britain would immediately start operating in a post-EU world and British politicians would have to adapt to that reality whether they liked it or not.

As for the response of the EU elites, they would be unlikely to do much by way of creating heavy protectionist barriers against Britain both because of their healthy trade surplus with Britain and the many economic links between Britain and the rest of the EU and because of  the World Trade Organisation’s regulatory framework which binds its members to pretty tight restrictions on protectionist barriers.  It is also human nature to be more respectful to those who adopt strong dominant action than to those who display weak cringing behaviour such as has been the norm for British politicians dealing with the EU for over twenty years.

If leaving the EU means we cease to be covered by the many treaties signed by the EU which currently apply to  Britain (Booker said there are around 700), so  much the better for that would force a re-evaluation of the ones we wished of which to continue to be members.  It is wildly improbable that Britain would be denied independent membership of any it chose to sign up.

Booker is also a supporter of the “Norwegian Option”.  Hence, much of what he says about wanting Britain to be free of the EU grasping hands is pointless at best and dishonest at worst because the Norwegian Option” would still leave Britain within the coils of the EU.

Mary Ellen Synon

By far the most interesting speaker because she was the most realistic. Synon has worked in Brussels for many years and she is under no illusions about the corrupt and self-serving and above all ideological nature of the EU. Synon  said there are instructions to Eurocrats about the language they use in public. They never say people always citizen as in “a citizen of the EU” The word country is used as little as possible and if a Eurocrat is talking about his own country he or she will says “the country I know best” not “my country”. She was generally scathing about  British and other EU politicians.

According to Synon said the 2017 date for a proposed referendum was  chosen because Britain will take the six-month rotating presidency of the EU Council of Ministers in the second half of 2017. This would give Cameron (or anyone else who is PM) and various cabinet members a great deal of opportunity to bring EU summits to Britain and to posture regularly in front of the cameras.

Synon is sceptical about a referendum being held even if Cameron is PM after the next election. She thinks he will try to wriggle out of it as he wriggled out of the promised referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.  I think is  unlikely because the situation will be rather different to what it was with the Lisbon treaty.  The latter  was accepted by a British Government before Cameron came to power. In this case he would be remaining in power. In addition, Cameron has nailed his colours very firmly to the referendum mast.  It would be immensely difficult for him to renege on his promises because he would have no one else to blame but himself if the promise was broken.

But even if  there is a referendum and it is won  by a large majority,  Synon thinks that the EU will do what they have done with other referendum reverses such as the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty first time round. They will try to engineer another referendum. In the Irish case they did this despite a healthy vote against ( 53.4 percent against, 46.6 percent in favour) in the original referendum.

The tactic was dependent on the existence of willing collaborators in the Irish government. Synon had  no doubt that a Cameron government would find such collaborators, not least because questioned by the Spanish newspaper La Pais in April 2013.  Cameron was asked whether, in the event of a vote to leave the EU this question: “Would you be willing to leave the Union?”  He replied  “I would not”. (Synon described Cameron as collaborator).

Using the Irish example as a template, Synon then outlined in gory detail what were likely to be Cameron’s tactics if a vote to leave occurred .  The government would not accept the vote. There would be a questioning of whether the electorate had understood what they were voting for. This would be followed by the commissioning of  an opinion poll  designed to  either reject the result of the referendum outright or provide a pretext to hold another referendum  on the grounds that the electorate had not understood what the first referendum really meant.

In Ireland another referendum had to be held because the constitution required it. In Britain there is  no such requirement.  The British government could simply ignore the referendum result unless Parliamentary action forced either another referendum or the respecting of the vote of the referendum which had been held that  returned a vote to leave the EU.

Synon’s full notes for her speech can be found here http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84482

Dr Richard North

North began his speech by saying no referendum could be held in  2017 because David Cameron has committed himself to “substantial re-writing” of the Treaties before referendum.  This  he claimed would  require an Inter-Governmental Convention (IGC) which would take several years to convene, agree changes and have the changes ratified by the various member states, some of whom would have a constitutional  requirement to put the matter to a vote. In principle, Britain would be one of them because of the  referendum lock” provisions in  the European Union Act of 2011. This requires any substantial change to the EU treaties to be put to the British electorate. In addition, the 2015 European Parliament elections would mean that before any IGC could be called the newly elected Parliament would have to approve a new Commission, a process which North believes would take until the end of 2015. (http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=84483)

The obvious objection to that is the fact that the EU has shown itself willing to disregard legal niceties when it suits them. Moreover, it all depends on what “substantial re-writing” would mean. It could be that Cameron (if it is he doping the renegotiation) will simply be tossed a few insignificant bones which the EU elite can claim can be managed within the present treaties. Alternatively, the British government might simply say this is the fruit that  our negotiations have born and they will be incorporated into EU law in due course if the vote is to accept them and stay in the EU. It should be remembered that the Wilson renegotiation which led to the 1975 referendum were put to the British electorate without  a Treaty change.

The interesting part of  North’s speech dealt with the  amount of law  coming from Brussels which is in reality merely Brussels rubber-stamping decisions made by  other supranational bodies. (North claimed that it was most of the EU regulations we toil under).   This law is  called Dual International Quasi Legislation. It derives from what North describes the   EU as having become, namely,  “part of a nexus of legislative bodies, linking international agencies of the United Nations with regional, national and local bodies, to form one continuous, seam-free administrative machine.” (http://eureferendum.blogspot.co.uk/2007/03/sucess-of-eu.html)

The rather shadowy  bodies  which make such laws  are  the likes of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, (http://www.codexalimentarius.org/) which sets standards for  the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (http://www.ipcc.ch/)  and the Bank for International Settlements (http://www.bis.org/about/index.htm).  The rules agreed by such bodies  go through the  EU  legalising process on what is known as the “A List” without a vote.

Although the process may be rubber-stamping,  it is worth noting that the EU is not legally bound to accept such agreements. However, it suits the EU elites’ purposes to do so because it fits with their anti-democratic supranational agenda for it restricts who makes the decisions to an even smaller group  than would be the case if the EU instigated the regulations.

North is in favour of using Article 50 as an exit vehicle. He gives no sign of appreciating the potential damage which two years of prevarication by the EU could do or the opportunities for active collusion with the EU elite  by the British elite to trap  Britain  once more within the tentacles of the EU.

His idea of using the “Norwegian Option” as a staging post to full independence is wishful thinking,  because once a new settlement is reached it is highly improbable that a further referendum would be held for many years if at all, not least because the “Norwegian Option” would tie us into the four so-called EU freedoms and the  general single-market obligations.

Kieran Bailey

He spoke confidently but,  unsurprisingly for a 15-year-old, said nothing of obvious importance. His appearance smacked too much of gimmickry.

An unasked question

Had I had the opportunity I would  have posed a question which went unasked, namely, what should be done to tie down Cameron (or any other PM) to what will happen if there is a vote to leave the EU? We need to know before the IN/OUT referendum what the British government is committed to.

What should be done?

If a referendum is to be won the OUT camp must put forward a coherent and attractive message which goes to the heart of British people’s fears and anger resulting from British membership of the EU.  Talking legalistically about invoking Article 50, negotiating for a relationship similar to that of Norway or Switzerland  or mechanically reciting mantras about free markets and free trade will not do that. Indeed, it will drive voters away.

The British resent and distrust the EU because of the impotence of the British government and legislature to prevent EU law taking precedence over the will of Parliament. However, they are often unclear about which areas of policy have been subcontracted to Brussels. The OUT campaign must keep hammering home exactly how much cannot be done while Britain is entrenched within the EU.

The most important EU issue in British minds is indubitably  immigration. That should be made the focus of the OUT campaign. Indeed, the more it becomes an anti-immigration campaign the better because mass immigration affects from the entirety of life. The primary ill is simply the fact that huge numbers of foreigners coming into Britain change the nature of Britain both generally – think of the laws against speaking freely and those imposing “non-discrimination” dictats  on the grounds of race and ethnicity – and particularly, for example, here parts of the country are effectively colonised by those of a certain ethnicity or race.

Then there are the secondary ills which immigrants bring: the undercutting of wages, the removal of jobs from the open British market by ethnic minority employers who either employ only those of their ethnicity  and   foreign gangmasters who supply only those of their own nationality, the use of the NHS, the taking  of housing (especially social housing) which forces up rents, the overcrowding of schools in areas of heavy immigrant settlement, the drawing of benefits  by immigrants very soon are they arrive in Britain  and  a disproportionate propensity for crime.

A full throated campaign against these ills, which should encompass non-EEA citizens in Britain as well as EEA citizens, would be something the British electorate would instinctively and enthusiastically   respond to.  It would also allow those speaking for the OUT campaign to vividly illustrate the extent that the EU affects British life in all the important political policy areas.

The danger is that those running the OUT campaign  will, because of the grip that political correctness has on modern Britain, turn away from immigration as a major plank in their platform or  even shun it altogether.  That will guarantee either a lost referendum or allow  Britain to be re-stitched into the EU with something like the “Norwegian Option”.

Royal Mail and ideology

Robert Henderson

The starting gun for the privatisation of the Royal Mail has been fired t(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/royal-mail/10303689/Royal-Mail-privatisation-Government-confirms-flotation-within-weeks.html).

As with the banks,  the taxpayer takes the losses  and private business gets the profits. To prepare Royal Mail for privatisation the taxpayer has taken sole responsibility for the Royal Mail’s pension fund . They have done this  because its liabilities are huge and no private investor or business would take Royal Mail  on with the pension fund attached.

The pension scheme is closed to new members, which means that over time the liabilities will decline as pensioners die. However, that will take a long time and the liabilities are huge and uncertain.

The pension fund had estimated liabilities £33bn in the 2012/13 accounts (http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/hc1314/hc01/0149/0149.pdf).  This figure had risen by nearly £3bn in a year:  “The total pension scheme liability increased, from the date of transfer on 1 April 2012, from £30.547 billion to £33.378 billion at 31 March 2013.”

The scheme is “an unfunded defined benefit scheme providing pension and lump sum benefits on retirement and  death to members and former members of the Royal Mail Pension Plan (RMPP), and their dependants, in respect of their service up to 31 March 2012. The scheme is closed and has only pensioner and deferred members. As this is a closed scheme, there are no employer or employee contributions, the on-going pension payments and other payments are funded from the consolidated fund”  (Ibid)

The key words here are “unfunded” and “funded from the consolidated fund.  That means it is like the  Old Age Pension, namely, funded out of taxation.

The Pension Fund was supposedly made shipshape and Bristol fashion by the government  pumping in £2.2 billion in 2012.  However, after the first year of operation after the taxpayer bailout the “Royal Mail Group is facing an extra £300m annual bill from its pensions, one year on from a multi-billion-pound deal that was supposed to have solved its pension issues once and for all ahead of a public listing.” (http://www.efinancialnews.com/story/2013-05-31/pensions-talks-return-to-haunt-royal-mail?ea9c8a2de0ee111045601ab04d673622)

What can be expected from a privatised postal service

The experience of every other large privatisation apart from BT is of rising prices and decreased service.  Even in the case of BT the comparative success of the privatisation – the landline connections for phones and broadband are still dependent on BT’s  control of the network – would probably not have occurred if the mobile phone revolution had not taken place and  introduced genuine competition into the telecoms market.

There are a number of reasons why a privatised Royal Mail will go the same way as the likes of British Rail and the utilities.  To begin with there is the VAT exemption which is bound to vanish. As   it is a public organisation Royal Mail  does not pay VAT on most of its products: a privatised Royal Mail will almost certainly pay VAT on all of its products. The present position with VAT  is this:

“Royal Mail products that remain exempt from VAT, in addition to free products

UK

1st and 2nd Class (stamps, online, franking, account*)

Special Delivery™ Next Day (stamps and franking)

Standard Parcels

Recorded Signed For™ (if purchased with a VAT exempt service)

Keepsafe™ (personal and business)

*1st and 2nd class account is a new product that was launched in April 2012. This is a Universal Service which does not qualify for volume related discounts. Royal Mail also offers a 1st and 2nd class service called Business Mail which is available on account. Volume related discounts are available on this service for larger postings and VAT is liable

International

Airmail

Surface Mail

International Signed For

All HM Forces Mail (BFPO)

Inbound Mail

Redirections within UK (personal and business) “

(http://www.royalmail.com/information-vat-and-postal-services)

All those exemptions will  be under threat with privatisation,  not least because  EU competition commissioner is likely to  be after them like a shot as the exemptions would be viewed as illegitimate state aid ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2305592/Price-class-stamp-soar-1-just-years-Royal-Mail-privatised-campaign-group-warns.html) . There will also be challenges by private postal companies and TNT Post UK has already said they will try to get the courts to rule that “ the exemption should be removed from all Royal Mail services apart from stamps and services directly connected to the obligation it has to provide a universal service six days a week”. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/journalists/steve-hawkes/10309856/Legal-fight-threatens-Royal-Mail.html).  If successful that would put 20% VAT on bulk mail deliveries.  In time, it is reasonable to expect even more dramatic challenges to any VAT exemption.

Then there is the question of raising capital. The official line is this: “ To help protect the future of the universal postal service, we aim to end Royal Mail’s dependence on unpredictable funding from the taxpayer and allow them future access to private capital. We will do this by selling shares in Royal Mail. “ (https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/ensuring-the-future-of-the-universal-postal-service-and-post-office-network-services)

On the face of it this is a nonsense statement.  As a matter of simple fact the British government can raise money by way of borrowing far more cheaply than a private company, no matter how large, can do (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/21/royal-mail-public-sector-privatise).

The claim becomes less odd if the real reason why capital cannot be raised by Royal Mail is the EU competition commission’s resistance to  state aid. The commission  is especially keen on stamping on state aid  in relation to EU postal services, which it desperately wants to see in private hands or at least with a mixture of private and public providers competing on the same basis, as it seeks to have a uniform postal service throughout the EU ((http://ec.europa.eu/competition/sectors/postal_services/cases.html).  It is probable that a publicly owned  Royal Mail would not be allowed to raise cheap money through the offices of the government because the assistance  would not be available to other private postal competitors and, hence,  would be judged as unfair competition by the EU competition commissioner.

But not all state aid is bad in the EU commission’s eyes.  They  were willing to collude  with the  UK government to prepare Royal Mail for privatisation by allowing what amounts to massive state aid through the removal of the deficit laden Royal Mail pension fund from Royal Mail , viz:

“The European Commission approved UK plans to relieve the Royal Mail Group (RMG) from excessive pension costs relating to its past monopoly position and to provide RMG with restructuring aid consisting of a debt reduction of GBP 1089 million (around EUR 1311 million). The Commission concluded that RMG’s revised restructuring plan would ensure a sustainable future for the group in its twofold function of providing universal postal services and of granting access to its delivery network to other providers in the UK. Moreover, the plan negotiated with the Commission included appropriate measures to minimise distortions of competition induced by the aid (IP/12/260).” (Ibid)

The sale is also ostensibly  odd in that it comes at a time when  Royal Mail is making a solid profit  (£400 million in the past year). However, the strangeness of the decision vanishes when it is realised that  the Royal Mail has been deliberately fattened up for privatisation  by the massive price increase in the cost of postage stamps in 2012 (First class stamps rising from 46p to 60p and second class from 36p to 50p.  Parcel charges have also risen substantially http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17859782. Incidentally, iIt is a moot point how much of the £400million profit arose from people buying huge numbers of stamps at the pre-rise prices, but nonetheless the increase in profitability is too large to be  ascribed to that one off event alone ).

The obligation to maintain the universal  postal service (UPS )  – the obligation to deliver  post anywhere in the UK at the same price six days a week -  is protected by the Postal Services Act 2011 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2011/5/introduction) and the  EU Postal Services Directives (http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/post/legislation/index_en.htm). However, once Royal Mail has private shareholders  this could change, especially if a majority private shareholder emerges. This could easily occur  if much more than 50% of shares are sold  to the private sector . The intention of  the government is for a  majority of shares  to be in private hands  with the rest held by the government. The  percentage to be retained by the government might be very small  and this is suggested strongly because ministers  has been very coy on the matter of the size of government’s holding .  It could be as low 10% for all we know.

If a majority shareholder does emerge,  they  will inevitably argue that they cannot compete with other private operators who are not bound by the UPS. Their complaint could well be upheld either by the UK or the EU competition authorities on the grounds of practicality, that is, the impossibility of running Royal Mail as a private business when it has the  UPS obligation which its competitors do not have to honour.  If the VAT exemption is lessened or even abandoned altogether, that would  add to the argument to dilute or even remove entirely the UPS obligation. It is worth  remembering that the so-called “golden share” held by the government in Jaguar cars was limply given up by the government  not that many years after being introduced (http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1989/dec/06/golden-shares).

The UPS is under attack already from retailers who rely on posting goods to customers. They are under no obligation to use Royal Mail. This means they can charge whatever they like for postage within the UK and there are claims that some online retailers are charging multiples of the postage cost  which Royal Mail would charge for deliveries to out of the way addresses. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-24069354).  This will be happening because  the contracts the retailers  have agreed with postal providers other than Royal Mail will stipulate that this must be done.  If Royal Mail had retained its monopoly of small parcel deliveries (or even had the size of parcels in its monopoly increased) this would not be able to happen with anything like the same frequency.

The privatisation of Royal Mail also threatens the Post Office network, which is now an entirely separate organisation, Post Office Ltd.  Governments have been cynically undermining the Post Office for decades with a gradual removal government services which bulked out the postal services. The threat is not immediate because “We have committed £1.34 billion of funding for the network from financial year 2011 to 2012 to financial year 2014 to 2015. This will enable the Post Office to maintain and modernise its network to help safeguard its future.” (https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/ensuring-the-future-of-the-universal-postal-service-and-post-office-network-services). However,   looking ten years or so ahead it is probable that the cry will go up from politicians that the Post Office is a white state-owned elephant because there is every chance that a privatised Royal Mail will refuse to continue the contracts with the Post Office which currently exist on the grounds of cost and convenience.  

Why the privatisation is happening

Royal Mail would be perfectly viable as a public service if the old monopoly of letter post and small parcel post was maintained. It is true that email and other forms of digital messaging have reduced considerably the number of letters sent. But this drop has been offset by the considerable increase in parcel post arising from e-commerce, an increase which is likely to continue for quite some time.    Indeed, with the monopoly restored and modern sorting machinery being introduced, Royal Mail would almost certainly be able to make enough for necessary  future investment  whilst keeping postal rates moderate.   A cheap postal system would be a considerable boost to the economy generally.  The Post Office network could also be underpinned by the use of the offices as collection points for goods ordered through the Internet.

If that is so why is privatisation being driven through so ruthlessly  for transparently false reasons? The answer is ideology. The globalist, laissez faire ideology has infected to a lesser or greater degree all of Britain’s major political parties.  That  ideology dovetails with the supranational mentality engendered by the EU , commitment to  which is at the British political elite’s political core. It is doubtful if any senior British politician  not firmly committed to either laissez faire  globalism or the EU; most are committed to both. That is the simple truth.

Sorting out the mess after the Euro collapses

Robert Henderson

17 of the 28 EU states make up the Eurozone. If the Euro collapses 17 new national currencies will have to be established. A conversion rate for Euros to each re-established national currency will have to be agreed.   The weaker a country’s economy,  the less favourable the conversion rate.

That  will be painful for the weaker Eurozone economies, but it will be administratively relatively simple because the transaction can be made  bilateral,  just as the assimilation of the East German Ostmark into the Deutschmark was accomplished at the time of German re-unification, although this would be more complicated.

The bilateralism would  have to come through a system something like this:   the Euro coins and notes issued in each country’s name  and the Euro bank deposits of each country held at a certain date would be convertible only into the re-established national currency.  For example, this would mean that those holding Euros issued by France and Euros in French bank accounts  at a designated date,  would have their Euros converted to Francs at whatever the agreed rate was.

Unless such a system was adopted almost everyone holding  Euros would  demand that their Euros were converted to attractive currencies  such as a re-established Deutschmark rather than a new drachma or escudo, regardless of how attractive the conversion rates were for the weaker re-established Eurozone currencies.  This would happen because the weaker re-established currencies would be viewed by most as potentially worthless at worst and likely to devalue severely and quickly at best.  There would also be no guarantee that all the newly established currencies would be freely convertible.

The domestic administrative complications will be daunting enough,  but  they will be nothing compared to those that arise for  those holding the Euro as a reserve currency.  As the Euro is a supranational creation,  there can be no neat conversion of Euros held as a reserve currency to another currency as there was at German re-unification. Instead, each holder of Euros as a reserve currency would probably  have to receive a basket of currencies made up of all the 17 Eurozone’s new national currencies with the amounts  of each currency determined by some criterion such as the size of population of each Eurozone country. This would mean substantial losses for Euro reserve currency holders,  because most of the basket of 17 currencies they received to replace the Euros they held would be currencies which were weak and hence undesirable internationally.  Only the new Deutschmark would probably be considered genuine  reserve currency material.

In 2011  currencies held in reserve throughout the world amounted to about $10 trillion (http://www.investopedia.com/articles/economics/13/reserve-currencies.asp). The Euro makes up just under a quarter of that, say $2.4 trillion.  The effect of a Euro collapse would be massive, not just on the EU or even the developed world generally,  but on the entire world because the developing countries hold around two-thirds of the $10 trillion, much of which will be Euros.

The potential damage the collapse of  the Euro would wreak may be the primary explanation for the ruthless treatment of Eurozone countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal in the struggle to maintain the Euro, although the contemptible desire of the EU elites  to save face at any cost  is  doubtless also in play.

A subsidiary problem is how  non-reserve currency holders of Euros (individuals, business, other corporate bodies) outside the Eurozone would be treated. It would scarcely be a practical proposition to hand them a basket of currencies like the reserve currency holders because the vast majority would be holding only a small or relatively small number of Euros. For those holding just coins and notes there would not be a problem because those notes and coins would be identifiable as having been issued by a particular state and could be converted at the agreed Euro/re-established currency of the particular country rate just as the notes and coins held by those living in Eurozone countries could be converted. Ditto any Euros held in banks in Eurozone countries regardless of the nationality of the holder or their place of residence, the state in which bank account is held being the determining factor.

But a  severe problem would arise with those holding Euros in bank accounts outside of the Eurozone. How those Euros could be allocated to any Eurozone member by any rational or objectively fair scheme  I frankly cannot see. I suspect that they might have to settle for either  a basket of  Eurozone re-established national currencies as the holders would do (impractical for small amounts) or whatever (almost certainly decidedly penal) conversion rate each ex-Eurozone member might be willing to offer.  For example, France might offer a better rate than Germany. The foreign holders of Euros in bank accounts   could of course  simply be cut adrift and lose the entire value of their Euros.

Then there is the problem of what to do with contracts drawn up in Euros. What value would be put on the Euro cost of the contract?  I suppose it might be dealt with by using the conversion  rate  of the Euro to each Eurozone ex-member’s  re-established currency  with the place where the contract was to be carried out  determining to which newly  re–established currency  the contract would be converted. Or perhaps the contract could be converted to another currency such as the US dollar or pound sterling with payment either being made in that currency (which the contracting party doing the paying  would have to purchase using their own currency or any other foreign currency reserves) or in a newly re-established national currency at whatever  the exchange rate  between  that currency and  what might be termed the third party currency was at a moment in time. For example, suppose the third party currency was the US dollar and the ex-Eurozone state was France.  Francs would have to be given to the value  of whatever the exchange value of the Franc against the dollar was,  either at ts value at a given date or at an agreed conversion value.

The potential mess is colossal. What if a newly established currency is simply too weak to be able to either buy sufficient of a currency such as the US dollar or to make payment  in a new re-established national currency because the exchange rate was so penal it made the completing of the contract impossible?  What if  the contractor who  is  to be paid refused to complete the contract because they had no faith in  the newly re-established national currency? What if a newly  re-established currency was not strong enough to be fully convertible?   The outcome could be very severe because of the potential for a large shrinkage of economic activity across a  healthy slice of the world’s economy. What will happen generally if the Euro collapses?  The stark  truth is that no one knows because there is no historical example of a currency union on the scale or type of the Eurozone  failing .  The nearest example is the Latin Currency Union which lasted from 1865-1927, but that was small beer compared to the  Eurozone ,based on precious metals and not involving a reserve currency. Nor of course was international trade and finance developed to anything like the extent  it is today.

The architects of the Euro, whether intentionally or not, have behaved with a criminal recklessness in venturing where no one had gone before.

The EU: Making the going good for getting Out

ROBERT HENDERSON  suggests some ways in which the No side can maximize its chances of winning the referendum on EU membership

Amidst all the confusion and excitement of bringing about a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, it is easy to forget that there are considerable risks associated with the vote. The government will almost certainly campaign to stay in, as will the Labour Party, and many institutions, lobby groups, media groups, foreign governments, and influential individuals. Public opinion, although hardening towards leaving, is fickle and cannot be relied upon. A decision to stay in would probably destroy the UKIP, and would also seriously undermine Conservative Eurosceptics. It is therefore essential that we should think about the likely shape of the campaign, and how we who believe in leaving can improve the odds.

The general strategy

A) How to leave

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty states

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. 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.

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.

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.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49. (http://www.lisbon-treaty.org/wcm/the-lisbon-treaty/treaty-on-european-union-and-comments/title-6-final-provisions/137-article-50.html).

It is strongly implied in in  para 3 of  the Article that unilateral withdrawal is possible :

“ 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”.

However, the clause does not explicitly  give the right of unilateral secession and could be interpreted as merely referring to how any agreement might be scheduled to take effect. The other EU members could adopt this interpretation to thwart the UK leaving without declaring UDI.

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties cites two legitimate  instances where a party wants to withdraw unilaterally from a treaty which does not make any provision for withdrawal : (1) where all parties recognise an informal right to do so or  (2) the situation has changed so substantially  that the obligations of a signatory are radically different from that which was originally agreed to.   The informal right patently does not apply in the case of the EU. As for radical changes to the obligations of a signatory, that would be difficult to sustain. It is true that the organisation (the EU) the UK belongs to now is radically different from that which they originally joined in 1973 (the EEC), but the  UK has signed  new treaties to agree to the new circumstances as they have arisen.  Hence, there would be no radically changed obligations which had not been taken on formally by the UK.

The only precedent  of any sort for withdrawal is Greenland’s  secession  in 1985 from the European Economic Community (EEC).  The was facilitated by the Greenland Treaty. However, it is not  an obviously relevant precedent because Greenlanders retain Danish citizenship for  Greenland has home rule not full independence from Denmark. They are consequently full  EU citizens.  Because Greenland is also one of the  Overseas Countries and Territories of the EU it  is also subject to some EU law and regulations, mainly those relating to the Single Market. .

Even if it is accepted by the other EU members  that there is a unilateral right of secession,  the fact that it  could only  take place legally after two years would give the remainder  of the EU the opportunity to run the UK ragged before the UK left.

As for getting an agreement which would allow the UK to generally re-establish its sovereignty, especially over the control of its borders, this is most improbable.  A  Qualified Majority in the European Council  is required  and even if such a majority is obtained the European Parliament can block the secession. The potential for delay and blackmail by the EU of the UK is considerable.

In any event it is likely is that the EU would  drive a bargain which is greatly to  the UK’s disadvantage because the  Eurofederalists would be terrified of creating a precedent for any other EU member which might wish to radically change their relationship with the EU.  That would make them demand conditions of the UK which were so unappealing it would deter other member states from following suit. There is also  the danger that  the Europhile UK political elite  would take the opportunity to agree to disadvantageous terms for the UK simply to keep the UK attached to the EU in the manner that Norway and Switzerland are attached. The treaty arrangements of  Norway and Switzerland  are routinely portrayed  by supposed  Eurosceptics  as purely trade relationships. They are not. Both countries are firmly within the EU straitjacket. Indeed, the Europhile BBC  ran a story in 2012 entitled Non-EU Norway ‘almost as integrated in union as UK ‘ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-16594370). As for Switzerland, a glance at their treaty arrangements will show their close EU embrace http://www.europa.admin.ch/themen/00500/index.html?lang=en.  Most importantly they have no control of immigration from the EU . If the UK signed up to the Single Market after formally leaving the EU  we should be in the same boat.

The OUT camp must make it clear that  it would be both damaging and unnecessary for the UK to abide treaty requirement. Even if the UK did not try to sign up to  the Single Market, it would allow the EU to inflict considerable damage on the UK both during the period prior to formally  leaving and afterwards if  the price of leaving with the EU’s agreement was  for  UK to sign up to various obligations – for example, to continue paying a large annual sum to the EU for ten years.

There is also the danger that the stay-in camp could use Article 50 to argue that whether the British people want to be in or out, the cost of leaving would be too heavy because of this treaty requirement.

The Gordian knot of Article 50 can be cut simply by passing an Act of Parliament repealing all the treaties that refer to the EU from the Treaty of Rome onwards. No major UK party could  object to this because all three have, at one time or another,  declared that Parliament remains supreme and can repudiate anything the EU does if it so chooses.

If the stay-in camp argue that would be illegal because of the treaty obligation, the OUT camp should simply emphasise (1) that international law is no law because there is no means of enforcing it within its jurisdiction if a state rejects it and (2) that treaties which do not allow for contracting parties to simply withdraw are profoundly undemocratic because they bind future governments.

The OUT camp should press the major political parties to commit themselves to ignoring Article 50. If a party refuses that can be used against them because it will make them look suspicious.

Before the vote

B) The parties’ plans of action if there is a vote to leave

It is important that all the parties likely to have seats in the Commons after the next election are publicly and relentlessly pressed to give at least a broad outline of what action they would adopt in the event of a vote to leave. Left with a free hand there is a serious danger that whatever British  government is  in charge after a vote to leave would attempt to bind the UK back into the EU by stealth by signing the UK up to agreements such as those the EU has with Norway and Switzerland which mean that they have to (1) pay a fee to the EU annually, (2) adopt the social legislation which comes from the EU and (3) most importantly agree to the four “freedoms” of the EU – the free movement of goods, services, capital and  labour throughout not merely the EU but the wider European Economic Area (EEA).

It is probable that the Westminster parties will all resist this, but that would present them with two problems. First, a refusal to do so would make them seem untrustworthy; second, if one party laid out their position but the others did not, that would potentially give the party which did say what it would do a considerable advantage over the others which did not. If no party puts its plans before the public before the referendum, there should be demands  from those who want the UK to leave the EU that  any new treaties with the EU must be put to a referendum and, if they are rejected, the UK will simply trade with the EU under the WTO rules.

C) Repudiate re-negotiation before the referendum

Supporting the negotiation of a new relationship between the UK and the EU before a referendum is mistaken, because it would seem to many to be giving tacit approval for renegotiation and legitimize the possibility of the UK remaining within the EU. It is also rash, because  the likelihood  of the EU giving nothing is very small. Indeed, they might well give something substantial, because the UK leaving the EU would be a very great blow to the organisation. The UK is the country with the second largest population within the EU with, depending on how it is measured, the second or third largest  economy and the country which pays the second largest contribution to the EU budget. For the EU to lose the UK would not only be a blow in itself, it would also create a very strong precedent for every other EU state, especially the largest ones. If  the UK left and prospered, the temptation would be for other EU states to leave.

If the EU offered  a big carrot such as the abolition of benefits  for migrants to the UK  from the rest of the EU until they had lived in Britain for ten years, that could  seriously  undermine the resolve of those wanting the UK to leave the EU because it would dovetail with British fears of mass immigration from the EU and the mainstream media representation of the immigration  problem as being essentially a welfare problem. The Europhiles would then be able to represent the immigration threat as no longer a threat as they bleated their  mantra “the only immigrants will be those who are working and paying their taxes”.  That would be difficult for any mainstream British politician or party to counter because they have all be peddling the line of welcoming “hard working immigrants” for years.

But even if negotiation produced nothing of substance, as happened with Harold Wilson’s “renegotiation” of 1975, it would be a mistake to imagine that it would not influence the referendum result. The electorate is divided between the resolute come outs, the resolute stay-ins and the wavering middle. A claim by the stay-in campaigners that something had been conceded by the EU, however  insignificant, would provide the waverers with an excuse to vote to stay in because they could convince themselves they were voting for change. If the EU were to offer nothing, waverers might see this as evidence that the EU was too powerful to oppose.

Those who want the UK to leave should unambiguously put the case for no renegotiation. Dismiss anything Cameron (or any other PM) brings back from the EU by way of altered terms as being irrelevant because the EU has a long record of agreeing things with  the UK and then finding ways of sabotaging what was agreed. In addition, a future British government may agree to alter any terms offered at the time of the referendum. The classic example of this changing of agreed terms happening in the past is Tony Blair’s giving up of a substantial amount of the Thatcher rebate in return for a promised reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), a promise which was never met. That episode produced my all-time favourite amongst Blair’s penchant for lying. Two days before he went to the EU meeting at which he  gave away a substantial part of the rebate he declared during Prime Minister’s Questions that the rebate was “non-negotiable – period”.

It is difficult to envisage any British prime minister not trying to  negotiate with the EU before a referendum, but it might just  happen if whoever is in power when the referendum is announced were to be told privately by the  major EU players that nothing will be given and the prime minister of the day concludes it would be best to pretend that a decision had been made not to negotiate rather than risk the humiliation of getting nothing, perhaps not even a pretence of negotiation before nothing is given. Why would the EU do this? They might calculate that it would be a gamble worth taking to send a British PM away with nothing, whilst hoping the referendum vote would be to stay in because then the power of the UK to resist further integration would be shot.

If the EU offers nothing, the OUT camp should welcome the fact and stress to the public that if the referendum is to stay in,  the EU could force any federalist measure through because not only would any British government be much weakened in its opposition to more federalism, the UK political class as a whole would more than willing to go along with it because of their ideological commitment to the EU.

D) After the vote

Ideally the government which deals with the EU after a vote to leave will have committed themselves to a plan of action before the referendum vote.  However, as described above, it is quite possible that this will not happen because  the UK’s overwhelmingly Europhile political class will try to re-entangle the UK with the EU. To prevent them doing so there should be a concerted campaign after the vote to ensure that the British public understands what is being done on their behalf with a demand for a further referendum to agree any new treaty.

The terms of the debate

It is essential that the Europhiles are not allowed to make the debate revolve around economics. If they do it will effectively stifle meaningful debate. As anyone who has ever tried to present economic ideas to an audience of the general public will know it is a soul-destroying experience. Take the question of how much of UK trade is with the EU. The debate will begin with the stay-in camp saying something like 45% of UK trade is with the EU. Those wanting to leave the EU will respond by saying it is probably less than 40% because of the Rotterdam/Antwerp effect. They will then be forced to explain what the Rotterdam/Amsterdam effect is. That is the point where the general public’s concentration is lost and the debate ends up proving nothing to most of the audience.

But although nothing is proved to the general audience by detailed economic argument, the audience will remember  certain phrases which have considerable  traction. In amongst the serious debating on the issue of trade there will be phrases such as three million jobs in Britain rely on the EU and dire threats about how the EU will simply not buy British goods and services any more. This is nonsense, but fear is not rational, and many of those who vote will enter the voting chamber with fear of losing their jobs  in their heads regardless of what the OUT camp says if the debate is predominantly about economics. Shift the debate away from economics and the fear-inducing phrases will be heard less often.

National sovereignty

How should those wanting to leave the EU shift the focus of debate? They should put the matter which is really at the core of the UK’s  relationship with the EU  – national sovereignty – at the front of the  OUT camp’s referendum campaign. Campaign under a slogan such as Are we to be masters in our own house?

Making national sovereignty the primary campaigning issue has the great advantage of  it being something that anyone can understand because it is both a simple concept and speaks directly to the natural tribal instincts of  human beings.   Being a simple concept readily  and naturally understood,   it is a far more potent debating tool than arguments attempting to refute the economic  arguments  beloved of the stay-in camp.  The fact that the natural tribal instincts have been suppressed for so long in the UK will increase its potency because most people will feel a sense of release when it begins to be catered for in public debate.

The appeal to national sovereignty has a further advantage. Those who support the EU are unused to debating on that ground. That is because uncritical support for the EU has long been the position of both the British mainstream political class as a class and of the mass media. That has meant that the contrary voice – that which wishes Britain to be independent – has been largely unheard in public debate for thirty years or more. Where it has been heard, the response of the pro-EU majority has not been rational argument but abuse, ranging from patronising dismissal of a wish for sovereignty as an outmoded nationalism to accusations that national sovereignty amounts to xenophobia or even racism. These tactics – of excluding those who want to leave the EU from public debate and abuse substituted for argument – will no longer be available to the  pro EU lobby.

Immigration

The most threatening and energising subject relating to the EU for the general public is immigration. The public are right to identify this as the most important aspect of our membership of the EU because immigration touches every important part of British life: jobs, housing, education, welfare, healthcare, transport, free expression  and crime besides radically changing the nature of parts of  the UK which now have large populations of immigrants and their descendants.

The public rhetoric of mainstream politicians and the media is changing fast as they begin to realise both what an electoral liability a de facto open door immigration policy is, as the effects of mass immigration become ever more glaring. The argument is shifting from the economic to the cultural.  For example, here is the Daily Telegraph in a leader of 25 March:

“The fact is that, for many in Britain (especially those outside the middle classes), it is not just a matter of jobs being taken or public services being stretched, but of changes in the very character of communities. Those changes may not necessarily be for the worse: as the Prime Minister says, Britain’s culture has long been enriched by the contributions of new arrivals. But as long as ministers treat immigration as a matter of profit and loss, rather than the cause of often wrenching social change, they will never be able fully to address the grievances it causes.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/9952717/Immigration-and-the-limits-of-the-possible.html)

This new frankness in public debate means that the OUT camp can use the immigration argument freely, provided they keep the language within the confines of formal politeness. The subject will naturally dovetail with the emphasis on national sovereignty because the most important aspect of sovereignty is the ability to control the borders of the territory of a state.  Judged by their increasing willingness to talk publicly about immigration, it is probable that the mainstream UK parties will be content to go along with  ever more frank discussion about immigration.

The economic argument must be kept simple

It will not be possible to avoid  economic arguments entirely. The OUT camp should concentrate on repeating these two facts:

The disadvantageous balance of payments deficit the UK has with the EU

The amount the UK pays to the EU

Those are the most solid economic figures relating to the EU. There is some fuzziness around the edges of the balance of payments deficit because of the question of where all the imports end up (whether in the EU or outside the EU through re-exporting), while the amount the EU receives is solid but it has to be broken down into the money which returns to the UK and the amount retained by Brussels. Nonetheless these are the most certain  figures and the least susceptible to obfuscation by the stay-in side.

The best way of presenting the money paid to the EU is simply to say that outside the EU we can decide how all of it is spent in this country and to illustrate what the money saved by not paying it to the EU would pay for.

It will also be necessary to address the question of protectionist measures the EU might take against the UK if the  vote was to leave. It is improbable that the EU would place heavy protectionist barriers on UK exports because:

1. The massive balance of payment deficit between the UK and the rest of the EU, which is massively in the EU’s favour.

2.  Although the rest of the EU dwarfs the UK economy, much UK trade with the EU is heavily concentrated in certain regions of the EU. The effect of protectionist barriers would  bear very heavily on these places.

3. There are strategically and economically important joint projects of which the UK is a major part, like Airbus and the Joint-Strike Fighter.

4. The Republic of Ireland would be a massive bargaining chip for  the UK to play. If the UK left and the EU rump attempted to impose sanctions against Britain this would cripple the RoI because so much of their trade is with the UK. The EU would be forced to subsidise the RoI massively if protectionist barriers against the UK were imposed. The EU could not exempt the RoI from the sanctions because that would leave the EU open to British exports being funnelled through the Republic.

5. The EU would be bound by the World Trade Organisation’s restrictions on protectionist measures.

The economic issues which are not worth pursuing in detail are those relating to how much the EU costs Britain in terms of EU-inspired legislation. It may well be that these load billions a year of extra costs  onto the UK  but they are not certain or easily evaluated costs, not least because we cannot in the nature of things know what burdens an independent UK would impose off its own bat.

Getting into detailed discussions about such things will simply play into the hands of  the stay-in camp because it will eat up the time and space available to those promoting the OUT cause.

Other issues

Apart from the economic questions, the stay-in camp will use these reasons for staying in:

That the EU has prevented war in Western Europe since 1945. This can be simply refuted by pointing out that the EU was not formed until  twelve years after WW2; that until 1973 the EU consisted of only six countries, three of them small,  and  of only nine countries until the 1980s. Consequently it would be reasonable to look for other reasons for  the lack of war. The two causes of the peace in Western Europe have been the NATO alliance and the invention of nuclear weapons which make the price of war extraordinarily high.

That nation states such as the UK are too small to carry any real diplomatic weight in modern world. That begs the question of whether it is an advantageous thing to carry such weight – it can get a country into disastrous foreign entanglements such as Iraq and Afghanistan – but even assuming it is advantageous, many much smaller countries than the UK survive very nicely, making their own bilateral agreements with other states large and small. It is also worth remembering that the UK has such levers as a permanent seat on the UN Security  Council (which allows the UK to veto any proposed move by the UN) and considerable influence in institutions such as the IMF and World Bank.

ROBERT HENDERSON is a London-based freelance writer

 

Originally published in the Quarterly Review

Published in http://www.quarterly-review.org/?p=1737

Richard North: useful idiot or Europhile wolf in Eurosceptic’s clothing?

Campaign for an Independent Britain meeting 4th May 2013

Dr Richard North: The way forward

His  contribution was very odd indeed for someone who is supposedly strongly Eurosceptic.  His “way forward” is for the UK   to remain entwined in coils of the EU for the foreseeable future.  Of course, North does not describe his suggestions as leading to this, but that is the practical consequences of what he advocates.

North’s strategy for the UK’s departure from the EU is this:

“….invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, leading to a negotiated exit based on UK membership of the EFTA/EEA as an interim settlement. To ensure short-term continuity, we would have all EU law repatriated, giving time for examination and selective repeal, and the enactment of replacement legislation as necessary – all over a period of some years.”

He wants the UK to sign up to the type of arrangements Norway and Switzerland have with the EU. This requires them to  adopt a large proportion of  EU regulations (not least because of the ever broadening bureaucratic demands of the EU obsession with competition and harmonisation ), pay large annual sums to the EU to subsidize the poorer members of the EU and,  worst of all, subscribe to the four EU “freedoms”, the free movement of   goods, services, capital and labour across not only the EU but also the larger European Economic Area (EEA).

That would be bad enough but his naivety  over what Article 50 entails is startling. Here is the article in full:

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. 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.

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.

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.

A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49. (http://www.lisbon-treaty.org/wcm/the-lisbon-treaty/treaty-on-european-union-and-comments/title-6-final-provisions/137-article-50.html).

It is strongly implied in in  para 3 of  the Article that unilateral withdrawal is possible :

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”.

However, the clause does not explicitly  give the right of unilateral secession and could be interpreted as merely referring to how any agreement might be scheduled to take effect. The other EU members could adopt this interpretation to thwart the UK leaving without declaring UDI.

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties cites two legitimate  instances where a party wants to withdraw unilaterally from a treaty which does not make any provision for withdrawal : (1) where all parties recognise an informal right to do so or  (2) the situation has changed so substantially  that the obligations of a signatory are radically different from that which was originally agreed to.   The informal right patently does not apply in the case of the EU. As for radical changes to the obligations of a signatory, that would be difficult to sustain. It is true that the organisation (the EU) the UK belongs to now is radically different from that which they originally joined in 1973 (the EEC), but the  UK has signed  new treaties to agree to the new circumstances as they have arisen.  Hence, there would be no radically changed obligations which had not been taken on formally by the UK.

The only precedent  of any sort for withdrawal is Greenland’s  secession  in 1985 from the European Economic Community (EEC).  The was facilitated by the Greenland Treaty. However, it is not  an obviously relevant precedent because Greenlanders retain Danish citizenship for  Greenland has home rule not full independence from Denmark. They are consequently full  EU citizens.  Because Greenland is also one of the  Overseas Countries and Territories of the EU it  is also subject to some EU law and regulations, mainly those relating to the Single Market. .

Even if it is accepted by the other EU members  that there is a unilateral right of secession,  the fact that it  could only  take place legally after two years would give the remainder  of the EU the opportunity to run the UK ragged before the UK left.

As for getting an agreement which would allow the UK to generally re-establish its sovereignty, especially over the control of its borders, this is most improbable.  A  Qualified Majority in the European Council  is required  and even if such a majority is obtained the European Parliament can block the secession. The potential for delay and blackmail by the EU of the UK is considerable. In any event it is likely is that the EU would  drive a bargain which is greatly to  the UK’s disadvantage because the  Eurofederalists would be terrified of creating a precedent for any other EU member which might wish to radically change their relationship with the EU.  That would make them demand conditions of the UK which were so unappealing it would deter other member states from following suit. There is also  the danger that  the Europhile UK political elite  would take the opportunity to agree to disadvantageous terms for the UK simply to keep the UK attached to the EU in the manner that Norway and Switzerland are attached. The stay-in camp could use Article 50 to argue that whether the British people want to be in or out, the cost of leaving would be too heavy because of this treaty requirement.

The Gordian knot of Article 50 can be cut  simply by passing an Act of Parliament repealing all the treaties that refer to the EU from the Treaty of Rome onwards. No major UK party could  object to this because all three have, at one time or another,  declared that Parliament remains supreme and can repudiate anything the EU does if it so chooses.

If the stay-in camp argue that would be illegal because of the  treaty obligation, the OUT camp should simply emphasise  (1) that international law is no law because there is never any means of enforcing it within its jurisdiction if  a state rejects it and (2) that treaties which do not allow for contracting parties to simply withdraw are profoundly undemocratic because they bind future governments.

The OUT camp should press the major political parties to commit themselves to ignoring Article 50. If a party refuses that can be used against them because it will make them look suspicious.

How much of the vote does UKIP command?

North also addressed the question of UKIP’s  share of the vote in the recent council elections. This he represented as  trivial because although they took 25% of the vote  the turnout was very low (around 30% overall).  He ignores one important fact about turnout: if the turnout is shrinking then the potency of those who vote rises. UKIP voters and those willing to vote to come out of the EU at a referendum may be much more inclined to vote than those who want the status quo or at least are not motivated to vote for the UK’s independence.

Based on objective facts North  is far too pessimistic about obtaining a vote to leave. There are two great  differences between now and the 1975 referendum. In 1975 the British public had only two years’ experience of the EEC which was a vastly less intrusive body than the EU is now. If a referendum is held in the next few years the electorate will have 40 odd years of ever greater interference by Brussels with British politics and in  the lives of Britons.  To this can be added the growing number of prominent voices, both political and from the media and business , which are calling for either an outright campaign to leave the EU or at least a reshaping of the EU in such a radical  fashion that it has no chance of success. Both factors  will lend vastly greater potency to the OUT camp campaign now than was the case in 1975.

North’s  tactics before a referendum

Much of this was driven by fear, fear that a the British electorate would not vote to come out.  The consequence is that North proposes a complex, expensive and above all time consuming schedule of preparatory work before any referendum is held.  There are also conflicts between his desired ends and proposed means.

North  addressed the subject under five separate heads. I comment separately on each.

Reassurance for business

North argues that because the EU is first and foremost a political construct, business has no right to have a say in whether the UK is in or out of the EU. I have sympathy with that view, but North  immediately capsized this position by stating:

“…business has a right to expect a predictable and stable regulatory and trading environment, the status of which is affected by our membership. Therefore, we need to be able to assure the business community that, should we leave the EU, there would be no adverse effects.

“In effect, that would mean “protecting” membership of the Single Market – which could be achieved through EEA membership. And, as long as that membership is assured, business has no locus in the broader debate.”

By taking this position on the Single Market North is effectively granting business a very large say in how we are governed,  because continued membership of the Single Market will require at the least subscription to the four “freedoms”  and the acceptance of  EU laws relating to the Single Market. That will greatly impinge upon the UK’s sovereignty.

An alternative to the EU

North believes that we should not merely take back power from Brussels but also stop the power regained being grabbed by Westminster. He starts from the claim that  the UK has never been a democracy.   That is true in the sense that there has never been direct democracy – that is no more than a commonplace – but for a century before the UK was signed up to the EEC in 1973 there was a good deal of democratic control because the UK’s politics were national. British politicians then could not routinely hide behind supranational agreements such as those  governing the EU to avoid responsibility for unpopular policies or be forced to adopt policies which were in the interest of foreign powers and to the UK’s disadvantage  simply because of  Treaty arrangements.  If the UK leaves the EU utterly and  our relationship with the EU becomes the same as we have with any other foreign power British politics will again become national not supranational. That is the most certain way of re-democratising the UK.

What does North want?  He is much taken with the Harrogate Agenda  (HA) (http://harrogateagenda.com/).  This has six demands which are similar in tone to those of the 19th century Chartists and the 17th century Levellers before them.  Here are a couple of the demands to give a flavour of the HA:

2. local democracy: the foundation of our democracy shall be the counties (or other local units as may be defined), which shall become constitutional bodies exercising under the control of their peoples all powers of legislation, taxation and administration not specifically granted by the people to the national government;

4. all legislation subject to consent: no legislation or treaty shall take effect without the direct consent of the majority of the people, by positive vote if so demanded, and that no legislation or treaty shall continue to have effect when that consent is withdrawn by the majority of the people;

Whether or not these are practical (which I very much doubt if put forward in this extreme form) , there is irony in the fact that North espouses such ideas  because his proposals for a new relationship  between the UK and the EU would utterly undermine  the thrust of the HA demands  for a  UK  entangled in an EFTA or similar arrangement would still be subject to decisions being made by foreigners with,  doubtless,  the willing complicity of Westminster politicians.  The Europhile British political class is not going to vanish overnight so the only realistic way of making them behave reasonably is to force them to operate within  a national context.

 A network for dissemination

Here are North’s proposals:

“ Spreading the message is an essential part of any campaign, but reliance on the media is not going to be sufficient. Formal and informal networks will have to be built, some not dissimilar to direct marketing networks. Activities should include formal training and education, as well as more general propagandising.

Many revolutionary organisations have acquired their own newspapers, or news magazines, as a means of better spreading the message.”

Even if all this was possible, which is very doubtful  because it would need serious money as well as willing hands,  it would take far too long to establish as an effective propaganda tool.  A referendum if it comes will not be that far in the future.   What is needed is a simple readily understandable message such as “Are we to be masters in our own house” repeated as often as possible through the national and local media. With more and more politicians, mediafolk, businessmen and various celebrities making Anti-EU noises this is not a forlorn hope.

 Agitation

North proposes a campaign of civil disobedience, including the late payment for “Council Tax, water bills, BBC license fees and other such fees” and  visiting every “agency, every employment office, etc. and remove all information (leaflets, brochures) not in English”.  He goes on to say that there are “A very wide range of activities is in fact possible, many entirely risk-free and totally within the law”.

I doubt whether in these politically correct and increasingly authoritarian times that there would be  many which are “entirely risk-free and totally within the law”. Late payment of the BBC license could get you a criminal record; removing information leaflets not in English would probably get you investigated for  racial harassment because there would not be much point in removing them without running a campaign saying what you were doing and why;  failing to pay many official bills on time could result in late payment surcharges.  If civil disobedience is urged it is important that the possible consequences are spelt out to prospective candidates for such action.

Nonetheless that is not my main concern with civil disobedience committed in this random fashion. Civil disobedience is only effective if it is (1) focused, (2) publicity worthy (3) does not greatly inconvenience or disgust the general public and (4) does not make the protestors look ridiculous.   A good example of a serious single issue campaign blighted by clownish antics is that of Fathers for Justice. Leaving people to engage in acts of civil disobedience (particularly on a local scale) as they choose will not meet those criteria.  If it is to be used, civil disobedience must be a national act. The Poll Tax disobedience is the best example in modern British history of such action. A readily understandable single issue: we won’t pay the tax. It was perfect because it blocked up the magistrates courts and brought the everyday system of justice to its knees.

Sovereignty and opposition to  immigration are the two strongest cards the OUT camp has  to play. If it is used , civil disobedience should be designed to focus public interest on those two issues.

 A coalition of allies

North tried to make a distinction between umbrella groups (bad) and coalitions (good).  In practice the two are indistinguishable.  What determines the unity of purpose of  any coalescing groups is not what they are called but the nature of the groups and their leaders.

North’s response to being challenged

During questions from the audience I said that North’s proposals were an excellent recipe for remaining within the EU for the reasons I have already given. North became very animated and spoke at considerable length to refute what I was saying.  People only behave in such a manner during debate if they feel their position is under real threat.

The kindest interpretation of North’s position is that he is acting as a useful idiot for the Eurofederalist cause in the mistaken belief that things can be resolved to the UK’s advantage  by talking, by being “reasonable”; the unkindest interpretation is that he is a Eurofederalist wolf in Eurosceptic clothing attempting to undermine the campaign to remove the UK from the grip of the EU.

North  has condensed the   views  espoused in his speech into  written form on the CIB website – see  http://www.freebritain.org.uk/_blog/Free_Britain/post/an-eu-free-future-for-all-by-dr-richard-north/

And

http://www.freebritain.org.uk/_blog/Free_Britain/post/turnout-by-dr-richard-north/ ).

Robert Henderson

Margaret Thatcher and the cult of personality

Robert Henderson

Two Cults

Margaret Thatcher was the subject of a cult of personality. This was not the result of calculated  propaganda, but simply the creation of her extraordinary personality. Because the cult of personality developed not in a totalitarian state but a country where public opposition was possible, there were two cults of personality attached to her in a relationship which mimicked the matter/antimatter duality. These were the Thatcherite religious believers fulfilling the role of matter and the Thatcher-hating Left  acting as the antimatter.

Both the matter and the antimatter Thatcher cults were  potent.  The religious believers  bowed down before the great god MARKET (and Thatcher was his prophet) and, when things  went wrong,  did what all religious believers do until they lose their faith, denied reality by simply pretending something had not happened or by giving a calamity some  absurd spin to ”prove” the god had not failed.

For the Thatcher-hating Left she was the personification of the Devil and consequently credited with all manner of evil,  but, as is the way with personifications of the Devil, never portrayed as anything but powerful, a being possessed of a political juju (doubtless ensconced in her handbag) which could wreak any degree of havoc  with all that the Left held dear is if she so chose.   Like all those who believe in evil spirits the Thatcher-hating Left ascribed every act of ill fortune to her.

The attitude of both bands of cult followers was essentially superstitious, attributing powers to the woman which she did not, and often could not,  have.  The religious Thatcherites imagined she could  speak the spells which would miraculously convert Britain from a  country making silly old fashioned things such as steel, ships and cars and mining coal to a country stuffed to the gunnels with entrepreneurs creating new non-unionised service industries; the Left saw her as a witch practising black magic to contaminate and transmogrify the world they knew.

Because the Thatcherite religious believers  and her leftist haters  could not and still cannot see past the woman’s   gigantic political personality,  they made and continue to make the same mistake, namely, seeing the two cult figures as the reality while ignoring  her actual policies and their outcomes.

The reality of Thatcher

The reality of Thatcher is that objectively she achieved little if any of her wishes. It is a bitter irony for the woman (and Thatcherites generally)  that her policies were of a nature which  undermined the  ends  she espoused.  Perhaps the prime example is Thatcher’s  avowed wish to see a strong and wealthy Britain  whilst creating through her  commitment to laissez faire economics the very circumstances that would weaken the country. Under her economic regimen and its lingering aftermath ever since Britain  has become ever less self-sufficient in strategically important economic activity such as the production of  food and energy  and vast swathes of British business were  either bought up by foreigners or ceased to operate from Britain because of offshoring and the absence of government action to protect our own economy.   She simply did not understand that you could not have laissez  faire in both the domestic and international economic sphere and have a strong nation state.   Had Thatcher  known any economic history she would have realised that, but even without such knowledge  common prudence should have told her that a country which is dependent on others for necessary goods and services is a weak country.  Moreover, one of her claimed tutelary heroes Adam Smith readily understood there are things which are either strategically important such as armaments or social goods which are  never going to be supplied universally by private enterprise such as roads.  Thatcher never gave any indication of realising that Smith was not the unrelenting free marketer of her imagination.

Thatcher’s  failures in making policy to  achieve her ends were legion. She  destroyed much of British heavy industry in the belief that those made unemployed would rapidly be re-employed in private sector jobs. The new jobs did not materialise and she was reduced to presiding over massive and long lasting unemployment  which she funded with North Sea oil and gas tax revenue and the receipts from privatisation, whilst fiddling the unemployment figures shamelessly. She sold off state owned  services  (which belonged to the community as a whole not to the government)  in the belief that service would  be improved . It was  not. Instead vital services such as the railways and the provision of energy and water became ever more expensive whilst providing poorer service and less employment. She introduced so-called private business methods into the NHS and higher education in the belief that they would become more efficient. The result was massive increases in  bureaucracy and an ever climbing  cost of  both the  NHS and higher education and a substitution of the pursuit of  money for the public service ethos because money was attached to individual patients and students. She introduced the Community Charge or “Poll Tax” in the belief that it would be fairer than the old domestic rates. The result was widespread unfairness because it took no account of an individual’s means  and  provoked the nearest thing to a national movement dedicated to the non-payment of taxes known in modern times.  She raged against  EU interference in British affairs but signed up Britain to the Single European Act (SEA)  in the belief that it would create a genuine single market within the EEC.  It  did not create such a market and merely presented the EEC with an open goal for ever more audacious sovereignty grabs.  A supposed opponent of further mass immigration, her signing of the SEA also opened the door to free movement within the EU, a situation worsened by her strategy of dramatically widening the EEC.  She signed Britain up to the  She embraced “Care in the Community” for the mentally ill or disabled on the grounds that it was more humane than keeping  such people in long-stay institutions. The result was thousands of people left to largely fend for themselves in the outside world who were quite incapable of doing so. She sold off great swathes of social housing (which belonged to the community as a whole not to government) to tenants in the belief that this would result in a “property owning democracy” whilst more or less ending the building of new  social housing.  The eventual result was the growing housing emergency we have today. She instigated the disastrous “light touch”  regulation of the financial services  industry by abolishing credit controls and  failing to meaningfully regulate the  industry meaningfully after “Big Bang”  in 1986  which  effectively de-regulated the London Stock Exchange to bring in a brave new world of free trading (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/8850654/Was-the-Big-Bang-good-for-the-City-of-London-and-Britain.html)  with the dire results with which we are now living.

Even in the few areas where she was ultimately successful such as the Falkland’s War she was at best negligent in ignoring warnings from the Foreign Office of a growing threat to the Falklands  in the months leading up to the invasion and even after the expeditionary force had been dispatched  she agreed to a US organised plan which would have not offered the Islanders either self determination of or any meaningful security (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/margaret-thatcher/10008116/Margaret-Thatcher-how-she-took-on-the-men-and-won.html).

There were also acts of omission and collusion with policies with which she supposedly fundamentally  disagreed.  Most importantly, Thatcher failed utterly to carry her strong views against further mass immigration into her period in office. Not only that but, as already mentioned,  she made things much worse on that front by signing up to the Single European Act. She agreed to the institutionalisation of political correctness in public life, especially in the Civil Service, schools and universities. In addition, she allowed the “progressive” educational establishment to destroy a first rate  school examination system  by swopping the certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) and O(rdinary) Levels  for the dangerous absurdity of the General Certificate of Education (GCSE), an exam   supposedly for all 16 year olds but which was in reality two exams masquerading as one.  Despite the fact that Tory support rested heavily on the countryside  she allowed the de-regulation of rural bus services to occur  which reduced them so  severely that to live in countryside meant owning and driving a vehicle or at least having access to someone who did.  To make matter worse, this was done in tandem with a wilful neglect of the then nationalised railways.

The protests after her death were unsurprising

Just based on her economic disasters the uproar surrounding her death is unsurprising.  In the space of a few years she raised the unemployment  pay claimant count from 1.4 million when she took office in 1979 to 3.2 million by 1986 (http://www.economicshelp.org/macroeconomics/unemployment/measuring_unemployment.html) That bald figure is startling enough but the reality  is ten times worse. She  must have known her policies would result in mass unemployment,  at least in the short term, when she removed the financial support of taxpayers from nationalised industries or sold them off in the belief that private business would be able to do the job more efficiently with  much smaller workforces.   Further, as these industries were concentrated in areas where they were by far the dominant employer she should  have realised that structural unemployment would be created  in many parts of the country.  To imagine, as she did, that new jobs would rapidly sprout in the areas showed  a  shocking lack of understanding of economic history which has no example of such a thing happening on the scale required in 1980s Britain.

What is certain is the fact that she had no doubt about the destructive possibilities of laissez faire economics, viz:

“Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ is not above sudden, disturbing, movements. Since its inception, capitalism has known slumps and recessions, bubble and froth; no one has yet dis-invented the business cycle, and probably no one will; and what Schumpeter famously called the ‘gales of creative destruction’ still roar mightily from time to time. To lament these things is ultimately to lament the bracing blast of freedom itself.” — Margaret Thatcher, Statecraft P. 462

A politician of conviction?

The idea that merely having convictions is praiseworthy is a rum one. Hitler, Stalin and Mao had convictions. But even  if the  quality of a person’s convictions is ignored, this is one of the most mystifying of myths attached to Thatcher.  The reality was she frequently changed her position on the most important issues she faced or adopted methods which went against her avowed policies when she had created a mess, most notably with the massive rise in unemployment resulting from her slash and burn approach to the British economy which greatly  increased the benefits bill for many years and left people unemployed for years, in many cases for decades.

The most significant publicly  admitted changes of policy  were on immigration, the Europe and global warming.  Before the 1979 election she had spoken of the need to control immigration  because the country was in danger of being “swamped”:

‘If we went on as we are then by the end of the century there would be four million people of the new Commonwealth or Pakistan here. Now, that is an awful lot and I think it means that people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture.’

She went on to say, ‘The British character has done so much for democracy, for law and done so much throughout the world that if there is any fear that it might be swamped people are going to react and be rather hostile to those coming in.’

 ‘If you want good race relations, you have got to allay peoples’ fears on numbers. […] We do have to hold out the clear prospect of an end to immigration…’ (http://www.runnymedetrust.org/histories/race-equality/59/margaret-thatcher-claims-britons-fear-being-swamped.html)

Once in office she did nothing despite still feeling strongly about the subject in private  (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/margaret-thatcher/6906503/Margaret-Thatcher-complained-about-Asian-immigration-to-Britain.html).

On Europe she went through the following metamorphosis:

-          1975 she campaigned and voted for Britain to remain within the European Economic Community (EEC – the EU was only formed  by  the Maastricht Treaty in 1993).

-          By 1980 she was convinced that the EEC was not  acting in Britain interests.

-          By 1986 she had  signed the Single European Act giving the EEC immense powers to interfere  with Britain’s sovereignty.

-          In the late 1980s she adopted the policy of enlarging the EEC which meant that a vast new swathe of workers from poor countries would be allowed free movement within the  EEC.  The effects of this also allowed the federalists to press for things such as Qualified Majority Voting on the grounds that the EEC/EU had become too unwieldy to operate under the original  rules and to generally press forward with the creation of a United States of Europe.

-          In 1990  she took the UK into the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM)  despite being opposed to a single currency to which the ERM was a stepping stone with the pound effectively shadowing the Deutschmark.

The idea that Thatcher only realised what the EEC was after taking office in 1979 is simple nonsense. Thatcher’s speech to the  Conservative Group for Europe at the start of the Wilson referendum on the EEC clearly shows her viewing the EEC as far more than a  simple free trading area, viz:

That vision of Europe took a leap into reality on the 1st of January 1972 when, [ Edward Heath] Mr. Chairman, due to your endeavours, enthusiasm and dedication Britain joined the European Community.

 * The Community gives us peace and security in a free society, a peace and security denied to the past two generations.

 * The Community gives us access to secure sources of food supplies. This is vital to us, a country which has to import half of what we need.

* The Community does more trade and gives more aid than any group in the world.

* The Community gives us the opportunity to represent the Commonwealth in Europe. The Commonwealth want us to stay in and has said so. The Community wants us.

 Conservatives must give a clear lead and play a vigorous part in the campaign to keep Britain in Europe to honour the treaties which you, sir, signed in Britain’s name.

 We must do this, even though we dislike referenda. We must support the [ Harold Wilson] Prime Minister in this, even though we fight the Government on other issues.

 We must play our full part in ensuring that Conservative supporters say “Yes to Europe”. (http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/102675).

In any case, the Treaty of Rome left no room to believe it was merely a free trade organisation.  No one could read that and be in any doubt  that the intention was to create a United State of Europe. Thatcher, the supposed obsessive  who was a stickler  mastering a subject,   should have read it before the referendum.

As for global warming, she started the ball rolling whilst in office and then reversed her position in her autobiography published in 2003. Here she is speaking to the  UN general assembly, in November 1989:

“What we are now doing to the world … is new in the experience of the Earth. It is mankind and his activities that are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways. The result is that change in future is likely to be more fundamental and more widespread than anything we have known hitherto. Change to the sea around us, change to the atmosphere above, leading in turn to change in the world’s climate, which could alter the way we live in the most fundamental way of all.

“The environmental challenge that confronts the whole world demands an equivalent response from the whole world. Every country will be affected and no one can opt out. Those countries who are industrialised must contribute more to help those who are not.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2013/apr/09/margaret-thatcher-green-hero)

By  the time she had published her political work Statecraft in 2003 she was thinking along these lines:

“The doomsters’ favourite subject today is climate change. This has a number of attractions for them. First, the science is extremely obscure so they cannot easily be proved wrong. Second, we all have ideas about the weather: traditionally, the English on first acquaintance talk of little else.

“Third, since clearly no plan to alter climate could be considered on anything but a global scale, it provides a marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism. All this suggests a degree of calculation. Yet perhaps that is to miss half the point. Rather, as it was said of Hamlet that there was method in his madness, so one feels that in the case of some of the gloomier alarmists there is a large amount of madness in their method.” (http://www.masterresource.org/2013/04/thatcher-alarmist-to-skeptic/).

There were other issues where her public position was at odds with her actions, for example, the troubles in Northern Ireland and the rule of law. Thatcher claimed that there would never be a surrender to  IRA terrorism.  Yet after she narrowly escaped death in the Brighton Grand Hotel bombing in 1984 (12 October)  the Anglo-Irish agreement was signed little over a year later in November 1985 giving the Republic of Ireland government  a say in what happened in Northern Ireland and committing the British Government to accepting the principle of a united Ireland if a majority were in favour. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/november/15/newsid_2539000/2539849.stm). There was no obvious reason for such a change of heart beyond the fear generated in Thatcher by the bombing of the Grand Hotel.

As for the rule of law, far from respecting it as she claimed, she laid the basis for the ever increasing authoritarianism of the British state by permitting the police to act unlawfully during the miners’ strike by stopping miners and their supporters from travelling across the country and turning a blind eye to any police excesses as they clashed with the miners and their supporters.

A politician of conviction? Only if you define  someone as such who runs from one position to another while vigorously embracing each  successive position regardless of its  contradiction of a previous  advocated policy or set of ideas.

Nor was she someone who would take responsibility for her actions. When she found her policies were a disaster she either claimed she had been badly advised or cheated (for example, the Single Market, global warming) or attempted to ignore the mess she had created  (for example, enduring mass employment and ) by misrepresenting it, or in the case of unemployment, using North Sea oil  tax revenues,  the privatisation receipts and blatant manipulation of the unemployment statistics to paper over the unemployment cracks.

Why did Thatcher get things so horribly wrong? 

Why did Thatcher get things so horribly wrong?  Her behaviour  strongly suggested that she was seriously lacking  psychological and sociological insight. This meant she constantly made horrendous mistakes such as trusting the EU over the single market and imagining in truly infantile fashion that millions of jobs shed from heavy industry and coal mining would be rapidly replaced by “modern” jobs in the service and light industry sectors.  Her record in choosing people to support or employ was also dismal.

Far from being a free thinker her cast of mind  made her the ready captive of an ideology:

“…as Leader of the Opposition MT once cut short a presentation by a leftish member of the Conservative Research Department by fetching out a copy of The Constitution of Liberty from her bag and slamming it down on the table, declaring “this is what we believe”. (http://www.margaretthatcher.org/archive/Hayek.asp).

It is dangerous to trust anyone who is  susceptible to ideological capture for the simple reason that all ideologies, whether sacred or profane, are inadequate descriptions of and guides to reality.    This means that ideologues constantly have to try to fit reality within the ideology rather than having  reality driving their choices.  Those which include economics are particularly dangerous because their reach is so vast.

Ideologies are the prime example of Richard Dawkins’ memes, mental viruses which capture the individual and direct their thought and behaviour.  Those who are captured by them by them give up their mental autonomy.  That speaks either of a character trait such as that of requiring a source of authority for choices or a  weakness of intellect which seeks ideological  algorithms  developed by others to answer political  questions because the person’s capacity to answer the questions by rational pragmatic examination based on their own knowledge and intelligence  is inadequate.

How good was  Thatcher’s mind? She  is frequently  represented by her adherents as ferociously intelligent.  This view  will not stand up to examination.  She read chemistry at Oxford but only achieved a second class honours degree (http://womenshistory.about.com/od/thatchermargaret/a/Margaret-Thatcher.htm).  Oxford at the time did not divide the second class degree into  upper and lower second classes  and had a fourth class honours division instead.  The old Oxford second  is generally taken to be the rough equivalent of an upper second.  That raises questions over her intellect.  Chemistry at degree level in the 1940s had not become heavily mathematized  as it now is.  Diligence would get a student a long way. This   quality Thatcher  reputedly  had in spades. If she did, the fact that she only took a second suggests that she was not very intellectually gifted. That is particularly the case when it is remembered that she went up to Oxford during wartime when competition for places was severely reduced because so many of the potential male students went into the forces rather than to university. A beta plus mind at best.

What people probably mistook for intelligence was her avid seeking and retention of data. But it is one thing to learn facts or arguments parrot fashion, quite another to mould them into a coherent intellectual whole.  Based on her frequent renunciation of previous positions, it is reasonable to assume that she simply did not have the intellectual wherewithal to put the data she took on board to any useful purpose. She certainly never  gave no indication that she ever saw the bigger picture.

There were also the question of her how fitted she was by experience to fill the role she played, that of the hard-core economic libertarian forever seeking ways of making people take responsibility for their lives both socially and in their work.  When I look at the present Tory front bench I have a similar feeling to that  which I experience when thinking of the Nazi leadership.  The Nazis had a rather noticeable lack of Aryan types amongst them: the present Tory front bench is remarkably short on people who have been entrepreneurs or indeed of people who have any great  experience of work outside the narrow confines of politics.

Margaret Thatcher was a forerunner  in this respect. She graduated from Oxford in 1947.  For the next four years she worked for various private companies as a research chemist. At the age of 26 she married a millionaire. He funded Thatcher’s career change from chemist to barrister. She took the bar exams in 1953 and practised (specialising in taxation) until 1961, the last two years of the period occurring after she was elected to the Commons in 1959.  After that it was all politics.

Thatcher’s experience of the real world of work is at best four years as a research chemist and eight years as a barrister.  However,  being married to a millionaire at the age of 26 rather dulls the idea of her living a normal working life.  The truth is she made her way not as a self-made woman but by the traditional route  for female advancement of marrying a rich man.

There was no need for Thatcherism

The really angering thing about Thatcher’s time in No 10 is that she could have done what she was elected to do, tame the unions, without engaging in the deliberate wholesale destruction and alienation of much of Britain’s heavy and extractive industry and the placing in private hands of the public utilities, especially those of gas, electricity and water.   This was because Thatcher had the great good fortune to arrive as Prime Minister just as North Sea oil and gas was coming on-stream in large quantities.  Those revenues alone would have provided any government with a very large safety net to finance temporary difficulties caused by serious confrontations with the larger trade unions.   She also enjoyed  the very large receipts from the big privatisations such as gas, electricity and BT.  No British government has ever had such a sustained revenue windfall as hers.

There was absolutely no economic need to destroy so much of British industry or place much of the state-owned  organisations  into private hands.  Continental countries such as Germany and Italy retained their shipbuilding; France,  Germany and Italy retained a native mass production car industry.  Germany still has a substantial coal mining industry. Privatisation proceeded at very different speeds throughout Europe.  That no other large industrialised  country followed Thatcherite policies  with anything like the speed or fervour of Britain  yet  survived and frequently out competed Britain economically  demonstrates that Thatcher’s policies were not a necessity but simply an ideological choice.

Her government could have spent the 1980s taming the unions sufficiently to prevent the excesses of the 1970s.  It is true that the very high level of unemployment  of the 1980s was an aid to this, but it was probably not the main rod which largely broke the Trade Unions’ back.  Home ownership had been rising steadily throughout the twentieth century and by the time Thatcher came to power in 1979 not far short of 60%. The highest it reached even after Right To Buy was only 69% – the idea that it was Thatcher who made it possible for the working man and woman to own their homes for the first time is another myth about her(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/houseprices/10005586/Home-ownership-falls-for-first-time-in-a-century.html).  .

The fact that so many people were owner occupiers with mortgages  meant that they were much less willing than they had been to strike at the drop of a hat because they feared losing their home.  Even those who were not owner occupiers had much more to lose in terms of general comfort, security and prospects of greater opportunity for their children than had been the case before, say, 1939.  To take just one example, children from poor families had a greater opportunity than ever to enter  higher education. This growing reluctance to come  out whenever the union called for  strike  was why the National Union of Miners’ leader Arthur Scargill was not willing to hold a ballot of all  his members before calling a strike. He feared such a ballot would be lost.

The combination of this increasing  reluctance to strike amongst union members together with the legal restrictions on unions such as no secondary picketing and severe penalties for strikes called with a formal ballot would have been enough to end the anarchy which prevailed in the 1970s.

Apart from the social and economic upheaval of the Thatcher years, she can also be blamed for a continuation of the damage she caused both in the long term structural unemployment but also in the fact that she subverted  the Labour Party so that it adopted most of what was damaging from the Thatcher period, most particularly in the adoption of her devotion to laissez faire economics and in Labour’s all too ready acceptance of the EU  elite’s desire for comprehensive political and economic union.

The 1980s could have been so very different.  The revenue from North Sea Oil could have been put into a sovereign wealth fund which  by now would be worth hundreds of billions.  If  the Single European Act had not been signed the movement towards a  federal EU would have been halted in its tracks  (national vetoes applied to this area of decision making  at the time). If Thatcher had not argued for an ever wider EEC the poorer nations from the East would not have joined and the immigration threat they carry would not exist.  Indeed,   Britain could have left the EU entirely because the Tory Eurosceptics could have allied with Labour under Michael Foot or even Neal Kinnock. New social housing could have been built with the proceeds of Right to Buy thus obviating to a large degree the shortage of housing now.  If the nationalised industries had been sustained there would have been no serious structural unemployment.  Had proper attention been paid to the strategic importance of  essential economic areas such a food and energy self-sufficiency we should not be so dangerously reliant on foreigners for such things today.  Most importantly, if  that had been the general thrust of politics in the 1980s it is doubtful in the extreme that Blair and NuLabour would ever have arisen.

The tragedy of Margaret Thatcher is that she had a sense of patriotism and probably genuinely thought she was doing the best for her country at the time she implemented or advocated policies (her honesty when policies went wrong was  another matter).  The problem was that her judgement  and understanding was all too often hideously wrong or defective. She so often provided comforting rhetoric, especially on Europe and immigration,  but she never delivered the goods. The fact that she was such an overpowering political figure made things worse because it meant she could steamroller her cabinet on most issues at most times. It is difficult to think of another politician  in the past three centuries who wrought so much damage on Britain.

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