A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

Anything to say? Contact me at europeandisunion@yahoo.co.uk

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Britain Has Lost Economic Sovereignty

The only openly Eurosceptic newspaper in the United Kingdom finally speaks out: the Daily Express has stuck its head above the parapet to report the final destruction of British economic sovereignty. Congratulations to the Independent for being, well, independent the other day, and telling us of the 74% increase in our net contribution to Brussels in the space of one year, but, in my opinion, that is of little cause for concern compared to this.

Herman van Rompuy, the first permanent President of the European Council - i.e. the man that 'presides' over the assemblies of our elected heads of state - has proposed a new 'growth survey' to be carried out solely by European institutions. This will give EU officials the unquestionable right to see statistics and details relating to the British economy, including the Budget. It comes almost a year after David Cameron warned Merkel that he would veto any proposals to give the EU power to examine and revise national budgets, as reported in the Times, and is yet another example of the EU doing through unelected officials what it could not do through democratic means.

That veto has now been overruled; a clear display of the power of the President if ever there was one, that he personally can override the collective decision of twenty-seven European heads of state. Not only will this new step pave the way for the EU gaining the powers which David Cameron vetoed at the European Council, it is also suspected - by Eurosceptics, admittedly - that it will enhance Brussel's powers to impose taxes on British citizens. It also gives them control over the economic affairs of our Parliament. 'Ministers insist,' says the Daily Express, 'the move will have little effect on the UK because most of its recommendations are already carried out by parliament.' But that's for this year. What about next year, or the year after that, or the year after that? As the money we give to the EU every year increases exponentially, so does their control over our national budget.

And there's more to this spectacularly undemocratic presidential decree that meets the eye. Not only is it against the will of the European Council, it was also waved through without a vote in our own parliament. David Cameron, who used no uncertain terms when threatening to veto the proposals in 2010, has now signed them off without a Commons debate. We not only have an unelected and unaccountable president riding roughshod over our heads of government; we have a head of government that seems unaware that parliament exists. Perhaps he has no need of it, if so many crucial decisions are now made by invisible officials in Brussels. The actions of van Rompuy and David Cameron show only too well their contempt for the separation of powers and unaccountability, the two key pillars of democratic government. As ultimate control over Britain's economic affairs is cheerfully handed over to unelected commissioners and beaurocrats, the British people - and the European peoples, given van Rompuy's involvement - can mourn the loss of their democracy in the truest sense of the word.

The Eurosceptics who opposed the Lisbon Treaty were right; the president's role is one of truly awesome power, and he has used it, by decree, to steal the last remnants of fiscal independence from the UK. Don't bother voting for MPs based on how they'll spend your taxes, what they'll fund, or what they'll cut. It will only happen if Brussels allows it.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

EU contribution: three wars in Afghanistan

£230 for every single man, woman, and child in the country. Not including other costs - the trade deficit, fines, and over-regulation of business, to name a few - that is now the impact of EU membership on the wallets of every single one of us. As reported by an article in The Independent, not exactly a publication known for its fierce right-wing rhetoric. Britain's net contribution to the EU, it turns out, has defied the previous trend of increasing by one third per annum. It has doubled in 2010.

It would pay for:

The Ministry of Justice (£9.7 billion)
Army field units (£8 billion)
The Royal Air Force (£7.7 billion)
The Royal Navy (£7.3 billion)
The Department for Culture, Media, and Sport (£6.8 billion)
The equipment budget at the Ministry of Defence (£6.1 billion)
The pay and pensions budget at the Ministry of Defence (£5.61 billion)
The War in Afghanistan (£2.6 billion)

You can see what else it would pay for here. This is nothing short of economic vandalism; hundreds of thousands of jobs, schools, houses, pensions, arms, ships, and salaries could have been saved, were it not for the spiralling costs of EU membership. If this doubling of the costs of the EU sets a precedent - as well it might - then remaining part of the EU is simply unaffordable, on both financial and social grounds. It is simply unacceptable that a government can destroy the livelihoods of so many people to improve the roads of Poland and subsidise the traditional lifestyle of French farmers, and, of course, to keep the operators of the EU's beaurocratic machinery in the luxurious lifestyle to which it has become accustomed.

It is the first role of government, irrespective of its place on the political spectrum, to put its people first. The coalition government has shown that it is unwilling to do so. It has offered no resistance to the economic burden of EU membership - it has watched, even cheered, as hundreds of pounds are taken out of the budget of every family in the country at a time of austerity and soaring costs of basic utilities - fuel, gas, and electricity have risen, food, oil, and petrol have risen, and salaries have shrank. The last thing that the people of Britain want or need is the intervention of an unelected institution taking so much of their income for no real benefit to them. The government has decimated the military capability of Britain; it has clipped the wings of the air force, grounded the navy, and has even told thousands of soldiers serving in the deserts of Afghanistan that they face redundancy, when, at the same time, it hands over enough money to pay for the lot of them without any protest whatsoever. It is ready and willing to wreck the careers of millions of students; to put them in tens of thousands of pounds of debt before they even own their own house. But the tiny £2.6 billion saved by pushing university fees up to £9,000 isn't even worth a third of what we pay to the EU. At a time when your job prospects and disposable income are rapidly disappearing, the costs of the EU have grown vastly disproportionate to any benefits. It is not only burning a hole in the national economy - it is burning a whole in your own economy.

If Britain left the EU, just think of the possibilities. Its military capability - at a time when we are currently involved in three conflicts - would be restored, if not increased. Its soldiers would not be sacked on the front line. Your successful sons and daughters would go to university and have a prosperous career. Their studies will no longer be restrained by £9,000 fees. You will no longer have to watch the pennies - the EU would no longer cost you £230 a year, and taxes could be lowered as a result. And the hundreds of thousands of jobs that will be lost could be saved - in fact, with an extra £9 billion, millions could be created, when the budget surplus is restored. To quote MEP Gerard Batten, 'the question should not be whether can afford to leave but how we can afford to stay in.'

The EU bans cars

Yes, after years of opposing the EU, the thing that federalists said would happen has finally occured; despite the facts and figures, despite the cost to democracy and sovereignty, despite the immense amount of money that is handed over, when it comes to environmental policy I have finally found common ground with the Brussels beaurocrats. I don't have a clue what they're doing, either.

The headline of this article was somewhat exaggerated; the EU doesn't want to ban cars. It merely wants to ban petrol and diesel cars from cities by 2050. That may seem a long way off, and by that time electric cars will be a lot cheaper than they are now. But that doesn't take anything away from the fact that, as ideas go, this is one of the worst to come out of the EU for quite a while.

It was proposed by Siim Kallas, an Estonian member of the Commission, who, by the standards of the other EU Commissioners, is actually quite a capable administrator. He is well-educated and a skilled politician, used to the efficient management of vast beaurocratic institutions. He has worked at the Estonian Finance Ministry, Chairman of the Central Authority of Savings Banks, Chairman of the Central Union, and a member of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union. Yes, that's right, Siim Kallas was a high-ranking party member. Although he moved to the centre-right after the collapse of the Soviet Union, he is still well-versed in the ways of one of the most totalitarian states in history.

'Action will follow, legislation, real action to change behaviour,' he boasted, in a quote that would be suited to the dictatorial style of the old Soviet politiburo. The EU not only seeks to limit what we can drive, it also wants to use its legislative authority to change our behaviour. Anyone who thinks that the EU's powers are restricted urgently needs to think again - especially as a new EU-wide fuel tax is on the cards. This single unelected Commissioner has the power to ban cars he doesn't approve of from cities, to 'change behaviour' with legislation, and now wants to tax us? How can one man - who no-one has ever voted into his current position - have so much control over every single person in Europe?

And, furthermore, is it not obvious to everyone that these proposals will be economically disastrous? Can you imagine being forced to walk through a city like London, or Madrid, or Paris? They are among the largest cities in the world. What if you lived or did business in the centre of them? Can you imagine the world's richest bankers and billionaires walking tens of miles to their offices - while EU officials drive past in luxury, no doubt? It's insanity. Electric cars are one thing - inconvenient and expensive, in my opinion, but at least there is an alternative. But what about electric commercial vehicles, or public transport? How often would they need to be recharged? Cities such as London would become so inconvenient that they would simply cease to exist.

I don't usually call people mental, no matter how misguided their policies are; that even extends to neo-Nazis and, yes, the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union. But how bonkers must the people of the EU be to allow this to occur?

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The EU considers e-voting

Estonia leads the way in voting technology. Or so the European Parliament would have us believe, as it explores ways to boost participation in European elections, which has fallen every election since the organisation was created. It's attempts to engage with young people came to a crashing halt, however. Why? Was there a system crash? Did the euro collapse? Did the peoples of southern Europe rise up in a socialist revolution? Well, no, not quite. The EU wrote this sentence:

'One way forward may be e-voting, especially among young voters who can do it between watching YouTube videos and checking Facebook'

Hear that? That is the sound of everyone aged sixteen to twenty-one who regularly browses the European Parliament's website logging off of their computers, going to the pub, drinking some cheap lager, and having rubbish sex. Yes, both of them. If the EU wants to go about attracting young voters, that sentence is not the way to do it. Their chances of attracting the reasonably intelligent people who would bother to vote have just imploded with the implication that they have nothing better to do with their lives than watch dogs on skateboards and ask what the homework was.

But, wait, it gets worse:

'However, he also said that e-voting is not the same as e-commerce - it's an essential part of democracy and if there's anything that potentially threatens the core values of it, like flawed elections, it must be avoided'

What part of the EU doesn't threaten the core values of democracy? The parliament can't propose legislation. Surely enhancing the power of elected representatives would be a better way of encouraging participation, rather than spending more public money on unnecessary 'trendy' modernisation programmes? Maybe if the parliament had power, there might be a point in voting for it?

Oh, the Comedy

It’s not often that good news comes out of the EU. As we appear to be the only ones watching it transform itself from a staggeringly inefficient treaty organisation to a simply abysmal government institution, we have to contend with witnessing the sovereign powers and democratic control of our nation being handed over to the myriad organisations within the EU’s endless autocratic mess. But it’s not entirely a thankless task. We can be safe in the knowledge that the EU’s attempts to conduct itself like a sovereign state are vaguely amusing.
And the EU’s attempts to get involved in the Libyan crisis are thigh-slappingly hilarious, if only for the rampant and unabashed hypocrisy that infests every outpouring:
Overall, our aim in this mission is to ensure that Libya is democratic, that human rights there are respected and people have the right to elect their leaders as we do in Europe’ - Baroness Catherine Ashton
Let’s do a brief summary of Baroness Ashton’s political career in the UK, before she became the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, the Vice President of the Commission, and Britain’s sole presence at the European Commission. Ashton was previously the treasurer of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (you can see Nigel Farage’s take on the subject here (3:11)). She worked as a freelance policy advisor in the 1990s, and was made a Labour life peer in 1999 on the insistence of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair. She was then made the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department of Education and Skills, before promotion to Minister for Sure Start, and then finally she was created Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Ministry of Justice. Not very glamorous or important roles, it must be said, but throughout her career she never placed her name on a ballot sheet.
She reached the height of her unelected power under Gordon Brown, who bestowed upon her the majestic role of Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Council. He was having a little problem with the upper chamber regarding their insistence on scrutinizing the Lisbon Treaty before its ratification, and her role - which she executed successfully - was to put paid to any chance of them doing so. Thus she was instrumental in forcing the Lisbon Treaty through parliament without a referendum. Then she was appointed to her current EU roles as part of the deal which blocked Blair standing for EU president, and then went off to Brussels where she receives a £231,000 salary, £250,000 payments when she decides to retire, and an annual pension of £8,000 for one year’s service. The democracy that she speaks so highly of in regards to Libya doesn’t come into it.
As for the people electing their leaders, she has a bit more room for maneuver. She is by no means the leader of anything other than an oversized foreign office and a gold-plated pension-equipped army of retainers who serve her in her post as Britain’s representative at the EU Commission. But she sits as part of the Commission, an institution which successive presidents have ascribed governmental powers to:
Here in Brussels, a true European government has been born. I have governmental powers, I have executive powers for which there is no other name in the world, whether you like it or not, than government’ - Romano Prodi
But what is the Commission? We are here to take binding decisions as an executive power. If you don't like the term government for this, what other term do you suggest?’ - Romano Prodi
I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire’ - Jose Manuel Barosso
If the European Commission has such powers and we cannot vote for, scrutinise, or vote out any of them during their time in office, how the bloody hell can Ashton swan around with her £750,000 income and her political profile and lecture anyone about the wrongs of autocratic rule? They aren’t varying degrees of unaccountability - her and North African dictators are on the same level when it comes to democracy. Neither of them are subject to any democratic authority, and can do as they please regardless of the public who pay for their luxuries.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

More money in the EU pot

Has anyone else seen this article on today's al-Jazeera? It's not that popular a news source in the United Kingdom, I'll admit, but when the output of most national newspapers in this country has a less-than-objective eye, for or against the EU, I figured that it was the best place to get up-to-date information.

It's an interesting story. A bunch of smiling, happy heads of state concluded with their comparatively dour finance ministers that the eurozone debt crisis currently blighting the continent can be controlled with a new 'Stability Mechanism,' that, they think, will provide enough leverage for indebted European economies to get back on their own two feet. With the help of their eurozone partners, of course, to whom they will be very grateful. The theory is behind this is typically EU: give us more money and more power, and we'll sort it out. They want to almost double the bailout fund from the current maximum loan capacity of two hundred and sixty-five billion pounds to five hundred billion pounds by 2013.

Britain's contribution is as yet unknown, although it is not the EU's modus operandi to go without tapping one of its three net contributors for money. It's a safe bet that Britain and Germany will bear the lion's share of the spectacular costs involved. But, even if you put aside the massive impact that this will have on the British economy, and thus on the disposable income of each and every one of us, it makes no more sense than the current arrangement.
Other than the staggering amount of money and the permanent availability of it, there is almost no difference, in either theory or practice, between the proposed ESM and the current bailout fund. It is attempting to use the same solutions to solve the same problems, and, logically, it will have the same limitations. It is, simply, another shot at throwing money at something in the hope that it will make it go away. No attempt to solve or even recognise the underlying problem has been made. The euro needs substantial reform if it is not to go the same way as the other unsuccessful attempt at a European single currency, the Latin Monetary Union, which was brought down by a financial crash and debt crisis similar to this one, and, so far, no-one in the eurozone has been brave enough to even propose that the original theory may have been wrong. The course of the eurozone has veered wildly from what its founders intended, and still they stay silent.

Also, as a matter of curiosity, I noted the following paragraph which, as far as I can tell, has been omitted from the editorials of major national newspapers:

'The leaders issued a "term sheet" outlining details of the ESM on Friday which now has to be prepared as a legal text of an amendment to the European Union treaty'

The implications of this, and of its absence from the media, could be the first major example of a European treaty being fundamentally altered without any referendum whatsoever. Even if the EU hasn't accepted the result of a referendum in the last thirty years, it still went to the trouble of holding them. Its ability to not do so now signifies three things:

1) A major step towards authoritarianism. Britain could be forced to take money from its taxpayer's pockets and hand it to the EU, without anyone in Britain - not even the Prime Minister - having a say in the matter.

2) A hint that the EU is losing confidence in its own popularity. The fanatical indifference with which federalist officials have conducted themselves could be creaking under the strain of riots and calls for Communist revolution: but, rather than open up to the public vote, they have completely shut themselves off from it.

3) We have proof that the Lisbon Treaty is self-amending. This means the referendum lock is pointless, and no British government can prevent the EU from doing whatever it wants whilst this country is a member.

It's good news for anti-federalists; but, sadly, bad news for Europe.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Why can't we say 'I told you so?'

Portugal and England's alliance goes back a long way; before the Hundred Years War, in fact, making it the oldest political alliance in the world. Whether or not it is in our national interests, they are very old friends, and it is only right - if not necessarily realpolitik - for us to extend the hand of friendship now. I would not say, or even think, that the economic destruction of a nation is a good thing.

But will I point out that Eurosceptics were right? Of course I would. We were right, at the end of the day. I know that it sounds arrogant, but, really, on economic affairs, everything that we predicted back in the 1990s has came true. Our argument that one currency cannot possibly reflect the trading power of twenty-seven economies was based on a simple idea, a tried and tested economic reality, which has so far proven infallible by the many single currency areas that have came and went. But, no, federalists - and I refer only to those with official positions, not the man or woman in the street - denounced us with the power and ferocity of the medieval church; they called us xenophobes, bigots, and even Nazis. The entire liberal-left lexicon was thrown at the anti-federalist camp with the great strength of - and about as much precision as - a fully-loaded gravy train. Some of you even admitted at the time that the eurozone was going to be a failure - the President of the Commission and several heads of state. But, no, economic union was an absolute necessity - none of you could ever explain why, you just knew that it was, and so you pushed on regardless. You sowed the seeds of economic catastrophe; and now you reap the rewards.

One of those rewards is the right - some might say the necessity - of being lectured incessantly by those who made the right decisions, economically, and consequently have not bankrupted whole nations. We would not make light of such a situation; but we are not ignoring it either. We were right, and if federalists had realised that so long ago, rather than maintaing their support for the euro, the European Union might actually have been what they envisioned; prosperous and thriving, rather than creaking under the strain of bank-bailouts and national collapse.

We don't say 'I told you so' to win the argument - that's already been done, solely by virtue of the situation on the ground. We say 'I told you so' because we did tell you so, and we do not want to see a European economic crisis again.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Sword and the Currency

Does anyone here remember the dim and distant echoes of optimism that arose when Portugal announced that it had successfully sold off its government bonds, and averted a crisis in the eurozone? Probably not, and, if they do, those few voices of fanatical optimism are surely silenced now, with the news that Portugal's government has collapsed. It is now beyond question: the country cannot sort out its own finances, and the EU will have to intervene.

This is an important step for the eurozone, namely because this is the last bailout it can actually afford. If Portugal collapses, the EU will have precious little left in its bailout fund to do the same with Spain, which is so inextricably intertwined with Portuguese banks that its collapse can be taken as a given if its neighbour does go under, which seems likely. Simply put, after the failure of Portugal, there will be nothing to stop the economic collapse of every other heavily-indebted country in the eurozone; and the human consequences of this will be enormous.

The bailouts are often debated over amongst Eurosceptics with a casual, distant eye. We are sometimes guilty of falling into the trap that events of the continent, by definition, do not concern us. That may be true; by the virtue of Gordon Brown's personal feud, we are, in comparison, largely unaffected by the debt crisis that is pulling the eurozone apart. But it does mean that we often forget the colossal impact that these truly historic events can have on people, as individuals.

Tens of millions of jobs are threatened. The prosperity of hundreds of millions of people is at risk. The solvency of entire nations is coming under intense scrutiny. The whole of the Iberian Peninsular could be wiped off the economic map. There will be visible scars of this turmoil for generations. We will see ghost towns and riots on the streets of southern Europe; shanty-towns and slums of the unemployed and impoverished. The nations that could previously hold themselves up as the champions of a modern western economy will be reduced to cash cows for creditors, and the people will be milked until their money runs out. Their descendants will be working to pay off this debt in hundreds of years time.

And senior EU officials knew, at the time of the euro's creation, that it was economic nonsense, an impossibility that would serve no economic purpose whatsoever. The President of the Commission from 1999-2004, the period in which the euro was introduced to most of the countries that now use it, confessed that:

'When the euro was born everyone knew that sooner or later a crisis would occur'

What? What did he just say? That the entire EU establishment - or, at least, the Commission - was aware that the eurozone was an impossibility? This is a man who - with his unelected colleagues - spent hundreds of millions of pounds in an attempt to brand everyone who raised the slightest objections as 'xenophobe,' 'bigot,' or 'conspiracy theorist,' who told us that we were nutters who were not to be listened to under any circumstances. And now, ten years later, he turns around and tells us that:

1) We were right.
2) He knew it at the time.
3) He carried on regardless.

Politicians often say things they do not believe, that is true. But how often do they hold the economic fortunes of an entire continent in their hands? This is a man who not only took a gamble with the financial security of five hundred million people; he deliberately threw it away. The safety and livelihoods of half a billion people was sacrificed at the altar of integration.

'The Euro is a conquest of sovereignty' - Dominique Strauss-Kahn, President of the IMF

'Above all, it is political' - Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, former President of Italy

'We must recognise that political unity of purpose will be vital if the euro is to work' - John Bruton, former Irish Taoiseach

There - two heads of state, a President of the Commission, and Dominique Strauss-Kahn himself, who once held the most senior financial position in France, have now unequivocally confessed that the collapse in the eurozone was predicted - perhaps even part of their plan. Gerhard Schroder, the Chancellor of Germany, also said something similar. Call me a far-right extremist if you please, but nothing I - nor any anti-federalist - could ever do even comes close to the deliberate destruction of the European economy for political advantage. The next time the EU cares to level an accusation of xenophobia at us, point out that it is they, not us, who have impoverished tens of millions of families for the sake of our own jobs, and we will not, under any circumstances, continue with our campaigns if we know them to be false - especially if the destruction of a continent is the result. They have done that. They have admitted doing it. And they, not us, but the heads of the EU itself, have said that it was their full intention to press on with the euro, regardless of the consequences.

As Romano Prodi says, 'the pillars of the nation-state are the sword and the currency. And we changed that.' But they did so knowing full well that it was not a change for the better.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Why is the British Empire erased from history books?

I am a student of A-level history. I have studied the subject throughout my school career, and have never once seen the words 'British Empire' written in a textbook or on a sheet of paper. I first realised it when I was studying the suffragettes at GCSE, and, although the campaign for women's votes reached its height roughly at the same time as the empire became the largest in the history of the world, I never once saw any mention of Britain's imperial role. Now, I am studying totalitarian regimes of the 20th century and the Norman Invasion, and it becomes clear that it's not only the word that is censored from the education system, but an entire era of British history, simply written off as if it never existed. Everything from the 1300s to the 1900s is omitted.

That is, quite frankly, terrifying; that the media practises self-censorship to such an extent in order to abide by the dictates of political correctness that it can deprive a generation of people of any knowledge of five hundred years of history, as if the events of that era never took place. Whatever the intentions of the people involved, whether they are those genuinely interested in community cohesion or hardcore cultural Marxists, there is no excuse for rewriting history - the history that we teach to our children - to suit your own political agenda, or your cultural prejudices. I believe - from my own studies on the subject - that when the British erased the history of conquered peoples through compulsory education, it was known as 'cultural genocide.' Why is it anything less when we do it to ourselves?

Is it because those six hundred years - out of one thousand two hundred in which Scotland and England have existed - were not important? I doubt it. This was the era of exploration, of innovation, of colonisation, and Enlightenment. This was the collapse of feudalism and the rise of capitalism. This was the time of revolutions and of parliamentary democracy. This was the time of the Jacobite Risings and the Bill of Rights, the Ulster Plantation and the Glorious Revolution. This was the time in which the United Kingdom, and then Great Britain, came into existence. Everything which has made Britain what it is today, as part as practical implications are concerned, occured in this era. The modern political system was formed; the major change of religion occured; the absolute monarchy was replaced with a constitutional one; the origins of the Troubles; the end of the old order that had dominated Europe for a thousand years; the creation of the country that we now live in. Why would this be so readily dismissed?

I would not know how to erase the history of any native peoples; nor would I want to. But I would like to know why the cleansing that we practiced, in ages long past, is now being turned on us, in the modern era.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Authoritarian Nature of the EU

'I have never understood why public opinion about European ideas should be taken into account' - Raymond Barre

You may ask who Raymond Barre was. In fact, I doubt anyone on the streets would be able to tell you who he is. Well, he is the man, who, until recently, was the ultimate authority on economic affairs in Europe. The fact that you've probably never heard of him speaks volumes as to the EU being authoritarian, or even a dictatorship; it is simply unacceptable for a single man to hold so much power and not be subject to the will of the people. He held the economic prosperity of Europe in his hands, and no-one ever saw his name on any EU ballot sheet.

The sight of proud left-wing liberal democrats defending a blatant autocracy is hilarious, I'll admit, but they always fall back on one defence; 'if you don't like it, vote to change it.' Well, that's the point, isn't it? How do they propose we do that?

There are three main institutions of the European Union:

1) The European Parliament
2) The European Commission
3) The European Council

Now, I have to say, the EU has been rather clever in how its gone about doing this. Two out of those three we vote for. The European Parliament is made up of elected representatives of the people, and the European Council is made up of the elected heads of state of the member states. But look carefully at the relationships between these institutions, and you'll see a more authoritarian system emerging.

Take the Parliament, for example, often hailed as the ultimate expression of European democracy in action - with one fundamental difference. Whilst the elected parliaments in almost every single western nation can legislate on behalf of the people - that being the primary function of most of them - the European Parliament cannot. It has no right to propose or draft legislation whatsoever. That is solely reserved for the Commission. The Parliament can veto laws it doesn't like, but only in less important policy areas. The elected representatives of the people have no authority over common security and foreign policy, or the economy.

The Council is made up of elected heads of state; however, its president, a man who, in theory, sets the agenda for our elected heads of state to follow, is Herman van Rompuy. 4% of Germans have heard of him, so it's simply impossible for him to have a democratic mandate, election or not. He will never be removed from office. Not even at the request of the Council. He was never voted into it, either. That's okay, to an extent, with someone like van Rompuy, who will never use the awesome powers ascribed to that position; to have the final say on the actions of Europe's heads of state and their elected parliaments is truly one of the most powerful roles on earth. But it was only because of Angela Merkel's objections that it is van Rompuy, not Tony Blair, a man who was authoritarian even within the carefully-balanced British system. Imagine him, or a similar figure, in a post where he has no democratic oversight. Herman van Rompuy may not rule through force - he rules through anonymity - but he is an unelected leader who cannot be removed from any position of power, and can do as he pleases. That is surely the defnition of a dictator? If not, I challenge you to call it democracy.

The Commission, the EU's 'executive body,' is entirely unelected. Many of the twenty-seven representatives that (nominally) speak up for their nation there (not what they actually do, as Baroness Catherine Ashton has admitted her primary role is to serve the EU within her country) have held some form of elected office. A few of them were former Prime Ministers. No-one in Europe, other than the Commission itself, has any power over the affairs of the Commission. No-one can put them in office; no-one can remove them from office. There is no democratic control on their affairs, and no accountability to the public whatsoever. The twenty-seven people are effectively the EU's unelected executive and legislature. It was once suggested, by the former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, that it change it names to 'European Government,' because it is, effectively, the European Government. A European Government that is entirely unelected.

So, to those of you who doubt that the UK is now effectively in a dictatorial government, I'd ask this: how is a government where neither the legislature or the executive are elected or accountable not a dictatorship? And, if you would prefer to avoid that question and call anyone who raises the issue of democracy a fascist or a Nazi, I'll just leave you with a few more quotes from leading federalists:

'Opponents of the EU are mentally weak' - Daniel Cohn-Bendit, leader of the Greens in the European Parliament

'The good thing about not calling it a Constitution is that no one can ask for a referendum on it' - Giuliano Amato, former Italian Prime Minister and Vice-Chairman of the Convention which drew up the Constitution

'If the answer is No, the vote will probably have to be done again' - Jean-Luc Dehaene, Vice-President of the EU Convention

'Sometimes I like to compare the EU to the creation of empire. We have the dimension of empire' - Jose Manuel Barosso, current President of the European Commission

The EU cannot be reformed, because the people have no power to reform it.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Mad Dog

From William Farish publically declaring in 2003 that 'the US-led invasion goes as planned and the fighting will not last long' to John Reid's infamous claim that the UK could defeat the Taliban without 'a shot being fired,' the historians of the future will have much to ponder upon when they marvel at the clumsiness with which the UK establishment goes about its military business. There are three good reasons for staying out of the Libyan conflict:

1. We do not know who the rebels are.

But, of course we do! They are standing for freedom and democracy! For who, though, that is the question? There is a tendency in any revolution to follow the overthrow of one dictatorial regime with the construction of another. The Islamic world is full of modern examples: Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and Gaddafi himself. They have each arisen as pro-democracy leaders, and each of them has enforced an authoritarian regime, in favour of the west or against it. Whose to say that the rebels will be any different? Who is their leadership? Who is financing them? Who is arming them? If the western countries don't know who they are defending, then they should stay out of it, especially in a region where intervention has a tendency to bite you on the arse. Both Saddam Hussein and the Afghan mujahideen were backed by the west.

2. The Libyans are working with the west.

It may seem ridiculous to say it, but the Libyan government was co-operating with the west. The 2003 invasion of Iraq had forced them to open up to the west. First, they declared their support for the IRA was over. Second, they destroyed their own collection of WMDs. Third, they paid compensation for the Lockerbie bombing.

3. The UK army doesn't have any objectives.

It's stupid to go into a war without any idea of what you're going to do to win it, or what you want to achieve through military intervention. It's even more stupid to do it three times. So far, the UK's policy is vague and ridiculously inadequate. What exactly are we there to do? When do we leave? How far do we go to help the rebels? No-one has a clue what we're doing there, or how we aim to do it.

The EU's Economic Benefits

We are consistently and repeatedly told by a scolding establishment that the economic benefits of the EU are simply beyond question. No, they say, to calls for a cost-benefit analysis, it is beyond question that EU membership is essential to the British economy. At least, that's what we've been led to believe.

What I would ask though, is, if the economic benefits of being in the EU are so self-evident, why can no-one outside of the Westminster bubble see them? If they are obvious to everyone, why are they even being asked to publish them - and why would they refuse? Why is the evidence secret? It hasn't been named. It hasn't been published. Not even those who claim they've seen or heard of it can so much as quote a single word or paragraph. Not that we should take this as proof that it doesn't exist, of course. Brian Cowen, former Taioseach of Ireland, did admit that he hadn't read another important EU paper, the Lisbon Treaty, before ratifying it, and that document was very real. But not revealing evidence, especially if you claim it will 'prove' you are correct, is highly suspicious, and it would be right to assume that it does not exist. It certainly should be inadmissable in an argument.

Let's get on with our side of the argument, shall we, whilst the federalists are sorting out theirs?

'Of course, Britain could survive outside the EU...we could probably get access to the Single Market as Norway and Switzerland do' - Tony Blair, British Prime Minister

If we could get the same trading benefits from being outside the EU without paying a single penny towards the EU budget, why do we insist on settling for a growing trade deficit with them, at the cost of £7.6 billion pounds a year in net membership fees alone? The trade deficit - where we buy more from them than we sell - itself costs around £30 billion. What are we paying the additional money for? Bragging rights? The EU is the only economic region where such a trade deficit exists, and it is the only one which we pay to enter. I'd like to say that's a monument to colossal stupidity, but, for the sake of clarity, I'll just say that it's a pretty poor deal.

But, of course, federalists would rightly point out that only by being a member of the EU will we have access to such a lovely trade deficit. We simply must pay for the privilege if we want to buy their stuff. Not only is that blowing their own foot off with a shotgun, it's also fundamentally untrue. Can you name a single country that trades with the EU without paying for it? I can. There are around a hundred and seventy of them. They include China, Japan, America, Mongolia, Angola, and the Central African Republic. In fact, every other country on the planet trades with the EU. And they do not have to pay. They sell to the EU. The EU buys their exports. They cost the EU money.

We don't.

We're a cash cow for France and Germany. Why would they suddenly stop selling to us, a major export market, if we left the EU? Why would they cut themselves off from a major source of income? The claim that somehow we'd lose access to European markets if we left the EU makes sense, only as far as the listener is willing to abandon everything they know about economics and money to make it so.

Ah, but the money the UK receives from the EU, for public services, how could I have forgotten that? Out of the gross £15 billion we pay to the EU, we get £6.4 billion back. And you know what that pays for? It pays for lovely, essential things that the people want, like public services and educational projects. Well, thank you, European Union, for giving us some of our own money back. But if you like the benefits of that money, there's an easy way to double it: simply don't give it to the EU in the first place. Keep our national income for ourselves.

One billion pounds would pay for:

46,893 nurses
38,782 teachers
34,585 police officers
58,736 army privates

Think what we could do with £1 billion. Now times that by seven, for the membership fees. Now double that, as that's the money we pay in. Now take into account the £28 billion that comes from the over-regulation of businesses (source: Bruges Group, a biased source, yes, but one which neither the EU nor the UK governments have any evidence to refute). Add another £16 billion for the Common Agricultural Policy, £2.35 billlion for the Common Fisheries Policy, and the other costs of EU membership and it adds up to a ridiculous sum of money. This is every year. We've been in the EU since 1975. It hasn't always cost us anything like this amount, but that money adds up. Hundreds of billions of pounds must have been poured down the drain that is the European Union since then, for no economic benefit whatsoever.

Think of the jobs and the services that are about to be cut: how many of them could have been saved if the UK was not a member of the European Union? How many people have been blocked from going to university because of the budget cuts? How many are unemployed?

As Gerard Batten says, 'the question is not whether we can afford to leave but how we can afford to stay in.' And the answer is: 'we can't.'

Why a Referendum Doesn't Matter

No matter your own position on the European Union, there aren't many people - in either the federalist or the anti-federalist camp - with such a blatant contempt for democracy that they would deny the people a referendum on continued EU membership. The number of people who state that they want a vote on the subject of 'ever-closer union' is slightly larger than those who say they would vote for withdrawal. When you exclude those who say they don't know, it appears that quite a large proportion of the federalists in the UK would want a vote as much as the most strident Eurosceptic. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with calling for a democratic vote on major constitutional change, and both federalists and anti-federalists outside the European Parliament seem to realise this.

It's a shame that those within the European Parliament do not have the same respect for the founding principles of the modern European nation-state. For decades, the supporters and the opponents of the European project have struggled relentlessly uphill, against a barrage of abuse, to secure a democratic vote on the 'decisive task of our time,' as a German Foreign Minister once put it. Now, it seems that, even if we the current consensus among politicians of every colour is somehow overturned, fifty years of work and effort would have been disregarded by one of the most shockingly anti-democratic bills proposed by the EU.

Andrew Duff, MEP for the Liberal Democrats, has just submitted the following document:


On the one hand, it's good to know that the European Parliament is taking the British Parliament's EU bill seriously. It is evidently not the paper tiger that many British Eurosceptics believed it to be. But, on the other hand, it doesn't matter a jot whether the bill is passed or not; it doesn't even matter if a referendum is held. Because, as the text of the new proposals make clear, no individual nation is considered worthy of rejecting the bill. If four-fifths of them ratify the treaty, then it will be automatically forced upon the others.

Why is this a problem? Surely four-fifths is a majority? Well, yes, it is. But it is a majority of countries, not a majority of people. Think back to the European Constitution, and then the Lisbon Treaty. How many countries actually had a vote? Three? That's nowhere near the twenty-six that had to ratify it. Those countries were signed up to it by heads of state who had either scrapped plans for referendums (Denmark's Prime Minister was applauded in the European Parliament when he announced that he would refuse his people a vote) or never even caught a whiff of a ballot paper, blowing in the wind. The countries that hold referendums would simply be massively outnumbered by those that do not; if this bill is introduced, the EU's political elites would simply be able to dictate the terms of EU proposals to the heads of government of member states, who would then sign off sovereign powers to an unelected institution with no democratic legitimacy or accountability whatsoever.

Britain, Ireland, France, and the Netherlands can have their votes. The two-thirds of people expected to vote 'no' can do so, as they did before. Then what will happen? The EU will look at them and laugh. It will ask the heads of government of the other member states to pull a Gordon Brown - sign off any transfer of power from the elected heads of state to unelected EU institutions in secret - and thus obtain the 'four-fifths' majority, without a single public vote anywhere in Europe being taken into account.

Of course, the EU has always acted like this. It dismissed the referendums in France, the Netherlands, and Ireland, and picked itself up and moved on as if nothing had happened. The European Constitution was renamed and reworded ('In terms of content, the proposals remain largely unchanged, they are simply presented in a different way... the reason is that the new text could not look too much like the constitutional treaty' - chairman of the panel that wrote the thing') and any objectors were told to vote again until they delivered the correct answer. But now there is a legal right for the EU to behave in such a manner; now, there is no need for a democratic vote anywhere in Europe, and, if several are held and each of them return a 'no' vote, they can legally be ignored.

A referendum, however noble calling for one may be, will prove fruitless.