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


Saturday, 30 April 2011

Nationalist Populists? No, Just Democrats

Another day, another intolerant Guardian article sneering from behind empty phrases at their own readership. Jon Worth, an 'expert on EU affairs,' laments the rise of 'populist nationalists' over the 'positive solutions' of 'mainstream' parties. Let's see what the Guardian is going to accuse Eurosceptics of today: harsh anti-immigration rhetoric, ethnic nationalism, and, of course, being far-right. It's a familiar charge that Eurosceptics have often laboured under; we've been called mentally deficient, racist, xenophobic, nationalist, swivel-eyed, knuckle-dragging thugs, who could be wiped out by one cold winter.

One thing that these trendy politicians and politically correct commentators do not tell us, however, is that we represent 74% of the British electorate, and 51% of Europe as a whole. There are 30% of people who want to remain in the EU - and a far smaller percentage that wants a federal superstate. An even smaller number of people want a federal superstate under the current arrangement, and they're the ones calling the shots. That isn't many people. Across the whole country, it's probably in the tens of thousands. How can such a tiny minority of people ever find the nerve to call the tens of millions of people who oppose them that they are the extremists? People in this country, according to every single poll ever produced, overwhelmingly want limits on immigration, they overwhelmingly want to reassert the sovereignty of our elected parliament, and they overwhelmingly want to leave the European Union.

Those who oppose mass-immigration and more EU are not extremists. They are people who have grown tired of seeing their money poured down the drain that is Brussels, where £94,000,000,000 is affected by 'irregularities,' and throwing away more and more in net contributions each year. They do not want hundreds of thousands of more people coming into an already overpopulated and under-resourced country every year, radically transforming the places they were brought up in beyond all recognition. They do not want to have to support these people and bankrupt foreign countries with their tax bill when the services and prospects for their own dependents, and themselves, are woefully inadequate.

These concerns are not hard to understand; doing so does not make you an extremist, it makes you human. I have little to do with the inner-city suburbs and the low-income families that the EU has hit the hardest, but I have far more in common with them than the unelected inhabitants of Brussels and the MPs in the Westminster bubble. Our politicians have far more in common with the honourable gentlemen on the opposing benches than they do with the people of this country. Whether they genuinely cannot understand, or whether it is simply expedient for them not to do so, is irrelevant. They have not acted on the concerns of the people, and are now paying the price.

What is so hard to understand about the simple premise that people vote for anti-immigration and anti-EU parties because they want less immigration and less EU?

Friday, 29 April 2011

Ever-Closer Disintegration


 Sarkozy doesn't even control the menu. Picture taken from the European People's Party

It's good to see the dual engines of 'ever-closer union' crumbling under the weight of reality. The eurozone is down on its knees and the integrity of the currency itself is under threat, with Greece and Ireland coming back to haunt the economists and officials who forged the bailout deals, and optimism over Spain fading as the markets close in on the heavily-indebted nation. The rescue package for its neighbour, Portugal, is not likely to escape a blow from the Finnish parliament and a newly-revived Euroscepticism in Scandinavia. The EU's expansion plans have been halted by fierce resistance in Croatia, where Eurosceptics form a 75% majority. And, now, the Schengen zone is under threat from an increasingly populist Sarkozy and Merkel, with other smaller countries, who normally would be almost irrelevant at the European Council or Commission, joining in the fray for their own reasons. The European Union has never been so vulnerable.

It's also fun to see Guardian contributors make thinly-veiled Nazi references in an attempt to keep the dream of a federal European state alive. Fortress Europe indeed. But, try as they might, they cannot hide the truth about the European Union, that is becoming ever more exposed as the organisation seeks to preserve and enhance its powers at a time of great internal crisis. Both Nicolas Sarkozy and Silvio Berlusconi, two centre-right leaders with a growing nationalist threat to their leadership and elections coming up pretty soon, have sent a formal request to two people in a bid to get the Schengen agreement radically altered. Those two people are Jose Manuel Barroso, the chief executive of the European Union, and Herman van Rompuy, the man who presides over our elected heads of state at meetings of the European Council. Both of them have never subjected themselves to a popular vote. This is Europe in the 21st century: two elected heads of state, representing over one hundred million people, have to appeal to two unelected individuals in order to regain control of their own borders. Neither of them want to do anything more radical than put border police along the frontier, and ask to see the passports of anyone crossing national boundaries. Confronted with twenty-thousand refugees arriving into a sparsely-populated rural area, what would you expect a national leader to do? And these two individuals - any one of them, in fact - still have the right to deny this. They, to put it simply, control the borders of any state within the Schengen area, and there is nothing to make them sit up and listen to the wishes of the elected national leaders that the Schengen Treaty effects, or their citizens.

As usual, the left-wing federalist commentators overlook the true cause of the problem to salvage what's left of their worldview. This has nothing to do with immigration. This is, again, about democracy. How did Europe get itself into such a mess? How can anyone say that democracy is not threatened when elected leaders literally have to beg an unelected beaurocrat to allow them to exercise some control over their own borders? How can any one unelected man deny the wishes of Italy, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and other countries that had expressed disattisfaction with the current arrangement with a stroke of his pen?

The need to repatriate powers has never been clearer. Britain is, thankfully, not a signatory to Schengen. But the same unelected officials that have the power of veto over our elected heads of state rule us, too, and their contempt for the will of the people is apparent in their actions. We must free ourselves from their dominion and do as the French do, for once - put a Eurosceptic party ahead of our Prime Minister in the polls.

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And, leaving the mucky world of politics aside for a second, I'd like to take the time to wish Britain's new royal couple and future King and Queen a long and happy life together. They're the first good news the country has had for a long time, and I for once will be joining in any celebrations that I run across in town.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Feminists Do Not Represent Women

This is medieval, Mr Cable. Why don't you attack this?

The increasingly activist Vince Cable has stuck his neck out again. This time, it's over 'controversial' comments made by the chairman of Glencore, British expatriate Simon Murray, over the respective roles of the workplace and family in the private lives of women. Mr. Murray first courted the headlines when his dim view of 'shambolic England' was published in the Telegraph. Since then, his comments have became the undeserving focus of a classic liberal assault; Vince Cable grabbed a set of platitides and prepared for war, attacking the 71-year-old as 'primitive,' even 'medieval' in his attitude towards women for saying that some of them would rather raise a family than focus on their careers. As comments go, they're not that unbelieveable. There are lots of men who would rather raise a family than focus on their careers. What would Mr. Cable and other 'progressives' make of them, I wonder?

The liberal progressives that round on Mr. Murray's comments as the height of misogynism are wrongly assuming several things. They incorrectly think that Simon Murray is speaking up for the interests of somewhat old-fashioned men - or chauvinist pigs, as they're known in trendy circles - who have a rather more strict view of family life. He's not. I know of several women whose words on the subject could echo those of Mr. Murray, almost down to the last letter. It's not about gender, it's about the choices that an individual makes about what constitutes 'success,' and what they'd rather spend their time doing. The liberals would apparently want to deny them this choice - or at least supress it - in order to get more women in the workplace, a goal which, they believe, is shared by every female member of the human race. Women, however, are just as entitled to make that decision - between family life and work - as men, and so-called 'progressives' have no right to deride those who choose the former as 'throwbacks to the medieval era.' Would they rather spend their entire lives cooking and slaving away over a hot stove? No, frankly, they wouldn't. And no-one has said that they should. What we're saying is that women who gave up the pursuit of a high-paying job in the city, or the board of a FTSE 100 company, shouldn't be looked down upon or viewed as inferior by their feminist brethren simply because they make a conscious, adult decision to raise a family instead. It is a matter of personal choice.

They also seem to assume that Mr. Murray is talking out of his own personal preferences. It is clear from Mr. Murray's own comments that the opposite is true: women in the boardroom are 'terrific.' He is not against the presence of women in the boardroom. He is merely saying that, because the nature of womanhood is what it is, children and families often put a hold on women's careers. That may sound unfair to the left-wing, but those women made a decision to have children and to raise a family. Their actions might be to the detriment of Britain on some international equality scoreboard, but it's a personal choice that women are more than capable of making. They do not need old, middle-class men telling them what to do when it comes to their families, thank you very much.

Finally, the assumption that feminists represent women is fundamentally untrue. It has been since the 70s. Beyond equality, there is nothing that women, as equal members of the human race, are entitled to. They do not need special privileges - they are of equal ability. The efforts to give them some sort of advantage in the workplace and in law are both patronising and unfair, and most women would be perfectly happy to get into the top jobs on their own merits, rather than on the back of some employment legislation. Mr. Murray's comments - that a higher proportion of women put their families above their careers and that children are often a barrier to the highest-paid jobs - are not medieval. They are statements of common sense, and, whether or not Vince Cable agrees with them, they are firmly based on facts and rational opinions. To attack them as 'medieval' is a ridiculous excess of liberal intolerance with which many of the readers of this blog will be familiar; it is the type of anti-democratic assault that, frankly, open and honest debate can do without. And, on this subject, open and honest debate is sorely needed.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Does Van Rompuy Have the Power to Declare War?

Van Rompuy: the hidden commander-in-chief?

What does the European Union find more difficult, do you think? Putting down the roots of 'deep democracy' in post-revolutionary Arabic states, or keeping a straight face while doing it? Baroness Catherine Ashton, the Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative of Foreign Affairs, has finally broken her silence on the implosion of the Middle East, writing an article in the Guardian. As good as it is to know that know we don't pay her £700,000 a year to do nothing, there's a part of me that wishes we did. After her absence during the crisis itself, I was expecting a bit more for my money. But, rather than making a statement of policy worthy of the second-most powerful executive official in Europe, the only thing that she wanted to talk about was women's rights.

Not that that's not an important subject, of course. There's clearly much work to be done, and, provided it is in our national interest to do so, we should be more than willing to assist any Middle Eastern country that wishes to liberate and enfranchise its female population. But, not only is it outside her remit, it is also trivial compared to geopolitical turmoil on a scale not seen since the early 1990s, and it shouldn't matter a jot to an individual whose primary purpose is to represent five hundred million people on the world stage at a time of such international upheaval. She is supposed to stand up for the interests of the citizens of the European Union, as they now call us; not to complain about the injustices of the misogynistic religious and cultural practices that blight the Arab world. Especially not when she vigorously defended those practices when she assisted New Labour in importing them to Britain.

In that light, an article entitled 'Women Are Essential to Democracy' is probably the weirdest thing that Baroness Catherine Ashton of Upholland could have written. Not because of the hypocrisy of a woman who has held five previous government positions having never faced an election, oh no, that's just standard EU practice. What makes this article strange is its purpose - it's almost as if Catherine Ashton is back as a minor official for some government department, championing women's rights in the workplace. There is very little statement on European foreign policy in it. It is clear that she favours some sort of EU involvement in a post-revolutionary state; technical assistance with legal issues, and anti-discrimination laws. But she offers no information on how that assistance might be rendered, what form it might take, and which countries or departments will be responsible for it. Nothing in her article can be misconstrued as policy. Which leaves me wondering, what exactly does she do? This can't be the only thing that the EU's up to, surely?

But, never fear. Unless you're a Eurosceptic, in which case you have good reason to be worried. Contrary to appearances, Britain's commissioner and her new diplomatic service have actually been rather busy whilst this was going on. They didn't make it public, of course, but there was a very good reason for that. The prospect of the EU deploying military power would make even 'mild Eurosceptics' reconsider their stance. It was quietly concealed in the back pages of the press even when the information was made publically available, but here it is: the first attempt at a deployment for the fledgling European army. The mission, which was dubbed Eurofor Libya (Eurofor = European force, usually a short way of writing European Gendarmerie Force in the EU's Orwellian dialect), was supposed to be largely humanitarian.

It was unanimously agreed at the beginning of the month, as the Guardian article makes quite clear, but it was not revealed in major newspapers until at least the 10th. A brief summary of the proposals appeared here, but with nothing like the detail or scope. Not only does this show that our own government, and those of other European countries, are willing to hide the prospect of military deployments from their citizens, but it also contrasts sharply with the divided front that they were putting on. Why were they telling us, at the end of March, that European nations were bitterly divided, yet on the 2nd they'd apparently came to a unanimous conclusion - and a radical one, at that? Back in February, Ashton herself was denying that the EU would become involved. She publically said so here. So what made her change her mind? What made the other twenty-seven foreign ministers change their minds? And, most importantly, what made the twenty-seven heads of government change their minds? Doesn't have anything to do with this, does it? Van Rompuy's speech made no sense at the time, but, taken alongside the otherwise unexplained shift in opinion across the continent, does it represent a dramatic enhancement of his power, as President of the European Council? I may be grabbing at straws here, but what prompted every state in the European Union to change its mind? Is van Rompuy's reference to 'Europe' as a single military entity merely himself aggrandising his own position? Or is it the truth? Are the nations of Europe actually working together, behind the scenes on this? Or is van Rompuy's speech a coincidence? I don't know.

But I know what the Lisbon Treaty says:

'The common security and defence policy shall be an integral part of the common foreign and security policy. It shall provide the Union with an operational capacity drawing on civilian and military assets. The Union may use them on missions outside the Union for peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security'

As van Rompuy's own position was created as part of the Lisbon Treaty, and he relies on it for his own presidential power, he would have an interest in ensuring that every aspect of the treaty was acted upon. And this is the only part of the treaty which, as yet, Europe hasn't got around to dealing with in any meaningful way. The economics is sorted; new member states have each applied to join the euro, was agreed. But a common security and defence policy still eludes the EU leadership. But can he use the 'common security and defence policy' clause to launch military action? Is the common security and defence policy what they are taking the first steps towards building, now, in Libya? Is there a method in the EU's madness?

As I said, I don't know. I'm merely confused by the apparent lack of direction from a union that likes to think that it is a state - whose chief executive considers it an empire - and am casting around for answers. This one, however, seems more credible than the others, at least it does to me. And if I'm anywhere near correct, the EU is a lot more powerful than we thought.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The House of Fun

European history: co-operation, integration, and diversity

The saga of the House of European History is probably one of the least important stories in the EU at the moment - what with France and Germany seeking to renegotiate the terms of the Schengen Treaty, and the Portuguese bailout effectively blocked or delayed by the Finnish electorate. But it is the epitome of what the EU is trying to become, and why it will never work, so it's still a worthy subject.

The European House of History, as the project is ambitious called, was originally conceived by the former President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pöttering. It traces the origin of 'common European values' and the political and social history of Europe from 1946 onwards, and, at first glace, appears innocuous. I can't think of a single reason, in principle, to oppose the opening of a new museum. Any attempt to bring the peoples of Europe closer to their history is wonderful, in my opinion. But creating a history exhibition is one thing. Giving it a specific political purpose and adjusting the narrative and the interpretation accordingly is another, and I suspect that the European Union's interest lies in that, rather than in education. No organisation with a two-billion pound propaganda budget can be taken at face value, I'm afraid.

It doesn't take much digging to see where the purpose of their project really lies. In fact, the creator admitted it himself: it is an attempt 'to promote awareness of a European identity.' Sadly, it seems that one of the most expensive museums in Europe is little more than a front for yet more propaganda. It is merely the latest phase in a plan to educate the younger generation as Europeans, rather than members of their respective nation-states. The plan goes hand in hand with German attempts - which were originally tabled at around the same time as the German Hans-Gert Pöttering took office - to enforce an EU-wide school textbook, the aim of which was also overtly political: 'a common history book could contribute to a common European identity and knowledge about what is important for European culture and history,' so said the German Education Ministry. Then, of course, there's the 'Let's Explore Europe' book for 9-12 year olds, with this sickening paragraph:

'For centuries Europe was plagued by wars and division. But in the last fifty years or so, the countries of this old continent have at last been coming together in peace, friendship, and unity, to work for a better Europe and a better world'

The narrative is broadly correct, even if fundamentally wrong when examined close-up. But the word order - it is the continent that is old, not the countries - and the 'for a better Europe and a better world' statement makes this deeply uncomfortable reading. It's often used as a tool of exaggeration to compare publications by your opponents to the media of North Korea, but this really is it - blatant and unmistakeable propaganda, that, if not for the word 'Europe,' could have been written in a reunified, Communist Korea. It's even worse for them to aim it solely at people at such an impressionable age. 'History' doesn't even get a look-in. The book sets out to present a one-way totalitarian ticket, right from the start. And, if you think I'm exaggerating, let's read on:

'We Europeans belong to many different countries, with different languages, traditions, customs, and beliefs. Yet we belong together, for all sorts of reasons. Here are some of them.'

It goes on to list several incredibly spurious and simplistic reasons that could apply equally to any geographic region on the planet, such as the similarity of languages, and how Europeans 'believe' in certain things that, again, could apply to anyone on the globe, such as fairness, neighbourliness, and respect for each other and their opinions. The irony that the last part of that sentence is written in a book that is telling nine-year-olds what they and their families believe is apparently lost on its writers. But, wait, the EU's propaganda book gets even more nauseating:

'Could anything be done to stop these things [two world wars] happening again? Would Europeans ever learn to sit down together and discuss things instead of fighting? The answer is yes. That's the story of our next chapter: the story of the European Union'

The last time I laughed in disbelief at something was when I was shown a picture of anti-Jewish propaganda from Nazi Germany as part of my AS-level totalitarian regimes course. I'm tempted to write sarcastically about this, but it really doesn't deserve any humour. A government using taxpayer's money - or, come to think of it, any money - to publish this sort of thing for nine-year-olds is beneath contempt. The last third of the book is solely devoted to the European Union, and how it has saved Europe and Europeans from their own warlike nature. It refers to the European Economic Community as a 'club,' specially customised to suit its nine-year-old audience, claims that the sole aim of the common market was to get rid of border checks, and has a dim echo of Stalin's 'dizzy with success' article when it says that the Common Agricultural Policy worked so well that 'soon farmers were producing too much food.' Oh, and the lovely CAP only pays farmers to look after the countryside. How quaint. I'm not going to quote the rest of the book; most of it, and I'm not joking (I only wish I was) could have been printed in the USSR. I'll just finish off by quoting the last few sentences of the thing:

'We are today's European children: before long we will be Europe's adults. The future is for us to decide - together!'

So, you see, the European Union has a long history in propaganda. And it doesn't make any effort whatsoever to hide that fact. The House of European History is the latest, and most ambitious, part of the plan. It's difficult to find information on the exhibits, which is strange given the amount of ink that's been wasted on complaining about the costs, but one thing is abundantly clear: it will have nothing to do with Europe, and nothing to do with history. Note that it starts in 1946. This is because the countries of the EU couldn't actually decide on what happened before then: Poland took offence at the claim that its resistance was crushed by 1939, and a number of countries disputed the impact of US intervention in the Second World War. This should have been a clue that a shared European history does not exist; but, rather than paying attention to these differences of interpretation, the EU simply ommitted them. It ommitted thousands of years of pre-war history that was simply too controversial to include in an exhibition that was supposed to show how united Europe is. The view of European history as a collection of united states works, therefore, only if you conveniently miss out everything that occured before the Second World War. The Renaissance, the Roman Empire, the Age of Exploration, colonialism, everything. Back then, of course, Europe was a collection of squabbling states, and that wouldn't have suited the EU narrative at all. So they just quietly dropped it.

This is not the behaviour of a state that I want to be a part of. An unelected elite already can overrule our laws and our parliament; they can already set economic policy and foreign policy; they can already demand our money. And now they think that they can walk in with a pen and erase inconvenient facts about our history? Well, no, sorry, a correction. They don't think they can. They just did. Not content with ruling the present, they have extended their control over the past, as well.

The House of European History is simply another aspect of that; it should be taken far more seriously than it is. It is not about mere money; even though the cost is truly incredible. It is about the preservation of the story of Europe - the real one - from the agendas of Brussels beaurocrats. It is about brainwashing. I'm aware of the dangers of exaggeration, but there's no other word for it. Read the European propaganda book here, and think for yourself: do you want your children to come home with one of those for compulsory reading?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Afghan Border Police in Spin Boldak, the site of the Taliban's first armed victory

The sun expands its domain over the historic cobbles of an Afghan border fortress; the overlapping folds of sand-coloured walls rise out of a rocky outcrop. A clustered, compact urban town covered in a cloth of hazy pollution is gathered in the shade. A short distance out of town, parked in rows off of an ancient dirt track, are a fleet of Toyotas, packed with black-turbaned young students of Islamic law - taleban - with AK47s and chains of ammunition slung over their shoulders as they sit around, anxiously waiting for the sun to rise on a new Afghanistan.

The capture of the border post of Spin Boldak, and its warehouses of tanks and Stinger missiles from the Soviet era, was where the Taliban set themselves on their present collision course with the west. They numbered barely a hundred men at the time, each of them local recruits from the districts of Panjawi and Maiwand, students of the local cleric Mullah Mohammed Omar, who had grown tired of the daily assaults by brigands and drug lords, and had taken matters into their own hands. Their three main policies - Islamic law, as interpreted by Pashtun tribal clerics, disarmament of the population, and summary execution for the bandits, proved incredibly popular with the local population, and, after the town of Spin Boldak had fallen, it was a Toyota-powered blitzkrieg to Kandahar, and the rest is history.

Osama bin Laden, a Islamic jihadist and personal friend of Mullah Omar, commited an atrocity that required retribution; the Taliban refused to hand him over; the west went in pursuit of him through force of arms. Now, in 2011,almost ten years after al-Qaeda hijackers killed three thousand people on 9/11, we're still there, watching hundreds of promising lives disappear in the desert sand for no real purpose whatsoever. Ten years on, the war still has not achieved its proper recognition: as one of Anthony Blair's greatest blunders. That might sound odd; the reasoning for the Afghan war, the capture of a terrorist who would have escaped if not for western intervention, seems sound. At first glance, it is. Legally and morally, the west had a basis for military invasion and occupation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and, according to some, it should've happened far sooner.

But there are a number of half-truths about the Afghan war that need exposing: the oft-repeated line that the Taliban were refusing to hand over Osama bin Laden is simply not true. They made several offers to extradite him, and put him on trial; first, he'd be tried in Afghanistan under shari'ah law, which probably would have resulted in his execution. Second, he'd be tried in Saudi Arabia, a nation which holds a revered place in Islamic politics, and was one of only three states to recognise the Taliban government. Third, he'd be tried before the United Nations. America rejected every single offer that the Taliban put on the table; they wanted Osama bin Laden tried in an American military court, on American soil, before an American judge. Fair enough - the crime was committed in America. But it does mean that the war itself was avoidable; no boots on the ground ever had to be committed, and it certainly doesn't warrant British involvement. If America wanted an American trial, then American forces should have secured one.

Two, the infamous opium claim. Afghanistan was the source of most of the world's heroin in 2001, just as it is today. But between 2000 and 2001, the Taliban, through a combination of disarmament of the drug lords and limited compensation, managed to eradicate over 90% of the crop. Whether this was out of a genuine commitment to an anti-drugs campaign or simply to drive the prices to over $400 per kilogramme remains unclear, but the output of Afghanistan - of opium, heroin, and other narcotics - was drastically reduced in under a year. Compare that to the west's occupation, where heroin production has risen every year, and it is clear who would have been more successful in stamping out the drugs trade which so blights our inner-city streets.

Three, the idea that the Taliban exported terrorism. In short, the Taliban never exported terrorism beyond their own borders before 2001, and have never committed a terrorist atrocity on western soil. Their allegiance with al-Qaeda is also overstated; the two are both fundamentalists, but that's where the similarities end. Al-Qaeda wants the destruction of the state of Israel and the re-establishment of the Islamic caliphate, and an interpretation of shari'ah law based strictly on Saudi Arabian Wahhabism. By contrast, the Taliban's goals started and ended within the borders of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan; the destruction of Israel was not on their to-do list, and an Islamic caliphate was anathema. Their shari'ah law is also more loosely based on Pashtun custom - similar on the outside to foreign observers, but an entirely different beast when it is examined more closely. Differences which the Taliban and their Arabic military allies and Pakistani paymasters would have been too aware of, and too proud of, to reconcile.

The Taliban were reluctant to oust al-Qaeda because of the sheer amount of money that Osama bin Laden could bring in through the oil sheikhs. Their budget for the whole of Afghanistan never exceeded three hundred and thirty million pounds - America puts more into the country every day - and most of that evaporated on the northern front lines where the fight continued against the Northern Alliance. Al-Qaeda were simply invaluable. Their expertise in a relatively new tactic, suicide bombing, was also useful in Afghanistan, where it was not yet standard practice. The assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud on September 10 2001 highlights the worth of al-Qaeda's presence from a Taliban military standpoint. It is true that Mullah Omar referred to Osama bin Laden as his 'honoured guest,' under the Pashtun tradition of hospitality, malmastia, but in order to qualify for protection, the guest has to submit to his host, something which Osama bin Laden singularly failed to do. Omar could have deported Osama bin Laden with a clear conscience: the divergent goals of their two organisations would have eventually made it impossible for him not so do so.

In short, the war in Afghanistan was unnecessary. A little more patience - one more day - would have left Osama bin Laden in western hands; what that would mean for al-Qaeda and the War on Terror is open to a lot of speculation, but international jihad would have been denied its figurehead, and a cause. Most importantly, thousands of British, American, Canadian, and other assorted western and international soldiers would still be alive. The war itself has achieved nothing. The coalition allies are contributing more to Afghanistan in a day than the Taliban spent in a year; Osama bin Laden is still free; the Taliban leadership is known to be in Quetta, in Pakistan, beyond the reach of western bombs. The failure of American and British diplomats to take any of the opportunities available to them to prevent war - at a time when the latter knew that it was cutting the defence budget - surely ranks among one of the greatest failures in foreign policy, one of many that can be attributed to Tony Blair, and is a needless waste of soldiers, and other treasures, that the country would have done well to keep.

Resistance is Futile

A few thousand square feet in Brussels. The EU occupies more than a million of them across the city.

On paper, it doesn't look good for the European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget. Five countries, five democratically-elected leaders, and two hundred and twenty million people - more than half of the European Union's total population - are arrayed against him and his plans to force through an inflation-busting rise in the EU budget, taking it to a record £137 billion. But the Pole has one thing on his side. He is one of the most senior officials in the European Union, and, as such, does not have to bother himself with such things as the popular vote, or the people elected by such old-fashioned means. The combined might of Cameron, Merkel, and Sarkozy did little to phase him last year, when he still managed to increase the European budget against the will of these three elected leaders. And now they're back for round two, he's still not going to give ground.

Janusz Lewandowski is the individual largely responsible for the soaring costs of Britain's EU membership: the increase of four billion pounds in the net membership fees last year, and now the £400 extra pound per family that Britain will, effectively, be paying when it has to contribute an extra six hundred million pounds to the European budget. And he is adamant that the EU budget cannot be allowed to reflect the austerity imposed on the peoples of Europe by national governments, and, as with Greece and Ireland, partly by the EU itself. The reason he gives is the EU's continued commitment to projects in the south and east. It's a flimsy excuse, especially as they are far away from the people who actually pay for them - most of those who pay the taxes which are then diverted to these projects are in Britain, France, Germany, Finland, and other net contributors, who, by definition, put more money into the EU than they get back, and who never see a penny of it returned to their public funds. But Janusz doesn't need to come up with any excuse whatsoever, as, simply, he has the power to do whatever he likes.

As written by Bruno Waterfield:

'German and French leaders last year backed Mr Cameron’s call for a freeze in the 2011 EU budget, but after a power struggle with the Commission and the European Parliament, the leaders were eventually forced to accept the rise.'

Sorry, what? The leaders of the dual engines of European integration were, essentially, swept aside by the European Commission and the European Parliament? The official representation of one hundred and forty million people were simply ignored. It's not entirely undemocratic. The European Parliament is involved. But no single country accounts for more than fifteen per cent of it. The five net contributors that pay for the budget who are resisting the increases will always be outvoted by the recipients of their hard-earned cash, and that's assuming that the MEPs actually vote for their electorate, rather than themselves - even Eurosceptic MEPs, notably UKIP, have a long history of voting for increases in the EU budget to fund their salaries, perks, and expenses. And, as we all know, the Commission is entirely unelected, and no-one on it is ever subject to a popular vote. That includes Mr. Lewandowski.

We, and our elected head of government, have no say in the matter. It has been decided, by the EU, that we shall give six hundred million pounds more to the EU every year. As much as we'd like to think we do, we must wake up to the fact that we have little, if any, control over how much or how little money the EU requires. It does not request; it demands. There is no other option left, and, even if there was, we'd have spent tens of billions by the time we got around to taking it. The only way we can regain control over our own finances - whether or not we pay nine billion in net contributions, whether or not we pay one billion in fines, whether or not we pay ten billion, maybe more, to save eurozone countries from collapsing under the weight of their own debt when our own national debt is going through the roof - is to withdraw from the EU.

Friday, 22 April 2011

European Commission: We Have Bills to Pay

Mr. Fiorilli, we all have bills to pay

This is the third major victory for Eurosceptics in a week. A Millwall fan from the farthest corners of Europe has left the prospects for a Portuguese bailout in disarray, and demonstrations in Croatia have halted the EU's eastward expansion plans. By comparison, the British victory looks rather minor. It was actually an own goal scored by Patrizio Fiorilli, a spokesman for the European Commission, who took on the duty of reminding the British taxpayer that they had a 'legal obligation' to pay the EU billions and billions of pounds in public funds into a budget increase that the democratically elected leaders of the three most powerful countries in Europe were unable to stop.

Hundreds of thousands of people tuned in to see one of nature's rarest spectacles: a BBC presenter giving an EU official a proper grilling. But, as valuable as that is, to know that the BBC has not been completely corrupted, it probably escaped the notice of many of the more casual viewers. For them, the main spectacle was the sight of a man they'd never heard of, representing people they'd never heard of, demand that they pay four hundred pounds per household towards budgets they'd never voted for, passed by a parliament where they control only ten per cent of the seats (seventy-three out of seven hundred and thirty-six), which Britain, France, and Germany put together could do nothing to prevent. Never has the autocratic nature of the European Union, and its effects on the common people, been as exposed to the British public as it was on Newsnight. And, to make things worse for the EU, the presenter was no Kirsty Wark, asking a Eurosceptic guest if he felt pleasure when the EU flag was hoisted. This was Emily Maitlis, who did her best to get an explanation, even bringing up the questionable nature of the EU's unaudited payments.

For the first time, the British public saw how three elected leaders, three countries who are net contributors to the budget, representing two hundred million people, could simply be ignored. For the first time, there was someone on their screens representing institutions that they have little or no control over, that could, apparently, demand money, leaving their government with little option but to hand it over. For the first time, they saw the incredible cost to the country, and to themselves of a vastly-inflated organisation which no-one in this country under the age of fifty has voted to be a part of, and no-one has voted to stay in.

Fiorilli did get away with a few factual errors: the elected parliament cannot propose or repeal legislation, and as for the 'accounts are spotless' claim, over £94,000,000,000 is affected by 'irregularities.' But, on the whole, this was the best I've seen from the BBC in a while. But, for the first time, the British public has had an unbiased look at the EU, and, at a time when taxes, food, and utilities are going through the roof, I doubt they like what they saw.

Oh, and if you have any questions or queries that you'd like to send to Mr. Fiorilli, here is his email address. Thanks to boudicca on the Telegraph for finding it out:

patrizio.fiorilli@ec.europa.eu

He's a spokesman for the Commission, so he'll probably have a few well-rehearsed answers to most of the obvious questions. But it's the best way to relieve stress.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The Non-Imperial Empire

When is invasion not invasion? When it's 'non-imperial,' of course!

'Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire. But there is a great difference. Empires are usually made by force, with a centre that was imposing a dictate, a will on the others, and now we have what some authors call the first non-imperial empire'

A speech by President Barroso, or should I call him emperor? With no trace of irony, that was his address to the Strasbourg Parliament three years ago, when the electorates of various European nations - seven, in fact - were up in arms over the refusal of their national governments to hold referendums on their country's assimilation into this 'empire,' a process which Barroso himself carefully supervised as the unelected head of an unelected executive. Oh, how times have changed.

The last two rotating presidents - the national leaders who hold the Presidency of the Council of Europe (note: not to be confused with the President of the European Council) for a sixth-month term of office - have had eastward expansion on their minds. The outgoing rotating president, Hungary's Viktor Orban, has been working on the assimilation of Croatia and Macedonia for some time, and has made the accession of the former one of the top priorities of his presidency. But his successor has far more ambitious plans.

He is Poland's Donald Tusk, the fiercely anti-British and anti-French federalist who wants to march the EU borders beyond the eastern steppes of Ukraine. No, don't worry, not Russia - although his plans will infuriate the Kremlin. He actually wants six countries to join the EU, or start the integration process, during his time in office - Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia - and to restart negotiations with Turkey. Over a hundred and twenty million people and seven developing economies who will doubtless be the recipients of tens of billions of pounds of public money, much of it from Britain, and also gain the right to live and work in the UK. Not the most desireable outcome for Britain's creaking infrastructure and overcrowded cities, or its over-burdened taxpayers who already have to carry the weight of almost twenty other countries on their shoulders (which costs each household in the country £937, according to Open Europe, based on analysis of what each country pays and receives on an individual-by-individual basis). So, those of you whose taxes, gas, electricity, and VAT just shot up might like to know that the first step on this plan for eastern expansion has hit a brick wall, courtesy of the Croats.

You have to do a bit of digging to find this site, but it's well worth a read. It seems that the Croatians didn't like the EU - or their national government, for that matter - demanding the arrest and trial of two former generals as a precondition of membership, and, following the sentence of Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac to twenty-four and eighteen years for war crimes, respectively, a decision which 95% of them oppose, they took to the streets. It's one thing to call your government leaders 'traitors' on the pages of a newspaper comments thread. It's quite another to do it to their face. And the Croats have done exactly that. As the government there is committed to holding a referendum on the subject, the fact that only a quarter of the population support EU membership will hold back the expansion plans, at least until the EU can get its propaganda machine in place - otherwise known as EU Information Centres - and tells them to vote again. The Croats will need convincing before the EU can cast its gaze further east - thirty out of thirty-five chapters in the negotiation process are complete, and the EU simply cannot afford to abandon it now. This will render impotent any expansionist tendencies in the next two rotating presidencies.

So, for the second time in a week, the small nations of Europe have shown us how it's done. If the Croats can stand by the legacy of those who, in their eyes, fought for freedom, why can't we, a much larger nation that is actually in the EU, stand by freedom itself? Britain has grown out of empires; the EU has not.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

What's More Expensive? The Royals or van Rompuy?

EU Presidents - they don't come cheap

When Prince William and Catherine Middleton announced their engagement, they probably knew that the media would go bonkers. What they didn't count on was the protest groups that have rallied around the royal banner in pursuit of a bit of publicity; the ever-present MAC and EDL conflict that has brought many an inner-city suburb to a standstill, anti-cuts demonstrators, and gay rights campaigners have lodged a petition to be the honoured guests of London's over-burdened taxpayers on the big day. The royal family might even welcome the appearance of European republicans - they're far less likely to get into a punch-up than radical Islamists or their street opposition, and, even if they do, have built up their relations with the authorities.

Hundreds of republican demonstrators from across Europe have arranged to meet in London through the British organisation Republic, who seek to take advantage of the royal wedding to raise their profile. They are protesting the taxpayers of Europe having to spend a fortune on supporting royals. I'm not going to go into republics versus monarchies here; I'll save that for the Guardian. But, it is worth noting that a republic - or, at least, a president - does not necessarily save money. And there is no better example of this than the EU itself.

The EU has three main presidents:

1) The President of the Commission, Jose Manuel Barosso, head of the EU's executive body
2) The President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, the man who 'presides' over our elected heads of state
3) The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, who keeps the MEPs in line

Only the latter is elected; the others are appointed. The people have no control over who fills these posts, just as they have no control over the monarchy. With that in mind, let's look at how much they cost the European taxpayer.

Barosso:

A basic salary of three hundred thousand euros
An accomodation allowance of fifty thousand euros
An allowance of one hundred and ninety thousand euros for three years
Travel expenses of seven hundred thousand euros
Presentational expenses (dinners) of three hundred thousand euros

van Rompuy:

A basic salary plus expenses of three hundred and sixty thousand euros
An accomodation allowance of forty thousand euros
A total cost of one and a half million euros
Has twenty-two staff that cost five and a half million euros
The Residence Palace is being renovated at a cost of three hundred million euros to accomodate the President and his offices

So, there you have it. I'm sorry I wasted your time going through the millions of pounds that Barosso goes through in salaries, expenses, and perks. Britain's contribution to the cost of the President's offices alone - £40 million - is the same amount that we spend on the entire royal family, which, according to the BBC, was £38 million in 2010.

The next time republicans and federalists - often the same people - complain about the costs of monarchy, perhaps they ought to take a look at the unaudited accounts of EU officials - if they can get them to publish them, that is.

I Think You'll Find Hitler was Quite Fond of European Integration


It never ceases to amaze me the readiness with which our enlightened brethren in the federalist camp accuse their opponents - of any political stripe - of fascism. It seems to almost be a badge of honour for those who still dwell in their ivory towers to find a denier - of anything, be it the climate change consensus, multiculturalism, or the European Union - and openly call them a Nazi. In the European Parliament, that bastion of insanity that saw Nigel Farage declare he was Spartacus and a heated debate on the merits of various alcoholic drinks in relation to European solidarity, the primary offender is a chap called Martin Schulz.

Those of you who regularly follow the doings of this bizarre bunch of people would probably be familiar with that name. This is the German Socialist MEP - the leader of the Socialists in the European Parliament, in fact - who was insulted by UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom who quoted the famous Nazi slogan 'Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Fuhrer' at him. I'm not condoning Bloom's unwise outburst, but it couldn't have happened to a more deserving person. Martin Schulz has made the same slur more times than anyone cares to remember. In the above video, he uses it to shout down an MEP who calls on President Barosso to publish exactly how he managed to claim two thousand dollars a day in expenses. He once expanded his vocabulary to call the French and Dutch electorates 'ultra-nationalists, fascists, and former communists' when they refused to share his fanatical love for the Lisbon Treaty, or the European Constitution as it was called at the time. For him to complain about being accused of fascism is the biggest laugh I've had from the European Parliament in quite some time. But Martin Schulz's pro-EU colleagues do not see the funny side. For them, the threat of Nazis, fascists, and right-wing political extremists taking over the EU is real. Schulz's fanatical delusions are not unusual; there are others in the European Parliament, hundreds of them, in fact, who have called their opponents nationalists, xenophobes, and bigots over the years.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, aka Danny the Red, once called those who criticised the EU 'mentally weak.' Denis MacShane, former Europe Minister, took a similar line to Mr. Schulz when he referred to 'reactionaries, neo-conservatives, neo-communists and cretins.' Andrew Duff, MEP for the Liberal Democrats, reached for the nearest set of platitudes and declared that his opponents were 'an odd bunch of racists, xenophobes, nationalists, communists, disappointed centre left and generally p****d off.' Herman van Rompuy, President of the Council, brought out the big guns and declared that Eurosceptics are the leading cause of war. In fact, they have chastised the entire political spectrum, from the far-left to the far-right, and disregarded nearly everyone - including themselves and each other - as extremists or anti-European conspirators (Daniel Cohn-Bendit leads the way here with his 'half of Ireland is employed by the CIA' routine). If we took their word for it, everyone in the European Parliament would be banned from political office.

But if this endless name-calling and fanatical adherence to nothing in particular were to be taken to its logical conclusion, those doing it would see the error of their ways. Would they really mind a room full of Nazis, if they were shown one? The irony of them calling opponents of European integration is really quite laughable; not only is Hitler and the Second World War the main reason for the EU's existence, European integration is also what Hitler and the Third Reich were trying to achieve. 'Aryans,' or Europeans, were to be united into a single state. Hitler actually said a lot that many of those who accuse others of being Nazis would agree with. He declared in 1927 that:

'We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are determined to destroy this system under all conditions'

Hitler himself later backtracked, but other members of his party remained unrepentant socialists to the end of the war. Ernst Rohm, who called for a 'second revolution,' was dealt with quickly. But Goebbels continued to stress the socialist aspect of the Nazi Party until he committed suicide as the Soviet soldiers reached Berlin. And they were not the only fascists to support European union, either. Oswald Mosely also supported Britain's integration into a European superstate.

And, leaving the realm of Nazism and fascism behind, the opponents of the EU aren't always nationalist. They aren't always right-wing. Andrew Duff mentions the 'disappointed centre-left,' perhaps a reference to the members of his own party who have flocked to the Greens. The Greens are not a Eurosceptic party in the conventional sense; they do not advocate complete withdrawal, as UKIP, for example, does. But they are arguing for the same democratic reforms, and also campaign for a referendum, as the Liberal Democrats used to do before they joined the government. The Scottish National Party is another one campaigning for a referendum. The English Democrats - who claim to be separate from the standard political spectrum - campaign for a devolved parliament for England (making them the only party to openly do so) and straight-up withdrawal from the European Union. And then we come to the reds that Mr. Schulz thinks want to sabotage the European Union.

That most famous of British union leaders came out as a Eurosceptic on Have I Got News For You, although he had previously set up a party, NO2EU - Yes for the Democracy, that was supposed to fight in the 2009 European elections, accusing the EU of being an unelected, unaccountable, corporate bloc. Arthur Scargill also has a Eurosceptic party, the Socialist Labour Party, which campaigns for EU withdrawal. Now, the readers of this blog may see these parties as extreme - some of them actually are. But they're at the opposite end of the spectrum from Oswald Mosely, and quite far from Hitler. In fact, there is only one real political difference between British socialists and Martin Schulz, and that is that he has a seat in the European Parliament, and they do not.

Most importantly, if anyone who campaigns for a democratic vote on Europe is a nationalist or a communist, where does that put the three main parties, who have each done so at one point or another? Or the 70% of people who want a referendum, in every poll ever taken, nationalists or communists? Or is it the 20% who do not want to let others vote, and the 10% who don't care, who are the 'extremists?' Are they not the tiny minority of people who are denying sixty million people the chance to make their voices heard? And they have the fanaticism to turn around and call us fanatics, when the most we - libertarians, socialists, conservatives, and the generally p****d off - have done is call for a vote - that's it, a vote - on the single most important political, economic, and social change in European history?

Eurosceptics do not want Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Fuhrer. We want twenty-seven countries, twenty-seven peoples, and twenty-seven leaders, and, most importantly, we want democracy.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

This is not a far-right victory. It is a people's victory.

The unprecedented electoral success of the True Finns has sent the usual suspects into hysterics this morning; the BBC wasted no time in getting its classic hatchet-job online, the Telegraph calls them ‘far-right,’ and the Guardian was in a moral panic trying to decide which of its labels to use. ‘Populist,’ ‘far-right,’ ‘maverick,’ and even their old ‘anti-immigrant’ line were dusted off. Unlike the leaders of nominally right-wing parties in the United Kingdom, who bend over backwards to present an unrealistic image to appease the media, the leader of the True Finns does not seem bothered by the insults. He merely reminded the audience that his party are not extremists, and that was it.

Because, contrary to the familiar narrative of the BBC and others, the True Finns are not extremists. They are not far-right, nor are they nationalist. Twenty years ago, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were not even conservative. They are far from the ‘fascists’ that the liberal media envisions. Their policies on taxes and the welfare state would put them beyond the pale in any fascist state. The commentators on the Guardian rise to his defence:

The veil is lifting across Europe’ - SweetAlabama

Sounds like the Arab Spring is heading to Brussels’ - continent

What's extremist (or fascist) about wanting a referendum on treaty changes’ - karnage

Anything which hastens the end of this EU nightmare sounds remarkably constructive to me’ - bobdoney

That’s a selection of the highest-rated comments on the thread. One thing that the media, and many of the readers of those newspapers, irrespective of political allegiance, do not seem to understand is that the hatred of the EU goes far beyond their political boundaries. This is not a victory of the ‘far-right.’ It is not a victory of ‘fascists.’ It is not a victory of ‘Eurosceptics.’ This is a victory of the people. It may seem strange to hear commentators on the Guardian and the Telegraph saying exactly the same things, but, really, it makes perfect sense. If you read the comments in the BBC, in the Independent, and in the Telegraph, they all say roughly the same thing, and none of them match up to what they are told by the media. One Guardian commentator pretty much sums it up perfectly:

Three comments before some ill-informed bigot who could barely find Finland on the map uses the word fascist. Maybe if governments, bureaucrats and commentariats all over Europe weren't quite so quick to dismiss all populists (by definition, grassroots, working class, anti-establishment, popular) as fascists, then there might be some constructive debate about what is going wrong with the European project. People all over Europe are angry, confused, disenfranchised. Ignoring them, or branding them with absurdly emotive labels like 'fascist' just proves their point that no one is inclined to listen to their concerns

Absolutely spot on, Lostin Sweden. You’ve just neatly summarised the cause and effect of the EU’s undemocratic nature. When parties that used to be wildly different in their policy and politics suddenly converge upon a consensus, they leave not only extremists disenfranchised, but many of their former voters. There hasn’t been a poll done where less than half of the British electorate wanted to reduce immigration or leave the EU. But far less than half of the electorate vote for the BNP, UKIP, the Greens, or other Eurosceptic parties. Those that continue to vote tribally are disenfranchised. They will cast around for alternatives, for parties that actually represent their views when they realise that those they used to vote for no longer do so. So parties that oppose mass-immigration and European integration are born; not out of fascist or nationalist ideology, but out of desperation, out of the lack of any real alternative.

The anti-immgiration and Eurosceptic parties have made breakthroughs across the continent ; they have gone from a few thousand votes to millions, with little or no neutral media exposure, internal feuds, and continual bankruptcy to contend with. The leaders of some of them have been put on trial for their views; the members of others have been sacked from their jobs and deprived of their income. But the tide of these parties - which, despite the claims of the media, come from across the spectrum, with both the Socialist Labour Party, UKIP, and the BNP opposing the EU and mass-immigration - cannot be stopped until the EU itself changes direction, or dissolves. They now hold the balance of power in several European countries; the head of the National Front is now more popular than the President of France. But, until now, they have been unable to have much of an impact on the actions of their governments or the European Union itself. The election of Timo Soini and the True Finns may change that.

This could be the first big victory of Euroscepticism.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

We Must Get Off Our Hands

The constant deprivation of power of Westminster by Brussels is not about the sovereignty of nations; as one is elected and accountable, and the other is not, it is about the sovereignty of individuals. It is not just our independence as a collective that is at stake; it is our right to hold those who make decisions that affect every aspect of our lives to account, as individuals. A system where twenty-seven people who never have to face the prospect of a public vote hold ultimate executive and legislative power is not an acceptable way to run a state. Why should it be seen as an acceptable way to run a continent? The former head of those twenty-seven people, the President of the Commission, Romano Prodi, once claimed that he, personally, had powers that could only be described as government. The former Prime Minister of Belgium, Guy Verhofstadt, even recommended a name change to ‘the European Government.’

Yet no-one in Britain had ever voted for him. In fact, no-one in Europe had ever voted for him. Not to be in that position, anyway. No popular vote was ever held. His Vice President was right when he pointed out that he saw no reason for European officials to take public opinion into account; there simply isn’t one. We do not vote them into office, and we cannot vote them out of office. Yet this body fulfils the roles of executive, legislature, and a quasi-judicial government. It is not only the authority that implements the laws; it is also the authority that proposes the laws. For an entirely unelected cabinet, the Commission has more than its fair share of power over each and every one of us. This power must be resisted at any cost. If we want to call ourselves a democratic nation - if we want to be a democratic nation - the people, and the people alone, must be the source of the law, of policy, and of authority. No group can be allowed to dictate laws, to implement policy, or claim authority without the approval of the people. That holds true regardless of their national origin - I couldn’t care less if they were European or British, they are still unelected, unaccountable, and anonymous, and should have no control over me or anyone else, in this country, until they stand for election, in this country.
It was possible to tolerate the autocratic nature of the European Union for years, perhaps even decades, whilst it had little impact. But our net contribution - the amount of money that we pay in when the money we are given back is taken into account - has soared by 74% to over nine billion pounds last year. That is money that we desperately need. Our government has recently announced unprecedented cuts in national defence and then committed our armed forces to a third deployment; they claim that the cuts are in the national interest, that there is no other way to solve the budget deficit other than slashing military expenditure. That is false. The money that we give to the European Union in the net contribution alone could pay for any of the three branches of the armed forces; it is three times the annual expenditure on the war in Afghanistan. How many more soldiers would return from active service, if we left the EU and the military equipment that they desperately need suddenly became affordable? How many more helicopters would we be able to deploy? How many more armoured vehicles could we afford? Not only could we save our soldiers from being sacked whilst on active service, denied compensation, and having to buy their own kit, but we could also put millions of people in employment; hundreds of thousands of soldiers, policemen, firemen, and teachers could be hired, hundreds of new schools built, and university fees scrapped.

That may not be a good thing to do when there is an economic crisis, but it shows the true cost of EU membership. Hundreds of thousands of workers are being sacked due to lack of funds, and millions of people deprived of their livelihoods, because the money that could have been used to pay for them is being handed over to the European Union. And that’s not even going into the trade deficit of £46 billion. Europe is the only continent which we buy more from than we sell more to, and has been ever since we joined the European Union. Not only that, but its own share of world GDP has been steadily declining, as that of our former trading partners and new regional powers such as India and China rises. But due to protectionist trade rules, we are banned from making up this spectacular loss of income - the entire education budget - with trade deals with other countries, and are chained to a sinking ship. We must cut ourselves free from this ship by any means necessary, as long as they are not violent.
This is not to be achieved on blogs or websites or even by writing letters; watch how each of the petitions, with hundreds of thousands of signatures, we simply ignored. Watch how each of the major parties have said they’d hold a referendum once they were in power, and how each have gone back on their pledge. Watch how the EU continues to take powers from our elected government on a daily basis, and we do nothing about it. We must force the government to take action, and, to do that, we need to get out and make our voices heard. Take to the streets. Do not worry about public support; we have it. No poll, whether done by the BBC, YouGov, or even Eurobarometer, has ever returned a sample where the supporters of the EU were in the majority. They say that we are irrelevant, a tiny minority of extremists, but why would they deny us a vote if that were true? Half of the electorate is made up of Nazis and Communists? I don’t think so. The EU officials and their British supporters are living in an alternative universe where the luxurious lifestyle of unelected Commissioners - each earning six-figure salaries - are more important than the basic comforts of serving soldiers - things like body armour and ammunition. Britain’s net contribution doubles when its public spending is cut back. Such an inversion of the moral principles of a nation, such an assault on the pillars of democratic government, and such a high social and economic price at a time of austerity cannot be tolerated. The true cost of Britain's membership of the European Union is now beyond endurance. We need to speak out now.

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I'd like to apologise for the inconsistent updates to this blog. I've been touring the southern Meditteranean - Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, etc. - and have only had time to write updates, not to actually upload them. The normal daily updates will resume shortly. There's a few articles on domestic European affairs coming up - the BBC and the True Finns, and the left's obsession with the use of the term 'far-right.'

Monday, 11 April 2011

Barrosso´s Imperialism Will Cost You Hundreds of Pounds a Year

The unelected head of the EU´s executive and de facto legislative body once called the European Union the world´s first ´non-imperial´ empire - one of which he, conveniently, was head. Now, we are about to find out what exactly he meant by that.

European Information Offices have opened up across the eastern and southern frontier of the continent. As you might expect, these are not information offices at all, but free propaganda dispensers conveniently located in the major towns and cities, as far away from the relics of the Soviet Union as possible. European standards - i.e. EU directives - have been imposed on the export and manufacture of various goods, and modernisation programmes that are a prerequisite for EU membership have already been commissioned.

EU funds have been poured into local projects, and local government. In this, there are a few clues as to how a `non-imperial´ empire would function. If people protest their subjugation, throw money at them and tell them they´re inferior. But there are also clues as to why this is such a bad idea, from the perspective of a British taxpayer.

Before the list of countries is even approved, I can tell you that none of them will be in the rather exclusive set of EU ´net contributors´- i.e. those countries that pay more to the EU than they get out. Britain, however, is. Our net contribution rose to nine point six billion pounds last year, or two hundred and thirty pounds for every household in the country, and no new nations joined the EU. If up to eight new countries, each of them developing economies, join the EU, we could see up to ten billion, or even twenty billion, pounds of public money handed over, for no benefit to the people who are compelled by law to hand over more and more of it. That´s almost four times the government´s proposed spending cuts.

And each of those countries will be required to join the euro. They will have the same problems as other developing economies did when they joined the euro. Some of these countries you may recognise: Greece, Ireland, and Portugal? The prospect of bailing out the whole of eastern and southern Europe does not appeal to me, especially as their economies are far more inter-dependent than those of the eurozone were, and any economic crash would be a lot quicker and a lot more expensive.

If the federalists had any reason to assume that this would not be the case, I might reconsider. But I´ve spent hours feeding euros into a computer in a Spanish Internet cafe, to trawl the pages of Eastern European newspapers in an attempt to uncover a counter-argument, but, so far, there doesn´t appear to be any. If there is one, it is curious that the federalists have chosen not to state it. A bit like the ´self-evident´ benefits of Britain´s EU membership, that no-one can ever seem to remember.

This is too high a price to pay for one man´s imperial ambitions.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Europe Braces Itself for a New Era of Expansion

As ludicrous as it may seem, now that Portugal has officially asked for a bailout and Spain's future solvency is doubtful, there are still some in Europe's elites that consider eastward expansion their priority, rather than solving the debt crisis that threatens to tear the eurozone apart. One of them is, unsurprisingly, Poland's Prime Minister, Donald Tusk. This fiercely anti-British and anti-French federalist has became increasingly outspoken since the previous President - a proud sceptic of federalist ideals - was killed in a plane crash in Russia, and now has his sights on the rotating European presidency. Hungary's Viktor Orban is due to relinquish the reigns of power on July 1st, a date which, Tusk says, will see Europe enter a new era of expansionism. Specifically, he wants to add Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Croatia, Serbia, and Turkey to Barosso's empire.

The Polish Prime Minister is a sensible man and an able administrator who has guided the country well since most of its senior administrative officials were wiped out; he should recognise the consequences of his plan. The addition of over a hundred and twenty million people and six or more countries is an expansionist phase to rival that of the early 2000s, when ten countries joined the union. However, the timing is far worse; each of the countries on the list are classed as developing economies, and will join the list of net beneficiaries of the EU. As Britain is one of the few countries that the EU classes as 'net contributors' - countries that pay more in than they get out - its bills will increase accordingly as the number of countries claiming money from the EU pot rises. Tusk's plans will cost Britain billions of pounds extra each year. That amount of money shouldn't be paid out in times of prosperity. At a time of austerity, it is simply unaffordable: how many millions of police and soldiers could be maintained with that money? And how does the EU intend to hold up against the wave of debt and bailouts if it has to manage the admission to the euro - as required of new member states as per the Lisbon Treaty - of six countries whose economies can best be described as 'shaky?'

Such an expansion is logistically expensive and economically irresponsible, if not impossible, and yet not a word of criticism has been uttered. No-one has raised any doubts as to the viability of the plans, although it only requires a bit of common sense to see the obvious economic downsides. Viktor Orban was chastised by the EU for his country's media laws, which temporarily threatened his succession to the presidency, but now Poland's equivalent comes along and unveils radical plans for expansionism at a time when the European Union is facing the biggest domestic crisis in its history, and no-one raises an eyebrow. It's not as if these are new proposals: Tusk won the 2010 Charlemagne Prize for European Integration, where he said that Turkey and Serbia should be asked to join. If anyone in the Brussels politiburo was willing to criticise EU expansionism, they'd have done it by now.

The EU's expansion will impact every single household in Britain, as the contribution soars to keep up with the funding requests of six countries. One hundred and twenty million people will gain the automatic right to live and work in the United Kingdom when public services and infrastructure are already creaking under the pressure of overpopulation. And why does yet another EU president we've never voted for have so much control over us? Britain's withdrawal is no longer an option; it is a necessity. We must withdraw ourselves from this mess, now more than ever.

Friday, 8 April 2011

What happened to violence against men?

Nothing. Over forty per cent of domestic violence victims are male - even the Guardian cannot deny that. The Guardian readers, usually far more sensible than many of the columnists give them credit for, are an astute bunch of people: their observations of 'violence against men being seen as amusing' and 'institutional sexism' in the justice system are accurate. You only have to watch a popular family sitcom to see abuse aimed at men that, if aimed at women, would never be shown on television. Any hint of violence against women is censored from popular televsion, and rightly so, but when men are the subject of domestic abuse we are encouraged to laugh. The double standards are shocking. But the government's complete silence when it comes to the topic is simply beneath contempt.

Only three thousand women were convicted of domestic violence in 2008-2009, compared to forty-five thousand men. Those figures are so far removed from the reality of the situation that they can no longer be tolerated. Any government with a genuine commitment to gender equality would seek to rectify this situation as a matter of urgency. Thousands of female abusers are being allowed to continue to destroy men's lives by an inherently biased legal and judicial system that views any male victims with a mixture of suspicion and disgust, or, worse, as liars. Thousands of men are having to endure under the strain of constant violence and psychological torture because the police and the judges are too restrained - either by 'feminism,' as some claim, or by the idea that only men can commit the crime and any women accused is innocent - to do the job of the legal system. That is, apply the rule of law equally, to any individual.

I won't write much more, as I would simply be copying word-for-word some of the horror stories on the Guardian. But the failure of the government to even recognise the existence of male victims of domestic violence is utterly unacceptable in light of its talk of 'gender equality,' and debases the three pillars of the British justice system: the rule of law, equality in the eyes of the law, and assumed innocence until guilt is proven by a court. The abuse of men might not be a 'trendy' topic of dicussion amongst the politically correct chattering classes, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The revolution has failed. Let's hope David Cameron realises that.

Predicting the outcome of a war is not an exact science. Two very different people can pick up the same newspaper, and come up with wildly different ideas about where the war will go. A world-famous academic, an expert with decades of military experience, could walk into a shop, buy a newspaper, sell his theory to the press and be completely and utterly wrong on every subject. Meanwhile, a misinformed member of the chattering classes could walk into a shop, buy the same newspaper, discuss it over a pint with his friends, and be proven correct. But, that said, there are some general rules of thumb that the aspiring armchair general would do well to pay attention to. One of them is: if a revolution cannot succeed of its own accord, then it probably cannot form a stable government, and isn't worth backing.

The Libyan rebels, the Transitional National Council, can't seem to succeed, either of their own accord or with the backing of western air power. The frontline of the civil war is still barely a hundred miles from where it began, between the towns of Brega and Ajdabiya. There are some reports that Brega has been captured by the loyalist tanks, and there are even rumours of an assault on Ajdabiya that could drive the rebels right the way back to the eastern border. Admiral Mike Mullen has claimed that the loyalists have up to ten times the firepower of the rebel forces, and America's combat aircraft have officially pulled out. NATO is running out of options if it wants to see a revolution. The suggestion of arming the Libyan rebels has been harmed by the press-release from Captain Obvious that there were 'flickers of terrorist activity' amongst their ranks, so the only real option left is to send in ground forces.

This is an option that I hope no western leader would ever seriously consider; however, I do not doubt their capacity for such irrational decisions, and would not be surprised if ground troops were not deployed to the country. Such an intervention - should the government choose to go ahead with it - will result in chaos. The British army could barely function in a desert region before 1997; now, after twenty years of savage cuts and five conflicts, it is simply beyond its capabilities. The north of Libya could be subdued easily enough, if the rebels are as popular as they claim, but the south is the power-base of the current ruling classes; both the current leader's tribe and his sub-Saharan mercenaries are here. It is a vast expanse of sparsely-populated desert. It would be impossible for helicopters to land in the sand - more than eighteen inches and it is considered to be dangerous. The British army's surveillance aircraft have been scrapped, making traversing the desert a lot more dangerous for troops on the ground. And as there are no aircraft carriers, there will be relatively little air cover for the army.

Their opponents will be desert warriors, a loose coalition of tribes and sub-Saharan Africans, used to conflict and armed and equipped with the latest revolutionary kit. Most of the arms and equipment of the special forces will have been supplied by Britain, under an agreement signed between Blair and the Libyan leader. It is never advisable to send troops into a hostile environment which the army is not prepared for against an enemy of your own making. But now Britain has cut the things that would make such an intervention conceivable; let's hope that David Cameron's military judgement realises that, before he commits us to another war which the current British army cannot win.