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Five questions for Ken on Europe

Mark Mardell | 10:55 UK time, Monday, 19 January 2009

Green shoots, an almost swinging mace and now Ken Clarke back on the front bench. In January ghosts of the past drift around Westminster. But will the return of the blokeish bruiser come to haunt the Conservative Party?

Ken ClarkeAs the biggest beast in John Major's cabinet he made sure the Eurosceptics did not win the Tory civil war. That only happened when the party was defeated and he departed. Specifically he made sure the option of joining the euro was not permanently closed off.

Some think Mr Hague has now unilaterally shut down the debate in a BBC interview. As Nick Robinson points out in his blog Europe is a real issue again.

I would be interested in hearing Mr Clarke's answer to some specific questions.

1) Does he still believe Britain should join the euro?

Doubtless he can argue that this is not on the government's agenda either so the opposition doesn't have to have a strong position and it's not a real political option. But principles are important in politics too so

2) Does he at least agree with the economists who last week argued that there should be a new debate about it?

If this is still too hypothetical he can't deny that there are elections to the European Parliament in June.

3) Does he agree with the current Conservative policy that, as the Lisbon reform treaty has not been backed by Irish voters, there should be a referendum in Britain too?

Mr Clarke has always been for Lisbon, and consistently against referendums on such matters, although not on the single currency itself. Read his demand for a free vote for front benchers.

After the elections the Conservatives will not sit with the largest block in the Parliament, the centre right EEP which includes the main ruling party in Germany, France and Italy but seek to form a new Eurosceptic group.

4) Does he think this is a sensible move because the Conservative Party has a different vision of Europe to the parties of Sarkozy and Merkel or does he support those Tory MEPs who want to stick in the EEP?

If the Conservatives win the general election they have said they will pull out of the social chapter and other EU social legislation and try to renegotiated a different relationship with the European Union.

5) As shadow business secretary does he think it is right to pull out of such EU directives and how easy would it be in practical terms?

Mr Clarke is old enough and wise enough to know how to give a non-committal answer to hypothetical questions but he's also constitutionally inclined to a level of frankness that can be awkward for his party. But there's another point. These aren't theoretical. Some or all of them will go "live", whether in the European elections, the general election or if there is a Conservative government.

It's not only a question of how he will answer now, but what he will do then. The ghost of the past may be the spectre of the future.

Comments

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  • 1. At 11:28am on 19 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    Mark,

    A very timely article. However, why ask five questions when one would be plenty:

    *What is the Tory party policy on the UKs membership of / relationship with the EU*

    I did ask that question myself and this is what they answered:

    *As David Cameron has made clear, we will be extremely vigorous in pressing for EU reform. ( ) to promote a positive vision of an outward-looking Europe, rather than an inward-looking EU obsessed with its own bureaucracy. It is also for this reason why we have announced our withdrawal from the federalist European People's Party. I can assure you that we will keep the pound as our currency, and we will restore Britain's opt-out from the European Social Chapter. This is a realistic and pragmatic approach to an EU which we believe has gone too far down the federalist route. *

    I then asked them if, in order to be fully consequent with their own policy, they would kindly – but firmly – request the other 26 EU members who have joined (at least one, although most of them have joined both, of) the two federalist pillars of the EU par excellence - the euro and Schengen – to bring back their old currencies and to deploy again border police staff to control movements of people from one EU country to another, including scanning their passports and keeping them in a government database, as the UK gov does. Or, conversely, if they would just give the other 26 EU countries a big telling off for having gone down these two federalist routes (which the UK has not) and ask them to promise not to do it again.

    I didn’t receive any answer, otherwise I would share it with you.

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  • 2. At 11:38am on 19 Jan 2009, Menedemus wrote:

    Mark,

    I think the interesting point of this exercise in the Conservative Party Sahdow Cabinet reshuffle was how Ken Clarke was invited into the Shadow Cabinet.

    As Nick Robinson has reported via his Blog, the deal was done over a lunch of meatloaf at George Osborne's house. Four people were present - Clarke, Osborne, Cameron and his Chief ofStaff, Ed LLewelyn.

    Strange to say, just the day before it was reported that David Cameron had been touting William Hague as his Deputy Prime Minister "in all but in name" which had been seen as rebuff to George Osborne.

    I think the truth is that William Hague is probably the Best Prime Minister the UK has not had and, in recent months, his star has been rising as the one Tory who could offer criticism of Labour policies without the stigma of having held the real reins of power or lack of experience.

    The reality, though is that William Hague is anti-EU by nature being of Margaret Thatcher's ilk and Cameron and Osborne are realists who, like Kenneth Clarke, know that, whether one likes or dislikes the EU, the future of the UK (united or as separate kingdoms) is with "ever closer union" with Europe.

    There is an assumption that the Conservatives want to withdraw the UK from the EU but the truth is that this is never going to happen. A future Tory government may seek to offer the UK Electorate a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty but the UK Demos are never going to get a specific vote on leaving the EU.

    The anti-EU and EU-sceptics have to live with the reality of that future and, whether Kenneth Clarke answers your hypothetical questions or not, the reality is that the UK is in the EU and going to stay a part of it.

    Joining the Euro is not going to happen any time soon simply because we could not align our economy with the Eurozone in the two years it would take to plan and set a date for Euro adoption. However, I believe that it is inevitable that, unless the UK geographically detaches itself and somehow floats across the Atlantic and closer to the USA, that the UK will adopt the Euro - and, probably sooner than later, very much to the dismay of the EU-sceptics.

    That is why, David Cameron can be quite happy to adopt an EU-sceptic stance in public and co-opt both WIlliam Hague and Kenneth Clarke into his circle of confidantes.

    The reality of the future of the UK and its relationship (with a need for "ever closer union") with fellow Europeans will always trump media and anti-EU conjecture hands down.

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  • 3. At 11:45am on 19 Jan 2009, MaxSceptic wrote:

    I can only hope that Ken develops chronic laryngitis.

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  • 4. At 11:47am on 19 Jan 2009, Purple-scorpion wrote:

    The euro's a moving target though, Mark. Plety of suggestions about that vulnerable members may be forced out of the eurozone soon.

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  • 5. At 12:19pm on 19 Jan 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    I thought you actually had an interview with him...instead of just posting those questions here on the website..surely you could get 15 minutes with him as the BBC's Europe editor. or not?

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  • 6. At 12:24pm on 19 Jan 2009, secretpcjunkie wrote:

    The Conservitave Party has agreed to have national vote on the membership of Britain in the EU.
    I have no doubt when this happens we will be out of the superstate being created.
    We are not alone in our struggle to be free of the power hungry politicians that make up the elete formed by the EU.
    Other countries see that being swallowed up by EU is the stuff of nightmares.
    If Mr Clark wants votes for the Conservative Party all he has to do is admit he was wrong about the EU.

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  • 7. At 12:40pm on 19 Jan 2009, kcband8 wrote:

    How detailed and negative are your questions regarding Ken Clarke' views on Europe.

    How scant and positive your comments on Mandelson on his (of course coming from Europe) unelected return to Government.

    The BBC editors all seem to have this inbuilt left leaning slant on every issue.

    Keep going in your thrust to show how divided the Tory party has suddenly become.

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  • 8. At 1:49pm on 19 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    As an afterthought from my previous post, I think the question I would ask Ken is as follows:

    Ken, do you agree that the Tory party’s policy on the EU is equal to being on a hiding to nothing?

    After all, this is what happens in reality when a political party *believes that the EU has gone too far down the federalist route* (in their own words) but their policy is NOT to leave the EU but rather to tell the other 26 members exactly that (you have gone down too far down the federalist route, you naughty boys!!!!), and expect them to apologise profusely and bring back their old currencies and border police to control intra-EU movements of people once again, scanning the passports of each and everyone of these people who have the temerity to travel between EU countries, as the we-know-better UK gov does.

    Ken is a notorious supporter of the euro but even he, self-declared pro-EU as he his, hasn’t had the guts to speak out in favour of the UK joining Schengen, the highest of the highest taboo for the UK, but which, unlike the Euro, every single EU country has joined or committed to join, except the UK and its Schengen hostage Ireland, forced out on account of the UKs opt-out. Perhaps he could join forces with this (dissident?) other member of his party:

    Foreigners be warned – paranoia rules at the British border

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a395ccd4-9fb1-11dc-8031-0000779fd2ac.html

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  • 9. At 1:54pm on 19 Jan 2009, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Menedemus (2):

    Good post. The only thing were I disagree with you is the possibility of Tories having a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. I think there is no chance that they will have a referendum or deny the ratification of the Treaty. The reason why I think so is 1) back flash from other European countries would be enormous, 2) it would decrease British credibility as an reliable negotiation and work partner, 3) the treaty is favorable to Britain, and 4) as its too easy for Tories to just say "the British government doesn't back down from its treaty obligations, but honors them even when it doesn't like them, blame the Labor!".

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  • 10. At 2:04pm on 19 Jan 2009, sponplague wrote:

    So, the most rabidly pro euro Blue Labour man, famous for not bothering to read the Maastricht Treaty, will be shadowing the most rabidly pro euro New Labour man.

    No wonder the tory activists and donors will feel kicked in the teeth by Camerloon this am...

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  • 11. At 2:07pm on 19 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    @ 6. secretpcjunkie:

    *The Conservitave Party has agreed to have national vote on the membership of Britain in the EU.*

    Really? That’s interesting. Would you mind sharing with us who said that and when? A link to the page on their website where they officially communicate that would also be extremely useful, not least to Mark, as he doesn’t seem to be privy to that information.

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  • 12. At 2:18pm on 19 Jan 2009, politeMarvin wrote:

    Britain is right to criticise the European Charter of Fundamental Rights. The once fundamental right to VOTE has been erased from the Charter and replaced with the legal RIGHT of the coming EU State to quell "rioting,civil upheaval" with something called "lethal force" ( read the Charter at magnacartaplus ).
    Also worthy of note and little reported is this European Court of Justice ruling ( casec-274/99 ) : " Criticism of the European Union is akin to blasphemy and could be restricted without violating freedom of speech." !

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  • 13. At 2:19pm on 19 Jan 2009, CockedDice wrote:

    #7

    I completely agree - the BBC is using Ken's return as a means to try and reopen divisions in the Tory party.

    Mr Mardell, why write such an article on Ken Clarke's return why you wrote so little when Lord Mandelson returned to the cabinet - I can only find one of your blogs referring to this

    www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markmardell/2008/10/top_woman_for_commission_job.html

    With Mandelson also being known for having much more pro-Europe views than his boss why did you not ask similar questions then? Is an Opposition spokeman more deserving of interrogation than an unelected Government minister with unanswered links to Russian businessmen?

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  • 14. At 2:29pm on 19 Jan 2009, siprice wrote:

    Looking at the uk national debt, the balance of payments deficit and the money needed to refloat the banks, joining the euro may not be optional. The alternative could be a catastrophic run on the pound and trillion pound notes. Bring Ken on!

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  • 15. At 2:44pm on 19 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Will Hutton has tried to revive the euro issue in the UK but his body language is that of a man who knows that his cause is lost. Sir Peter Sutherland, BP chairman and former Irish European commissioner was on the Today programme last week desperately trying to revive the issue, but he should be taken to task for the damage that Eurozone membership is doing to the economy of own country.

    The EU has released figures today that project the Irish economy will decline 5% this year, the deepestrecession in the history of the Irish republic. This instability is what eurozone membership means in practice for an Anglo-Saxon economy locked into inappropriate eurozone interest rates and an euro exchange rate which is crippling Irish exports. Mark Mardell should not describe Will Hutton or Peter Sutherland as 'economists' if they are prepared to subordinate jobs, growth and stability to their euro-federlism. Ken Clarke was prepared to sacrifice his own career for the same federalist cause and is the most rebellious MP in the Commons this parliament having consistently voted against his own party on the Lisbon treaty. Nobody in the UK should listen to federalist zealots like these who would sacrfice all to place the UK into the same eurozone vice that is now crushing the Irish economy.

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  • 16. At 3:31pm on 19 Jan 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    @politeMarvin

    What is it with this nonsense that the right to vote was taken away and that the charter allows the use of "lethal force"? I've never heard of this. Ah, you read it in the Sun..now I understand...

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  • 17. At 3:59pm on 19 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    THE European Court of Justice has reacted vehemently to an item in my last Eurofile, dated Oct 28, in which I stated that the advocate general of the European Court had argued that criticism of the European Union could be restricted, without violating freedom of speech, on the grounds that it was akin to blasphemy.

    The court told the House of Commons library, the European media, and other callers that the assertion was totally untrue. But it failed to post the advocate general's opinion on the court's website according to normal practice. Instead, it referred callers to a separate case - which was posted on the website, and which did not contain references to blasphemy - throwing everybody off the scent.

    Two weeks later, under protest, the court posted the "mislaid" opinion on the website and apologised for a misunderstanding. The court now admits that the blasphemy argument was invoked, but says that The Daily Telegraph misconstrued the advocate general's words.

    Since this case threatens a key principle of English law - that a governing body cannot restrict political criticism to protect its own reputation - I would suggest that readers consult the original document and make their own judgement.

    Unfortunately, the text is available only in Spanish and French. The correct case number is C-274/99 P, at http://curia.eu.int/en/jurisp/index.htm.

    The case was brought by a British European Commission official, Bernard Connolly, who was sanctioned for writing The Rotten Heart of Europe. The Court of First Instance has already found against him, ruling that the EU may restrict political speech to protect its interests. The case is now in the appeals stage in the full court, awaiting the final ruling.

    Mr Connolly argued that a landmark British case, Wingrove v United Kingdom, established that political speech could not be limited except in extreme circumstances of blasphemy.

    The Wingrove case involved a pornographic video showing St Teresa of Avila engaged in sexual acts. It went all the way to Europe's other court, the non-EU Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which ruled that the Government could suppress the video, given the egregious offence to Christians, but also ruled that this did not give political authorities a licence to restrict political speech.

    The advocate general turned this on its head, arguing that the blasphemy ruling implied a broader protection for the "rights of others" and, by extension, allowed governing bodies to take action to protect their reputation. The point was not made lightly. It was a central building block of the advocate general's argument that the EU can legitimately punish dissent.

    His legal claim should be seen in the context of next month's Nice Treaty. Article 52 of the new Charter of Fundamental Rights authorises the EU to limit rights "where necessary" in the "general interest" of the EU. The European Court will decide what is "necessary" and what constitutes the "general interest".

    The Connolly case is the best indication we have of how the court will deploy that considerable power once the charter is formally proclaimed.

    The working draft for the Nice Treaty abolishes the national veto for the first time in areas of "direct taxation", where it affects the functioning of the internal market.

    Theresa Villiers, MEP, the Tories' economic spokesman, said this would allow the EU to get its foot in the door on income tax and corporation tax. The commission said the clause has limited scope, involving such issues as cross-border fraud and double taxation.

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  • 18. At 4:05pm on 19 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    Bringing Ken Clarke back is a very astute move on several levels. The obvious one is that he is a big hitter with the political know how and bruiser instinct to play knock about in the Commons. Between them Clarke and Hague can knock the whole Labour front bench into touch. (What a shame Mandelssohn is safely tucked away in the Lords). Secondly, he is one of the few Tory ministerial survivors who genuinely ran an effective department when in government. He has a proven track record as a minister.

    But we are concerned on this thread about Europe and there are a few points to be made here. Europe, whatever some posters might say, is not really a party political issue. There is no inconsistency between having centre right instincts and being pro-Europe any more than it is impossible to be on the left and remain Eurosceptic. Since the Tories claim - in the jargon - to be 'a broad church', there has to be room in the party for right wingers who do not share the Euroscepticism of some of their colleagues. It may very well be that, as the debate develops, the political classes will split not along party lines but into camps on this specific issue.

    I have said before that the debate needs to be had and that there is no one political party which will promote withdrawal or, indeed, one which will commit to greater integration. Of course we have no idea of what a future Commons will look like after the next election but, given that it is unlikely to be fought with Europe at the centre of the agenda, it is to be hoped that those who are for or against the European project will come forward regardless of party affiliation and move the debate forwards.

    If Clarke's return signals that the Tories do not regard this as a party political issue and that there is room in that party for different attitudes to Europe, that could be a good start. Speaking personally, I would be very happy to see the demise of the Labour government but cannot identify any other party which reflects my views on Europe. If the Tories are signaling that they are not by definition Europsceptic, I will find them much easier to support.

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  • 19. At 4:07pm on 19 Jan 2009, mrpeterjfranks wrote:

    Mark,

    All these questions are a bit predictable and one-sided, unfairly intimating that the burden of responsibility for Tory party unity lies predominately on Mr Clarke.

    If you are looking for a "Will this divide the Tories?" angle, surely you should also be asking - will the Eurosceptic party faithful and MPs accept a Europhile on their front bench?

    Can the Tory party, as a whole, demonstrate that it is an inclusive party and thereby prove its readiness for government?

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  • 20. At 4:18pm on 19 Jan 2009, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 21. At 4:31pm on 19 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    @ 15 FBJ

    *The EU has released figures today that project the Irish economy will decline 5% this year, the deepestrecession in the history of the Irish republic. This instability is what eurozone membership means in practice for an Anglo-Saxon economy locked into inappropriate eurozone interest rates and an euro exchange rate which is crippling Irish exports.*

    The same projections forecast a record breaking 2.8% GDP decline for the UK this year. The largest in the EU after Ireland if you exclude the three tiny Baltic states.

    How odd….. You would have thought that a proud Anglo-Saxon economy that IS NOT locked into inappropriate eurozone interest rates and an inappropriate euro exchange rate would fare a lot better than the Irish? 1% GDP growth at the very least.

    And how do you explain that there are four Eurozone countries where the same forecasts predict GDP growth this year? Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus.

    So in the case of the UK, is its record breaking GDP decline forecast something to do with being locked into the Anglosphere, perhaps as a result of its enthusiastic participation in the Anglospheres *Coalition of the Willing* or perhaps as a result of its enthusiastic participation in the Anglospheres toxic-mortgage-derivative-casino?

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  • 22. At 4:41pm on 19 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    A view on the European Court of Justice ruling ( casec-274/99 ) can be found at
    www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/1369895/Eurofile-Defenders-of-free-speech-thrown-off-the-scent.html

    Hopefully this time Mr Clarke can be a Uniting force in the Conservative party rather that as Mark would seem to like a devisive one

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  • 23. At 5:04pm on 19 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    JorgeG1 (21): Would you rather have a 2.8% decline or a 5% decline? The recession in Ireland is far worse than in comparable economies like the UK because Ireland is part of the eurozone. If Ireland was not in the Euro it would be able to lower interest rates. This would both stimulate domestic demand and lead to a temporary currency devaluation which would boost its exports. In that case Ireland might only suffer a comparable decline to the UK rather than the catastrophic record-breaking -5% deep depression.

    The Euro has made ireland the most unstable economy in the world, with wild osciallations in growth and unemployment and politicians without the tools to do anything about it. Let's make sure the same thing never happens in the UK.

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  • 24. At 5:22pm on 19 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    the most unstable economy in the world

    Thats a slight overstatement think zimbabwe

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  • 25. At 5:29pm on 19 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    The swivel-eyed federalists posting here may not like it, but Ken Clarke has surrendered on EU policy. He has given David Cameron an assurance that he will not seek to oppose the leader's policy on Europe the way he did John Major's. The Conservatives are now a unified EU-sceptic party, likely to form the next government. They have ruled out euro membership for ever, are not prepared to accept Lisbon even if it is in force, and will seek to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU.

    If having Ken Clarke in the shadow cabinet until the next election makes the settled Conservative policy on Europe more palatable to some UK voters then it is a price worth paying. All that matters is that we elect an EU sceptic government in 2010 with the determination to resolve the EU problem once and for all. Clarke will be expendable the moment that Cameron is in Downing Street.

    --------
    "Some may raise questions about my views on Europe. They are well-known. But I accept that the party has come to a settled view on European matters, and I will not oppose the direction David will set on European policies in the future." K. Clarke 19.01.2009

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  • 26. At 5:45pm on 19 Jan 2009, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Freeborn-John (23):

    The recession hits UK and Ireland hardest as their economic growth has mainly relied on increasing leverage.

    Lets put some figures in the game...

    External debt per GDP:

    Ireland, 960.86%
    United Kingdom, 376.82%
    France, 211.86%
    Sweden, 176.72%
    Germany, 159.92%
    Finland, 143.95%

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_external_debt

    In short, both Ireland and UK have leveraged themselves quite much by taking loans from markets with lower interest rates, mainly from Japan.

    Of course external debt rates are only half of the equation. There is such thing as foreign savings that balance the foreign debt to GDP ratio. Countries like the UK which have high GNI (Gross National Income) have considerable amounts of foreign savings to balance out the equation. That is why even thought Pound has had quite a run down during the last year, the British economy hasn't collapsed.

    However countries like Ireland which have low GNI index don't have foreign savings to balance out the foreign debt. In that kind of situation what would normally happen is the rapid decline of the value of the currency as capital would be leaving the country and in order to get capital back interests rates would have to be increased. This is what happened in Iceland. Iceland was highly leveraged with foreign debt and when the economic risks exploded they had a run on their currency. Its more or less the same thing that happened in the beginning of 90s in UK, Sweden and Finland were George Soros and other speculators had a charge against the central banks.

    Now with the introduction of Euro, Ireland and other countries which have leveraged themselves highly or otherwise in example for their small size would be susceptible for loosing market credibility or have active currency manipulation operated against them are saved by Euro being a reserve currency.

    The thing is that Euro is a game changer. Its the new US dollar. Its just so massive and has so huge credibility that its not susceptible to same market fluctuations than lesser currencies. This make all Eurozone countries and their economies better and more reliable than other comparable countries.

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  • 27. At 5:52pm on 19 Jan 2009, meznaric wrote:

    The Conservative policy has been very sustainable with Bush in the office in the States to provide cover. It will be interesting to see to what degree Obama will be able to assert himself and whether the Conservative policy will change as a result.

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  • 28. At 7:20pm on 19 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #26 - Jukka_Rohila

    Good points well made but it is important to realise that there are other factors at work here. Today's forecast for growth within the Eurozone indicate predicted negative growth of 1.9% in the coming year for the bloc as a whole but are especially gloomy about the UK and Germany, both predicted to shrink by 2% or more.

    In Britain's case this was entirely predictable with so much of the economy dependent on the service sector and especially financial services, which are contracting sharply. In Germany's case, it seems that the reverse is proving to be the case with manufacturing output shrinking because there are so few economies with the ability or desire to purchase those goods in the current climate.

    There are persuasive cases to be made for and against Euro membership but the idea that Eurozone members are better insulated against global economic downturn can be overstated.

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  • 29. At 7:38pm on 19 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Jukka (26): You only focus on UK overseas liabilities and not on UK foreign investments. The UK stock of foreign investment is the 2nd highest in the world (after the USA) and the highest as a proportion of GDP. The return on this overseas investment is greater than the interest on UK overseas debts, so I fail to see what problem you are talking about.

    Are you complaining the foreign countries where we invest or borrow do not use sterling? If so, welcome to planet Earth. Are you suggesting that the UK should change to another currency to reduce exchange rate risk on this overseas investment and borrowings? If so, you are making the case for the UK using the dollar, because 39% of the stock of UK foreign investment and 44% of inward investment into the UK comes from North America (much higher than the eurozone).

    The pattern of UK overseas investment is quite different from that of UK trade, being much more orientated to the English-speaking world. You do not need very much in common to trade, but investment is a ong-term realtionship that is built on trust, and is faciltated by a shared business culture and ideally a common language.

    (Frankly I am not sure what point you are trying to make in post 26. But I am not going to worry about it, because I suspect you do not know it yourself.)

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  • 30. At 7:52pm on 19 Jan 2009, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    The Euro is a good idea. It brings many advantages including a hugely enlarged home market that has currency stability - a vital ingredient for exporters and manufacturers

    Sterling's exchange rates and our monetary policy slaughtered manufacturing in the UK and now the main argument against the Euro is that it will harm our financial service industry. Sorry, but our financial services industry dependence is reducing us to paupers. They have not only destroyed the manufacturing industry by causing inappropriate exchange rates to be set that made us uncompetitive and they have blown all of our money too and now the Taxpayer is very reluctantly rescuing the banks.

    How will the Euro haters justify spending taxpayers' money on bailing out our banks who have loaned money they did not have to foreigners who now cannot or will not pay it back!

    We should have been in a decade ago and shut down our 'so advantageous' finical services industry.

    Ken Clarke should stick to his position and we should join at the right time.

    I have no time at all for the loss of sovereignty argument - do we really want the kind of sovereignty that destroys the country for that is what sterling's sovereignty has done for us aided by the isolationists who work in the City and have never made anything in their lives.

    Pragmatism is best - I do not hold with having a different currency for different parts of a home market (or country) as all it does is gives bankers the opportunity to steal the bread from hard working peoples mouths!

    If you want to stay out of the Euro you are a self-interested, and now bankrupt, banker!

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  • 31. At 8:44pm on 19 Jan 2009, Jukka Rohila wrote:

    To Freeborn-John (29):

    The point really is volatility. The more volatile the economy is the more susceptible it is for disruptions. In economic downturn disruptions come in different forms ranging from massive foreclosures to bankruptcies and nationalization of main economic actors. These all inflict massive costs on the economy.

    The British economy is more volatile because it uses its own currency which is enough small to allow currency speculation and manipulations and can lead to massive disruptions on economy when interests and exchange rates make steep changes.

    Yes of course Britain does have foreign assets in balance of its foreign liabilities. That however doesn't save it from the costs of disruptions as assets and liabilities aren't common.

    For example Company A may have liabilities in Japanese Yen's which it has invested in UK. The weakening of Pound hits company A. There maybe company B which has foreign assets which benefits from the weak Pound, but that doesn't make company A's situation any better. If company A goes bust due to fluctuations in currency markets, then its a loose for the whole economy.

    Of course you may say in time this will make fit firms to stay and thus optimize the whole economy. That is true, but sometimes even if you are right, even if you are fit, the markets just swim against you for enough long that you go bust (i.e. Long-Term Capital Management). There is also huge human costs on economic disruptions, i.e. here in Finland there is whole generation missing from construction industry due 90s depression, there are also huge social costs if economic is enough hard hit.

    The thing is that by using larger currency there are less and less severe disruptions on the economy. UK is enough big that it doesn't have busts often, but smaller economies are just so much more susceptible for economic disruptions that for them the destruction caused by increased volatility easily beats any advantage that is caused by having own currency.

    In my view, UK having Pound will make it more susceptible for economic disruptions and that will cost it much. Having the chairman of a major company like BP telling that it would be good idea to use Euro is telling quite much on what the situation is.

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  • 32. At 9:40pm on 19 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    314. At 12:44pm on 17 Jan 2009, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    "#313 SuffolkBoy2 wrote:

    "We must all now resist the latest megalomaniac monstrosity - the "EU"."

    Are you unable to comprehend that by leaving the corridors of power, and intrigue, of the 'EU' you will remain subject to its actions, but without any means of ensuring that you have any say at in their decisions?

    This is absolute logical contradiction at the very heart of your position."


    I apoloigise for not answering ealrier. This is an important point which needs an answer which is not delivered in a hurry.

    1) Please could you give me a concrete example?


    2) The amount of influence the British people or the British government have on the "EU" seems to me to be so small as to be hardly visible. The only influence I think I discern is the slowing down of the "EU" integration thingy but not stopping it.

    In Germany in the seventies a lot of Germans said that the predecessor of the "EU" (Common Market, "EEC", "EC" ?) they had then would lead to total integration by 1980. Maybe we stopped that.

    However integration has gone far to far. We have had a load of rubbish we did not want and we did not and do not need: "EU" passports, Maastricht etc, "EU"-parliament, metric system, "European Court of Human Rights"*, CAP, Common Fisheries Policy, European Arrest Warrant and of course massive costs with no worthwhile benefit and no doubt other rubbish that I have forgotten at the moment. We will get even more rubbish if Lisbon goes through.

    The British appear to have had no worthwhile influence over the "EU". Once outside we would be free of so much rubbish and would once again have control over our own country and our own waters.


    * I do know that the European Court Human Rights is not part of the "EU" but, if I remember correctly, recognising it was a precondition for joining the "Common Market."

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  • 33. At 9:50pm on 19 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    SWISS PEOPLE:

    Please read my post #32 above.

    The argument that John_from_Hendon uses has been used on you.

    If you join the "EU" you will have almost no influence over it. It will have a massive and sickening control over you.

    Your politicians will ignore the wishes of the Swiss people and become the apparatchiks of the "EU"-dictatorship.

    You will pay am unbelievable amount of money to a wasteful organisation and will get nothing in return which justifies the expense.

    If you decide to leave, they may prevent you. You might by that time have no Swiss Army and have and "EU"-army on your soil and a politically motivated "European Court of Justice" telling you that you may not leave.

    You might get dragged into wars run by the megalomaniac "EU"-dictatorship.

    You will be part of something which might be turning slowly into a pan-European police state.

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  • 34. At 10:07pm on 19 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Jukka (31): It would be better if you stick to you specialist subject of crypto-fascist arguments based on a power lust and deep-seated anti-Americanism because you clearly know nothing about economics.

    The UK experience of fixed exchange rates is that they destabilise the real economy. If you close off the 'pressure release' mechanisms of interest rate and exchange rate adjustments then all the pain of economic adjustment must fall on growth and jobs instead. This was not just the UK experience of ERM in the early 1990s, but also the pattern when we were on the Gold standard in the 1920s before the Great Depression and also under the Bretton Woods system before it collapsed in the 1970s.

    The Irish have fixed their rates but destabilised their real economy with big boom and bust cycles like the UK experienced under ERM, the Gold Standard and Bretton Woods. Their interest rates are set with Germany and France in mind but are too high for their own economic circumstances, and their exports are being priced out of their main market in the UK.

    By contrast the system in the UK is working perfectly. We were able to raise sterling interest rates before the eurozone to moderate the worst excesses of the property boom (something Ireland could not do). We have now lowered interest rates to a 300-year low to get the economy going again. And the devaluation of sterling means that our exports remain competitive in international markets. The UK decision to stay out of the euro has been fully vindicated by this downturn. Real people in Ireland are paying for the folly of EU federalism with their jobs.

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  • 35. At 10:25pm on 19 Jan 2009, MaxSceptic wrote:

    John_from_Hendon @30,

    I want to stay out of the euro.

    I'm neither a bankrupt nor a banker, but I am very self-interested.

    If more people were truly 'self-interested' and kept their incompetent noses out of other people's business (and pockets) in the name of 'society' we'd all be better off.

    As for "Pragmatism is best" - that sounds like the creed of slaves.

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  • 36. At 10:43pm on 19 Jan 2009, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    #32. SuffolkBoy2 wrote:

    In an attempt to argue against my earlier point on an earlier blog which obviously seriously troubled him.

    The point I made was "Are you unable to comprehend that by leaving the corridors of power, and intrigue, of the 'EU' you will remain subject to its actions, but without any means of ensuring that you have any say at in their decisions?

    This is absolute logical contradiction at the very heart of your position."


    In #32 you do not address the question I raised and I believe that you know that you have not. You are unable the be logically consistent in maintaining that we can a better deal with Europe from the outside than we can from the inside.

    In other words the position that you are adopting is one where you are prepared for us doing less well as a nation outside Europe than we would have done inside for the dubious privileged of an illusion of independence.

    This is very much the same argument that caused Ken Clarke to feature in the blog, getting back to the topic, which I generally try to do. It is the maintaining that it better for us to have a floating currency (for example) as this helps our financial services industry but has the side of destroying our manufacturing industry. Even though far more people work outside of financial services than they do within it. (I would go on to point out the perils of being dependent on financial services, but the news media and events are doing it for me.)

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  • 37. At 10:47pm on 19 Jan 2009, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    #33. SuffolkBoy2 wrote:

    "You might get dragged into wars run by the megalomaniac "EU"-dictatorship."

    Hardly likely on many fronts. Come on, please make your arguments reasonable and rational.

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  • 38. At 11:03pm on 19 Jan 2009, Nimjaneb wrote:

    Oh my god.....
    I just about had enough.
    I simply wish the Tories win and England leaves the EU, this irrational anti-EU religion is way over the top.

    Of course the EU is not perfect and never will be, but instead of seeing the advantages there is just fear that something might change, even if it is for the better.

    Again, please leave and never come back...
    Sorry for those Britains who want to stay and would be helpful in the process of uniting Europe, but it is just unbearable.


    Have a nice day

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  • 39. At 11:40pm on 19 Jan 2009, artisticalexande wrote:

    So Ken's back in the fold.. The UK needs political balance but the middle road ultimatley is as any political map showing that the UK is in Europe, least we not forget former French president words "England is an Island" We belong as our ancestors to Europe. Where was America during the first part of the second world war?
    OK so the bickering of beurocrats in Brussels and all those latin places and smaller troublesome potato republics, Lets get in and join forces ultimatley its Germany, United Kingdom and France that has the right leadership and skills to pull Europe into shape.

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  • 40. At 00:34am on 20 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    34. Freeborn-John:

    "Jukka (31): It would be better if you stick to you specialist subject of crypto-fascist arguments based on a power lust and deep-seated anti-Americanism because you clearly know nothing about economics."

    Since Freeborn-John wrote

    "Alice: I am no economist but this is the way I see it."

    (At 5:21pm on 21 Nov 2008, in "Germany loses revs" post # 296.)

    one might wonder what makes him think that he knows something about economics - a subject on which he nonetheless blows mighty hard.

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  • 41. At 10:03am on 20 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    @ FBJ

    *If Ireland was not in the Euro it would be able to lower interest rates.*

    Errr… how low do you want them?

    Eurozone interest rates = 2%, UK interest rates = 1.5%

    Is this a significant difference at a time when the people who know about these matters (no, not the public school clique that rules us) say that the problem is not the cost of credit but the availability of credit? I think you want to have it both ways, very much in line with the EU policy of the two major parties. As the UK is not locked into the mythical one-size-fits-all how come Gordo is having to waste all our taxes to nationalise the British banks?

    *The Conservatives are now a unified EU-sceptic party, likely to form the next government. They have ruled out euro membership for ever, are not prepared to accept Lisbon even if it is in force, and will seek to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU.*

    Oh, not again!!!!!????? Exactly what is this renegotiation about? Renegotiate what and with whom? The rest of the EU will rightly tell the UK: You are already the only country in the EU that has refused to take part in each and every one of the key pillars of the EU: The Euro and Schengen in particular. The only thing left to renegotiate is for the UK to leave the EU, which the UK is free to do.

    To have a special a-la-carte status, even more than the UK currently has, is something that the other EU members are not going to accept, if anything because it would just accentuate the current ridiculous situation: The pretence of being a EU-member country without participating in any of the key EU policies. Admittedly, the only reason the rest of the EU has put up with this is because the UK is a significant contributor to the EU coffers. Do you think the EU would have accepted the endless opt-outs and red lines if the UK was a net recipient? Surely not!!

    I think you, FBJ, and the Bullingdon chaps need to get real. It is quite simple really. Do you want to be in the EU or not? Stop banging about *renegotiating Britain's relationship with the EU*; to start with, you need to consult the British people about what kind of relationship they want with the EU, which basically means that you cannot just pose the question: Do you want the UK gov to renegotiate Britains relationship with the EU? What exactly does that mean? No, the Tories need to put a REAL, meaningful question to the people and then act accordingly. Do the Bullingdon chaps have the guts to do that? Methinks not…

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  • 42. At 10:27am on 20 Jan 2009, betuli wrote:

    I remember only 10 years ago the entire EU was at the mercy of UK stance on the process. Brussels used to literaly beg to Britain to accept that, giving back this in compensation.

    Nowadays is totally different. No one in the Eurozone cares very much if UK joins the Euro or the Conservative Party quits the Europe People's party.

    Times are changing and I must admit this must be very frustrating for the most extreme British eurosceptic campaigners.

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  • 43. At 10:48am on 20 Jan 2009, buckeridge wrote:

    To Nimjaneb, JorgeG and all other sensible-minded individuals,

    Unfortunately, you may argue all you like with all the cogent reasoning in the world about the merits of the EU, but in the UK there is a rather stubborn and entrenched lobby, often posting on this board, which will not listen and will insist on its own irrational views drawn from the hysterical anti-EU media.

    For this lobby, the benefits of EU membership will only ever be demonstrated through the negative consequences that will result from the UK's withdrawal. Only when these consequences are staring the country in the face will the penny drop.

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  • 44. At 12:14pm on 20 Jan 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #43, Ravenseft,

    The penny needs to drop on the pro EU/EURO side as well as it's clear the current federalist approach is not working, and that the concept of a single market and open borders is an illusion, as most countries that have signed up to directives without opt outs simply don't implement the bits they don't like (all totally illegal of course but ignored). There is plenty of evidence of this if you live and work across borders and in multiple countries, and many of the 'benefits' being touted around are in fact an illusion, i.e. look at the harmonisation of qualifications farce that prevents many from getting work they're qualified to do in another EU country.

    As for the UK leaving the EU, that would cause a very big problem for the EU bearing in mind that without the rebate the UK would be the biggest net payer, and with the rebate the second biggest net payer. Compound that with the balance of trade deficit which sees the UK importing far more than it exports and the conclusion is self evident. A UK withdrawal would make the finances of the EU totally untenable, especially bearing in mind the current economic situation. It would have to change it's direction or fold, as without the UK's money all budget plans are up in the air. As for making the UK pay to trade, that may work with a land locked Switzerland but not for an Island as the UK can simply switch suppliers.

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  • 45. At 12:24pm on 20 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    JorgeG1 (41): The severity of downturn in Ireland is such that UK interest rates would currently be too high for Ireland. I would suggest Ireland needs interest rates no higher than the 1% in the USA right now. Even if the ECB has lowered its rates recently it has always been the last to do so. The precipitous decline in Ireland has more to do with the long years of low eurozone interest rates than the current level. It was these years of too low interest rates that fuelled the Irish construction boom to rediculous heights and led to the current bust.

    Even if there is a downturn in the UK, it would be a lot more serous had we sacrificed the independence of sterling. Without the flexibility of our own currency the UK would very likely be experiencing a -5% crash this year just like in Ireland.

    I cannot tell you exactly what the Conservative will seek to re-negotiate in 2010. There are some issues almost certain to be included, such as a UK opt-out from social policy and common fisheries policy, but this will not be anywhere near enough. We need a generalised opt-out such that the government of the day (in any country) can opt-out of measures that previous governments agreed to. The simplest way to achieve this is to make national law superior to EU law in areas beyond the common market. Without this the EU will slowly become a dictatorship, not just for the UK but for every nation. If other states oppose the UK on this re-negotiation, then they will have to explain to their own citizens how their votes will be able to change the law they live under in the future. More and more people across Europe now see that the EU is a boa constrictor whose growing body of EU law is strangling the democratic institutions of the nation-state and slowly reducing national pariaments to impotence. Citizens of other EU states will support the UK against their own governments because they will recognise that their own democracies have no future if the EU will not negotiate on this matter.

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  • 46. At 1:40pm on 20 Jan 2009, NikolayTzvetkov wrote:

    Freeborn-John (34)
    Quite bold from someone that is not economist himself. It can be argued for ages about the pros and cons of fixed vs. free-floating exchange rates, but that is not the point. But I can’t see how can you manipulate the exchange rates and the interest rates at the same time, especially if your country has a trade deficit. I guess it’s a good idea to see what the UK trade balance is. Essentially, it is negative overall, negative for goods in general and for most goods in particular, incl. food, positive for services. Just to remind you though, that The City is probably the single most enthusiastic supporter of Euro in UK. Draw your own conclusions here. It will be nice if you can tell me what will happen if UK devaluates the pound further, I ma just curious.
    If Ireland was free to set its own exchange rate it’s hard to imagine how it could be lower than the one for the pound or euro, just can’t see it. I will appreciate if you can explain to me how this can happen.
    But my favourite part of the post is the last paragraph. It proves we live in parallel universes.
    “By contrast the system in the UK is working perfectly.” Considering the mess UK is into I would not describe it as perfect.
    “We were able to raise sterling interest rates before the eurozone to moderate the worst excesses of the property boom (something Ireland could not do).” Really?
    “We have now lowered interest rates to a 300-year low to get the economy going again. And the devaluation of sterling means that our exports remain competitive in international markets.” At best this is wishful thinking, so far there is no evidence that it works. To be quite honest I can’t see a significant change in the trade volumes of UK within the last few years. By the way what about the imports and related inflation and the living standards of the population? You sound like economic adviser of the Italian or French government before they join the Euro. Usually moves towards devaluation result in inflation, reduction of living standards of most people, destruction of the savings, etc. So where will the UK banks going to get money to lend, or where will the UK government sell its bonds?
    “The UK decision to stay out of the euro has been fully vindicated by this downturn.” How? “Real people in Ireland are paying for the folly of EU federalism with their jobs.” They are paying for their own folly, just like the people of UK will if they elect Tony Blair mark 2, aka Cameron next time.
    P.S. If I work in The City and I am a valued professional, I will ask my salary to be fixed in Euros.
    But I have to give you point I already switched buying books from UK web sites instead of German ones.
    P.S.S. (45) By the way why don’t you ask for the county laws in England to be superior to the national one? This way even further flexibility and democracy will be achieved. I have some great ideas if this suggestion is followed. I am sure that differential interest rates and independent currencies of County Durham and County Sussex make sense.

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  • 47. At 1:48pm on 20 Jan 2009, BernardVC wrote:

    What is with those Brits and thinking that the EU is going to change into a dictatorship?
    What have they been smoking/drinking/sniffing?

    Comic relief if anything.

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  • 48. At 2:51pm on 20 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #44 - Buzet23
    #43 - Ravenseft

    The penny has not dropped as regards the federalist agenda because of the willful manipulation of their various peoples by their national governments to 'engineer' ratification of Lisbon instead of trusting the judgment of their electorates. Far from being united, the result is that there seem to be as many positions on Lisbon as there are members. This may indicate a democratic deficit which I am constantly harping on about but it does mean that the principles are not right and neither can you blame the deviousness of national governments on the institution as a whole.

    As regards cross border mobility, you may be right about the doctrine of 'selective enforcement' but this rather underlines the need for Brussels to be in the position to crack the whip more forcibly rather than the other way round. As to the mobility of qualifications, this has more to constant wrangling among innumerable quangos than deliberate obstruction although, among the professions, it does not appear to be a major problem. Clearly the law is an exception since codes vary but in areas such as medicine or architecture, I see little evidence of restriction of mobility.

    The euro is a different and separate issue and the current economic climate will probably sort the men out from the boys. If the flexibility to adjust interest rates outside the Eurozone proves decisive in the relative speed at which national economies begin to recover, I will bow to the wisdom of those who champion the pound. Personally, I think the advantage of being one of several big fish in a very large pond outweighs splendid isolation but time will tell. While I favour British membership, I fear that beginning the process now would smack of panic. The UK economy has slipped well outside the criteria anyway and it should, I feel, be placed on the agenda again as something to be considered when some kind of sanity has returned to world markets.

    I do, however, completely endorse Ravenseft's comment. The EU has become a political football which is being constantly kicked about in an endless practice session because everybody is too frightened to schedule the big match. Deep down, I think there are many in British politics who would be happy for the issue to just go away. It won't so face up to it. Neither the UK nor the EU can carry on much longer in this state of flux.

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  • 49. At 2:57pm on 20 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    To which I would just like to add that employers are free to take on whomsoever they please for a particular vacancy. If they are satisfied with the competence of a candidate, there is nothing stopping them from engaging him/her on the basis of their non-national qualifications.

    #4 - BernardVC

    Since the PC mob regard smoking as devilry of the worst kind and the cost of slurping in Britain is nigh on prohibitive, I'd put my money on the solvent manufacturers.

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  • 50. At 3:03pm on 20 Jan 2009, whatisaidwas wrote:

    When on a boat on Martinique, recently, the pilot said smoking was not permitted as far as the EU is concerned, but 'in France ...' and allowed passengers to smoke astern. I have been rather pro-the EU but I have to say that apparent double standards like this make me think twice.

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  • 51. At 3:03pm on 20 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    49. threnodio:

    "Since ... the cost of slurping in Britain is nigh on prohibitive"

    It seems that you've not been home lately or you'd be aware of the "99p pint wars".

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  • 52. At 3:04pm on 20 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    FBJ, so you cannot tell me exactly what the Conservative will seek to re-negotiate in 2010.

    Well, I can tell you that you and the Bullingdon boys need two lessons. One in democracy and another one (very basic) in law.

    Lesson in democracy: Surely you are not saying that the Tory government will seek to renegotiate the UKs membership of the EU WITHOUT first asking the British people what kind of relationship they want with the EU (assuming the British people knew in the first place, highly unlikely, but that is another matter). I thought the main problem of the Anti-EU camp was that the EU is a totalitarian superstate? In that case, you and the Bullingdon boys would need to lead by example, not by making decisions ala Heathrow-Third-Runway (a minority imposing their will on the majority) like the NuLab lot. Sadly, apart from confusing noises about the Lisbon Treaty it doesn’t seem the Tories are very keen to pop THE EU question to the British people. In fact, they had the opportunity to do so when the LibDems proposed precisely such a vote during the parliamentary debate on the LT, and the Tories sided with the government opposing that kind of straightforward democratic procedure.

    Lesson in law: You negotiate and/or re-negotiate things BEFORE signing the dotted line, not AFTER. Tony, yes the one who took this country to an illegal war, signed the removal of the British opt-out from the Social Chapter. That is now binding on any British government of any colour, in the same way the ratification of the LT is. So there is no legal basis to re-negotiate any of that in the same way that a buyer of a property cannot ask to renegotiate the selling price after the contract has been signed and completed. Conversely, there is a clearly specified legal procedure in the LT that contemplates the steps a country has to make to withdraw its membership of the EU.

    So basically, what you and the Bullingdon boys are talking about is fiction politics. Perhaps they missed the basic training in law and democracy while in Oxford, as being a member of the Bullingdon Club involves additional commitments, such as attending notorious dinner parties. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullingdon_club

    Finally, a lesson in common sense. Why negotiate and re-negotiate a never ending list of opt-outs? Surely it would make a lot more sense to head for the exit door (again, after consulting the British people) and then negotiate with the EU what bits of EU policies the UK wants to participate in.

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  • 53. At 3:16pm on 20 Jan 2009, frenchderek wrote:

    Thanks to JorgeG1 for posting the Conservative's reply to his letter we now know that Cameron's view, like Thatcher's is that the UK is better off in the EU than out. They are both right, too, in that the EU spends far too much time navel-gazing than promoting useful policies. That's probably why Ken Clark can be in agreement with Cameron.

    Thatcher's great achievement was in getting so much reformed in a previously impervious EU. If Cameron gets a shot, I will watch what happens.

    Interesting to see that so many postings (and Cameron) want to get the UK out of the Social Chapters. Real "red in tooth and claw" stuff - can't have the plebs getting social justice now, can we? Grind 'em down.

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  • 54. At 6:08pm on 20 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    JorgeG1 (52): It is a basic requirement of democracy that no parliament can bind its successors. If the Labour party has a right to permanently lock the UK into EU measures when it is in power, but the Conservatives have no corresponding right to undo those measures when it is in office, then the UK (and indeed every other European country) will end up with a system of governance that rapidly loses its legitimacy after just one or two electoral cycles. This is of course what has happened to the EU in just 17 years since the political union began at Maastricht and it gets worse with every passing year.

    History shows what happens to political institutions that have lost their legitimacy. The EU is going to undergo a thorough reform to restore its legitimacy or it will simply be abandoned. The necessary reform will most likely begin with a re-negotiation of the UK membership but the problem is certainly not unique to the UK. The 2005 and 2008 referendum results in France, the Netherlands and Ireland all show that the project has been de-legitimised well beyond Britain and that this is spreading continent-wide.

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  • 55. At 7:07pm on 20 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #52 - JorgeG1

    I am in broad agreement with your position and would like to endorse a lot of what you say but you are doing yourself and your cause no favours by constantly referring to the Conservative party as 'the Bullingdon Boys' as if they are race apart whose claim to power is based solely on money and privilege.

    Most of us became involved in pranks and larks in undergrad days which would not make a lot of sense now. It does not mean that we have not grown up. The Tory party remains a potent political force in Britain. Indeed on current polls, they would probably form the next government and seeking to belittle them but charterising them as a bunch of boater wearing toofs reminds me somewhat of the Nobel Baroness's constant references to Jacques Santer as 'Mr. Santa'. If you can't beat them, insult them.

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  • 56. At 9:24pm on 20 Jan 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    @ Buzet23

    "the concept of a single market and open borders is an illusion"

    Today I went to pick up a friend in Germany. Hailing from Northern Italy I crossed three countries without even noticing when one changed into the other. I also used the same money to pay in all three of them.

    The concept of a single market and open borders is not an illussion. It is very real and I love it.

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  • 57. At 9:57pm on 20 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    At 55

    'belittle them by characterising . . . ' and 'Noble Baroness'

    . . . apologies.

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  • 58. At 10:03pm on 20 Jan 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #49., threnodio wrote:

    You mention, "To which I would just like to add that employers are free to take on whomsoever they please for a particular vacancy. If they are satisfied with the competence of a candidate, there is nothing stopping them from engaging him/her on the basis of their non-national qualifications."

    I'm afraid whist that may apply in some countries, there are others that do not apply those standards and seek to restrain immigration by making it very difficult to take any job other than basic labouring or in the 'black'. Even in medicine it exists. I have to say that the UK with its fairly liberal qualification laws has suffered from this since other countries demand evidence of past qualifications from many years back that is a joke, all in the justification that the standard is as good as theirs, lots of laughs mostly.

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  • 59. At 11:04pm on 20 Jan 2009, SCL wrote:

    To #2, I don't see how the Euro and in particular Schengen have to necessarily lead to a federalist Europe. Its just a problem with the former that these annoying federalist types try to hijack something which does not have to be related to any sense of there being a "United Europe" or anything.

    To call Schengen in particular a federalist exercise is just a bit silly if you ask me. Lets not let the federalist loonys ruin it for the rest of us - Schengen and the Euro, amongst other things flowing from the EU, are not a bad thing.

    Its in other areas that the Tories should be doing us a favour as the opposition and stopping the ridiculous flow of power from national government to the EU level, particularly in social areas and most certainly putting a plug in this Citizenship nonsense.

    I think it doesnt serve our cause well though when there is ignorance surrounding it.

    To relate this to the blog though, Ken Clarke is one of my favourite politicians and I wish you had indeed had an interview with him Mark for him to explain more his actual position on Europe. I've never understood if he is a federalist or what. I have to say I lost a lot of respect for him over his support for the Lisbon Treaty despite there being little good reason for it.

    I'm going to join the club in requesting you try and get an interview with him if possible!!!

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  • 60. At 02:14am on 21 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    36. At 10:43pm on 19 Jan 2009, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    #32. SuffolkBoy2 wrote:

    In an attempt to argue against my earlier point on an earlier blog which obviously seriously troubled him.

    The point I made was "Are you unable to comprehend that by leaving the corridors of power, and intrigue, of the 'EU' you will remain subject to its actions, but without any means of ensuring that you have any say at in their decisions?

    This is absolute logical contradiction at the very heart of your position."

    In #32 you do not address the question I raised and I believe that you know that you have not. You are unable the be logically consistent in maintaining that we can a better deal with Europe from the outside than we can from the inside.

    I think I did address the question but will give it another go in a doomed attempt to keep you happy.

    " ...you will remain subject to its actions, but without any means of ensuring that you have any say at in their decisions?..."

    We would be much less subject to its actions. e.g. we would have no common fisheries policy and would be able to keep Spanish boats out of our waters.


    " ...you will remain subject to its actions, but without any means of ensuring that you have any say at in their decisions?"

    Give me an example of an action to which we would be subject.

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  • 61. At 02:18am on 21 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    37. At 10:47pm on 19 Jan 2009, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    '#33. SuffolkBoy2 wrote:

    "You might get dragged into wars run by the megalomaniac "EU"-dictatorship."

    Hardly likely on many fronts. Come on, please make your arguments reasonable and rational. '

    What is the "EU" building up its armed forces for?

    We have NATO to defend us. We don't need an army run by the arrogant anti-democratic people who are forcing the Lisbon Treaty down our throats.

    In the Falklands War many Germans were on the side of the Argies. Many of them said that the Argies had the right to invade. Presumably they think that their "EU" also has the right to invade.

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  • 62. At 02:25am on 21 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    38. At 11:03pm on 19 Jan 2009, Nimjaneb wrote:

    "Oh my god.....
    I just about had enough.
    I simply wish the Tories win and England leaves the EU, this irrational anti-EU religion is way over the top.

    Of course the EU is not perfect and never will be, but instead of seeing the advantages there is just fear that something might change, even if it is for the better.

    Again, please leave and never come back...
    Sorry for those Britains who want to stay and would be helpful in the process of uniting Europe, but it is just unbearable."

    I have found your "EU" and its predecessors unbearable since 1975 and so have many others.

    Does your lousy dictatorship care?

    Do I care if you find people like me unbearable?

    Yes, I do. I am glad. Maybe you will throw us out.


    The Tories are not going to take us out. Look at the Tories near me:

    Michael Lord - voted for Maastricht.

    John Gummer - voted against a referendum on the Lisbon Treachery.

    Ben Gummer - tells people off for calling the "EU" a dictatorship.

    I shall probably be voting for UKIP in June.

    Voting for any of the apparatchik parties - Labour, Lib-Dems or Tories is a waste of time and of a vote.



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  • 63. At 05:00am on 21 Jan 2009, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Mark:

    [But will the return of the blokeish bruiser come to haunt the Conservative Party?]

    Maybe in the short-term; but, in the long-run it may help the Conservative Party with the return of Ken....

    ~Dennis Junior~

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  • 64. At 10:21am on 21 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    @ threnodio, 55

    *I am in broad agreement with your position and would like to endorse a lot of what you say but you are doing yourself and your cause no favours by constantly referring to the Conservative party as 'the Bullingdon Boys' as if they are race apart whose claim to power is based solely on money and privilege.*

    I happen to think that one of the fundamental problems of the British pseudo-democracy is that the upper ranks of all major parties are overwhelmingly populated by a privileged Public School clique whose claim to being there is an Oxbridge background and having climbed through the ranks of a political party, with no other merit whatsoever and zero experience of real life outside their privileged circles, let alone real hardship.

    That’s why I find it ironical how the British EU-phobic brigade see the EU as a totalitarian superstate but are more than happy with their FPTP plutocracy.

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  • 65. At 10:46am on 21 Jan 2009, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    #61 SuffolkBoy2 wrote:

    A diversionary justification of his earlier statement "You might get dragged into wars run by the megalomaniac "EU"-dictatorship."

    On one hand you want out of the EU so that the UK would have no influence on affairs and on the other you criticises the EU for things it has not done and shows no sign of doing.

    You cannot have it both ways. I repeat my original response "Come on, please make your arguments reasonable and rational", and are we not supposed to be discussing the pros and cons of Ken Clarke's return to front-line politics?

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  • 66. At 10:53am on 21 Jan 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #64, JorgeG1,

    Whilst there certainly are many Oxbridge politicians at the top there are also many who are not from there, and in the past we've even had a PM that didn't even go to university (Sir John Major), so I don't think that this is where your clique is to be found. If, however, you mentioned the establishment i.e. Civil Service, then you may have put your finger on the button. This is where the real power lies and the TV series 'Yes Minister' was almost certainly based on reality. When you remember the fast tracking system that the civil service uses to fast track 'suitable' candidates you will see your Oxbridge clique.

    My take on this is that it's far easier for a non-Oxbridge person to rise to the top in a political party than to do the same in the home office or especially the foreign office. In fact background and education was never an obstacle in the Conservative party as many I knew from the South London area of Sir John Major proved, and he was not the only senior Tory at the time from a very ordinary background.

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  • 67. At 11:38am on 21 Jan 2009, betuli wrote:

    Politicians and media in continental Europe are completely ignoring the debate if the tories will withdraw or not from the European People's party.

    Moreover, the issue over UK joining the Euro does not either deserve one line across the Channel. Who wants to seduce a country with a gloomy economic forecast?

    As a headline in a British paper said: "Let's join the Euro before we have to beg". So i'm afraid this debate will be enclosed in the insular field.

    The eurosceptics have remained without an exterior enemy to fight against.

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  • 68. At 12:49pm on 21 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #64 - JorgeG1
    #66 - Buzet23

    Plus, of course JG1, you overlook the fact that someone has to elect them. Unless you think the electorate are Bullingdon boy's too.

    As regards selection, the most serious complaint I have heard is of political correctness - trying to force all female lists or preferring minority candidates regardless of ability.

    I think Buzet is right about some branches of the Civil Service say 20 years ago and I am not in a position to judge first hand but people that are tell me that they have seen a 'red brick' culture emerge and Oxbridge is on the wane. Partly because one suspects that there a number of ways of getting seriously rich but the public service is not one of them.

    If the Foreign Office is the exception, thank goodness. The idea of the UK being represented overseas by an inarticulate football hooligan with tattoos and an earring is too much.

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  • 69. At 2:28pm on 21 Jan 2009, secretpcjunkie wrote:

    georgi
    I emailed the Conservative Party to their official web site and asked what was their plans for a vote on the EU.
    I am not that knowledgable on the computer , I do not know how to show the email they sent me.
    If you go to their web site you will get the same reply I did.

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  • 70. At 3:19pm on 21 Jan 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #68, threnodio,

    I quite agree about "As regards selection, the most serious complaint I have heard is of political correctness - trying to force all female lists or preferring minority candidates regardless of ability."

    I'm afraid the selection procedure of all the parties leaves a lot to be desired and that was the case in the early 70's where central office always offered their preferred candidates, likewise the Labour and Liberal parties. It probably explains why there are so many politicians in high office that work on three wheels only. Unfortunately the civil service has always been very traditional and 'buggins turn' was the main promotional requirement. Whether Oxbridge origins have now been replaced by PC selection criteria I don't know, but quite frankly I don't like either if they only result in the establishment knows best culture we've seen for years now and ability is a dirty word.

    67, betuli,

    You said "Who wants to seduce a country with a gloomy economic forecast?", I take it you also include Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, Italy etc in your list of countries with a gloomy economic forecast. The only question at the moment is which bank in which country is the next to collapse, so no one country can be seen as 'working' at the moment I'm afraid.

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  • 71. At 3:44pm on 21 Jan 2009, secretpcjunkie wrote:

    JorgeGI
    I agree with you our political parties are not perfect.
    There is more hope of changing them than changing the EU.
    We at least have an option of voting parties out now, and even voting in a new party such as UKIP.
    We get to choose, thats democracy, no choice is Dictatorship.

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  • 72. At 3:47pm on 21 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    @ 69 Junkie

    You mean they will have a vote on the Lisbon Treaty, everybody knows that. I mean a vote on the real issue of whether the British people want to stay or leave the EU.

    It would be interesting if now they said they are planning to hold the latter vote if they win the election, as a few months ago they sided with HMG to deny precisely that vote, as proposed by the LibDems during the LT parliamentary debate.

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  • 73. At 4:04pm on 21 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    38 Nimjaneb

    While it may be culturally correct to interchange 'England' with 'Britain', England is in fact but a constituent nation of Britain, something the vast majority of English do NOT have a problem with. (Well, they do have an approx 10:1 majority reflected in the share of power - nice, eh?...)

    Ignore their bluster.

    It can be said to be amazing how English EU-sceptics/phobes fail to see the irony - at their scorn for Scotland wanting to escape an unfair constitutional setup, and their disdain over their remaining a member of the EU for it being an unfair constitutional setup.

    We Scots are generally not so afflicted, just to inform you. (There may be much outpourings of acrid ridicule and other such scoffing as a result of this post, but we are used to being told we are 'lesser' - it's all been 'blown' before....

    However I'm sure it will all sort itself out.
    :-)

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  • 74. At 4:28pm on 21 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    No the Welsh would never want to leave the UK because they would be bamkrupt in minutes.

    I can't wait to say good bye to the Sot's i just wish they would take the sponging Welsh with them.

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  • 75. At 4:33pm on 21 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    re my #73

    Maybe there won't be any hostility to my post and my comments are unfair (should not prejudge). If so, apologies. I only have a gripe with the constitutional setup - Europe seems fairer to me than the status quo because it offers a voice, which is better than no voice. The English seem to cherish and somewhat grieve for their voice in the same matters. There are further arguments, but I don't want to stumble too much off topic.

    And on that, my view in Ken is that, given he is pretty much revered by Conservative sympathisers (btw I can't stand Labour...) on his merits as a respected politician etc., it doesn't seem to stand up to scrutiny that such an apparently clever man can be so strangely wrong over Europe.

    So I'm not sure it is him who is wrong. But that's only my opinion (then that's what blogs are for). Oh, and his answers to all these questions, in that they provide alternative views, should be a strength for the Conservatives, like a minority govt. is a strength of democracy, and not an automatic thorn in their side. But I do not yet expect that will be so.

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  • 76. At 4:38pm on 21 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #74 WhiteEnglishProud (and malcontented? :-)

    That's fine, but I would sue your charm school.

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  • 77. At 4:53pm on 21 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    aye_write (73): There are two types of Scottish nationalists. The first group want greater control of their own lives. This group know their goal is incompatible in the medium term with the one-way ratchet of power towards Brussels that EU membership currently entails.

    The second group of Scottish nationalists are motivated by hostility towards the Engish. Their logic is that of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”. They do not stop to think that selling the UK into Brussels servitude would means that Scots as well as English would end up with remote Brussels governance beyond the influence of their votes.

    I have respect for the first type of Scottish nationalist, but the latter are no better than the US haters on the Continent who believe EU serfdom is a price worth paying to satisfy their anti-Americanism.

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  • 78. At 4:54pm on 21 Jan 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    @ WEP

    "No the Welsh would never want to leave the UK because they would be bamkrupt in minutes.

    I can't wait to say good bye to the Sot's i just wish they would take the sponging Welsh with them."

    Little Englanderism at its best. England would be just another small/medium country in Europe with the approximate equal population of Shanghai. Do you really and in all honesty think that you're so important? I mean, I would laugh at the notion if I wouldn't be so worried about your sanity.

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  • 79. At 4:54pm on 21 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    Aye i would but the Scottish parliment ruled that whilst Scottish students could attend for free i would have to pay, so I didn't go.

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  • 80. At 5:11pm on 21 Jan 2009, dwwonthew wrote:

    "What is with those Brits and thinking that the EU is going to change into a dictatorship?"

    Because we know from bitter experience how susceptible certain countries are to dictators when times get tough and how often it is the despised British who have to give those dictators a bloody nose.

    As for Mark referring to "economists" [two of them?] who want to open the debate
    on the UK joining the euro he should put the other side of the question as spelt out by Paul Mortimer-Lee. He is head of market economics at BNP Paribas, the French Bank, and argues that not only would Britain's problems have been worse had we been in the euro this is just about the worst time to think about joining.

    As far as the new Shadow Business Secretary is concerned, he is my local MP and I have heard him say that now is not the right time for Britain to be thinking about joining the euro. Additionally, the latest opinion poll in the UK - commissioned by the BBC - revealed 71% against euro membership.

    And with at least 5 of the eurozone countries in deep trouble it is surely being a little on the optimistic side to think that the single currency will come out of the recession without some tensions.

    And before anyone starts accusing me of being anti-European. I am not. I just differeniate between Europe and the EU.

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  • 81. At 5:17pm on 21 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #77 Freeborn-John

    I haven't encountered your English haters for a long, long while (since I was in school?) but no doubt they exist, unfortunately. Scots tend to lambast them now - they are embarrasing.

    So far as I've investigated it, I would go for Scotland as an independent nation as a member of the EU. For all it's faults, in an increasingly globalised world, I happen to see it (EU) as being included in the future, but we would have to debate and maybe have a referendum etc.

    "This group know their goal is incompatible in the medium term with the one-way ratchet of power towards Brussels that EU membership currently entails."

    There must be more than two groups of nationalists, as I'm not sure we can say definitively that is the case. Scots would have infinitely more power, through EU votes, and a commissioner, than we do at present, so that's a positive start.

    Plus there are nats who favour being part of a confederal Europe (I think I am correct in saying) albeit through a gradualist approach.

    I'm not in tune with your last paragraph.

    :-)

    # 79 WhiteEnglishProud

    Don't blame me - SNP MPs don't vote on English only issues (unlike unionist ones - tsk, shame).

    You have my total sympathy - what you point out is very bad.

    :-(

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  • 82. At 5:23pm on 21 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    Gheryando

    Do i think i should pay to keep people who are too lazy (in the Majority of cases) too work that dont even live in my country?

    No (that surely is the only sane answer)

    Do I believe england is anymore important that say Holland, Spain Belguim Portugal?

    Of course i don't. All i want is to be governed by fellow Englishmen/Women who I have an opertunity to vote for. What I dont want is Scottish and Welsh M.P's voting on English (not British) Law.

    As to Little Englanderism, this fantastically made up concept.

    I want peace, trade, equallity and Democracy in Europe what i don't want is to be Governed by people that I have not Elected. I don't want to have to pay for the rebuilding of eastern Europe when the Infrastructure in England is Crumbling.



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  • 83. At 5:27pm on 21 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    I'm just not particually comfortable with a Supra-national form of Government. That is my right and if you worry about my sanity because of that its your problem.

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  • 84. At 5:32pm on 21 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    I mean there no real presedent of it actually working!

    The Greeks, The Romans, Holy Romans, Spainish, Prussians, French (Twice), Germans (twice), USSR all failed.

    The Chinese have kind of succeeded but not in a way i would like to copy.

    The U.S.A is the only comparible example, but States and nations are very different beasts, and the Americans didn't have 3000 years of history to contend with.

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  • 85. At 5:54pm on 21 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    oh yeah i forgot the Mongols and British who also failed

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  • 86. At 6:08pm on 21 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    aye_write (81): Scots would then be no more independent than the Irish are now, and you would become less independent with the passing of each new superior EU law in the future. You would only be able to vote the way that Brussels wants in national referendums. You would have (to use Mark Mardell's phrase) a "Commissioner for paper clips" who is anyway sworn to be independent of national government. And the preferences of the Scottish parliament would be overruled in qualified majority votes in the EU Council of Ministers where the Scots would wield less than 1% of the votes, after which you would be required to live under EU law in perpetuity that you never wanted in the first place but can never change again.

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  • 87. At 6:18pm on 21 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #82 WhiteEnglishProud

    "I want peace, trade, equallity and Democracy in Europe what i don't want is to be Governed by people that I have not Elected."

    I can absolutely sympathise.

    As far as being 'controlled' if that's it, by the EU, do you guys see the 'second rate accused' elected European Parliament as the problem, or the government appointed but supposedly impartial Commissioners, or the Council of Ministers where states can push their own agendas, or is it more a plain reaction to laws that you keep noticing appearing from Europe?

    Does England, through Britain, have insufficient influence to shape the EU as you/it sees fit? Perhaps there are conflicting visions at play. I realise there seems to be a historical element causing lingering mistrust. But what reforms if any could deliver an EU that England and other EU members could be happy with? Perhaps a reversing of the last significant lot which sacrificed a bit more power from national governments? Just a few thoughts. No answers necessarily called for.

    Just read your #84. The whole concept is perhaps a flawed ambition? So what system of international cooperation should then replace it, or is any of it necessary at all?

    Hmm, Europe is certainly a lot to swallow.

    0:-)

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  • 88. At 6:51pm on 21 Jan 2009, SuperJulianR wrote:

    WhiteEnglishProud @ 84

    The Romans failed? Ultimately, I suppose you could say they did...but the Roman Empire lasted over 400-500 years depending on which bit of it you are talking about - over 1000 years if you mean the Eastern Empire, based around Istanbul.

    And their legacy survives to this day: language, church, culture, even our road system and many cities have grown from Roman roots.

    At its height - and for several centuries - common citizenship, common language, trading area, currency, a common road system, weights and measures, to say nothing of peace, prosperity, education - 200 years on we have failed to re-create what they had in some ways

    If that is failure, I think you can say that everything is doomed to failure.

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  • 89. At 7:02pm on 21 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    Part of the problem is that there are no conflicting visions, at least offically coming out of the E.U debating chambers.
    Countries are not being given a choice or at least the sense of a choice of a way forward, the E.U is presenting very much a take it or leave it approach to the whole project.

    The E.U is as devicive as much as it is inclusive not just within Europe but in the sense that it excludes the rest of the world.

    The Best thing the E.U has achieved is peace within Europe.

    I personally would like to see the ecconomic part of the E.U spread globally but Lose the idea of Polictical control from the centre. I believe that in a democracy decisions should be made at the localist level practical
    So a Supra-National /Federate /Confederate E.U is a step further in the wrong direction.

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  • 90. At 7:05pm on 21 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #86 Freeborn-John

    Maybe. I don't deny the general picture although your description is definitely your take on it.

    But, forgive me, you miss the point. We have NONE of those albeit imperfect things at the moment. There are many EU countries already in the position you describe and as far as I'm aware, as far as they are concerned there is no multiple mass exodus foreseen.

    Scotland does not have disproportionate expectations. We want to be an adult (a sovereign nation) and have the ordinary responsibilities that come with it, rather than, as now, a child (nation in name only) depending on it's parents (Britain) to do the important stuff for us - it's humiliating as we are capable of doing any and all of it ourselves.

    I put it to you if England were dependent on a majority of Scots, or anyone else (France, Germany?) for all international decision making, and other things, the good and proud people of England would be rather less than happy about it. (I refer you to WhiteEnglishProud's #79 and his comments about the English student fees fiasco.)

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  • 91. At 7:08pm on 21 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    SuperJulianR

    Ok maybe the Romans wasn't the best example however it was hardly a free and just society, but compared to the standards of the day it was a success.

    But can you honestly say its a model we could copy for the E.U? After all it was the model copied by Hitler.

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  • 92. At 7:19pm on 21 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    aye_write (90): Why content yourself to swap one master for another, when you could be a self-governing nation-state?

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  • 93. At 7:32pm on 21 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #89 and 91 WhiteEnglishProud

    That's an interesting view. I must consider it.

    Re Rome or any other Empire before or since.

    These great chunks of authority were imposed on the constituent parts. That is why in my view they all eventually fail. It's fine while the armies in charge are successful and /or while the benefits for the populations are perceived to make up for the loss of autonomy. But as these things aren't constant, so empires can't last.

    You guys must feel that some EU players are after a similar all powerful EU superstate. I put it to you that nations, by their very nature are unlikely to ever let that happen.

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  • 94. At 7:51pm on 21 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    92. Freeborn-John

    Answer: because although it's not perfect, it's a heck of a lot better - a big step forward.
    And better socially for the population - as it is destructive to be viewed as though, and told, constantly you can't, you're not important, not relevant etc. (You'd have problems accepting that for your child for example.)

    I think the 'self-governing nation state way' was promoted as the way to go for a while in the past. (The official SNP line is independence in Europe now.)

    But I don't see the sense in ignoring Europe - it is there. I don't believe in an isolated currency like Sterling either as to me it seems a risky route. Isolationism in general isn't good is it? Roughly put, it's the best way, to be involved in a large group of (sort of!) cooperating neighbours.

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  • 95. At 8:09pm on 21 Jan 2009, dwwonthew wrote:

    "The Best thing the E.U has achieved is peace within Europe."

    No it has not. The EU has been able to develop because there has been peace within most of Europe* and not the other way around.

    That peace was achieved initially by the Allies defeating the fascists in World War II and cemented by Marshall Aid from the Americans. After that the nature of the threat changed as it came from the Russian Bear and so the peace was then maintained by NATO.

    * Overlooking the Balkans etc.

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  • 96. At 8:18pm on 21 Jan 2009, Menedemus wrote:

    Several question I think ought to be put to Ken Clarke is as follows:

    "Discontent driven by the impact of the global financial crisis has seen violent protests in recent weeks that have hit Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, and Greece, which suffered a wave of riots in December. Iceland (which is seeking to join the EU and the Eurozone) is experiencing daily protests outside its Parliament and, last night, the Icelanders threw eggs, paint and snowballs at their Prime Minister. Does Ken see similar protests occuring in the UK and other larger EU nation states as the Global Credit Crisis turns this recession into a Global Depression? Also, what difference does it make being in the EU/Euro for people who are at imminent risk of losing their work, homes, value of savings and their self-respect? Could some of these protests turn to revolution?"

    Actually, it might be a topic that Mark might want to consider investigating across the EU. How do people view membership of the EU and the Euro now that hard times are facing all Europeans if not now then sometime very soon!

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  • 97. At 8:46pm on 21 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    aye_write (94): 'Independence in Europe' is a tautology. You cannot be independent while being subject to 'ever closer union'.

    There is a difference between isolationism and not being part of a political union. The UK is not in a political union with the USA or South Africa or many other countries that we work with to mutual advantage. We could and should work with European nations in the same way we work with our natural partners in the English-speaking world.

    Either you have a currency that goes up and down, or you have an economy that goes up and down instead. I would rather risk some exchange rate fluctuation that the wild oscillations in growth and unemployment that eurozone members like Ireland are currently enduring.

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  • 98. At 9:19pm on 21 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #94 - aye_write

    I wonder if you have considered turning the question on it's head. When the government introduced a bill to ban smoking in public places in England, all three parties frog marched their Scottish, Welsh and N.I. members into the 'aye' lobby. Leaving aside for a minute the subject matter of the bill, it was hardly an exercise in democracy, was it? The English had no such a say in the ban in the other nations - and why should they. It might very well be that, if there was an English parliament with devolved powers, they too might do away with tuition fees, prescription charges or hospital parking charges. But they cannot because they have not been given the same democratic rights as the other countries.

    This is why there is a surprising degree of support for the SNP south of the border. There is a growing understanding that independence for Scotland would mean that Westminster would have to face up to the issue of English representation.

    If, as I suspect, the Union is nearing it's sell by date, attitudes to the EU, the Eurozone and Europe as a whole will be a matter for the individual nations to decide and, on current evidence, I sense that England is much more Eurosceptic that it's Celtic neighbours.

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  • 99. At 9:26pm on 21 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #97 Freeborn-John

    While accepting what you're saying, are the other independent nations in Europe not independent? And if not, has anyone told them?

    Is it perhaps a mere matter of perceived erosion of sovereignty, which is a bigger problem for some than for others?

    The tying aspect of Europe I think you are objecting to though also facilitates mutual benefits does it not? Plus it was the guiding principle behind the Schuman plan's vision which was employed not least to make impossible further conflict between European nations (as far as I understand).

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  • 100. At 9:30pm on 21 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #97 Freeborn-John

    "'Independence in Europe' is a tautology. You cannot be independent while being subject to 'ever closer union'."

    I think you meant "oxymoron" not "tautology".

    Ayr-write and I would, however, see "Independence in Europe" as a near tautology, since we define "Independence" as having the same status as other "Independent" states in Europe.

    Coming from aye-write's Dad's generation, I recognise a lot of the anti-Europe, English Independence views that I see here and on NR's blog. It's reminiscent of the grievance motivated, immature Nationalism that was once quite common in Scotland, before we grew up, and saw that there are advantages in pooling some of our sovereignty with other states for mutual benefit. We don't want to end the Union with England, but to enlarge the Union to include many others.

    At the same time, we don't want to tell other states how to run their domestic affairs (as the pre-devolution England/UK did with Scotland, or Scottish Unionist MPs still do).

    I look forward to English Nationalism becoming more sophisticated as time goes on, but you have to go through this negative phase first. It's in the nature of change in any sphere.

    But you can embrace change - Yes you can!

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  • 101. At 9:36pm on 21 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #98 threnodio

    "there is a surprising degree of support for the SNP south of the border"

    Not really. It's just that the likes of WhiteEnglishProud want us to do their work for them!

    "I can't wait to say good bye to the Sot's [sic]" Howevre, not all the drunks live in Scotland!

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  • 102. At 9:52pm on 21 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #98 threnodio

    From my #81, on your point about voting,

    "You have my total sympathy - what you point out is very bad."

    I have agreed with other bloggers on this before, elsewhere. Again, the SNP however do not vote on such English only matters.

    I pretty much entirely agree with your post! You won't know but I have often asked anti-Scottish posters to consider their arguments turned on their head (as applied to England).

    The choice over the EU as you describe it will indeed (hopefully, through independence) need to be debated and decided. I personally find it quite interesting, as I endevour to become well, or at least better informed.

    Do you hold the view, as do some, that the English are ever wary of the EU (as you say, there are differences between us) partially as a result of the statement made by Heath, when he gave a categorical assurance to parliament during the 1970 election campaign, that there would be no expansion in the number of member states without the prior consent of their populations, then went and signed up to the Common Market without a referendum in 1973?

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  • 103. At 10:16pm on 21 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #98 threnodio

    This is my #101 slightly reworded after its strange referral.

    "there is a surprising degree of support for the SNP south of the border"

    Not really. It's just that the English Nationalists want us to do their work for them!

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  • 104. At 10:45pm on 21 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #100 oldnat

    You and him would definately get on.

    (Double trouble:
    You'd get extra cred. for "Yes you can!" and getting your posts referred to the moderators!
    He doesn't read my posts.)

    And he's gone 'shottin' cra's'.

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  • 105. At 10:48pm on 21 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Oldnat (100): You may not want to tell other states how to run their domestic affairs, but they want to tell you how to run yours and the EU is the mechanism in international law by which they can impose their will on you.

    aye_write (99): The SNP position of "Independence in Europe" is logically inconsistent. Their political calculation is that it is easier to sell one change (independence from the UK) than two (independence from both the UK and EU) and that some logical inconsistency can be put up with if it helps to achieve their primary objective. But the inconsistency becomes more and more obvious as European political integration advances.

    Article 4 of the Lisbon Treaty has been worded very carefully such that the EU has 'shared competence' in all policy areas that are not explicitly listed in either article 3 (exclusive powers of the EU) or the short list of 'supporting areas' defined in article 6 of the treaty. Article 2 of the Lisbon Treaty defines "shared competence" as follows: "When the Treaties confer on the Union a competence shared with the member states, member states shall exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has not exercised its competence". This means that these so-called areas of shared competence are actually only shared in time! Unless a policy area is one of the 7 listed in article 6 of the Lisbon Treaty the EU has the power to legislate at a time of its convenience in the future and once it has done so our elected governments must withdraw conflicting national legislation and may not legislate in the area covered by the EU law ever again. The terms of the Lisbon Treaty would therefore result in an ever expanding body of EU law that will progressively shrink the arena within which national parliaments can legislate towards vanishing point (except in the handful of policy areas listed in its article 6). I hope this makes it clear that there no such thing in the long run as "Independence in Europe".

    I do not ask you to take my word for this. Please read the articles 2, 4 and 6 of the Lisbon Treaty at the following link and come to your own conclusion.

    http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2008:115:0001:01:EN:HTML

    You ask if politicians have made this clear to other European nations. The answer is obviously NO. The original EU Constitution was written to be understandable and when people read its corresponding articles they did not like them. After that document was defeated in national referendums the politicians decided to re-write it with the same meaning as the Lisbon Treaty but using deliberately obscure language. Fortunately the good people of Ireland were not as stupid as the politicians thought they were. I trust the same is true of the majority of Scots.

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  • 106. At 10:51pm on 21 Jan 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    To aye_write and oldnat,

    Whether Scottish nationalism has grown up or not depends on what you consider growing up entails. I see plenty of growing up over here in the EU where the rise of political correctness etc has meant many ethnic groupings playing the race card in order to increase their power. This is happening in many countries including my own Belgium where the ethnic majority are wanting independence from the minority French speakers.

    As for Ted 'the grocer' Heath, well if you ever saw him live you would know why he was not honest about Europe. He was an accomplished cozener who had to control everything and everybody around him in the fond belief that he was the expert and his views perfect. That was the main reason it hit him so hard when Thatcher ousted him. If anyone is to blame for the English scepticism it is people like him who never told the truth in the 1975 referendum and used people like me to campaign to enter the common market. Having now lived and worked in the EU for a very long time I can see that scepticism is not just an English problem, it is over here as well and it's growing each time another bank collapses or another company folds or another corrupt politician gets caught out.

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  • 107. At 10:53pm on 21 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    82. WhiteEnglishProud:

    "what i don't want is to be Governed by people that I have not Elected."

    That, sadly, is the situation experienced by the majority of the British population.

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  • 108. At 11:16pm on 21 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #102 - aye_write

    "Do you hold the view, as do some, that the English are ever wary of the EU (as you say, there are differences between us) partially as a result of the statement made by Heath"

    No. One of the few decent things the subsequent Wilson administration did during an otherwise dismal performance was to pose the question Heath perhaps should have done. As a result, the UK remained in.

    There are two things which have changed. The Eu is much closer to a concept of political union than the Heath or Wilson administrations would have bargained for. This has turned many people against the EU. You will frequently find posts here from people who want a Common Market but nothing more. The fact that you cannot have such a thing without some element of international regulation and enforcement seems not to matter. The other is that someone pointed out here recently (I am sorry I forget who) that Euroscepticism is most strongly expressed amongst younger voters who do not have long memories.

    #103 - oldnat

    LOL - absolutely!

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  • 109. At 11:22pm on 21 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    105. At 10:48pm on 21 Jan 2009, Freeborn-John

    "Their political calculation is that it is easier to sell one change (independence from the UK) than two (independence from both the UK and EU) and that some logical inconsistency can be put up with if it helps to achieve their primary objective. But the inconsistency becomes more and more obvious as European political integration advances."

    Unlike you, I don't mind!

    re - legislation. I fear you exaggerate, a bit. Scenarios where states bow down as you would describe it aren't necessarily a given. There may be pressure, for AND against, but International law in occasions like is susceptible to the will of states to go along with it, in so much as it is also a PR exercise. So it can be and is regularly flouted. States typically only pay attention to it when it suits them, when it's in their interests, for whatever related reason, to do or not to do so. There is no higher power than the state, even when states come up with these international bodies. States are always behind the scenes pulling the strings. Hence, best get involved.

    :-)

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  • 110. At 11:24pm on 21 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #105 Freeborn-John

    There is a fundamental difference between Scotland's current situation within the UK and one where we had the same status as the other European states.

    Currently the power of the single nation of England (with apologies to Mebyn Kernow) within the UK is so massive that it has 82% of the votes at Westminster. In the EU, while larger countries (rightly) have more influence than smaller ones, no single country can dictate to another what it's domestic policies must be.

    Of course, membership of a wider union means that no country can do exactly as it wishes, but nor can any one of them dictate to 3 others by a margin of 4:1!

    If you can't see that the EU (without the UK) would be a massive enhancement of the sovereignty of the Scottish people, then you must be blinded by your rather 19th century concept of an "independent nation".

    Your description of the SNP policy is ludicrously wrong. You are trying to brand other nation's independence movements with your own old-fashioned thinking. There are a couple of Scottish political parties who share your views within a Scottish context - they have not a single elected representative, and virtually no votes.

    I wasn't being patronising when I described English Nationalism as "immature". Those movements which have been around for 80 years or so have gone through your phase of thinking, and come out the other end. It's a necessary part of the process of moving away from the imperialist past. You will move on in time, but your movement is still very young.

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  • 111. At 11:38pm on 21 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    34. Freeborn-John:

    "the system in the UK is working perfectly. We were able to raise sterling interest rates before the eurozone to moderate the worst excesses of the property boom (something Ireland could not do). We have now lowered interest rates to a 300-year low to get the economy going again. And the devaluation of sterling means that our exports remain competitive in international markets. The UK decision to stay out of the euro has been fully vindicated by this downturn. Real people in Ireland are paying for the folly of EU federalism with their jobs.


    Jim Rogers, college professor, author, world traveler, economic commentator, and creator of the Rogers International Commodities Index (RICI), chairman of Rogers Holdings and co-founder of the Quantum Fund with George Soros would appear to disagree. See

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/601f3a9e-e7cc-11dd-b2a5-0000779fd2ac.html

    But then you did say that you're not an economist.

    Oh, and as an Irishman what's with this "WE have now lowered interest rates to a 300-year low ...."?

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  • 112. At 11:51pm on 21 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #106 Buzet23

    What you describe seems to me to be "growing up". Instead of unquestioning acceptance of structures determined by the "elites", Europeans do seem to want to have more control over the institutions of government (seems to me to be the mark of a maturing European democracy!)

    Most Scots (in a rather rare opinion poll here) favour a more decentralised EU as the preferred option - but no one nation can determine the future of all of us.

    There needs to be a European debate (and EU Parliament elections fought on the issue) of "where does Europe go?" instead of allowing our common future to be determined by the internal partial politics within each country.

    If the majority of Europeans vote to disband the Union (or vote to adopt a full Federal model with power concentrated at the centre, and only minimal powers for the countries), I'd be bitterly disappointed, but would have to accept it.

    I'd campaign for a Confederal structure which more closely defined the powers of the EU, and limited the areas of its shared/overlapping powers with the component countries/nations.

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  • 113. At 11:52pm on 21 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    108 threnodio

    Hmm. Thanks. A different opinion.

    Was it Maastricht then I wonder, or Amsterdam or something else that pushed things too far for too many?

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  • 114. At 00:26am on 22 Jan 2009, Gheryando wrote:

    @WEP

    I wouldn't call over a 1000 years of rule a "failure". Im talking about the Romans.

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  • 115. At 07:51am on 22 Jan 2009, Buzet23 wrote:

    #112, oldnat,

    Your words ring a lot of bells, I think what is beginning to frustrate even arch prop-Europeans here is the incessant double standards of the politicians and especially the unelected elite (commissioners and council of ministers). The spin about single market, open borders, social welfare has worn very thin now and many are now experiencing the failure of EU social welfare and are questioning as to why a Social Europe is not there despite all the signed-up for directives. People then hear the federalist supporters saying that even more integration and central control will magically make all those problems go away, this is akin to when taking a medicine that you are allergic to, your doctors keep saying just keep taking the tablets instead of redressing the problem.

    Likewise I'd like an open EU wide debate about the EU and "look after myself first" attitude of the member states especially France and germany, and likewise I'd campaign for a Confederal structure which more closely defined the powers of the EU, and limited the areas of its shared/overlapping powers with the component countries/nations. If the big nations can't forget their national status then a federal EU is a hopeless waste of time and money.

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  • 116. At 09:08am on 22 Jan 2009, betuli wrote:

    Buzet23,

    You're probably right when you replied that not only UK is living an economical downturn in Europe.

    I don't want to go through figures and comparisons about it. But what I know (and it directly affects me) is that the pound is in free fall, hence I am technically 1/3 poorer than just one year ago, and I especially feel it when travelling to the continent.

    If the pound were still in the European Monetary System, my economy (sterling earner) would be much more in tune with my immediate environment. It seems odd, but we have to remember that UK is surrounded by Eurozone countries!

    One more thing: living and working in Britain, I wish the best for this country. Let's cross fingers ;-)

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  • 117. At 09:22am on 22 Jan 2009, WhiteEnglishProud wrote:

    Gheryando


    see #91

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  • 118. At 09:44am on 22 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    It's too cold for togas here - mind, I could see Ken Clarke in one...

    Seriously, I think the EU needs a good old rethink - start again almost!
    Simplification and clarification, which would be helped I think by not trying to be all things, and all things to all 'men'.

    First, agree an uncomplicated remit i.e The EU will be concerned with these few main common areas, and the EU will not be concerned with all the rest of it, other areas, those being left to each nation state to administer as they each see fit.

    Then, in tackling the less cluttered broad remit, redraw the machinery required to make this work - could we not come up with a better system than the three pillars, for example? It's like cleaning out your kitchen cupboards (-you feel so much better!)

    In time, other agreed areas of concern to be handled by the EU could therefore then be added more easily, if and when deemed necessary.

    I now wonder, given the reported levels of dissent apparently rumbling away in the different corners of the EU, if these unfavourable economic times will spur on an EU rethink, just as I'm hoping the same dissatisfasction will prompt Scottish independence - we need a Scot at the heart of the EU, that is the answer!!

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  • 119. At 10:30am on 22 Jan 2009, Menedemus wrote:

    Another question for Ken.

    I understand that Jaques Chirac has been bitten by a dog. Will Ken and the Conservatives (Jaques' particular betes noir) be putting the dog forward for a UK Medal of Honour?

    I only hope it is not a posthumous award (Dogs can die from poisoning too yanno)!

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  • 120. At 10:41am on 22 Jan 2009, I am not a number wrote:

    #115. Buzet2.

    I'm not sure why you would want to campaign for a confederal structure. If I grab an history book and try to search for a successful confederacy I won't find any. They either fall apart internally (Arab federation, United States of Central America. I'm also tempted to add Belgium to this list.), or due to lack of internal unity it easily falls apart to outside forces (Dutch Republic) or they have a civil war and end up being a more centralized federal country (USA, Switzerland)
    Furthermore you yourself say that the EU isn't currently working (and I agree) however if I were to describe the political system of the EU then an confederacy would be the closest to the mark. And yet you still want to campaign for one?

    Having said that, I fully agree with the following:

    "Likewise I'd like an open EU wide debate about the EU"

    Sadly enough there is no platform for this to happen. In theory the EP could provide this but when you vote for national parties, with a parliament that only has indirect powers, which can't set a policy for the EU it means that the chance having a EU wide debate is lost, nor is it surprising that the EP is losing all of it's democratic legitimacy a.k.a. low voting turn out.

    118. aye_write wrote:
    "Seriously, I think the EU needs a good old rethink - start again almost!"

    Another comment I agree with. Worked for the French when they switch to their fifth republic. :p

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  • 121. At 11:10am on 22 Jan 2009, NikolayTzvetkov wrote:

    Greypolyglot (111)
    I already suggested (46) to Freeborn-John to check the UK trade statistics, but I assume it takes time to absorb them. Latest are available here: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_economy/Mm24Nov08.pdf
    You don’t have to be Jim Rodgers to see the point here. Essentially UK has nothing to sell but services (I assume that is mainly financial and entertainment) and pharmaceuticals. We have to hope that the development pipeline of Glaxo is going to deliver new drugs soon (between us there can be serious problems on this count), that the London City Illusions Factory will suddenly kick start again. Till then Long Live Coldplay.
    If the above plan does not work, we can always count on plan B: impoverish local population by inflation and devaluation. The Tories are Past Masters in this.

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  • 122. At 11:37am on 22 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #112 - oldnat

    I absolutely agree. Nothing to add.

    #113 - aye_write

    I would not like to single out any one event. Maastricht was curious in the sense that no one political party came out against it so, although it was a central plank of the Conservative manifesto for the 1992 election and Major claimed this as a mandate to proceed, the election was not fought on Europe. Ultimately, the opposition would come from within the Tory party.

    If I was forced to cite one single reason, it would be 'issue fatigue'. We debate these things on this blog because we are especially interested. For many people, it is simply a question that has dragged on endlessly. No political party will come out with a hard and fast policy yet none will acknowledge that this is a cross-party issue and throw it open to national debate. The body politic is scared of the issue so seeks to bury it under a plethora of technical arguments while the public is bored to tears with it. In such a situation, it is hardly surprising if many conclude that it is not getting them anywhere and just want out. It is, of course, an ill-informed judgment based on entirely the wrong criteria but understandable for all that. Why should the British people have the stomach for the fight if their politicians do not have the balls to call it?

    #115 - Buzet23

    I have some sympathy with your position. It is difficult to see how one can reconcile the varying standards across Europe without some degree of integration simply because you must at least start with a level playing field. If everyone in Europe had the same basic rights and responsibilities, it would be a lot easier. On the face of it, confederation could achieve this by treaty guaranteeing those rights and requiring member governments to ensure them in practice. However, with the Tories muttering ominously about withdrawing from the Social Chapter, there is little hope of that. You mention France and Germany but the UK is rapidly becoming the worst offender.

    I am all for your EU wide open debate. I come back constantly to the democratic deficit issue which is, I suspect, more perceived than real. However, it the UK cannot make up it's mind whether it is going to commit or withdraw, it is all a bit hopeless. We will simply carry on in ever decreasing circles cherry picking opt-outs until it simply is not worth the candle. Maybe, deep down, that is what they are hoping for.

    FBJ.

    Thank you for the link. I have downloaded the entire treaty and will study it in the coming days.

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  • 123. At 11:52am on 22 Jan 2009, Freeman wrote:

    #111 This would be Jim "Zimbabwe is where the smart money is going" Rogers?

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  • 124. At 12:24pm on 22 Jan 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    Ken Clarke! Great bloke in the pub, nearly straight from the shouler superb mini-speechmaker, but ropey on economics and as a Health Minister just about good for a laugh.

    Now on the serious stuff, Mr Mardell: Is it your intention to again duck the 'islam' issue within the European Union?

    This time the Dutch Political Party leader gets set-up for a prosecution: Where's your Blog on the rights of Free Speech within the modern soviet known as the EU, Mark?

    Oh that's right, where the EU is concerned and the possibility of anti-EU manifestations, it's not BBC Editorial policy to persue items of genuine concern to the British public!

    As Ken Clarke is prone to say, let's all have a drink and bugger the reality...

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  • 125. At 1:00pm on 22 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #122. threnodio

    Thank you - a fascinating reply.

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  • 126. At 1:00pm on 22 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #124 - ikamaskeip

    A Dutch political leader is - as you put it - 'set up' for prosecution under Netherlands law and that is an issue "of genuine concern to the British public"?

    Are you not a touch confused?

    If you want a debate about whether UK law on incitement to racial hatred is in conflict with freedom of speech, you are liberty to do so (on an appropriate blog). If you think the same is true of Dutch law, doubtless they have plenty of blogs. But to lay the blame for this (if there is any) at the EU's door is a sign of sheer desperation. It has nothing to do with the EU.

    Out of interest, what " 'islam' issue within the European Union"?

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  • 127. At 1:10pm on 22 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    On this website I read:


    "
    Ken Clarke is reported to have warned against the Tories taking a "right-wing nationalist" stance on Europe shortly before returning to the shadow cabinet.

    ... is quoted as telling a conference in December that this would alienate Barack Obama. "

    Do I give a damn about whether it would alienate Baack Obama or not?

    I thought us "EU"-phobes were always supposed to be the ones sucking up to the USA.

    I want to be independent of the "EU" and the USA but to be friendly with both.

    Practically we will probably always be closer to the USA because we think more like the Americans that like the continentals. I personally think like the continentals on some issues. These common thoughts do not necessitate a common state.

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  • 128. At 1:25pm on 22 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    On this website I saw something about the "EU" police in Northern Kosovo being greeted with indifference. I looked at another site and when I looked back it was gone.

    If we have "EU" police in the UK, I assure you that I shall not be greeting them with indifference.

    1) The rules of engagement of continental police officers are in unacceptable in many ways.

    2) They frequently go beyond what I take to be their own laws and use fascist violence. More frequently than is the case with the British police. I have no reliable numbers on that . It is an impression gained from some "research."

    3) When they use fascist violence , the response of the authorities is inadequate.

    4) They are frequently big-mouthed and arrogant. That would not do them any favours on the UK. Their arrogance comes from their excessive powers and presumably from their training.

    5) I believe that "EU" officials and presumably their police have some sort of immunity from prosecution. Is that the case? I cannot be bothered to put that question to officialdom as my attempts to question them on this and others matters have usually been met with an inadequate/devious response.

    6) If police use illegal fascist violence, then how does the law see it if we defend ourselves with whatever force is necessary possibly resulting in injury to fascist police officers?

    7) On the assumption that the law allows the use of force to defend oneself against illegal fascist violence even when it comes from a police officer, I advise people in the UK to up their martial arts training.

    8) I advise "EU"-lovers that there are an awful lot of people in the UK who do martial arts.

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  • 129. At 1:35pm on 22 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Oldnat (110): The essential concepts of liberal democracy were worked out in the period between the 17th and 19th centuries; roughly the period between John Locke and J.S. Mill. This is not an area where technological change renders concepts obsolete as it might the design of a 5-year old microprocessor. 10000 years from now, or 1 million years from now liberal democracy will still be defined by the writings of Locke, Montesquieu, J.S. Mill, Jefferson, Madison etc. so I do not accept that you have in recent years discovered something new in Scotland that has rendered the great achievements of the Englightment 'old fashioned'.

    What I do see in you is an elaborate set of word games designed to finesse in your own mind the inherent contradiction of the SNP policy of "Independence in Europe". For example, when I asked you before to define what you mean by 'confederalism' it turned out you mean exactly that which the rest of humanity calls European federalism. And you unable offer any remedy to the one-way ratchet of power that would steadily nullify the power of any parliament of an 'independent' Scotland in exactly the same way that it is progressively shutting down the legislative power of Westminster and all the other national legislatures of EU member states.

    Let me ask you a question. When there is a conflict between the Independence of Scotland and being in the EU, then which do you prioritize? It seems clear to me, e.g. from post 112, where you say you "would have to accept" whatever the majority of Europeans want (presumably even when it differs from what the majority of Scots want) that you are not a nationalist all. I would suggest you are here under flase pretences and should change your name to "oldfederalist".

    ----------
    "I know my own principles to be pure and therefore am not ashamed of them. On the contrary, I wish them known and therefore willingly express them to everyone" (Thomas Jefferson).

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  • 130. At 1:48pm on 22 Jan 2009, NikolayTzvetkov wrote:

    I have a question and I am serious. How exactly will the Conservatives renegotiate the relationships with EU and unilaterally pull out of social legislation? I will be grateful if anyone can explain to me how this will happen without UK leaving EU in the process.

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  • 131. At 2:01pm on 22 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #128 - SuffolkBoy2

    I cannot speak from first hand experience of Kosovo but I was in Bosnia shortly after the conflict. Italian caribiniere were deployed in Mostar because there was no faith at the time in the impartiality of the local force on either side. I saw no evidence of 'facist thuggery'. I think there was a certain amount of indifference but that, I am sure, was due in part to their inability to police themselves at the time.

    In answer to your question, here in Hungary, the conduct of the police is carefully monitored and there have been prosecutions when the mark has been overstepped as there have been in the UK. Personally, I find them very non-threatening. There are still beat officers here so there is a dialogue at street level so animosity is not evident.

    I have never had the misfortune to be on their wrong side so I cannot vouch for custody procedures but I suggest it might be a bit unfair to write off European police forces as 'facist'. These are democracies as well and it would not be tolerated for long. As to whether you want to see foreign officers on UK streets, that is another question but I would remind you that it is not uncommon for British officers to be deployed overseas when UK football clubs are in competition and this seems to work well.

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  • 132. At 2:08pm on 22 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #130 - NikolayTzvetkov

    It won't. It is rhetoric to keep the eurosceptics on board who would otherwise decamp in numbers to the UKIP. When it comes down to the nitty gritty, they will either have to soften their line or get serious about withdrawal. My money is on the former.

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  • 133. At 3:08pm on 22 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    129 Freeborn-John

    Good grief. Even I know there's a difference...

    fed·er·al (fdr-l, fdrl)
    adj.
    1. Of, relating to, or being a form of government in which a union of states recognizes the sovereignty of a central authority while retaining certain residual powers of government.
    2. Of or constituting a form of government in which sovereign power is divided between a central authority and a number of constituent political units.

    con·fed·er·al (kn-fdr-l, -fdrl)
    adj.
    1. Of or relating to confederation or a specific confederation.
    2. Of, relating to, or involving the activities of two or more nations

    The former focuses on sovereignty being exercised, shared and controlled by a common body.

    The latter focuses on the common body being comprised of sovereign states.

    The difference is that in confederalism, while the states involved may consent to some pooling of responsibility for the mutual gain, the sovereignty of those states is retained. I would say it is a more flexible (states like to debate over powers - keeps them happy) and therefore safer model, than the inflexibility of federalism, where resentment builds. Got to keep your states happy...

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  • 134. At 3:09pm on 22 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    NikolayTzvetkov (130): Re-negotiation of the UK-EU relationship will proceed much that same way that the UK budget rebate was negotiated in the early 1980s. Naturally the negotiations will be conducted by someone with rather more backbone than threnodio.

    The UK has a number of ways to indicate the strength of its resolve should this not be immediately apparent to all. Should it prove necessary we could filibuster EU business, withhold budget contributions, and ultimately simply walk away taking our money with us. Since the UK is a large net contributor to the UK budget we are in rather a strong position. Even the 'worst case' scenario of the EU external tariff being applied to trade between the UK and EU26 would yield more to British exchequer than to the Continent because the volume of our imports is greater than exports, and the high-tarrif agricultural goods feature more strongly in our imports than our exports. We would aso then get to keep the tariff on our non-EU trade (45% of the total) which we currently hand over to Brussels.

    Should it be necessary the prospect of several million Continentals being required to leave the UK and join the already lengthening dole queues in Paris, Berlin, Madrid etc. should help to concentrate minds. However I doubt that such measures will be any more necessary than when Margaret Thatcher re-negotiated UK budget contributions.

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  • 135. At 3:42pm on 22 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #134 - Freeborn-John

    "Naturally the negotiations will be conducted by someone with rather more backbone than threnodio".

    At least I can continue to avail myself of the advice and treatment of my orthopedic team secure in the knowledge that I do not require the services of a brain surgeon.

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  • 136. At 3:50pm on 22 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    re my #133

    I forgot to add that the way the 'two or more nations' interact is open to interpretation, of course. But that's a good thing as they would like to decide.

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  • 137. At 4:07pm on 22 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Threnodio (135): If you only ever advocate that the course to be followed can be determined by splitting the difference between others, then you have no more need for a brain than a spine.

    aye_write (133): The difference between confederation and federation is only that the member states of a confederation remain recognised as independent states under international law and have a right to withdraw from the confederation. In practice this is of little consequence because so long as they remain part of the confederation they are obliged to obey its central authority in exactly the same way as if it were a federation. The flexibility you speak of can only be achieved by withdrawing from the confederation. Furthermore I disagree with you fundamentally that EU decisions are only reached when it is to mutual advantage. Can you explain how mutual gain is achieved when a nation is required to live under EU law that it voted against but was obliged to implement after being outvoted under QMV?

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  • 138. At 4:09pm on 22 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Suffolkboy (127): Barack Obama said this week that politics "stops at the water's edge". I assume he thinks that the political life of other nations (including Britain) should also stop at their borders with national interest deciding foreign policy.

    Ken Clark seems to feel that Obama has double standards and feels other nations are not deserving of the same political life that Americans enjoy. According to Clarke the EU bargain whereby we exchange 100% control over the political process within Britain for 10% control over the political process over the EU26 would be supported by Obama so long as we in the UK place this dilute share of British influence at the service of American president! But that would leave nothing left at all for British politics to decide other than who picks up the phone from the Oval Office to receive the voting instructions for the EU Council of Ministers.

    From what I have heard of Barack Obama he is rather a fan of the Anglo-American political and legal tradition. He spoke warmly last week of habeas corpus and his first act as US president has been to reverse his predecessor's denial of habeas corpus to those held at Guantanamo Bay. I cannot believe that President Obama would give the time of day to the half-baked ideas of Ken Clarke, a man who boasts that he has not read the European Treaties that he never-the-less still champions.

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  • 139. At 4:20pm on 22 Jan 2009, NikolayTzvetkov wrote:

    Freeborn-John (134)
    It is unlikely that they can use the trick from the rebate business. Most questions nowadays are voted with qualified majority. Withholding a contribution is a material breach of an international treaty, so UK can be just kicked out of it. The only way is if you just walk out and renegotiate a new accession treaty with better (or perceived better) conditions. Let me tell you no candidate country really negotiates with EU, just like two year old child does not negotiate with its parents. They just tell you what to do, and you either do it or promise to do it and find a way to skip it and get away with it.
    So in the worst case scenario (UK out of EU is bad terms without a treaty to enter EEA) you will have to compete for EU market with China, India, etc. on equal terms, tough. Lets see what will be the plus and minuses of this. On the plus side you will keep the money you pay EU, roughly 950 euro netto. You will earn a bit more in tariffs on goods than you will loss, but on many positions you can’t charge EU more than any other country or you will run sour with WTO. As EU has a pretty efficient agricultural sector that is subsidised on the top of it the higher tariffs will ultimately be paid by the UK consumers in the form of higher prices. As a liberal you should understand this. On the minus side your services will lose free access to EU, which will have a very serious impact on them to put it mildly, to put it not so mildly this will spell the end of London as a major financial centre. UK will be become significantly less attractive place for foreign investment, which will reduce the DFI flows and will devastate the UK economy. I can continue for pages but to make the long story short, it will be economically loss-loss game, but for UK with will be LOSS.
    About the continentals, OK a few million of them are out of UK (and so are all the UK citizens from EU) and who is suddenly going to take their positions, pay their taxes and consume instead. Let me tell you, financial sector, healthcare and manual crafts (plumbing, building, etc.) will suffer really badly. You will have to find people to take their places, and they will come from places like India, Pakistan and so on. Considering the English attitudes towards foreigner recently this won’t go down lightly with the voters.
    And on the emotional side, applying for a Schengen visa to visit Glasgow will be just sad.
    So I really don’t think that it will get nearly as bad, after all Tories are just unpleasant (personal opinion) but not insane.
    P.S. EU law by the way is subordinated to the constitutions of the member states. All treaties have to be ratified by the member states, and they can not ratify something that contradicts their constitutions. This is exactly what is happening in Germany right now. The law for ratification of Lisbon Treaty is challenged in the Constitutional Court. On 10-11 February there will be hearing. If treaty is found to be against the German Constitution will not be ratified by Germany (or rather the ratification law will be declared void and the ratification papers won’t be deposited in Rome). So stay in touch.

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  • 140. At 4:34pm on 22 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #137 - Freeborn-John

    You obviously have more interest in insulting me than reading what I post. Quite what you mean by "splitting the difference between others" is not evident to me and you will have to set aside the jibes for a moment and point me in the direction of the comment to which you refer.

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  • 141. At 4:52pm on 22 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #139 - NikolayTzvetkov

    "EU law by the way is subordinated to the constitutions of the member states".

    Thank you. I have been trying to make this point repeatedly over the months. I guess it just does not suit the agenda of some posters.

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  • 142. At 5:22pm on 22 Jan 2009, NikolayTzvetkov wrote:

    I would like to make one more comment. EU is not able to force on UK or any other country anything that they do not accept freely. Imagine that other member states decide it’s a good idea that all English males between age of 18 and 60 should undergo once a year one month of penal servitude in a French collective farm, and write it down in a treaty. The British government can reject to sign such a treaty, even if they sign it the parliament can reject to ratify it, even if it ratify it the people can go to court that can decide that ratification was unconstitutional (although in absence of written constitution they will formulated it somewhat differently), and even if they fail to protect the human rights the British people can go to the European Court of Human Rights that will find it against certain conventions on which UK is side.
    Now if all other 26 EU countries want to harmonize the tax base in their countries, but UK is against no one can make them sign such amendment to the treaties. Then the other countries can go and sign a treaty that is outside of EU and do what they like, without affecting UK. Such an example is the Schengen Treaty.
    Simple and clear, isn’t it.

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  • 143. At 5:24pm on 22 Jan 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    threnodio I have always admired your studious but disingenuous peddling of the pro-EU line at any and every opportunity.

    As you are well aware, since Maastricht, the EU has paramount power over all National legislation and there is no opt out for any State.

    When a Dutch MP is charged under Netherland's juris prudence with inciting racial hatred etc. it is of clear and present interest to every EU member State inc the UK. This person's fate will affect the Right of Free Speech across the soviet known as the EU. I do not 'blame' the EU as the postion of all Judicial/Legal processes in everyEU State has long been entirely the subject of final arbitration by the EU. For you to argue any other situation is ridiculous: No UK, Dutch, Irish, Greek, Estonian, Bulgarian Law can be passed by State legislatures that is not subservient to EU Law/Regulation.

    Therefore, it is my contention Mr Mardell should be treating this Dutch MPs' trial as a matter of interest/concern to all EU Citizens.

    As for the 'islam' issue: That is my brief description of the EU & UK dealings with a minority of Citizens' faith-based culture which can be extended to the negotiations with Turkey over EU membership.

    In this instance I would venture to suggest an elected MP pronouncing on and producing a film perceived by many and now apparently the Courts as 'hostile in content' to that minority is something of an 'issue' for all EU member States.

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  • 144. At 6:30pm on 22 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #137 Freeborn-John

    "In practice this is of little consequence because so long as they remain part of the confederation they are obliged to obey its central authority in exactly the same way as if it were a federation."

    In practice would be what the states in a confederacy set out would it not.

    If 'obliged' they decide to be, then it is still up to them to do the obliging? What will other sovereign states do if they don't? Some ineffective stuff, or persuasive tactics or war... Unlikely. Life could perceivably be made difficult for the rebel, more importantly it might consider the consequences of losing face, but more likely an agreement would eventually be reached. (This is of course if it hasn't agreed to consequences in advance, but I can't see any state would want to do that, and in any case it may still change its mind.)

    Therefore states can, do and will ultimately please themselves, or rather their electorate. States generally attempt to not be outmanoeuvred? I think the key is cooperation.

    States will continue to cooperate as long as doing so is offering them benefits eg. a confereral EU is a less easy target than is say, England relying on international treaty?

    Hence a confederacy is more fluid, and granted isn't guaranteed to survive. Mind, the memory of a less flexible EU behind it might make it more likely not to fail?

    "Furthermore I disagree with you fundamentally that EU decisions are only reached when it is to mutual advantage. Can you explain how mutual gain is achieved when a nation is required to live under EU law that it voted against but was obliged to implement after being outvoted under QMV?"

    Well, I'd say that's a problem with the current model.

    I wouldn't advocate an 'outvoting situation'. Should a state agree to something it actually disagrees with, then let it be as part of a bargain it is making perhaps, so it is still making that decision.

    Let it be clear where the pooled responsibility lies. When those areas have been agreed, then by definition an individual state already agrees to those future decisions? They would have to work out some kind of voting system at the same time etc.

    An overhaul of the current set up would be good though, do you think?

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  • 145. At 6:55pm on 22 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Threnodio / NikolayTzvetkov (141): As usual you are wrong. In theory the national constitution has legal primacy, but in practice that can only be achieved by coming out of the EU. In practice, for any country that remains in the EU, even their national constitution is subordinate to EU Law. Article 29 of The Irish Constitution describes the situation well, but the same is true in every state that is a signatory of the EUtreaties.

    Article 29.10 "No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the (Irish) State which are necessitated by the obligations of membership of the European Union . . . or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the European Union . . . from having the force of law in the (Irish) State."

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  • 146. At 6:59pm on 22 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    NikolayTzvetkov (139): There was no trick used by the UK to re-negotiate British budget contributions in the past; just hard negotiations. The 'worst case' scenario I described is better for the UK than the status quo. 80% of the UK economy is services and there is no EU external tariff on services so we already compete with India, China, etc. in the European market on an equal basis today. That would not change outside the EU.

    Most EU countries would not want to be in the EU without the UK because it would reinforce the hegemony of France and Germany. Germany would not want to be in the EU without the UK because they would be the ones to make up for the loss of British budget contributions and their industrial exports to the UK (e.g. cars etc.) would have to pay the 2% EU tariff on manufactured goods to enter what is one of their major markets.

    Even France is unlikely to cause trouble. French agricultural products currently have free access to the UK market where as food produced in non-EU countries is today subject to an 11% EU tariff. You are totally incorrect to say that UK food prices would rise outside the EU because the main effect of the CAP system of tarrifs and quotas is to raise food prices throughout the EU above the world level. If French agricultural produce had to compete on an equal basis in the UK market with goods from elsewhere in the world they would certainly lose market share. Since the UK is not really a major food exporter (agriculture employs less than 1% of British workers) the UK would not be seriously disadvantaged if our low level of food exports to the Continent were subject to an equal tariff. If this is not enough to persuade France to see reason then we should not hesitate to send the half million French citizens that work in London back home to join the unemployment lines in France.

    The UK must re-negotiate its membership of the EU in deadly earnest. Ultimately we have nothing to lose because the 'worst case' scenario I describe is better than the status quo from both a financial and democracy perspective.

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  • 147. At 7:03pm on 22 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #143 - ikamaskeip

    There is nothing disingenuous about pointing out that Geert Wilders will be prosecuted - if he is prosecuted, by the Netherlands authorities under Dutch law. That makes it a domestic legal issue for the Dutch. If you consider that it is an issue of Europe wide importance, so be it.

    As to the 'Islam question', you would do well to remember that Islam is now the second largest religion in the UK with an estimated 2 million practitioners and about 4.3% of all German residents (1% of citizens) are Muslim. Figures from France are estimates since the question is not put in the census but anything from 3 to 10%. As you say, Turkish membership is on the agenda and, once internal issues are resolved, Albania, Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia will figure. To treat Islam as anything other than a mainstream European belief system is not only naive but will tend to encourage those who wish to promote radicalisation in the belief that they can present Islam as being on the margins and separate from European culture. Nothing would please the extremists more.

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  • 148. At 7:46pm on 22 Jan 2009, phoenix wrote:

    Post 146-

    "Most EU countries would not want to be in the EU without the UK "

    Hilarious!

    Swivel eyed euroscepticism at its best!

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  • 149. At 8:12pm on 22 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    aye_write (144): The treaties on European Union and EU law enacted under those treaties are the law. You appear to be suggesting otherwise, or that a state can disregard international law whenever it feels like it. That is not the case. The UK will need to enter a negotiation with other states that have signed the same EU treaties to have the current unacceptable treaties amended to our satisfaction. If they do not agree then we can in the final resort leave the EU (and should since this would be better than the status quo).

    (There is one other possibility available if the Lisbon treaty is not ratified, because this would be the first treaty to establish the supremacy of EU law over national law on a treaty basis. (To date the supremacy of EU law has been based only on a self-serving ECJ ruling). The UK Parliament could simply legislate that UK courts are henceforth to treat UK law in areas beyond the common market as superior to EU law. This would not be accepted by the EU institutions, but without Lisbon they have no document that the UK has signed to support their claim. This however is no lasting solution so it would be better to enter a re-negotiation to get other EU countries to sign up to a new relationship that we can live with, or failing that to walk away)

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  • 150. At 8:59pm on 22 Jan 2009, Menedemus wrote:

    Freeborn-John @ #149

    That sounds all well and good but . . .

    Has not the UK and her Majesty, the Queen, ratified the Lisbon Treaty.

    Does not this mean that, in International Law, the UK is obliged to abide by the Lisbon Treaty unless (a) the UK repudiates it (something that has never been mentioned by the Conservative Party) or (b) the treaty is not implemented (which I believe remains a possibility).

    At the moment, the Lisbon Treaty is not implemented as Germany, the Czechs and a few other nations have not ratified the treaty. It also remain unimplementable because Ireland voters have denounced the Treaty in the Irish Referendum.

    Thus, the only way that your theory of a future UK Governemt of the Day dictating that UK Law is superior to EU Law would be if the Conservative Party comes to power in the UK and the Lisbon Treay is not yet implemented and never will be, i.e. one of the nations who have not yet ratified the Lisbon Treaty decides not to do so (not actually that likely, I believe) or, Ireland's 2nd Referendum is another definitive "No" (which is and remains a possibility!).

    In all other respects, the current Gordon Brown government has legally agreed to ratify the treaty after a debate/vote in Parlaiment and the articles are signed, sealed and lodged in Rome - thus the UK (and any ideas such as you put forward in #149) are somewhat stymied.

    UK law must become subsidiary to EU Law and Qualified Majority Voting will make the UK toe the EU line going forward.

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  • 151. At 9:12pm on 22 Jan 2009, MaxSceptic wrote:

    threnodio @147 wrote:

    That because a very small minority of European citizens are muslims, then

    To treat Islam as anything other than a mainstream European belief system is not only naive but will tend to encourage those who wish to promote radicalisation in the belief that they can present Islam as being on the margins and separate from European culture.

    This is a nonsense. Islam - by its very nature - a creed that recognises no separation between church and state - is both separate from, and incompatible to, what most Europeans would consider 'European culture'.

    You may you wish to commit cultural suicide in the name of 'social diversity'. I don't.

    It may be politically 'incorrect' to say this, but most Europeans do not want to become 'dhimmis' - and thus do not welcome the expansion of Islam in Europe.


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  • 152. At 9:18pm on 22 Jan 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    threnodio I may do well to remember lots of things but certainly I note you offered no rational argument against and therefore can be considered to have conceded the point of EU Law having primacy.
    As for the 'islam' issue it is as well for all pro-EU apologists to remember that even at such numbers the muslim, jew and christian faiths are all relative minorities in almost all of Europe and the UK: The EU naturally must take account of faith, but, a far more persuasive and substantial group of the entire population are perhaps best described as humanist-secular.
    I would also suggest you keep in mind it is not religious persuasion undermining the EU. It is the constant geographical extensions alongside the loss of the effective writ of National Law within the EU soviet without consultation of the great majority of Citizens: That is at the heart of the recent 'No' Referenda votes of the Dutch, French and Irish.
    The 'Federal project' of Msr Barroso and his EUrotocracy is resented by the majority electorate as evidenced by EU surveys of the public since 2004: Not that a majority of mainland Europeans oppose the EU, but, on the specific question of eastern expansion to Ukraine, Turkey etc. (so not only a 'faith' based concern) Polls have shown large opposition.
    There is nothing 'mainstream' about 'ignoring' the present EU enslaved Citizenry: It is a classic of the pro-EU spokesperson, such as yourself, to insist on 'islam' or whatever minority issue be considered at every level of the EU whilst blandly and blindly turning your back on the demands, interests, concerns of substantial swathes of the EU public, e.g. some 80% of English Citizens who want out of the EU!

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  • 153. At 9:53pm on 22 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #129 Freeborn-John

    "you are not a nationalist all. I would suggest you are here under flase pretences"

    My "pretences" are neither false nor flase.

    I'm not your kind of nationalist - thanks for the compliment!

    A frequent contributor to BT's and JW's blogs is fond of pointing out that "uni-dimensional politics is only for those for whom a flat earth is too complex a concept".

    Politics is a complex business, and involves compromise. Contradiction is often inherent - as in balancing the rights of the community and the individual.

    The young and immature (politically as well as chronologically) like simple answers to complex problems. The rest of us will seek the best (not an ideal) solution.

    As for the Enlightenment, Scotland did develop a distinct version. For your education -

    The Scottish Enlightenment was the period in 18th century Scotland characterised by an outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments. By 1750, Scots were amongst the most literate nations of Europe, with an estimated 75% level of literacy.[1]

    Sharing the humanist and rationalist outlook of the European Enlightenment of the same time period, the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment asserted the fundamental importance of human reason combined with a rejection of any authority which could not be justified by reason. They held to an optimistic belief in the ability of man to effect changes for the better in society and nature, guided only by reason.

    It was this latter feature which gave the Scottish Enlightenment its special flavour, distinguishing it from its continental European counterpart. In Scotland, the Enlightenment was characterised by a thoroughgoing empiricism and practicality where the chief virtues were held to be improvement, virtue, and practical benefit for both the individual and society as a whole.

    Among the advances of the period were achievements in philosophy, economics, engineering, architecture, medicine, geology, archaeology, law, agriculture, chemistry, and sociology. Among the outstanding Scottish thinkers and scientists of the period were Francis Hutcheson, David Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Reid, Robert Burns, Adam Ferguson, John Playfair, Joseph Black and James Hutton.

    The Scottish Enlightenment had effects far beyond Scotland itself, not only because of the esteem in which Scottish achievements were held in Europe and elsewhere, but also because its ideas and attitudes were carried across the Atlantic as part of the Scottish diaspora which had its beginnings in that same era."


    Scotland was part of mainstream Europe in Law and Culture until the "one-way ratchet" of UK centralism developed in the 20th century.

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  • 154. At 10:25pm on 22 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #152 - ikamaskeip
    #145 - Freeborn-John

    "I note you offered no rational argument against and therefore can be considered to have conceded the point of EU Law having primacy".

    On the contrary, I have been studying the German constitution so that I could give you a reply based on fact rather than supposition. You can find it (in translation)HERE. I suggest you take particular note of Chapter II, Article 23 then go to Capter IX, Article 23.

    Read together, it is clear that, while the constitution does indeed allow for subsidiarity and commitment to the EU, it also vests that responsibility in the federal government and that any laws which infringe the rights of citizens under the federal constitution may be set aside. This clearly includes European law. The Constitutional Court therefore takes precedence. It follows in my mind that the provisions of the Irish constitution to which FBJ referred were adopted by the Irish Parliament of their own volition and not imposed by treaty or in any other way by the EU.

    Since the UK does not have a written constitution, it has the additional luxury of being able to 'make it up as they go along', I cannot discern any legal obstacle to prevent parliament from passing legislation vesting similar powers to those currently enjoyed by the Germans into the new Supreme Court. Of course, I will be told very properly that this would precipitate a crisis in the EU and throw the entire project into doubt as far as the UK is concerned. Nevertheless, that is the legal position as I understand it. I am therefore still with NikolayTzvetkov on this. To rely on the Irish constitution as an authority on what the UK parliament may or may not do seems to me oblique.

    As regards the religious question, I personally favour the secular state solution as practiced in France. It has it's problems but it does at least have the virtue that issues arising can be treated as cultural rather than matters of faith. Further eastward expansion is a hot topic on the mainland as well as the UK and Ukraine in particular has done herself no favours by her role in the gas crisis.

    You write (ikamaskeip) "I would also suggest you keep in mind it is not religious persuasion undermining the EU". I entirely agree. Which is precisely why I asked you what you meant by the Islam question. You raised it, not me.

    As regards what the UK electorate may or may not want, the answer is really very simple as I keep saying. Instead of relying on poll evidence ask them. Is it really so hard?

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  • 155. At 10:27pm on 22 Jan 2009, MaxSceptic wrote:

    Oldnat,

    Scottish Enlightenment was indeed distinct - and a bright and wonderful thing.

    One should point out, however, that it flourished - as did Scottish entrepreneurs, engineers, scientist and administrators, etc. - under the benign and fertile conditions of United Kingdom.


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  • 156. At 10:30pm on 22 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    oldfederalist (153): I note you did not answer my question about the conflict inherent in 'independence in Europe'.

    What do you propose should happen when a pan-European majority is in favour of one policy, but this is opposed by the majority in Scotland? Based on everything you have said it seems you would support the EU policy and oppress Scots in the name of Europe.

    See post 77 for the type of nationalist i think you are. You content yourself with replacing one master by another, when you could be taking off your chains.

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  • 157. At 10:32pm on 22 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    FreebornJohn:

    You really do seem to have a be in your bonnet about EU law v UK national law.

    Well, may I remind you that international treaties (which is what "EU laws" are because they're signed off by the Member States) has always been seen as being higher up the scale.

    See, for example

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200203/cmhansrd/vo031014/text/31014w26.htm

    PRIME MINISTER Tuesday 14 October 2003
    International Treaties

    Mr. Shepherd: To ask the Prime Minister pursuant to the statement of 16 September by the Foreign Secretary, Official Report, column 794, when it became Government policy that international treaties take primacy over national laws; and if he will make a statement. [131483]

    The Prime Minister: It is an established principle of international law that a State may not plead its national law to escape its international law obligations, including its treaty obligations. As a matter of UK constitutional law, international treaties have effect in UK national law to the extent that they have been implemented in national law. The UK has given effect to the principle of the primacy of Community law
    through the European Communities Act 1972.

    I realise that you consider it beneath you to reply to me but you still haven't indicated to the main body of readers whether or not you recognise a hierarchy of law running from local bye-laws upwards with each higher level having supremacy over the lower level.

    By the way, it wouldn't hurt for you to learn to debate politely and stop being rude to other posters with whom you disagree.

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  • 158. At 10:40pm on 22 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #149 Freeborn-John wrote:

    "aye_write (144): The treaties on European Union and EU law enacted under those treaties are the law. You appear to be suggesting otherwise, or that a state can disregard international law whenever it feels like it. That is not the case. The UK will need to enter a negotiation with other states that have signed the same EU treaties to have the current unacceptable treaties amended to our satisfaction. If they do not agree then we can in the final resort leave the EU (and should since this would be better than the status quo)."

    This is interesting. Indulge me if you would. What would happen then if for example the UK decided to flout a piece of international law as it applies to the EU? What higher power perhaps would enact consequences? Or what consequences would there be for committing such an act? In general or specific - I'd be interested in either.

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  • 159. At 11:03pm on 22 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #155 MaxSceptic

    I agree. In the 18th century, England's role towards Scotland was actually benign. They didn't interfere in Scottish domestic affairs!

    Had that continued, the history of our two nations might have been very different.

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  • 160. At 11:08pm on 22 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    Does the EU have a internationally recognised law that says FreedomBorn-John has to go to bed at 10.30pm? (Oh, GMT.)

    All this obsession with who's law is bigger than who else's is only relevant in the context of consequences for disobeying, (that may prevent the disobedience), no?

    It is my understanding that sovereign states will only listen when they have to or else want to. IS there some greater force out there!

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  • 161. At 11:11pm on 22 Jan 2009, ikamaskeip wrote:

    threnodio it must be a difference of interpretation because it is clear from my reading (albeit ultra hasty) that the German Constitutional Courts accept the primacy of EU Law.

    Now, I think this is an area I cannot get too deep into as I have no legal training whatsoever: However, I will stand by the UK House of Lords and Law Lords Appellants Court decisions on various issues ranging from Agriculture and Fisheries to Trade to Immigration to Publishing (! Yes, I know, incredibly there's a decision on some obscure copyright debate - EU legislation, it's that far reaching).

    The EU is an all-embracing social-judicial-governmental system whose dangerous tentacles of suppression of the individual Human Right to Free Will makes the former soviet union look decidedly under-managed!

    It is extremely 'hard' to 'ask' the English electorate anything as it is clear a combination of the 'democratic deficit' in UK (you have previously referred to) and the unscrupulous EUrotocracy prevent any such Referenda ever being held.

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  • 162. At 11:25pm on 22 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #157 - greypolyglot

    "The UK has given effect to the principle of the primacy of Community law
    through the European Communities Act 1972."

    - which Paliament, if it was so minded could repeal (although reneging on treaties is of an entirely different order).

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  • 163. At 11:39pm on 22 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #156 Freeborn-John

    At least you recognise that Scotland is ill-served by the modern UK "replacing one master by another, when you could be taking off your chains" (but see my #159 as to what might have been).

    In the words of the old joke "I wouldn't start from here", but we are where we are.

    Had we gone for independence in the '70s we would be in Norway's position and I might want their current status (though since my identity is both Scots and European, I'd probably still want to be an integral part of Europe). Unfortunately, Westminster has wasted much of the oil by using it as current revenue, and sacrificed Scottish fishing grounds in the EU negotiations, so that's no longer possible.

    In practical terms, the current intertwined world means that a small country with an independent currency is too vulnerable (as the sterling zone will no doubt discover in due course), so membership of the euro is the best bet. That brings with it membership of the EU - in common with many other Europeans I want to see reform of the EU and that's only possible from within.

    As greypolyglot has pointed out "You really do seem to have a bee in your bonnet about EU law v UK national law."

    I'm quite happy for those aspects of sovereignty which are shared with other countries to be democratically decided at that level. That's not "oppression" of Scotland any more than the South of England "oppresses" the North of England when the Tories are in power at Westminster. It's recognition of the democratic process at that level.

    Nationalists, like me, want the best for their nation. Separatists, like you, want as little political involvement as possible with foreigners - regardless of the consequences.

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  • 164. At 11:48pm on 22 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    aye_write (158): A state in breach of a ratified international treaty would find itself hauled up before the International Court in The Hague.

    http://www.icj-cij.org/homepage/index.php?lang=en


    threnodio (154): The situation I described in Ireland exists in every EU state. If a discrepancy is found between a national constitution and an EU law then it has never resulted in the EU law being struck down. Rather the national constitution is modified to bring it back into line with EU law. This is for example why the EU decision in 2000 to prohibit the death penalty at European level resulted in a referendum in Ireland in 2001 to modify the Irish constitution to make the death penalty (which was already illegal) unconstitutional.

    The French Council of State recently gave up conducting constitutional checks of EU law. They now refer ambiguities to the ECJ who of course will ignore everything (including the French constitution) except EU law when clarifying the matter!

    http://www.europeanreform.eu/french-sovereignty-passions-clash-with-eu-legal-primacy/

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  • 165. At 11:54pm on 22 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    greypolyglot (157): The EU has two types of law. The treaties on European Union are 'primary legislation', and since they are international treaties they rank alongside national constitutions in the legal hierarchy. The unique aspect of the treaties on European Union is that they allow the EU institutions to create 'secondary legislation' which currently also (by virtue only of an ECJ ruling) also ranks above national law and even national constitutions in the legal hierarchy. However the EU institutions do not have the legitimacy to create such a powerful law, which obliges national parliaments to remove all conflicting national law and is therefore highly detrimental to the democratic process.

    The primary legislation (EU treaties) should therefore be re-negotiated such that the legal status of EU secondary legislation ranks below that of national law. This would allow current governments which disagree with a particular piece of EU secondary legislation (including that which the previous national government may have supported) to prevent it from having the force of law in their country. Any EU secondary legislation not overruled in this way could then be viewed as having been 'blessed' with the democratic legitimacy of the current national government in office. This would prevent the slow build up of EU law (some of it, e.g. the CAP, created so long ago that nobody can remember why anyone thought it a good idea) from suffocating national legislatures and the democratic process. And it would allow us to debate EU measures during national election campaigns and decide whether to accept them or not, and even to revisit the topic at future elections.

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  • 166. At 11:54pm on 22 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #161 - ikamaskeip

    Well again, there is nothing about 'EUrotocracy' which prevents a nation holding an election whenever it wants about whatever it wants. This one you really do have to hang round the necks of those gutless wonders at Westminster.

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  • 167. At 00:15am on 23 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    oldfederalist (163): I make no apologies for 'having a bee in my bonnet' about the relative ranking of EU and national law, because this determines where the supreme political power lies.
    -----
    "there can be but one supreme power, which is the legislative, to which all the rest are and must be subordinate, yet the legislative being only a fiduciary power to act for certain ends, there remains still in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative, when they find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them" – John Locke.

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  • 168. At 00:49am on 23 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #164 Freeborn-John

    Thanks. Right.

    "Only States are eligible to appear before the Court in contentious cases. At present, this basically means the 192 United Nations Member States. The Court has no jurisdiction to deal with applications from individuals, non-governmental organizations, corporations or any other private entity."

    No individuals are on trial then. Therefore there are no individual consequences for any particular person. This makes it less likely that the threat of court action will act as a deterrent.

    "The Court can only hear a dispute when requested to do so by one or more States. It cannot deal with a dispute of its own motion. It is not permitted, under its Statute, to investigate and rule on acts of sovereign States as it chooses."

    States decide then whether a case is brought, so then they can equally agree to not bring it. Therefore the way is also open for negotiated agreements instead.

    "The States concerned must also have access to the Court and have accepted its jurisdiction, in other words they must consent to the Court’s considering the dispute in question. This is a fundamental principle governing the settlement of international disputes, States being sovereign and free to choose the methods of resolving their disputes.

    A State may manifest its consent in three ways:

    - A special agreement

    - A clause in a treaty

    - A unilateral declaration"

    Again states can decide whether to recognise the court. (Granted most probably have.)

    "Judgments delivered by the Court (or by one of its Chambers) in disputes between States are binding upon the parties concerned. Article 94 of the United Nations Charter lays down that “each Member of the United Nations undertakes to comply with the decision of [the Court] in any case to which it is a party”.

    So, if there is no successful negotiation, then a case is brought and lost, and the 'guilty' state decides to ignore the ruling, what then? Are they kicked out of the UN? Or what? I'm not sure.

    My point is that stirring things up like this would be seen to be more dangerous than good, so enough of the time international law breaking is ignored, as states can legitimately do, sometimes in preference for alternative settlement, to avoid conflict.

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  • 169. At 01:05am on 23 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #167 Separatist-John

    It's appropriate that you quote Locke - part of the English tradition of Parliamentary Sovereignty.

    Most countries have checks and balances against the abuse of power by one branch of Government.

    Your legislature has been not only neutered, but castrated by the executive.

    However, if you enjoy being a subject instead of part of a sovereign people, that's your choice.

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  • 170. At 01:22am on 23 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #167 - Freeborn-John

    So basically, if the Commission and the Council are subordinated to the European parliament as supreme legislative authority with a democratic mandate, Locke's requirements are met, are they not?

    And if such a parliament were to introduce a Social Chapter, a Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policy, a Common Defence and Foreign Policy and a Single Currency, that would be all right would it?

    Thought not.

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  • 171. At 01:55am on 23 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Threnodio (170): There is a fine line between being disingenuous and being stupid. But either way you will have to raise your game way above the level of post #170 if you expect a reply.

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  • 172. At 02:45am on 23 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    162. At 11:25pm on 22 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    "#157 - greypolyglot

    "The UK has given effect to the principle of the primacy of Community law
    through the European Communities Act 1972."

    - which Paliament, if it was so minded could repeal (although reneging on treaties is of an entirely different order)."

    These treaties are not like other treaties. They were set up and signed by people who knew that an anti-democratic atrocity was taking place. They knew that the British people had been lied to again and again and again.

    I suspect, but cannot prove, that many "EU"-lovers were funded by continental governments, possibly without their knowing it. This is the sort of thing that gets labelled as paranoia but the German government under Helmut Kohl is known to have intervened in Spanish elections and the French government is known to have intervened in German elections so it seems likely to me.

    I don't give a damn about these treaties. Maybe when I am retired I will read Locke. Maybe not.


    You don't have to have read any philosophy to know that what has gone on is totally undemocratic. Every streetsweeper knows it. The only thing philosophy could do is to confuse the issue and give somebody an excuse to claim that black was white.

    I once listened to a military Chaplin explaining the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." Apparently it really means "That shalt kill." I didn't know that before, but then I'm from Suffolk.

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  • 173. At 02:53am on 23 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    From this website:

    "Ken Clarke is reported to have warned against the Tories taking a "right-wing nationalist" stance on Europe shortly before returning to the shadow cabinet.

    The MP, who was made shadow business secretary this week, is quoted as telling a conference in December that this would alienate Barack Obama. "


    It's the old thing again about "people who count."

    Quite clearly the people of the UK do not count. That man should not be an MP. I hope that opponents of the "EU" in his constituency will unite to put up one candidate to oust him, unless of course somebody like the wonderful Kate Hoe stands against him for Labour. Pretty unlikely.

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  • 174. At 09:00am on 23 Jan 2009, MaxSceptic wrote:

    Oldnat,

    From an English perspective, an independent Scotland has three key benefits:

    1) Financial.
    2) Political short-term: no more Brown, Darling, etc...
    3) Political long-term: Labour will never again be elected.

    Plus - an extra bonus: no more whining condescension from the media mafia of Naughtie, Wark and Co.


    Hmmmm.... I'm warming to the idea ;-)

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  • 175. At 09:29am on 23 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    162. threnodio:

    "#157 - greypolyglot

    "The UK has given effect to the principle of the primacy of Community law
    through the European Communities Act 1972."

    - which Paliament, if it was so minded could repeal (although reneging on treaties is of an entirely different order)."

    I don't disagree. I think, though not being an international lawyer can't confirm it, that the real basis for guaranteeing international law is the extent to which a country wants to be seen as honest and civilised. That puts us all the way back to "my word is my bond". I suspect that once people (nations) see that you can't be trusted to keep your word then really do become a pariah facing the question "Which other agreements will you renege on?"

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  • 176. At 11:53am on 23 Jan 2009, cornishdemocrat wrote:

    Cameron and the Tories have a big problem with their anti Euro / Anti Europe stance since the election of Obama across the pond he is known to be pro European and will isolate the UK if a Tory government continues with its anti European policies.Already Obama has made it known he thinks Cameron is a lightweight and is aware that the Tories supported Mc Cain and the Republicans in the Presidential Elections.

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  • 177. At 12:30pm on 23 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #176 cornishdemocrat

    Being in Britain does give us particularly bad international PR......!

    Thanks Westminster :-)

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  • 178. At 1:05pm on 23 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #171 - Freeborn-John

    Oh please, FBJ. Raise my game?

    My point was made lightly but it has a serious side. The British parliamentary model is not unique in fulfilling Locke's criteria. Indeed I would venture to suggest it fails on a number of counts.

    My serious point is that it is perfectly feasible to design a constitution for Europe which would meet these criteria. In the unlikely event that this were ever to happen, you could hypothetically have a situation in which measures which many eurosceptics find unacceptable could pass into law by legitimate democratic process.

    What I am getting at is whether you object to the European process on constitutional grounds or on the basis of what it might do in practical terms. If it is the former, fair enough. If it is the latter, lofty quotations from political philosophers are merely a side show to justify a retreat into isolation for purely pragmatic reasons.

    And please do not patronise me.

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  • 179. At 1:50pm on 23 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    threnodio (178): You are just playing stupid, making posts to obscure matters.

    The British public have never placed their trust in the EU institutions to decide the supreme law of this land. The power they hold over us is not therefore legitimate.

    ----
    "the legislative is not only the supreme power . . . but sacred and unalterable in the hands where the community have once placed it; nor can any edict of anybody else, . . . have the force and obligation of a law, which has not its sanction from that legislative which the public has chosen and appointed. For without this the law could not have that, which is absolutely necessary to its being a law, the consent of the society." John Locke

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  • 180. At 1:54pm on 23 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    What the people of the UK want for the UK is more important than what Barack Obama wants us to do. He probably realises that. Ken Clarke should not have "taken his name in vain", thus stirring up a hornets nest.

    If it transpires that Barack Obama does think that he has a right to boss the UK around then we will have to educate him.

    It is possible that Barack Obama does not realise what a monstrosity the "EU" is. I suggest therefore that people should start writing to him and explain very politely why the "EU" is unacceptable.

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  • 181. At 2:17pm on 23 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    On this site I read:

    "The European Union has reintroduced export subsidies for dairy produce, arguing that the economic downturn has put many European farms at risk.

    The maximum refund for butter has been set at 500 euros (£469; $650) per tonne and the maximum for skimmed milk powder is 200 euros per tonne.

    The last time such refunds were given to dairy farmers was in June 2007.

    The European Commission insists that the subsidies comply with rules set by the World Trade Organization (WTO)."

    1) If we were outside the "EU" would be able to buy butter from "EU" countries at sibsidised prices thus saving us money.

    2) The "EU" has emphasised its adherance to WTO rules. So, once outside the "EU" we would be able to trade with the "EU" under WTO rules. The suggestion that we would not be able to send our exports into the "EU" once we were outside it is absurd.

    3) Some might say that they do not and would not stick to the rules. We have some gas still. Would they refuse to take our gas under the present circumstances? If they refused to take our other exports then we could refuse to allow them to have our oil and gas. Although our oil and gas are on the wain it seems likely that more will be found under the Falklands. It is very important that we upgrade our military in order to be able to defend ourselves against the Argentinians and against all comers.

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  • 182. At 2:31pm on 23 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Oldfederalist (163): Another question for you: You say you want the best for your nation, but why do you think a pan-European majority know better than a majority of Scots what is best for Scotland?

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  • 183. At 2:39pm on 23 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #179 Freeborn-John

    Re-read your quote from Locke.

    Under the conventions of the English Constitution the legislature is supreme. Once it's in place it can do as it likes, and the fact that the people don't get a say on its decisions is just tough.

    Locke's definition of "consent of society" is simply that a law must be passed by the legislature - he doesn't mean a referendum! Locke was writing to justify the revolution of 1688, and the "society" he refers to was "political society" ie the small number of electors representing the landowning and mercantile interest of England.

    If you must quote 17th century political philosophers, at least place their writings within their historical context and not in the 21st century.

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  • 184. At 3:03pm on 23 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #179 - Freeborn-John

    So, at last and via a very circuitous route, we have reached the point I made in the first place.

    "The British public have never placed their trust in the EU institutions"

    You don't know that and I don't know that because nobody has ever had the guts to ask them. And until they do, all my 'playing stupid' and all your 'cleverness' is whistling in the wind.

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  • 185. At 3:04pm on 23 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #183 - oldnat

    Amen

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  • 186. At 3:08pm on 23 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #182 Separatist-John

    The difficulty with your questions is that they are so badly phrased.

    Democratic decisions are not necessarily the "best" - either within a nation, or within a multi-national entity.

    However, even with this correction, your question remains silly.

    I accept the democratic decision of Scots over those sovereign issues which we would keep to ourselves.

    I accept the democratic decision of Europeans over those aspects in which we all pool our sovereignty.

    I accept the decisions of the United Nations and the International Court of Justice (via the Charter of the United Nations, which provides that all Member States of the United Nations are ipso facto parties to the Court's Statute.)

    I even accept, under present constitutional arrangements, the decisions of the UK Parliament (even when elected under FPTP, where one nation has 82% of the representation).

    What's so difficult to understand about that?

    Of course, like many Scots, I want to reform the UK - by repealing the Acts of Union of 1707 : like many Europeans, I want to reform the EU - by enhancing the powers of the legislature over the Executive, and by clearly defining the sovereign powers ceded to the supra-national body : like many citizens of the world, I would like to see the UN having an enhanced role in dealing with global issues.

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  • 187. At 3:29pm on 23 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    164. Freeborn-John:

    "A state in breach of a ratified international treaty would find itself hauled up before the International Court in The Hague."

    "Hauled up"? I really don't think that there would be UN court officials dragging a country's Head of State or PM, etc. off to a hearing in the Hague.

    19/01/2009 - NEW 2009/4 - Request for Interpretation of the Judgment of 31 March 2004 in the Case concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. United States of America) (Mexico v. United States of America) - The Court finds that ..... the United States of America has breached the Order indicating provisional measures of 16 July 2008 in the case of Mr. Jos? Ernesto Medell?n Rojas, executed on 5 August 2008.

    And what punishment would you expect to be meted out to the US for breaching said Order?

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  • 188. At 3:32pm on 23 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Oldfederalist (183): EU law, including that imposed on the UK after we are outvoted under QMV, has a direct effect in UK law and is never voted on by the British parliament. Yet a government that voted against European legislation in the EU Council of Ministers commands the majority in Westminster! How then can EU law imposed via QMV claim the consent of British society?

    There is a second class of EU law unable to claim the consent of British society. This is the body of EU law inherited by the current government from its predecessors which no longer enjoys the support of the new majority in Westminster, yet which cannot be repealed by that majority. (Note that this 2nd issue comes to effect even EU law that was originally approved unanimously, e.g. CAP, minimum rate of VAT, etc.).

    Note that the changes I proposed in post 165 would correct these problems.

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  • 189. At 5:41pm on 23 Jan 2009, buckeridge wrote:

    @ Freeborn-John no. 188

    You can't bandy around terms such as "direct effect" without understanding what they mean. Very few provisions of EU law have direct effect, i.e. only those intended to confer rights on citizens which are unconditional and unambiguous. And even then, 99.9% of those can only be enforced against the State.

    The majority of directly effective rights are contained in the Treaties which were ALL voted upon by Parliament.

    Why should EU law "imposed" via QMV obtain the consent of society, when UK law imposed by a government elected by 30% of the population clearly does not?

    If you understand constitutional law, you will know that no Parliament can bind its successor, therefore these laws which "no longer enjoy the support of the majority" can simply be revoked by repealing the European Communities Act 1972.

    The propositions outlined in post no. 165 are unworkable. If EU legislation (primary or secondary) was to bow to national law, then every country could simply negative the effect of EU laws by passing contradictory national legislation. It would also oblige the EU institutions to pass more primary law to ensure its priority.

    As for ideas thought up long ago such as the CAP which 'no-one knows why they exist', there is a simple reason. The EU's roots go back to the 1950s where agriculture was important to most of the six members. These countries didn't live off cheap frozen foreign imports, but preferred to grow their own. Britain was allowed the chance to also join. It didn't and was therefore obliged to look on from afar whilst the policy developed and its own agricultural sector diminished. Some years after joining, Britain wakes up to the CAP and the fact that its non-existent agricultural sector doesn't benefit, and starts predictably complaining like a rather impolite latecomer to dinner. The UK is then somewhat placated by the "rebate" until further EU activities irritated it, at which point the CAP was conveniently used as a stick to beat the punchbag EU. At the same time, the UK fails to pursue a coherent policy to reduce the CAP, agreeing in 2005(?) to French proposals to INCREASE it. And no, there wasn't any QMV involved.

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  • 190. At 7:37pm on 23 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Ravensaft (189): The main forms of EU secondary legislation (i.e. NOT the treaties, but the European Law created under the terms of the treaties) are EU regulations and directives. EU regulations have direct effect; they are immediately enforceable as law in all member states without any further action from national parliaments. EU directives need transposing into national law but any state that does not implement directives as part of national law will be fined, so they are hardly any better.

    Why is it 'unworkable' that EU secondary legislation only binds the government (and not the state in perpetuity) that votes for it, and will only be binding beyond the lifetime of that government if its successor(s) also support it? Do you think unpopular law that we can never get rid of by electing a new government is desirable?

    ----------
    THE LEGAL ACTS OF THE UNION

    Article 288
    (ex Article 249 TEC)

    To exercise the Union's competences, the institutions shall adopt regulations, directives, decisions, recommendations and opinions.

    - A regulation shall have general application. It shall be binding in its entirety and DIRECTLY APPLICABLE in all Member States.
    - A directive shall be binding, as to the result to be achieved, upon each Member State to which it is addressed, but shall leave to the national authorities the choice of form and methods.

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  • 191. At 8:43pm on 23 Jan 2009, buckeridge wrote:

    @ Freebarn-John, no. 190

    There's a big difference between "direct effect" and "directly applicable". All that directly applicable means is that there is no need for a state to adopt legislation to implement the regulation. For this reason, most of the regulations don't actually concern Member States directly, rather issues which are common to them such as tariff quotas, classification of trade goods, the operation of the EU institutions and the Community Trade Mark.

    Member States are given fairly reasonable times to implement directives, and get a fair margin of appreciation as to how they go about it. The sanctions are to deter States from spending years transposing directives.

    Why your proposition is unworkable - in addition to the reasons above, the idea that the validity of EU implementing legislation is somehow tied to the life of a parliament will hardly inspire confidence in those who have to work with the laws. What then happens if the next govt wants to change what has gone before, can it simply repeal the lot? The succeeding govt will have this power in any event, a "sunset clause" would simply lead to inordinate amounts of time being spent dealing with tedious legislation on the basis of which contracts may have been concluded.

    In reality, a succeeding govt will have three choices with regard to unpopular legislation: (a) repeal the ECA 1972, (b) replace the implementing legislation with a watered down version, or (c) negotiate at EU level for a new approach - if the measure has been adopted by QMV, the UK will have a decent chance to convince other States to back its proposal.

    By the by, voters don't generally vote for a govt purely on the basis that it will repeal a particular law. Even a law such as the Hunting Act, unpopular with a section of the country, is unlikely to mobilise large numbers of people to vote for a party which has promised to repeal it.

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  • 192. At 9:20pm on 23 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    Freeborn-John

    I put it to you that the "International Court in The Hague" has no teeth.

    Rather it is matters of national inconvenience such as losing face or revenue and seeming to cheese off allies or other partners in sought after arrangements, or conversely the inconveniences suffered by the states who bring court action, through the similar results of bringing that action, that sways whether a nation decides to or is compelled to adhere to international law and the rulings of said court.

    Are there any specific court-imposed economic or other penalties? For example, is threatened ejection from the UN a possibility? Or are all the other states supposed to reduce trading, or some other sort of relations, with the rebel state?

    I'd say all of the above has consequences for all states involved. These difficulties could be reasons why states may seek not to pursue other states through the International Court, and of course reasons why states may also ignore international law to start with.

    Therefore does the status of the rebel state to begin with, not influence the implications of these decisions and in turn whether any decisions are made, or indeed (formerly or latterly) heeded?

    I saw some answers on your link but just some.

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  • 193. At 10:18pm on 23 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Ravenseft (191): The "confidence of those who have to work with laws" is no reason for entire nations to have to live permanently under European laws that are not supported by the majority in their society.

    Your three choices are no solution at all:
    - Your first option is that when any country does not like a single EU law then it has to leave the EU. The EU would remain a de-facto dictatorship for those nations that remain in it.
    - Your second choice is completely inadequate. It would result in EU fines if the ECJ decides that the EU directive is not being implemented properly any more. And it is no solution at all for EU regulations.
    - Your third solution is nothing at all. The legitimacy of an EU law in the UK does not depend on its support in other nations.

    All you propose is the status quo which has lead to the existing (and growing) EU crisis of democratic legitimacy! The proposal in post 165 would add arbitrary flexibility such that any qualified majority of countries could implement the common measures they support between themselves, without coercing the rest. It would also allow the coalition implementing particular EU measures to grow or shrink over time (following changes of national government) so as to ensure on an ongoing basis that EU laws are only in force in those nations where they enjoy the consent of the governed. Without this injection of flexibility the EU will continue to haemorrhage the legitimacy that is necessary for its survival.

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  • 194. At 03:24am on 24 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #193 Freeborn (of Locke, Bagehot et al) -John

    OK I think I understand your position, although I could never share it. If I have understood you correctly, there are 2 fundamental principles which you adhere to -

    1. You think that sovereignty is indivisible, and can only be exercised by a single constitutional entity.

    2. You think that an elected (presumably) legislature can be trusted with the supreme power to exercise that sovereignty.

    If I have misrepresented you please correct me.

    The EU clearly is incompatible with 1. above. You could never support it under any system which did not allow the legislatures of the member states to reject any aspect that they did not approve of. Clearly, that would mean that no Common Market or Free Trade Area or any other common enterprise could be established, on anything other than a temporary basis, within a varying group of states.

    I understand this philosophical stance. It has consistency.

    However, it seems to conflict with your comments about "British society" not accepting the EU. Surely, under 2. above (Parliamentary Sovereignty), the people have no rights to exercise sovereignty - other than through electing representatives to the legislature via method that the legislature decides.

    I understand this stance as having validity in England (and possibly, by extension in Wales where, through right of conquest, English was law was established in 1706, and N Ireland - who accepted the constitutional settlement of 1923 as the price of not being in the Irish Free State).

    Consequently, in every other part of the EU, where sovereignty lies directly with the people, there may well be a legitimate case for each of their individual states to demand a referendum on any reduction of the power of their national institutions over some aspect(s) of their sovereignty. That is, of course, a matter for each one of them, and if a sovereign people wish to allocate parts of their sovereignty to more than one set of institutions they can choose to do so.

    That you come from a nation with a different constitutional structure from everyone else, and which represents only 11% of the EU population, suggests that your historical constitution should not determine how everyone else acts.



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  • 195. At 10:44am on 24 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Oldfederalist (194): Normally I try (despite it being a bit of a mouthful) to say that I believe national law should be superior to EU law in areas beyond the common market. In other words, that the only EU law that should be superior to national should be that related to the common market. The reality of multiple national identities means that Europe should be viewed as a patchwork of 'tectonic plates' delineated by national identity. However it takes politically salient issues (e.g. poll-tax in Scotland) to lead to actual ruptures along these fracture lines. Common market regulations are of too trivial/technical a nature to generate the political heat that would cause eruptions along the fracture lines of national identity. Therefore common market rules are the only area where EU law can be safely be allowed to be superior to national.

    (However globalisation of the economy, together with the EU now being a suspect organisation, means that the time is ripe to create a separate global common market through the WTO to replace the European single market).

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  • 196. At 11:57am on 24 Jan 2009, buckeridge wrote:

    @ Freeborn-John, no. 195:

    But where does the Common Market end and the European Union begin? I don't think you can neatly divide what is and isn't part of the trading zone upon which the present EU is built.

    Would you agree that the common market involves the elimination of obstacles to intra-Community trade, and incorporates the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital? Allowing individuals to buy and sell, work and provide/receive services without being impeded by national rules? If so, this requires a whole package of approximative legislation in order to function properly.

    The only areas which can be separated from the original Common Market aims set out in Article 3 of the EC Treaty are incidentally those most insisted upon by successive UK govts - i.e. security matters in the shape of the CFSP.

    The EU is so "suspect" that it has inspired at least three other regional groupings - ASEAN, Mercosur and UNASUR. The WTO is a supervisory body, dominated by larger richer states which have no interest in removing trade barriers which work to their advantage in a world of ever-scarcer resources.

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  • 197. At 3:12pm on 24 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Ravenseft (196): If it is impossible to separate the common market from political union then how was it done prior to Maastricht? Even in the Maastricht Treaty there was a distinction (pillar structure) to separate these areas. And today EEA members are part of the single market but not political union. So clearly it can be done.

    Nor would it be any more unworkable to have national law superior to EU law than the other way around. Courts could still ask the ECJ to interpret EU law, but then look to national law to see where and how it has been overruled by the representative parliaments we elect.

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  • 198. At 4:07pm on 24 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #197 - Freeborn-John

    A common market simply requires countries to agree to form a tarrif free zone. A multi-national arrangement allowing for complete and unrestricted mobility of labour as well as goods and services is an arrangement of entirely different order which requires regulation and supervision at international level.

    Before you accuse me of pumping my Europhilliac tendencies again, I am not saying it is beyond the wit of nations to devise treaties to address these elements alone. I do say, however, that is not feasible to do so without being able to hold to account participating nations for non-compliance and that requires a framework of multilateral law.

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  • 199. At 6:20pm on 24 Jan 2009, rob wrote:

    With dear old England in its worst recession since a previous Labour government put it into a tail spin, I think it is high time both the party members of the UK and the people of the UK got themsleves into a serious train of thought. Englands time as market leader industrially and financially is now well and truly ended. As a consequence the pound is going to be a useless heartache for the die-hards to hang on to. It is the time right now to embrace the Euro as a currency. The good days are gone and there is nothing left in the cupboard to even wishfully hope for a revival of its industry and its financial clout. It will be hurtful, but only to the vestiges of history and the future is far more important. Do it now whilst the moment is ripe.

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  • 200. At 6:29pm on 24 Jan 2009, NikolayTzvetkov wrote:

    Freeborn-John (145, 146):
    Main entities as far as international law is concerned are usually the states. They can agree to transfer some of their powers to smaller (for example counties, Bundeslander or Scotland let us say) or bigger units (EU, UN, WTO and so on). This transfer is executed freely (at least as far as UK is concerned) and not under duress (occupation, war, etc.). In this sense the constitution of the state has supremacy over all other laws, international or local. Such constitution (written or informal) decided what are the procedures and the range for such transfers. I will try to give you a couple of examples (sorry my knowledge of Anglo-Saxon legal system is limited):
    1. United Nations: the resolutions of Security Council (not all, but it depends of the type of resolution) are obligatory for all member states. They can not be made void by EU, individual states or city councils. In a way UN legislation has supremacy over EU legislation. But all member states have joined and accepted the UN Chapter will clear understanding that this is the case. On the other hand states that are not members of UN are not bound by the Security Council resolutions.
    The reason why usually the legislation of bigger entities is supreme to the one of the smaller ones is that if it was the other way around the smaller entity would have adopted only those parts of bigger entity legislation that suits their own interests. This way the whole legal system will disintegrate because no option for enforcement will exist. Imagine that I decide to drive after having a few drinks (I don’t even have a driving license but anyway), the police stops me and decides to penalize me. Then I say that I personally do not accept the law that stipulates the alcohol limit so I can drive as drunk as I like. Same lets say with murder, theft and so. I guess my point is pretty clear.
    2. UK decided to transfer a lot of powers to Scotland, but theoretically Westminster can always have them back so to say if it decides so. If Scots do not like this they can opt for independence, but then they have to be recognized (there is actually no standard procedure that decides when a state is legitimate or not, Kosovo and Taiwan are examples for this).
    Ultimately State Constitution has primacy over any international or local law. But it allows the State to transfer some of its powers both up and down. What it does not allow is this transfer to be permanent. The State can always have them back if it decides so. So UK can always have its powers back from EU (for example it can negotiate on its own with WTO), although this can mean leaving EU. But in order for the international law to be applicable to all countries involved it has to be supreme to the local law. It’s always possible to arrange opt-outs on individual basis, but then the agreement of all other member states should be obtained. On the other hand the state should find a way to resolve conflicts that arise between smaller entities, in the areas where they have legislative power.
    All in all, national constitution is superior and EU treaty because no EU treaty can force itself on any member state.
    About the economic consequences of UK leaving EU we can argue for ages. I personally haven’t seen any serious study on the topic. This will require a lot more solid information than you and I have at the moment. I still believe that will be a loss-loss situation for both parties, but UK will be a much bigger loser.

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  • 201. At 6:43pm on 24 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #198 threnodio

    While you are right, none of this will persuade those who insist on indivisible sovereignty and a separatist form of nationalism.

    I don't know whether you've seen Simon Heffer's outburst in the Telegraph blaming the Scots for all England's problems.

    It's reminiscent of the anti-English position of many Scots in the 1960's and 1970's. It's so much easier to blame "them" for your problems than to accept one's own responsibilities.

    Fortunately, I believe most (or, at least, many) Scots have moved on from these rather "adolescent" political views, and see the benefits of equitable union with other countries for mutual benefit.

    I've had to abandon my initial preference for a Confederal UK, as I fear that England is about to go / going through a lengthy period of isolationism, before it reinvents itself. It would be severely damaging to Scotland's relationship with our European partners to be carried along with the tide of English opinion.

    Hence, our best option would appear to proceed directly to EU membership as an independent country.

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  • 202. At 6:45pm on 24 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #199 robinstp

    While I agree with your sentiments, I'm amused by your seeming equation of "England" and "UK"!

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  • 203. At 7:16pm on 24 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    199. At 6:20pm on 24 Jan 2009, robinstp wrote:

    " .... It is the time right now to embrace the Euro as a currency. ... Do it now whilst the moment is ripe."

    I don't agree with either of those points but for those who are in between, I suggest that there is a possibility which I have never seen discussed:

    Islands independent of the USA but physically near to it frequently have their own Dollar which is linked to the USA-Dollar.

    We could have our own currency which is linked to the Euro but not the Euro.

    We could call it the British Euro of r the Beuro or the NotEuro. That would not require us to send our reserves to Frankfurt with the doubt that we would get them back when we left. We would be able to keep it once we left the "EU".

    Another suggestion for those concerned with price stability for exporters: If a company sends 40% of its good to the Eurozone, that company should be allowed to pay its workers 40% of their wages in Euros.

    As regards price stability:

    I suggest that price is more important than stability. I suggest that a low but fluctuating price is better than a high but stable price. I suggest that that is the reason why so many Chinese goods are bought even though China is not in the Eurozone.

    I further suggest that we in the UK should lower the cost of employment by reducing or abolishing National Security payments and getting the money from elsewhere e.g. road pricing, import duties within those limits allowed by the WTO and higher property taxes but with an allowance on one property depending on the size of the family.

    Yet another suggestion: This new property tax should be an "Either or Tax".

    I hear from several sources that there are people who own a lot of property but pay no tax or very little tax. A property would be assessed as representing a certain income. If you paid income tax on that income, that would be fine. If not then you would pay some of the new property tax.

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  • 204. At 8:17pm on 24 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #203 SuffolkBoy2

    Adopting the euro (or equivalent). There has been considerable discussion of this elsewhere and some countries have already done so. This link refers to that possibility for Iceland.

    Your property tax proposal is nearest to the Land Value Tax (used in some US states, and elsewhere) and advocated by the Scottish Green Party (and, I think, their English equivalents).

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  • 205. At 8:36pm on 24 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #200 NikolayTzvetkov

    "Main entities as far as international law is concerned are usually the states. "

    Good, thank you! I'd been trying to get that across in some previous posts.

    :-)

    (I did not want to say, but it's pretty much the first thing you learn in International Relations, right? - as far as I discovered anyway, an interesting subject.)

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  • 206. At 8:53pm on 24 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    201 - oldnat

    You are, of course, right. I have clung onto the hope that, were the constituent nations to be adult about this, accept that the status quo is anachronistic and - far more importantly - simply is not working, they could sit down and work something out. Much has been made of late about the distinction between federation and confederation. I notice you prefer the latter. I have tended to talk about federation. The models I have in mind are Germany and Spain with the rights and freedoms of citizens guaranteed by federal law and the conduct of macroeconomic, foreign and defence policy pooled but all other governance devolved.

    I now have two problems with this. The first, over which we are clearly in agreement, is that there is a hard core of English people who have set their faces against further European integration while, at the same time clinging to the idea of Great Britain as an ideal. These positions are inconsistent and unworkable. I can understand and even sympathise with English nationalism given that England uniquely is without devolved power. Equally, the idea that percentage of population was in itself justification for English dominance of parliament in the conduct of Union affairs is absurd.

    FBJ's fondness for quoting Locke backfires when he refers to 'the people' without identifying them. Is there really such a thing as the British people any more. Scots, English and so on, undoubtedly yes. But British?

    My second problem is the over dependence in these debates on poll evidence. I stand by my long held position that we are never really going to know what the British people think until the question is asked. I understand the constitutional arguments about parliamentary sovereignty in relation to England perfectly well. It does, for now at least, remain the British parliament and the problem remains nationwide. Whether opinion should be tested nation by nation or throughout the Union as a whole is problematic. It may be that we need the dabate about the future of the British union before addressing the European question but time is short and the question will have to be put sooner rather than later.

    There is a further question which some of the more strident Eurosceptics will probably dismiss as "well that's your problem, init?", but there are large numbers of us living in mainland Europe who may be forced one day to make a very harsh choice between the old country and the future.

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  • 207. At 9:05pm on 24 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #201 - oldnat

    I have now read Heffer's rant. In this age of political correctness, is it not encouraging to learn that bovine excrement no longer comes exclusively from bulls?

    (Yes, I know heiffer!)

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  • 208. At 9:57pm on 24 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #207 threnodio

    Apparently "Heffer" is simply a variant of the Old English "heahfore", and means the same as "heifer" - "A young cow, especially one that has not yet given birth to a calf."

    Seems strangely appropriate to my representation of English Nationalism as an immature or adolescent idea that has thus far produced nothing but tantrums!

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  • 209. At 9:57pm on 24 Jan 2009, threnodio wrote:

    #20 - SuffolkBoy2

    I am not sure that renaming the currency would help but it is possible to make a good case for fixed parity.

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  • 210. At 10:38pm on 24 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #206 threnodio

    "there are large numbers of us living in mainland Europe who may be forced one day to make a very harsh choice between the old country and the future."

    I understand your dilemma, but you can always become a Scot in Europe! You have views that would make you welcome to join us. When we get independence, with a UK passport, all you need do is to apply to join us - there will be no DNA test!

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  • 211. At 12:20pm on 25 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    NikolayTzvetkov (200): All you are describing is the status quo, which is not acceptable any more. EU law would still be binding under my proposal (post #165) but only on those governments (not states which are permanent) that voted for it when it was created or their successor governments which agree to individual EU laws they inherit remaining in force in their country.

    If government of one party can use the supremacy of EU law to bind their Opposition into measures which they do not support then we will, over time, end up with a colossal edifice of old EU law that nobody wants any more but which we cannot get ride of. This has been the situation with the CAP for a long-time, but the same is happening in all the policy areas where the EU has more recently acquired powers.

    It should be possible for a British political party to run for office saying 'we are going to take the UK out of the CAP and introduce our own more cost-effective system of supporting British farmers'. Or a frenh presidential candidate to say 'we are going to lower VAT on restaurant bills below 15%'. And (assuming they win the election) to actually implement these policies without being prevented by what Charles De Gaulle or John Major might have agreed to decades ago. Equally it should be possible for French, German, etc. political parties to run for office saying we are going to agree a EU corporate tax system with as many other countries as possible, and then to implement this just between the countries where these parties win office without being prevented by other governments who are not in favour.

    The EU has been too rigid a system for too long. It is now either going to break up or be reformed to make it a lot more flexible. If you restrict yourself to the conventional thinking of post #200 then you will ensure the former. Since I assume you value EU survival I would encourage you to open your mind to more flexible scenarios.

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  • 212. At 12:34pm on 25 Jan 2009, EUprisoner209456731 wrote:

    210. At 10:38pm on 24 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    "#206 threnodio

    ... you can always become a Scot in Europe! You have views that would make you welcome to join us. When we get independence, with a UK passport, all you need do is to apply to join us - there will be no DNA test!"

    Oldnat!

    Your posting seems to imply that you think you are entitled to speak on behalf of the people of Scotland. I have not seen any evidence to suggest that you are.

    Have you been voted in by the people of Scotland?

    Are there any opinion polls which suggest that the people of Scotland agree with your postings? Even if there were, that would not mean that you represent the people of Scotland but it would make your postings more worthwhile.

    In particular, are there any opinion polls suggesting that the majority of Scots want the UK or an independent Scotland to be in the "EU".

    If an independent Scotland stayed outside the "EU" then I might prefer to be Scottish. My left leg is Scottish.



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  • 213. At 1:35pm on 25 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #211 Free'bore'-John

    You are a scaremongerer, but I fear it keeps you happy. Maybe don't read the papers....
    (And you are taking an awfully long time to realise oldnat is always right!)

    #212 SuffolkBoy2

    Good morning!
    (Ah, wait, no, we are still in the EU...)

    "Your posting seems to imply that you think you are entitled to speak on behalf of the people of Scotland."

    As a person of Scotland, oldnat is entitled to speak for me any day, in fact the more some of you speak, the more I want him to speak!

    "Are there any opinion polls which suggest that the people of Scotland agree with your postings?"

    Opinion polls - you ask oldnat!!

    "In particular are there any opinion polls suggesting that the majority of Scots want the UK or an independent Scotland to be in the "EU".

    Given that it was SNP policy at the time of the Scottish elections, which they won, we could assume their support was not overly repelled by the idea.

    I'd say that as the question of the EU's evolved design may well be looming, the Scottish electorate, probably in the main not especially driven by European matters, unlike the English it would seem, is now increasingly engaging with the idea of what it is to be a member - such a prize to actually have representation at that level you see (as opposed to now i.e. none). Might I add, it needs a good pragmatic Scot to sort it (the EU) out - oh, we're back at oldnat!

    "If an independent Scotland stayed outside the "EU" then I might prefer to be Scottish. My left leg is Scottish."

    Don't worry about the other one, you can hop! (You'll still get your Scottish passport.)

    :-)

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  • 214. At 2:02pm on 25 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    The Scottish Executive's website has polling data on the trend of Scottish support for the EU. Their conclusion is "people in Scotland report broadly similar Eurosceptic views as people in Britain as a whole".

    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2007/01/23145439/5

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  • 215. At 2:33pm on 25 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #212 SuffolkBoy2

    "My left leg is Scottish"

    Don't worry. I have no objection to Celtic supporters!

    As to polling evidence, the most recent poll on attitudes to the euro showed a majority of Scots wanted to join the euro immediately, or as soon as practicable. Having had to use another country's currency for the last 300 years, it's hardly a problem for us.

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  • 216. At 2:36pm on 25 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #214 FBJ

    Without looking at it I see it's two years out of date - and that's the published date, when would the data have been gathered...

    Confirms my view that you are scaremongering.

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  • 217. At 2:56pm on 25 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #214 Freeborn-John

    The Scottish Government's website data that you show is from 2005. If you hadn't noticed, there has been a significant change in Scottish politics since then.

    The data shows that only 14.4% of Scots then wanted to leave the EU compared with 16.5% across GB. The text "people in Scotland report broadly similar Eurosceptic views as people in Britain as a whole" (written under the previous Lab-Lib administration) is hardly justified by the data - it would have been just as valid to have written "people in Scotland report broadly similar pro-EU views as people in Britain as a whole"

    The 36% in Scotland and GB who want to stay in the EU but reduce its powers will have such a wide range of opinions that they cannot simply be labelled "eurosceptic".

    The GB data hardly supports your position that the EU is not acceptable to "British society".

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  • 218. At 4:54pm on 25 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Oldfederalist (217): The Scottish Executive data covers the 7 years between 1999 and 2005 and shows not only that Scottish views on the EU are almost identical to the rest of Britain but that the same trend to increased euroscepticism can be observed in the Scottish region and the whole of the nation. This should not be surprising because the same trend is observed across the Continent. With a majority of Scots (50.7%) either wanting to leave the EU or reduce its powers (compared to 38.4% holding contrary positions) think it fair to say Scots are EU-sceptic.

    That data-series ends in 2005 but the most recent polls show much the same. The YouGov poll conducted 6th - 8th January 2009 shows:
    a) 26% of Scots (22% in GB) want the UK to stay a full member of the EU
    b) 50% of Scots (48% in GB) want a looser arrangement (free trade, but reduced EU powers and end to supremacy of EU law),
    c) 9% of Scots (16% in GB) want complete EU withdrawal.

    So we see similar EU-sceptic views in all regions of Britain in January 2009 as well.

    (The same YouGov poll also shows 31% of Scots want to adopt the Euro with 50% are opposed, which disproves your claim of post #215).

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  • 219. At 10:24pm on 25 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #218 Separatist-John

    As I pointed out earlier, the data from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey shows few wishing to leave the EU (as is also the case for GB).

    That many in Scotland, GB, and elsewhere in Europe wish some form of reform of the EU is hardly surprising. I argue for that myself, but it doesn't make me eurosceptic!

    The polling data on the EU was in the 11-12 December 2008 YouGov poll, not January 2009.

    You also misquote the poll. The question asked was "If there were a referendum tomorrow on whether Britain should join
    Europe's single currency, the Euro, how would you vote?" The figures for Scotland were 34% in favour of joining (compared with 22% in the South of England) and 52% against (compared with 61% in the South of England). However, even I would vote against joining immediately - the conditions are quite inappropriate.

    Of more interest (if you are trying to measure real euroscepticism is the other question in that poll on attitudes to joining the Euro, which includes the possible response "Rule out on principle". 28% of Scots gave this answer (compared with 32% in the South of England).

    To the same question 49% of Scots wanted to join the Euro "as soon as possible" or "if and when the economic conditions are right" (compared with 35% in the South of England).

    There are differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK on these issues - which the previous Scottish Government were keen to minimise, for obvious political reasons.

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  • 220. At 00:25am on 26 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Oldfederalist (219): You are referring to a different poll than me, but the result is very similar. All polls show that Scots, along with all Britons, are firmly against the Euro.

    All polls show that the mainstream opinion (including 50% of Scots) is that the powers of the EU should be reduced. This position has greater support in Scotland than all others positions combined (e.g. leaving the EU, the status-quo, increasing EU powers or a European government). But a number of polls, such as the June 2008 one below, show that if this cannot be negotiated then a clear majority of Britons would then support leaving the EU.

    ------------
    "If a future government tried to negotiate a new relationship for the UK based on trade and cooperation relationship and the rest of Europe refused, do you think at that point we should leave the EU, or stay in the EU whatever the form?"

    (i) Yes - we should leave the EU 57%
    (ii) No - we should stay in the EU 33 %

    http://www.global-vision.net/Global1839.htm

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  • 221. At 02:16am on 26 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #220 Free'yawn'-John

    Who cares! They could all change tomorrow. I'm going to print T-shirts with "It's the EU, for me and you" and deliver them to everybody......

    (Yours says 'I'd rather turn blue...)

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  • 222. At 02:40am on 26 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #220 Freeborn-John

    "You are referring to a different poll than me"

    True. I was quoting from the Dec 2008 YouGov poll that did ask about the euro - not the Jan 2009 poll that didn't!

    ICM polls only provide sub-divisions of the GB data as South, Midlands, and North. They are worthless in this particular debate.

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  • 223. At 04:52am on 26 Jan 2009, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Mark:

    ....But will the return of the blokeish bruiser come to haunt the Conservative Party?....

    I don't think the return of Ken Clarke will haunt the Conservative Party.

    ~Dennis Junior~

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  • 224. At 09:38am on 26 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Oldfederalist (222): I check what I say before I post. The YouGov poll conducted Jan 6-8, 2009 asked the following question: "If there were a referendum tomorrow on whether Britain should join Europe's single currency the Euro how would you vote?"

    The regional breakdown shows 50% of Scots responded NO and only 31% said YES.

    (Normally I try to include a supporting link, but in this case the data is in PDF format which would violate the BBC moderation policy).

    I wonder if there is any link between your sloppy posting here, the federal/confederal word games that you bamboozle yourself with, and the inconsistent mess that is the SNP policy of "independence in Europe"? Maybe it is time for some younger blood at the SNP capable of joined up thinking that recognizes that 'ever closer union' means 'ever less independence'?

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  • 225. At 10:49am on 26 Jan 2009, NikolayTzvetkov wrote:

    Freeborn-John (211):
    I certainly agree that the present system is too rigid, and too much stuck in the past. I think the Lisbon Treaty is a step in the right direction, because it brings more democracy and allows so called enhanced co-operation. I think that Europe on multiple speeds and a la carte is a good idea. This way beyond a certain core policies that will be invariant, different states or group of states can try different models that if successful can be adopted by the others. Euro and Schengen are good examples. So far they prove popular.
    Of course CAP is largely insane, but I also think food production is slightly different than most other businesses. After all you can’t eat oil or plasma TVs. That’s why it’s a good idea to ensure that Europe can produce enough food with good quality and produced according to high health and environmental standards. It is much more dangerous to be left at the pure mercy of the international market, when it goes down to food.

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  • 226. At 11:11am on 26 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #224 Freeborn-John

    "Maybe it is time for some younger blood at the SNP capable of joined up thinking that recognizes that 'ever closer union' means 'ever less independence'?"

    (You are just walking in to this one aren't you.)

    On the contrary, the young blood 1. *understands* what oldnat is saying and 2. agrees with what oldnat is saying.

    By the was, what is your impoved plan for the direction Scotland should take, assuming she has gained independence? If we are wrong, perhaps you could tell us what would be right - if you know?

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  • 227. At 11:22am on 26 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #224 Freeborn-John

    Agreed that the Beeb's ban on pdf links makes it difficult to make links. However, the YouGov site shows only one poll (for the Sun) when the fieldwork was conducted 7th - 8th January 2009.

    The next one was conducted for the Sunday Times - fieldwork conducted 15th - 16th January 2009, and the previous one on political intentions is the one I have referred to.

    I'd be happy to look at whatever poll you are referring to. I'd suggest you post the website address and the identifier for the poll.

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  • 228. At 1:05pm on 26 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    aye_write (226) : If the highest aspiration of the SNP is to ape Fine Fail then you will end up in the same position as Brian Cowen and Michael Martin of being EU representatives to Ireland (rather than the other way around) who have to invent bizarre excuses for why national referendums must be repeated until the people vote as Brussels would want, and why the Irish economy oscillates violently between boom and the current -5% bust under eutozone interest rates that are ill-suited to an economy dependent on foreign investment from the USA and trade with its main market in Britain.

    I would suggest that Norway or Switzerland would be better models for the SNP to emulate than Irish-style 'ever less independence' with an unstable economy.

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  • 229. At 1:13pm on 26 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    NikolayTzvetkov (225): As I explained in post 188, the illegitimacy of EU law arises in two ways:
    1) A government can be outvoted under QMV and (despite the majority it exercises in its national parliament) still be obliged to implement EU law that it disagrees with. In this case such EU law never has (to quote John Locke) "that, which is absolutely necessary to its being a law, the consent of the society".
    2) Following a national election, a new government will inherit a body of pre-existing EU legislation, some of which it will disagree with but cannot repeal using the newly-won majority it commands in the national parliament. In this case the pre-existing EU law may once have had the consent of society but has now lost it, yet cannot be repealed.

    The Lisbon Treaty makes problem 1 worse because it would extent QMV into new policy areas and reduces blocking thresholds. Lisbon does nothing about the problem 2 which grows worse merely with the passage of time.

    The ‘enhanced co-operation’ procedures are (as the Lisbon Treaty says) intended to "reinforce its integration process". They are no solution to problem 2, i.e. the de-legitimatization of EU law created by governments now out of office which no longer enjoys the consent of the societies in which they remain in force. Indeed the Lisbon Treaty 'enhanced co-operation' would suffer exactly the same problem because they would locks not just the current governments that agree to them, but their states in perpetuity no matter how their people vote in future.

    ------
    "Acts adopted in the framework of enhanced cooperation shall bind only participating MEMBER STATES". (Lisbon Treaty Article 20).

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  • 230. At 1:35pm on 26 Jan 2009, buckeridge wrote:

    @ Freeborn-John:

    Comment no. 197: The Maastricht Treaty paved the way for the euro - are you suggesting that the euro has no place in a common market? It also added - as you rightly mention - the CFSP and PJC pillars. Why? Because (i) safety in numbers, and (ii) criminals don't respect borders. The European Arrest Warrant, enacted under PJC powers, has allowed the UK to have suspected criminals returned quickly to the UK without a long extradition procedure.

    Comment no. 211: Taking the UK out of the CAP? That's rather like saying: no more structural funds, we'll organise and pay for our own system?! Although I suspect that here would be extending your principal of dividing up different areas of the Common Market to identify UK CAP contributions, which would then be ended? I imagine that would also require production controls etc on UK agriculture to be lifted. Am I right?

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  • 231. At 1:53pm on 26 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    @ 198 threnodio

    *A common market simply requires countries to agree to form a tarrif free zone. A multi-national arrangement allowing for complete and unrestricted mobility of labour as well as goods and services is an arrangement of entirely different order which requires regulation and supervision at international level.*

    Spot on threnodio, but you still fall on the traditional 20th century British vision of *unrestricted mobility*. The unrestricted mobility in the Single Market applies not only to labour (subject to transitional periods for new entrants of 7 years max), goods and services, but also, crucially, to PEOPLE. And there is only one way to guarantee *unrestricted mobility* of people within the Single Market: To remove border controls on those people, which is what Schengen is about. All EFTA countries, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland have joined Schengen. As the UK is the only EU or EFTA member that has refused to join Schengen it is not a full member of the Single Market in the way that EFTA countries are. I am saying this because a close friend of FBJ is a strong advocate of EFTA

    http://www.brugesgroup.com/mediacentre/index.live?article=10488

    It is of course, a typical double standard of the Anglospherics that they advocate the UK to leave the EU and join EFTA but without joining Schengen so as to fully apply the rules of the Single Market that all EFTA members have accepted.

    By the way FBJ, are you an alter ego of John Reedwood?

    If so, there is something interesting he/you wrote here:

    http://www.e-ir.info/?p=337

    *Of profound concern is the impact of the EU involvement on Britain’s great success story – the financial services industry. *

    Err --- you mean the *great success story* that is now virtually bankrupt and partly nationalised, i.e. kept alive with taxpayers money?

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  • 232. At 3:25pm on 26 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Ravenseft (230): Since half of EU members and all the EEA members do not use the Euro, it is clearly possible to separate the single currency from a common market.

    If the UK were to withdraw from the CAP it would not mean dividing up the common market. The UK would simply no longer make contributions to the CAP budget and would no longer receive CAP funds for its farmers. Mark Mardell recenty blogged from Norway where they have (as EEA members) precisely this arrangement today.

    Why should Britons alive today be denied the choice to decide how our farmers are subsidised? The living should rule the world, but the EU is a system whereby Charles De Gaulle, Edward Heath and assorted political dead exercise a strangle hold over us not just in agriculture but all the areas where the EU has assumed power more recently.

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  • 233. At 4:32pm on 26 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    FBJ 229

    *As I explained in post 188, the illegitimacy of EU law arises in two ways:

    1) A government can be outvoted under QMV and (despite the majority it exercises in its national parliament) still be obliged to implement EU law that it disagrees with. In this case such EU law never has (to quote John Locke) "that, which is absolutely necessary to its being a law, the consent of the society".*

    This is the ultimate circular argument. *The society* DID consent, either directly (in 1975) or through the British parliament *legitimately* elected by that same society (as regards subsequent Treaties, including the Lisbon Treaty) to be part of that supranational entity, the EU, and be bound by its modus operandi, including QMV. That is where the legitimacy comes from. Furthermore, that same *society* is free to leave the supra-national entity if it so wishes, as stipulated in the Lisbon Treaty.

    I suggest you leave Locke aside and start reading constitutional and international law.

    In particular, I suggest you read article 49 A of the Lisbon Treaty

    http://eur-lex.europa.eu/JOHtml.do?uri=OJ:C:2007:306:SOM:EN:HTML

    (Then click on Article 1 and go to FINAL PROVISIONS)

    *The following new Article 49 A shall be inserted:
    Article 49 A
    1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.*

    (Etc.)

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  • 234. At 5:38pm on 26 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    JorgeG1 (231): I assure you that I am not John Redwood MP, nor have I ever met him (or indeed any MP). I am though a regular reader and sometime commentator on his excellent blog.

    If the typical EU supporter had 1% of the clarity of thought that John Redwood MP displays daily on his blog then the EU debate could be wrapped up in 10 minutes. Take for example the comment from threnodio that you describe as ‘spot on’ but which is actually the purest junk imaginable. He says a common market is just a free trade zone and that the EU is needed to achieve "unrestricted mobility of labour as well as goods and services". But the original 'four freedoms of the 1957 EEC Treaty of Rome already included free movement of goods, persons (workers), services and capital! You then go on with your usual drivel about Schengan (the only topic you ever talk about) having some connection with free movement of workers when it is nothing of the sort! Schengan is about the abolition of checks at the borders between its signatory states and the harmonisation of external border checks on CITIZENS OF NON-EU STATES as they enter an EU country. It is therefore by definition nothing to do with the right to free movement of workers who are CITIZENS OF AN EU STATE from one such state to another, a right which existed for 30 years prior to Schengan! This has been pointed out to you repeatedly but still you post the same old garbage time and time again.

    When EU supporters cannot even understand the most basic facts about the EU, they are clearly incapable of understanding its problems and totally out of their depth when it comes to proposing solutions. The vast majority of EU supporters are unfortunately incapable of anything more than glad-handing the latest self-aggrandizing proposal from those on the EU pay-roll like applauding seals.

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  • 235. At 6:42pm on 26 Jan 2009, meznaric wrote:

    One telling thing is the 2025 global trends report by the American National Intelligence Council that predicts the following about the EU:

    The EU will be in a position to bolster
    political stability and democratization on
    Europe’s periphery by taking in additional
    new members in the Balkans, and perhaps
    Ukraine and Turkey. However, continued
    failure to convince skeptical publics of the
    benefits of deeper economic, political, and
    social integration and to grasp the nettle of a
    shrinking and aging population by enacting
    painful reforms could leave the EU a hobbled
    giant distracted by internal bickering and
    competing national agendas, and less able to
    translate its economic clout into global
    influence.

    In short, EU is our only hope of being able to influence the world in the future. Therefore I would say it warrants our support. Instead of saying "Let's get out" a better approach would be to say "I don't like this about the EU, therefore I propose to change it to be more _____"


    (PS: The above report can be found at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7741049.stm posted next to the article, look at the links)

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  • 236. At 8:07pm on 26 Jan 2009, buckeridge wrote:

    @ Freeborn-John, no. 132:

    Of the EU member states which do not have the euro, ALL have plans to adopt it or hold referenda except the UK. Even in the UK, the subject features weekly in the press.

    The "rebate" is supposed to cover the perceived inequality in the distribution of CAP funds, France having a greater land mass than the UK. The UK nevertheless receives 9% of the budget, i.e. €4.5bn, substantially more than its contribution of €2.75bn.

    Norway is a red herring - it pays an annual fee of €240m to be part of the EEA, whilst receiving no EU funding. Its abundance of natural resources, low population and second-highest GDP per capita in the world all ensure that it doesn't need EU membership.

    The living should rule the world, but Britain is a country still living on what was created in the distant past. The Parliament and its hereditary peers date back to 1688, the system of government goes back still further. The mistakes made by post-war politicians who wasted Marshall funds, before refusing an invitation to join the nascent EEC. The Tory govt which inflicted Dr Beeching on the railways, whilst Japan was testing bullet trains. Compared to these mistakes, DeGaulle is entirely blameless (not having participated in the setting up of the EEC and being in fact against it for some time). Heath accomplished what Parliament had agreed, his error was negotiating unfavourable accession terms and not putting the matter to a referendum.

    Without CAP funding, I imagine that most of the UK farms still operating would go bust, leaving the country reliant on imports. Why should the people be asked to determine agricultural policy? Surely, it is the job of a government to do this?

    You should also remember that "all these areas where the EU has assumed power recently" are in fact areas where voting is no longer based on unanimity, but rather a qualified majority. And much like agriculture, the disparition of the EU's input would more than likely entail negative consequences for the area in question.

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  • 237. At 9:13pm on 26 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    JorgeG1 (233): Not one of the treaties on European Union would ever have passed a referendum in the UK. The 1975 referendum on the common market certainly cannot legitimise a political union that did not exist until 1992. In any case no-one under 50 now was able to vote in the 1975 referendum. The Labour party would not be the government today if it had not included a promise in their 2005 manifesto to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, so its ratification without the promised referendum is wholly illegitimate. We are not the prisoners of the dead and the deceitful.

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  • 238. At 9:39pm on 26 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    @ 198 threnodio re.. *unrestricted mobility*

    Further to my comment 231, this is what it’s stated in the Lisbon Treaty:

    *POLICIES ON BORDER CHECKS, ASYLUM AND IMMIGRATION
    Article 62
    1. The Union shall develop a policy with a view to:
    (a) ensuring the absence of any controls on persons, whatever their nationality, when crossing
    internal borders;*

    This is nothing new; it is just a restatement/revamping of provisions from other Treaties (a.o. the Amsterdam Treaty). And yet, there are people that still say that the passport union originally introduced by the Schengen convention is something separate from the EU. This is also light years away from the ~enlightened~ British vision of the EU, stuck in the iron curtain era: *If you cross the internal borders of the EU to come to the UK, whatever your nationality (British or otherwise) you will have to queue (if you are lucky for less than half an hour) to show your passport (or ID card) to a member of the British border police who will scan your passport and store it in a database for as long as we like. Welcome to the Home Office Hotel*.

    And yet, there are people, HMG included, who have the breathtaking hypocrisy and mendacity to say that the UK is part of Schengen, just because it requested to participate in the *police and judicial cooperation* bits of the Schengen legal framework.


    FBJ 232.
    *Ravenseft (230): Since half of EU members and all the EEA members do not use the Euro, it is clearly possible to separate the single currency from a common market.*

    It is clearly possible; however the isolationist club is getting smaller by the year.

    Within a decade, it is very possible that only the UK and perhaps Sweden will still remain out of the Euro. All other EU countries, except Denmark, are committed to join the Euro. EEA member Iceland is obviously reconsidering its current position which has worked out so well as it is widely known.

    And within a few years all EU or EEA members (except the UK and, possibly Ireland) plus Switzerland will be implementing Article 62 above (although around 90% of these countries do so already), i.e. *ensuring the absence of any controls on persons, whatever their nationality, when crossing [the EU] internal borders*.

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  • 239. At 10:01pm on 26 Jan 2009, greenrobbyyy wrote:

    Mandy, Ken, parity between the currencies and an election in the next year... I smell a rat.

    I take it the plan is to give the people the same options in the next election, create static and confusion around the subject... and a credit crunch so that it becomes the only option.

    Lets hope the BBC stands up to this and doesnt become even more of a puppet of the European socialist movement.


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  • 240. At 10:12pm on 26 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    #235 meznaric

    "Instead of saying "Let's get out" a better approach would be to say "I don't like this about the EU, therefore I propose to change it to be more _____"

    I wish I'd said that! (Actually, I probably will elsewhere!)

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  • 241. At 10:19pm on 26 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    FBJ, honestly, what are you on about ???

    I know perfectly well that there is (and was, before Schengen) unrestricted freedom of movement of EU (and EEA) nationals inside the EEA. For that reason, I say that Schengen added ANOTHER freedom in the EU: *Unrestricted movement of persons within the EU, whatever their nationality*. Needless to say, for you and the rest of the enlightened anglo-philes, this is a freedom too many, a taboo and a no, no, which is precisely why the UK has opted out. Unfortunately the keep-our-borders fundamentalists have the upper hand.

    Otherwise, what exactly is your point?

    Then you go on to insult threnodio, who is one of the most balanced contributors to this blog, by describing something quite sensible he posted as the *purest junk imaginable*. Have you run out of arguments?

    What he said is that a free trade area has nothing to do with a Single Market, one with freedom of movement for capital, goods, workers AND people (human beings, not workers). He did NOT say *that the EU is needed to achieve "unrestricted mobility of labour as well as goods and services*. He said that you need a heck of a lot of supra-national coordination of that. Most reasonable Europeans prefer to do it through the EU. If you and John Redwood don’t, then you are more than free to leave. Please do so at your earliest convenience.

    Anyway, had enough of this. I will check *the clarity of thought that John Redwood MP displays daily on his blog*. Actually you may be right, did you check this?

    *The huge fall in sterling will soon produce sharp price rises in a whole range of imported goods from clothing through furniture to electrical items.*

    http://www.johnredwoodsdiary.com/2009/01/21/what-should-they-do-now/

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  • 242. At 11:39pm on 26 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Ravenseft (236): If you will compare CAP subsidies to UK farmers with the UK net budget contribution (from which CAP subsidies to UK farmers have already been deducted) then you are effectively double-counting the CAP subsidies and will naturally come up with totally meaningless figures won't you? It seems that EU supporters cannot even do basic maths!

    Since the UK is richer per person than Japan, Germany or France we must be doing something right eh? Of course if we did as you recommend and bankroll train lines that people do not use, fund grandiose prestige technology projects and de-stabilise our economy with inappropriate eurozone interest and exchange rates then we could be as poor as them too.

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  • 243. At 00:17am on 27 Jan 2009, oldnat wrote:

    Freeborn-John

    Got the details of that Jan 2009 YouGov poll yet?

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  • 244. At 01:11am on 27 Jan 2009, meznaric wrote:

    Freeborn-John:

    I respect that you are thinking about the EU and are making an effort to educate yourself about the European policy. An educated euro-sceptic is a very good thing indeed. But please, do try to keep an open mind. Those of us who support the EU also try to figure out what is best for everyone, just like you. (A good place to get a more or less bias free version of the EU story is to check out the Wikipedia web page - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union. )

    It would also be good to hear some alternative suggestions. What would you like to see instead? Europe of nation states? Just free-trade-area with no political integration? And why?

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  • 245. At 09:45am on 27 Jan 2009, JorgeG wrote:

    FBJ 237: *JorgeG1 (233): Not one of the treaties on European Union would ever have passed a referendum in the UK.*

    Well, the Treaty of Rome created the EEC, the EUs predecessor, and clearly spelt out the *ever closer union*. People didn’t read the small print of course. But any case, instead of reading John Redwood’s blog, who is a Tory, right wing Tory, but Tory nonetheless, you should vote UKIP *for the UK parliament*, NOT for the European parliament and stop blaming the EU for British politicians deceiving the British people or for not holding referenda on any EU Treaties. This is not the EUs fault.

    In any case, the British fully deserve what they get from their ruling public school clique. As I said in another thread, only in the UK you can find the absurdity of the electorate voting for anti-EU parties for the EU parliament - which has no power whatsoever to kick the UK out of the EU - but not for the British parliament, who is the only entity that can decide to take the UK out of the EU. I just checked here http://www.parliament.uk/directories/hcio/party.cfm and couldnt find a single MP in the British parliament from UKIP, how cool is that????????

    I think the anti-EU camp needs a new party: the Kafka party. Its manifesto would be as follows: We will vote for politicians from *unambiguously* anti-EU parties to represent us at the EU parliament, where they will be totally powerless to do anything to take the UK out of the EU, but we will NOT, we repeat NOT, vote for politicians from *unambiguously* anti-EU parties to represent us at Westminster, where they could be reckless enough to propose a vote to take the UK out of the EU, and BOY WE DON’T WANT THAT!!!!!!!

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  • 246. At 1:44pm on 27 Jan 2009, buckeridge wrote:

    @ Freeborn-John, no. 242:

    If you check the official statistics, UK farmers received £3.1bn in CAP payments during 2002/3, irrespective of the rebate. More recent results do not appear to be available.

    http://www.statistics.gov.uk/STATBASE/ssdataset.asp?vlnk=3783

    You also should check your facts about GDP per capita (PPP). The UK is in 30th position, after Belgium, Sweden, Austria, Holland and Ireland. Germany is in 35th position, but I suspect would be much higher were East Germany not taken into account.

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2004rank.html

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  • 247. At 2:01pm on 27 Jan 2009, Freeborn John wrote:

    Meznaric (235): You suggest that the only way that a European country can have influence is through collective EU action. But let’s take a look a closer look at that statement with the benefit of some real world experience. Consider for example trade negotiations, which are an exclusive competence of the EU, where the past two trade commissioners have been British, and where one of those commissioners (Mr. Mandelson) is very pro-EU and should have been keen to demonstrate the validity of your point. I hope you will agree that there could not be a more favourable set of conditions to demonstrate the benefits of EU collective action in enhancing British influence in the world?

    Had Mr. Mandelson been a British trade minister he would have tried to negotiate a WTO deal that was directly in the UK national interest. His goal would have been to try to get other nations to lower their tariffs on our main exports (i.e. services) and he might have been expected to form an ad-hoc alliance with representatives of other similar economies.
    However Mr. Mandeson could not do this as EU trade commissioner and ended up negotiating in the interest of a protectionist agricultural lobby instead whose interests were directly opposed to the British interest. In the end he was unable to improve access to overseas markets for british services and we are still left with food prices at home that are kept artificially above world level by the EU CAP system of tariffs and quotas.

    The collective EU action that you champion can only be effective when there is a natural affinity between 27 national interests and this is very rarely the case. More typically these 27 national interests are not be aligned and EU collective action can only be achieved by suppressing the national interest of at least a minority of countries. Unfortunately it is very often the case (as in the WTO trade round) that the UK voice is part of the silenced minority and therefore EU collective action is a double-edged sword which in practice diminishes our influence in the world imore often than it increases it.

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  • 248. At 4:10pm on 27 Jan 2009, aye_write wrote:

    #228. Freeborn-John

    Just noticed your response. Sorry and thanks.

    No, I don't hold up an Ireland take 2.

    Your suggestion might end up acquiring the more merit - I don't know. But since we will have been in the EU as part of the UK, perhaps we should not totally give up on it quite just yet. But maybe we will. Who knows ;-)

    Thanks for paying my posts this much heed.

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  • 249. At 8:48pm on 27 Jan 2009, meznaric wrote:

    Freeborn-John:

    As your example nicely illustrates, the idea that Europe can defend the best interests of all of its citizens is clearly not defensible. However, it attempts to represent the best interests of the majority of its people. Sometimes this may mean some people are actually harmed by the Europe's decisions. At other times, they may be on the benefiting side.

    It is true that had Mendelssohn been the British trade representative he would have represented the best interests of the British people. However, Britain would not have been able to accomplish as much on its own.

    It is a delicate balance and for different people it balances out differently. The majority of the British politicians seem to believe, though, that they have more say in the global politics inside the Union than outside.

    One could strike a comparison between the EU representation and the national one. Nationally, compromises are made by the government which attempt to benefit the majority but may hurt certain segments of the population. EU should be seen in a similar fashion, except that it has a greater global clout.

    I would encourage everyone to have your own voice heard and vote in the European elections this coming June. Check whether the parties represent your views about the EU. There are more parties to choose from in the European elections than in the national general election (due to the proportional representation). My view is: If you don't vote, you don't matter.

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  • 250. At 10:31pm on 27 Jan 2009, greypolyglot wrote:

    "244. meznaric:

    Freeborn-John:

    I respect that you are thinking about the EU and are making an effort to educate yourself about the European policy ..... What would you like to see instead? Europe of nation states? Just free-trade-area with no political integration? And why?"

    Clearly you've not been following all of the exchanges.

    FBJ is an advocate of "The Anglosphere". If you don't know what that is look it up on wiki and decide for yourself if it's worth the effort of attempting to debate EU issues with him.

    Whatever else he is, he is unshakable in his opposition to the EU - in any form.

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