Friday, 11 September 2015

the pan-European agenda misuses Aylan's memory

Richard Howitt, one of the MEPs for the East of England, has lambasted his UKIP and Conservative colleagues for declining to side with him on a "pan-European" resolution to the refugee crisis.

What may help to make his outburst more comprehensible is the information that EU politics proceed on a "teleological" basis. That is, in responding to a crisis or making a judgement, the prime motivation is not the issue at hand, but rather what the unelected heads of the European Union want that Union to become. Thus, as I explain in Escape from Oppression: the Federalist Derivation, an obscure 1971 European Court of Justice judgement concerning crewing of transport vehicles fixed the principle that once the (then) EEC had concluded a common treaty no individual state had the right to negotiate with external countries on that treaty. This was a year before we joined the European project; earlier still, in 1970, the Werner Report set down, under a heading with the chilling title of The Final Objective, "the elements that are indispensable to the existence of a complete economic and monetary union", the latter being "a leaven for the development of political union".

What has all this to do with the refugee crisis? Absolutely nothing. Just as Mr Howitt's pronouncement of a "pan-European" solution to the crisis has nothing to do with refugees themselves. Once a pan-European method of resettling refugees has been identified, that method will become part of the EU's acquis communitaire, a settled pan-European way of doing things which, once a precedent has been set, no single state will be able to negotiate an exemption from.

I don't deny that Howitt may have some feeling of sympathy for the refugees, or at least guilt, since it was his own party under the disastrous leadership of Tony Blair that set the ball for this crisis rolling with the illegal invasion of Iraq. I simply believe he has stronger feelings for European political union, which is an article of faith among Europhiles who are so extremist that one might call them - remembering that the EU was never set up on democratic lines (according to Eric Hobsbawm) - eurofascists. He and his cadre are using the memory of poor Aylan Kurdi just as much as IS, who use his picture to illustrate what happens when Syrians reject their fundamentalist reading of Islam.

May Aylan, now beyond the reach of those who misuse his memory for their own lives, rest in peace.

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Sunday, 6 September 2015

"Europe was mis-sold here" - by British politicians!

In an article in the Mail on Sunday, political editor Simon Walters previews a new biography of David Cameron, Cameron at 10 by Anthony Seldon and peter Snowdon. they quote Cameron as telling German Chancellor Angela Merkel that "The European project was mis-sold here".

This is, I believe, the first time since Margaret Thatcher's time that a British Prime Minister has been so candid on Europe. The European integration project, as I explain in a free extract from a forthcoming book, has been mis-represented since they first heard of it in 1950.

In 1950, Prime Minister Clement Attlee first heard of the Schuman plan to form the Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) which would see France and Germany share sovereignty in the matters of coal and steel production and movements, so that neither could produce war materiel without the other knowing. This would become the European Coal and Steel Community, an ancestor of the European Union.

It's said in both blogs and textbooks that Attlee thundered across the Commons "We refuse to accept the principle that the most vital economic forces of this country should be handed over to an authority that is utterly undemocratic and is responsible to nobody!" I've combed Hansard for this statement and have come up empty-handed. But what I have found is a statement of Harold Macmillan, then leader of the Conservative opposition, supporting Attlee by promising that as far as his party was concerned there was "no question of supporting the supra-national organisation under M. Monnet's proposals to implement the Schuman Plan".

The importance of this statement cannot be understated. Although the Schuman Plan and the ECSC ostensibly concerned Germany and France, it was known as early as 1950 that there was a supra-national element to it that was envisaged to stretch to the United Kingdom. Yet this didn't stop MacMillan, once Prime Minister, sending Edward Heath in 1961 to start negotiations for British Membership of what was by then known as the European Economic Community or EEC.

Although Britain didn't join what was trumpeted as a trading partnership that would mean cheaper holidays until 1972, already by 1970 The Werner Report envisaged, in a chapter with the sinister heading The Final Objective, "the existence of a complete economic and monetary union". Then in 1971, an obscure European Court of Justice ruling determined the following:

each time the Community, with a view to implementing a common policy envisaged by the Treaty, adopts provisions laying down common rules, whatever form they may take, the Member States no longer have the right, acting individually or even collectively, to undertake obligations with third countries which affect those rules or alter their scope.

Before we'd even joined our sovereignty was being curtailed.

Will David Cameron be able to win back concessions from the EU? It's difficult to say. The ongoing migrant crisis shows that Merkel is willing to flood her own country with people who may include combatants in a civil war or worse to prevent a newer entrant to the EU (Hungary) from deciding membership may not be a great idea. Personally, I think that the demands Cameron will make have already been decided as have the concessions Merkel will make to give the impression of Cameron securing a victory. It's choreography worthy of Strictly Come Dancing. Meanwhile, money that should be bolstering our healthcare systems, other public services and pensions bleeds off to Brussels.

On the other hand, now that Cameron's ruled out standing for a third term he may now be looking to his place in the history books and considering his legacy if he is seen to be dancing round the prologue to our incorporation into a superstate as a region of that state: effectively the end of British history.

Which will he choose? I hope he concentrates on the mis-selling of the European integration project and sees that we are overdue a democratic refund.

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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Eu referendum question: the reversion point and why it matters

A "reversion point" is a psephological term meaning an answer in a referendum that will reverse the status quo - ie voting "no" in a yes-no referendum. In all referendums where "yes" represents the status quo, voters who haven't made up their minds will tend to shy away from the reversion point and vote "yes" to retain the status quo.

This is why the 1975 referendum on membership of the European Community (EEC - a forerunner to the EU) was phrased: "Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?" Given that we knew very little about what was planned for the EU - although as I show in The Federalist Derivation MPs knew by 1950 that there was a supranational integration project - those who voted and who did not have a strong reason to vote "no" voted "yes".

Things aren't so clear-cut when the reversion point is represented by a "yes" vote. This was the case in the 2011 Alternative Vote referendum:

At present, the UK uses the "first past the post" system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the "alternative vote" system be used instead?

This was a referendum held at the insistence of the Liberal Democrats, who formed the junior partner in the coalition led by David Cameron elected in 2010, and it would have benefited the Liberal Democrats more than either of the other two major parties. Where it was significant, though, is that unlike the 1975 referendum, the AV poll was not an exercise in giving democratic legitimacy to a status quo achieved with no democratic mandate (again see The Federalist Derivation). If the result of the 2011 vote had been yes - a reversion - Parliament was committed to enacting legislation to make proportional representation possible. What's interesting that the reversion point - reversal of the status quo - was represented by a "yes" vote. In referendums it's not just a simple matter of assuming that undecided voters will vote "yes" - the status quo was represented by "no" and "no" won the day.

The referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union, scheduled for 2017 but possibly happening next year, will be of immense importance. Perhaps for this reason, the Prime Minister had suggested a question essentially similar to that of 1975: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?" Once more the reversion point was represented by a "no" vote, so those who could be persuaded that a compelling reason to leave the EU had not been made would have been more likely to vote "yes"; it's more a matter of psychology than of politics.

But the Electoral Commission has stepped in and the latest news reported in the Guardian is that Cameron has accepted their recommendation to change the question so that "yes" and "no" and the psychological minefields represented by those seemingly simple words do not appear. The question is now:

Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

And the answers are:

Remain a member of the European Union.

Leave the European Union.

This matters because a referendum result in which the interested parties are seen to be excessively meddling will not solve any of the major political, cultural and societal splits which are rending our country because of its membership of the EU. And interested parties include most members of the political cartel, which comprises the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, plus smaller parties they invite to the table on a temporary basis. The answers to which we will be invited to tick a box are not deceptively simple single words, but reflect a world of change, regardless of which one wins. Migration, taxation, pensions: all will be set on different tracks depending on which side wins.

And me? I'll settle for the reversion point: leave the EU. We have never before, not even in 1975, had an opportunity to vote on the supranational organization that the European integration project was envisaged to become from the very start. As William Buiter wrote in 2010, "the whole European integration experiment, from the Coal and Steel Community on, has been a political wolf dressed in economic sheep’s clothing".

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