Wednesday 4 February 2015

Revolutionary implications of the Greek election

comment from the DM campaign team

The victory of the Greek far-left in the country's recent general election could have two very important knock-on effects for Britain.

The first is psychological; the second relates to the £10 billion our then chancellor, Alistair Darling, was obliged by Brussels to contribute to the initial Greek bailout fund in 2010. This money is now seriously at risk.

On a positive note, the success of Syriza, together with the votes gained by the centre-right, eurosceptical Independent Greeks and the overtly anti-euro Communist party, is an act of brave collective defiance by a national electorate.

The Greeks have been told repeatedly by successive conservative and social democratic governments in Athens, as well as by the EU elite and mainstream media, that 'there is no alternative' to accepting the terms of the austerity and reform packages imposed by the 'trioka' of Brussels, the IMF and the European Central Bank.

All kinds of terrible consequences have been predicted for the Greek people should they dare to fail to defer to their external, neo-colonial rulers.

In Britain a similar, if more low key at this stage, campaign is being run by the largely taxpayer-funded pro-EU lobby
and its allies in the CBI, Goldman Sachs, and other manifestations of big business.

We are told that, should we leave the EU, 'three million jobs' could be lost; that old myth destroyed conclusively 15 years ago by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, the body that had been paid by the New Labour controlled Britain in Europe campaign to perpetuate it!

All political movements trying to perpetuate the status quo use fear to try to prevent voters even contemplating the possibility that positive change is possible.
The pro-EU lobby enjoys psychological hegemony at present because it has succeeded as a consequence of its massive financial advantage in dictating the terms of debate; the focus at present is solely on the supposed 'risks' of change.

Alexis Tsipras and his party were able to win, in part, because they had the guts to challenge and deconstruct the self-serving interpretation of 'common sense' being communicated by the Greek and international political and business elites.

This is what the pro-independence alliance now needs to do in the British context: we have to take on the myth that the EU is a constitutional Godhead that must be deferred to for all time. We have to start changing the way in which the debate about EU membership is framed: we need to point out that there are serious risks to our future economic prosperity, as well as political viability, if we stay in.

The EU is a declining economic and demographic bloc which is in the process of becoming ever more centralised in order to cope with the inherent flaws and contradictions of the Single Currency system. Inevitably if we continue to remain inside, we will become hit with ever more laws and demands for money dictated by the Eurozone bloc of countries voting as one caucus in the Council of Ministers.

The second implication of the Syriza triumph might not be so good for us as a nation: The new Greek premier, Alexis Tsipras, has threatened to renege on his country's debts. This could have serious implications for Britain. 

We were coerced into putting up £10 billion towards the initial bailout package. Our then chancellor, Alistair Darling, at a meeting of the council of ministers in May 2010, initially refused to commit UK taxpayers money on the grounds that as a non-euro country we could not be expected to contribute. The EU then threatened to evoke Article 122 of the treaty, a measure which commits member states to provide assistance to those countries experiencing 'natural disasters'.

Had Mr Darling taken it to a vote, he would have been defeated because of Qualified Majority Voting. And this was all despite the treaty stipulating that there should be no bailouts of governments in the single currency.

This episode shows that the rule of law does not actually apply in Brussels
; the Commission as the guardian of the treaty, backed by the legally elastic interpretations of the ECJ, can redefine the rules as they so wish. Yet we are told by the CBI and the pro-EU lobby that Britain will lose 'influence' if we leave the EU. What influence?

For the time being, let's focus on the positive aspects of this Greek drama. The election result may herald the refusal of mass electorates to comply with the elite as never seen post-war. This could be a revolutionary moment in more ways than one. 


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Thursday 8 January 2015

EU's TTIP trade deal is above all a threat to democracy

writes DM campaign director Stuart Coster

Controversy is growing around the free trade deal the European Union is currently negotiating with the USA.

Talks over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), launched 18 months ago, have run into a wall of public protest over its potential impact on public services, the high levels of secrecy surrounding the negotiations and, in particular, the deal's investor dispute clauses.

Beyond concerns about whether the deal will threaten key public services like the NHS and lock in the existing privatisation of services that already have commercial involvement, the negotiations are finally opening the eyes of numerous commentators and activists particularly on the left of the political spectrum to the EU's corporatist and anti-democratic nature.

John Hilary, executive director of anti-poverty campaign War on Want, has gone as far as calling the proposed TTIP deal “an assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations.”


The motivation for the deal comes from desperation in both the US and Europe to light fires under flatlining economies, following the impact of the financial crisis. Since tariffs barriers between the EU and US are already low, averaging around 3%, elimination of these would not offer such a big step forward.

So the main focus of the TTIP negotiations is on reducing 'non tariff barriers' to trade and investment, like the harmonisation or mutual recognition of product regulations and the reduction import/export bureaucracy. Within the detail here, much of which remains shrouded in secrecy - and it seems will stay that way until the complete 'take it or leave it' deal is unveiled - lies the extent to which the negotiations will impact on public services and standards.

Speaking in last week's debate in parliament about TTIP, independently-minded Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith said: "At this stage, no one can talk with any real certainty about the minutiae of TTIP—that is just not possible—but we can see the direction of travel. For my part, I think it is incredibly worrying." Sentiments that were repeated across the party divide, from the Labour MP Geraint Davies who secured the debate to the Green party's Caroline Lucas and Eilidh Whiteford for the SNP. 

Until suspicions are resolved about the extent to which the EU, beyond meaningful accountability, will accept on all our behalves reductions in our product standards to ease US trade, the main opposition to TTIP is focused on its provisions for "investor-state dispute settlement" (ISDS). Rightly so, because within the ISDS clauses lies the most dangerous aspect of the TTIP deal of all - a sinister threat to democracy.

Democracy inhibitor

ISDS mechanisms aren't new. They have long been included in bilateral trade agreements around the world. But in the past these have generally been deals between Western nations wanting to invest in developing countries but looking to protect themselves against the expropriation of their assets by perhaps legally unreliable and politically volatile regimes.

Today, however, in deals like TTIP, the process is not only being included between continents with stable governments and well-developed justice systems but it is even being extended to include government policy decisions that may impact on an investor's future profits.

ISDS would allow companies to sue governments for compensation over claims law changes amount to 'unfair treatment' - and worse, not even in public courts. Under the process, private supra-national arbitration tribunals would meet in secret to make the decision for or against a government and on the amount of investor compensation.

No-one has yet satisfactorily explained why what is being termed as a special, corporate "parallel system of justice" is required between jurisdictions that appear to have perfectly well managed inward investment to date. Yet, as Goldsmith points out in his comments to parliament, what the mechanism would create is a "permanent inhibitor for legislators". For example, if the government felt a pesticide had to be banned in the public interest, they would have to think twice about the potentially huge cost should an affected investor sue. 

Even if the EU does not allow TTIP to directly undermine welfare and regulatory standards, particularly in areas like food, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, critics of the deal see the ISDS mechanism as a way for large, multi-national corporations to - in the future - bully governments out of tightening standards, or possibly into reducing them, on the grounds that such 'unfair' changes compromise their investments.

Public cost

In his pamphlet on TTIP, War on Want's John Hilary cites the case of Slovakia;

"When the people of Slovakia voted in a leftist government in 2006 as a response to the unpopular privatization of health care, one of its first moves was to restrict the powers of private insurance firms to extract profits from the public health system. In retaliation, a number of health insurance companies sued the Slovak government for damages, with Dutch firm Achmea eventually seizing €29.5 million in public assets by way of ‘compensation’. In a groundbreaking case filed in 2013, Achmea is now attempting to use the same powers to block the Slovak government from setting up a public insurance scheme that would provide health cover to all the country’s citizens."

Zac Goldsmith, in his recent contribution to the Commons TTIP debate, gave another example;

"Canada has been sued 35 times under current ISDS mechanisms. In one appalling case, Canada was sued by Ethyl Corporation for $250 million, via an ISDS mechanism, after it banned the highly toxic chemical MMT, which is an additive for fuel. Despite unequivocal evidence of harm—no one disputes the scientific case—Canada not only had to settle with Ethyl but reverse its ban."

Other abuses have been highlighted, such as the case in Australia where tobacco giant Philip Morris used a 1993 trade agreement with Hong Kong as the basis for a legal move to stop a change to cigarette packaging. And a case in Germany where energy company Vattenfall sued the government for
€3.7 billion in damages because two nuclear reactors were switched off as part of Germany’s withdrawal from nuclear power generation.

According to a pretty startling recent Friends of the Earth report, even before TTIP comes into effect European nations are already facing claims of compensation due from public funds of at least €30 billion because of ISDS chapters in existing trade agreements. Even this only represents information on compensation sought that is publicly available - and that's for less than half of the cases pursued by investors. Public information about compensation actually paid out by governments is even more limited - amounting to
€3.5 billion relating to just 14 of 127 cases.

It seems overwhelmingly clear that an ISDS process should have no place in any EU-US trade deal.

Politics at play

David Cameron is especially keen to seal a TTIP deal as a signal that he can secure EU reform and make Brussels 'deliver for Britain'. But this claim is unlikely to appease even those EU critics who support wider free trade, since such a deal with the USA was on the cards over 20 years ago yet Britain was unable to pursue it having already abdicated control of its trade policy to Brussels.

That 20 year delay before the EU came around to the idea of a US trade deal, they will argue, has cost the UK tens of billions in lost jobs and prosperity. And they will go on to ask how much longer we must wait, and how much more could it cost us, before the lumbering EU seeks trade deals with future economic powerhouses like India and China?

The European Commission's response to the growing weight of public opposition to TTIP and particularly its ISDS clauses - displayed through a public consultation that has in any case been dismissed as a sham - will be over the next few months to hold a round of meetings with its favourite 'stakeholder' lobby groups. Currently negotiations on the ISDS mechanism are suspended, but many suspect the EU's aim is to have its chosen stakeholders propose the 'right' answer that the ISDS clauses simply need minor, cosmetic changes and implementation can proceed as planned.

Big questions

The incompetence of Brussels in exposing European governments to massively expensive legal actions by major corporations for loss of profits due to democratically decided and even mandated changes of policy appears to be a scandal yet to be fully exposed and could well prove to be one of the biggest final nails in the EU's coffin.

Questions about TTIP go way beyond whether you are pro- or anti-privatisation; pro- or anti-free trade. If a majority of people have voted for a government that will restrict private involvement in healthcare, or re-nationalise a public service, then companies have no right to powers that could subvert such a government from implementing that majority-mandated policy.

That's why, above all, the biggest challenge for TTIP supporters is whether they are pro- or anti-democracy.


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Monday 13 January 2014

No, the EU didn’t help to prevent a Third World War

by Marc Glendening

Expect the history wars that broke out last week between Michael Gove and Tristram Hunt over the causes of the First World War - and whether or not Blackadder Goes Forth should be shown to school children during this anniversary year of the start of the conflict - to intensify.

World War One is in the process of becoming intensely politicised, since the EU has already started its drive to use the conflict to justify a further centralisation of power.

During the run-up to the Euro elections and a possible UK referendum on membership, the pro-EU lobby is seeking to unleash a big scare campaign to parallel the one it is running about Britain becoming economically isolated should it choose independence.
For example, the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, when asked to comment on the Gove-Hunt dispute said – I assume with absolutely no sense of irony:

“One essential difference between 1914 and 2014 is that we have the EU to ensure that democratic values cannot and will not be undermined … European integration is the answer to the catastrophe of the first half of the 20th century, where our continent was facing wars, the Shoah [Holocaust], totalitarianism, poverty and injustice.”

Brussels can really plumb the depths of bad taste concerning this type of stuff. In a last ditch attempt to swing the French and Dutch referendums in 2005, Margo Wallström, then a Commissioner, organised a publicity stunt in a Nazi concentration camp and said: 

“There are those today who want to scrap the supra-national idea. They want the EU to go back to the old purely intergovernmental way of doing things. I say those people should come to Terezin and see where that old road leads.”

Mass race-based homicide, needless to say, did not follow on the streets of Paris or Amsterdam following the declaration of the results.

EU myths

In its preparation for a possible referendum, the pro-independence movement needs to take on the great foundational myth of the EU – namely, that it has saved Europe from war and genocide. We must argue that it was the defeat of German and Austrian imperialism in 1918, and of fascism later, that ultimately paved the way for the peace.

Nation-violating ideologies caused wars, not the existence of independent countries per se. The subsequent peace has had absolutely nothing to do with the EU, which in any case did not start to manifest itself until about ten years after 1945, and which has had no responsibility for collective European security.

We need to show that it is precisely the project that the Brussels elite is pursuing with unhinged messianic vigour, one that combines an up-dated form of imperialism with the emasculation of democracy, that could lead our continent back to dark times. Not, obviously, full-scale wars – but probably the unleashing of extremely unhealthy forces within some of the member states.

This is likely to intensify as the EU gains more control in the years ahead without the democratic mandate of referenda. It will be the Martin Schulz types who we should then point the finger at if fascistic parties do well in the forthcoming Euro elections and beyond.

False thesis

Our second key task is to deconstruct the Brussels thesis that an international system of diplomacy based on nation states led to the two big 20th century wars. The EU is very keen to challenge and silence an analysis of WW1 that identifies the specific genesis of the conflict in terms of the ideological motivations of the German political elite.

Tristram Hunt is not just smart but charming. He took the trouble to come and speak to a small society I help run, the Sohemians, about his great biography of Engels, so I’m something of an indebted fan. However, his attack on Gove serves to bolster the disingenuous EU line.

In his response, Hunt argues that “any attempt at a First World War blame game is futile”. He tries unconvincingly in a very post-modern way to muddy the waters by talking about “multiple histories” and whether Russia and Serbia were also factors. He is, however, entirely right when he says that we shouldn’t engage in an orgy of music hall circa 1914 “Bash the Hun” jingoism, but then who is saying we should?

Hunt and his allies therefore seek to establish a moral equivalence between many of the countries that went to war in 1914. When I participate in schools-based and other debates, the claim is often made that Brussels has succeeded in achieving peace by binding together France and Germany.

The implication is that France was equally to blame for having been invaded in 1870, 1914 and 1940. Just be thankful, then, that Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg signed the Treaty of Rome, who knows what they might have done had they not.

Of course, this post-modernist getting away from the cause and effect specifics of the causes of World War One doesn’t work so well when it comes to the Second World War. Even the most X-Factor obsessed youth knows exactly who started that one. So, the Brussels apparat has to employ a slight modification.

The trick now is to present fascism as having been the logical extension of the commitment to the nation state – namely, ‘nationalism’. This is conveniently defined not just as a belief in upholding national sovereignty but as a belligerent ideology that wishes to visit aggression on outsiders. Though, interestingly, no explanation is given as to why such an ideology has only manifested itself in some countries and not others.

Spooky parallel

There is another problem with this strategy: Fascists didn’t believe in nations.  There is, in fact, a spooky parallel between the mindset of many within the pro-EU camp of today and the outlook of fascists in the inter-war period, as John Laughland in his book The Tainted Source of Europe: The Undemocratic Origins of the European Idea (Warner Futura, 2000) made clear.

An international system based on sovereign states was seen by fascists, among others, as having been analogous to dangerous chemicals being kept within close proximity of each other in a rather poorly-managed laboratory.

What was apparently required instead were overarching, transnational structures that would keep the individual elements under control. Fascists applied their rejection of pluralistic liberalism at the level of society to the international sphere. They wanted their idea of the omnipotent corporate state writ large on a continental basis.

Authoritarian tendencies

As Laughland pointed out, this was why so many of the early enthusiasts for the idea of European political unity; the Belgian Paul-Henri Spaak (one of the so-called ‘founding fathers’ of the EU), together with Delors, Mitterand and d’Estaing, had personal histories of fascist involvement. Here, the British Fascists under Mosley’s leadership called for ‘Europe a Nation’. Fascists were among the trailblazers for Pan-European unity.

The vast majority of today's EU enthusiasts are of course not politically totalitarian and certainly not racist; they have no desire to stomp around in strange uniforms (though there is something of a flag fetish problem in Brussels). There are, however, authoritarian tendencies within the EU elite: a rejection of the idea of an international spontaneous order based on flexible, voluntary co-operation and trade. There is an enthusiasm for top-down, technocratic structures that strictly contain the expression of democracy – and clearly, too, a desire to prevent the peoples of Europe from deciding in referenda if they wish to be part of a Pan-European system of governance.


Jose Manuel Barroso has himself famously claimed that this emerging system has ‘the dimension of empire’.  It is a new manifestation of this concept: not built this time like the Roman, Habsburg, British and other empires on violent conquest, but rather by a coming together of a new political class, a cabal from across the EU that wishes to by-pass democracy within their own countries.

The EU is an neo-imperial structure that emanates from a class interest, not a military force emanating from a particular people. It is a post-modern empire built on the foundation of treaties and passerelle clauses to which the ordinary peoples of the member states are not invited to give or withhold their consent.

The First World War was kicked off by an imperialist ideology and one hundred years later a more successful, more subtle and far less bloody, thankfully, version of it is in the process of creation. But what will it lead to?


written by Marc Glendening - Political director
This article was first published on ConservativeHome

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Monday 14 October 2013

EU membership is incompatible with Labour ideology

by Marc Glendening - Campaign director

Ed Miliband's promise to freeze energy prices, whilst simultaneously supporting movement towards a European Single Market in energy, indicates that he, like most of the Labour mainstream, have not thought through the implications of EU membership for social democratic politics.

They refuse to confront the inconvenient contradiction that exists between adhering to certain types of left-of-centre objectives and blind adherence to the EU status quo.

In addition to the Labour leader's commitment to block energy price rises, he recently announced a plan to force UK companies to create a new apprenticeship for a British citizen for every worker they employ from outside the EU. However, it would be illegal under Single Market rules for a Labour government to restrict apprenticeships to UK nationals.

Then there was the vote at the Labour conference on September 25th to renationalise the railways and postal services. Again, not possible so long as Britain remains within the EU.

Brussels is in the process of liberalising these areas of public provision that, on the railways, started with 1991's EU directive 91/440 requiring a division between the operation of transport services and infrastructure management, both with budgets and accounting "separate from those of the State."
[Article 4]

Various EU postal services directives have already seen the most profitable parts of the Royal Mail put out to tender and the latest requires "full market access" to the Royal Mail's business, leaving no realistic option other than privatisation.

Legal appeals

As the Head of Legal website argues, were Labour after 2015 to impose price restrictions on the energy companies this could result in legal appeals by the companies to the European Commission. The EU directives relating to gas and electricity do allow for state intervention in some circumstances relating to 'public interest' and it could be around how this is defined in practice that might open the door for legal challenges.

Whether or not a future Labour government was acting in a non-discriminatory manner (that is to say, not giving certain types of business an advantage over their competitors, in the UK and also across the Single Market) could also be the key to whether price controls in this area were considered acceptable by Brussels. Poland is in the process of being taken to court by the Commission for price regulation.

If the Labour leader seeks to make his price restrictions more acceptable to the energy companies through the offer of state subsidies to cushion their loss of profit, he could also find himself being challenged by the Commission, again on the grounds that this would give UK-based companies an advantage over firms operating from the continent who would not by definition receive this benefit of the freeze in prices. 

Contradictions unchallenged

There seems little inclination on the part of most of those on the centre and right of the party to take on honestly the severe restrictions that EU membership places on Labour to pursue centre-left  polices.

At the Fabian Society debate Preventing a Lost Decade: How Can We Make Europe Work for Growth? at the recent Labour conference, I asked Catherine Stihler MEP how she could reconcile being, as you might expect given her position, an ardent supporter of EU membership and opponent of a referendum, with the Laval and Viking rulings by the European Court of Justice?

These rulings essentially render national minimum wage laws and nationally determined agreements between employers and unions an irrelevance by allowing firms to transport workers from their own countries and to undercut local labour.

The interests of multinational companies now officially take precedence over democratically determined national laws and those of trade unions.

You would have thought, for someone who purports to represent the party of trade unionism and who places the interests of workers over those of big capital, this should not represent such a huge personal dilemma. However, Ms Stihler had no coherent response, that I could ascertain anyway, as to how she resolves this ambiguity.

Ideology hits back

The truth is that all theoretically left-of-centre MEPs have got around this dilemma by, in reality, prioritising the interests of the Single Market and the EU in general over the political philosophy to which they supposedly adhere.

The truth is that, as Karl Marx would have argued, contradictions can't remain contradictions in practice.They get worked out by what people actually do, not what they say.

There are, however, a growing number within the Labour party and trade union movement who do now get it and are prepared to confront the inherent contradiction between desiring social democratic objectives and Britain being in an organisation that is constitutionally committed by EU treaty to the disciplines of the Single Market.

My hope is that more on the left will pipe up and force Mr Miliband to explain what, should he become PM, he will do if Brussels tells him to abandon his energy and apprentice-related promises.

And what will he do if the Commission insists that the EU Services directive is finally applied to the NHS? Does the Labour leader have any political bottom line when it comes to EU membership?

I think we should be told.

written by Marc Glendening - Campaign director, Democracy Movement

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Tuesday 23 July 2013

Hague speech signals further retreat from EU renegotiation

by Marc Glendening

Foreign Secretary William Hague's recent speech to Open Europe indicates that the government has already given up on the pretence that it can negotiate back substantial powers from the EU.

It is now trying to manage expectations in the long run-up to a possible deal with Brussels should the Tories win the next general election.

The rhetoric now is about 'reforming' the EU with regard to future legislation, not re-visiting the powers that have already been transferred from Westminster to Brussels. 

The idea is to get unanimous agreement between all the member countries for some as yet unspecified changes, rather than trying to decentralise back to the UK control over key areas.

You can't now even slide a non-branded cigarette paper between the government's emerging position and that of the Labour and Lib Dem leaderships. Even the pro-EU British Influence in Europe and Business for a  New Europe are also talking about 'reform' and, just like the foreign secretary and David Cameron, are very vague as to what this actually means.

Vague card

One of the few specific proposals William Hague has come out with recently, is enabling national parliaments in EU states to club together to give a 'red card' to new EU laws. This, by definition, will not affect the 30,000 or so directives and regulations that have already been passed.

Nor is it clear, given the sheer volume of Brussels-initiated legislation, how the House of Commons together with other national parliaments could block new measures. Regulations are imposed automatically on the member states, they are not up for debate and they account for the vast majority of EU legislation.
Directives are largely introduced into UK law through the use of statutory instruments and so are also not even debated, let alone voted on in Parliament.

So who, then, would decide which pieces of proposed EU legislation were to be brought to the attention of MPs and Peers? How many prospective directives coming out of Brussels could realistically be put before parliament? In any case, how could this feasibly be co-ordinated with other national parliaments?

At present the EU treaty enables national parliaments to give the Commission a 'yellow card' but it is only obliged to think again for a while and can then press ahead regardless. In other words, this supposed check, just like the concept of subsidiarity, is pure window dressing. An insult to the collective intelligence of all European citizens.

Because of the logistical nightmare involved with trying to organise this delaying tactic, it has never succeeded in practice (House of Commons Library SN/1A/6297, pdf).


This really is bottom of the barrel stuff from our government. The Tory leadership, having realised that their renegotiation campaign was going nowhere and that they risked an embarrassing failure should they actually put a list of serious demands to Angela Merkel and the other EU leaders, have decided to dispense with what Cameron now dismisses as 'shopping lists'.

The strategy now is to go for the safer option of soft focus 'reform' and vague rhetorical promises of change in the future, rather as Harold Wilson did with his similarly bogus renegotiation prior to the 1975 referendum.

My suspicion is that David Cameron is hoping that he might be able to wriggle out of holding a referendum should his party remain in office after the general election, possibly by blaming the Lib Dems should he need to put together another coalition.

Failing that, the calculation might be that, even if the promise to consult the British people about continued EU membership has to be delivered, odds are that there is a natural majority against leaving. As with Wilson forty years ago, the hope will be that the mere pretence that there has been some sort of renegotiation will be enough to win comfortably. 

Stark choice

While it is true that the Little Europeans start as favourites to win should there be an in-out referendum, given the major task involved in trying to get the electorate to vote for radical change, the government's backtracking on its renegotiation commitment is good news.

It will provide greater clarity concerning the stark choice confronting the British people: to stay in an increasingly centralised and undemocratic EU (with or without yellow, red, green or pink card systems) or to become a self-governing democracy, trading and interacting with the whole world.

written by Marc Glendening - Campaign director, Democracy Movement

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Monday 29 April 2013

Is Cameron watering down his EU renegotiation pledge?

by Marc Glendening  

Before his hurried return to London following the death of Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron undertook a much-publicised tour of other European countries to promote his campaign to see the EU 'reformed'.

Leaving aside the question of how realistic it is to actually bring about a fundamental change in the terms of our membership of the EU, there is an interesting change in tone coming from the prime minister.

In his long-awaited speech on Europe back in January, the prime minister committed himself to try to renegotiate with the EU the balance of law-making powers between Brussels and Westminster.

The implication was that, should Mr Cameron win the next general election (clearly a big 'if'), he would seek to persuade the other 26 political heads of state to sign a new treaty by 2017 returning a range of significant competences to Britain.

Ed Miliband, in his response, attacked the idea that this was desirable or possible and instead said that Labour would seek a vaguely-defined 'reform' of the EU which would not require treaty change.

In his recent truncated tour, Mr Cameron too spoke of 'reform' and talked in terms of trying to get all member countries to agree to certain, again unspecified, changes. So does this mean that he has given up on the idea of a special deal for Britain?

If so, it is a recognition, though not an honestly conceded one, that a thorough-going renegotiation is indeed impossible. This follows the boycott by the French, German and other EU governments of the 'balance of competences' review that William Hague invited them to participate in. This was conclusive proof, were it needed, that Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande have no intention of allowing the UK to re-write the current EU treaty.

It is not clear where all this leaves Mr Cameron's apparent promise to hold an in-out referendum in 2017. The government has refused to answer what it refers to as hypothetical questions about what would happen if it failed to bring about a successful renegotiation within two years of being re-elected. Would it still honour the referendum pledge?

When the 'balances of competences review', being overseen by Europe minister David Lidington, is completed David Cameron will come under pressure to list specific measures that he will want to see implemented by the EU, whether as a consequence of a renegotiation or collectively agreed reform resulting in a generalised decentralisation.

The Conservatives will then need to define what is the bottom line for them; what would qualify as a success and a failure. At present David Cameron is saying that he wants Britain to remain in the EU, but at any price? Even if he does not succeed in getting back any major powers whatsoever? 

written by Marc Glendening - Campaign director, Democracy Movement

For the latest campaign news and EU developments, follow us on Twitter: @DemocracyMovemt

Thursday 4 April 2013

No more euro flim-flam

By Marc Glendening 

Sometimes there is a time for cutting through the mushy triangulated BS of modern mainstream politics.

Europe is the question that now brooks no unambiguous answer. 

Yet the political elite, supported by the many fellow travellers who follow in its slipstream, want, for their different reasons, to keep a dense fog hanging over this issue.

I don't think Malcolm X was specifically speaking about the EU when he said, "there will be no controlled show... no flim-flam... if you're afraid to tell the truth you don't deserve freedom," as captured in No Sell Out, Keith Leblanc’s 1983 hip hop tribute.

However, those of us who want a real debate about the EU, regardless of our different preferred outcomes, should now seek to apply Mr X's commendable clarity of approach to this issue. 

This is why my organisation, the all-party Democracy Movement, is launching a new campaign, Fast Forward: beyond the outdated EU. We want to take head-on the commission/big business, financed pro-EU lobby and force them into an honest war of ideas on what exactly would be the implications of Britain leaving and staying in. 

We know that the in-out referendum David Cameron has apparently promised us will truly be a no flim-flam moment. There will be no post-modern, third way option on the ballot paper. Political rationality, courtesy of the European enlightenment, will reassert itself. To quote Malcolm X again: "You're either this or that."

Bogus debate

The current debate within the political mainstream is horribly bogus. The Tory eurosceptics, with a few honourable exceptions, are playing along with the fantasy the prime minister has been trying to sell to us.

Namely, that should the Conservatives win in 2015, it will be possible to negotiate a new treaty with Brussels and that within two years this will result in a torrent of powers being returned to Westminster.

The grandees of the pro-EU elite, as exemplified by Peter Mandelson, Ken Clarke and that other great political Malcolm - I speak, of course, of Rifkind - are selling us another fairy story. This is that there will be no fundamental further implications for Britain if we remain inside the EU. This is the soft line the Centre for British Influence in Europe is peddling.

Compare and contrast the degree of political clarity expressed by the two Malcolms: The benighted Scottish version declared his admiration for Cameron's Europe speech not only because he committed himself to continued EU membership, but also because the PM did "not reveal any significant details as to how radical, or otherwise, his negotiating objectives will be", according to Rifkind's January piece.

Presumably Malcolm R doesn't want us to even know before we vote in 2015, what exactly the Tories will be trying to get back from Brussels should they win? And people wonder why there is a political disconnect between the elite and the people.

Reality of 'in'

The stark reality is that if we vote in the referendum to stay in, we will be signifying our acceptance of EU rule once and for all. Brussels already makes approximately half our laws, according to research paper 10/62 (pdf) from October 2010 published by the House of Commons Library.

Next year negotiations will commence on a new treaty designed to save the euro by transferring a raft of new economic powers to the centre. The eurozone members will then vote as a single, majority bloc within the council of ministers, a body in which Britain has only 8.4% of the votes.

The idea that this will have no repercussions for the non-euro countries is bizarre, as John Stevens, the principled pro-EU campaigner and chair of the new UK European People's party, has argued.

How long will Brussels, Stevens asked at a recent People's Pledge debate, allow us to competitively devalue against the eurozone economies?

At some point, if we are to remain inside, Britain will be made to put up or shut up about joining the euro. The euro, not the single market, will become the defining feature of the new EU, stated Stevens, and this is what all members will be required to join.

Post-EU future

The Democracy Movement in its new campaign will seek to challenge the British people to confront not only the political reality of remaining within the EU, but to project ahead and contemplate what being shackled to Brussels will mean for us economically.

Our assertion is that there is a decisive, unstoppable shift in power taking place away from Europe to the Commonwealth and other fast-growing parts of the world. 

Britain because of its language, history and geographical position, together with the communications revolution, needs to look forward to a post-EU future.

The single market is of declining significance to us, accounting for only 9% of our GDP, a figure that will fall as we export a growing percentage of goods and services to the non-EU world. 

Our message is we must stop being little Europeans, as much as we should avoid being little Englanders.

It is said that education minister Michael Gove has a poster of Malcolm X in his office bearing the legend: "By any means necessary." This should not come as any surprise to us. Here is the one government minister to have said that, in a future referendum, he would vote to leave the EU. 

He understands that the time for euro flim-flam is well and truly over. Let the real debate begin. 

written by Marc Glendening - Campaign director, Democracy Movement

This article was first published on For the latest campaign news and EU developments, follow us on Twitter: @DemocracyMovemt