Monday, 22 December 2008

Euro behind Greek riots

by Marc Glendening, DM Campaign Director

The credit crunch has, of course, resulted in the usual group of EU-obsessives calling for Britain to join the euro.

Interestingly, they never name the specific rate at which they think we should join, or would be allowed to join at - a rather critical piece of information around which all arguments about the economic implications of such a move would rotate.

Nor do they explain how, exactly, we would be economically better off by joining - putting to one side the enormous constitutional/anti-democratic implications of taking this extreme course of action.

Presumably, the euro-obsessives are not seriously suggesting that it would be to our advantage to lose the capacity to set our own interest rates, or allow the pound to fluctuate according to the specific requirements and features of the UK ecomomy?

Floating exchange rates and adjustable interest rates are safety valves that Britain would be crazy to abandon.

One eurozone country that is providing a real-world example of what can happen when your government passes all key macro financial control to the European Central Bank is Greece.

The continuing riots in Athens and elsewhere - while they may have been originally instigated by anarchist groups in response to the shooting by police of a fifteen year old youth - have grown in size because of the poor state of the economy and rising unemployment.

The Greek government is virtually powerless to tackle these underlying economic problems. The only option left to them to try and stimulate domestic economic activity has been to drive down real wage levels at a time when the lower paid - those still in jobs that is - have already seen their living standards reduced. In part, of course, because of the significant price rises that have accompanied the transition to the euro.

In properly constructed, national currency unions central government has the means to redistribute money to those regions that are particularly suffering during a recession. But because the EU currency has been established without a massive treasury behind it, Greece will not be in receipt of fiscal transfers from the taxpayers of other euro member countries.

German chancellor, Angela Merkel has made it very clear that she has no intention of using her taxpayers' money to bail out debt-ridden countries like Greece, Italy and Spain.

So, the Greek government is in a real bind with no room for manoeuvre, have been turning down the lid on the economic pressure cooker, and now we are seeing the public response.

Similar unrest is predicted soon for Spain, where the economic situation is also highly precarious. Ireland is also in an increasingly bad way.

What the electorates of these and other crisis-ridden euro economies will soon realise is that kicking the incumbent 'government' out of office and replacing them with the 'opposition' will make very little difference, as the main levers of economic control have left the country for good.

The incredible political and economic implications of the euro have not yet sunk in among the peoples and the media classes of the Eurozone members. They soon will and then things will get very interesting. And potentially very nasty.

~ written by Marc Glendening, DM Campaign Director

Monday, 1 December 2008

Eurospin: new moves to push Britain into the euro

by Marc Glendening, DM Campaign Director

If so much as a flea catches a cold in outer Mongolia, the European Commission, the president of France and the British Liberal Democrats insist that this proves the need for a greater centralisation of power in Brussels in order to achieve
'co-ordinated action'.

Rarely is it explained how exactly the transfer of yet more powers to the EU will help rectify the particular problem being addressed.

Of course, the real motivation of the EU-extremists is not to actually solve particular problems per se, but primarily to continue building a new state - a centralised system of government in Brussels.

And so, predictably, the international credit crunch crisis - just as with the recent events in Georgia, concerns over energy supplies and terrorism - has resulted in advocates of euro membership, such as Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne, urging those EU member countries outside the eurozone to sign up.

Huhne was recently joined by Roland Rudd of Business for New Europe (formerly the pro-euro campaign Britain in Europe) writing in the Evening Standard and perpetual EU-fanatic Will Hutton writing in the Observer that Britain should again consider scrapping the pound.

Only yesterday, speaking to the French media, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso tried to build the growing euro spin by claiming that entry to the eurozone of some EU member states who had previously strongly opposed the move is "now closer than ever before."

According to EUobserver, Barroso said "I'm not going to break the confidentiality of certain conversations, but some British politicians have already told me, 'If we had the euro, we would have been better off'."

"I know that the majority in Britain are still opposed, but there is a period of consideration under way and the people who matter in Britain are currently thinking about it," he continued.

Yet no concrete reasons are ever provided as to how joining the euro and handing economic control to the European Central Bank would actually improve the situation for Britain, Denmark and Sweden.

Higher mortgages

For a start, the eurozone currently has higher interest rates than Britain, which we would be forced to adopt if we joined. The idea of Huhne, Rudd and Hutton that what British homeowners need right now is a rise in their mortgage bills is economic madness.

It's not as if, in return for such costs, countries inside the currency zone are immune in some magical way from the crisis - Spain and Ireland being good examples. In any case, as we are so often told, the crisis is "global" and extends way beyond the borders of the EU.

If advocates of the euro really believe that only a transnational currency and economic decision-making structure can prevent, or at least ameliorate, the consequences of international economic recessions they should have the courage to argue for a single, World currency (plus, supporting system of government and taxation, possibly based in New York, Calcutta or Johannesbourg).

It would be interesting to see the likes of Federal Union and the European Movement try to sell this proposition to the peoples of Britain, France and the rest of Europe.

Job cuts

In fact, as even the Brussels-supported Centre for European Reform admits, membership of the euro can make things even worse for struggling economies because they no longer have the option of a floating exchange rate making their exports more attractive to external markets. Nor can they alter interest rates.

If Britain had joined the euro some years back, on the advice of the same band of euro desperados who are popping up again now, the recent fall in the value of sterling that has made the products of Britain's exporters cheaper to eurozone buyers would not have been possible.

The only solution would have been for exporters to cut costs by other means, perhaps by cutting jobs or by depressing the real wages of workers.

Regional instability

As Simon Telford and Phillip Whyte further point out, one of the key problems facing the single currency is that it is not yet backed up by a Treasury and the institutions and resources of a fully integrated state.

So, the European Central Bank does not have the means to redistribute billions of euros between the different parts of the currency zone, in the same way Britain or America have the capacity to use fiscal stabilisers to try and shore up the worst affected parts of their own single currency areas.

When president Sarkozy suggested at the recent EU summit that a central fund of 300billion euros be established for the ECB to be able to bail out banks within the EU, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, was quick off the mark to quash this idea.

Unsurprisingly, she is not prepared to see her taxpayers have to contribute even more money to the EU - money that might be used to rescue banks in Spain, Italy, Greece and other nations.

This is why the authors rightly remind us: ' monetary union has yet survived outside a political union'.

Real objective

The ultimate aim of the EU political class is to transform, incrementally, their system into a single state. The Lisbon/Constitution Treaty will take several steps towards this objective. However, the increasingly remote elite want to achieve this goal in as politically painless a manner as possible.

This means not alerting their own national electorates to the real objective or its implications and this is why the likes of Merkel are, at this stage, reluctant to transfer huge additional sums to Brussels or agree to a EU federal level of taxation.

Nothing would be more likely to awaken the peoples of Europe to what is happening than for the EU to move in this dramatic direction.

Challenge ahead

So, the EU project is now facing a major challenge and its leaders must be praying that a quick economic recovery results in the single currency not being tested seriously in terms of its current inner - political - contradictions.

If it is, EU politicians will have to choose whether to, on the one hand, confront public opinion and rescue their beloved euro with full blown political/fiscal integration.

Or, on the other, let the whole project unravel because at this stage the respective peoples in most of the key member states are not prepared to pay the full price.

~ written by Marc Glendening, DM Campaign Director

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

How many years is too many?

As trailed in September, the EU Court of Auditors (ECA) has for yet another year seriously criticised the 'legality and regularity' of the EU's accounts.

The ECA's latest report into the EU's 2007 spending marks the 14th year in a row that auditors have revealed major failures in how the EU manages the huge sums of public money for which it is currently responsible.

Every year Britain stuffs an average £10.2bn of public money into the EU's leaky pot. That's money otherwise denied to schools, hospitals, fighting crime or poverty, or which could make a real difference to people's lives in many other areas.

Like funding tax cuts, without hiking borrowing even further.

Despite this long EU record of lax spending controls, earlier this year a majority of MPs - mainly Labour helped by the SNP and Plaid Cymru - approved an unjustifiable 63% increase in our payments into the EU's budget, giving up £7bn of Britain's rebate in the process.

Even without the subsequent worsening of the credit crisis, this was monumental irresponsibility with public money on the part of our 'representatives'.

Failing policies

According to Open Europe, the EU budget is dominated by two failing policies: the Common Agricultural Policy, and the so-called Structural Funds.

In the area of agriculture spending, out of 196 transactions of subsidies auditors examined, 61 were affected by error, with 40 of those errors (two thirds) classified as 'serious'.

In the Structural Funds budget, which was worth £37bn (€45.5bn) in 2007, 54% of the funded projects were found to contain "errors".

As the former Commission chief accountant Marta Andreasen - sacked by Neil Kinnock for revealing financial mismanagement at the heart of the European Commission - writes in The Times; "What the auditors have been saying for years is that most of the payments made by the Commission from its £70 billion-a- year budget cannot be deemed legal or regular. That is, that they cannot confirm those payments have been made to the correct person for the correct purpose and for the correct amount."

Waste and fraud

Andreasen goes on to say, quite rightly: "It stretches credulity to insist, as the Europhiles do, that this does not mean that there is fraud."

Of course, the evidence is all around us. Almost every week there is a new example of EU waste or fraud, and to illustrate the point Open Europe have published (pdf file) '100 examples'.

One of the worst recent examples was the news that, despite governments across the world tightening their financial belts and re-focussing their budgets on measures to support their economies, the EU next year wants to splash £6.3bn (€7.8 billion) promoting itself as a “global player”.

The Times tells us that £243m (€300m) of this will be spent on EU "embassies" and a near £11.3m (€14m) on an “information” budget to help "sell Europe’s new role as a global heavyweight."

For the EU to be considering spending such huge sums on propaganda and institutional self-aggrandisement while Europe heads into recession exhibits a neo-feudal arrogance that is the inevitable result of a body having access to huge funds with such little accountability.

Media whisper

Yet despite this gross waste of money going on right under our noses - and in the context of government borrowing going through the roof and cuts to public services threatened - where's the outcry in the national media?

Can the shameful routine of the EU's audit have caused them to lose their perspective over this issue and, in their apparent boredom, let the public down?

Now is certainly not the time to let serious financial waste go unpunished.

As for MPs, how many years of the EU failing its audit and billions going to waste is too many for them to tolerate? Fifteen years? Twenty?

Labour MPs have made clear where they stand. Most (by no means all) are quite happy to hand over more and more of your money to the EU regardless of the annual routine of auditors being unable to explain how the majority of that money is being spent.

Most also remain unable to grasp the simple concept that excessive spending in one area will cause cuts in other, perhaps more important, areas. Too many MPs seem to operate on the fantasy basis that public funds are unlimited, allowing them to splash what they like on the EU without consequence for public services.

However, come the next election, when they have to justify their choices to the rest of us in the real world who know how finite budgets work, they will not be able to avoid personal responsibility for the local public service shortfalls or cuts caused by their irresponsible spending on the EU.

But perhaps more importantly these days, what would the Conservatives do about it?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

EU Decide: watch online

ITV's EU Decide programme documenting the Luton referendum is now available to view online via their 'catch up' facility - click here.

According to ITV, 3.1 million people watched the programme on Monday evening, equating to 13% of everyone watching TV at the time - tremendous publicity for the case against today's EU.

Eddie Izzard's contribution for the European Movement's 'Yes' campaign stands out in particular for absurdity more suited to his brand of surreal comedy than serious political comment.

People should, he says, support passing ever more decision-making power to unaccountable Brussels institutions if they "like people" and are "human beings." That's deep, man!

Trying to show off his international credentials, the fatuous Mr Izzard goes on to give a list of countries in which he has performed - Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, France and Holland. A collection of countries that either aren't members of the EU at all or have rejected in referendums major elements of further EU integration like euro membership or the EU Constitution.

"People are very similar" he says he has found on his travels. In those countries it certainly seems they have similar views on the EU. When given the chance to vote, they firmly reject giving the EU more power. Quite the contrary to Mr Izzard's outdated, integrationist views.

The 'Yes' campaign's choice of business advocate for the EU in Ireland was also an interesting one. Brendan Palmer, described as involved in 'Electronic recycling', clearly runs a business that has been a major beneficiary of EU regulations.

The EU's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (2002/96/EC) forces manufacturers of electrical products to pay for them to be dismantled and recycled at the end of their working life.

Back in 2006, Josh Claman, UK head of Dell computers, said that the costs of these rules "absolutely will be passed onto the consumer". And what were those boxes we see being folded at Mr Palmer's 'electronic recycling' company?

So no doubt having done very nicely himself out of an EU Directive that has hiked the cost of electronic equipment for the vast majority, what a shock to find that Mr Palmer is something of a fan of the EU!

Monday, 20 October 2008

The Results: EU Decide, ITV Tonight

The DM has scored a resounding victory in the Luton EU referendum.

The head-to-head battle with the European Movement, filmed for ITV's Tonight programme, resulted in 63% voting 'No' to the Lisbon Treaty and a ground-breaking 54% voting to come out of the EU altogether.

The result reflects major disatisfaction not just with the prospect of further decision-making being passed to the EU but also with the extent of the EU's current powers, its costs and damaging effects of its activities.

The programme documenting the campaign was shown on ITV1 this evening and is typically seen by 3-6 million viewers.

Two questions were asked and the full results were as follows:

Question 1: Would you vote YES or NO to the Lisbon Treaty?

Yes: 27%
No: 63%
Don't know/Undecided: 10%

Question 2: Do you think we should stay IN or come OUT of the European Union?

Stay in: 35%
Come out: 54%
Don't know/Undecided: 11%

The DM's latest leaflet, headlined Break Free from the outdated EU (pictured above), was the main leaflet delivered by the 'No' side during the campaign.

Leading with the question What part of 'No' doesn't the EU understand?, it explains the real effect of the EU's powers and goes on to describe how a Europe of co-operating national democracies, free from the EU's superstate agenda and excessive cost, would benefit us all in many ways.

For example, more money for essential services, enhanced democracy, an improved environment, the protection of civil liberties, cheaper food and more effective international co-operation.

It was accompanied by a photocopied flyer accenting the sheer cash costs of the EU on one side, and explaining the EU's role in post office closures on the other.

With our Europeans for Diversity banner together with the involvement of friends in the European Referendum Campaign and clear solidarity with the French, Dutch and Irish peoples who have already voted 'No', the strong international theme of the 'No' side will also have played a major part in the success of the campaign.

EU Decide: 'Tonight', ITV1, 8pm

In recent weeks, ITV's Tonight programme - hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald - has staged a referendum on the European Union in the town of Luton.

Three thousand local residents were given the chance to vote 'Yes' or 'No' to the Lisbon Treaty, and whether to stay in or come out of the EU.

The Democracy Movement was asked to lead the 'No' side, and supporting DM activists on the campaign trail were the Labour MP for Luton North, Kelvin Hopkins, together with Thomas Rupp and Gayle Kinkead from the European Referendum Campaign.

Music producer and Pop Idol judge Pete Waterman also pledged his support for a 'No' vote, as did Bob Crow - RMT union leader and chair of Trade Unionists Against the EU Constitution.

During the campaign, the DM argued that:

1. The EU costs Luton: Britain pays far more to the EU than we get back -
£6 billion more every year, from 2007, equivalent to £115 million every single week. This means that for any money a Luton project receives from the EU, our government has sent more than twice that amount to the EU in the first place. The DM also focussed in particular on the EU's role in local post office closures.

2. The Lisbon Treaty is about centralising even more important decisions in unelected Brussels institutions. It means more ineffective and often damaging interference by the EU in how we manage big issues like our energy supplies, National Health Service, criminal justice and transport; a significant loss of influence over new EU laws; the EU becoming more like a country in its own right; more powers for the EU police force EuroPol; and much more. Yet the treaty does nothing to reform the EU's failing environmental policies, won't solve widespread waste and corruption, and doesn't make the EU more democratic.

3. There is a better way. Trade and co-operation between European countries is perfectly possible without having to pass ever more decisions over our lives to remote EU institutions in Brussels. The DM used the opportunity of the referendum to launch a new leaflet and campaign titled Break Free from the outdated EU, these leaflets being distributed during the campaign alongside a locally-focussed flyer.

The launch of campaigning was reported on ITV's Anglia News - a video clip can be seen here. During the campaign, DM campaign director Marc Glendening also took on the European Movement's Peter Luff on Chiltern FM and BBC Three Counties radio. The event also received widespread coverage in the local media.

The edition of the Tonight programme about this referendum - EU Decide - will be shown this evening on ITV1 at 8pm, having been postponed from its originally scheduled slot last Monday. Don't forget to watch, to find out how we got on.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Luton 'Yes' campaign challenged over PO closures

Ahead of the final few days of campaigning in the Luton EU referendum being organised by ITV's Tonight programme, the DM's Marc Glendening has challenged the 'Yes' camp to a public debate over the EU's role in local post office closures. Marc's letter in the Luton on Sunday newspaper reads:


As the organiser for the 'no' campaign in the ITV Luton EU Referendum campaign, can I challenge my opponents on the 'yes' side, through your paper, to a public debate on the issue of local post office closures?

The EU has enforced two postal services directives, as well as several procurement directives, which have had the effect of stripping the Royal Mail of its profit-making areas. Big companies have moved in and won the tenders.

This is why 2,500 post offices across the country, including five in Luton, are no longer economically viable.

The crisis confronting this aspect of national life is one example of how laws made in Brussels, by institutions that are politically unaccountable to ordinary voters in the member countries, can have devastating effects.

These laws cannot be reversed by our elected representatives as EU law is legally superior to decisions made by national parliaments.

I would be interested to know how those campaigning for more powers to be transferred to the EU through the Lisbon Treaty can possibly justify this to the people of Luton.

My opponents can name the date and place where this debate can take place. My organisation, the Democracy Movement, will be happy to pay the full costs of the meeting.

Marc Glendening
Campaign director
Democracy Movement, Hammersmith Road, London

Three thousand Luton voters are taking part in the referendum. Votes must be returned by post to arrive by 5pm on Thursday 9 October. The programme will be broadcast on ITV at 8pm, Monday 13 October.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Mandelson's return to the Cabinet

Commentators are struggling to explain the surprise return of Peter Mandelson to the Cabinet.

This is the man who was twice previously forced to resign from the government over a loan from a ministerial colleague and then allegations of misconduct regarding a passport application for the Hinduja brothers.

Theories being bandied around include Gordon Brown's desperation to access Mandelson's 'electoral skills' (but really ... how hard was it to score a big win in the 1997 general election?).

More ridiculous is the 'all hands on deck' spin that his experience as EU Trade Commissioner is so invaluable towards easing the credit crisis that it warrants him quitting the Commission immediately and becoming Business Secretary.

So could the shock move in fact, just possibly, have anything to do with this - internal EU circles perhaps having since ascertained that its implications run wider than at first apparent from the Sunday Times piece?

Could there have emerged an urgent need to avoid a top-level scandal and damaging resignation for the EU at this delicate, treaty-faltering time - a
nd Gordon has helped the EU out of a tight spot?

Perhaps we'd better look forward to the public release of the conclusions of the promised "comprehensive and thorough" investigation into that interesting case of Mr Mandelson's corrupt official.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

EU heading for 14th successive audit failure

Siim Kallas, the EU Commissioner for "Audit and Anti-Fraud", has pre-empted the forthcoming verdict of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) and revealed that the Court will once again refuse to give their approval to the EU's accounts.

The ECA report into the 2007 figures, due 10 November, will make it 14 years in a row in which the EU has failed to have its spending cleared by auditors.

Earlier this year, a majority of MPs unjustifiably approved a government deal to increase Britain's payments to the EU by more than 60%. The deal included giving up £7 billion of Britain's EU rebate between 2007-2013.

As a result of that deal, on average Britain is now paying £6 billion more into the EU budget every year than we get back in grants and subsidies. This is an astonishing £115 million every single week.

European Voice reports that auditors will say they found only a slight improvement in the legality and regularity of EU spending between the financial years 2006 and 2007.

Speaking to MEPs, Kallas admitted that there were “real and unquestioned” weaknesses in 17 areas including research policy, the European refugee fund, structural funds, external actions and rural development.

How many years of EU audit failure will it take before MPs take action to halt this mis-spending of public money on a grand scale?

Until this happens, those MPs who approve of continuing to lavish more than a hundred million pounds a week on the EU despite annual audit failures and regular reports of EU waste and fraud must take full responsibility when public money runs out for essential public services or council tax rises in their constituencies.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Islands give Finland EU treaty problem

The Aland Islands - an autonomous territory of Finland - have joined Ireland, the Czech Republic, Germany and Poland as a further thorn in the EU's side over ratification of the discredited Lisbon Treaty.

According to EUobserver, the government of the Islands is demanding certain concessions from Helsinki in return for ratifying the treaty, on which the 30-member strong Aland parliament is expected to vote this Autumn.

Although Finland has been able to ratify the EU treaty without the consent of the Aland parliament, Finland's minister responsible for the islands - the former MEP Astrid Thors - has said that the Alands' refusal would lead to an "unclear situation."

Finland would be put in the awkward situation of not being able to guarantee the implementation of the treaty throughout the whole of its territory.

The Islands' four demands include direct access to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), a seat in the European Parliament and participation in the work of the Council of Ministers with some control over the (sham) principle of 'subsidiarity'.

But Helsinki is only offering the possibility of Aland being given some sort of speaking rights within the EU, together with the drawing up of
"Aland document" that would commit the Finnish government to "listen to Aland's point of view."

Vice-President of the Aland parliament, Susanne Eriksson, also told EurActiv that the Islands' answer on ratification "will depend on what happens to the Treaty overall".

The Islands rejected the original EU Constitution because it was politically dead and Ms Eriksson noted that, following the Irish 'no', they could also consider the Lisbon Treaty to be dead already and decide to reject it for that reason.

The clash stems from upset on the Islands caused recently by the European Commission's demand that the sale of 'snuss', a traditional form of chewing tobacco, be banned.

When the Islanders refused on the grounds that health in the Alands is not controlled by Finnish laws but the Islands' own, the Commission took Finland to the ECJ and imposed a €2 million (£1.6m) fine.

The Aland parliament is expected to hold expert hearings on the treaty into early September.

Friday, 8 August 2008

The confused Norman Baker

The Daily Mail today shouts from its front page that the Lib Dem MP for Lewes, Norman Baker, is spearheading a campaign for MPs to ditch their traditional oath of allegiance.

Supporting the campaign purportedly on the grounds that their 'principal duty' should be allegiance to the people who voted for them rather than the Queen are 22 MPs from all three main parties, but reportedly including only a single Conservative.

A full list of these supporting MPs isn't given. Yet what's the betting that most of these sudden adherents to representing their constituents and 'swearing allegiance to the nation' both didn't keep their manifesto promises to support a referendum on the EU Constitution and voted to approve that transfer of more decision-making powers to the EU?

At that time, countless polls showed that a large majority of people wanted a say on the treaty and opposed the transfer of more decision-making to the EU. How many of these MPs were so interested in representing their constituents then?

Norman "it's a matter of democracy" Baker himself certainly wasn't. In line with the instructions of his party leader, Nick Clegg, he didn't bother to vote in support of a referendum on the EU Constitution's "substantially equivalent" successor, the Lisbon Treaty, but he did vote to approve the treaty.

Wouldn't MPs keeping clear promises on which they were elected and taking their own manifestos seriously be a far greater contribution to improving democracy than gimmicky campaigns to tinker with oaths?

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Record year for inward investment

The government's trade and investment body - UK Trade and Investment - has revealed that 2007-8 was another highly successful year for Britain in attracting investment from overseas companies.

A record 1,573 investment projects were won in what marks a fifth consecutive year of growth.

According to the figures, 45,051 new jobs were created and a further 58,488 safeguarded as a result of this continuing success.

The results are in stark contrast to the scare-mongering some years ago by the government and pro-euro figures that investment would dry up if we didn't scrap the pound and hand over greater control of the economy to the EU.

Car industry success

During the euro debate, particular focus was placed on whether car manufacturers like Nissan, Honda and Toyota would maintain their operations in Britain if we didn't join the euro.

Not only have they stayed, but they have been increasing their investment in manufacturing operations here.

Back in May 2007, Nissan announced a £4.5m / 4,000 job investment in a new logistics centre at their factory in Sunderland - Europe's most productive car plant. More recently, 800 new jobs were created to support a third shift at the site.

Last year Toyota also announced an £88 million investment (pdf, page 4) to build a new petrol engine at its site in Deeside, North Wales, with production due to start in 2009.

And in March this year, Honda announced an £80 million investment in its manufacturing site in Swindon, where the company makes its Civic and CR-V models.

Vauxhall was another example being touted by the euro lobby of manufacturing at risk. But in 2007 the company announced that the new Astra model (pdf, page 4) would be built at their Ellesmere Port plant.

Since the euro membership debate died, big investments have also been made by German car giant BMW to build the new Mini in Oxford and the new Rolls Royce in Goodwood, and by Ford in their engine plants in Dagenham and Bridgend.

'Ringing endorsement'

Without a hint of self-consciousness about earlier claims, Business and Enterprise Secretary John Hutton said the results were "a ringing endorsement of the UK as an international investment destination, demonstrating that our compelling mix of a business friendly environment, political and economic stability, world-class talent, and a strong research and development base, is a powerful magnet for overseas companies."

Exactly all the points in Britain's favour that pro-pound groups were making, to argue that inward investment decisions depended far more on factors other than whether we joined the euro.

Lessons learnt?

It's obviously too much to expect for the government to have learnt lessons from such previous debates about the quality of their judgement in relation to the implications for Britain of refusing to hand further powers to the EU.

Having been utterly wrong about Britain's fate if we didn't join the euro, what big steps in EU power centralisation could they be similarly wrong about today?

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Ratification update

Stuart Wheeler has lost his High Court case to hold the goverment to its promise of a referendum. While Mr Wheeler has indicated his intention to appeal, the passage in the earlier version of this post about this legal hurdle in the path of final ratification of the treaty by Britain has been deleted.

However, further doubts are emerging that the Polish president is going to sign the treaty, with the office of the president beginning to publicly argue that the treaty is dead following the Irish No. This change is reflected in the updated summary below.

So far that leaves the treaty rejected by referendum in Ireland, its "substantially equivalent" predecessor rejected in public votes in France and Holland, and now ratification put on hold in the Czech Republic and Poland.

This effort by the EU - represented by the Lisbon Treaty / EU Constitution - to gather more power for itself at the expense of Europe's democratic governments has taken up nearly a decade of governmental wrangling and battling against public opinion that could have been much more profitably spent preparing European countries for major future challenges.

Another year of wrangling is now on the cards while the EU tries to find ways to get the treaty past the Irish people.

Enough is enough. Either the EU must now drop its 1950s superstate ambitions as a result of these multiple rejections of the Lisbon Treaty / EU Constitution project.

Or those who wish to see Europe make real progress in the face of modern challenges must start exploring new ways and new structures to achieve this beyond the malign influence of the EU's anti-democratic obsession with political integration.

It is self-evident that it is not necessary to pass ever more decision-making powers to remote central institutions for countries to co-operate together on the issues that affect us all.

So for how much longer will the EU's out-dated centralisation agenda be allowed to distract from tackling the issues that European countries really need to address to be fit for the 21st century?

Does Europe have any genuine leaders, with a vision for the future rather than a lazy adherence to ideas of the past? Now is the time for such a person to stand up.

------- Ratification: the state of play (updated) -------

Eight countries have yet to complete ratification of the Lisbon treaty through their Parliaments, with ratification in two further countries still awaiting presidential signatures.

While the treaty may have become law in the rest, it does not come into effect until all 27 EU member countries have ratified it. So here's a run-down of the hurdles the treaty has yet to clear:

Belgium: the treaty has been passed by the country's two houses of parliament and currently awaits approval in Belgium's five regional and community assemblies.

Czech Republic: currently
suspended pending a decision of the country's constitutional court on whether the treaty is in line with Czech law. President Vaclav Klaus has spoken out against continued ratification, as has the chairman of the country's senate.

Cyprus: ratification of the treaty is expected to go ahead on 3 July, according to the
Cyprus Mail. Only the Green Party has called for a postponement.

Ireland: having voted 'No' a week ago, Irish ministers and leading 'Yes' campaigners have
made it clear that due to the high turnout a re-run of the referendum will not be politically possible. Nevertheless, the country will be under considerable pressure from the EU and other member states, who are continuing to ratify the rejected treaty regardless.

Italy: the Italian government
has said that it aims to ratify the treaty by August, but there may be complications in the form of the Northern League - a major partner in Silvio Berlusconi's new coalition government. The party says that it intends to present a Bill demanding a referendum, calling the treaty "a serious abandon of sovereignty". However, Berlusconi's party has a significant majority together with its other coalition partner, so a referendum Bill is not expected to succeed.

Netherlands: the Dutch government seems ready to treat Ireland differently to the response they received after their 2005 rejection of the Lisbon Treaty's predecessor - the EU Constitution. Having
been approved by the country's parliament earlier this month, despite the presentation of a 42,000-signature petition demanding a second referendum, the treaty is now being considered by the Dutch senate. This is considered a formality and due to be completed over the summer.

Spain: ratification has been held up by a change of government but is likely to be completed, possibly before the end of June. The Spanish government
support continued ratification.

Reuters report that ratification of the treaty is to continue as planned despite Ireland's 'No' vote. This is according to a statement by the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, writing on his blog last Friday. The Swedish parliament will vote on ratification this autumn, and it is expected to receive majority support.

Two further countries which are generally described as having approved the treaty in fact have not absolutely finalised ratification.

In Poland, the treaty was approved by the country's Parliament in April, but Polish president Lech Kaczynski was reportedly waiting until the outcome of the Irish referendum before adding his signature.
Influential voices have urged him not to sign and on 23 June fresh doubts emerged that Mr Kaczynski will approve the treaty. According to EUobserver, presidential aide Michal Kaminski told Poland's Radio ZET that "There are a lot of indications that...the Lisbon Treaty today doesn't exist in a legal sense because one of the [EU] countries rejected its ratification," indicating that the president's office now regards the treaty as dead.

Similarly, in Germany, while both houses of the German parliament have passed the legislation ratifying the treaty, German President Horst Koehler has yet to sign it pending a
Constitutional challenge. Peter Gauweiler, an MP and member of the Christian Social Union, has launched the bid to have the treaty ruled unconstitutional citing objections that the treaty impinges on German sovereignty, in particular on the rights of German citizens to representation by members of the German parliament.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Myth-busting on trade

Reporting to Parliament yesterday on the outcome of last week's European Council meeting in Brussels, Gordon Brown repeated the hackneyed myth that "nearly 60 per cent. of our trade is with Europe and that 3 million jobs depend on our membership of the European Union."

So today the Democracy Movement has fired off a letter to the Prime Minister to request the evidence for this statement. The letter reads:

Dear Prime Minister,

In your statement to Parliament yesterday on the outcome of last week’s meeting of the European Council, you said:

"nearly 60 per cent. of our trade is with Europe and that 3 million jobs depend on our membership of the European Union."
(Hansard, 23 Jun 2008 : Column 30)

I am writing to ask if you would please provide me with the evidence for this assertion.

Specifically, confirmation that your 60 per cent figure for trade includes all trade and not just certain limited sections of exports, and that it also in the case of goods exports takes into account the distortion in figures created by the re-shipping ports at Rotterdam and Antwerp.

And specifically, the source of your figure that 3 million jobs are dependent "on our membership of the European Union" - as distinct from jobs related to trade. Clearly it would be nonsensical to claim that the continuation of trade and the safety of related jobs is dependent on our membership of the EU, given many non-EU countries trade successfully with EU members and indeed have beneficial trade agreements with the EU as a whole.

Has the Prime Minister misled Parliament? We'll keep you posted!

Saturday, 21 June 2008

October or bust

Ireland being isolated? Quite the opposite. They're being crowded into a corner. Bullied by force of numbers into having to ask the people again, and this time get the 'right' answer.

With various EU leaders repeating the mantras that the treaty "is alive", that there is "no question of revising the treaty" and also that there's "no question of a two-speed Europe", what other option is being left open to Ireland exactly?

What's going on is transparent, and utterly shameful.

Pressure is on

That pressure is being applied, contrary to claims made not least by our own government, was neatly communicated by Irish PM Brian Cowen, speaking at the press conference that followed the European Council meeting.

"There are colleagues who believe there is not as much room for manouevre as many people would like to suggest that there is," he told journalists, courtesy of EUobserver.

Referring to his fellow EU leaders, he said "I made it clear that however frustrating for them, it is simply too early to know how we are going to move forward on this point."

Frustration? Misleading 'suggestions' about how much room to manouevre Ireland is actually being given? From the horse's mouth we're told
the predictable anti-democratic reality behind the blizzard of benevolent rhetoric we've seen in the last couple of days.

October deadline

According to the official conclusions of the two day meeting, Mr Cowen has been required to report in more detail on the "way forward" at the next European Council meeting in October, with speculation growing of a second referendum as early as November or, more likely, in Spring 2009.

Unless of course, between now and October, the Irish government decides to stand by earlier sentiments about the impossibility of a second vote on the treaty and explain to their EU 'partners' that it simply wouldn't be winnable.

After all, re-running the referendum would be betting the house, with a credibility-busting second 'No' vote likely to have serious implications not just for the EU as we know it today but the Irish government itself.

Between a rock and a hard place, Mr Cowen could choose to side with the people - not just the majority who have already voted 'No' in Ireland, but also the millions across Europe who oppose yet more political integration but have been deliberately denied a say.

Ratification opt-outs

As a country, Ireland wouldn't be alone. The Czech Republic secured a special footnote in the text of the meeting conclusions, referring to how its own ratification depends on the verdict of its constitutional court.

Perhaps more interestingly, according to that EUobserver article, Poland also insisted on a slight change to the text to the effect that Warsaw cannot be included in the group of those who have ratified the treaty.

As we set out in our ratification 'state of play' posting, President Lech Kaczysnki is yet to sign the document, and was thought to be awaiting the outcome of the Irish referendum.

This latest development would indicate that he still isn't about to sign in a hurry.

Let's hope that, come October, Mr Cowen does Europe a favour, decides to face down this gang of anti-democratic bullies, and tells the EU elite their out-dated treaty is truly dead.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Hold on treaty until court rules

Update (15:53): Speaking on the BBC news channel, Stuart Wheeler has said that he would be "very likely" to appeal if judgement goes against him next week.

That would block the final step in Britain's ratification of the Lisbon Treaty for very likely some months to come.


The BBC reports that the High Court has expressed 'surprise' that ministers are pressing ahead with ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, despite judgement still pending in Stuart Wheeler's referendum case.

A direction from Lord Justice Richards, one of the judges hearing Mr Wheeler's case, has 'invited' the government to stay its hand in advance of the ruling.

The direction said: "The court is very surprised that the government apparently proposes to ratify while the claimant's challenge to the decision not to hold a referendum on ratification is before the court.

"The defendants are invited to stay their hand voluntarily until judgement."

In response, Gordon Brown has had to confirm that Britain will not ratify the treaty until the High Court has ruled, presumably meaning he will not yet send the 'instrument of ratification' to Rome - the final remaining stage in the process.

Judgement in the case is expected next week.

Does this mean, if Mr Wheeler chose to appeal a decision that went against him, our ratification could be in limbo for some months to come?

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Ireland on the menu

As the EU and Europe's governing elite enjoy a sumptuous dinner at our expense in Brussels this evening, the only thing that could prove a little hard to swallow may be what Irish PM Brian Cowen has to say about his country's recent 'No' vote.

According to Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, the EU is expecting the Irish government to pronounce on whether the vote was "definitive or not".

Apparently there remains some doubt about this in the EU's democratically-challenged upper echelons, despite a significant majority for the 'No' side and a healthy turnout.

Where's the confusion, exactly?

Yet, in an interview yesterday with Le Figaro, Mr Sikorski said "If Dublin does not decide to organise another referendum, it will be difficult to find a solution. We are waiting for the Irish government to tell us whether this decision is definitive or not."

But the bad news for Mr Sikorski and others is that, according to an Irish Independent report, Cowen plans to keep it vague, apparently intending to stress that it's "far too early" to draw conclusions from the referendum result and that the Government would require time to take stock of the outcome.

Testing out his line, Cowen reportedly told the Irish Parliament earlier this week that the referendum result meant “there is a serious political and legal situation that has to be examined”, and that he did not believe a solution would present itself “this week, next week or the week after”.

However, as we reported earlier this week, all around Cowen leading Irish politicians and 'Yes' campaigners already seem to have made up their minds that a second vote is not possible.

Reinforcing the point, Ireland's EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy is reported in the Irish Independent pointing out that the turnout for the referendum had been very high; the people had spoken; and the treaty as planned could not go ahead.

He told Irish radio, quite rightly, "I somehow suspect that if many other member states of the EU had to put it before their people, the result would be the same", putting to shame the line being rehearsed ad nauseam by Britain's most disingenuous superstate-fanatics such as Denis MacShane MP and Richard Corbett MEP that the 'Irish one can't be allowed to rule the EU many'.

It apparently hasn't crossed the anti-democratic minds of these two and others that the key statistic is not that Ireland's population represents 1% of the EU's but rather 100% of those allowed to vote on the Lisbon treaty, with polls showing people in many other countries would have delivered the same verdict on the treaty, given the chance.

As Commissioner McCreevy later said to the EUobserver news website, "We should remember that Ireland is not alone in being unable to secure a popular endorsement of a European Treaty. As politicians this is something we need to learn from."

On its own initiative, the EU has been quick of the mark to scour the ground for signs that a second referendum would be winnable.

Imagine if our government refused to accept the outcome of an election that went against it, and decided to pick the opposition vote to pieces to find what sections it could buy off with slightly 'clarified' policies before calling a second election.

Welcome to the sad state of democracy today, under our growing new government in Brussels.

Lords vote to ratify treaty

The House of Lords yesterday evening gave final approval to the Lisbon Treaty in its scheduled Third Reading.

A last-minute amendment to delay ratification of the treaty out of respect for the Irish referendum result was voted down.

Lord Howell of Guildford's amendment proposed that "this bill be read a third time no earlier than Monday 20 October 2008 to allow — (a) Parliament to consider the most appropriate response to the changed circumstances and uncertainties caused by the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in the Irish referendum; and (b) any amendments to the bill made necessary by those changed circumstances to be considered in detail by the House, if necessary on recommitment."

Hitting the 'pause' button would indeed have been the proper course of action, if the government were serious about their declared wish to "take the time to allow the Irish Government to make proposals on what they will do next".

Instead Gordon Brown has shamefully gone along with the anti-democratic EU ploy to amass a weight of numbers behind the treaty, in order to bully the Irish government into holding a second referendum, and then the Irish people into approving what may only be a mildly 'clarified' treaty.

Howell's amendment was rejected by 277 against to 184 in favour.

The debate was interrupted by four protestors voicing their demands for a referendum from the public gallery.

The government intends to seek Royal Assent to the Bill very quickly - reportedly within the next 24hrs - just in time for David Miliband to get a nice pat on the head from his EU colleagues while in Brussels today and tomorrow for a meeting of the European Council.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

EU fumbles for grounds to justify second Irish vote

Update (13:46): Open Europe blogs that the Commission has only given the results of this poll out to selected journalists and have not published full details of questions asked. So the integrity of the poll can't be scrutinised.

As OE concludes, "It's a reminder that the European Commission is not just a civil service, but a campaign group".


The Daily Telegraph's Bruno Waterfield reveals on his blog that the EU is already moving to determine exactly what it will take to buy off a sufficient proportion of 'No' voters to win a second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Such a move would completely contradict everything key figures in Ireland have said about the prospect of a second vote. But politicians saying one thing and doing another on the EU treaty issue wouldn't exactly be a shocking development to us here in Britain.

The EU's poll reportedly finds that 75% of 'No' voters "believe the Irish government can renegotiate exceptions", but this is hardly surprising. After all, that's exactly what happened the last time the Irish people said 'No' to an EU treaty, back in 2001.

The key question for the EU is whether any possible exceptions would be enough to gain public approval for Lisbon in a referendum re-run.

Key concerns

Questions around the treaty's influence on family law (abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia) and military neutrality may be easy to deal with through straightforward 'clarifications', in particular about the influence of the European Court of Justice in conjunction with the EU's so-called Charter of Fundamental Rights.

But those who hold concerns on these fronts may not be concerned about the EU's influence over these issues alone, so 'clarifying' these may not necessarily bring everyone who rates these issues into the 'Yes' camp.

Questions around taxation may prove trickier to divert, as France is obviously keen to push forward with 'harmonised' business taxes during its forthcoming 6-month EU presidency - a particular issue for Ireland, with its advantageous low rate of corporation tax.

The French are unlikely to want to give one of the key targets of such legislation a clear exclusion.

Harder still will be evidently strong concerns about the effect on Irish influence of changes to the EU's chief decision-making institutions, such as the loss of an Irish Commissioner and a cut in voting strength in the Council of Ministers.

These were institutional deals reached only after tortuous and complex negotiations, and special treatment for Ireland would be very difficult to secure.

So the EU is unlikely to want to reopen such negotiations. Yet, as we reported on Saturday, and this new poll confirms, questions of power and identity loom large in the reasons people voted 'No'.

Young oppose treaty

A cause of particular alarm for the EU in the poll's findings was obviously that there were many more 'No' voters than 'Yes' voters among young people aged 15-29.

More future-thinking than any age group, it's surely no surprise that few see it as sensible to cling to out-dated centralisation ideas of a century past. "Factor 2 to 1. Very Serious!”, the poll report says.

And of course we get the usual EU focus on those ("40%") who said they 'didn't understand' or 'weren't familiar' with the treaty. As if the massed ranks of Ireland's political, business, media and cultural establishment plus a massive financial advantage for the 'Yes' campaigners wasn't enough to 'inform' people of the treaty's alleged benefits.

Nevertheless, we're used to such findings being trumpeted by the EU simply to justify splashing even more public cash on more pro-EU propaganda.

A second 'No' vote would be utterly devastating for the EU as we know it today, and this poll appears to provide little comfort for the EU that this would not be the outcome of forcing the Irish people to vote again.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Urgent petition: Abandon Lisbon

We have received this message today and would urge everyone to follow the instructions and pass the details of the petition around friends and contacts.

Once you've signed, please remember to confirm your signature when you receive a confirmation request e-mail.

---- Original message ----

Last Friday the people of Ireland voted to reject the Lisbon Treaty. But politicians across Europe are refusing to accept the result.

They arrogantly insist that the Treaty must go ahead anyway.

Despite the no vote, the UK Government is planning to carry on regardless, and ratify the Treaty in the House of Lords on Wednesday.

This is part of an attempt to isolate and bully the people of Ireland.

Please take 30 seconds to send a message to Gordon Brown by signing the petition on the Downing Street website.

Tell Gordon to respect the verdict of the Irish people - and drop the Treaty.

Many thanks


How politicians are refusing to listen to the no vote:

French Europe Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet says:
"I don't think you can say the treaty of Lisbon is dead even if the ratification process will be delayed."

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says:
"We are sticking with our goal for it to come into force. The ratification process must continue."

Spanish Europe Minister Lopez Garrido says:
"The treaty will be applied, albeit a few months late."

European Commission President Jose Barroso says:
"The Treaty is not dead. The Treaty is alive, and we will try to work to find a solution."

British Foreign Minister David Miliband says:
"18 countries have now passed the reform treaty...each country must see the ratification process to a conclusion... there needs to be a British view as well as an Irish view."

Don't let the politicians get away with it.

Sign the petition now and send it to your friends.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Irish minister: 'treaty is dead'

"In the end it is for the Irish prime minister to decide what his next moves are. He has got to decide whether or not to apply the last rites'' says David Miliband in today's Daily Telegraph.

It's easy to see the government's unprincipled strategy. Expressing respect for the views of the Irish people is clearly a much lower priority than wanting to stay in the EU's good books - by avoiding being blamed for turning the Irish 'No' vote into a snowball of countries halting ratification.

But Mr Miliband apparently doesn't seem to have noticed that several Irish ministers and 'Yes' campaign leaders have already made it very clear that there will not be a second referendum.

And as Miliband says today on his blog, "It is clear that if the Irish do not ratify the Treaty then the Treaty will not pass into law."

Dick Roche: 'treaty is dead'

As far back as March, Irish European Affairs Minister Dick Roche was condemning the treaty in the event of a 'No' vote.

In a statement on his website Mr Roche said,
"there will only be one referendum held in Ireland on the provisions of the EU Reform Treaty ... There is no plan B and there is absolutely no possibility of this Treaty being subject to a further renegotiation. The idea that we can reject this Treaty and have another Referendum as happened with the Nice Treaty is a dilusion. That cannot and will not happen."

"Without Irish ratification, this Treaty 'is dead'", he concluded.

In the Observer on Sunday, Irish integration minister Conor Lenihan reinforced that sentiment, saying it was "unlikely" the treaty would be put to the republic's electorate again.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland on Saturday morning, Lenihan said, "I can't see a situation where we can put this matter again, to be quite honest with you, because the risk to Europe and indeed to Ireland... is to cause even more damage."

"It's not comparable to the previous situation with regards to the Nice referendum," he concluded.

Also quoted in the Observer article are 'senior strategists in Fianna Fail' - Ireland's main ruling party - saying it would be "politically impossible" to try to repeat what happened in 2002, when Ireland voted in favour of the Nice treaty 12 months after having rejected it.

"This time around, the turnout was high, so there can be no justification for it. The government is caught in a political trap," one senior Fianna Fail source is quoted as saying.

"There are local as well as European elections in Ireland next year and Fianna Fail will not risk having to hold another referendum.

"Within the next 12 months, at the very least, there is absolutely no chance that Ireland will re-run Lisbon."

Fine Gael also rule out second vote

On Saturday, Enda Kenny - leader of the main opposition Fine Gael party, which was a major part of the 'Yes' campaign - also ruled out the prospect of a second Lisbon Treaty referendum.

He expressed disappointment at the 'No' vote, but is reported in the Irish Independent on Saturday as strongly against any plans to put the treaty before the electorate again.

"We made it perfectly clear that there would not be a second offering in this case . . . The governments have to look at the decision the Irish people have made and decide how best to move the concept of the European process forward from here," he said.

No excuse for delay

So, Mr Miliband. If, as you say, the treaty cannot pass into law unless the Irish ratify, yet Irish ministers and key members of the 'Yes' camp are already ruling out a second referendum, why the delay in declaring this treaty dead and calling off our own ratification?

It's hard to see how the last rites of Lisbon - at least in theory - haven't already been read.

Plan C, D or E?

Confusion reigns on how the EU will respond to the outcome of last week's referendum in Ireland, ahead of a European Council meeting of heads of state and government later this week.

On Saturday,
French European affairs minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet minister was quoted on AFP saying there is "no other solution" but for Ireland to hold a second referendum.

Particular interest is being paid to the French position, as the country takes over the EU's rotating presidency from next month and will consequently shoulder much of the burden of driving the EU's response to the Irish 'No' vote.

However, several Irish ministers made clear during the referendum campaign that a re-run would not be feasible.

The much higher turnout this time relative to the first Nice Treaty referendum back in 2001, which was re-run a year later, means there is no clear justification not to mention little political apetite for a second vote.

So, on Sunday, Jouyet was quoted in the Observer talking instead of some "specific means of cooperation" that would provide a purpose to continued ratification, lending credence to earlier speculation about 'legal arrangements' that might allow the Lisbon Treaty to be implemented regardless of the Irish vote.

The way would then be open to bring Ireland back fully into the post-Lisbon EU at a later stage, presumably by applying the pressure of every other country having proceeded without them.

Germany is also behind this approach. "We're sticking firmly to our goal of putting this treaty into effect," the German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said. "So the process of ratification must continue."

Not surprising, given the German chancellor Angela Merkel devoted most of last year to getting the EU's 27 governments to agree on the Lisbon treaty after the rejection of the EU Constitution by the French and the Dutch in 2005.

Mixed messages

For its part, the European Commission is sending out mixed signals. Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso on Friday quickly retailed the 'carry on regardless' line. But a European Commission official was yesterday quoted in the Observer saying "Unless the treaty is ratified by all, there is no treaty."

Our own government also seems to have a foot in both camps. David Miliband rushed onto TV to say that ratification will continue regardless of the treaty's theoretical demise, and Gordon Brown reportedly telephoned the French president to confirm that Britain would proceed with ratification.

Yet, in the Sunday Times a "Downing Street source" echoes that Commission official, saying: "The legal position on this is very clear: the treaty cannot come into force until all 27 countries have ratified it".

'Two-tier' legal option

There's no doubt that the EU tends to treat the legality of its activities as a minor detail, as exemplified by how they have been steadily implementing aspects of the Lisbon Treaty well before it has been approved in all EU member countries.

But Ireland could be given a protocol with what amounts to an opt-out from every policy transfer and veto removal that Lisbon introduces.

It would mean that the new Irish status would have to be resolved before the future dates that Lisbon's institutional changes -
such as the altered structure of the EU Commission and voting weights in the Council of Ministers - are due to come into force.

And it would mean the EU would also have to wait until that time for some other 'constitutional' changes, such as Lisbon's 'self-amending' clause. But this may not be such a burden as treaty changes would not be likely to be needed for at least a few years following ratification.

The political danger for the EU in introducing this 'two-tier' system in respect of entire treaties, however, is that far from becoming the intended suffering pariah, Ireland is actually seen to get along much better without being a 'full member'.

By dodging some looming new EU plans - perhaps on tax harmonisation and militarisation - people in other countries may observe that the semi-detached Irish deal is a more attractive one, and start pressuring their own governments to obtain the same advantageous deal.

Stealthy option

The alternative possibility of many of the changes proposed by Lisbon being introduced under existing EU treaty clauses is talked up in today's Daily Telegraph.

But it begs the question: if that's possible, why didn't they just do that in the first place? Instead of having this extremely damaging near decade-long 'new treaty' wrangle that started with the Laeken Declaration back in 2000.

Clearly there are some integrationist advances within the Lisbon treaty that the EU wants and which cannot be implemented under the current treaty.

But the idea also overlooks one peculiar tendency of the EU; that despite much in the way of greater integration being technically possible under its vaguely-worded treaties, it still always seems to need its 'big projects' to feel it really is advancing.

It's almost as if they consider, were the integration process to appear paused and people allowed to observe the status quo for too long - rather than argue over an element of future integration - too many might just realise that they don't much like the current EU either.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Czech president breaks ranks on treaty

Czech President Vaclav Klaus has broken ranks with the EU governing elite's carefully choreographed response to the Irish rejection of the Lisbon treaty.

In contrast to the 'carry on regardless' position of many other European leaders, including our own government, in a statement on his website Mr Klaus calls the Irish vote a "victory of freedom and reason over artificial elitist projects and European bureaucracy" and says that "ratification cannot continue".

While the Czech presidency is only a ceremonial position, and the country's government is unlikely to take the same view, according to the Daily Telegraph the Czech senate chairman has also rightly said that continuing to ratify the treaty would make "no sense".

The Czech Republic is one of nine countries that have not yet ratified the treaty. In Britain, the final Parliamentary stage of ratification is expected to be concluded on Wednesday next week.

Yet, as Global Vision - the research and campaigning organisation headed by Ruth Lea and Lord (Norman) Blackwell - very pragmatically puts it: "it would be inadvisable for Parliament to rush ahead with completing the passage of the Bill only five days after the Irish result rather than taking advantage of the time now available for further analysis and reflection on the changed circumstances."

For Gordon Brown to proceed with ratification regardless of the Irish 'No' vote would betray a blinkered obsession with pushing forward EU political integration, rather than exhibit the reasonable and rational response to yesterday's events that most people would surely expect from their government.

Respect for democracy

The Irish 'No' vote is an extraordinary result in a country where the vast majority of the political, business, media and cultural establishment is devoted to the EU project.

It demonstrates the considerable opposition to the centralisation of power in Brussels that the EU Constitution / Lisbon treaty has provoked.

Not even the last-minute intervention of the Pope could, in the end, swing a 'Yes' vote.

Open Europe very usefully give us the top reasons people had decided to vote 'No' to the Lisbon treaty, taken from the last Irish Times poll on 3-4 June. They were:

- to keep Ireland’s power and identity (24%)
- to safeguard Ireland’s neutrality (22%)

- don’t like being told what to do/ forced into voting yes (17%)
- bigger countries will have too much power (12%)

So let's have none of this EU elite spin that this result was not a vote about the treaty or the impact of the EU more generally.

The democratic 'No' campaign, hopelessly underfunded compared to the 'Yes' side, fought a spirited and commendable campaign against the odds.

They are to be congratulated and thanked by democrats across Europe.

By any democratic principles, the Lisbon treaty has been blown apart. However, that's predictably not how EU elites are responding. Their reaction can be summed up as 'carry on regardless'.

We'll be cataloguing the response of Europe's arrogant governing elite over the next few days, and laying bare exactly how little regard those driving the European Union have for people's views even when so democratically expressed.