Archive for the ‘Cameron & Eurozone’ Category

A French message to Britain!

Mardi, juin 24th, 2014

A French message to Britain: get out of Europe before you wreck it!

This article by French Socialist and former Prime Minister Michel Rocard was published in Le Monde on 5th June, 2014 and then on-line in English in The Guardian (www.the guardian.com) on 6th June, 2014.

“The European Union is on its knees but you, the British, want to block even small steps to democratic legitimacy.”

“Now you pretend to want to exit; the majority of your people are in no doubt about it. But you have a banking interest in remaining to capitalise on the disorder that you have helped to create.

So go before you wreck everything.

There was a time when being British was synonymous with elegance. Let us rebuild Europe. Regain your elegance and you will regain our esteem.”

Facing up to Tory Eurosceptics

Jeudi, février 6th, 2014

Adam Boulton writing in The Sunday Times senses that for Prime Minister Cameron, Chancellor Osborne and Foreign Secretary Hague, staying in Europe has become a major priority.

George Osborne speaking at a recent “Pan-European” conference hosted by the Open Europe think tank and the Fresh Start group of Tory MPs, apparently gave the clearest indication yet of what the Prime Minister might be aiming to renegotiate before his 2017 referendum on continuing EU membership i.e.
1. The Euro: To seek guarantees that EU member countries not in the common currency area can remain so, without strictures on them being imposed by the Eurozone members.
2. Welfare: With the support of Germany in particular and other richer EU members, to introduce curbs on migration within the framework of “freedom of movement” for more control at national level of the associated spending on welfare.
3. Single market: Accepting that the EU needs to become more competitive globally, to accelerate completion of the single market e.g. for services, by allowing Britain and other large EU states to integrate more quickly while smaller states can still protect their home markets.

It will be interesting to see whether such an approach will allow PM Cameron to out-manoeuvre the estimated one third of total Conservative MPs who are exploiting the rise of UKIP to promote their euroscepicism. At constituency level Tory activists are also said to be generally more Eurosceptic but actual Tory voters seem more in tune with the general public in that the EU does not appear in the top 10 of their major concerns!

Reference: N° 11 signals a way to halt the Eurosceptic express, Adam Boulton, The Sunday Times 19.01.14.

Cameron’s Negotiation With EU (for comment)

Vendredi, novembre 29th, 2013

It has been suggested that I write about the concessions Cameron should attempt to wrest from the European Union, as a preliminary to the holding of a referendum on EU membership.

This is a very difficult challenge. Cameron has up till now been very circumspect in revealing his intentions in this respect because, it is said, they are going to be regarded as too minimalist to satisfy his backbenchers and too minimalist to counter the threat from the UKIP in the 2015 elections. These considerations may result in his waiting till after the election to reveal his hand.

What are the areas in which he is most likely to make his demands?

1) A limitation of the strictures regarding Human Rights? The Government has probably already achieved all it can expect in this area.

2) Protection against measures limiting the freedom of the City’s financial market, on which Paris and Frankfurt cast envious eyes, by, for instance, requiring a universal vote so that Britain would have a veto to exercise.

3) Greater freedom to institute measures limiting immigration. This is probably the issue of greatest concern to the electorate and the one to which other countries would be most responsive. His first step is to make welfare measures unavailable to people immigrating with too inadequate financial prospects, aimed chiefly at Rumanians and Bulgarians.

4) Surely, restrictions of the powers of the Brussels administration to impose bureaucratic regulations in the spheres of labour laws, food standards etc. which are probably the major cause of public dissatisfaction with membership of the EU.

5) The expansion of the EU mandate to cover free exchange of services, not just goods.

Cameron is probably caught in a real dilemma. There is little sympathy with Britain’s cause among other members of the EU. Merkel has expressed some feeling of common cause and the Netherlands have evinced some desire to limit Brussels powers but they only want to limit further extension of the powers, not to carry out major revisions.

There is little sympathy among Britain’s EU partners for its demands for yet more exceptionalist treatment. And why would they want to satisfy Britain’s demands for it, knowing that she may subsequently choose to leave the Union anyway?

There is one possible area for hope. There is a desire among countries led by France to carry out greater consolidation of the Union, probably necessitating a revision of the Treaty. This would require a universal vote, which would greatly strengthen Britain’s bargaining position.

One last thought. Surely the one most vital consideration is that of trade, remembering that 50% of our trade is with Europe. It is significant that virtually all of our captains of industry are opposed to our leaving the EU. Some people claim it would be “a gift to the French” as it would discourage foreign investment in Britain by US and Asian investors, if Britain lost assured access to the European markets.

Michael Webster

How to Widen Tory Appeal?

Mercredi, juillet 31st, 2013

Tim Montgomery writing in The Times July 29th 2013, proposes Five Ways to Widen the Tory Appeal and Win the next general election in 2015.

He assumes that by 2015, voters are likely to see the Tories as a party of deficit reduction, welfare control and Euro-scepticism. The party’s 2015 election campaign would then need to reinforce these strengths as well as counter an anticipated Liberal Democrat claim that, but for them in the Coalition, the Tories would have governed for the rich and powerful. Therefore, he suggests the five key pledges below for the next Tory manifesto which must also put concern for the lower-paid at its heart.

1. No more tax on petrol or home energy bills
2. A higher pension and a lower welfare cap.
3. Help for more first-time buyers to own their own home.
4. More apprenticeships for Britain’s youngest workers
5. A referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

These pledges are aimed at reaching more voters (e.g. private sector workers, home owners and the grey vote) than at the last election in 2010, while leaving the door open to the possibility of a second Lib-Dem Tory Coalition, instead of driving the Liberal Democrats into the arms of Labour.

The article also identifies other issues on which the Tories could still be vulnerable and which are generally the major concerns of voters such as the Economy, Health, Education and Immigration. However, on the major issue for the Conservative party itself (but not necessarily the voters) of an EU referendum , the author could be considered rather optimistic in suggesting that by 2015 it is likely that both Labour and the Liberal Democrats will have matched Mr Cameron’s EU referendum promise to “trust the people”.

The risk still remains of the party descending into civil war over Europe e.g. if Mr Cameron has to compromise on his EU referendum pledge during Coalition negotiations in 2015. The Conservative party also needs to more clearly differentiate itself from UKIP by not linking the issue of uncontrolled immigration to membership of the EU.

PM Cameron’s Relations with Old Tories - by Michael Webster

Mercredi, mai 29th, 2013

Bagehot, an editorialist of the Economist, paints a gloomy picture of Prime Minister Cameron’s relations with the Tory old guard.

The Conservative Associations around Britain are growing increasingly disgruntled with his policies on immigration, defence cuts, a too weak exit strategy from Europe and, above all, gay marriage. Their members’ average age is approaching 60 and they cling to the old values of sound economic policies, Church, family and strong policing.

David Cameron, after three successive Tory electoral defeats, felt the need for change. Hence, his “modernising” campaign (which he sold as a reaffirmation of Conservative values), included favouring gay marriage and renewable energy. However, he failed to obtain an outright majority necessitating a coalition with the Liberals and the adoption of policies which further watered down Conservative ones.

The population is ageing and senior citizens are more likely to vote. Yet it seems to me that there is a great need to rejuvenate the Party and make it an important priority to increase our appeal to a younger generation, if we are to have a hope of winning the next election.

The PM’s Speech on Europe - A Commentary by Author & Historian Gregor Dallas.

Mercredi, mars 27th, 2013

The recent speech on Europe by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, delivered early in the morning so that nobody would hear it, contains numerous historical errors and it omits so many important aspects of British politics that I feel obliged to write a brief separate commentary here. The questions posed at the end of the paper are framed within the narrow context of the speech and do not allow one to point out its principal flaws. Presumably one can forward my comments to Central Office along with our group’s reactions.
http://www.conservativepolicyforum.com/policy/europe
The European Union, it is true, was first and foremost a product of the Second World War, hence the stated aim in the Treaty of Rome’s preamble to draw Europe into ‘ever closer union’. This is a Christian aim and it is built on the fact that Europe once was ‘Christendom’. It is based on the idea that the nations will be so drawn together that no member state will have the space to stretch out and smite its neighbour.

Mr Cameron is entirely wrong to think that this principle can today be abandoned. ‘Today the main, over-riding purpose of the European Union is… not to win peace, but to secure prosperity.’ No, it is both. That ‘ever closer union’ is an almost sacred principle of the EU. A war situation can develop overnight, as illustrated in the Balkans in the 1990s.

Parallel to this is another post-war development: practically every major Western European country lost an overseas empire in the decades following the Second World War. This was followed by the collapse of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe. The two phenomena are obviously related. The collapse of empire led, in every nation concerned, with an immediate commitment to Europe, sometimes within days and even within hours of the loss of empire.

The one exception was Britain. Britain never really abandoned the idea of Empire and Commonwealth. It remains a part of British identity today in the widespread idea that Britain’s essential future lies overseas rather than on the Continent.

The loss of empire was, none the less, traumatic. That traumatism has found expression in the development of an increasingly virulent form of English nationalism (politely misnamed ‘Euroscepticism’) that has never been witnessed in Britain before. Mr Cameron is very wrong to claim that Britain is characterized today by her openness. This was true in the first half of the twentieth century, when nearly every European country was subject to the poison of nationalism. But today the situation has reversed: Britain, and particularly England, is a closed, narrow and angry country. And it is getting worse.

How else does one explain the emergence of two simultaneous catastrophes that could happen with-in the next few years: the breakup of the United Kingdom and departure from the European Union? A rump United Kingdom would have difficulty surviving alone. And no one should underestimate how dire Britain’s economic situation is. Real incomes are declining, her manufacturing sector is very weak, and the pound is doing what it has done since the 1940s - dropping.

Mr Cameron woould like us to abandon the image of a fast track and slow track Europe. Yet this does correspond to a certain reality. He dwells on the Euro crisis. But he forgets, probably because English media give such a distorted image of the world, that except for this last year of crisis, the Eurozone has out-performed Britain in GNP. No doubt the Euro crisis will one day be resolved, for the necessary collective political will — the essential ingredient — is there. One has reason to doubt the same success in the world sterling area: since the Second World War the results have been poor; a disunited UK, independent of the EU, would have difficulty keeping her head out of the water.

The current Parliament is not the most brilliant we have had in the last few hundred years. It was brought in in the wake of an MPs’ expense scandal which saw experienced MPs lose their jobs for scandals involving sometimes less than £100. Many of those MPs were fervent Europeans. The new intake was young and inexperienced. Their idea about national sovereignty is not faithful to the traditional British notion of sovereignty going back at least as far Bagehot and Dicey: the notion of parliamentary sovereignty: Britain used to have an Unwritten Constitution. It was an ordered constitution and up until the 1960s it worked. Then they started chipping away at it. The greatest threat to Britain is not Europe’s constitution but the lack of a constitution in Britain which, combined with a generation of English nationalism, could lead the country into crisis.

Mr Cameron suggests we abandon the European Court of Human Rights, one of whose founding nations was Britain. No civilised nation in the world can afford to abandon Human Rights.

Mr Cameron seems to believe the Euro hinders the economic competitivity of the member states. On the contrary, the Euro enforces a discipline on the member states that encourages fiscal discipline and controls inflation that leads the way to a more competitive economy: witness Germany. And compare Germany to Britain, an inflationary economy, or Italy — remember the ‘years of lead’?

But worst of all, Mr Cameron wants to introduce a referendum which flies in the face of British parliamentary sovereignty.

Gregor Dallas
Author and Historian
19 March 2013

“TO BE OR NOT TO BE” IN by Michael Webster

Samedi, février 9th, 2013

Although a life-long supporter of the Conservative Party, I am dismayed by the party’s conduct on the issue of EU membership. The promise to hold a referendum five years from now will depend on its being re-elected in 2015, which is at best uncertain, since parties do not get re-elected when economies are sour. And the opposition does not want to hold one if they win that election.
We are, therefore, committed to a long period of uncertainty, which can only have harmful effects. Probably, the most serious ones will be to diminish our influence with our EU partners and to discourage foreign investment in Britain. It will be bad for business generally, because it is well-known that it does not like uncertainty.
PM Cameron’s chief concern has been his Parliamentary members, it being reported that some 250 out of 304 Party MPs are delighted. It may be of less interest to the public. The Economist magazine reports that ” the voters are less neuralgic about Europe than their representatives at Westminster. When asked which topics most concern them, voters mention Europe much less than they used to. What they worry about is the economy, health care and crime.”
So, by promising a referendum, we may be provoking unnecessary attention to the question, with the risk of a negative vote based on dissatisfaction with Brussels mandates on doctors’ hours of service, convicts’ rights to vote and similar comparatively minor matters, while doing serious harm to our economic interests, a cause of great concern to our business leaders.
And all this to achieve a result to which the leaders of all the political parties,except UKIP, are opposed.

David Cameron & the Eurozone.

Vendredi, octobre 28th, 2011

With the UK not part of the Eurozone, it was not surprising that Prime Minister David Cameron raised the ire of President Sarkozy of France in pressing for inclusion in the talks leading up to the recent Eurozone debt rescue deal. Arriving earlier the Prime Minister said that he was glad to be at the talks, as many issues the leaders would discuss were directly relevant to Britain. Mr. Cameron then joined leaders of all 27 EU nations for the summit, which was followed by a working dinner attended only by heads of the 17 nations using the Euro.
UK Chancellor George Osborne commented afterwards that the debt deal agreed by the Eurozone leaders was much better than expected but additional bailout funds should not be expected from Britain. He also confirmed that no British banks would be required to hold additional capital following the meeting which, in addition, and to avoid a Greek default on its debt, essentially forced a 50% discount on Greek debt in those European banks involved.
The question is how should we view this performance by Mr. Cameron? Was he right to insist on the UK being involved in the Eurozone talks despite upsetting his French counterpart? We must consider that on balance he was right, faced with no choice but to get involved, based on past experience when France and Germany have got together to carve out a solution impacting the EU. The most recent and celebrated case is when they came up with the idea of a Tobin-type tax on financial transactions within the EU, 90% of the net burden of which would have been borne by the UK, given the dominant position of the City of London in European financial markets! This Tobin tax proposal is also a prime example of the EU not considering its overall competitivity as a trading bloc, with both George Osborne the Chancellor and his Labour opposition counterpart Ed. Balls in agreement that such a tax should only be applied on a global basis.