Archive for the ‘Why I'm pro-European’ Category

The EU Referendum Decision

Samedi, octobre 22nd, 2016

In her opening speech to the Conservative Party Conference this month, the Prime Minister said: “Even now, some politicians – democratically-elected politicians – say that the referendum isn’t valid. … But come on. The referendum result was clear. It was legitimate.”

Well I think that the referendum was neither valid nor legitimate, and am going to use this blog to say why.

There are many reasons. One is that when a referendum is held, the Government decides the question on the ballot paper but the voters decide which question they will use the referendum to answer. Theresa May knows that, indeed she has emphasised it. She used her second speech at the Party Conference to tell us: “For the referendum was not just a vote to withdraw from the EU. It was about something broader – something that the European Union had come to represent. It was about a sense – deep, profound and let’s face it often justified – that many people have today that the world works well for a privileged few, but not for them.”

Prime Minister, I believe that you were absolutely right in saying that. But you cannot have it both ways. Either the result of the vote was clear, or it resulted from something broader than the question on the ballot paper. It cannot be both. I would like to know how many of those who voted Leave, did so because this deep profound sense cited by the Prime Minister and not because they really wanted Brexit. Could it have been one tenth of them? Could it have been more than a tenth? These questions are important: had only 4% of those who voted Leave done so because of that deep profound sense and would have voted Remain otherwise, then there was no majority among the electorate for Brexit. No, Mrs May, based on what you told us at the Conference, there is no way that the result can be thought of as clear.

But there is more. I have been following election campaigns since the late 1950s, and I have never seen such a dishonest campaign. It was not just the barefaced lie about saving £350 million per week to spend on the Health Service, there was much more, including the Brexit campaign claim that the European Commission is an unelected bureaucracy and that MEPs have no power to control it.

In fact the Commission is elected by the European Council, all of whose members are from governments elected by citizens of member states, i.e. an indirect election process similar to that used for the French Senate. But it is more democratic than the elections for the French Senate because the Council is obliged to reflect the political balance of the MEPs who have just been elected to the European Parliament. Also, the Commission cannot take office until it has been approved by the Parliament and it can be dismissed by the Parliament.

Let me pose the Brexiteers two questions: which is the more democratic, the European Commission or the British House of Lords, and when did you last complain about the latter?

However for me, and I must confess that as an expatriate I am biased in this respect, the worst feature of the referendum was the fact that expatriates of more than 15 years standing were denied the vote. The Conservative Party had promised expatriates votes for life and the Government had over a year to prepare and table legislation to correct this injustice. Alternatively, the referendum could have been delayed until they were ready. The new minister, Chris Skidmore, was appointed Parliamentary Secretary at the Cabinet Office on 17 July 2016. His Policy Statement announcing details of the intended Votes for Life Bill was made at the Conservatives Abroad conference on 6 October, i.e. less than three months later. This timing can only mean either that Skidmore achieved within less than three months what it was impossible to do between the general election on 7th May 2015 and the referendum on 23rd June 2016, or that the paper was already prepared and ready before his appointment, i.e. before the referendum, but not released. Either way I now have no doubt that the failure to table the Votes for Life Bill prior to the referendum was deliberate in order to help the Brexit side win.

It succeeded. The majority for Brexit in the referendum was 1.27 million votes. The Government has estimated that there are 2.2 million British expatriates in the EU. T he total number of expatriates who voted in the referendum was 253,111. If we assume that 200,000 of those voters were in the EU, then that means that 2,000,000 expatriates in the EU could not or did not vote. Of course I do not know how many of them are of voting age but, had they been enfranchised, 82% of them voted remain and all the rest for Brexit, then Remain would have had the majority. If the expatriates that I know in France are anything like representative, then 90% would have voted Remain. Of course this does not take into account the votes of expatriates living outside the EU. We can get an idea of how they would probably have voted by looking at the socio-economic analyses of referendum voters. People most likely to have voted Remain were educated to degree level and in socio-economic group AB. People most likely to have voted Leave had more limited education and/or were in socio-economic groups C2 or DE. That makes it appear that a majority of expatriates even living outside the EU would have voted for remain.

The above shows why I am convinced that, had the promised Votes for Life Bill been enacted in time to apply to the referendum, then the Remain side would have won. So it is not true to say, as Minsters are fond of doing, that the British people voted to leave the EU. The British electorate voted for Brexit with the composition of the electoral roll cooked to bring about that result.

Theresa May also said at the Party Conference: “We will invoke Article 50 no later than the end of March next year. It is not up to the House of Commons to invoke Article 50, and it is not up to the House of Lords. It is up to the Government to trigger Article 50 and the Government alone. …. We will soon put before Parliament a Great Repeal Bill, which will remove from the statute book – once and for all – the European Communities Act. This historic Bill – which will be included in the next Queen’s Speech – will mean that the 1972 Act, the legislation that gives direct effect to all EU law in Britain, will no longer apply from the date upon which we formally leave the European Union.”

To understand what she wants to achieve we need to look at Article 50. It provides that the member state concerned must leave the EU “from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period”. So, once notification under Article 50 is given, we are out of the EU unless every single one of the other 27 member states agrees otherwise and does so without imposing conditions that would be unacceptable to the UK. Voting on the proposed Great Repeal Bill would give Parliament no power at all over the decision. With Article 50 triggered, were Parliament to reject the Great Repeal Bill we would still be out of the EU, but we would remain subject to the European Treaties and to EU law. A nonsensical position. Yes, if we leave the EU then such a Bill is necessary but, in terms of giving any power to Parliament, it is quite simply a con. Leaving the EU will take away rights from British citizens given to them by the European Communities Act in 1972. That cannot be done by a simple decision of the Government, it must require a decision taken by Parliament.

I strongly hope that the present legal case to give Parliament the right to decide on triggering Article 50 will succeed. If it does, I hope that BCiP members will use the above to try to persuade parliamentarians to reject all pressure on them to respect the referendum result and maintain the British constitutional principle that it is Parliament that is sovereign and that Parliament should decide in accordance with its members’ views as to what is best for our country.

Robin Baker
BCiP Member

Brexit as viewed by our Representative in Greece

Mercredi, mai 11th, 2016

In our guest blog posting below by Erika Angelidi, the Conservatives Abroad Representative in Greece, her latest contribution continues her previous discussion of the critical issue of Brexit or not for the United Kingdom (Great Britain: EU or Brexit?):

It is now the final stretch before the referendum, which will take place very soon. Every British citizen by now ought to have formed in his or her opinion as to the country’s best interest. Public opinion surveys are so far inconclusive: neither the “yes” nor the “no” seems to be clearly ahead. Everything now depends upon the communication strategy and capabilities of the Brexit supporters and their opponents.

Being of the opinion that GB should stay within the EU, I offer the following suggestions:
1. Through the television, radio and papers, the advantages of GB remaining in the EU should be explained thoroughly and in the most analytical way possible, so that what doubt remains may be dispelled.
2. Concrete and convincing examples of consequences of a Brexit on the life of the average citizen need to be presented.
3. The dangers underlying a Brexit should be underlined.

It is to be noted that by the Agreement that the Prime Minister concluded shortly ago, GB’s interests within the EU have been fully secured. I personally view this as a most compelling factor to vote against a Brexit.

The following issues need to be of concern for each British voter:
1. Is it a risk worth taking, the isolation of GB? The loss of a primary role on the international political scene?
2. Or that of the devaluation of Sterling?
3. Would GB weather the loss of EU investments on research, education and health?
4. Would GB be able to handle a skyrocketing unemployment rate?

If the answer to all these is “no”, then voting against the Brexit seems the only sensible option.

Erika Angelidi,
Conservatives Abroad Representative Greece,
Athens

The Ship of Fools by Monique Riccardi-Cubitt

Samedi, avril 16th, 2016

Towards the end of this hard-hitting political and historical review, BCiP member Monique Riccardi-Cubitt also accuses Europe in general of the Folly of creating a Union but refusing its Consequences.

THE SHIP OF FOOLS
TERRORIST ATTACKS, PARIS JANUARY 7th, NOVEMBER 13th 2015, BRUSSELS MARCH 22nd 2016.
HIERONYMUS BOSCH EXHIBITION, VISIONS OF GENIUS.
500th anniversairy, Noordbrabants Museum, s’-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, February 13th – May 8th 2016

320px-jheronimus_bosch_0111

The Ship of Fools c. 1500-5, Louvre, Paris

440px-wayfarer_outside_of_haywain_tripych

L’Homo viator, The Wayfarer, recto shutter
The Haywain c.1500-2, Prado, Madrid

No, Europe and France are not at war, Messrs Hollande, Valls and company. War is in Palestine where Israël, with American lobbies’ financial support, encourages American settlers to create apartheid on the Palestianians’ ancestral land in persecuting and eliminating the natives. War is in Syria where an organized genocide is taking place since 2011, with no attempt whatsoever from Europe and the international community to stop the systematic slaughter of the population. War is in Iraq with Daesh, thanks to the American attack in 2003, supported by Tony Blair, devastating and forever destabilizing the region. War is in Libya where Daesh rules also, thanks to the intervention of Nicolas Sarkozy, Blair’s clone. He wanted to hurry the disappearance of the benefactor who, although he had contributed to his election campaign in 2007 and was received in great pomp in Paris, had become an embarrassing witness to eliminate. War is in Turkey where the Kurds are being massacred without any reactions from Europe and NATO. This new ally is being handsomely rewarded to get rid of the cumbersome problem of the migrants.

Gone are the high-minded principles of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, or those of Human Rights. Hordes of refugees are driven to exile to flee the horrors of systematic political and ethnic cleansing, persecution of all kinds, squalor, famine and epidemics, bombs destroying their houses, their lives, their land, forever polluting it with noxious remains, poisonning earth, air and water. They are no longer welcomed as asylum seekers in dire circumstances, but as barbarians invading Europe to spread Islam.

Five hundred years ago Europe saw the migration of another Oriental people. The Gypsies, Bohemians or Tsiganes took their name from the various countries they had crossed during their migration from India. They looked strange and exotic in their vividly colourful costumes. They were heirs to ancient knowledge and wisdom, living in harmony with nature in their worship of the Mother Goddess, Kali the Dark One. The Sunnite Sultan Mahmoud of Ghazni had deported them during seventeen ramsacking campaigns from 1001 to 1026. Mahmoud had vowed to plunder India once a year, and to recite a Sura from the Koran after each destruction of a temple. In 1018 he sacked the cities of Mathurà and Kannauj and deported the latter’s population. His private secretary, Abu Naser al’Ubti, wrote in the Kitab-I-Yamini manuscrit : 53 000 men, women and children, of clear and dark complexions, by entire families. The Sultan used them to rebuild and embellish his mountain stronghold at Ghazni, in modern Afghanistan, where he had built the largest mosque of the time. Professional soldiers entered his service and fought for him until his death in 1030, following which they roamed the Near and Middle East, hiring themselves to the local Persian and Turkish tribes as non-free soldiers, or ghulams. Some of them settled in Asia Minor, others entered the service of the Turkish Seldjoukids, and freed Jerusalem from the Egyptian Fatimids, starting the First Crusade in 1095. The Gypsy warriors, also called Al-Ghulamis, in latin Angulani, are mentioned in the Gesta Francorum as polytheistic Sarrasins. After the Turkish armies’ defeat, they fought against the Crusaders on the Egyptians’ side. The spread of the Ottoman Empire in Asia Minor in the 14th century forced a massive Gypsy exodus towards Western Europe. At the end of the 14th century their presence is mentioned in the Byzantine Empire, in Crete, in Serbia, in Romania. At the beginning of the 15th century, they are found in Germany, Hungary, and Switzerland. In Italy the first Zingari arrived in 1392, following the Kosovo battle between the Ottomans and the Christian Serbs, who were defeated..

In Europe the Gypsies’ arrival aroused local curiosity wherever they went and settled. Their alluring exoticism in customs and costume, their freedom of movement, their divining gifts and magical powers, attracted all attention. They expressed their vital energy and joie-de-vivre through singing, music and above all in dancing. Dancing is for the Hindus the highest and noblest expression of divine worship, in emulation of Shiva Nataraja, Lord of the Dance, whose cult unites all in India. The Gypsies’ participation in the First Crusade had created a bond with the European nobility. They shared with them the love of horses, the experience of the Orient, freedom of thought and movement and chivalric ideals. The Gypsies enjoyed aristocratic military patronage as mercenaries, despite the numerous decrees from absolutist States, in time denying them entry. Yet Gypsy culture has strongly influenced and revitalized European artistic creativity, not only in dance and music, but also in poetry, literature and painting. At the end of the Middle Ages in Europe, the ethos of the Bohemian is assimilated to the Oriental traditions of the minstrels’ courtly love, the Fedeli d’amore’s exalted feminine figure in Dante and Petrarch’s poetry, and Neoplatonic theories, and elevated to an archetype. In Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych in the Prado, The Haywain, c.1501, the Bohemian women, with their caracteristic high conical hats stand for a way of life detached from wordly possessions. The roaming Bohemian becomes the symbol of mankind engaged in the spiritual quest for Truth and Knowledge, as indicated by the recto of the outside shutters entitled The Path of Life, the key to the triptych’s allegory. It is the Homo viator described in the two poems of the French 14th century Cistercian monk, Guillaume de Deguileville, prior of the Chaalis abbey : The Pilgrimage of Human Life and The Pilgrimage of the Soul, the latter being published in Flemish in1486.

The 22nd card of the Tarot - an initiatory game from the Middle East introduced to France via Italy - uses this image. It is the major trump card, its lucky number stands for the accomplished human being in time and space. This arcana is unnumbered as subjected to human freewill, it is the Fool, The Mat, an Arab word meaning death, or the self-denial inherent to spiritual illumination. The Fool wears minstrel’s clothes, he is a traveller on life’s path, walking to the fulfilment of his destiny. He always carries the pilgrim’s staff and is accompanied by a dog, symbol of loyalty and fidelity to his own chosen path. Thus he is shown on the Mat Tarot card and in Bosch’s depictions called erroneously The Beggar or The Peddler, a third version appears on a tondo in the Museum Boijmans - Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.

This Homo viator, Traveller or Holy Beggar, in the Sufi sense of the word, is seeking spiritual illumination. He will be granted it in begging his way on life’s path to people less evolved than himself, who will themselves rise in stature according to the secret alchemy of human interactive bonds. He is also represented in grisaille on the recto of another Bosch’s triptych, The Ship of Fools, in the Louvre. Initially it formed one panel witht the Allegory of Lust and Debauchery in the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, from which he has been cut off. It was the pendant to the Death of the Miser panel in the National Gallery of Art in Washington. The other three Deadly sins : Wrath, Hubristic Pride and Sloth, or spiritual, moral and physical apathy, would have appeared in the now missing central panel.

The Ship of Fools ‘s theme and iconography takes on the allegory of the Strasbourg humanist Sébastien Brandt ‘s famous satirical poem, published in German in Basle in 1494. The volume is illustrated with woodcuts attributed to the youngAlbrecht Dürer, Hieronymus Bosch’s ship is similar to the frontispiece. This sharp satire of human folly depicted through contemporary European Renaissance society enjoyed an immediate popular success. As a result is was first translated in latin, the lingua franca of the time, in 1497, then in all other European languages : in Flemish at s’-Hertogenbosch in 1500, in English by Robert Barclay in 1509. The trope, or allegory, describing a ship without pilot, taken over by maddened giddy passengers, without sense nor discrimination, thoughtless and irresponsible in their actions, leading the ship to be wrecked, was common at the time. It goes back to Plato’s Republic, chapter VI, a satire on the art of governing countries and men.

Five hundred years later human condition has remained the same. The same politico-religious conflicts inflame and destroy whole countries, scattering away populations on land and sea, creating the same hatred, the same misery, the same despair. Or should one say that human folly has worsened ? Nowadays no one ventures to publically denounce it any longer, yet it is not one country, one region, one continent, that are threatened, but the whole planet, in the blind suicidal race to the gratification of materialism and consumerism, power and greed’s selfish needs. The spirituality of the medieval and Renaissance humanists, poets and artists does not exist any longer, the cult of Mammon has replaced it. Like many notables of his time, Bosch belonged to a brotherhood, The Illustrious Brotherhood of Our Blessed Lady, dedicated to the Virgin. It was altogether an honour and a civic duty. The members were bound to support financially the charitable actions they also had to perform, according to the Seven Acts of Mercy, as stated in St. Matthew’s gospel : To feed the Hungry, to give drink to the Thirsty, to clothe the Naked, to shelter the Homeless, to visit the Sick, to visit the Imprisoned, to bury the Dead. Bosch’s works, like Brandt’s Ship of Fools, is satirical and didactic, aiming to make men conscious of their own folly in ignoring the results of their spinelessness and weaknesses, their excesses, their vices and dishonourable behaviour. To see in them solely an expression of the fantastic and surrealism, in the modern materialistic atheist point of view, is to betray the serious intent of the artists and poets’message and mission. This intellectual appraisal bears no relation to the exalted ethos of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance, their gaiety and sense of mockery. These images draw their power of evocation from an exhilarating vital force, an irrepressible joie-de-vivre, encompassing the whole spectrum of human experience, even in its darker aspects, as can be seen in the art of the cathedrals and of miniatures. Popular festive events and Carnivals, when the Fool became King and ruled for one day, were iniatory moments of the exorcism of human folly, echoing the didactic role of psychic release of the antique Greek theatre. Modern man’s sick soul, bogged down in matter and possessions, self-obsessed, dismantled by psychoanalysis, without altruism and joie-de-vivre, could draw from it all some salutary lessons.

Most particularly the ex-French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, who speaks of Christian values in interviews given on the Radio Notre Dame network or to the Catholic newspaper La Croix, after visiting the Pope with a delegation, his wife and his son at his heels. He wants to gain the French Catholics’s vote in his party’s primary elections to be able to stand for the Presidency, which he has so abused in the past, in the next 2017 elections. Among the Human Follies of Brandt’s Ship of Fools, in Robert Barclay’s translation, he would do well to meditate on Folio 111, Of the ende of worldly honour and power and of folys that trust therin. It shows donkeys tied up to a wheel, the Wheel of Fortune, which always ends up by turning. One teaches and rules by being an examplary model, but it seems that the so-called ruling elites care little about this duty of theirs. To be credible Sarkozy should have taken the opportunity of being in Rome for the Holy Week and go up the Scala Santa, not once, but several times, to expiate his numerous turpitudes and his government’s corruption, the destruction of Lybia and all the human misery he has altogether created. To show his real Christian values, he should have paid a visit to the refugees’camp on the island of Lampedusa. There he and his wife could have witnessed at first hand the distress of those who had to flee from the catastrophic results of Western political intervention in the Near and the Middle East, and the human suffering to which he has so greatly contributed by action and by omission. Having braved the seas, those refugees are parked in makeshift camps and survive on the locals’ charity. He could then have made a gesture towards those he is morally responsible in their misfortune. It would have been a salutary lesson in Christian charity to his spoilt, arms-loving son, and vain, superficial and frivolous wife. Only concerned with appearances, at this first visit to the Vatican, she must certainly have exclaimed in forced astonishment, as she did at the official dinner in St. George’s Hall at Windsor Castle : WOW !

A contemporary Ship of Fools would be thus declined :

For the French President François Hollande, aping François Mitterand’s stiff, rigid, starchy and falsely dignified image in his duplicity, and Nicolas Sarkozy’s superficial and ineffective hyperactivity: Of the Folly of imitating one’s Predecessors and blindly repeating their Folly.

On his dithering, contradictory, incoherent government’s policy: Of the Folly of ruling a Country without Vision and Direction

For his reactive armed policy towards Daesh, thus endowing it with an official status and exposing France to reprisals, and with the Prime Minister Manuel Valls, for an abusive policy towards French citizens’s individual freedom in the repression of terrorism: Of the Folly of reacting vith Violence in Dangerous Situations in order to show-off one’s Power, and to make the Consequences worse.

For his triumphalism after Salah Abdeslam’s arrest in Belgique, who had participated in the attack at the Palais des Sports in Novembre 2016, provoking as a result the Brussels attack : Of the Folly of Boasting too Soon and too Loudly of precarious Victories, and to Sink as result.

For failing to have the French Constitution reviewed to include the loss of nationality for terrorists : Of the Folly of submitting unfair botched-up Laws in Emergency without prior Deliberation and Support..

For the French Finance Minister, Michel Sapin, critizing Belgium after the March 22nd Brussels attack « when one sees a district in danger of communitarianism one must act, one must act with a city policy, with an integration policy, with the schools and with the language » : Of the Folly of seeing the Mote in one’s Neighbour’s eye and not the Beam in one’s Own, and to gloat about it.

For the Éducation Nationale in general and its Minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, in particular, for wasting her time in pointless debates on the circumflex accent instead of having civic morals taught in school, the discipline of the French language, the citizens’ identity heritage. The loss of syntax and text analysis, which forms the structure of the French language and of its discursive power has resulted in its continued deterioration. It has now been replaced by an incomprehensible Franglais gibberish : Of the Folly of speaking in Tongues and not the Tongue, of lowering Excellence and building up Mediocrity.
For the Armed Forces General and Police Director, Bertrand Soubelet, who says : « Listen to the young, they respect nothing any longer » : Of the Folly of the Elders to complain about their Juniors to whom they have given a Bad Example.

Thus for the Presidents Sarkozy and Hollande’s bad manners and discourteous behaviour, that is a lack of respect towards others. For the former, the invective Casse toi pov’c…, for failing to reciprocate hospitality according to protocole and invite the Queen to the French Embassy, while on a State visit to London, to send SMS in the Pope’s presence, and for both to sit down before the Pope has done so, and for Hollande, to be the only one not to bow his head in respect during the Rev. Richard Spencer’s prayer for the American soldiers lost during the Second World War, on June 6th 2014, at the American Cemetery at Colleville, and to sit down first while receiving the Queen at the Élysée Palace : Of the Folly of the Frog who wants to be bigger than the Ox. Appearances can be deceiving, when one is born in one’s heart Villein, Villein one remains.

For Nicolas Sarkozy and Bernard Kouchner, in the dismantling of the French Foreign Office : Of the Folly of entrusting unworthy Men with a precious National Heritage.

For Nicolas Sarkozy’s mea culpa in his book : La France pour la vie : Of the Folly of Tartuffe beating his breast while preparing further Tartuffe duperies.
For France on the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan terrorist attacks: Of the Folly of kindling Hatred through Blasphemy and Arrogance.
For the failure of the various French Secret Services to trace presumed terrorists : Of the Folly of a cumbersome and rigid Administration with no efficient Power of Analysis and Dialogue.

For Europe in general : Of the Folly of creating a Union and refusing its Consequences.

For the outrageous media overexposure of private and public life: Of the Folly of propulsing into Light what should remain in the Shadow, that is the most Secret, the most Sacred, the most Precious and should remain so.

Those passengers of The Ship of Fools, blind and uneducated, ignorant of themselves, of others, of their heritage, mad men without a vision of the future, sailing to their own demise, should do well to meditate the first Lauda, Praise, of the 13th century Umbrian franciscan friar, poet and mystic, Jacopone Da Todi: La Prima Lauda del Libro di questa Morte : Armate, omo, che se passa l’ora.

The First Praise of the Book of this Death : To Arms, man, the Hour has come !

Copyright MONIQUE RICCARDI-CUBITT. Paris, March 31st 2016
https://blogs.mediapart.fr/monique-riccardi-cubitt/blog

EU Referendum Round-Up, January 2016 - Matthew Goodwin

Vendredi, janvier 22nd, 2016

Here’s the latest round-Up of research on Britain’s EU Referendum by Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics, University of Kent & Visiting Fellow Chatham House.

Is Leave Gaining Ground?

The Boris Effect - overrated?

What of the Renegotiation?

The Scottish Question.

PM’s real demands for EU renegotiation vs Eurosceptic dreams?

Mercredi, novembre 11th, 2015

“Renegotiation is just a fig leaf to keep his party together. In reality, the referendum will be about our national identity”,
as published in The Times newspaper Cameron, the emperor with no EU clothes by Rachel Sylvester.

However, now that the Prime Minister has revealed his main demands for renegotiation, isn’t it the turn of the Eurosceptics to spell out in more practical detail their current dream of the UK’s future outside the European Union?

Why I’m pro-European…..by Robin Baker

Lundi, juillet 27th, 2015

……….and will vote Yes to the UK’s EU membership.

The most important reason why I am pro-Europe is peace. I lived, albeit as a very small child, through the Second World War and although I had no understanding of the war at that time, I could to some extent understand its horrors fairly early thereafter and well remember what we had to endure in the post-war recovery period. The move to a united Europe started with the Schuman declaration in May 1950 when the French Foreign Minister called for the creation of a Coal and Steel Community saying:

« Le rassemblement des nations européennes exige que l’opposition séculaire de la France et de l’Allemagne soit éliminée : l’action entreprise doit toucher au premier chef la France et l’Allemagne.

Dans ce but, le gouvernement français propose de porter immédiatement l’action sur un point limité mais décisif :

“Le gouvernement français propose de placer l’ensemble de la production franco- allemande de charbon et d’acier sous une Haute Autorité commune, dans une organisation ouverte à la participation des autres pays d’Europe.” La mise en commun des productions de charbon et d’acier assurera immédiatement l’établissement de bases communes de développement économique, première étape de la Fédération européenne, et changera le destin de ces régions longtemps vouées à la fabrication des armes de guerre dont elles ont été les plus constantes victimes.

La solidarité de production (de charbon et d’acier) qui sera ainsi nouée manifestera que toute guerre entre la France et l’Allemagne devient non seulement impensable, mais matériellement impossible. »

English Version:

“The coming together of the nations of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany. Any action taken must in the first place concern these two countries.

With this aim in view, the French Government proposes that action be taken immediately on one limited but decisive point.

It proposes that Franco-German production of coal and steel as a whole be placed under a common High Authority, within the framework of an organization open to the participation of the other countries of Europe. The pooling of coal and steel production should immediately provide for the setting up of common foundations for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the manufacture of munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims.

The solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.”

Clearly the key to his proposal was stopping any further conflict between France and Germany after the disastrous wars of 1870, 1914 and 1939. This was achieved while, at the same time, permitting the reindustrialisation of Germany which France’s history gave it so much reason to fear. And it was that which lead to the enormous improvement in the economic lot of the participants. Schuman was right, war did become impossible and this first European institution developed into the EU of today. Britain got it totally wrong, the Foreign Secretary of the time (Herbert Morrison) saying that we could not join the proposed Coal and Steel Community because “the Durham miners wouldn’t wear it.” Unfortunately when the Conservatives came to power, we still refused to join because of Anthony Eden’s belief that Britain’s future lay with its Empire. Of course today some people say that the avoidance of war is no longer relevant, war would remain impossible even were the EU to be dissolved. I would agree with them if they could tell me when they predicted that there would be war between the armies of Russia and Ukraine when the Soviet Union broke up. I see serious risks of instability in Europe that could arise were there to be no longer an EU: look at Hungary, look at the internal problems of Italy and Spain, look at the potential conflicts that could arise over the wave of migration from Africa. So I believe the Schuman argument remains valid and I want my country to be part of this.

My second reason is the impact of Europe on material prosperity. In the period up to the UK joining the EEC in 1973 our economic growth rate was significantly less than the EEC’s. My strong impression at the time was that this gap was reduced to an important extent thereafter. But the position is complicated to assess. North Sea oil production started in the UK sector in 1975 and that clearly had an impact, although there was also oil and gas production in other EEC countries. There are two articles about this I think worth quoting. One was in the Economist’s Free Exchange column that quoted a study of the impact on GDP of EU membership using a comparison of member and non-member states’ data. That reckoned that the UK GDP was over 20% higher than it would have been had we not been in the EU. The second is a research paper by the House of Commons Library that studied the economic benefits of EU membership. That points out that it is impossible to give a definitive figure because it involves estimating what would have happened had we not been a member. It does summarise a number of studies that have tried to answer this question and shows the range of different conclusions as follows:

uk-net-benefits-of-eu2

As can be seen, the estimates range from UKIP’s conclusion that membership costs us 5% of GDP to that of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills which estimates a gain of 6% of GDP p.a. The only one of these studies that I have read is the UKIP one, from which I concluded that their estimates were absolutely absurd; of course the study is readily available on-line.

But it does seem to me to be simple common sense that being a member of a major trading block with a population of over 500 million and GDP exceeding that of the USA, is of very substantial benefit. The EU takes 50% of UK exports (Nigel Farage claims that it is only 40% but that is not correct). Were we to leave, we might remain a member of the European Economic Area so still benefit from free trade with the EU but that would require us to accept all European trade regulations without any say in their development. Norway does that and it is called a fax democracy, because the EU Commission sends them a fax saying what new laws their Parliament must pass in relation to new rules, and they duly pass them. If we were outside that Economic Area, we would face the common external tariff on the half of our exports now going to other EU members. As an example, that would mean a 10% tariff on British motor vehicle exports to other EU countries, which amounted to £17 billion in 2013.

I would like to comment on some of the arguments currently used against EU membership. Nigel Farage is keen on saying that 75% of UK legislation is made in Europe. Daniel Hannan MEP has said that it is 84%. Again there is an excellent House of Commons Library research paper on that subject. That raises the interesting question as to how does one go about calculating a proportion of legislation, but finally concludes that:

“It is possible to estimate the proportion of national laws based on EU laws. In the UK, estimates suggest that over the twelve-year period from 1997 to 2009, 6.8% of primary legislation (Statutes) and 14.1% of secondary legislation (Statutory Instruments) had a role in implementing EU obligations, although the degree of involvement varied from passing reference to explicit implementation. Sectoral studies suggest that the agriculture forms the highest area of EU influence and defence the lowest. The British Government estimates that around 50% of UK legislation with a significant economic impact originates from EU legislation.”

Much of these laws related to the construction of the Single European Market, but little European law is now arising from that so the impact of Europe on UK legislation is falling.

The fact that agriculture is a high proportion is important, as a lot of EU legislation on agriculture relates to farming olives and tobacco, which does not impact on the UK.

Another much used argument is that of bureaucracy. Of course the EU is a bureaucracy; it is run by human beings. But while the number of civil servants employed by the UK Government is 479,000 (out of the 4.4 million total in the public sector costing 23% of total government expenditure) and in France, civil servants number 2 million; the Commission only has 30,000 employees, i.e. three quarters of the staff employed by the City of Paris. What is remarkable is that this is achieved despite the fact that the EU has to work in 23 official languages and provide for interpretation between them, which obviously increases staff numbers. But, despite that, it spends only about 6% of its budget on staff, administration and building maintenance.

Is often said that, when we joined the EEC in 1973, we were told that we were joining a free trade area. This, of course, is rubbish, we were already in a free trade area (EFTA) before we joined the EEC and we left it because it did not work. It did not work because it did not prevent non-tariff barriers to trade. The EEC, and now the EU, works because non-tariff barriers to trade are prohibited. They can only be prohibited by having a central authority that sets regulations to stop such barriers (a recent regulation struck down German internal market rules that effectively prevent British manufacturers selling chocolate in Germany). That this was made clear before we joined is shown by a few examples appended.

There are many positive reasons for EU membership, for example:

1. We are part of a group of countries with a common cultural and historical heritage co-operating together for the greater benefit of all.

2. Co-operation within the EU covers areas where action by individual nations within the limits of their national boundaries would be at best ineffective and at worst meaningless. An obvious example is environmental protection. Competition policy applied across the EU is another example giving wide benefits.

3. Because of the Common Agricultural Policy, we are part of an economic block that is self sufficient in food. That important to me as I remember the rationing in WWII and the post-war period.

4. As citizens of the European Union we entitled to move freely, to live and to be employed anywhere within the Union. Also we can hold and transfer funds freely within the Union.

5. There are positive impacts in other areas which most people, including the press, never consider. An example is higher education in the UK which benefits from the EU providing a common economic space within which talent can move freely. The EU enlarges our nation’s research base. Over 80% of the UK’s internationally co-authored papers are written with EU partners. The UK secures over €6 billion of EU research, development and innovation funding; the University of Kent calculates that every €1 of such funding increases the added value to industry by €13.

6. Importantly for me, citizens of the European Union living in a member state other than their own, are protected against discrimination against them by their own government in relation to social benefits. For example, British state pensioners living outside the EU have their pensions frozen, despite having paid the same contribution as those living in the UK whose pensions are increased to allow for inflation. Pensions of Britons resident in the EU cannot be frozen.

Robin Baker
BCiP member

Apendix

What we were told about joining the EEC

Edward Heath

House of Commons Debate in August 1966.

The Community is so much more than a market … the phrase “Common Market” underestimates and undervalues the Community, and, for this reason, tends to mislead those who have to deal with it.’…. Those who say that the British people must realise what is involved in this are absolutely right. There is a pooling of sovereignty. Member countries of the Community have deliberately undertaken to achieve their objectives, and, because they believe that the objectives are worth that degree of surrender of sovereignty, they have done it quite deliber¬ately … When we surrender some sovereignty, we shall have a share in the sovereignty of the Community as a whole, and of other members of it. It is not just, as is sometimes thought, an abandonment of sovereignty to other countries; it is a sharing of other people’s sovereignty as well as a pooling of our own.

9th May 1967, “There can be no doubt that the logical conclusion in a common market is to move over de facto or de jure to a common currency.

As Prime Minster 10 June 1971: “We have said that as members of the enlarged Community we would play our full part in the progress towards economic and monetary union.”

Also in June 1971 the Foreign Secretary (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) said; “On two counts I am in full agreement with the opponents of our entry into Europe. The first is that our application is a step of the outmost political significance, and the second is that there is a danger of its political importance being overlooked in the public debate on the economic issues.”

Third reading debate on EEC entry 13th July, 1972, Sir Geoffrey Howe (Attorney-General):

“The concept of a common system of Community law, uniformly expressed, operating and enforced throughout the Community, is integral to the community system. If this country became a Member of the European Communities it would be accepting Community Law….The constitutional innovation would lie in the acceptance in advance as part of the law of the United Kingdom of provisions to be made in the future by instruments issued by Community institutions. … It is open to right hon. and hon. Members opposite to declare that they have changed their minds and that the concept of a uniform system of Community law is no longer acceptable to them. However, it is simply not open to them to suggest that this concept is an optional extra to the basic treaties which they once accepted.”

And, of course, the opponents of EEC entry also made the position clear, e.g. Peter Shore in the same debate: “The area over which under the treaties European institutions will be able to make our future law is largely undefined, and is certain to grow. It already includes not only a general capacity to make laws but now a substantial capacity to raise taxes. Indeed, for the first time since the Stuarts we are to be taxed without the consent of Parliament. What is so deeply unacceptable is that we have no right to repeal, to change, to amend the laws to which we are about to become subject—no right, that is, unless we breach the treaty itself. That is the dilemma with which we are faced. So what it comes to is this: the Bill will create, from the moment it takes effect, a large “no-go” area for British democracy, an area in which Community jurisdiction will apply and Community laws will have to be obeyed. That is the truth of the matter.”