Archive for the ‘Debate Federal Europe’ Category

EU Myths

vendredi, janvier 9th, 2015

Here’s a provocative article from Daniel Hannan MEP questioning nine myths about the EU, including securing peace in Europe, World’s largest free trade market, boosts competition, underpins democracy, force for good, necessary for countries to work together, increases prosperity, provides collective clout and high- water mark of federalism.

No Effective Debate on Europe in Parliament – by Gregor Dallas

dimanche, juillet 14th, 2013

Last week, 5 July, I watched on BBC Parliament TV the second reading in the House of Commons of James Wharton?s private bill on the European referendum. James Wharton is the youngest Member of Parliament and he argues that he is ?speaking for millions of people? who want a vote on British membership of the European Union that is ?long overdue?. He has the support of the Prime Minister, David Cameron, but this cannot be a government bill because the Liberal Democrat half of the Coalition is dead set against it.
When I switched on the channel I discovered a Chamber that was very empty. Over half of the House was apparently boycotting the proceedings ? surely the most significant fact of the debate. But I must admit that the debate was lively and the speakers were wonderfully articulate, which is one of the pleasures of our little parliamentary house. They were, like their leader, mostly young; they are the Eurosceptics brought in on the wake of the Great Expense Scandal Purge of 2009. If ever proof is demanded of the political motive behind that parliamentary upheaval, it is in the opinions expressed by the members here present: the purpose of the purge was to clear the waters of the flotsam caused by all those pro-Europeans floating about. Since the takeover of Conservative Party by the Eurosceptics after John Major fell from power, those pro-Europeans have been a source of considerable annoyance to the party. The purge was largely successful. We now have in Parliament a party that is young and Eurosceptic.
They demand a referendum because they want Britain out of Europe. In their view Britain never wanted anything other than a free trade area ? an extension not of the EU but of EFTA, that essentially British institution which you have probably forgotten about; but, yes, this British alternative to the Common Market created in 1960 still exists on the frontiers of the current EU, with all four of its members, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The EU is still growing, despite its economic problems. The lesson of the EFTA debacle was surely that you can?t have a free-trade zone of separate nations without a good dose of politics.
Fifty years later a young generation of Brits ? the supporters of this private bill ? still hanker after this kind of ?free-trade area?. They are in revolt against an EU that aims at an ?ever closer union?, which was in the preamble of the Treaty of Rome of 1957 that created the Common Market. It was still there at the time of Britain?s referendum of 1975. Did the British people misunderstand it? That may be the problem with referendums. At any rate, that hated phrase ?ever closer union? was quoted several times in the debate last week. These young members do not want to be ever closer to Europe. They don?t want the flag, the anthem, the parliament, the commission, the ?politics? of the EU. Just free trade. But then they don?t want the Euro either. In fact they don?t really want the ?economics? of the EU; they are convinced ? if you listened to their speeches last week ? of British economic superiority.
But the pound is once more in decline, a trend that it has followed since 1947, Britain is still in recession and European productivity has continually outperformed Britain?s for all but the last two years. Furthermore, the British state is facing what could be two imminent simultaneous catastrophes, not only the exit from the European Union but also the break-up of the United Kingdom. Will it only be a rump UK that votes to pull out of the Union?
The tendency not only in Europe but in the world as a whole is towards a greater union of peoples, what we call ?globalization?. It is likely that South East Asia and Latin America will, in time, move towards greater union. There is no doubt that the EU is setting a trend here, and that includes her currency union which, despite the current troubles, is holding up pretty well ¬? there is no more talk, for example, of the Greek disease spreading elsewhere. That currency union is going to hold, notwithstanding British jibes at a currency system that go back to the 1970s. Eurosceptics have proven to be, over the last half century, very poor prophets.
Central to last week?s Eurosceptic arguments is the issue of sovereignty. Britain, say these MPs, must ?claw back? legislation that is now going through Brussels rather than through Parliament. Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, who wasn?t there because UKIP has no MPs in Parliament, claims 70 per cent of Britain?s legislation is now made in Europe. In the last few days he has upped that figure to 75 per cent.
Sovereignty should be the concern of all of us. Now in France sovereignty, since the time of the Revolution, ?resides in the nation? (according to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen). This is why the country has periodically held national referendums. These referendums have a terrible history. Under the two Napoleons the referendums were used to enfeeble parliamentary regimes. They are essentially a Bonapartist tool. That is why the distinguished political historian, René Rémond, considered the Gaullists to be part of the French Bonapartist tradition. The Third and Fourth Republics were parliamentary regimes and they never had referendums. The Fifth Republic is a presidential regime with something of a Bonapartist allure to it. Charles de Gaulle, its inventor, deliberately included the national referendum in its constitution. Ironically, de Gaulle was destroyed by the referendum; one could even say it killed him. Since the disappearance of Mitterrand the Fifth Republic has increasingly taken on the airs of a parliamentary regime owing to the appearance of ?cohabitation? where the President belongs to one political family whilst the Prime Minister and Government belongs to another. Under de Gaulle this was not supposed to happen. But now it is almost a regular feature. Parliamentary regimes don?t live well under referendums, so in France one can expect them to be gradually abandoned. This is especially true since the catastrophic 2005 referendum under Jacques Chirac when the extreme left combined with the extreme right to get a ?No? vote on the European constitution. Governments and Parliaments do not have to accept the verdict of a popular referendum. The ?No? vote was overturned by the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007. So here the European political factor was used by Nicholas Sarkozy to keep the European project on track. The Eurosceptics in Britain of course screamed foul. But if Lisbon had not have been agreed, there would have been chaos, which could only have delighted the nationalists. The 2005 referendum, which had the same negative result in the Netherlands, but not in Spain, contains some important lessons for those approaching a referendum in Britain. Yes, it is a democracy of sorts, a Bonapartist democracy which enfeebles parliamentary regimes.
Germany has a parliamentary regime. Because of her Nazi past, when the country was overrun by nationalist forces, referendums are forbidden by the country?s wise constitution.
Britain is said to have an unwritten constitution although, as a matter of fact, if one were to staple together Westminster?s statutory laws, dating from the Bill of Rights of 1688 and through the Acts of Union, one would effectively have Britain?s written constitution. A number of constitutional textbooks have done just that.
Nowhere in this ?written constitution? is any mention made to national referendums. Local referendums have occurred, such as on the opening hours of pubs. The only national British referendum to occur in history was Harold Wilson?s referendum of 1975, called because the Labour Party could not make up its mind about Europe. Now it is the Conservative Party which is divided.
Britain has a parliamentary regime. Since Bagehot and Dicey British constitutionalists have emphasized that sovereignty lies not in the nation, like in revolutionary France, but in Parliament. A distinct distrust has traditionally been felt by the British for referendums, expressed sscinctly in Clement Atlee?s line, since picked up by Margaret Thatcher, that ?referendums are the tool of dictators and demagogues.? Referendums weaken the sovereignty of Parliament.
Margaret Thatcher?s ghost haunted the Chamber last week. In particular, Preti Patel for Witham cited her as a model for Eurosceptics to follow. Now Patel is somebody to watch; she has great poise and speaks with considerable gusto and conviction ? rather like Margaret Thatcher. She could well become a major leader. The trouble is, she is wrong. She began politics campaigning for Jimmy Goldsmith?s Referendum Party ? and this passion for referendums could throw her of the rails. Her father, a Ugandan Asian immigrant, stood last April ? in a very muddled campaign ? for UKIP in a Hertfordshire by-election. Unfortunately, Thatcher is the model behind this; it cannot be denied. Margaret Thatcher, though she signed the Single Act of 1986, the most radical of all European treaties, did not have a good legacy on Europe. When UKIP claims to be the only true Thatcherite party in Britain they are, on the European issue, telling the sorry truth. On Europe, Thatcher in the end relied on private consultation (that of Professor Alan Walters). She went behind Parliament?s back, and that is why she had to go.
The new breed of English nationalist, with Thatcherism as its source, preaches ?direct democracy? based on referendums. They are not scrupulous parliamentarians. That is, they are not fully convinced that Parliament is sovereign. They would probably say the nation is sovereign, like French revolutionaries. They have a distinct distrust of parliamentarians, as they showed during the Expense Scandal. This distrust was evident in last week?s speeches ¬? as in the repeated phrase, ?of course, Parliament may well overthrow this democratic bill.? And they will not stop with this one referendum, if they get it. If they had their way they would destroy the Euro and the European Union. They would ally, as they already have, with other nationalist, extra-parliamentary parties in Europe. Their policies are identical to Marine Le Pen?s Front National.
Both the FN and the British Eurosceptics believe in ?direct democracy? as opposed to parliamentary democracy. Eurosceptics, like all European nationalist parties, are against most international institutions. It has been pointed out that Britain, if she were to quit the European Union, would in all likelihood lose her permanent seat in the Security Council of the United Nations. These English nationalists couldn?t give a hoot: they don?t like the United Nations.
It is English nationalism that has brought Scotland to the brink of independence. As the Conservative Party lurched towards English nationalism, so support for the Party dwindled in Scotland. Significantly, the Scottish Conservative Party merged in 1960 with the Unionist Party which stood for a united UK ? now it only has one MP in Westminster! Scottish Conservatives, once the strength of Scotland, have been replaced by Scot Nats. So there is a direct correlation between the rise of Euroscepticism in England, the demise of the Scottish Conservative Party and the rise of the independence movement in Scotland. So it should be no surprise that Scottish independence and the threatened British exit from the European Union are simultaneous. They are different aspects of the same nationalist phenomenon. The nuclear question we are now facing is: would an independent Scotland, like independent Ireland, adopt the Euro. If Scotland seeks genuine financial independence from England the answer is an inescapable ?Yes?.
I think this is a catastrophic scenario. Scottish independence could come next year, in 2014. Then a rump Britain could exit from the EU. That combination would cause havoc with our parliamentary system, which has done us so well for 500 years. Contrary to what the Eurosceptics argue, the EU strengthens British sovereignty and the union of the UK because it strengthens the country. Go down the road of UK breakup and rump British exit and you face fragmentation, poverty and chaos. That is not what we want.
Nationalism works like a steamroller: it flattens all before it; it flattens out all wrinkle crevices and variants and leaves us with the flat plain of the orthodox national ideology. That has happened in the past in Germany, in Italy and, indeed, large swathes of Europe where the nationalist enthusiasms spread their poison. That is why the European Union was created. It is the danger that all Europe still faces. Its promise is one that always ends up in violence (witness the Balkans). It is the European Union which prevents it and offers continental wide stablility.
Nationalism works against Parliaments, it is extra-parliamentary and it creates terrible silences; it stifles debate. And I am afraid that is just what we were witnessing last week in Parliament, but with more than half of Parliament absent.
About thirty or forty years ago I remember writing an article arguing that the traditional political divide in Britain between left and right was gradually giving way to a divide between Nationalists and Europeans, Little Englanders and Federalists. The Guardian, I think that was the paper, did not publish it. But I still think that this is what is happening. At the time ? I was still a student ¬? I was rather pleased at the prospect. Today it worries me. I see it as a sign of parliamentary decline, and that should please no one.
Consider what really happened last week. The debate took place and then the division was taken and the members retired to the lobbies. On television all you could see was an empty House for about fifteen minutes. Finally the two tellers came before the Speaker and announced the vote: 304 votes to zero. So a unanimous vote for the referendum! But there are 650 seats in Parliament. So this unanimous vote was made up of well under half of Parliament because the majority boycotted the session.
One half of the House was not talking to the other half. Debate is what parliamentary democracy is all about. On the question of the European referendum there has been no decent parliamentary debate. Instead, there is silence. Historically, we know that that is what nationalism does to the political body: it creates a flaccid inertness.
In the past decade or so I thought this was a Conservative Party disease. Conservatives have been silent on Europe because it divides the party. European Conservatives have been so silent and thus ineffective because of a fear of dividing the party. That concern to maintain silence has even crossed frontiers. In 2006 Nicholas Sarkozy was invited to the Conservative Party Conference ?provided,? stipulated David Cameron, ?he did not speak about Europe?; Sarkozy didn?t come.
But now one sees that this disease of silence has spread across the parties. It could become a national disease ¬? as occurred in Germany and in Italy in the interwar years. The pro-Europeans chose boycott rather than debate, that is, they chose silence. The European issue and the referendum has paralysed Parliament in the same way that the European Conservatives were paralysed by the emergence of nationalist Eurosceptics.
Is it possible that the United Kingdom will break up and what is left of the UK will leave the EU ¬? under a pall of parliamentary silence? The nationalist Eurosceptic arguments for a pure free trade area, British economic superiority, the need to ?claw back? legislation to protect national sovereignty and their apparent misunderstanding of Britain?s constitution never receive an answer or a retort in Parliament. Never a word of opposition is spoken. Debate has been silenced. The prospect is sinister.

Le Vieil Estrée
12 July 2013

2,604 words

« 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.

EU Referendum: A Lesson from History.

samedi, janvier 19th, 2013

The article reviewing two books on Britain and Europe in The Economist January 19th 2013, p. 74, Forty years on, provides a lesson from history for Eurosceptics as well as Prime Minister David Cameron, as he wrestles with the issue of a referendum on continuing British membership of the European Union (EU).
Eurosceptics should be aware that forty years ago Britain joined what was then the European Economic Community (EEC), because the other options of a free-trade area, the Commonwealth, links to the US or going it alone, were all judged even less attractive. Gaining global influence through EEC membership was also considered to outweigh the rather weak even negative economic case for entry.
In the successful 1975 EU referendum voters were two-to-one in favour of continued membership, public opinion having rapidly swung towards a yes vote following renegotiation of the terms of membership by Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. The parallel case today for Mr Cameron and his team cannot be considered within the same historical context. In the 1970s there was more European goodwill towards Britain partly as a result of the rather undiplomatic actions of French President Charles de Gaulle in twice vetoing British membership applications. The terms of entry were also generally recognised as being too heavily weighted against the British on budget, agriculture, fisheries etc. Significantly at the time, most of the press and politicians campaigned for a yes vote.
The review article concludes by suggesting that Mr Cameron would be well-advised to read both books and to ponder their lessons:
? Britain?s Quest for a Role: A Diplomatic Memoir from Europe to the UN. By David Hannay. I.B. Tauris.
? The Official History of Britain and the European Community, 1963-1975. By Stephan Wall. Routledge.
Is EU membership crucial to Britain?s (perhaps continuing) search for a post-imperial role, as seen by Lord Hannay in his above book? A long-serving British diplomat he argues from first-hand experience that British influence in Washington DC, and in the wider world, now flows through Brussels, and it would be weakened if the country ended up outside the EU. This view is echoed by the Americans who have recently made it clear that they would prefer an outwards-looking Britain within the EU, rather than an inwards-looking Britain outside the EU.

BCiP Debate: For or Against a Federal Europe?

jeudi, mars 15th, 2012

Debate motion: That the European Union should become a fully-fledged federal state.
The debate on 13th March, 2012 within a sub-group of the British Conservatives in Paris (BCiP), seemed to raise more questions than answers on what would actually constitute a federal Europe as far as British participation was concerned. The current model for the European Union (EU) projects itself weakly on the international stage, with limited perception or appreciation of its role and how it operates on the part of the British public in particular. However, is there really a choice for Britain between a federal EU and the US, with the latter indicated as perhaps preferring Britain in the EU rather than out? Is there a common enough culture between different EU member states to compare with other federations such as the US and Germany after 1871? Can the British island mentality, together with a legacy of empire building outside Europe and an increasingly multi-cultural society, allow the UK to remain the European exception? Would a federal Europe still allow opt-outs and e.g. non-membership of a common currency, the Euro-zone already forced further into fiscal consolidation to protect its weaker members?
Proposing the motion for a federal Europe, PT considered this as something big to be addressed for a country such as Britain which, having acted in the past as a beacon to the world, has the benefit of choices in its future path. One such choice is not to rule out Europe and Britain should support the rest of Europe in plans for federation. Despite some 2000 years of historical links with the European continent, there is a general lack of understanding of the role and inner workings of the EU within Britain and a reciprocal distrust of British intentions on the Continent e.g. working against European integration. That said, the Germans welcome the British as balancing French statism, while the smaller states view Britain as off-setting German predominance. Certainly, although fundamentally financially strong, the EU is perceived as politically weak and carries little weight on the international stage e.g. in Middle East negotiations. There is limited understanding of the role and functioning of the European Commission. Again, there is too much centralisation and the various European institutions in general are weak. A federal Europe including the UK would help to make the EU a stronger force in the World. Is this Utopia? Think about German reunification, the fall of the Soviet Union and the Arab spring and then do not discount a federal Europe.
Leading against the motion for a federal Europe, JS was in favor of the EU, but not a federal vision thereof. Although the definition of a federal Europe was not clear, he suggested that it ought to include the following:
1. A common budget/taxation system (Currently not working out)
2. Common currency (Essentially the Euro is the Deutschmark at root).
3. Majority decision making with no opt-outs (i.e. no French veto on the Common Agricultural Policy which consumes one third of the total EU budget; no protection for British financial services)
4. Expanded federal bureaucracy
5. Borderless Schengen zone for all federal states (no special UK controls on immigration)
6. Common defence/foreign policy (despite unlikely European defence force, special UK/US and Germany/China/Russia links)
Given these ingredients, if you are for the EU you should vote against this motion; if you are against the EU, you should also vote against this motion.
Seconding the motion for a federal Europe, SD said the UK was becoming increasingly irrelevant and out of touch in the world of today. To again exert British influence the only way forward is through Europe. The world is already divided between the US and rising major powers such as China, followed by Brazil, India etc. The credit crunch has put Europe in crisis. The Conservatives traditionally favour pragmatism over principle. There is a lack of influence on the international stage of individual European countries. The only one forward for them is via a federal Europe. A federal Europe does not mean an homogeneous Europe. We are talking about pragmatism and progression, not dependence or independence. Rather than waiting, a federal Europe offers the opportunity to catch up on the international stage.
MD, seconding against the motion, thought further integration at this point more problematic than beneficial:
1. The financial crisis had exposed the weaker peripheral member states compared with the stronger core, with subsidies to the periphery continuing while overall debt still increased.
2. On the concept of environmental determinism and in light of the financial crisis, it is useful to consider that the industrial development and spread of wealth in the EU is as it is for a reason, and perhaps should be accepted as such. By contrast, an even more integrated EU may continue to produce a geographical core subsidising the periphery.
3. It would take a cultural revolution for Britain to participate fully in a more integrated federal Europe, and Britain?s further participation would be needed.
Fundamentally, therefore, a federal Europe including the UK is unrealistic at this moment in time.
Comments which were then invited from the floor included those of:
RB ? We share the fact that we are all parliamentary democracies in the EU. However, the dominant political leaning (Left or Right) of the European Parliament has seemingly tracked the political persuasion of the then European Commission President. So yes, a federal Europe is necessary to address this democratic deficit. The environment also needs more central control as does immigration via the Schengen Agreement , or a business person will face the prospect of one Schengen zone visa and still another visa for the UK. We Europeans have more in common than our differences and need a cultural revolution in favour of federation.
PDH ? Britain and Continental Europe have for long enriched each other culturally and economically. To cite just one example, Britain was strongly influenced by the Florentine Renaissance and banking system. The EU has resulted in major benefits in trade in goods and services as well as standardisation across a huge range of activities. Peace in Europe is often claimed as an EU achievement but I would rather attribute it to Nato.
For fear of destroying past achievements, we should not now try to go too far and too fast and political federation would be premature, to say the least. The European ship is anyway grounded on the rocks of fiscal, monetary and political problems. We should certainly not listen to EU officials telling us to wait in our cabins while they decide what’s good for us. Further rapid integration could provoke disastrous reactions. Consider what happened to Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia and what is happening to Belgium. Britain, too, has learned from its unfortunate attempt at unity with Ireland. « Marry at haste and repent at leisure. » De Gaulle’s « Europe des Patries » is the ideal model. The pragmatic Conservative policies on Europe strike the right balance. The UK should have no complexes about its European credentials and is almost second to none in actually implementing what is agreed in Brussels.
The « Europe des Patries » was certainly invented by de Gaulle. I have found no evidence that the Telegraph played any role in developing the concept (in response to related GD comment below).
GD ? JS spoke in defence of the financial sector but this sector was responsible for the financial crisis. Application of a Tobin tax in the EU would be ok if the US takes this on as well, and it needs to do so due to its enormous debt. If the financial sector does not pay to resolve the debt, taxing the general public more heavily will only depress the economies further. On a matter of information, it was the Daily Telegraph (and not de Gaulle) which came up with the slogan Europe des patries! I would ask MD if Britain is core or peripheral to the European economy ?
PL ? We need to be in the EU in order to change it.
MlD ? The US has grown in a federal way but European countries have grown in a different way. Britain is not naturally involved in Europe and has a choice of being involved or not. If the other EU member states want a federal Europe they can go it alone without Britain.
JM ? It is difficult to see how a federal Europe can work without a common fiscal policy given the Greek situation.
JK ? We will continue to lick the boots of the US unless we go with the EU:
1. We paid a high price for US financial assistance after the War compared with Germany.
2. Germany was able to afford to rebuild its industry.
MlD ? We need to get away from this special relationship idea that while the US is always there to save us, it also treats us shabbily.
GD ? The special relationship (and le grand large) was invented by Winston Churchill to ally with the Americans, while at heart he remained a true European.
MD ? I have noted hostility to the British in France over the years, and have lost hope in a European ideal to some degree. It is unrealistic for Britain to try and integrate further in the EU at this stage.
PL ? The splendid isolation idea is not good.
PDH ? It is a pity the debate pitched the UK against (continental) Europe. There are also strong opinions against a federal Europe in Germany and Italy.
Summing up for the opposition to the motion for a federal Europe, JS had heard passion and experience expressed in favour of Europe but there would be a need to be able to opt-out to survive in a federal Europe. He was not arguing for a US-type relationship but for closer economic ties with Europe. A multi-speed Europe is the only answer with no sharing all at once. A common culture must be allowed to grow organically; it is no way to create harmony by tying together the tails of snarling dogs!
PT concluding for a federal Europe, recalled that the Lisbon Treaty already allowed for a multi-speed Europe, EMU and the Schengen Agreement. Explaining how a federal Europe could operate, he suggested that:
1. There would be an elected central executive, headed up by the chief of the European Commission, responsible to the European Parliament.
2. A second chamber would represent the national member states, similar to the current European Council.
3. Common policies would include the armed forces and health.
4. Member states would not be as neutered as those within the American model (the US is nothing like the EU).
There is an interesting parallel with the 1871 uniting of the various Germanic states, which already shared a common culture. Similarly other European states together with the UK could find a common culture to share within a federal Europe.
At the end of the debate a show of hands was called for and the motion for a federal Europe was defeated by 6 votes for and 9 votes against.