Archive for the ‘The Wrong Battle’ Category

Lord Ashcroft Polls on Milliband’s EU Referendum Non-Pledge

vendredi, mars 21st, 2014

Lord Ashcroft thinks (see link to his article below) that the Conservative party should not be misled by Labour leader Ed. Milliband’s recent non-pledge on an EU referendum, when his polling has found that:

« Tory voters are twice as likely as Labour voters, and UKIP voters three times as likely, to say that defending Britain?s interests in Europe is one of the most important issues facing the country. »

« By putting the referendum pledge at the front and centre of its 2015 campaign the Conservative Party would not only be missing the chance to talk about the things most voters care about more, like the economy, jobs and public services. It would also, as far as these voters are concerned, be proving again the out-of-touchness (outness of touch?) of which it has for so long been accused. That is the trap Ed Miliband has set for the Tories. Surely they won?t be so daft as to fall into it? »

Merkel in London ? A Lesson in Eurorealism

lundi, mars 17th, 2014

This challenging article by Thomas Fillis of European Public Affairs concludes, following the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to London, that the gap between what Tory backbenchers are demanding, and what David Cameron can deliver in Europe is still unbridgeable.

« Merkel?s visit has reminded us that Eurorealism is how to engage with Brussels. »

That is, the only way to change the European Union is from within.

What do the members and friends of British Conservatives in Paris think?

Merkel « to lobby for UK membership » of EU.

vendredi, mai 17th, 2013

David Cameron is facing renewed pressure over Europe after Angela Merkel has said she would lobby for « our British friends » to remain in the EU.

The head of the CBI John Cridland has also warned that the « inward-looking » tussle over Europe looks like a « diversion » from promoting growth and competitiveness.

Voters also appear unimpressed, with a poll showing 64% think Mr Cameron is motivated more by tactics than principle when it comes to Europe.

But leading eurosceptic Peter Bone is pleased with the new focus, telling The House magazine it has put Parliament at « the centre of the political debate ».

Following the strong showing of UKIP with some 25% of the vote in the recent local council elections, this could just be viewed as the eurosceptic wing naturally pressuring Conservative party strategists to now try and « Out-UKIP UKIP ». However, this can lead the party into the dangerous and emotive waters of Immigration, not necessarily a vote winner in swing seats at a general election and when the Economy, Employment and Healthcare are considered much more important issues.

Mr Cameron also has to respond to the perception of voters that he is motivated more by tactics than principle when it comes to EU membership. Noting that Mrs Thatcher in her prime was not necessarily liked but respected for her conviction in getting things done, the prime minister now has the opportunity to show more conviction & leadership on Europe given the powerful and influential helping hand that Chancellor Merkel has extended to him.

As open trading nations, there is a natural alignment of interests between Britain and Germany in taking maximum benefit from « deepening » the current single market in Europe and removing structural obstacles to competitiveness and growth. The opportunity is there for the Uk to benefit from a strong partnership with Germany, given the current imbalance in economic power and influence within the traditional Franco-German axis.

YouGov Poll Preferences: Labour Majority 30% Conservative Majority 29%

vendredi, mars 1st, 2013

Despite Labour currently holding a leading 40% or more share of popular opinion in the polls, why is it that just 30% of those most recently sampled by YouGov in their preferred election outcome tracker, would prefer a Labour majority, only 1% ahead of the Conservatives at 29%?
Is this just a further example of a similar problem with an EU referendum, that the outcome can be heavily influenced by the actual question posed and intervening events? The current experience with coalition government results in majorities for Labour-Liberal Democrat or Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalitions, being less than half as popular with the public.

FT: Voters Normally Say Yes to Europe!

lundi, février 18th, 2013

Here’s an interesting historical list of 37 EU referenda taken from the Financial Times Westminster Blog, with the headline that Voters normally say yes to Europe, as Britain trundles towards a possible referendum on EU membership.

1. France 1972 (Enlargement) 68.3% YES
2. Ireland 1972 ? EEC Membership 83.1% YES
3. Norway 1972 EEC Membership 53% NO
4. United Kingdom 1975 (Renegotiation) 67% YES
5. Denmark 1986 (Single Act) 56% YES
6. Ireland 1987 (Single Act) 69% YES
7. Ireland 1992 (Maastricht) 69% YES
8. Denmark 1992 (Maastricht) 51% NO
9. France 1992 (Single Act) 51% YES
10. Denmark 1993 (Maastricht) 56% YES
11. Austria 1994 (Membership) 66% YES
12. Finland 1994 (Membership) 59% YES
13. Sweden 1994 Membership): 53% YES
14. Norway 1994 (Membership) 52% NO
15. Ireland 1998 (Amsterdam Treaty) 56% YES
16. Denmark 1998 (Amsterdam Treaty) 55% YES
17. Denmark 2000 (Euro) 56% NO
18. Ireland 2001 (Nice Treaty) 53% NO
19. Ireland 2002 (Nice Treaty) 62% YES
20. Sweden 2003 (Euro) 53% NO
21. Slovakia 2003 94 % YES
22. Malta 2004 (Membership) 53% YES
23. Slovenia 2004 (Membership) 89% YES
24. Hungary 2004 (Membership) 84% YES
25. Lithuania 2004 (Membership) 89% YES
26. Poland 2004 (Membership) 77%YES
27. Czech Republic 2004 (Membership) 77% YES
28. Estonia 2004 (Membership) 64% YES
29. Latvia 2004 (Membership) 67% YES
30. Spain 2005 (European Constitution) 7% YES
31. France 2005 (European Constitution) 54% NO
32. Netherlands 2005 (European Constitution) 61% NO
33. Luxembourg 2005 (European Constitution) 56% YES
34. Ireland 2009 (Lisbon Treaty) 53% NO
35. Ireland (Revised Lisbon treaty) 67% YES
36. Ireland 2012 (EU Fiscal Compact) 60% YES
37. Croatia 2012 (Membership) 67% YES

According to the FT, this past experience would suggest that PM David Cameron could get away with his gamble that the British public would vote to remain in the EU if he can renegotiate some powers away from Brussels and back to the UK.
Is this sufficient evidence of his good judgment or is he taking too much of a gamble eg because UKIP and/or elements within his own party have left him with no choice?

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.

A Referendum on Britain remaining in the European Union – by Michael Webster

vendredi, janvier 11th, 2013

I consider the idea of Britain holding a popular referendum on whether to remain in the European Union an unwise and even disconcerting one. This is a matter of primordial importance , probably the most vital one facing the country for decades to come and to have it decided by a referendum has no justification in my mind.

I will cite three reasons for this.

First of all, referenda are highly vulnerable to demagoguery, resulting in emotions and passions taking the place of serious reflection. In Britain the most likely culprits will be our popular press. I find it only too easy to imagine their making hay of some lapse of judgement or a minor scandal in the Brussels Commission and thus influencing perhaps some vital number of votes.

Secondly, how is the question of the phrasing of the question to be put to the vote to be decided and by whom. This could, of course, be simply put. ?Do you want Britain to remain in or to quit the Union?? And on these dozen simple words would depend one of the most fateful decisions to be made by this country. Prime Minister Cameron has just published an article pointing out that there is a third choice: to negotiate a compromise position on the periphery of the Union. The question could thus be further embellished but every additional word would be greatly controversial in its significance.

Lastly and most importantly, this is a travesty of the principle of representative government and of the accepted conventions by which our country has historically been governed. Representative government means that we elect, at least theoretically, the most competent people to represent us in Parliament.

There the issues can be the subject of mature debate by members with more intimate knowledge and experience, with Commissions able to consult authorities on the question. The issues will then be re-considered by the House of Lords, whose members are usually people of wide experience and competence.

This is the correct procedure for this vital matter and the idea of submitting it, with all its profound political and economic implications, to a popular referendum fills me with great concern and even trepidation.

Michael Webster

The Wrong Battle by Michael Webster

jeudi, décembre 27th, 2012

Leading figures in the British community in France and in our own British Conservatives in Paris (BCiP) are struggling, to little effect, to obtain voting rights for citizens living abroad but this is of minor importance compared with another struggle which may confront them.

The efforts to gain voting rights are for those who have lived abroad for more than 15 years: not the right to vote for MPs who would defend the rights of expatriates, a privilege which French citizens abroad enjoy, but a vote in whatever constituency with which they may feel an affinity, even though they may not know the MP’s name or the major concerns of his constituents.

No, I write of another threatened struggle. A year ago I was treating threats of Britain voting to leave the European Union as a diverting quirk, typical of my countrymen. Now it is dawning on me that the threat is becoming a real one. The Economist this week also turns its attention to the matter, devoting its cover and two principal articles to the subject.

Both in the populace and in political circles it is taking on an immediacy which should give us serious concern. Apart from all the diplomatic, political, economic and trade issues at stake and whatever your views on them, Britain’s leaving the EU might have considerable repercussions on British citizens living on the Continent. Without being any sort of authority on the subject, I would wager that there would be increased financial difficulties and bureaucratic problems ten years down the road regarding ?cartes de sejours?, importing of household goods, health insurance, pensions etc., all of which would have to be re-negotiated.

I will not expatiate here on the advantages and disadvantages it would have for Britain. The Economist says our departure from Europe is becoming ?ever more possible?. Despite the fact that the leaders of the three main political parties, business leaders and the trade unions all want to stay in, 80 M.P.s of our Conservative party are pressing for a referendum and the polls say that over 50% of the population would vote in favour of leaving and only 30% would vote for staying.

So, I believe this to be more of an issue (than voting rights) on which we should be considering with great concern.