Influence doesn’t always work out the way you want it to
We’re far enough into the €uro campaign for broad lines of our opponents’ case to be becoming clear. First it was Jobs. We need to be in the EU for jobs. The Lib-Dem slogan will be “In Europe, In Work” – which is fairly preposterous, with the EU facing an almost unprecedented unemployment crisis. Tim Congdon tells me that the average labour market participation rate in the EU is around 60%, compared to around 70% in other advanced economies.
I’ve already done what I hope is an effective rebuttal on this point. The EU is a job-Shredding Machine. It’s “In Europe, Out of Work“.
Then (one that BND likes), the CBI has done an estimate arguing that our membership of the EU is worth £3000 a year to every household in Britain. We’re working on a considered rebuttal to that, but in a sound-bite: it seems the CBI took published estimates of trade benefits, exaggerated them, and ignored any costs or downsides. This is a curious mirror-image of the Stern Report on climate change, which took an exaggerated view of the downsides, ignored the up-sides (and applied an absurd long-term discount rate). The CBI Report, which we’re currently studying, also appears to assume that trade with the EU would stop dead after Independence Day. In reality, of course, we shall have a free trade agreement, and trade will continue much as before. So we’ll have the penny and the bun – most of the trade benefits, but saving most of the costs.
For comparison, both Tim Congdon and Patrick Minford, two of the UK’s most respected economists, have independently estimated the total costs of EU membership at slightly over 10% of GDP. This gives an annual cost per household of around £4000.
But now I’d like to take the third point of the pro-Brussels lobby head-on. Influence. Outside the EU we’ll be isolated and marginalised. We’ll have no influence in the world.
Right on cue, we get a report from Business for Britain pointing out that since 1996, the UK has opposed 55 measures in the European Council. And how many did we manage to stop? Precisely none. Zero. Zilch. How’s that for influence? The same report points out that over the period, the UK’s voting weight in the European Council has slipped from 17% to 8%, with a similar reduction in the parliament. So much for “influence”. And increasingly decisions are made by qualified majority. That 8% doesn’t go far in creating a blocking minority.
Look at it another way. While we have an 8% voice in the Council, EU Commissioner Viviane Reding has recently confirmed a statistic widely quoted in euro-sceptic circles, that 75% of our new laws come from Brussels. Is that a good trade? We get an 8% say in EU law-making, but in exchange we’ve given Brussels a 75% say in our own affairs. Sounds like a loss of influence to me.
Of course a big group of countries like the EU has more clout than a single member-state – doesn’t it? Well it might if we all had broadly the same interests and the same policies. If all the feet pointed in the same direction. But (in very general terms) we find ourselves in a Northern European/Anglo Saxon group, set against a more corporatist, statist middle and south. So we are in a permanent structural minority. We saw that when (then) Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson tried to get a deal on the Doha World Trade Round meeting in Hong Kong. He was blocked by several factors, but the biggest problem was the intransigence of the protectionist French farm lobby. British interests subordinated to the EU’s failing protectionist model.
We have so much influence that we can’t even deport some 4000 foreign criminals, including murderers and rapists, from our country, because of the Human Rights Act (and before you point out that the ECHR is Council of Europe, not EU, let me mention that given the convergence between the two, and the links between them, it’s difficult to tell the difference. For example, signing up to the ECHR is a condition of EU membership).
And does anyone seriously think that an offshore province has more influence than a sovereign nation? Take California. With the most recent GDP figure I can find at $1.9 trillion (well over 10% of US GDP), that would put an independent California at about #10globally by GDP. As I write, we have President Obama coming to Brussels tomorrow. But we hear much less about the Governor of California. Who can doubt that as an independent country California would have more global influence?
Or consider Canada, currently #11 by GDP, just a fraction smaller than California, and about three quarters the size of the UK economy. Canada is an independent a sovereign nation, smaller than UK. But it’s in the G8. Anyone think it lacks clout because it’s not in the EU? Or that it would have more clout if it were? No. I thought not.
When we leave the EU, we will be in the top ten countries by GDP. We will be the EU’s largest external customer in the world – bar none. We will be a great global trading nation. We will still be on the UN Security Council, on the OECD, the World Bank, the WTO, in NATO, a leading country in the Commonwealth (whose GDP now exceeds the Eurozone), and on dozens of international organisations, too many to list. We shall be a major voice in the councils of nations – and our own voice, not Brussels’ voice. We shall be not so much leaving the EU, as re-joining the real world, where growth and opportunity are to be found.
The Germans could be coming to a street near you
Sorry to harp on about BND, but he’s at it again. He’s called for the creation of a “European FBI”, which could allow German police officers to arrest British citizens on British streets.
Speaking in Brussels last week to a visiting group of journalism students from LincolnUniversity, Bill said that cross-border crime in Europe meant that there was a need for a “Federal Police Force”, enabling police from one EU country to pursue criminals in another. He said that this could mean, for example, uniformed German police officers arresting British citizens on British streets, and he was entirely relaxed about it.
He admitted that his son Tom Newton Dunn, who is political editor of The Sun newspaper, had warned him that the British press was likely to react very badly to this idea. Not half.
The Lib-Dem MEP is also a strong advocate of the European Arrest Warrant, which has seen British citizens deported on the whim of foreign magistrates, for minor offences, with scanty evidence and no right of appeal, and sent to foreign jurisdictions which ride roughshod over the basic principles of British justice, like habeus corpus and trial by jury.
As an East Midlands MEP, I was also at the students’ briefing. I’m afraid I wasn’t surprised to see Bill, yet again, showing his total disregard for the instincts and the interests of British people. He allows nothing to stand in the way of his obsession with European integration. I believe that the British public simply won’t tolerate the idea of uniformed German officers with authority over our own people in our own country.
I agree that more needs to be done on cross-border crime, but I’d call for more police cooperation through existing structures like Interpol, rather than the creation of a new EU bureaucracy. Far from helping us stop cross-border crime, the EU is promoting cross-border crime by requiring us to open our borders on January 1st to countries like Bulgaria and Romania where the Rule of Law is tenuous to say the least, and criminal gangs are very active.
I recently received a copy of a regional newsletter from Lib-Dem MEP Bill Newton Dunn – not something I read regularly, but my office thought I should take a look.
And sure enough he’s recycling the same old myths. Don’t you dare to vote for UKIP – or even to think about Britain leaving the EU – because businesses will take fright, and withdraw jobs and investment from the UK. He seems oblivious of the fact the major industries are already withdrawing investment and jobs from the EU as a whole because of the price of energy, driven by Brussels’ obsession with renewables, and reluctance to commit to proven, low-cost energy sources. I shall be writing about the plight of the aluminium industry in the EU in my December newsletter.
Here (if you can stand it) is the relevant BND quote: The Lib Dems seem to be the only party whole-heartedly saying that the UK must remain members of the EU to protect jobs in the UK. Businesses strongly support our position. If UKIP were to score a triumph in the European election next May, it would make the work of defending British jobs much more difficult as businesses see the writing on the wall and withdraw investment from the UK.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: when we leave the EU (and increasingly I believe it’s a “when”, not an “if”), we’ll have a free trade deal with the rump-EU. Why? Because we’re their biggest export customer. Because they have a very strong balance-of-payments surplus with us. Because they need our business.
And also because the Lisbon Treaty requires the EU to offer favourable trade terms to a member-state which leaves. And because WTO rules would prevent Brussels from taking punitive trade measures against the UK – even if they wanted to, which they won’t.
So Mr. Carlos Ghosn of Nissan can sleep easy in his bed, knowing that he will continue to export cars to the Continent on favourable terms, just as we shall continue to import BMWs and Audis.
Outside the EU, we will be free of the EU’s vast and onerous burden of excessive regulation, so we’ll have more flexible labour markets, and we’ll have lower operating costs. As we save our direct EU budget contributions, and wind down the regulatory costs, we’ll have better fiscal figures and will be able to move progressively to a lower tax régime. And free of Brussels’ climate obsession, we’ll have cheaper energy.
Lower taxes, cheaper energy, less regulation, more flexible labour markets? Bill doesn’t need to worry about foreign businesses withdrawing their investments. They’ll be queuing up to come to Britain. We shall save ourselves by our exertions and save Europe by our example.
I rarely agree to be “rapporteur” in the European Parliament, because any report I draft will be so mangled by amendments in Committee that I should be ashamed to see my name on it. However, a few weeks ago the secretariat of the Petitions Committee approached my office asking if I could author an opinion to comment on a report published by the European Commission, and this time, against my better judgement, I agreed.
It was a report on the implementation of EU law by member-states, from the perspective of the Petitions Committee. I had a look through it and was astonished to see that in 2011 EU Member States had to transpose 131 directives — that’s one directive every two working days!
Despite my assistant clearly explaining the line that I should want to see, the draft text proposed by the Secretariat offered statements like “the right to petition the European Parliament is one of the fundamental pillars of European citizenship” and referred to “the need of increasing public participation in the European Union’s decision-making process”. So, despite the best efforts of the Secretariat, I decided to rewrite the proposal completely, and to say just what I really thought. It is sure to be heavily amended in Committee, so I may as well say what I think and be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.
I started with a new “recital” (as it called), asserting that “The Right to Petition the European parliament is simply a cosmetic device intended to give a spurious air of democratic legitimacy to the concept of “European Citizenship”, and thus to the essentially undemocratic and unaccountable EU institutions. Information campaigns carried out at national and EU level about the activities of the European Union are unjustified propaganda in the face of an increasingly negative popular view of the European project”.
I then made clear a few points about the application of European law. I pointed out that national administrations, already under strain, find it increasingly difficult to keep up with the transposition of a high number of pieces of legislation and that in the current economic situation, and with the massive costs of EU regulation, there is an urgent need for a dramatic pruning of the acquis communautaire, especially in the area of employment law.
Citizens, businesses and other stakeholders are entitled to a simple and predictable regulatory framework, so a reduction in bureaucracy and administrative burdens is needed.
Quite predictably, my re-edited version came as a nasty shock and the Secretariat, who invited me to reconsider the text “to ensure a broader consensus”. However, given the fact that the text will be amended anyhow, I explained that I should at least start out with a text I could support.
I also added a new recital on the Spanish property scandal: “Regrets the obduracy and recalcitrance of both the Commission and member states’ governments, for example in the case of Spanish property rights, where European citizens from many countries have for many years been denied basic rights of property and contract. This issue has been raised repeatedly in the Petitions Committee over at least fifteen years, yet neither the Commission nor the Spanish government has taken effective action nor offered any redress”. There is in fact considerable anger in the Petitions Committee over Spanish property, and a diluted version of this recital may survive the carnage in Committee.
Once again, it is clear that the current level of petitions reflects badly both on EU legislation and on its implementation. We are still creating new EU legislation faster than we can read it, or understand it, or implement it.