Saturday 29 November 2014
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Saturday 29 November 2014
The is an interesting battle being played out over Cameron's speech, the nature of which is so subtle at a technical level that there is not a chance in a million that the media will understand what is going on.
Essentially, all the media want is the biff-bam personality politics, witness this piece from the Spectator's Isabel Harman. What she is after is a Eurosceptic rebellion, so that's what she's writing about – the only thing in which she is truly interested.
Peter Oborne, on the other hand, has been looking in depth at the speech. And he sees in it something "wise" and "thoughtful", selling a "Gaullist vision of a Europe of sovereign states collaborating in a common endeavour" - something which exists only in his imagination.
This vision, he writes, "involves compromise, endless attention to detail, and an ability to build alliances across Europe". On the basis of the speech, he believes Cameron "is capable of selling the Eurosceptic case to the rest of the EU and winning".
Thus does Osborne conclude that the Prime Minister is "a most formidable politician", one of only two things he gets right. The other non error is his assertion that the speech "gives us our first glimpse of how Mr Cameron will handle the European question if he wins the general election next May".
What Oborne hasn't realised – and what none of us are supposed to realise – is that Cameron has rigged the game again. And, if I'm right on this, we've all been played.
By way of background, we see the latest YouGov poll
which tells us that an EU referendum poll held now would yield a majority of 45 percent in favour of staying in the EU, against 37 percent who would vote to leave.
If Mr Cameron carries out his renegotiations and delivers "significant reforms", such as "placing a limit on the number of immigrants allowed to enter Britain", the majority climbs to 58 percent and those who would leave drop to 25 percent.
But, if Mr Cameron fails to get these fabled "reforms", the situation reverses – a majority of 43 percent would vote to leave, while only 34 percent would want to leave.
There is no way that Mr Cameron cannot be aware of this dynamic – he must know he has to deliver the goods or, for him, it's game over. But, since he cannot deliver a wide-raging treaty change, the game must be rigged.
And that is where yesterday's speech
takes us. What the Prime Minister has done is narrow down the "reform" spectrum to cover one subject, and one subject only – immigration. To be more specific, it has been narrowed down to freedom of movement.
Why that matters is simple. Under the new Lisbon Treaty protocols, treaty change has become a complex and time-consuming affair. It involves a treaty convention as well as an intergovernmental conference, taking four years door to door.
However, Article 48 – which deals with treaty change – also allows for a "simplified procedure". Potentially, this would allow the procedure to be completed on a rainy afternoon in Brussels, perhaps on the margins of a European Council.
There is, though, a small condition. The changes permissible are confined to Part Three of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which, just as it happens, include freedom of movement. Against all the odds, therefore, Cameron could pull off a quickie treaty and come home in triumph, waving a piece of paper.
Another clue is that Cameron is relying on the Europhile Open Europe
to prepare his narrative. This provides media cover for the idea that the "plan" will deliver a reduction in immigration – long enough to get past the election and the referendum campaign.
And, if these seems a tad cynical, the speech itself leads us to suspect
there is more to Mr Cameron than meets the eye. In the early part, we read:
Those who argue that Norway or Switzerland offer a better model for Britain ignore one crucial fact: they have each had to sign up to the principle of freedom of movement in order to access the single market and both countries actually have far higher per capita immigration than the UK.
… which suggests that the Prime Minister knows full well that we can have access to the Single Market without being in the EU. But then we get this:
Those who say we would certainly be better off outside the EU only ever tell you part of the story. Of course we would survive, there is no doubt about that. But we would need to weigh in the balance the loss of our instant access to the single market, and our right to take the decisions that regulate it.
Here, Mr Cameron suggest that, if we left the EU, we would lose our "instant access" to the Single Market. As "instant” and ordinary access is probably a distinction without a difference, this suggests that we are being gamed.
Nevertheless, the point made in my earlier piece
before we were so rudely interrupted still stands. If it is possible to exert some control over immigration while we are in the EU, then we could exert even greater control if we were in the EEA, and even more still once we have walked away from the ECHR.
Oborne, in the piece to which we referred earlier, praised Mr Cameron as a "formidable politician", and in playing us – if that is what we are seeing – he is certainly showing his mettle. But he may actually have overplayed his hand. Expectations can be managed, but not totally controlled, and in narrowing down the treaty scope, his new treaty may lack conviction and fail to produce the result he wants.
Our biggest problem here, though, is the media wanting to report personality politics, instead of dealing with the issues. Cameron could end up pulling a fast one, with most people remaining totally unaware of what is going on.
Friday 28 November 2014
Entering what he may feel is the last chance saloon, in his bid to stave off a defeat in any EU referendum (and salvage the general election), Mr Cameron has today delivered his much-trailed speech on immigration.
Earlier, it had been previewed in the Guardian and elsewhere, from which we learned that the Prime Minister intended to negotiate a cut to EU migration and "make welfare reform an absolute requirement in renegotiation".
This is to be a central part of his renegotiation package with the EU, aimed at removing the financial incentives that attract migrants to Britain – effectively weakening the "pull" factors that attract workers and their families from EU member states.
The plan is to remove in-work benefits for migrants until they have been in the UK for four years. Also, they will not get social housing until they have been here for the same period, and they will not get child benefits and tax credits for children living elsewhere in Europe, no matter how long they have paid taxes in the UK.
EU jobseekers will not be supported by UK taxpayers; and they will be removed if they are not in a job within six months.
Cameron says that, together with other measures, this will deliver the toughest system on welfare for EU migrants anywhere in Europe. It will, he says, return free movement to a more sensible basis – the position before a European Court judgement in 1991 when Member States had the right to expect workers to have a job offer before they arrived - and a return to rules put in place by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.
The "other measures" will include the abolition of the system where EU migrants can bring family members from outside the EU without any restrictions. There will be tougher and longer re-entry bans for rough sleepers, beggars and fraudsters, and there will be stronger arrangements for deporting EU criminals and stopping them coming back.
Furthermore, there will be no access to labour market for nationals of new Member States joining the EU until their economies have converged more closely with current members.
The Prime Minister is to argue that these changes should apply to the whole of the EU, but should that not prove possible, he would negotiate them in a UK-only settlement. He will then reiterate his determination to secure "reform" and will make it clear that, "if the concerns of the British public fall on deaf ears", then "he rules nothing out".
"People", he will say, "want Government to have control over the numbers of people coming here and the circumstances in which they come, both from around the world and from within the European Union".
In recent years", he will add, "it has become clear that successive Governments have lacked control. People want grip. I get that…They don’t want limitless immigration and they don't want no immigration. They want controlled immigration. And they are right".
Setting out the framework, he will then say that Britain supports the principle of freedom of movement of workers and accepting that principle is a key to being part of the single market.
Thus, he says, we do not want to destroy that principle or turn it on its head. But freedom of movement has never been an unqualified right, and we now need to allow it to operate on a more sustainable basis in the light of the experience of recent years. His objective is "simple". He intends to make our immigration "system fairer and reduce the current exceptionally high level of migration from within the EU into the UK".
Looking at this in the round, some of this is already possible without treaty change, or even additional EU legislation. As we indicated earlier, these are measures that largely conform with the judgement on the Dano case, to the effect that freedom of movement is a "qualified and limited" right. For those specific issues, the renegotiation idea is a sham – we don't need it. With the necessary enforcement and administrative resources, the UK could probably go ahead straight away.
However, for other issues - such as removal of rights to bring in family members from outside the EU, treaty change and withdrawal from the ECHR will be needed. On that basis, Cameron will not be able to achieve success in this area.
What was also expected but is missing from the speech is a call for the right to apply a "temporary emergency brake" on free movement of workers if a country is being overwhelmed by EU migrants. The Guardian suggests that this absence will "disappoint Eurosceptics" who have become doubtful that fiscal disincentives will be enough. It "will prompt the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, to argue that Britain will only regain control of its borders if it leaves the EU".
Fortunately, that "emergency brake" provision does exist within the EEA agreement, where there is a fallback position: Articles 112-3 are what comprise the "Safeguard Measures" which permit the parties unilaterally to take "appropriate measures" if serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties of a sectoral or regional nature arise and are liable to persist".
This puts EEA supporters in a powerful position. Mr Cameron is to argue that the measures he proposes are sufficient to control immigration within the EU. But more is available outside the EU, within the EEA. The improvement in the position effectively shoots the fox of the naysayers. And that is without ceding from the ECHR – which would be necessary to restrict rights of dependants and asylum seekers.
The total package applied to the EEA - plus the add-ons – would, however, shoot the Farage fox, provided certain other "pull" factors were dealt with – such as the use of private accommodation at cut rates made possible by the illegal overcrowding of rooms. There is no appetite for a total ban on immigration, and the totality of controls will be sufficient to satisfy most reasonable people that immigration can be brought under control.
To a very great extent, therefore, Mr Cameron has given the "Norway option" a huge boost. Nobody can say that the EEA provisions are inadequate, while at the same time arguing that controls within the EU are sufficient. We have them over the proverbial barrel.
Thursday 27 November 2014
One shouldn't mock the afflicted, but we're happy to make the exception when the Ukip Muppets are out and about. Here we have the intellectually challenged Jonathan Arnott, Ukip's EU budget spokesman, wailing in the Daily Express
about the reste à liquider
reported yesterday by the dismal Daily Telegraph
Clearly, without the first idea of what he is talking about, wrongly referring to the RAL as a "shortfall", he blathers in typical UKIP style: "We've known for a while that the European Union is struggling to stick to its spending limits but no one expected that the shortfall would be so high".
Then, in an almost comedic intervention, his wailing goes into high pitch as he asks: "How can a black hole as much as £259 billion possibly have gone unnoticed by the political establishment?"
The poor little lamb is so all at sea here that we should have sympathy for him. Probably the only person in the "political establishment" not to have noticed the RAL story is Jonathan Arnott. Not least, a statement on the RAL is published every year in July, in the Consolidated Accounts, as here in 2012 and here in 2013. And then there is this year's supplementary report, published on 13 November.
The current concern with the way RAL was increasing, however, stems from a report of the European Parliament in May 2012
and then, of course, the issue was raised by Booker
(pictured below) last year. If Mr Arnott couldn't cope with official documents, there was even a story with a picture for him. As usual, though, UKIP went AWOL.
That all of this activity should escape the notice of UKIP is not at all surprising, though. Not once has the party shown any capacity for understanding EU politics, but the intellectual fog cloaking their spokespersons is wondrous to behold - even if it's closer to smog then fog.
Their saving grace, however, is that the London hacks are equally challenged, and when it comes to the Express
, it and UKIP are such strangers to anything approximating the truth that these two were made for each other. "Blind leading the blind", doesn't begin to describe it.
The big joke, though, is Farage's suggestion
that Owen Paterson should join UKIP. Why would any self-respecting person want to join his train-wreck of a party? The description "thick" would actually be a compliment for some of his mouth-breathing members
, elevating stupidity
to an art form.
Thursday 27 November 2014
Covered by EurActiv yesterday, we get the outline of the news on the website, a press release and the report. This is the European Court of Auditors (ECA) telling us there is a substantial gap between the commitment and payment budgets, which has accumulated over the long term, affecting the Commission's ability to meet all requests for payments in the year in which the requests are made.
The legal funding commitments that are not disbursed until later (known as reste à liquider or RAL) represented €222.4 billion at the end of 2013, most of it for commitments made for cohesion policy spending in the period 2010–14.
Together with other liabilities (mostly for purchases and staff pensions) of €103.4 billion excluding borrowings, this will require future disbursement from the EU budget of some €326 billion euro in addition to the amounts agreed for the MFF 2014–20 (as at the end of 2013).
Interestingly, this growing burden of payments was picked up by us in April last year. It was then that Booker reported: "The debt-ridden EU stares bankruptcy in the face" - at a point where the debt was expected to be €217bn by the end of the year.
Despite this alarming figure, sourced from a European Parliament report, our reports were ignored – as is so often the case – despite Booker asking whether the news should be making more headlines than it had, since the astronomic debt was nearly twice the EU's annual income.
I raised the issue of reste à liquider again in November last year and once again in May this year only to be ignored by the great and the good, and the chatterati - as is the rightful fate of EU Referendum, maintaining its tradition for keeping secrets in plain sight.
But, now that the ECA picks up where the European Parliament left off, the RAL has suddenly becomes news. Rushed out by a hyperventilating Telegraph, it tells us that "the UK faces £34bn bill for black hole in EU budget". This is only the notional UK proportion of the outstanding debt, but it is enough to get the groupuscules squeaking with rage at the thought of another payment hike.
However, as the Commission points out, no new money is required – not in the short-term, at any rate. The budgetary RAL simply represents spending commitments for which payments have not yet been made. This, they say, is the normal consequence of running multi-annual programmes.
Therefore, the significant issue, as detailed by the French Government, is not that there is a RAL, but that it has been growing steadily, increasing by €90.9 billion between 2006 and 2013, up 69 percent.
This increase could exceed € 100 billion in less than 10 years (2006-2015) unless the Commission starts getting a grip of its political ambitions. Effectively, the Commission is mortgaging the present against future payments. If the trend continues, eventually the Commission will run out of money – unless it can negotiate a substantial budget increase.
With unfortunate timing, though, the news of the increased RAL comes as Juncker revealed a "giant EU investment plan" set at €315 billion, "to kick-start Europe's economy".
Yet there is something of a smoke and mirrors quality to this plan. Only €16bn cash is to come from the EU budget, leading the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) General Secretary, Bernadette Segol, to suggested the Commission is "relying on a financial miracle like the loaves and fishes".
Any miracle is going to have to cover even more ground if the RAL continues to mount, though, but it's going to be a long time before Juncker has to strut his stuff. The story of an increased RAL is real but the Telegraph comment is simply not true. There are no extra demands, and no extra payments which have to be made.
That's probably why the story didn't get any traction when Booker and I first ran it. But then we didn't think to collect spurious quotes from a number of talking heads, and jack up the story.
It certainly wouldn't have been much of a story if Commission spokesperson Jakub Adamowicz had been quoted. He said the Commission had noted the ECA report with "certain interest" and that although it "did not reveal any new findings", it was "good food for thought".
It's how you tell 'em, I guess.
Wednesday 26 November 2014
"Since he unwillingly left the government, the former environment secretary has made speeches and remarks that have generally been of high intellectual calibre", says Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. He then goes on to add: "I haven't always agreed with him (his most recent proposal on Europe I think utterly wrongheaded), but I have been impressed by their tone and internal consistency".
Faced with such compliments, one hates to be uncharitable about Mr Finkelstein, although we could have done without the "utterly wrongheaded" bit. The problem is, though, that although he may recognise the "high intellectual calibre" of Paterson's speech, he doesn't seem to have spent much time studying it.
To put Finkelstein in perspective, he is commenting on Time Montgomerie's interview of Owen Paterson, who opined that most Ukip voters want "robust and Conservative policies", which include "honesty about immigration". If we give them Conservative policies, Paterson says, we win them back.
In his own column, Finkelstein asserts that Ukip supporters want fewer immigrants and, in using the phrase, "honesty about immigration", Paterson appreciates that even outside the EU it will be hard to achieve what Ukip supporters are after. "If the United Kingdom wishes to take part in the single market", he adds, "it will, like Norway, have to accept free movement of labour in Europe".
"In other words", says Finkelstein, "a credible Conservative policy on immigration will be hard put to achieve what Ukip voters are after. And they will see that straight away. These are angry and disillusioned people who can tell the difference between 'honesty about immigration' and 'less immigration' straight away".
What we can see straight away, though, is that Finkelstein hasn't addressed the issues and, instead, is relying on the usual Europhile mantras. This is exactly what we get in this piece, where we get the same low drone, as the author chants: "Norway just has to accept all rules related to the free movement of goods, services, capital and people within the EU".
In a way, these people are misled by our use of the shorthand "Norway option", to mean that we take the EFTA/EEA route to preserving the Single Market outside EU membership. Their febrile minds assume we mean that the UK will be like Norway.
What we actually mean is that we adopt the EEA Agreement, using EFTA as a portal to do so, and that gives us the opportunity to remove ourselves from the EU treaties and rely on free movement provisions in the EEA agreement, which refer only to workers and self-employed.
This detail none of the naysayers even begin to address. Outside the EU treaty provisions, family reunification relies on the ECHR (Article 8), from which we would cede, thus being able to prevent relatives and dependents joining employed migrants. This, as we have also remarked – and as Paterson points out – also gives us greater control over asylum seekers.
In addition to this, Paterson refers to "push" and "pull" factors, which drive the
mass movement of people. Again, this is something Finkelstein doesn't mention.
By coincidence, though, on the same day as the Peterson speech, we also get a report from Open Europe which deals with "pull" factors in relation to free movement of workers from EU member states.
This think tank makes proposals which would limit the payment of non-contributory in-work benefits to migrants, for a period of five years, relying on the recent ECJ ruling which reminds us that freedom of movement is "qualified and limited", and that discrimination on non-contributory benefits is permitted.
By eliminating such benefits, the UK would effectively remove what amounts to a migrant subsidy, making coming to the UK economically unattractive for many workers from EU member states.
Open Europe thinks this could be part of the "reform" agenda which allows the UK to stay within the EU while limiting migration flows. But such devices could just as easily pave the way for the UK to join EFTA and benefit from the Single Market, while reducing the impact of migrant flows.
And it is here that the battleground lies. Notably, while EU withdrawal has been high profile for the last few days, Ukip has absented itself from the debate. But that debate has to reconcile leaving the EU and staying within the Single Market, with retaining an element of freedom of movement.
Owen Paterson, in a speech of "high intellectual calibre", has confronted those issues delivering exactly that which is labelled on the tin, "honesty about migration".
Only the mouth-breathing tendency within Ukip would argue for the total cessation of immigration, which means that Paterson has squared the circle, offering a way of reducing immigration while protecting our trading arrangements with the EU.
That is something even (or especially) the Ukip leadership have not managed to do, opening the way to Ukip members to support the one party which is offering a referendum and has grown-up ideas on how to leave the EU. All Farage can offer - the man who has spent 20 years not producing an exit plan - is a shallow jibe about Paterson joining UKIP.
That leaves Finkelstein and Farage both cast adrift – each in their own ways totally incapable of understanding that which has been put before them, locked in their self-furnished blinkers – while the debate goes on without them.
Wednesday 26 November 2014
Exasperated by eurosceptic Tories and "that speech", pro-European Conservative MPs have finally decided to fight back with their own lobby group.
Former minister Damian Green and other prominent pro-Europeans have thus told the Financial Times that they are mobilising to dispel the popular view that the "vast majority of the Tory party are gagging to get out of Europe".
Mr Green claims that there are 60 MPs in the European Mainstream Group but the group is being relaunched to act as a "rebuttal mechanism" to colleagues such as Owen Paterson.
"The battle lines are increasingly clear", says Green. "We have been too polite over the years. We have obeyed instructions to not bang on about Europe and the result is people don't think we exist. There is a referendum coming and we have to make our case".
No one can argue that, from a Europhile perspective, something isn't needed, and a lot better than they're able to manage at the moment.
We saw, for instance, City AM retailing a comment on Paterson's speech from a CBI spokesperson who says: "Most CBI members believe the UK is best placed to create jobs and growth as part of a reformed European Union".
"While the EU isn't perfect", he says, "the UK does have influence as a full member and no other alternative offers to British firms what membership of the EU can. All other options leave us on the outside with little influence, following the same rules to be allowed to trade inside the EU, but with little say in what those rules are".
This is the classic Europhile drone, exactly that which elicited from Owen Paterson the response that they should read his speech, but that is something they can't afford to do.
Hence, we're getting exactly the same response from Nick Clegg who, with typical modesty, describes Paterson's plan as "idiotic", declaring: "Norway has to abide by all the rules, pay into the coffers, accept people crossing across the European Union and has absolutely no say on how the club is run at all".
One has to admire their consistency, if nothing else, as the ghastly Roland Rudd's British Influence adds his euro-worth with the now predictable comment that a "Norway solution" is a "false choice". Norway, it says, "has single market access but pays a quota into the EU budget, adopts all relevant EU legislation (but with no input in formulating it) and accepts EU immigration".
Laura Sandys MP, Chairwoman of the European Movement UK, delivers a variation on the theme, attacking the immigration issue, claiming: "The point with Norway is that they have to allow free movement of people as part of their 'licence' to access the EU's single market. Patterson offers a false options that excludes Britain from the top table while offering no break on immigration".
It would indeed help if these people actually read the speech. The point about the UK being in the EEA and not the EU, of course, is that "free movement" applies only to workers and the self-employed. And then, if we leave the ECHR (which is easier to do if we are out of the EU), we get to refuse entry to dependents and we can deport asylum seekers.
Policy Review takes to preaching, telling us that we "labour under the misconception that leaving the EU and following the Norway model is a cost-free option".
Yet, we are told, Norway pays in approximately €400 million per annum into the EU budget as a contribution to the EU's social programmes. That isn't actually true – the bulk of the money is actually managed by Norway and is not paid into the budget.
But actually, the sum is closer to €500 million, but whatever the figure, multiplied up to meet either GDP or population, we would pay a lot more than Norway. And this we know, so there really is no point here. But then we slot into the usual drone:
The Norwegians play very little part in formulating the EU’s regulations and directives, no Norwegian staff work in the European Commission, there is no Norwegian Commissioner, there are no Norwegian Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), Norway has no votes in the in the various Council formations, the Norwegian Prime Minister is not invited to the high level meetings of the EU’s political leaders. The country even has to pay the translation costs for the appropriate legislation to be transposed into domestic law.
But then, the UK has eight percent of the vote in the Council and 9.5 percent in the European Parliament, as against Norway which is its own master on organisations such as Codex – and many more – while we have one twenty-eight of one vote.
That leaves Open Europe - and no litany of pomposity is complete without them. Better though to turn to the Guardian which has the famous Rafael Behr tormented by the thought that, "anti-EU forces are battle ready". The fightback, he says, "must start now".
Perhaps Mr Behr should be talking to Mr Damian Green, and then perhaps they can get together to plan a new story about Norway, to replace the one that has been ripped to shreds by Owen Paterson.
Embedded in his concerns, though, was the recognition that Paterson was trying to "tug the Brexit argument away from lurid anti-immigration rhetoric and towards macroeconomics, trade and democracy". Behr thus quotes Paterson saying: "Even people who are broadly in favour of withdrawal are unlikely to commit to the process unless they are assured that all the angles have been covered".
Here, there is a glimmer of intelligence, with Behr noting that this view "reflects study of the Scottish independence referendum and the way Alex Salmond's campaign was harmed by the impression that his white paper setting out the viability of a new state was cobbled together on the back of an envelope".
However, alongside Your Freedom and Ours, we have given up waiting for "the People's Army" to do anything. It "has long ago abandoned any idea of fighting for Brexit".
The silence of the UKIP lambs is a welcome relief, but how much nicer it would be if it was matched by an equal period of silence from the Europhiles and their bleating about the Norway option.
As Witterings from Witney has found, they're silent when you want to hear from them and otherwise dismissive, so the least they could do is come up with some new arguments.
Perhaps, though, we should rely on Pat McFadden, the shadow Europe minister, who said of Owen Paterson's suggestion of invoking Article 50, that is was "equivalent to handing in your resignation notice. It's not a negotiating tactic. It is a notice to quit".
At last, one of them has got the point. First we tell them we are quitting, and then we negotiate an exit settlement. And that is why Mr Paterson proposed it.
Tuesday 25 November 2014
I went to bed last night dizzy with tiredness. The physical and emotional investment that goes into the preparation of material for a speech of the complexity offered by Owen Paterson yesterday is hard to imagine, and almost impossible to convey.
Hundreds of hours by "the team" went into that, all to come together on the day for a brief hour to feed the unknowing and ignorant media - not a single one amongst them with the capacity to understand what they were being told.
Sitting in my home office in Bradford, though, I'm not supposed to admit my part in this, except that I've effectively been outed by Dellers this morning, who makes the link so clear that only the blind - and the London hacks - could fail to make the connection.
Oddly enough though - as many have guessed - the main flow of information down to Westminster is via the blog - briefing in plain sight, so to speak. This is material which is freely available to anyone who wishes to avail themselves of it, kept available by the generosity of readers and sponsors. But such is the arrogance and ignorance of the media claque that they don't stoop to read such this material and hence have not recognised the source of much of the input.
The best way, therefore, to keep a secret from the media is to publish it on this blog. Then, even if they accidentally stumble on it, the idle hacks will never admit to having seen it, for fear of betraying a darker, shameful secret, that they have looked at EU Referendum, work - as Dellers kindly says - from "our greatest living expert on the subject".
Had they done so, of course, they would have known that much of the material that went into the speech came directly from blog posts such as this, picked up by the Paterson team in London. But then, even if the hacks didn't care to sully their precious little brains with such seditious material, they could have picked it up from Booker (who gets much of his material from the same source) - except in that sneery way of theirs, they don't read him either. They are far too grand to accept anything from his column - except when it suits them.
Thus, yesterday was an affirmation of the way the Westminster politico-media bubble works. It is not what is said to this ghastly, mocking crew. It is who says it that matters. And yesterday, they were being addressed by one of their own so, for a brief moment, they listened.
To their horror, though, they found they were being addressed by a grown-up, telling them things they had not heard of before, in such depth and quantity that they immediately went into crisis overload, recoiling in shock and horror at the sheer weight of facts that battered their poor little brains.
Each of them dealt with the crisis in their own ways, some by mockery - the action of children tittering at the back of the class because they didn't understand what teacher was telling them. Others struggled manfully with unfamiliar concepts and thus made their usual botch of reporting. Not one managed accurately to convey the depth and subtlety of the speech.
And then we have the naysayers. Not least, we had the dreadful Roland Rudd sounding off from his position of the most profound ignorance. He thus delivered to the BBC, where he has his own personal camp bed, exactly what they wanted to hear, smarming his way though Newsnight, followed by a Evan Davis interviewing Owen without the slightest interest in what he had to say.
That, then, is the next job - to tackle these malign naysayers - who have largely focused their attack on the "Norway option" - again without even beginning to understand what was being put to the audience and without having read the speech.
They, however, do recognise the threat. The moment it becomes clear to the British public that it is possible to be part of the Single Market, without having to be in the EU, it is game over for the Europhiles. And, for all the weakness of the media, that realisation came a little closer yesterday, which made it, on balance, a good day.
That day, for once, we set the agenda.
Tuesday 25 November 2014
Boiling Frog does his own review of the speech. It makes an interesting contrast with Conservative Home. OP meanwhile is on Daily Politics, setting out his case. TBF is working on turning it into a YouTube clip, and the latest version of the speech is here, with the press release here.
ITV gets the point, reporting that Paterson is warning David Cameron he quit the EU immediately in order to give voters a "proper choice" between a trade partnership or joining the Euro. Britain would inevitably be dragged into the single currency "applying to leave the EU" would mean other nations would be "legally bound" to enter negotiations before a planned in/out referendum in 2017.
The former Environmental Secretary insisted Britain could leave the EU but still remain part of the Single Market, warning that the Eurozone had "already embarked upon a path that we can never follow". He said activating the two-year mechanism to leave the EU would leave British people with a clear choice ahead of the referendum.
This is something the Europhiles should take up. If they are that certain of the merits of the EU, then they should welcome an "all or nothing" referendum which gives them a chance of taking the UK into the euro. After two years of debate, the public should be well prepared to answer the question "in or out?", making this the most effective way of resolving the issue.
A Complete Bastard compliments UKIP for staying out of the debate and leaving it to the grown-ups, while Isabel Hardman asks in the Spectator whether Owen Paterson hoping to become leader of the "out" camp in the 2017 referendum.
And for once, it seems, TCB and The Telegraph are on the same page, with Paterson calling Conservative MPs who defect to the UK Independence Party are "stupid".
Carswell on Politics Today has already been sidelined by today's plan and now Paterson has dismissed the "glib Ukip solution" as "childish" – just leaving the EU - will not resolve the problem.
"We have to recognise that we are an open trading country and we do need to bring in skilled people. But it is always a question of balance. There are only two [MPs who have defected]. It would be very unwise if any others do go, most unwise".
Paterson then goes on to say: "What is clear is that if you defect you don’t get the referendum, so if you are very keen on a referendum as a Conservative party backbencher you are very stupid to go and defect".
The paper now is almost out on its own as it conveys Paterson's views on Britain withdrawing from the European Court of Human Rights. It would be easier to stop EU migrants coming to the UK, he says: "Much of the problematical immigration into this country stems not just from the EU but from the European Court of Human Rights".
Lifting from the speech, we get to be told: "This is exacerbated by the rulings of judges in the court at Strasbourg and by our own UK courts implementing the Human Rights Act".
"Repeal of the HRA and adoption of a new Bill of Rights, breaking free from the ECHR, would also relieve us of migrant pressure, include such absurdities as not being able to deport illegal immigrants who come to Calais, because – according to our judges – France is not a 'safe' country for asylum seekers".
This, at least, is more accurate reporting than Breitbart
is able to manage, this online news site suggesting that Mr Paterson "has called for Britain to leave the EU and negotiate a new free trade agreement with Europe". Negotiating a new free trade agreement is, of course, precisely what Mr Paterson hasn't recommended, leaving readers to puzzle out on their own why the "Norway option" has been chosen as the mechanism for leaving the EU.
Michael Deacon, parliamentary sketchwriter for the Telegraph
doesn't do a much better job, attempting a lame parody over the importance to voters of invoking Article 50. Little do these hacks realise how openly they are parading their ignorance, not least Mr Montgomerie of Conservative Home
who is writing of the "little known" Article 50.
Deacon is one of those who could have benefitted from reading Melanie Phillips
. She suggests that Paterson is "principled, intelligent and brave". "There aren't many like that in mainstream politics", she adds. "Sacking him was as telling as it was stupid. His approach is key to the regeneration not just of conservatism but of Britain. Watch him therefore get attacked – or more lethally, just ignored".
Unlike the vacuous clever-dicks, Phillips is actually interested in the history that Paterson has to offer. "He makes the interesting point that the idea of a government of Europe was first conceived by Jean Monnet not as a response to Nazism but to the earlier slaughter of the First World War", she notes – the only person (so far) to go into print to make this point.
, in the form of John Crace
, however, manages to both attack Paterson and ignore him – or at least, the points he makes, relying on the oh, so funny mispronunciation of "Yurp" and some crass comments about badgers, thereby filling his column with emptiness.
In the real Guardian
Paterson is allowed to say: "We can leave the political project and enter into a truly economic project with Europe via the European Free Trade Association and the EEA. We would still enjoy the trading benefits of the EU, without the huge cost of the political baggage".
"We need to pick a proven, off-the-shelf plan. However, our participation in the single market is fundamental to protecting the UK’s economic position. This brings us to the only realistic option, which is to stay within the EEA agreement".
"The EEA is tailor made for this purpose and can be adopted by joining Efta first. This becomes the 'Norway option'. We have already seen that Norway has more influence in international decision-making than we do as an EU member state. Using the EEA ensures full access to the single market and provides immediate cover for leaving the political arrangements of the EU".
"The changes would allow Britain to gain greater control of its borders because Britain would also leave the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR)". Paterson said: "Outside the EU and freed from the writ of the ECHR, 'freedom of movement' within the EEA could be limited to free movement of workers, without having to accept dependants and members of their extended families".
"This is exactly what David Cameron wants when he said last year that he thought free movement within the EU 'needed to be returned to the original concept, which was the freedom to be able to go and work in another country'. But, if we are to benefit from the single market, we must at least accept that provision".
And that's enough for today ... I'll pick up the theme again tomorrow.
Monday 24 November 2014
Matt Ridley in The Times is writing about the Paterson speech, and of his making a surprising and telling point.
It is that many of the rules handed down to British businesses and consumers by Brussels have often (and increasingly) been in turn handed down to it by higher powers. This means, Paterson argues, that we would have more influence outside the EU than within it. We could rejoin some top tables.
One example is the set of rules about food safety: additives, labelling, pesticide residues and so on. The food rules that Britain has to implement under the EU’s single market are now made by an organisation that sounds like either a Vatican secret society or a Linnean name for a tapeworm: Codex Alimentarius. Boringly, it's actually a standard-setting commission, based in Rome.
Codex is a creature of the United Nations. Its rules are in theory voluntary but since the EU turns Codex's decisions into single-market law, and since the World Trade Organisation (WTO) judges disputes by Codex's rules, Britain in effect is lumped with what Codex decides. But it's Brussels that represents us on many of the key committees, so we have little chance to influence the rules in advance.
Codex has two sister organisations, which deal with animal and plant health. As environment secretary, Mr Paterson discovered on a visit to New Zealand just how powerless other countries perceive us to be.
There was a particular new rule about a sheep disease that the New Zealand government wanted to persuade one of these bodies to amend. It had got Australia on side, and planned to enlist Canada and America, but when asked by Mr Paterson if Britain - Europe's leading sheep producer - could help, the New Zealanders replied: no point, you’re just part of the EU. He felt stung by the implication of that remark.
In effect, if an organisation such as Codex changes its rules about food labels, Brussels is powerless to do anything other than follow suit. This goes much deeper than just a few veterinary and food issues. In 1994 the EU adopted the world trade system that required all signatories to adopt international standards in preference to their own.
Take another example. The rules followed by the banking industry when assessing asset risk are decided not by the EU but by a committee based in Switzerland. Then there's the Financial Stability Board, chaired by Mark Carney and based in Paris. It's a creature of the G20. It is supposed to set the standards for financial regulation worldwide.
Britain's car industry is vital to our economy. Yet the single market standards of the EU for motor manufacturing are derived from regulations produced by (take a deep breath) the World Forum for the Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations, hosted by the UNECE.
Ask yourself, says Ridley: is it likely that Britain, with its disproportionate interest in fish, car manufacturing, banking and sheep, will have seen these topics aired to our best advantage by some suave suit from Malta or Lithuania acting on behalf of the entire EU? Not a chance.
There's plenty of other intergovernmental bodies on which we are represented separately, and don't need to leave the EU to join. There's Nato, and the UN climate change framework, whose chief (Christiana Figueres) says she wants to use it to achieve "centralised transformation" of the world economy if she can get a world treaty.
So, to an increasing extent, the EU is just one of the spider's webs in which we are entangled - but it's often the only one that represents our interests.
At the weekend, Ridley adds, he looked up the latest review of the WTO's Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement and, sure enough, it lists lots of comments it has received from countries such as New Zealand, Malaysia, Japan, Switzerland, even Cuba. Not a single EU country is mentioned because of course our comments were relayed by the European Union.
In the past, "ministers had to travel to Brussels to make their case, and to keep an eye on new laws", Mr Paterson will say in his speech, "but with the advance of globalisation we now need to be represented in Geneva, Paris, Berne, Rome and elsewhere".
No wonder Eurosceptics say we have less international clout than Norway, which sits on all these committees. It plays a big role in the Codex Alimentarius, hosting a key committee about fish.
Very few of these international rule-setting bodies are based in Britain. If we left the EU, we would at least get to be like Switzerland - a place favoured by UN agencies to base themselves. There's jobs in polishing the shoes and limos of UN-crats.
This is good news for those Europhiles who sound so touchingly worried that they might lose the opportunities for racking up room-service bills while on business in Brussels. They can relax, and vote "out" in a referendum. The hotels in Switzerland are just as good.
And conversely, the intergovernmental world is not an entirely comforting point for Eurosceptics to make. If we left the EU, we would not find ourselves in some sunlit meadow where we could make up any rules we wanted, as Ukip likes to imply.
We would be still be just as subject to all these international standards and intrusions if we wanted to trade with other countries. And although we might get a bit more influence over rule-making in the areas that matter to us, we would still be regularly outvoted.
We are often told to fear leaving the EU because it would lead to "fax diplomacy": learning about new laws without having had a chance to comment on them first. But Brussels is also receiving such faxes. Leave the EU and we could be sending some of the faxes to Brussels ourselves. And perhaps even hosting a few of the fax machines.
More generally, the EU is increasingly a problem in the multilateral, intergovernmental world. The inexorable drift towards co-ordinated world government is indeed happening, but the European Union is looking more like an oxbow lake, rather than the stream. Let's get back in the main channel.