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Wednesday 26 November 2014

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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.

Richard North 26/11/2014 link

Tuesday 25 November 2014

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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.

Richard North 25/11/2014 link

Tuesday 25 November 2014

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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".

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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.

The Guardian, 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". 

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"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.

Richard North 25/11/2014 link

Monday 24 November 2014

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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.

Richard North 24/11/2014 link

Monday 24 November 2014

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The actual speech text is here, delivered at 11am this moning. It is reviewed in The Times, in the Telegraph, the BBC, the New Statesman and elsewhere (140 reports and counting).

The essence of speech is that, instead of pussy-footing around, Cameron should cut to the chase and commit to invoking Article 50 the moment a Conservative government takes office after the election. With an electoral mandate, there is no need for a referendum.

Negotiations on a exit settlement should then proceed, using the "Norway option" as the base, involving joining EFTA and adopting the EEA agreement. Additionally, the entire EU body of law should be repatriated, to ensure legislative continuity, allowing for selective repeal and amendment as appropriate and necessary.

The loss of influence in leaving the EU is more than made up for by the restoration of our standing in international organisations such as Codex, UNECE, OECD, and many others, where we would be negotiating in our own right, determining standards which, under WTO rules, the EU is obliged to adopt.

In this, there would be no "fax democracy" as such. We would be sending laws down to Brussels – not the other way around.

The issue of "freedom of movement" is dealt with by dropping out of the ECHR and the EU treaties, so that we would only be obliged to grant freedom to workers, and not their dependents unless we chose to do so – plus restoring the ability to deport illegal immigrants.

Also, there would be continued measures to address "push" and "pull" factors, making the UK unattractive for unskilled migrants seeking low-paid work

However, Paterson reminds us that it took 40 years to progress to this stage of integration and we are not going to resolve all the issues in one stage. For the longer term, therefore, he argues that we would need to progress from the EEA to ensure a genuine Europe-wide Single Market, working on a truly intergovernmental basis.

One possible alternative, he suggests, is to strengthen the regional UNECE, so that it can administer the Single Market as an economic project rather than a political construct. Using that body, we would be able to negotiating directly across the board, cutting out the EU as the middle man, and substantially enhance the transparency of the system.

With a more durable European solution in place, we would be better able to promote our economic interests and we would also be able to take a lead in revitalising international trade. Free from the EU, says Paterson, we would have real influence on shaping the global regulatory models where true power lies.

The UK would have a key role in building transparency with enormous benefits to tackling organised crime, such as human trafficking, addressing issues of migration constructively.

In conclusion, Paterson adds, the Eurozone has already embarked upon a path that we can never follow. We are simply recognising that reality. We must either be fully committed to "Le Projet" or we must build an entirely new relationship.

The British people must be allowed to make that decision. Article 50 is the best method of making this happen. By this means we would forge ahead and resume our rightful place as a global leader. With our own independent status, working closely with our many allies, we would massively increase our influence.

As Churchill said, "We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe but not of it. We are linked but not comprised. We are interested and associated but not absorbed". He was right then and he is right now. Get this message across and the UK has a spectacular future as a flourishing world power.

Richard North 24/11/2014 link

Monday 24 November 2014

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The media just can't help themselves, it seems. Give them a juicy "EU red tape" story and they're salivating all over it, lapping up the details without once thinking about what they are writing.

In this case, we're getting an orchestrated whinge from Conservative business minister Matthew Hancock, who has picked up on Directive 89/686/EC on personal protective equipment (PPE), which earlier this year was scheduled for revision by COM(2014) 186 final.

In the old Directive, a requirement was set out for PPE to conform to specific performance standards, usually promulgated by CEN or ISO, to ensure that it was able to carry out its esignated function.

Since the Directive applied to health and safety at work, items intended for "private" use, such as household rubber gloves, and oven gloves, were exempted from any standards. But, as the COM final points out, these items are widely used in the work environment. Having some items with a compulsory performance standard, and others without, gave rise to some confusion.

Thus, not unreasonably, these "household" gloves are to be included in the revised legislation and will have to conform with minimum standards. In this case, they will be ISO standards, which are applicable worldwide.

It is in fact the case that huge quantities of domestic-grade rubber gloves are used in the work environment – anything from housemaids in hotels, to restaurant kitchens, schools, hospitals and the rest.

Personally, although I'd never given it much thought, I was a little surprised to find there was no standard – which perhaps explains why quality is so variable. In my contract cleaning days, we could sometime go through four or five pairs on a night – while others seemed to last forever.

Furthermore, the rubber gloves aren't just used for washing up – they're worn for light-duty oven cleaning, and if a tear in the glove lets caustic through, it can really hurt. Simple jobs such as using metal polish or some floor cleaners can end up with painful dermatitis it the gloves don't do their job. 

Thus, I'm really not going to storm the barricades if someone wants to make minimum standards for household gloves compulsory. And if they last longer, and do their job, a small price increment is not going to be a problem.

That, though, has not stopped Hancock going completely over the top. In an almost comedic fashion, he screeches that: "This EU power grab for our kitchen sinks is completely bonkers. It would place a huge weight on businesses who are trying to serve their customers".

He then goes on to say, "These over-zealous proposals underscore the need for EU reform and why we must fight Brussels over-regulation to get the best deal for Britain".

This is so overblown as to be laughable. It points to the almost complete lack of perspective on the EU issue. This is a government which is quite happy to go along with the EU on cutting CO2 emissions at an overall cost of £1.3 trillion just to decarbonise the electricity supply, but is then going completely over the top about a largely sensible idea to regulate the quality of rubber gloves.

Even the claims about "the huge weight" on businesses are vastly overblown. The price for a pair of gloves varies from about 80p to about £3.00, so careful buying for most purchasers will avoid any increased costs in what is a highly competitive market.

But it is silliness such as this which is completely poisoning the debate over the EU. Frankly, issues such as these don't matter at all. But we get both the politicians and the media hyperventilating over such things, and missing the main events.

It we were to leave the EU, yet stay in the EEA, this new regulation would still apply, but in or out of the EU or any associated organisation, if we chose to regulate household gloves, we would end up with the same standards.

What we really need to do is to get to the substance of the problem here, and define the issues that really matter. Otherwise, we end up so bogged down in petty detail that we'll never be able to find our way out of the labyrinth.

Richard North 24/11/2014 link

Sunday 23 November 2014

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In the Sunday Times today we see Owen Paterson reported as, tomorrow, seeking to place himself at the head of a future "out" campaign by arguing that Britain can be better off outside the EU.

He will challenge the prime minister formally to set out ahead of the general election how he would quit the EU, according to a source familiar with his thinking.

It is understood that Paterson favours a move, that the government invoke article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which triggers a two-year period of negotiations if Britain wants to leave. He believes that will focus minds in Brussels and extract the maximum concessions before Cameron's planned in-out referendum in 2017.

He is expected, says the paper, to declare: "We're much better making laws in our own parliament".

Richard North 23/11/2014 link

Sunday 23 November 2014

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There is nothing at all sinister about Booker's column not appearing fully on the website, with just this piece on the site. However, the full column is up here … click to readable size.

Richard North 23/11/2014 link

Saturday 22 November 2014

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A weary few days and some miracle-working by North Jr and friends has got us back online (with the forum and other tweaks to follow when we can), after a series of massive DDOS attacks. So focussed and relentless were the attacks that we conclude that they were directed specifically at EUReferendum, with a view to taking us out of circulation.

Against that and the added stress of extremely arduous day jobbing, the election of a second-rate politician seemed very minor. And, in the grander scheme of things, it was indeed a minor event. In six months, it will be distant memory, as indeed will Reckless the Repatriater, who will have faded into the obscurity he justly deserves.

Of current interest, though, is the fallout, which has the Daily Mail reporting that Conservative MPs are calling for David Cameron to toughen his stance on the EU.

The newspaper is asserting that the way to "take the legs from under Farage" is for the prime minister to campaign for an "out" vote. That is an obvious line to take except that it suffers the obvious flaw. Those unwilling to believe Mr Cameron's promise for a referendum are just as likely to disbelieve any commitment to fight against EU membership.

What might deal a death blow to Farage's ambitions, however, is the double whammy of explaining to the voting public that his party has no idea of how to manage our departure from the EU (and no capability in that respect) while simultaneously demonstrating that a workable plan does exist and can be implemented quickly and easily, to the very great advantage of the UK.

This, in my view, is what is needed to transform the debate. Having long accepted the need to leave the EU – for any number of reasons – I no longer wish to endure the tedium of the continuous tales of woe on how badly we are treated by the Barons of Brussels.

Rather, I am in the market for some "sunlit uplands", the very thing Mr Farage and his dysfunctional acolytes have no means of bringing us. His shambolic party is set to deliver the only thing of which Ukip is capable -  its own brand of discordant negativity. It will never achieve anything but chaos and disruption.

In order to defeat Ukip, what the Conservatives need to realise is you don't fight a negative with a negative. The only thing that cancels out a negative is a positive. All Farage's party can do is tell us how bad it is inside the EU. The Conservatives need to tell us how good it is on the outside.

That, in fact, is quite difficult to do. Any fool can tell us that we need to leave – very few people can come of with a credible, structured plan for making it happen. And as this is a task quite beyond the capabilities of Ukip, and neither Labour nor the Lib-Dems have any intentions of filling the void, this leaves the field wide open to the Conservatives.

This is why the next few dys and weeks are going to be increasingly interesting. Gradually, there is a realisation emerging that the need to get out of the EU is only a tiny part of the equation - the easy bit that even the febrile minds of Ukip supporters can grasp. It is how we get out that matters more. Unless a safe exit can be assured, it is never going to happen.

Once it is evident that the feat can be done, though, it is much more likely that it will then happen. Thus, the realisation that we need an exit plan may be one of the most enduring effects of this period. Knowledgeable commentators will then see the pressure to withdraw as a child of the time. Others will try to link unrelated events, and argue cause and effect.

What we are seeing, though, are effects with common causes. Some have taken the cul-de-sac towards Ukip while the more enlightened are looking for the way to the sunlit uplands. The reasons for those actions are deep-rooted and do not lie in recent events. But the outcome is not to be denied – it was going to happen sooner of later. And even if later, that is better than not at all.

Richard North 22/11/2014 link

Friday 21 November 2014

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I think the political quote of the week comes from the anonymous pundit who reported of Rochester and Strood: "Labour suffer crushing defeat by losing safe Conservative seat to Ukip". But he only just caps Mr Eugenides, who tweets: "Stupid woman tweets photo of white van and flags, resigns. Stupid man calls for compulsory repatriation of legal EU residents, is elected".

Turnout is reported at 50.67 percent, against 51.13 percent at Clacton. Reckless thus came in with 16,867 votes, representing 22.5 percent of the electorate - one in five of the voting public. This is significantly down on Clacton where Carswell took 30.5 percent of the popular vote. We are seeing  yet another failure of the Angry Party to set the election on fire.

That Ukip was going to win, though, has not been in doubt for some time, which means "death camp" Reckless the Repatriater is briefly returned as MP - albeit the indications are that the margin will not be as great as some expect.

His tenure will perhaps last only until the general election. But his move to Ukip will bring no tears from Peter Oborne. He describes the Repatriater as "a brutish and low-grade specimen who ought not have been permitted to stand in the Conservative interest". His defection to Ukip nearly two months ago, Oborne adds, "reflected well on David Cameron's Conservative Party, making it a better place".

Interestingly, Reckless will be addressing the Bruges Group annual conference in London on Saturday. He was invited while he was still a Conservative MP and, if he turns up, will be able to put his views on his change of heart to a discerning audience.

By coincidence, this will be followed on the Monday by Owen Paterson, who is planning a major speech on the EU. Oborne expects Mr Paterson "to develop the argument that Britain's future lies outside Europe", and that may well be the case.

If Mr Paterson goes further and outlines details of how we should go about leaving the EU, he will be ramping up the pressure on UKIP which, after 20 years of existence, is still unable to deliver a coherent (or any) EU exit plan.

And, trailing in the wake of the Guardian, which led the fray in noting the great UKIP policy vacuum, we now see the Telegraph picking up the same thread. "The party can no longer get away with simply behaving like the outsiders of British politics", the paper says, "free to dish out criticism but outraged when it is directed towards them". It adds: "Over the next few months, their policies on every issue should be subjected to the closest possible scrutiny".

This is an interesting observation. We have been known to remark the Ukip supporters, uniquely, seem to believe that their party should be immune from criticism. Now, the Telegraph lends its way to a counter view.

Meanwhile, we are being regaled with rumours of additional Conservative MPs deserting to the policy-free UKIP, maybe attracted by the relief of not having to remember what your party's policies actually are.

However, we are now past the six month cut-off, which means there will be no more by-elections this side of the general. Any MPs who do jump ship and follow the Carswell-Reckless model in resigning their seats are likely to be out in the cold until May – or even longer – reduced to burning their rosettes.

At least, now, we are spared the sight of prancing politicians and prattling pundits giving us the benefit of their ignorance. Instead, we can revel in Mr Kelner's claim that other parties haven't a clue how to beat Ukip – until Monday, that is, when we may get an illustration of how policy trumps vacuum.


Richard North 21/11/2014 link