How symbolic it was, writes Booker, that just when those 114 Tory MPs were voting to deplore the omission from the Queen’s Speech of any mention of an in/out referendum on the EU, the EU's finance ministers in Brussels were voting for UK taxpayers to give another £770 million to this year's agreed EU budget, with a further £400 million to follow.
George Osborne had gone over to Brussels determined to resist this additional demand, but was derisively outvoted. UK taxpayers must therefore fork out a further £1.2 billion, making a mockery of that ancient and jealously guarded rule that money can only be taken off them by agreement of the House of Commons.
The previous week, our Government, in the Queen's Speech, could only scrape together proposals for a mere twenty new Bills, when not long ago Parliament could regularly pass up to 200 Bills in a session.
But this is because so much of our lawmaking has now been outsourced to our real government in Brussels (the European Parliament website lists over 1,300 "legislative acts" being considered in its current session). The MPs we elect to Westminster have no more control over that than they do over the EU's decision to filch another £1 billion of our money.
A measure of just how far the power has drained from our emasculated Westminster Parliament is the sight of our politicians now resentfully stumbling around in a fog, arguing one way or another about some possible referendum, without really grasping any of the realities of the situation in which we now find ourselves. We see them falling into three main groups.
The first includes all those unreconstructed Europhiles who think it pointless even to discuss a referendum because the polls show "Europe" way down the list of issues voters think important. Oddly enough, the last thing such people want to explain to those voters is that the EU is now the chief engine of our government, let alone what an unholy mess it is making of all it touches.
A second large group, led by Mr Cameron, favours the "have our cake and eat it" option. They admit that Britain's position is desperately unsatisfactory, but kid themselves into thinking that we can remain a member of the EU while somehow renegotiating the return of some of those powers we have given away.
But they are baying for the moon, ignoring the most sacred rule on which it has steadily accumulated its powers for 60 years: that once power is given away to the centre, it can never be handed back. The "reformed" EU they babble of is one that does not and cannot exist.
Still further across the spectrum are those dreamers demanding an in/out referendum as soon as possible, because they want us to get out. What they overlook is that, if such a referendum were held in the foreseeable future, the "yes" vote to stay in would win overwhelmingly, because a) no one has yet offered a properly worked out and positive vision of how well Britain could fare if we were to leave, and b) the leaderships of all the major parties, most of the media – led by the BBC – and big business would campaign to keep us in.
Because of the absence of a positive alternative, it would be only too easy to scare voters into thinking that we would be left miserably out in the cold, losing half our trade and all that influence that we enjoy sitting around in Brussels being outvoted by our 26 colleagues.
In short, we might be just like Norway and Switzerland, the two most prosperous countries in Europe, outside the EU but free to do more of their trade with it than we do. In many ways they actually have more influence on its affairs than Britain, through belonging to those global bodies that now make many of the rules on which we are represented only by the EU.
Scratch away at what Mr Cameron's lot think they are after, and what it really comes down to is that they want us to be allowed to continue trading with the EU, like Norway and Switzerland, but without all that suffocating political baggage that goes along with the EU's drive to "ever-closer union".
The only way they can get that is by invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which alone could compel the EU to sit down with us to negotiate precisely the sort of a deal they want. But the snag is, of course, that we can only open that door by saying we want to leave: the very last thing Mr Cameron is prepared to do.
He wants to have his cake and eat it, Booker concludes – a dish that is simply not on the menu.
There is some merit in dismissing the Conservative manoeuvres on the EU referendum as "gesture politics", as there is a huge element of showmanship in the current proposals. But therein also lies danger. The referendum has been moved up the political agenda and the possibility of there now being a poll on or before 2017 cannot be ruled out.
Certainly, the apparatchik currently heading the CBI, John Cridland, is not leaving things to chance. Already on the CBI blog and through the loss-making Guardian he is launching a counter-attack with a goodly dose of FUD (Fear-Uncertainty-Doubt), all in anticipation of a speech today to the British American Business Council.
The intervention is helpful in that it reveals the tactics, with Cridland seeking to marginalise the EU issue by suggesting that other things are more important. But, in the FUD department, it is clear that the Norwegian and Swiss options worry them.
Says Cridland, "Business has to make the nuts and bolts case for what our relationship with Europe should look like", then adding that: "Maintaining our influence to shape, and our access to, the Single Market will be central to that case".
The CBI pitch is that, "We have to focus on a positive vision of reform so Europe does less of the things we don't want, and more of the things we do: boosting competitiveness and resisting bad policies that work against growth and stability".
This leads to the punchline as Cridland says: "Let's be clear. Being a member of a reformed EU is the best way to preserve market access". He goes on to say:
There are some who say that we could retain access to the Single Market without being a member of the EU; that the UK could withdraw and have a relationship with the EU more akin to Norway's or Switzerland's. I'd urge them to really look at the detail.
There we have the "little European" talking, and the last thing he wants us to do is look at the detail. Cridland thus avoids any reference to the globalisation of regulation and standards, where increasingly rules for the Single Market are determined by international bodies working at a higher level than the EU.
Norway's membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) – being outside the EU but part of the Single Market – means that it still pays the bills and follows the rules but has much lower influence on EU decision making than if it had a seat at the table.
Nothing therefore is said about the fact that we are unrepresented on many of these bodies, as the EU takes our seat, while countries like Norway and Switzerland have direct representation and are shaping the rules to which we must conform.
This dishonesty pervades the CBI case, with Cridland calling in aid the Norwegian Conservative MP, Nikolai Astrup, who has told the CBI: "If the UK wants to run Europe, it needs to be in Europe. If you want to be run by Europe, feel free to join us in the EEA".
"Taking rules without the power to influence them is certainly not my idea of much-touted greater sovereignty", says Cridland, neglecting to point out that Norwegian Conservatives are so keen to join the EU that they will do anything to denigrate the EEA.
To an extent, this illustrates the scale of our problem. When it comes to the referendum campaign proper, Cridland, like Mr Cameron, has the easier job. They have no intentions of making the "positive case for Europe". Their strategy is to spray out the FUD, and tell only part of the story. It is left to us to tell people what has been missed out, and to complete the picture.
In fact, neither EU nor EEA membership (outside of the EU) is entirely satisfactory, but as an interim measure, EEA membership keeps us in the Single Market, giving us time to work on a better deal.
But the most important thing for British industry is to break out of the cloying grip of "little Europe" and to embrace the wider world. Sadly, you will not hear this from the CBI.
David Cameron thinks it is possible to change and reform the European Union and to change and reform Britain's relationship with it.
In the very limited sense that it is theoretically possible, Mr Cameron is right. But in practical terms, it is absurd to believe that the UK can steer the EU away from its founding objective of "ever closer union" and, therefore, that we are going to be able seek changes to our "relationship".
Thus does Booker write to tell us that the only solution to our "EU mess" is Article 50.
In all the brouhaha over a Euro-referendum unleashed in the wake of that surge in the polls by UKIP, he writes, it is hard to know who is talking the emptiest fluff. We really are paying the price for all those years when our politicians and media were so keen to bury our European system of government out of sight that they have little idea of the harsh realities of the situation in which we find ourselves.
We have Tory MPs piling in to demand an in-out referendum before 2015, which they are not going to get. We have former political heavyweights such as Lord Lawson, Denis Healey and Norman Lamont queuing up to say that if there were such a referendum they would vote to leave.
We've even got Nick Clegg and those poor little BBC presenters locked in a 13-year-old time warp, trying to tell us that, if we did leave, 3.5 million British jobs would vanish because our trade with our European neighbours would somehow dry up overnight.
None of this bears any more relation to where we actually are, as one of the 27 fully signed-up members of the EU, than David Cameron's threefold dollop of wishful thinking that, if only we re-elect him in 2015, and if only he can somehow persuade his EU colleagues to hand back a few unspecified powers of government –– in breach of the most basic principle on which the EU was founded – he can somehow lead the " yes" campaign in 2017 to a referendum vote for Britain to stay in.
It is true we may one day by law have to have a referendum, whichever party is in power, because sooner or later the drive to give Brussels even more powers in its efforts to save the doomed euro will require a new treaty.
But in the meantime Mr Cameron is terrified that, unless we stay in the EU, we will lose the right to trade freely with its single market. Lord Lawson, in his own muddled way, seems equally to think that, by leaving, we would indeed be excluded from the single market, but that this would be OK because it would somehow bring us "a positive economic advantage".
The truth is that there is only one way we can get what they, and most people, seem to want, but none of them, except occasionally Nigel Farage, ever mentions it – and even then he barely gives it any emphasis.
The only way we can compel our EU partners to negotiate a new relationship which would still give us access to the single market is by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.
Only thus can we negotiate precisely the kind of relationship already enjoyed, in their different ways, by the two most prosperous countries in Europe, Norway and Switzerland, which trade as freely with the EU as we do, but without the rest of that political baggage that inspires such growing resentment not just in Britain, but in many other EU member states.
This, of course, catches out Mr Cameron, because Article 50 can only be invoked by a country announcing its wish to leave the EU. He flatly refuses to recognise that it is perfectly possible to continue trading freely with the EU without belonging to it.
Lord Lawson falls into the opposite trap by also imagining that leaving the EU means being excluded from the single market, although he seems to think this could be an advantage because we could somehow make up for it by increasing our trade with the rest of the world. But both these men, like countless others, are living in cloud-cuckoo land. They will not bring their thinking back to earth by looking hard-headedly at the rules of the game.
The only way we can now face up to the reality of the plight we are in is by putting Article 50 at the very centre of the national debate. It is the only way we can get the best of both worlds that so many people say they want.
Unless we do so, we are doomed to wander on in a fog of wishful thinking that can only continue to leave us with the worst of all worlds – ruled by a dysfunctional system of government that we increasingly resent, but refuse to understand, Booker says.
In the words of Lady Thatcher, which he has quoted before, from her book Statecraft, that we should ever have become absorbed into this "European superstate" will one day be seen as "a political error of the first magnitude".
If we really wish to remedy that error, the only practical way that can be brought about is by invoking Article 50.
One of the great boast of the "colleagues" in the past has been the number of countries wishing to join the EU. Amongst those ready to join, it was always implied, were Iceland and Norway – if only those pesky people would stop being so hostile about "mother Europe".
Any road, one part of that dream is well and truly shattered with the general election in Iceland. There, the centre-right has returned to power after voters rejected the austerity policies of the outgoing social democratic government. The victory, it is generally acknowledged, will sink Iceland's bid to join the EU.
With the votes now counted, the Independence Party and the Progressive Party gained a combined total of 38 seats in the 63-member parliament, taking 51 percent of the national vote. The Social Democratic Alliance and its junior partner, the Left-Green Movement, were projected to lose just over half of their seats.
Before the elections, Bjarni Benediktsson, leader of the Independence Party, together with the Progressive Party – the two big winners of the day – had made it clear that they could terminate EU accession negotiations, which had in any case been suspended since January, in anticipation of the elections.
And no one can suggest that this is anything other than a full-blooded rejection. Unlike so many other countries, where apathy rules, in Iceland there is no shortage of interest in the political process. Turnout was over 80 percent of the nearly 238,000 voters.
With a population of 320,000 little Iceland is going it alone. Despite the huge problems it has confronted, this is a self-confident nation that does not feel the need to shackle itself to a corpse. The rejection is complete, and effectively final.
An exclusive interview of German defence minister Thomas de Maizière, for the Guardian
highlights an apparent inconsistency, as the minister suggests that a UK outside the European Union would "jeopardise military standing".
Ostensibly, this is an absurd assertion, as the UK would continue to participate in joint military ventures through its membership of NATO, the activities of which are increasingly duplicating EU military initiatives.
Unwittingly, though, de Maizière is revealing a mindset now prevalent amongst European defence ministers, who are sharing the view offered by this article, effectively conceding that the days of NATO are numbered.
With the EU Foreign Affairs council just concluded in Luxembourg, with defence ministers present, one can see the writing on the wall, as ministers grapple with plans to reactivate the battlegroup concept – effectively moribund since 2007 – prior to a major defence council in December, when we expect to see significant developments in the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy.
On the other hand, with NATO operations in Afghanistan winding down, the glue that binds the North Atlantic Alliance is melting away. The United States is looking east, with North Korea currently dictating defence priorities, drawing further away from NATO and reducing its European presence.
Behind the scenes, what we are also seeing is a gradual insitutional merger between the EU and NATO. So deep is the "strategic partnership" that the European components of NATO are becoming completely integrated with the EU military structures, to the point where they are inseparable.
In the fullness of time – and now not very far distant – we will witness a restructuring of NATO, comprising EU elements, the non-EU European elements and the North American elements (US and Canada). But the heart of the NATO will become its 21 EU members, who will be the driving force.
It is in that context that de Maizière's comments must be seen. He asserts that, "If Great Britain leaves the EU, it would be a great disappointment to us. It would weaken Nato, it would weaken the British influence within Nato. I think from a military point of view the disadvantages for Great Britain would be bigger than the advantages".
De Maizière is effectively saying that full participation in NATO (as it is about to become) will be dependent on membership of the EU, the latter having engineered a reverse takeover. NATO, at a European level, becomes "EUNATO".
Increasingly, we can also see the United States channelling its initiatives via the European Union, quite deliberately in an attempt to keep Britain within the EU, with the United Nations also dealing with the EU as the partner of record.
All this will be (and is being) designed to convey precisely the impression de Maizière has given the Guardian. This is more that the usual FUD, and represents a structured attempt to undermine UK independence.
When it gets to the stage that even military co-operation with the United States is channelled through the EUNATO complex, Britain will no longer have the option of bilateral relations with the US. The UK will be locked in to the EU, whether it likes it or not.
However, what de Maizière omits to tell us is that there is provision for actors to take part in EU institutions without being members of the EU. This is typified by Norway being a participant in European Defence Agency initiatives. Thus, the UK outside the EU could still elect to take part in EU defence ventures, on an ad hoc basis, losing nothing by being outside the fold.
But then, you do not expect the "colleagues" to tell the whole story. It would spoil their game and reduce the impact of their message.
Probably the most dangerous weakness in the case for the continued UK membership of the EU is the face that we could enjoy the "benefits" of the Single Market without being members of the EU, simply by adopting the "Norwegian option" of EFTA/EEA membership.
Interestingly, though, the establishment politicians in Norway hate the idea of EFTA/EEA membership – they would much rather have their country join the EU. And no more so does this apply than to the Conservative opposition.
Therefore, it is entirely unsurprising that the LSE should invite opposition leader Erna Solberg to give them a lecture telling them that the so-called Norwegian option "is not right for the UK". It is equally unsurprising that the BBC should publicise her speech.
Listening to the speech, what came over was a politician filled with regrets that her countrymen had twice rejected EU membership. She thus painted the blackest picture she could of her country's EEA membership, emphasising the fact that Norway had "no voting rights in the EU – it is not at the negotiating table".
Solberg even tried on the payments canard, stating that Norway contributed €204 million annually to the budget, not stating that 80 percent of that is contributed voluntarily to finance its participation in the EU's research programmes.
This one-dimensional, and fundamentally dishonest view is very much in character for the europhile Norwegian establishment. Nothing comes over of how influential the Norwegians are in international organisations, which so often set the agenda which the EU has to follow.
Not indeed does Solberg spell out the downside of EU membership in any detail, neglecting to say that the richest cod fishery in the world would become a common EU resource, with an estimated catch value of €2 billion and a huge amount of added value from processing.
The very last thing we are going to get out of the europhiles, though, is an honest debate, which is why we are going to have to pursue the arguments ourselves. But be in no doubt, EEA membership – at least as a temporary expedient – is an excellent option for the UK on leaving the EU, giving us time to "park" the Single Market issue, while we search for more durable alternatives.
And we must also not neglect that distinct probability that, if we were to leave the EU and work through EFTA/EEA, additional countries would undoubtedly follow, making the group much more powerful and able to negotiate better terms with the rump of the EU.
This, though, is caught up in the propaganda game and will not be rehearsed by the europhiles. But at least we can take some comfort from the fact that, if both the BBC and the LSE are telling us that the "Norwegian option" is not a good idea, then it must have a lot going for it.
Having promised to write a piece on the Harrogate Agenda each week (usually on Sunday), I thought of making my last piece today's subject. This deals with protest groups throughout Europe, reflecting the growing disillusionment with establishment politics.
If I was to have focused on that, it would have been to ask how many of the movements we are now seeing have actually achieved anything substantive, and how many of them will still be in place in, say, twenty years time, and will have achieved their objectives – whatever they might be.
What probably distinguishes The Harrogate Agenda (THA) from these other groups is that we have a very clear statement of objectives. This has been carefully thought out; it strikes at the very roots of power and, when adopted, will make a very significant change to the way we are governed.
That said, we have no illusions about the difficulties involved, and have thus written earlier about being in this for the long haul, and of the need for a foundation year. There are those who would wish us to move faster, but from those, I notice no convincing arguments about how we could speed up the process of getting the Agenda adopted.
That, actually, defines our approach. There are many would-be campaigners who define "success" in terms of activity rather than outcomes. They will congratulate themselves on holding a demonstration, on starting up a website, on getting favourable publicity, or even on coming second in an election.
For THA, though, there is only one outcome, measure of success – the implementation of all six of our demands. If we achieve that inside twenty years, it will be a miracle. And the only way that "miracle" will happen is through a carefully structured, measured approach, built on solid foundations.
Further, it has always been the case that campaigns cost money and, last week, I discussed the idea of creating a form of franchise, which would enable the movement to be structured as a business, to generate an income to cover expenses and to pay those who work for the cause.
There are those who disagree with this approach, but unless they can come up with a better idea for funding a long-term campaign, this, as they say, is the only game in town. We would need to be convinced that there was another model which could sustain us over the many years that it will take to fight our corner.
Short of any better ideas, we will continue to work on a franchise model, as described last week, to which effect, we have already devoted a considerable amount of time and effort, developing the "product package" which will form the basis of the franchise.
So far, what we have in mind is a foundation pamphlet, similar in length to a typical Bruges Group pamphlet, which will describe the basics of the Harrogate Agenda, and the reasoning for it. This, our franchisees can sell for a modest fee. And if the term "franchisee" offends, notwithstanding that our MPs hold our franchise, call them "agents" or some such.
In time, we will also produce six further pamphlets, each one describing one of the six demands in greater detail, again produced for sale at a modest fee by our putative franchisees or agents.
On top of this, plans are well advanced to produce two broadcast-quality video documentaries, each of about half an hour in length. The first will essentially illustrate the foundation pamphlet. The second will be about the "Norway option", and its application to any forthcoming EU referendum and a "no" campaign.
We aim to have short versions on YouTube, but the full-length videos will be available on DVD and download, for a modest fee – more saleable products to form the franchise package. Over time, we will, of course, consider making more. These two are assured, as we have secured the very generous sponsorship to fund their making – about £25,000 in all. With that, we have a busy filming schedule set for the summer, aiming to complete by our annual conference, provisionally set for 19 October.
However, the core of the franchise package, and the bulk of our early activity, will be the "workshops". These I will describe in more detail next week, but the essence is a series of talks. When combined, these can form half-day, day or weekend "events" which can be marketed to the public for a fee.
The basis of this "product", in the hands of our agents, will be a fully tested series of lecture notes, powerpoint illustrations, and a support package which includes training and marketing assistance.
When we get going, therefore, we will have a range of "products" – the workshop series, pamphlets and DVDs, with more to follow. On top of conferences, and other events, we think this will make a good start. But quality products don't come quick, cheap or easy. Which is why we need a foundation year.
COMMENT: COMBINED "HARROGATE AGENDA" THREAD
Readers will recall the alarmist and thoroughly misleading headlines last September, when it was claimed – quite wrongly – that there were only "100 adult cod in N Sea". In fact, there were more than enough cod for the EU grudgingly to award a North Sea catch limit of 10,311 tons to the British (mainly Scottish) fleet.
But what has been almost totally ignored by the British media is the remarkable story of the Barents Sea, where in October last year, Norwegian fisheries scientists were recording that the Barents Sea cod stock was not only growing but spreading northwards and eastwards.
The Barents Sea fishery is the largest cod resource in the world and, as a result of the growth in stocks, the two controlling fishing nations, Norway and Russia, awarded themselves a million ton quota, up 200,000 tons from the previous year, with an estimated catch value of €2 billion. Norway's total quota is 446,740 tons.
The stock estimates were not wrong, and last month had skippers reporting huge amounts of fish in the Barents Sea. And, just to confound the naysayers, the average weight of the cod was rising as well.
However, there is always a downside. From February 2011 when $3,800 per metric ton was the going rate to processors, the price has dropped to $2,700 per metric ton. Now, as the global cod market, brims with supply, Alaskan suppliers are complaining that prices for Atlantic cod delivered to China for processing are at half their 2008 peak level.
Compared with the Barents Sea catch, though, the Alaskan fishery is a "drop in the bucket". Longliners in 2012 caught 38,345 tons from the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska fisheries, which is ten percent greater than the same period last year. The trawlers' harvest, on the other hand, was on par with 2011, at 43,082 tons, compared with 43,105 tons.
Nevertheless, the glut of fish – to which much be added the Icelandic and the Faroese catches from their own waters – leaves countries such as Norway having to deal with the problems of excess. Thus, Norwegian industry experts are talking of enhancing quality and spreading the season, to improve prices.
That Norway is even able to consider these options rests almost entirely on its refusal in 1994 to join the European Union (for the second time). As it stands, fisheries stocks in the Barents Sea are managed by the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission, established in 1975.
Had Norway become an EU member, it would have handed control of its fisheries to the Commission, to be treated as a "common resource". The EU would be negotiating directly with Russia, excluding Norway from the table.
And like Britain, it might have been looking at quotas in the tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands of tons it is currently catching, with their fleet a fraction of the size. It is a small wonder that the EU's CFP was one of the main reasons why Norway didn't want to join.
Potentially, one of the biggest losers in the Cyprus "rescue" is the Church of Cyprus, which has calculated that it has $130 million at risk.
It is surprising, therefore, that more has not been made of the Financial Times report which claims that the Church has successfully petitioned for an interim injunction, blocking the expropriation of its funds.
Echoing the Bank of Cyprus statement, a local lawyer is saying that, "The expropriation of property is contrary to the constitution of Cyprus and the European Declaration of Human Rights", on which grounds the injunction was sought.
The case must now go for a full hearing, for the injunction to be confirmed, but it may be resolved by other means. However, the FT says that similar attempts at legal action are expected from companies around the world. Even if unsuccessful, they are set to further muddy the already complex legal situation.
Win or lose, the damage done is considerable, but no more so than to the international reputation of the euro. As a result of the ongoing crisis, Spiegel informs us, countries in the developing world are drastically reducing their euro holdings. They are at their lowest level in a decade.
When the euro was first launched on 1 January 1999, the "colleagues" had ambitions of it rivalling the US dollar as the world's premier reserve currency. And such hopes have now been dashed: developing economies shed some $45 billion worth of euros in 2012 and have sold close to $90 billion-worth since the second quarter of 2011.
But just to remind us that there is nothing new under the sun, Die Zeit reminds us that this is not the first time that a government has made off with its citizens's hard-earned cash.
In Italy, the government Amato raised in summer 1992, with retroactive effect, a tax on all bank deposits. In Britain, the government under Wilson said in 1968 the possession of more than four gold coins - the rest had to be surrendered to the Bank of England.
Norway in 1936, the government raised without warning a special tax on all interest. In the U.S., the Roosevelt administration in 1933 forbade the possession of gold, the precious metal was confiscated and it only paid for about 40 percent of its value.
Quite simply, theft is what governments do, although the devious nature of banking transactions in Cyprus makes it difficult to determine who has been thieving from whom. But, with the Church of Cyprus now in the fray, God may be taking a hand. Things may now get a little more difficult for the Cypriot government.
COMMENT: CYPRUS COMBINED THREAD
Communities in Hokkaido and five prefectures of the Tohoku region, we are told, have had record levels of accumulated snow as of 25 February.
In the Sukayu district of Aomori city along the Hakkoda mountain range, the snowpile measured 5.61 metres, a record for all areas where the Japan Meteorological Agency keeps records of accumulated snowfall. Thirteen locations have set records for their snowpiles this winter.
But this is not without cost. The death toll around the nation has hit 67, while 444 have been "badly wounded", according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency (FDMA). Of the 67 deaths, 52 were citizens aged 65 and older.
Japan, of course, is not alone. Baltimore is set for a two-year record. Chicago has experienced record-breaking snowfall.
Wednesday saw a total of 5.4 inches measured at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. This snowfall total makes the event the largest snowfall of the season for Chicago thus far, making up 28 percent of the 2012-2013 winter snowfall total.
Southwest of the Windy City, a blizzard broke the all-time monthly snowfall record for Wichita, Kansas. The storm dropped nearly seven inches of snow on that city, bringing the monthly total to 21 inches — the most snow the city has seen in any month since records have been kept, according to the National Weather Service.
These were just a tiny few of the records broken, in a winter that had 652 records set in the US, with snow as far south as the Mexican border in Arizona.
But we've also seen a French resort - Cauterets, in the Pyrenees - overtaken the world record for snow at a ski resort, with a massive five metres of snow on the ground – enough to keep the slopes open for business until mid April.
The quantity of snow this year has surprised everyone, and has its drawbacks. Some ski slopes being forced to close for safety reasons and sixty people currently working to clear the resort of the excess.
No amount of clearance will sort out the Russian village of Oymyakon, which hit -70ºC this winter – the land that global warming forgot. But, with so much of the white stuff around, it is thus not a surprise that public concern about environmental issues including climate change has slumped to a 20-year low.
Only 49 percent of people - according to the poll of 22,812 people in 22 countries including Britain and the US - now consider climate change a very serious issue – far fewer than at the beginning of the worldwide financial crisis in 2009. And then, that disguises the national figure. In Norway, a mere 11.8 percent of the population fear global warming. In Great Britain, the figure is 16.3, in the US 19.6 percent. Even in relatively alarmist Canada the great majority take global warming in stride - only 27.8 percent see it as doom-worthy.
One reason for the relatively low ranking of climate change is that people often believe it did not directly affect them, says Tom W. Smith, Director of the General Social Survey. But then it could also be that people can see for themselves that the greenie propaganda doesn't stand up.
With "global warming" readily seen as an ironic synonym for snow, the warmists are losing the game.
Strictly speaking, all the European Council has done is agree a "common position" on the multi-annual budget. There is no "historic budget deal". There is no EU agreement.
Says Mary Ellen Synon, Spiegel and many others, battle is not over. The European Parliament must still approve it, and that is not a foregone conclusion.
One needs to repeat this. It is not a foregone conclusion. We are told that Joseph Daul, chairman of the European People's Party parliamentary group, which represents the Continent's Christian Democrats, says a budget of €960 billion would be unacceptable.
"These proposals are going in the wrong direction, attacking one of our best tools to generate growth - the European budget - of which 94 percent goes back to the member states. The proposal we have today is a political capitulation and we are going to reject it," he says.
Synon is even more robust on this, making talks of "victory" extremely premature. One wonders, though, whether Mr Cameron has really registered what is going on, but then this is a man who confused "debt" with "deficit" and believes that Norway has "no influence at all" over EU regulation.
That said, the media, as in the loss-making Guardian here have no excuse for their headlines. They are badly misrepresenting the situation.
Then, we've seen a lot of that lately, on fishing and the CAP. The British media really doesn't "get" the European Parliament, any more than it does the EU generally.
If Mr Shulz, has his way, though, Mr Cameron's "victory" will not be lasting very long. Then, perhaps, the media might wake up to what is happening, but I somehow doubt it.
COMMENT: "THEATRE" THREAD
Acute observers have noticed that David Cameron is not alone in his obsession with homosexual marriage, with the French National Assembly last week having approved the most important article of a bill to legalise same-sex marriage, and the political fall-out continuing (above).
Same-sex marriage has already been legalised the Netherlands, by Norway and in Germany, where the constitutional court has recently strengthened the rights of homosexual couples, giving them a same tax benefit as heterosexual married couples. That country, rather like Britain, is currently "mired in an escalating debate on the status of homosexual partnerships".
Given the Europe-wide interest, which also includes Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Denmark, it is not untoward to ask whether there is an EU dimension in all this. The answer is "not directly". There is, however, a very strong "European" dimension and a UK link. But to find it you have to go not to Brussels but to Strasbourg and the Council of Europe (CoE).
The clue is in the tidied-up screen grab above, where the Home Office
tells us of the Council of Europe and its work, which "includes promoting gender equality and more recently lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T) equality".
There also we find that United Kingdom assumed the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe for six months from 7 November 2011 to 14 May 2012, whence we cut to the statement of priorities
for the UK chairmanship, in which Minister for Europe David Lidington declares:
… the Government has repeatedly made it clear that human rights are central to its foreign policy. We aim to be an example of a society that upholds human rights and democracy, and we are committed to strengthening the rules based international system.
For the detail of those fine aspirations, one has to go to the formal statement
, where the preamble tells us:
The United Kingdom is proud to be assuming the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from 7 November 2011. As a founder member of the organisation and the first country to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights, the UK takes the responsibility of the Chairmanship, which it last held in 1993, very seriously. We see it as an opportunity for the UK to play a leading role in the vital work of the Council of Europe in promoting rights, democracy and rule of law across the continent.
Within this, we then find that the "overarching theme" of the Chairmanship was "the promotion and protection of human rights", with a "particular focus" on developing practical measures in a number of areas, one of which (of six) was, "combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity".
Meanwhile, things had already been warming up in Strasbourg, which now has its own dedicated LGBT project
. On 31 March 2010, this had got accepted "Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5
of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity".
Amongst other things, it referred to the ECHR and "other international jurisdictions", which "consider sexual orientation a prohibited ground for discrimination and have contributed to the advancement of the protection of the rights of transgender persons", and then recommended members (including the UK) to:
1. examine existing legislative and other measures, keep them under review, and collect and analyse relevant data, in order to monitor and redress any direct or indirect discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity; and
2. ensure that legislative and other measures are adopted and effectively implemented to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, to ensure respect for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and to promote tolerance towards them;
This is not quite the smoking gun, but this is to be found in the same document, viz:
23. Where national legislation confers rights and obligations on unmarried couples, member states should ensure that it applies in a non-discriminatory way to both same-sex and different-sex couples, including with respect to survivor's pension benefits and tenancy rights.
24. Where national legislation recognises registered same-sex partnerships, member states should seek to ensure that their legal status and their rights and obligations are equivalent to those of heterosexual couples in a comparable situation.
Although these were framed as "recommendations", they were headed "Right to respect for private and family life", which makes them, effectively, the CoE official interpretation of Article 8 of the ECHR. To all intents and purposes, it has the effect of treaty law – certainly as far as the UK is concerned.
The description of "recommendation" certainly belied the status of the document. The European Parliament Directorate-General for Internal Policies
called it "a significant soft law commitment on rights of LGBT persons". The EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) thought
the recommendation provided "useful guidance" to EU Member States for improving the respect, protection and promotion of LGBT rights.
The LGBT lobby in the Council of Europe, however – which had acquired its own website
was also able to invoke Protocol 12, explained in detail here
, which set out in Article 1&2, that:
1 The enjoyment of any right set forth by law shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.
2 No one shall be discriminated against by any public authority on any ground such as those mentioned in paragraph 1.
This effectively, by solemn international treaty, requires parties to permit same-sex marriage, with all the attendant legal rights afforded to heterosexual couples.
On the UK front, homosexual marriage was not on the coalition work programme
published in June 2010, and it did not - as a formal or even published government aspiration - pre-date Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5
Even by the end of of 2010, there was no publicly expressed expectation of imminent legislation on same-sex marriage, with campaigners instead planning
on launching a legal challenge in the ECHR.
It was not until March 2011, in anticipation of the UK's Chairmanship of the CoE in November 2011, that HM Government then published a report
, "Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality: Moving Forward" (cover pictured right).
There, on page 12, doffing a cap at Protocol 12 and, specifically, to implement Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5
, was a commitment to, "work with all those who have an interest in equal civil marriage and partnerships, on how legislation can develop".
The actual "smoking gun" was on Page 14, with a commitment to:
Work towards the full implementation in the UK and across Europe of the Council of Europe's recommendations 'Measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity' including by using our Chairmanship of the Council of Europe from November 2011 to review progress.
This, naked in tooth and claw (to coin a phrase) is Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 and the timetable set for "full implementation" in June 2013, with responsibility delegated jointly to the Foreign Office and Government Equalities Offices (see below). And why is the FCO involved? That is because it involves international commitments via the CoE.
And, of course, the UK takes its international commitments very seriously. In late March 2012
, the UK Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers hosted a conference in Strasbourg, well away from the prying eyes of the media, on "Combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity across Europe: sharing knowledge and moving forward".
This "brought together activists and politicians, including ministers" and looked at how to implement Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5. There, with British officials attending their minister, they set the priorities, focusing on protection from hate crime and bullying, on education and employment, and on "family life and transgender equality".
And that is the real reason as to why Mr Cameron has invested so much political capital in the cause of "gay marriage". Although we have not ratified
Protocol 12, we have accepted unconditionally Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5, and undertaken to implement it by June 2013.
Having made that commitment for the Chairmanship of the CoE, Mr Cameron has no choice but to see it through. In June, there is another Committee of Ministers
to consider a report on the implementation of the Recommendation, when he is to be called to account for his earlier commitment.
Mr Cameron has no intention of disappointing his LGBT colleagues in Europe. Being the good European that he is, he will do what it takes to get his Bill through Westminister.
When Booker and I started working together back in 1992, we spent a lot of time on agriculture and fishing, these being the victims of the two most fully-developed EU policies – and the most catastrophic.
Part of our reasoning was that these industries were the "canaries down the mine". What happened to them could be taken as an example and a warning of what was to happen to the rest of us.
What I certainly didn't bargain for, more than 20 years later, was how completely the two industries would disappear from the popular media, so much so that the depredations of the EU would seem like history, unattached to current reality, while contemporary hacks and politicians would know next to nothing of the background.
Reflecting the almost complete lack of understanding of the fishing industry is the tendency in any fishing dispute to "fly the flag", as in the current "Mackeral War", supporting our own against the "johnny foreigner" - the Faroese and the Icelanders.
In so doing, however, this is standing up for the Scottish pelagic fleet which, contrary to the image of the hard-pressed, struggling fishermen, is a tiny exclusive "club" of multi-millionaire owners, running modern, 2,000-ton plus, super-trawlers
, with starting prices of £20 million.
This is also an industry writ through with criminality
, of which last year's "black fish scandal
" is reckoned to be only the tip of the iceberg, where thousands of tons of illegally caught herring and mackerel were landed
, at a value variously estimated at up to £100 million.
Then, 17 skippers, mostly from the Shetland island of Whalsey admitted to specimen charges, covering the landing of illegal catches worth £47.5 million
, after living lives of luxury, splashing out on "holiday homes and flash cars".
This is an industry driven by greed
, and one which, unlike the whitefish fleet, has profited hugely from the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Unsurprisingly the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association
(SPFA) with its 27 member vessels has been vocal in its support of the EU, even while the rest of the fleet has been driven into bankruptcy.
Multi-millionaire Association Chairman, Alex Wiseman, and co-owner of the Kings Cross
trawler, weeps tears for The Sunday Telegraph
. "This is our way of life, and if you suddenly tell us we can only catch a small fraction of what we previously relied on, then you will kill us all off", he says. "People won't go bankrupt overnight, but they will sell up, and businesses owned by the same family for generations will fold. It's really frightening".
Yet Wiseman was one of the 17 skippers successfully prosecuted in the "black fish" fraud, a highly sophisticated operation
that involved not just the skippers of Shetland and north east pelagic trawlers, but the vessel's agents and the fish factory itself, described by presiding judge Lord Turnbull as "an episode of shame" for the industry. Wiseman was fined £50,000, with a confiscation order of £196,000. His co-owner, Alex Masson, was also fined £50,000, with a confiscation order of £283,000.
The pelagic industry generally has also been guilty of the notorious practice of high grading
, discarding hundreds of thousands of tons of fish to optimise the value of the catches brought back to port.
This is a practice that is supposed to have been banned, but is still routinely carried out on a colossal scale. White fish skippers fishing three hours steaming North West of the Butt of Lewis, in an area called the Horse Shoe, and the Sulesger Bank, are currently reporting major problems. Some have struggled for 10-12 hours to retrieve nets after scooping up tons of rotting mackerel from the sea bed, dumped by pelagic boats. Others have lost their bag ends altogether.
But, despite landing record catches
, with the value of fish landed in Shetland increasing to a new record of over £90 million during 2011 and records set in Peterhead
, the pelagic skippers still want more. Theirs is the industry which is the most voluble in demanding sanctions
against the Faroe Islands and Iceland, despite the potential adverse effects on the British fish-processing industry.
In thrall to this tiny, but wealthy sector of the Scotish fishing industry, we have thus seen Scottish fisheries minister Richard Lochhead
picking up the call for sanctions, even though the predatory behaviour of Norway and the EU renders their imposition problematical, to the point where they could hardly be applied.
One also needs to remember that, at the heart of the Mackerel dispute is the fact that these fish have moved north into Icelandic and Faroese waters. The effects of this were spelled out yesterday in the Irish Times
Sigurgeir Thorgeirsson, Iceland's chief fisheries negotiator spoke of some 1.5 million tons of mackerel moving into his country's waters last summer, consuming an estimated three million tons of food.
"We have quite a greedy guest in our coastal zone", says Thorgeirsson. "A six-year-old mackerel arrives weighing 300g and its weight rises to 500g from eating krill, crustacea, herring and even sand eel". The mackerel invasion is even being blamed for a marked decline in the number of seabirds, including the much-loved puffin.
Thus, the Icelandic and Faroese governments both maintain that catching mackerel in their coastal zones is vitally necessary to restore the ecological balance. But such is the greed of the Scottish pelagic fishermen that they would have these countries, which depend on their fishing industries, prohibited from fishing in their own waters, so that they can maintain their own quotas.
From a broader perspective, in terms of jobs and value, the processing industry, with considerable capacity in Grimsby, is worth far more to us than a few wealthy Scottish boat owners. But, if they need to keep up the repayments on their over-sized boats, the best option is for their beloved EU to negotiate a share of the Faroese and Icelandic quotas.
If they are to have any chance of that, however, ministers would be best off calming down their rhetoric
, and recognising that the Scottish pelagic fleet is not the centre of the universe. The Faroese and Icelanders have right on their side – and their track-record should tell ministers that they do not give in to bullies.
Approval of those horrid GM crops is, as we saw earlier, is part of the Single Market acquis, which means that the EEA would appear to be involved – and indeed it is.
But, if legend has got it right, the moment that dreaded fax machine started chattering with the regulation approving BASF's Amflora GMO potato, all those little Vikings would instantly have been living in GM potato-land.
For some strange reason, though, nobody told the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management about this fabled "fax law". Thus, when it was told that the Amflora product had been given market authorisation, it rather irritatingly published a web page telling us that the EEA Agreement only obliges Norway to "consider" all GMOs authorised in the EU.
Being good little Norwegians, indeed, they have considered Amflora. And, having done so, the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management decided that "the cultivation and use of the genetically modified potato Amflora in feed and food should be prohibited in Norway".
That, it seems, is as far as they got. Unless you know different, the product was never approved for use in Norway and now that BASF have thrown in the towel, it does not look as if it ever will – all of which is rather peculiar, because Mr Cameron says that Norway "has no say at all in setting its rules: it just has to implement its directives".
And, as we all know, Mr Cameron is never wrong.
Hire a girlie reporter who did her basic training on the Hello Magazine and takes pride in having "exclusively covered the Strictly Come Dancing aftershow party, reported on the Brit Awards". Such are the proudest professional moments of the new Sunday Telegraph fisheries expert.
Make sure she is badly-briefed and then send her off to Reykjavik to cover an issue
she clearly knows nothing
, put the result in front of an ignorant editorial desk and the result
is a badly-framed mish-mash, of which any reputable newspaper would be ashamed.
The lack of coherence, however, is not confined to the Sunday Telegraph
girlie. The Sunday Express
does just as badly, also inventing a biff-bam Iceland vs
Britain story on the lines of the Cod War.
Thus to frame the story is completely to misunderstand (and misrepresent) what is going on. This is a four-way fight which has the EU and Norway on one side, and the Faroe Islands and Iceland on the other. The fault lies almost entirely with the EU and Norwegians, both having behaved in a disgusting fashion. They have demanded 90 percent of the North Atlantic mackerel quota based on historic rights (track record), even though the fish have moved north into Faroese and Icelandic waters.
What we have, therefore, is a situation where the EU/Norwegian licensed fleet is continuing to fish its traditional grounds within established national boundaries. They are not in any way encroaching on Icelandic waters (or Faroese for that matter), which was the basis of the Icelandic Cod War.
The dispute arises from the EU and Norway effectively seeking to prohibit these two countries from fishing in their own waters, after the mackerel have moved into their territorial zones - even though not to fish them may harm indigenous stocks of herring and blue whiting, and deplete food supplies.
From our perspective, though, the really interesting thing about the whole dispute, is what the ignorant hacks have completely missed. The UK – although having two dogs in the fight (holding 60 percent of the EU mackerel quota, while also processing fish from the Iceland and the Faroes) – has no seat at the table.
Negotiations are being carried out between parties to the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission
, of which we are no longer members. Our seat has been taken up by the EU which negotiates in our place.
Thus, while girlie Harriet and her counterpart on the Express
can go trotting off to Reykjavik to discuss matters with Iceland's chief negotiator Sigurgeir Thorgeirsson, that is the one thing that British ministers are not allowed to do.
Negotiating rights are reserved to the Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, a Greek leftie politician, who seems more concerned with propagandising
than ending the problem. All the Brits can do is seek to "influence" the Commission is a so far vain attempt to resolve the dispute.
Despite this, the Espress
consistently seeks to give the impression that British ministers are directly involved in negotiations, which they are not. Even the girlie is woefully behind the times. There is pressure, she chirps, "for the European Union to impose sanctions on Iceland – threatening to block imports of other fish – unless it dramatically scales back its catch of mackerel, in a variation of the infamous Cod Wars in which navies were summoned and fishing boats rammed".
Yet, as we saw from the Council meeting last week, the prospect of sanctions being imposed is remote
. As we reported at the time:
One of the conditions required is the obligation under WTO Rules for both parties to demonstrate that they are open to negotiation and their willingness to engage in "sustainable fishing". By claiming 90 percent of the stock (even if it is in the framework of an overall quota reduction), the EU does not really seem to be demonstrating a willingness to negotiate, and is on a perilously weak footing.
Despite this also, the Express -
which bases its whole story on the prospect of sanctions -writes that "the mood among many fishermen is for tough sanctions now". The paper does not even beginning to explain why they are not going to happen.
If it was just the girlie getting it wrong, we might suggest she goes back to the Hello Magazine
where she clearly belongs. But that would be unfair if it also left James Murray of the Express
in place. Neither are use nor ornament, which just about sums up the legacy media which employs them.
I don't know how often we have to restate this, but here lies yet another example of the old adage: you may be uniformed if you don't read a newspaper (or a blog), but if you rely on a newspaper, you will end up misinformed.
So the spotlight on Norway continues, bringing to light this review
of the functioning of the EEA. It was issued in Brussels on 7 December last year by the European Commission and, but for events, would have remained (for us) just another one of the thousands of documents pumped out by the EU each year, for which there simply isn't time to read.
This one, mercifully, is only seventeen pages, and even then we get a helpful summary in EurActiv, telling us that Norway is failing to live up to its obligations as a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), including imposing extra taxes on EU products and not implementing more than 400 directives.
In the report, Norway is also being criticised for imposing tariffs on EU products from 2013 and resisting "EU efforts for ambitious liberalisation" of the EU's single market. Complains the Commission: "This situation might thus lead to competitive advantages for operators based in the EEA-EFTA countries, and more fundamentally risks undermining the legal certainty and homogeneity of the single market".
Moreover, the EU also dislikes the fact that Norway has rejected several directives coming from Brussels. The Norwegian government has for example warned it won’t implement the EU's postal directive about competitiveness for letter mail weighting less than 50 grams.
Danish MEP Bendt Bendtsen (European People's Party), who has been closely following the trade issues with Norway, says the problems started in 2012 when Norway raised the price of hydrangeas from the EU by 72 percent. Eventually, the extra taxes spread to EU food products such as cheese and meat.
Bendtsen says Norway is acting "selfishly" and that the taxes were put on EU goods "deliberately" as the Norwegian Centre Party, which is part of the Norwegian government, has for a long time pushed for the extra taxes. "Norway only wants the cream on the cake," the MEP says.
Brining it bang up-to-date is a report on Norway's TV2 News which headlines that Norway is "threatened with hefty fines" from the EU, while another report has Conservative Party leader Erna Solberg blaming the Socialist government for "poor co-operation" with the EU.
All this paints a very different picture from the image of poor little Norway rolling over and implementing a new law every time the ancient fax machine stutters into life, presenting a much more dynamic and troubled relationship between Norway and the EU.
It may suit the likes of David Cameron to paint a one-dimensional (and dishonest) picture of the relationship, but real life is very different. In fact, links between the EU and Norway are under constant review, and even the Schengen Agreement is being questioned, mainly in response to the Romanian and Bulgarian accession.
I'm beginning to get a sense of the game the Norwegians are playing, which is subtle and clever. Presenting an image to the world as weak, powerless neighbour to the mighty EU, it is using this carefully cultivated image as cover for a ruthlessly aggressive foreign policy, while it exploits every gap and loophole in international agreements, itself acting the bully with its smaller neighbours, as we see with the mackerel dispute.
The Norwegians are not quite the innocents that they would like to make out, and seem to be playing a very successful game of protecting their own national interests, without people realising what they are doing. It is no wonder that so many want the UK to stay in the EU. They don't want Britain to enjoy the same competitive advantages as Norway.
recently devoted its Cross Talk programme to the EU referendum issue, with Robert Oulds from the Bruges Group, Tony Halpin from The Times
and MEP Georges Chatzimarkakis, hosted by Peter Lavelle.
The video clip was brought to my attention by a reader who noted with delight how Oulds had managed argue to the point about Norway's "influence" on Single Market legislation.
But what is equally of interest is the intensity with which Tony Halpin defends the "no influence" pitch. He simply won't have it that EFTA/EEA countries have the ability to influence and even block EU law.
The is first raised by Chatzimarkakis (about ten minutes into the programme), Oulds disputes this, and Halpin then pitches in with the claim:
I think it's very difficult to be outside a club and be affected by its rules. The rules will be imposed – you don't have a choice whether to accept them or negotiate them. They're presented to you - it's a single economy against a collective weight of – I dunno, seventeen or eighteen. Um, Norway and Switzerland do have to comply with …
At this point Oulds intervenes, saying that Norway had been able to exercise a veto, but Halpin clearly does not like being contradicted. Britain out of the EU would be "very isolated", he says.
Entertainingly, Boiling Frog
gives us an example of where Iceland has been able to buck the system. Whether The Times
is up to speed on this, I neither know nor care. If Halpin is an example of this paper's output, it is not worth paying to find out.
Thorbjørn Jagland, former prime minister of Norway, is the Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee – which recently awarded of the prize to the EU. He is also the Secretary General for the Council of Europe.
By any measure, he is not exactly an impartial commentator on the EEA - as this paper makes clear. He is on the record as an active advocate of Norwegian membership of the EU, and author of "Ten Theses on the EU and Norway", in late 2003, containing arguments for Norwegian membership as soon as possible.
Asking him, therefore, for his views on the utility of Britain leaving the European Union and adopting the Norway Option of EEA membership is about as productive as would have been interviewing Adolf Hitler in 1936 about the positive contribution of Jews to German civil society.
What then is the point of the moronic Dermot Murnaghan of Sky News interviewing the man? What possible value to the debate does he offer, especially when the man is lying through his teeth, declaring, "We don't have any influence on the rules that affect us"?
A little while ago, I wrote
that we have to confront the prospect that there is an alarming number of people who lack the basic understanding of how the global and regional regulatory system works.
We can add to that number Wolfgang Münchau, the doyen's doyen who, today in the Financial Times, adds to the sum of human ignorance by declaring that, "If you are outside the EU, but inside the EEA, you have no vote on single-market policies. Norway and Iceland have to accept whatever the EU decides".
That, of course, is not true, not least because of the "veto" or "right of reservation" – set out in Article 102 of the EEA Agreement – to say nothing of being misleading, as both countries have considerable upstream influence that enable them to shape standards before they get to the EU voting stage.
Notwithstanding these little gripes, though, Münchau is beginning to ask the right questions, asserting that the benefits of the single market are "vastly exaggerated". They will in the longer term be subsumed by free trade agreements and, in particular, a transatlantic free-trade area incorporating the EU and the United States.
This has been something of a hobby-horse of the Financial Times and they are perhaps being more than a little over-optimistic if they believe that the agricultural systems each side of the Atlantic can be harmonised sufficiently to create a level playing field which would permit free trade.
With massive understatement, therefore, Münchau casually asserts that "hammering out" a treaty "would not be easy" but he is confident that even if Britain were outside the EU, it would without a doubt be a member of such a zone. Thus, in his book, "there can be no question of it being cut off from trade".
There, Münchau goes a little bit wobbly, as he asserts that, outside he EU, "the UK would still be a member of the European Economic Area". That is not strictly true. It could not happen without the UK joining EFTA and with amendments to the EEA Agreement.
Further, he has not caught up with the reality of the relationship of EEA countries with the EU, but there is hope yet. While asserting that there would a "perceived loss of political power", which would be "unacceptable to the UK", he then says: "the argument misjudges the extent to which the UK can negotiate the terms of exit". Article 50, declares Münchau, "makes it possible for countries to depart, but leaves the details to the negotiating parties".
Then we get to the "killer point". Faced with the combined development of a eurozone economic union (which we cannot join) and a transatlantic free-trade zone, the added benefit of EU membership loses appeal if most of that benefit can be had outside". Thus we are told: "If one is absolutely certain that one will never join the eurozone, there really is not much of a point to being a member of the EU".
Münchau is not quite there yet, but with or without a transatlantic free trade area, we are seeing the convergence of global rules, with – as Booker points out - supra-regional standard-setting which makes the EU increasingly irrelevant.
That the doyen of all doyens is nevertheless asking about the relevance of the EU to Britain is good news. Once that question is asked, the politicians will find it increasingly difficult to give an honest answer, and we will be on our way out. Article 50 beckons.
From the same wellspring as Mr Cameron telling us that we have to be in the EU to be part of the Single Market, we now have Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, telling us that we've got to be in the EU to "win" EU science funding.
Notwithstanding the fact that we are net contributors to the EU budget, and could afford to take up the EU-funded programme and still save money, the man is talking out of his posterior. It is not necessary to be in the EU to take part in EU research programmes.
The evidence for this is our old friend Norway, which takes a very active part in the programme, without being a member of the EU. Thus, through the Research Council of Norway, it participates in the Seventh Framework Programme. So far, it has been involved in 1,139 projects, contrasting with Ireland with about the same population, which has roughly the same input. Despite being an EU member, it participates in only 1,079 projects. Furthermore, we are told that:
Norway has long traditions in participating in EU RTD actions. It first started in 1987 on a programme level. The EEA agreement (from 1.1.1994) gives Norway full rights and obligations in the framework programmes. Norway's participation in EU Framework Programmes has resulted in a research community that is far more engaged than before, both in European research collaboration and as a participant taking responsibility for structuring and internationalising Norwegian research.
Additionally, Norway is also part of the European Research Area, and of COST (European Cooperation in the Field of Scientific and Technical Research), and of the European Science Foundation (ESF).
A very detailed evaluation of the participation is here, from which we learn that there is a payment made for participation, amounting in 2010 to £142 million, accounting for nearly 80 percent of Norway's £179 million contribution to the EU budget.
However, it certainly gets value for money. Norway is also actively involved in policy co-ordination activities outside the framework programme (FP). It has participated as observer in European Research Area Committee (ERAC) meetings, dealing with financial co-ordination outside of the FP and the development of better framework conditions for research in Europe (mobility, careers, intellectual property and so on).
ERAC will likely be the platform where the European Commission will discuss its plans for ERA-type regulations and directives and seek sufficient support from the Member States before launching anything.
Norway participates in ERA-policy committees such as the Strategic Forum for International Science and Technology Co-operation (SFIC), the High Level Group on Joint Programming (GPC), the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), the Steering Group on Human Resources and Mobility, the Working Group on Knowledge Transfer and the European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC).
In the past five years Norway was also invited to participate in the Informal Ministerial Competitiveness Council.
Thus although not an EU Member State Norway has actively taken part in policy co-ordination activities. Given the stability of the EEA agreement its role does not have to be renegotiated with each new Framework Programme.
So, it would appear that Sir Paul Nurse, the man who thinks that human activity contributes seven times more CO2 to the atmosphere than derives from natural sources such as the oceans, knows as little about the workings of the EU as he does about climate science – unaware that Norway has been in the EU research programme for over 25 years.
But that does not stop the legacy media giving him free access to spread his misinformation and propaganda. In that, at least, we are not surprised. It was ever going to be thus.