Vince Cable, the Lib-Dem business secretary, has intervened in David Cameron's game, branding the Conservatives "seriously irresponsible" for promising a 2017 referendum.
Ignoring the growing clamour of voices that says a 2017 plebiscite is impossible, Cable, is talking to the The Independent, whence he chooses to make an issue over the "blight" on foreign investment in Britain. He thus warns of the "chilling effect" of the in/out referendum promise, saying it is delaying the economic recovery and putting 3.5 million jobs at risk.
He claims businessmen are now warning him on a daily basis that they would invest elsewhere to ensure they retained access to the EU's single market. "They say 'we are here because of Europe; we are not just here because of Britain'", he asserts.
Asked to name names, Cable comes up with the usual suspects, car-makers Vauxhall, BMW Mini, Ford and Nissan, adding that the same concerns were being expressed in the aerospace industry and City. British, Japanese, American, Indian and German firms had all voiced fears, he says.
This tedious little game, though, rest on three suppositions. Firstly, one has to assume that there will be that referendum, which Cable should know is impossible. Then, secondly, he must assume that the "outers" would win, which is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Thirdly, and crucially, Cable must assume that the end result would be that the UK outside the EU would no longer had access to the EU's Internal Market. Necessarily, we would be excluded from the trading arrangements that we currently enjoy. Nothing like the "Norway option" would be on offer.
On the other hand, the EU has been willing to agree a deep and comprehensive free trade area (DCFTA) with Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, which encompasses full participation in the Internal Market, without there being any immediate question of EU membership.
It does seem, therefore, beyond the realm of probability that the UK would not be able to negotiate something similar on its departure from the EU. On that basis, the most likely outcome of a "Brexit" is that trading arrangements continue unchecked.
By now, in what should be a mature debate, we should be past the low-grade FUD that Cable has on offer. We really should be able to address the arguments for staying in and departing from the EU on a more adult level, without having to put up with the tedious repetitions that Cable is resuscitating.
Sometime, one wonders whether the game is about boring us all to death, with the same mindless scare stories, forcing us into the position of ending the debate rather than suffer the tedium of yet another dire warning about losing our ability to trade with the rest of the EU.
The trouble is that Mr Cameron and his merry men are not much better, which means we have to suffer this endless round of tedium, instead of addressing the real issues attendant on our membership of the EU.
But then, one might surmise that if the pro-EU faction cannot come up with some more interesting and imaginative arguments for remaining in the EU, that itself tells its own story. A construct which relies on endless repetition of the same tedious FUD can't have very much to offer.
Tucked into the trade news but reported nowhere else that I can see is a short story about mackerel negotiations on the North-East Atlantic fishery being moved to Bergen in Norway, in an attempt to resolve the long-running fisheries dispute with the EU.
This is something I have reported on extensively, with the most recent piece here, but is something I probably would not have thought to report on, but for the fact that the man I was supposed to meet yesterday in Reykjavik to discuss the Icelandic fishing industry had been called away to those self-same talks.
Since then we have been unable to get any news of their progress, other than they are going on all week, and so far have failed to reach a conclusion. The talks, though, did not stop me meeting with other officials at the Icelandic Fishing Vessel Owners Association, including the man mentioned in the story linked (illustrated above), the picture showing one of the fleet of huge pelagic vessels.
With Björn Bjarnason, who was Minister of Justice at the time of the "pots and pans" revolution, together with former Icelandic Ambassador to Germany, Ingimundur Sigfusson, we asked the trawler owners whether they would support EU entry. Their response was unequivocal. They are against membership. It is in their interests, and in the interests of Iceland, they say, to manage their fish stocks. And that could not be done within the EU.
Famously, Iceland operates a system of selective fisheries closure. Their research vessels carry out real-time monitoring and, if an imbalance in the age composition is recorded, the fishery is closed within hours, with the restrictions broadcast over public radio.
They could not, say the fishermen, live with a situation where fleets from different nationalities exploit their waters, requiring them to go to Brussels for a regulation to close down particular fisheries, having to argue their case in front of bureaucrats over a thousand miles away.
A point made to us was that the regulation of the fisheries is science-based – there are no politics in it. Foremost advocates for control were the fishermen themselves, and they look upon the way Brussels manages the "common resource" with horror. It would be "madness" they say to hand over their fish stocks.
Within the Council of the European Union (the Council of Ministers), I point out that we, the UK, have a mere 29 votes – eight percent of the 352 total - with 252 having to be cast to reach a qualified majority. Yet Iceland, with its tiny population of just over 300,000, would only be given three votes.
When it comes to influence at the "top table" of the EU, therefore, there simply is no comparison between having control of their own resource, and having to compete in Brussels for the privilege of being able to catch some of their own fish.
Another thing that the fishermen find totally unacceptable is the exclusive EU competence on the management of the biological resource. Iceland regards it as vital to their national interest that they keep their vote on international bodies, such as the UN FAO and the General Assembly.
Overall, it was an illustration of their own power that Icelandic negotiators were at Bergen this week talking, on an equal basis, with the EU. Yet Britain, with 70 percent of the waters of the EU, is not at the talks. We have to allow our interests to be represented by the EU. And we all know where that gets us.
Typically, though, the political elites still hanker after joining the EU, and they use every opportunity to promote membership. To that, we ask for an opinion – we ask everyone this – are they fools or liars? There is much discussion on this and no real answer, although the balance rests on them being fools.
Others are more unequivocal. When we asked the farmers' union, there was no doubt. The elites, they say, are lying. But that is the next part of the story. I will report this when I can.
Gearing up for my visit to Iceland next week, we have a packed programme which includes meeting with fisheries, farming, labour union and other representatives, a visit to an aluminium smelter, dinner with utilities executives and lunch with MPs in the Icelandic Parliament.
Another highlight will be a reception aboard the Einsatzgruppenversorger Bonn
(pictured above) on the Thursday evening, meeting the German ambassador.
My lecture will also be on the Thursday, lunchtime at the University of Iceland, ironically in Room 101. It is entitled, "Is the EEA an option for Britain?", and will be the first opportunity to try out in public some of the ideas I have been working on for the IEA "Brexit" submission.
The feedback plus the fact-finding will help inform the final work, but there will be plenty of material for blog posts and perhaps for a separate pamphlet. Are we to see the "Iceland Option"?
Actually, it occurred to me that, being as we are looking at the EEA/EFTA model, that covers Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein, which would abbreviate nicely to "NIL". If one recalls the instructions given to British negotiators seeking entry to the EEC, to "swallow it whole", perhaps the new option could be called "NIL by mouth".
Whatever else, in the grander scheme of things, Iceland is a linchpin. As I get to understand the politics more, I will elaborate on this in a series of posts.
This morning, I put the finishing touches to a complete working draft of the "Brexit" submission, the work coming out at exactly 20,000 words. It's not the last of it, of course, because there will have to be some additions closer to the time. But the hardest part is done.
One reason for finishing early is because, next week, I've been invited to Iceland to deliver a lecture on the "Norway Option" to the No to EU Movement. I'm out on Monday and back on the Saturday. Autonomous Mind and The Boiling Frog have agreed to do some guest posts, to keep the blog warm.
While I'm in Iceland, my host Björn Bjarnason
, has arranged a fact-finding tour. I will be meeting industrialists, union, fishing and government representatives, and many others including MPs. They have also set up a sightseeing trip for me on the Friday!
When I come back, there will be much to write up. Some of what I learn will, no doubt, find its way into the Brexit submission. For the moment, though, to have temporarily finished this incredibly intensive exercise is like waking from a deep sleep.
Looking around, I'm not that sure I like what I see. Despite that, for a few days, I will get stuck in with a few posts, before jetting off to colder climes.
José Manuel Barroso has intervened directly in the debate on immigration, telling MEPs in Strasbourg that David Cameron's call for free movement rights to be restricted is "narrow, chauvinistic" and based on "scaremongering stereotypes".
This, as you might expect, is picked up by the Financial Times, which has had a busy time of late. It goes so far as to tell us that Barroso has "fired a shot across the bow" of Mr Cameron, saying that national governments have sufficient powers to curb the abuse of immigration without having to put into question the entire European project.
"Contrary to impressions created recently in national debates, [free movement] is not a freedom without rules", he added, then declaring that, "If there is an abuse of free movement the member states are not only entitled, they have the duty to act".
We are then advised that the commission is "increasingly frustrated" with Britain's attempt to scapegoat the EU for claims that immigration from within the bloc – in particular from poorer member states – to the UK has led to wide abuse of its social welfare system.
On the home front, the FT is telling us that Mr Cameron has shelved a government report on EU migration, after Theresa May has failed to provide evidence to support her case for imposing tighter curbs on immigrants.
Mrs May, whose department was responsible for drafting the report, said last month there was "abuse of free movement" rules and that some migrants were attracted by "access to benefits". As the narrative then went, she struggled to prove her contention that limiting EU migration would be good for Britain.
Now, we are told, Mr Cameron has ordered a delay in publication of the Home Office report until after the euro-elections. One anonymous official is cited, saying that, "They can't bring themselves to publish the report before the European elections because they would have to admit that freedom of movement is a good thing".
Meanwhile, dredging up an old argument, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg has told Mr Cameron that she would not recommend that Britain leaves the European Union and, like Norway, become a member of the European Economic Area (EEA).
"I don't believe that Great Britain, with its old empire mind-set should consider becoming a member of an organization which basically means that laws and rules which are made in other countries are implemented directly," she told NTB newswires. "I do not think that's a realistic thing right now".
This is an entirely predictable line from the Norwegian political elite, all to match another contribution from corporate business, with the Ford Motor Company also interfering in domestic politics, called for Britain to remain in the European Union, warning that it would reassess all its investment plans if Britain left.
Chief executive of the European operation, Steve Odell, mirrors Solberg's dissimulation, acknowledging that we would still be able to trade with the EU if we left, but asserting that this would be, "only if you comply [with EU regulations] without a voice into the process".
This is not the first time Odell has intervened and he has nothing new to say. It is probably not a coincidence, therefore, that he and Soberg have crawled out of their holes at the same time the Muppets were having their ludicrous seminar on EU reform, listening to the Osborne speech.
But, just so as you know, there are no shortcuts to reform. Says MuPpet George Freeman, "we should be ambitious for Europe and work to agree a reform package to make it more entrepreneurial and globally competitive".
"We may not succeed", he adds. "But not trying would be a major derogation of our duty, and a potentially huge missed opportunity to unleash the new cycle of global competitiveness, trade and investment in Europe we so badly need after the crash of 2008".
This, we are told, is "Euroscepticism, but not as you knew it. It's a progressive agenda for reforming the EU for an age of austerity and global competitiveness".
John Major has praised his successor for his current handling of the EU, but then tells him he must be "smart enough" not to make impossible demands in his renegotiation of Britain's EU membership terms following a Conservative general election victory. He should instead negotiate "with the grain of evolving views" in Europe.
This is according to the Guardian, reporting on him speaking at the Institute of Directors. But he goes on to say that "... the British position is far stronger than many believe – not least due to the significant personal alliances the prime minister has formed with his European counterparts – though the manner of our negotiation will be key".
Major also issued a stark warning of the dangers of leaving the EU. "The EU would be diminished. The UK would be isolated. I am no starry-eyed Europhile but it would be a lose/lose scenario: a truly dreadful outcome for everyone".
"Of course, we would survive, but there would be a severe price to pay in economic well-being, in jobs and in international prestige", he added, telling us that: "In a world of seven billion people, our island would be moving further apart from our closest and largest trading partners, at the very time when they, themselves, are drawing closer together. This makes no sense at all".
Britain would have to negotiate its exit which could cost billions, and then could find itself still having to pay for access to the single market.
Then we get to the FUD on Norway. As a non member, Major says, it pays 80 percent per capita of what the UK pays as a full member. "It would still be obliged to implement EU regulations but would be unable to defend the City, or any other sector, from harmful new legislation, while inward investment to the UK would fall away".
This pig ignorance is from the man who brought us Maastricht and, in forcing it through the Commons, all but wrecked the Conservative Party. And it is from that debacle that UKIP emerged, now to trouble his successor so grievously.
Thus to have praise from Mr Major, or even advice, is not necessarily a blessing. But the man, it seems, has some ambitions in taking a more role of making interventions that help Downing Street. If that intervention is "helpful", one can only assume the meaning of the word has been redefined.
Making a meal of it yesterday, the Daily Telegraph retails the stern warning that the UK would be "shooting itself in the foot" if it left the EU.
This comes from Pascal Lamy who, in the original story from Szu Ping Chan, is identified only as the man who "served as WTO chief between 2005 and 2013". It somehow escaped the notice of Ms Chan that Lamy is a former EU trade commissioner, this only being inserted in later versions of the story.
Had the story been thus headlined, as an ex-commissioner warning against the UK leaving the EU, there simply should have been no story. This is about as newsworthy as the Pope calling on Catholics to stay in the church, warning of eternal damnation if they don't.
Predictably, Mr Lamy also says that if Britain left the EU and joined the European Free Trade Association, which includes Norway and Switzerland, it would mean the UK would have "no place at the negotiating table" when it came to shaping Europe.
This, of course, is simply not true but is so much part of the litany that it is routinely included in legacy media stories without question. Not for the Telegraph is there the Norway Option, from which its readers (and its hacks) could actually learn something. The paper is much more at ease pumping our EU propaganda.
And there, I'm afraid, is another small example of what it is going to be like when we have a referendum campaign underway. This newspaper, characterised by some as "eurosceptic" by some, will churn out EU propaganda with the best of them.
This may not even be intentional. Journalists tend to be so ignorant of EU matters that they do not often know the difference between truth and propaganda. But, since they are in the entertainment business anyway, most of them don't even care. For these professional space-fillers, any garbage will do, and there are always plenty of readers who will come back for more.
It wasn't so very long ago
that a certain Mr Cameron made a hugely provocative pro-EU speech. That was on the day Croatia became the Union's 28th member state as he toured the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.
Talking to Kazakh students in the capital Astana, he said: "Britain has always supported the widening of the EU", then adding, "Our vision of the EU is that it should be a large trading and co-operating organisation that effectively stretches, as it were, from the Atlantic to the Urals".
The Urals, of course, mark the unofficial border between Europe and Asia in Russia and Mr Cameron's remarks were taken to indicate that he believed that Ukraine, once known as the bread basket of the USSR, should be admitted to the EU.
But now, that idea, shared in a different form by a German politician of rather ill-repute, seems to be running into the sand. Just a week before the Ukraine was due to sign a landmark association agreement with the EU, in Vilnius, Kiev has decided to put the whole show on hold.
The writing was on the wall when the Ukrainian parliament failed to pass laws that would allow jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to go to Germany for medical treatment. Her release was seen as a sine qua non condition for the signature of the association agreement.
Two hours later, the Ukrainian government announced it had decided to stop its preparations to sign an association agreement with the EU. The statement underlined that the decision was taken with a view to elaborating measures towards "Russia and other countries from the Community of Independent States".
Ukraine said it would propose to the EU and Russia the formation of "a tripartite commission to handle complex issues". Also, Kiev will "resume an active dialogue with the Russian Federation and other countries of the Customs Union and the member states of the CIS on the revival of trade and economic relations in order to preserve and strengthen joint efforts of economic potential".
The statement does not say whether Ukraine intends to join the Customs Union led by its former Soviet master Russia, which the EU says is incompatible the statute for countries associated with the Western bloc.
Apparently, following the statement, EU officials were "thunderstruck". Appearing at a press event minutes after the Ukrainian government's decision became known, Linas Linkevičius, foreign minister of Lithuania (pictured above), currently holding the EU presidency, said there was not enough clarity following the announcement, and the best option was "to wait" for more information.
So far, it seems, that information has not materialised, which means that things are no looking too good for the "evil empire".
In the good old days, countries were queuing up to join. But now Norway and Iceland are permanently off the agenda, Turkey is very dubious and the eastern satellites are breaking away. Legend has it that, unless le projet continues to go forward, it goes backwards. Irony abounds these days, with the thought of it running out of steam on the steppes of Russia.
For you, they might soon be saying, the dream is over.
Nick Clegg may have thought he was being helpful to his own cause yesterday, when he branded people who want Britain to leave the EU as "unpatriotic".
The Deputy Prime Minister apparently "tore into the Conservatives and UKIP", claiming it would leave many people "poorer" and the country as a whole "weaker". In a co-ordinated Lib Dem strike, Treasury minister Danny Alexander then claimed, "if you are anti-Europe, you are anti-business, anti-growth".
Personally, I find the "unpatriotic" slur deeply offensive, and to brand me thus is obviously counter-productive. But then, I am a committed opponent of UK membership of the EU, so you would expect me to be unmoved by Mr Clegg's claim.
Equally, having done more work than most on the subject, I would vehemently dispute claims that an EU exit would leave many people "poorer" and the country as a whole "weaker", or that to be anti-EU (as opposed to anti-Europe, which is an absurd position), is anti-business or anti-growth.
But then, I am not part of the target audience to which either Mr Clegg or Mr Alexander will have been delivering their messages. They are going for the uncommitted – the "swamp" as Spinelli used to call it. And, to judge by the opinion polls, the message could be working. Considerably less people are prepared to commit to leaving the EU now than they were one and two years ago.
Looking at the Telegraph comments though, we see an aggressive majority dispute that finding, determined to assert that their personal beliefs are representative of the whole. There, it seems to me, we have a group which is falling into the trap of discounting intelligence because it doesn't like the message it is conveying.
This is a potentially dangerous situation where important signals are being ignored, the situation overtaken by a strident complacency which refuses to believe that there is anything amiss.
The reality though, is that people like Danny Alexander are getting a free run in the media with their claims of economic gloom and doom, while the anti-EU movement as a whole is doing very little to counter it. For instance, from the Bruges Group, we have the superb package of a video and a pamphlet on the "Norway Option", yet I have seem very little support for the initiative outside a few sympathetic bloggers.
The interesting thing is that every so often, and as recently as today, I get e-mails or other contacts asking for and sometime demanding my support for UKIP, and a cessation of my criticisms of the party. Yet few seem to see this as a two-way process. I have seen nothing from UKIP in support of our recent work. As far as members are concerned, it might as well not exist.
Yet, the actual achievement has been quite substantial. Google "Norway Option" and what was once exclusively enemy territory is now dominated by references to our work. For a fraction of the budget available to UKIP, we have changed the landscape, yet the party does not have the grace to acknowledge our work.
Thus, when we see Mr Sykes intervene, in what seems a tired re-run of his previous interventions, spouting superficial truisms which take no account of our better understand of the arguments, there should be surprise that we take a jaundiced view.
Both Witterings from Witney and Autonomous Mind are thus singularly unimpressed and, while it is entirely up to Mr Sykes how he spends his own money, it still saddens us to see it wasted.
Boiling Frog, on the other hand, takes apart Mr Clegg and his latest excrescences, compared with UKIP which takes the opportunity to tell us that: "Only UKIP stands up for Britain".
Actually, though, UKIP does not stand alone, but it is in danger of being on its own. Convinced that it is making headway, the indications are now that it is not winning the argument. And, by claiming the territory as it own, ignoring others in the field, it risks dragging us down and losing the campaign for all of us – unless we distance ourselves from its inept rhetoric.
Would that they realise it, but UKIP's best friends are its critics, but as long as they are intent on ignoring the messenger, they will never know.
Of all the millions of words uttered in the past year on the possibility of the British being given a referendum on whether or not to remain in the European Union, scarcely any have had the faintest connection to reality, writes Christopher Booker.
This unreal debate was triggered, of course, by David Cameron's pledge that, if re-elected in 2015, he would negotiate with Brussels for the return of unspecified powers of government and then, in 2017, would lead the "yes" campaign in a referendum, arguing that Britain should stay a member of the EU on the basis of the new relationship with it that he had so brilliantly negotiated.
His proposal last January – only made to buy off the fear of so many of his backbenchers that UKIP might cost them their seats in 2015 – was no more than an empty political gesture. As many in Brussels have scornfully made clear, there is no way that Britain could be given back any powers, because this would breach the most sacred principle on which the EU is founded, that once powers have been handed over they can never be returned.
At least Mr Cameron has brought out a consensus of the great and the good – from politicians of all parties to the CBI and most of the press – that above all, while the dysfunctional EU is indeed in need of "reform", for Britain to leave it would be a disaster – because this would exclude us from the Single Market which accounts for nearly half our trade. As recent polls have confirmed, even if there was a referendum tomorrow, it is this more than anything that would terrify the British public into voting to stay in.
But there are two issues in this debate which the supporters of the consensus are determined must never be raised. The first is that there is only one way in which Brussels could be made to negotiate the new relationship with the EU that the Cameronites say they are after – by invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This would compel the EU by law to negotiate with us. But that, as we know, can only be triggered by a country that first says it wishes to leave the EU.
The second fact the Cameronites are absolutely determined we shouldn't discuss is that there are many countries, such as Norway, which trade as freely with the Single Market as we do, without having to be members of the EU.
What do Mr Cameron and his supporters tell us they want? To negotiate a new relationship between Britain and the EU and for Britain to enjoy continued free access to the Single Market. There is only one legal and practical way in which they can have everything they want, but that depends on invoking Article 50. So they slam the door on it before they've even started, by insisting that there is no way they could allow Britain to leave the EU.
Thus they continue to dream their dreams, prattling about negotiations which can never happen, the return of powers they never name and meaningless referendums sometime in the indefinite future.
They doom Britain to drift on into the twilight of a nation, impotently complaining at how we are shackled to this increasingly dysfunctional form of government, which next year will have its mind only on yet another centralising new treaty designed to rescue it from the insoluble mess of the euro.
But we cannot be allowed to know that it doesn't have to be like this. Locked in the mind prison of "Europe", the political class that rules us won't have it any other way.
A text by Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph
today has it that Birmingham's tragic failings – of which there are many – is in no small measure due to its size.
The basic problem, he says, is that the council is just too big to function properly. Birmingham City Council has more than 120 politicians, which is almost as many as the Scottish Parliament and more than the US Senate. Its boundaries include 1.1 million people and 79 secondary schools, which is a massive job. Too massive, indeed, for any one council – which may be why no other country in Europe allows them to become so large.
This is meat and drink to Harrogate Agenda supporters, all of us who hold that we need real local democracy. Crucial to that is size and, when it comes to local democracy, never by any stretch of the imagination can an administrative unit in excess of a million qualify for that title.
Thus it seems that Fraser Nelson had actually got the point, except that he spoils it all by telling us that "Manchester City Council, by contrast, takes in 503,000 people and 29 schools. It is one of 10 separate councils serving Greater Manchester – and the difference between the cities is striking".
Having roundly condemned Bradford Met, with its population of 501,000 for failing to meet the requirement for localism, we can hardly accept that Manchester's 503,000 qualifies as local government.
However, we ourselves point to Norway, which has approximately five million inhabitants and 428 municipalities with 19 county authorities. More than half the municipalities have less than 5,000 inhabitants and only 14 have more than 50,000, but the largest municipality is Oslo, which has approximately 620,000 inhabitants.
Thus, size is not necessarily the only issue and indeed Nelson recognises that, declaring that "the secret is not just size but leadership". He then writes of the 15-year partnership between the council's chief executive, Sir Howard Bernstein, and its Labour leader Sir Richard Leese.
They, we are told, "have adopted a vigorous pro-growth agenda, successfully encouraging businesses to settle there. They are in regular contact to see how they can help Manchester University, whose thriving campus is now the largest in Europe".
These paragons of virtue, we are then informed, "have helped ensure their city has the only serious airport outside London, giving it global links to match its global outlook. All this helped Salford become the BBC's second home, following the corporation's mass decampment. Manchester does not behave like it wants to be Britain’s second city: it behaves like it wants to be the first".
But there is one important word missing from Nelson's dissertation – that simple, much misunderstood word "democracy". In his long screed about the very nature of local government, democracy doesn't get a look in anywhere. Instead, we get the centralist, top-down view that good government relies on "leadership".
Stepping aside for one moment, to look at the comments to Nelson's piece, one sees a multiple posts attributing Birmingham's misfortunes to mass immigration, a city – legend holds – which has been abandoned to the third world hoards.
Writes one commenter, Asian students now form the single biggest ethnic group in schools, with 13,248 pupils or 44.3 percent of the population, white pupils account for a mere 31.4 per cent of the school-aged population and black students 13 percent.
However, anyone who has driven into the fair city of Manchester, passing through the Islamic Republic of Cheetham, might suspect that Manchester too had had more than its fair share of immigrants, so much so that we see ritual protests, going back years, to the effect that city has not become a landscape of racial ghettos, a sure sign that it has become precisely that.
With gun crime in certain areas of Manchester having become epidemic, this city is far from the idyllic haven that Nelson would have us believe. In fact, he is talking through his well-upholstered backside.
A more nuanced view comes a recent article in the Economist, which tells us that Bitain no longer has a serious race problem. The trouble, it says, is "isolation".
Read into that what you may, but what screams out is the lack of any identifiable local government in terms of it being a unifying or even relevant force. In the entire article, it gets not a single mention.
Now switch to the article by Autonomous Mind on representative democracy, where he reports that four in ten people are "alienated" from Britain's political parties and say they will not consider voting for any of them. And that is a national level. In local government elections, the parties count themselves lucky to attract anything like that level of support, attesting to the fact that democracy, in any recognisable form, has ceased to exist.
These days, it is largely only media pundits such as Fraser Nelson who believe we have democracy - and even he does not identify it as an essential to good government – and the politicians who benefit from the system. The rest of us are increasingly aware that, not only does democracy no longer exist – not that it even really did – but that our masters have no intention of permitting such a system to take root.
So it is that we must look to The Harrogate Agenda. The demands are not going to be met spontaneously, by at least they spell out the minimum requirements needed to install the basics of democracy in this country.
Otherwise, you will be sitting back for the next decade or so having the likes of Fraser Nelson telling us that that half-million sized administrative entities in the hands of top-down "leadership" is all we need. And, if you are content with that, you deserve everything you get – including Fraser Nelson.
A certain amount of excitement attends the highly publicised accord between "two of Europe's leading far-right populists". These are Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's rightwing nationalist Front National, and Geert Wilders, characterised as "the Dutch maverick anti-Islam campaigner".
Yesterday, at a press conference in The Hague, they announced they were joining forces ahead of European parliament elections next year. The aim, or so they say, is to "exploit the euroscepticism soaring across the EU after four years of austerity, and the financial and debt crisis".
The pact is said to be "a big boost" for Le Pen who is "successfully developing a more moderate image" distanced from the overt antisemitism of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and for her campaign to form a broader "European Alliance for Freedom" on the nationalist right.
Predictably, there are calls for UKIP's Nigel Farage to join the grouping, which also hopes to recruit Sweden's Democrats, the anti-immigration Danish People's party, Austria's Freedom party of Heinz-Christian Strache, which took more than 20 percent in recent national elections, and the rightwing Flemish separatists of Vlaams Belang.
Farage, however, has said he will not collaborate with Le Pen because of the Front National's reputation for antisemitism, but he should be equally wary of Wilders. Although he is currently riding high in the polls, his party was also doing well in the run-up to the general election last year, but lost badly, showing himself to be a poor tactician.
Not content with this, Wilders is perpetuating the mistakes of campaigners elsewhere, signing up the London-based Capital Economics group to carry out new research into how much it would cost the Netherlands to leave the EU. Using economic data to fight the campaign is fraught with problems, as you end up wrestling with a chimney sweep, over competing sums, none of which can ever be completely reconciled.
Sadly, when it is difficult enough getting agreement on a common strategy in the UK, there seems little to be gained from an international alliance of "eurosceptic" parties, when all that will do is open up possibilities for discord.
We've already had experience of this, working with other national groups in the European Parliament, forming loose alliances so as to milk the system of money through the political group system. But the only way any agreement could be achieved was by having a joint statement so anodyne as to be meaningless.
That is not to say that we cannot learn from our European brothers (and sisters) in arms, but I am more inclined to look to Norway for our lessons, if not alliances.
By the "No to EU" campaign there, which has successfully fought two referendums, we are told that the British campaign has been overly focused on the economy and trade. Helle Hagenau, International Officer for the campaign, told me that the successful 1994 campaign in Norway was won by featuring prominently on "high ideals" such as democracy.
Significantly, after last night's piece, where I stressed the need for a positive campaign, my attention was drawn to the 1988 "no" campaign in Chile against the dictator Pinochet. While the "yes" campaign's advertising focused on "dry positive economic data in its favour", the winning "no" side took a lightheartedly upbeat promotional approach stressing abstract concepts like "happiness".
The essential point here is that the focus was on abstract concepts, supporting Helle Hagenau's point, where the majority view became that to join the EU represented an unacceptable loss of democracy.
Yet the Tory Boys behind Tim Mongomerie's chirping, it seems, are still wedded to the idea of telling people how much they will save from dispensing with the EU's CAP, how we will be able to determine our own environmental policies (such as the Climate Change Act?) and how, thereby, we will be able to "scrap ineffective green subsidies" (such as the Carbon Floor Price?).
Even the idea of cutting immigration is not as straightforward as it might seem. Apart from the fact that the bulk of immigrants come from outside the EU, much of the EU policy which defines immigration stems from pressures elsewhere.
As Norway has found, being outside the EU does not automatically solve the "immigrant problem". Domestic law, and the elimination of "pull" factors, such as an over-generous benefit system, have an impact on inwards migration, while some of the issues have to be dealt with on a global level, with the United Nations centre stage.
That does not stop Peter Oborne drafting a politically illiterate piece on immigration, telling us that, "without intending to, the European Union is turning into the enemy of democracy".
Any man that can utter a phrase of such utter stupidity really isn't really worth listening to. But one suspects that sentiments such as his will be guiding the Tory Boy Benevolent Fund as it seeks to take charge of a "no" campaign to serve its own purposes.
To my mind, the EU is not actually the cause of our immigration crisis – although it does make dealing with it more difficult, even the eastern European migration cannot be put down solely to the EU. Considering Margaret Thatcher's role in bringing down the Iron Curtain, it is hard to believe that the UK in a gesture of solidarity would not have permitted considerable immigration from former Soviet satellites. The issue, therefore, is not one of immigration per se but who governs Britain and whether we have a democracy.
With that, it is clear that we need to be thinking hard about how we present our case, and how better to do it. And when, perhaps, we are able to focus on how our own "no" campaign should be structured, it might be time to look overseas for possible alliances.
Although Mary Ellen Synon's views on the timing of Cameron's referendum were highly illuminating, very recently the prime minister was forced to concede that we would be looking for a "substantial re-writing" of the treaties before a referendum would be called.
That changes the calculus, making a treaty convention a requirement and adding years to the referendum timetable. Thus did I open my talk to the Bruges Group with an explanation of why a 2017 referendum is no longer a realistic proposition.
After next year' s euro-elections, the first task of the MEPs will be to approve a new Commission and it will not be until the end of the year that they will be in a position to organise a convention. Thus, we don't see that starting until, most likely, the spring of 2015 – the start almost coinciding with the start of the UK general election campaign.
From there, we cannot expect an IGC starting until early 2017 and not complete until the end of the year, with the signing the following year. Only then can the ratification process start and, under the UK "referendum lock" provisions under the European Union Act of 2011. And that will be a "yes-no" referendum.
The good news is that a treaty referendum will be easier to win, especially as the "colleagues" will be running the show and will insist on piling in new integration measures. And if that is in 2018, an "in-out" could follow soon after, but my best guess is that we're looking at some time after the 2020 general election.
At the best, therefore, we have eight of more years to prepare for the fight and, it was with this in mind that I devoted the next part of my talk to jam, ignorance and other things, in a lead up to taking the "Norway Option" and Article 50.
The "jam" story, of course, is the "Clippy" McKenna saga, the lady who found herself unable to label her apple-based jam as "jam" because the sugar content was too low. The crucial point was that "Clippy" had been caught by the Jam and Similar Products Regulations 2003, which implemented Council Directive 2001/113 EC.
It was that which allowed Vince Cable to bring an amendment of the Regulations into the ambit of his "Red Tape Challenge", promising to cut the "EU nonsense", while the media turned up the outrage over "barmy" EU regulations.
However, the Directive and the UK Regulations were actually implementing Codex alimentarius standard STAN 79-1981, which we would have implemented whether we were in or out of the EU. But the really interesting thing was that neither Vince Cable, George Eustice, the minister piloting the amendments, MPs nor the entire media corps showed any awareness of this additional layer of global governance.
Most technical food standards are now set not by the EU but by Codex Alimentarius, under the aegis of the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), part of the United Nations, based in Rome.
The trouble is that this top layer of government is virtually invisible. It hides in plain sight, obscure, dispersed and largely unknown. We met it when we were working on the "Norway Option" film, interviewing Bjorn Knudtsen, the chairman of the Codex Fish and Fisheries Product Committee.
With fisheries being a vital economic interest to Norway, it has ensured is plays an active role in the formulation of the rules covering the marketing of fish and fisheries products worldwide, not just in the EU/EEA area.
The way the system works is that there are dozens of international "standards setting" organisations which produce "soft law" (so called "diqules") which are handed down to member states such as China and the United States and, in our case, Regional Integration Organisations (RIOs) such as the EU.
If the international organisations are the "manufacturers", the EU becomes the "wholesaler and distributor", packaging and processing the laws for "retail" distribution to the Member States.
The point at issue, though, is that in the setting or "manufacture" of standards, Norway gets a greater say than the UK which, as part of the EU, gets one twenty-eighth of the EU vote, which acts on a "common position" agreed by consensus.
Thus, in our interview with Bjorn Knudtsen, as far as he was concerned, when it came to formulating food standards, Codex is the "top table". So, when David Cameron tells us we must be in the EU on order to stay at the top table, he is wrong.
But there is not one "top table". There are many, and they are not in Brussels. For instance, there is the FAO in Rome, UNECE in Geneva, the OECD in Paris, ICAO in Montreal, the BIS in Basel and the UNFCCC in Bonn.
Norway is, in fact, a supreme player at these "top tables", exercising huge influence on a global stage, equal with the EU. Thus, we don't need to be in the EU to enjoy such influence. On the contrary, leaving the EU would, for us, represent a massive restoration of influence, putting us on an equal footing with the EU.
Everything we have been told by David Cameron and others about the need to stay in the EU is the opposite of the truth. Getting out of the EU would improve our position immeasurably.
The question, therefore, is not whether we should leave but how, and the answer is Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. And here, we really need to get past the opposition to its use.
We need to recognise that the Article does not create the right of a Member State to leave. It simply recognises the Vienna Convention right, setting a negotiating framework and obliging the remaining Member States to negotiate. And the treaty break can occur at any time an agreement is reached, but the default position is automatic exit after two years, in the absence of an agreement.
However, to unravel decades of integration, it is most likely that negotiations would take a lot longer than two years, so the best idea is to use EFTA/EEA membership as a halfway house. That protects the Single Market, it offers stability and predictability and it reduces the impact of FUD, countering the status quo effect, making a referendum more winnable.
But, by then distancing ourselves from the EU, the "double coffin lid" of global government is revealed. With that, we have to go back to Churchill's 1948 vision of a hierarchical structure of global governance. As constituted, the ramshackle system that has emerged lacks visibility, accountability and any element of democracy.
Fixing that is a very necessary part of creating a post-EU settlement and we need to open up a debate on where we are going in our post-EU world. Therein lies our ultimate freedom from the European Union.
"Eurosceptics must start making the case now that, should Cameron fail in his mission, Britons must not be afraid to contemplate life outside the EU", writes Kirsty Buchanan in the Sunday Express.
That is the sort of extraordinary statement that we get from the legacy media, made even more extraordinary by the fact that the Bruges Group was running its annual conference on precisely the issue of life outside the EU, totally ignored by the media with the single exception of the London Evening Standard.
But then, that's what the legacy media does, shutting down the debate rather than expanding it, seeking to control the narrative and asserting "ownership" of the issues. Nothing is news until the legacy media says it is, and until they report it, it doesn't exist.
Despite this arrogance, the thinking and the talking goes on apace, and yesterday saw a unique grouping of Booker, Mary Ellen Synon and myself, tackling Brexit and Article 50 – plus related matters.
It was Booker, though, who observed that, in the great "non-debate", the one thing Cameron and his supporters say they want from Britain's membership of the EU in participation in the Single Market. Yet, in parallel, they are fearful of allowing any mention of the remarkable number of countries who are just as free as we are to trade with the Single Market without having either to belong to the European Union or to accept all its ever-increasing mountain of political baggage.
These countries include the two most prosperous countries in Europe, Norway and Switzerland, who are entirely free to trade in the Single Market, because they belong to the European Economic Area or also. like Norway, to the European Free Trade Area, which Britain itself led the way in setting up back in 1959.
The reason why the host of "Cameronites" never ever want to see honestly discussed is because that makes a complete nonsense of their pretence that you can only belong to the Single Market by remaining inside the EU.
The second point in this "non-debate" is that we cannot have any illusions that for Britain to extricate itself from the EU would be an incredibly complicated business. We are now entangled with it by such an astonishing web of laws and treaties that picking our way out of them would take years of dedicated work by a whole army of officials and lawyers.
There simply is no magic wand here. It could only be done through patient negotiation, directed by a British government which had the will and determination to make it work.
In fact, Booker told us, there is only one way in which we could legally compel our EU colleagues to agree with us that such a process of negotiation must take place and that is by invoking Article 50 the Lisbon Treaty.
This, of course, is another of those things which makes nonsense of the position adopted by the Cameronites. Because leaving the EU is the one thing they insist they could never contemplate because, they say, it would mean that we are shut out of the Single Market.
Yet we can see from the examples of countries like Norway that one can have all the advantages of trading with the Single Market without having to sign up to all the rest of what it means to be part of the EU. These people are so used to not thinking straight, so lost in their confused little bubble that simply cannot get the point.
So points one and two are that we should aim to emulate the shining example of Norway by joining them in EFTA, and we can only do that by first invoking Article 50 and leaving the EU, with all the rest of its dreary and suffocating political paraphernalia.
But the third point is that we somehow have to get this plain and simple alternative injected into the centre of our national debate. For far too long our case for getting out of this disaster called Europe has been utterly sterile because it is so endlessly and repetitively negative. We all know the EU is an unmitigated disaster. We all know that for us ever to have got drawn into it in the first place was, in the immortal words of Margaret Thatcher, "a political error of the first magnitude".
Thus said Booker, what the British people need is to have their eyes lifted out of this sterile little cul de sac, to be given a positive alternative, a positive vision of what this country could be once again if we were again free to decide our own independent future, to decide our own laws, to chart our own destiny in the world. "Where there is no vision, the people perish".
For too long we have had no vision and bit by bit we have perished. Do you know what is the worst consequence of all of the fact that for 40 years we have been subjected to this prison of the mind that is "littte Europe"? Booker asked. "As a people we have lost the ability even to think straight about our politics. We have been infantilised. It is time we learned again as a sovereign nation what it is to be grown up".
In Parts II & III, I'll record my speech and then Mary Ellen's responses.
A day out in London with The Bruges Group today gives us some publicity from the Evening Standard..
British Eurosceptics, we are told, will challenge David Cameron by claiming Britain would have more influence outside the EU. The annual Bruges Group conference being held in London will unveil a paper by writer Richard North that argues the UK could "punch above its weight" at summits.
Dr North's paper (available online here) will contradict Mr Cameron by claiming Norway has achieved more influence as a non-member. "Compared with the UK (and any other EU Member State), Norway has far more autonomy and influence, and for a relatively small country with a population of five million, it punches massively above its weight", he will say.
Dr North argues that most European laws originate at global talks, where Britain could enjoy greater influence if it joined talks as an independent nation instead of letting Brussels negotiate on its behalf.
In a speech last December, Mr Cameron derided the idea that Britain could copy Norway and leave the EU and enjoy sovereignty in a free trade area.
He said: "You can be like Norway, and you can have full access to the single market but you have absolutely no say over the rules of that market. In Norway they sometimes call it 'government by fax' because you are simply taking the instructions about every rule in the single market from Brussels".
And so the battle to root out the lie continues. But that means blogging will be light today. I'll post again when I get back home.
In time for the Bruges Group meeting tomorrow – at which Booker, Mary Ellen Synon and I will be speaking - the video of the Norway Option (trailer above) is now on sale. It is available online via Peter Troy's website
, together with his "Voices for True Democracy" film, which introduces The Harrogate Agenda.
The "Norway Option" is a powerful counter to the propaganda efforts of the CBI and others, with some illuminating interviews from a stance that the BBC will never allow you to see, complete with Nigel Farage telling us that Article 50 is the way to go.
Well, it seems that my misgivings were misplaced. This fine body from the IEA (pictured) comprise the judges of the €100,000 Brexit prize has decided that our essay should be one of the twenty qualifiers, allowing us to go forward to the next and final stage of the competition.
In all, 149 entries were submitted: 100 were from the UK and 49 of them from other countries, including the USA, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, The Netherlands, Ukraine, Nigeria, Hungary, Zambia, Latvia, Austria, India, Norway, Zimbabwe, Denmark, Belgium, Russia and The Philippines.
Ours was a genuine "crowdsourcing" exercise, with many inputs and other assistance from readers, for which I am profoundly grateful. Thus, I marked the author of the submission as myself, "with the assistance of readers of the EU Referendum blog". So, congratulations everybody – we did it.
Now the work starts for real. We have until 10 February to prepare and submit an essay of about 20,000 words, with the winner announced in March 2014. And, in addition to the original brief, the prize organisers have issued further, as yet unpublished, guidance, and we need to take this into account.
The paper, we are told, should not concern itself with reasons as to why the UK might exit the EU or the advantages or disadvantages of such a step, nor should it spend time looking at how such a situation might arise. The starting point is that the decision to leave has already been taken and the paper should explore and set out a programme of policy steps to be followed by a UK government in that event.
We are also told that, while, obviously, we need to consider the precise mechanism and procedure for exit, this should not be the main or primary focus of the final submission. Rather the full submission should look at the areas of government policy and overall political economy that would be affected by a UK exit and suggest a coherent and structured set of policy responses.
The most obvious one, it is suggested, is trade policy but there are many others, notably regulation in general, foreign and fiscal policies and wider questions of economic policy.
Wherever possible, we are enjoined to seek to provide costed and quantitative estimates and arguments. For example (and this only as an example, not a suggestion) there could be an analysis of trade flows over the last thirty years with estimates of where the greatest potential advantages from bilateral trade deals might lie.
We are also asked to set out the trade policy options that would confront the UK - from unilateral free trade through to joining particular free trade areas or remaining in the EEA, where the fastest benefits of lower trade barriers might be achieved, and what impediments might stand in the way.
As before, I would welcome any help: advice, ideas or direct assistance, and in particular I would appreciate views on how we deal with costing out the options we might present. These can either go on the forum, on The Boiling Frog comments - with this piece, or with Autonomous Mind - or you can e-mail me via the blog, with your observations.
This time, though, the stakes are very much higher. There are three prizes, of €100,000, €10,000 and €5,000 for third, and with only 20 finalists we have a real chance of winning. Thus, I will not be publishing any material which might be helpful to competitors – the names of whom will be published later today.
Anyhow, congratulations again and thanks to all concerned. Even if we get no further, just to get shortlisted is an achievement, so I think we can all be rightly proud of what we have done.
Toshiyuki Shiga is Nissan's chief operating officer and the second most powerful man in the business below the chief executive, Carlos Ghosn. And the Japanese car-giant, Nissan is one of the UK's most important foreign investors.
Mr Shiga, he says
that Britain's membership of the European Union is "very important" and that it wants to see the UK remain part of the single market, otherwise the threat of import tariffs between the UK and the rest of the EU could be an "obstacle" to the car-maker.
Undoubtedly, Mr Shiga is a very clever man, and he probably knows an awful lot about making cars. But, clearly, he doesn't know a lot about the single market – for instance, that a country does not have to belong to the EU in order to participate in it. All they have to do is be like Norway and some other EFTA members, and be EEA members.
As such, if Mr Shiga and his boss Mr Ghosn, want to the UK to be members of the single market, in order to protect the trading position of their business, then it is perfectly valid for them to express their view. But whether we remain in the system of government called the European Union is really none of their business.
One wonders though as to the good faith, or otherwise, of these gentlemen, and whether they are are naïve as they pretend to be. For instance, Mr Shiga opines that Britain remaining in the EU made life simpler as matters such as vehicle safety regulation, emissions regulations and import duties were the same.
"A lot of regulations are under the EU," he is cited as arguing. "If the UK – after departing from the EU – is making unique regulations, unique standards, this would become an obstacle", he then says.
But Mr Shiga could hardly operate effectively at his level if he was unaware of the source of the regulation which covers his product. He must know that the standards-setting body is UNECE
, acting as host to the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29). And he must know that, in or out of the EU, exactly as with Norway
, we would remain members of UNECE and actually take a greater part in standards-setting.
Mr Shiga and Mr Ghosn thus appear to be playing games, capitalising on the ignorance of the media and people generally in order to make what are essentially political points. They really need to step away from our internal political affairs and mind their own business. They are entitled to concern themselves with making their cars, but we'll decide who governs us, thank you very much.
Earlier than expected, the European Parliament in Strasbourg this Wednesday is to vote on whether to veto the European Commission's proposed regulations on airline pilots' hours, after they were rejected last week by the EP's transport committee.
This has triggered ferocious lobbying from BALPA with a campaign which to date has been extraordinarily effective. Any success, though, is likely to be short-lived. Even if the EP exercises its veto, the Commission can resubmit the proposed regulations under different rules and get them through the system without being troubled by a veto.
In any event, while looking after its own immediate interests, one has to appreciate that BALPA is not doing the anti-EU campaign any favours. Perforce, it is working within the system, pitting the European Parliament against the "unelected" Commission, and trying to rope in the Council to exercise its veto as well.
Not from BALPA, nor the media, do we hear anything of the role of ICAO regulations, and nor does the pilots' union tell us that we would be better off rejecting all EU attempts at "one-size-fits-all" regulation. It should not be a choice between the Parliament of the Commission but a "plague on both your houses". Whatever the EU comes up with, it will not be optimal.
This is because EU regulations are based on a philosophy which goes back to the 1970s, and even the idea of pan-European regulation is flawed. It makes no sense to have the same rules covering, say, a regional Scandinavian airline
and a long-haul international carrier.
By dealing directly with the international standards-setter, instead of the "little Europe" of the EU, we could be looking at improving our controls using up-to-date regulatory thinking. We could thus be implementing Fatigue Risk Management Systems
(FRMS), allowing operators to manage the fatigue-related risks particular to their types of operations and context.
The reality is that the EU is not interested is improving UK flight safety. Its aim is to harmonise regulations at a European level, and if that happens to involve a slightly reduced safety standard in some categories, for UK aircrew, that is an acceptable price to pay.
The British pilots' union, on the other hand, is concerned not so much with improving
standards as with preventing deterioration arising from pan-European standardisation. The public are the "piggies in the middle", gaining only marginal benefit from the pilots winning.
If we the passengers (and those who live under the flight paths of sleeping pilots) want genuine improvement in the standards applicable to commercial pilots in UK airlines, and thereby want them to sleep in their beds instead of their cockpits, we need to go global. We have to break free from "little Europe" and rejoin the world.
From the perspective of the anti-EU movement, this presents a significant and extremely valid campaigning opportunity. But it also has very much broader implications for the campaign.
Looking at the tracker polls
measuring support for leaving the EU, we see only in one area a strong majority which would favour the EU. That relates to the question of whether Britain would have more or less influence in the world if we withdrew. By a factor nearly three to one, more people think we would have less influence if we left. And this is a ratio that has been more-or-less constant for the whole of the year.
The "little Europe" meme, therefore, is one that could do with some powerful promotion. Demonstrating that we have more influence outside the EU is going to be one of the crucial battlefields. With the colleagues anxious to play down the "Norway option", we can strengthen the case by showing that, when it comes to pilots falling asleep at the controls, we are better off out.
There are a lot of people in this world who would have difficulty in answering the question, "what is Canada for?" For the next two weeks, however, there is a partial answer as the Canadian city of Montreal hosts the 38th Assembly of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the UN agency that sets global aviation standards.
This gives Canada a reason for existing, as host to one of the hubs of global governance which increasingly dominates the way rules are created for us mere mortals.
Top of the agenda for this component of the World Order, which formally came into being on 4 April 1947, is an arcane spat
over carbon emission standards, and the global imposition of an airline carbon tax, the details of which
are so tedious that, by comparison, rooting out your eyeballs with knitting needles would be a pleasurable experience.
Of great interest to this blog, though, is the drama provides yet more evidence of the hierarchical nature of world governance, where rules are set at global level and then handed down
the line to be implemented, at regional and then national level.
In this context, we even have an official designation for the "little Europe" of the European Union, which is known as
a Regional Integration Organisation (RIO). And, although the EU has an official representative to the ICAO, and has observer status, adherence to the founding Chicago Convention is open only to states. EU membership would require an amendment of the Convention, which requires a two-thirds majority vote in the Assembly to be adopted. And so far, that hasn't happened.
As a result, the EU has reached the limits of its power. Being imbued for its own reasons with the global warming doctrines, it has sought to impose upon all airlines visiting the territories of its member states its own form of carbon tax. Such attempts, though, have encountered tax sovereignty issues, and have been blocked by non-EU nations, with the US and Brazil high up on the list of refusniks
This means that the issue has been shoved "upstairs", so to speak, to be settled by the upstream ICAO, where national delegates will decide whether to approve a global scheme aimed at reducing airline CO2 emissions, starting from the year2020.
As a supplicant to IACO, without voting rights, the European Commission is pleading for permission its own regional scheme until the end of the decade, when the global scheme takes over. And, in the absence of agreement, the possibility of trade war looms, if the EU continues its plans and affected nations demur.
In what might be seen as a cynical but entirely accurate comment, though, Jos Delbeke, director general for climate at the European Commission, suggests that, "There are some bits and pieces in the text that made everybody unhappy, so it may be not far away from an ideal compromise". This reflects the basic requirement for a successful international agreement – that everybody should be unhappy, which means that no one has gained an advantage.
In due course, no doubt, an agreement of sorts will be reached, but it will be made by the member states at global level who will agree to allow EU action. That, in terms of the three strategic objectives of ICAO, enhancing global civil aviation safety and security, and environmental protection and sustainable development of air transport, is where the power really lies.
When Mr Cameron says we need to have a seat at the top table, therefore, it is to Montreal that we must go when discussing civil aviation, where the UK is a member of the 36-member governing council. There, it regulates a $708-billion global industry, greater in value than many countries, handling a collective budget considerably larger than the EU.
A mere Regional Integration Organisation, such as the European Union, is there only to do as it is told by the global players
, which just happen to include Norway.