Thursday, October 20, 2011

Of referenda and briefing papers...

So despite the LibDems campaigning at the last election on a In/Out referendum, it appears that Clegg has decided to whip his MPs to vote against it. Adenoidal Ed has followed suit—either because he can't think for himself, or because he is as much of a mendacious shit as Cameron and Clegg.

What are they so scared of?

Well, thanks to Mark Wallace, I see that the briefing paper sent to Tory MPs has been posted—so let's have a look at the justifications, shall we?
The national interest is for Britain to be in Europe, not run by Europe.

That is just your opinion. But I am sure, if it really is in the national interest, I am sure that you would have no problem convincing the British people of your position. Right...?
That is why Conservatives want to get powers back from Brussels to Britain, particularly over social and employment legislation.

So, how's that working out for us? Let's have a look at the Conservatives' record in this short government...
  1. They have signed up for an extension of the European Arrest Warrant, and brought in new powers for foreign police to operate on British soil through the European Investigation Order.

  2. Oliver Letwin apparently became immensely frustrated at how the EU ties the hands of British ministers.

  3. The Tories implemented the Agency Worker Regulations—which gives temporary workers the same rights as permanent ones—which is, by the government's own estimates, going to cost £1.9 billion. And, almost certainly, all but destroy the agency workers' market.

  4. Call Me Dave asks for plaudits for holding the EU's budget increase down to a mere 2.9%, whilst simultaneously signing over control of both our finances and our financial institutions to the EU.

  5. Ian Duncan Smith writes that EU laws that demand we give lots of benefits to anyone who turns up will, in fact, screw his reform plans.

I think that, given that the above is a far from exhaustive list, that we could summarise the Tories' efforts to "get powers back from Brussels" as being... well... a bit shit.

In fact, they have signed over more powers to Brussels. Which brings us to...
We also need to make sure that there is no further transfer of powers from Britain to Brussels without the say of the British people. That’s why for the first time ever this Government has introduced a referendum lock which means that any transfer of powers from Britain to Brussels would require the approval of the British people in a referendum.

And, as a number of us pointed out at the time, this referendum is not worth the paper it's printed on. There are innumerable ways around this "referendum lock", including bare-faced deceit.
An in/out referendum or a confusing and unclear three way referendum does nothing to advance these objectives.

As illustrated above, this Tory-led government has brought in more EU laws, costing us yet more money. And I haven't even bothered to mention the bail-out cash that has wiped out any savings that the Coalition was claiming to make this year.

So, if nothing else, a referendum will clarify whether the British people—you know, the ones who supposedly have the power in a democracy—agree with you or not. I'm guessing—as I wrote yesterday—that the answer will be that they don't.

That's evidently what Call Me Dave thinks anyway.

So, what other stonkingly good reasons have Tory central office got for remaining within the EU...?
The value of the EU Single Market to the UK.
The Single Market is vital to the UK’s prosperity:
  • The EU gives UK business access to the world’s largest market.

So? We could still leave the EU and access the Single Market: you have you heard of EFTA, I take it?
  • European markets account for half of the UK’s trade and foreign investments, providingaround 3.5 million jobs.

  • In the year to July 2011 the total value of the UK’s trade in goods exported tothe EU was £92.7 billion. (HMRC, UK trade info, 1 July 2011, link), compared to £77.4 billion for exports to countries outside the EU (HMRC, UK trade info, 9 September 2011, link).

  • Around 3.5 million jobs in theUK are linked to the export of goods and services to the EU (BIS, The UK and the Single Market: Trade and Investment Analytical Papers 4, 2011).

Once again, I say "so what?" There are other ways of accessing this market: ways that do not require all of us to submit to EU regulations.

And that is a big point: yes, should we leave, companies that trade with the EU would have to abide by EU Regulations. But companies that do not would not have to.

And 80% of our trade is internal. In other words, we unnecessarily load 100% of our businesses with oodles of bureaucratic red tape for the sake of 10% of our trade.

That's insane. And massively expensive.

It's difficult to tell quite how expensive, but an Open Europe report [PDF] estimated that complying with EU regulations cost some £124 billion between 1998 and 2009—with the cost being £32.8 billion in 2009 alone. A 2004 Civitas report [PDF] put the cost at somewhere between £5 billion and £20 billion every year.

The same report attempted to assess the cost of EU membership to Britain in toto and concluded that...
Overall, the net cost of remaining in the EU ranges from the rock-bottom estimate of £15 billion to the ‘most likely’ of £40 billion.

And that cost is for every, single year that we remain a part of this nightmarish and undemocratic institution. Furthermore [emphasis mine]...
The author questions whether it is wise to link our fortunes to a region of the world with a poor record of economic growth and whose share of both world markets and GDP is destined to fall. Even the European Commission takes a gloomy view of the EU’s prospects.17 In its December 2002 review it forecast a 44 per cent decline in the EU-15 share of global GDP from 18 per cent in 2000 to ten per cent in 2050. In 2050, as in 1950 and 2000, the three most populous countries in the world are likely to be India (1.6 billion), China (1.5 billion) and the USA (0.4 billion). The working-age population of the EU, even after its current enlargement to 25 members, is projected to decline by 20 per cent to 30 per cent by 2050; whereas the working-age popula- tion of the USA is expected to increase by nearly one-third.

In 2006, the Bruges Group came up with a cost (for that year) of some £52 billion, and a total of £200 billion since 1973—simple maths will show that the costs over the years have increased at an alarming rate.

The economist Patrick Minford, also in 2006, concluded leaving the EU would give a boost to the British economy of some 2.5% (roughly £45 billion at that time).

And Strange Stuff pulled together a number of different sources when he wrote this pithy little number (also in 2006).
However the EU also prevents the UK from many potentially good opportunities. Such as in 2003 when
a Bill was introduced in the Senate that would have created a free-trade agreement between the two countries. Alas, Blair had to decline this, shamefacedly (I’d like to think) having to point out that this country had no right to negotiate international trade agreements.

Free trade with the USA is not the only area that Britain could have been trying for, free trade agreements with fast growing Brazil, India, or China might have been possible where we not in the EU. Or Africa, allowing us cheaper food, and the African nations a way to build up their economies. But instead Britain is shackling to the slowly sinking states of old Europe and is impoverishing Africa thanks to the EU's CAP.

Estimating the costs of these lost opportunities can lead to total figures such for the cost of being in the EU that are truly horrendous.
when one adds on the costs described earlier to the opportunity costs, the current recurring annual net cost to the UK of EU membership is ten percent of GDP, or approximately £100 billion per year at present levels of UK GDP.

this from a newsletter in 2004 [PDF], so the numbers will probably have gone up since then. That rather makes the 20 billion that Mr Hague claims that the UK gets from the common market seem rather insignificant.

Really ramping up the stakes, in 2009, was a TPA-endorsed book—The Great European Rip-off: How the Corrupt, Wasteful EU is Taking Control of Our Lives.
In the book, the authors estimate that the total cost of the EU to European taxpayers [PDF] is...
... around €2,460 (£1,968) per citizen, €1,219 (£975) billion per year.

That is a staggering amount of money (almost enough to bail the continent out of the current crisis!).

Significantly, no government has ever published—or, as far as we are aware, even undertaken—a cost-benefit analysis of Britain's membership of the EU: one has to wonder why not if, as they claim, the benefits are so evident...?

The conclusion can only be that, in fact, the costs far outweigh the benefits.

Yes: we all know that leaving the EU will not automatically reduce these costs significantly—a great deal of legislation would have to be unpicked, etc. However, what is absolutely the case is that these costs cannot be reduced whilst we remain within the European Union.

Anyway, the rest of the briefing paper expands on the previous wank so I won't fisk all 12 pages. What is very clear, however, is that if the famous referendum lock is shown to be ineffective, smoke and mirrors bullshit then CCHQ's entire defence comes crashing down.

The only vaguely interesting things are a couple of selections from the Hostile Questions section.
Q: Why are you imposing a three line whip?
The 2010 manifesto, on which Conservative MPs were elected, did not advocate withdrawal from Europeor an in/out referendum. It is not Conservative Party policy.

Similarly, the Conservatives are clear that we should bring back powers from Brussels to Britain so what we need is a Conservative majority government, not an in out referendum or a confusing three way referendum.

This is, of course, the expected bollocks—bolstered by an entire section on how evil Labour are on this matter (hardly relevant since all three main parties seem to be aligned on this issue).
Q: Why won’t you let the British people have their say?
The British people should have their say on any further transfers of power from Britain to Brussels. That’s why this Government has introduced a referendum lock that guarantees for the first time ever the British people a referendum in these circumstances.

See?—I told you: this referendum lock is the crux of all answers on this topic. It features even more prominently than the economic reasons for, I'd suggest, the very reasons that I outlined above.
An in/out referendum would be a false choice: it wouldn’t give a choice to the mainstream of British opinion who want to be in Europe, not run by Europe and want to see powers brought back. We all agree on that and, to be fair, the motion tries to deal with that.

Riiight. So, an in/out referendum wouldn't cut it but this one would.

An in/out referendum wouldn't give a choice to "the mainstream"; but this isn't a plain in/out referendum—there is a third option. And option, in fact, that would allow "the mainstream" to make their choice known.
But a three-way referendum would be so confusing and unclear three way choice it’s very hard to see how it would resolve anything.

Translation: you, the British people, are so stupid that you cannot understand the three simple options open to you. I see.

So, whilst the British people are, apparently, clever enough to vote for the Conservatives—and for the result to be, er, legitimate enough for those same Conservatives to deny us a say—on a whole raft of issues, they cannot deal with picking one of three clear choices.


Oh! Oh, though! I bet you can't guess what the solution would be...
If we want tosee powers brought back from Brussels the answer is a majority Conservative Government.

Gosh, that was a surprise, eh? Were you surprised?—I know I was.


Oh, and there is one outright lie in the document: can you spot it...?
Q: What concessions do you think we should seek from Europe in return for the closer integrationthat will occur as a result of the Eurozone crisis?
We want to see a prosperous Eurozone. Forty per cent of our trade is with the Eurozone so it is strongly in our own national interest to support Eurozone countries in dealing with their problems.

Did you spot it? Yes, that's right: 40% of our trade is not done with the Eurozone at all. The figure is—and I cannot stress this strongly enough—no more than 10%. In fact, here is your humble Devil's quick breakdown of trade facts...
  • Britain's internal trade: 80%

  • Britain's trade externally: 100%-80% = 20%

  • Britain's trade with the world, excluding the EU: 10%

  • Britain's trade with the EU: 10%

  • Britain's trade with the Eurozone: 40% of 20% = 8%

  • 10% of current GDP is somewhere in the region of £120 billion

I hope that's clear enough for everyone. Perhaps even a Conservative MP might actually be able to get them into what passes for a brain—though I doubt it.

The whole briefing document makes one thing abundantly clear (just in case you hadn't got it already): these fuckers hold us in total contempt. And nothing will change until we rise up and hang them all from the lamp-posts...


TheFatBigot said...

Indeed, Mr Kitchen, although I would question one point.

Confusion in a three-way referendum need not be in the minds of the voters but in the interpretation of the result.

For example, what does a 40-30-30 split mean?

Is it 60% against continued membership without satisfactory renegotiation (and who is to judge whether any renegotiation is satisfactory to the public)?

Or is it 70% in favour of continued membership combined with a minority desire to renegotiate?

And how is the vote for the renegotiation option to be construed? Is it "I want to stay in but also want you to get back anything you can"? Or "I want out but we'll need trade treaties anyway, so provided we have those and scrap all the nonsense I'm happy to stay in?

What is on offer will throw up far more questions than it answers unless there is a majority for either the first or second options. Since the third option must necessarily draw some votes from the in crowd and some from the out crowd, such a majority seems unlikely.

cabalamat said...

Clegg may or may not be mendacious, but he is not on this issue breaking a promise. The Lib Dem manifesto says (p.67):

The European Union has evolved significantly since the last public vote on membership over thirty years ago. Liberal Democrats therefore remain committed to an in/out referendum the next time a British government signs up for fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU.

Since there has been no such fundamental change, it doesn't trigger a referendum.

It's still incompetent politics on Clegg's part -- if he supported a referendum, he might lose some of his unpopularity.

Anonymous said...

The 3rd choice, like the referendum lock, is meaningless, to vote to re-negotiate (beg) for some concessions does not mean we will get them. We have not exactly been successful to date.

Roger Thornhill said...

Please let me know of anyone who believes "in, with satisfactory renegotiation", for I have shares in a Toffee Mine that they might be interested in...a bargain. Really.

The Boiling Frog said...

Strange how a little country like the Isle of Man can stay out of the EU but still full access to the single market yet apparently we can't

Anonymous said...

I think our lords and masters are being quite clever here. They obviously don't want a referendum, hence the three line whip and cross-party support. But, if they are forced into one now or in the future when the euro inevitably crashes they have set out how it will be played out.

The result of a 3 options referendum will be open to many interpretations as TFB says. Unless there is a > 50% "leave" vote then we will inevitably be told that we voted to stay in.

Michael Fowke said...

"What are they so scared of?"

They're scared of us. But they think if they ignore us we'll go quietly away and won't kick up a fuss about freedom and other such nonsense.

Nibor said...

Sometimes the bad deals we get from the EU is put - by the EUrophiles - as the result of our lack of enthusiasm for the project ."Be more EUrocentric and get more out of it " is their meme .
So they`ll use the third option as an excuse for us to be punished .

Harry said...

So they're going to shit all over you lot AGAIN.

Another example of why Tory loving cunts are bigger retards that the brain-dead labour supporters: you KNOW what is going to happen before it has. I cannot for the life of me understand why the fuck any of you keep sucking the haemorrhoids of Cameron and the gang.

Slim Jim said...

Do you recommend piano wire, or good old plain rope?

chessnuts said...

We don't need to be in the EFTA either, or any trade bloc that decides our regulations for us and gives special interest lobbying power. We can have genuine free-trade if we pull out of all of these so-called 'free' trade agreements.

Newmania said...

Jesus I had forgotten just how good you are ...that was a fucking flame thrower DK

Genius level anger

Mark M said...

I always get amazed at this 'access to the EU market' rubbish.

I don't even have to spend 30 seconds looking around my house until I find something 'made in China'. As I'm sure the other 150+ countries in the world that aren't in the EU haven noticed, you don't need to be in the EU to trade with it.

That's not even the point though. The e-petitions website was meant to be brought in to help with the problem of politicians that are disconnected from the general public. Here's an issue the public feel strongly on, and yet the politicians decide they know best, and are trying to ignore what the public wants. Have they learned nothing since the expenses scandal?

Blue Eyes said...

My issue with a referendum NOW is two fold:

First, a referendum before a "re-negotiation" means nothing, it's the decision on whether to stay in on new terms or leave which would matter. The referendum would therefore be a bargaining tool during negotiations. Having a nebulous "yeah but no" result already in the past at the next treaty-writing session would be meaningless.

Second, the chances are that the whole "the economy would collapse if we left" schtick would scare enough people into voting to stay in. And then the whole in/out debate would be closed for another twenty or thirty years.

Unless there is a clear majority in favour of leaving, a referendum could actually be counter-productive for the out movement and a gift to pretend sceptics like Cameron.

Sackerson said...

I'd argue that we are not in the EU now, and that everything done (since the "Common Market" referendum) by our "representatives" way of EU integration is ultra vires. Consent by the people has not been granted and I'd argue that we are in a position to repudiate any attempt by the EU to exercise any power or authority within our national borders. Far from needing a referendum to leave, we would need a referendum to join.

Something close to this would appear to be the official legal position also...

On March 21 this year I emailed my MP:

Dear Mr Hemming

Thank you for your confirmation that "when the constitution changes substantially then there should be a referendum". On the same principle, since it seems that it has already changed substantially, surely the change made so far requires ratification, for the 1975 vote was presented to the people as merely validating membership of an international trading arrangement.

Or do you hold to the view that as matters stand, in fact and in law the EU has no power over Parliament, and that any concession of such power would be the threshold to which you refer?

Yours sincerely

He replied (March 22):

"The EU has no power over parliament. In fact the Lisbon Treaty included a change for a provision to leave the EU. Parliament can simply refuse to incorporate EU law and in my view should be a bit more critical.

"People also get confused between the EU and the Council of Europe."

Dioclese said...

I was in Norway recently. They voted No three times - strange how only Yes votes are irreversible - and their relationship with the EU seems extremely healthy to me!

Cameron could avoid all this shit by just letting the commons have a free vote. So what's his problem?

Oh, I forgot - he's a bloody liar!

Andrew S. Mooney said...

Something that you have not added to that roundup of how much trade we enact with the European Union is actually how much of that fraction of the trade that this country conducts is with one EU nation: The Republic of Ireland.

A sizable fraction of the trade with the Republic is literally in the form of the fact that Irish container traffic runs through ports such as Immingham and Tilbury, crosses the UK on the rail system and leaves via ports such as Liverpool, which is being expanded to address this traffic.

If Ireland could be incorporated into a free trade negotiation then EU trade is even less of a factor than it is.

blingmun said...

I thought the Commons debate was fairly encouraging. It was refreshing to hear Eurosceptic views openly aired in Parliament. Such views were ridiculed as mad only five or ten years ago.

But nothing has changed and we still have two of three mountains to climb. Firstly, either the Tories must get rid of Cameron in favour of David Davis (I left cancelled my membership last week calling for this) or alternatively UKIP must overtake the Tories in the polls. Secondly, when either the Tories or UKIP have given us the referendum we want, we then have to take on the BBC, the banks, Quangos, civil service etc.

I think we can do it but it's gonna be a hell of a journey.

blingmun said...

As a follow up there's a new referendum demanding another Parliamentary debate.

Sign up to cause Cameron a well deserved headache. More importantly, as Old Holborn said "let's do what the EU itself does. Ask again. And again. And again. Until we get the answer we want."

Lynne said...

Climategate II seems to be even more explosive than the original Climategate. Surely this time we can nail the reputations of these post-normal, anti-humanity, anti-science cunts to the wall alongside their political conspirators aka fucking National Governments?

Sackerson said...

Expletives aside, I think the scientists believe what they're saying, but now are forced to admit that they overstated their case. If they are correct, then of course they have indirectly caused us harm by discrediting their own work and so hindering efforts to minimise the threats of climate change. On the other hand, would waiting until the evidence was absolutely conclusive, merely mean that it was then too late for any useful action?