Of referenda and briefing papers...
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...
- 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.
- Oliver Letwin apparently became immensely frustrated at how the EU ties the hands of British ministers.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 whena 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...