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Nick Clegg should say No Thank EU – UPDATE

By Angela Harbutt
August 8th, 2013 at 10:54 am | 7 Comments | Posted in EU, EU Politics, Europe, Uncategorized

So not only did Conservative MP Anna Soubry act in defiance of UK parliament when she hot-footed it over to Luxembourg to negotiate on behalf of the UK at a meeting of European ministers. We now know that her support for the European Commissions proposals at that meeting was decisive in giving the green light to the Tobacco Products Directive.

In a letter (dated July 31st) to Bill Cash MP (Chairman, House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee) Soubry says:

“The committee asked whether the UK’s support was vital to a General Approach being agreed” (at the Council of European health ministers meeting on 21st June)…..

“Four member states – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland and Romania were unable to offer their support, which meant that the UK’s support (of the Tobacco Products Directive) was decisive in forming a qualified majority” 

Given that we know Ms Soubry asked for, but was refused, a waiver from the relevant House of Commons committee, her statement should more accurately read :

Four member states – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland and Romania were unable to offer their support, which meant that my support  (of the Tobacco Products Directive), acting on my own and in defiance of UK parliament, was decisive in forming a qualified majority

Quite how one woman – sticking two fingers up to the UK democratic process – was able to waltz into a room and declare she was negotiating on behalf of the United Kingdom – when, in fact she clearly had no authority to do so whatsoever -  will be beyond most people’s comprehension.

That her role was then “decisive” in “forming a qualified majority” at the meeting will shock and infuriate in equal measure.

In her letter Soubry goes on to explain what she thought was likely to happen had the UK abstained at the meeting.

“The Committee asked me what I thought was likely to happen to the Directive (had UK not offered support).

Whilst this would not have immediately killed of the Directive, which I believe will bring important public health benefits to the UK, it would almost certainly have represented a serious set-back. It would have re-opened the debate across all aspects of the Directive…

It would also have made it very unlikely that the revised Directive would have been adopted by Council and the European Parliament within the terms of the current European Parliament and the European Commission.”

That’s it. If Soubry had abstained (surely the correct thing to do when the proposed European legislation in question is still under scrutiny by the UK parliament?), the Directive would have continued but at a slower pace. Given the complexities involved; and indeed the far reaching unintended consequences of  the proposals, a bit more time thinking and discussing before acting is almost certainly what’s needed.

It’s hard to know if Soubry was set up/hoodwinked/sweet-talked into taking the action she did  (junior ministers come and go but bureaucrats, it seems, go on forever) or if her own obsession with plain packaging/incompetence was the cause.

What ever the reason, the fact that her role at the Council meeting of European Ministers was “decisive” in determining the outcome of that meeting is a very serious turn of events.   And whilst it is important to understand how and why we arrived at this sad and sorry place (if we are to avoid such catastrophic errors in the future) the real question is what will the UK coalition government, the European Commission and indeed MEPs themselves do to put all of this right?

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Anna Soubry: A one woman walking disaster

By Editor
July 22nd, 2013 at 5:50 pm | No Comments | Posted in EU, EU Politics, Europe, European Politics

Here’s a short (3 minute) video showing a few extracts from evidence Anna Soubry gave the HOC European Scrutiny Committee on 17 July 2013.

She was called to appear before the Committee because she went to the EU General Council of ministers on June 21st to agree the general approach on the EU Tobacco Products Directive. She did this, and negotiated the UK position having totally bypassed the statutory UK parliamentary processes.  That meant stifling any debate on ecigs in UK parliament. That is pretty serious. To then to appear confused (and wrong) about what she actually agreed on e-cigarettes is  truly astounding. Surely the UK must go back to the EU and say that Soubry has been sacked and the UK position on the Directive is yet to be decided.

If you are interested, you can see all of her evidence here.  It seems to confirm that this Directive has been rushed through solely on the grounds that some folks wanted to ensure it was done during the Irish presidency. Nice for the Irish President – looking for a personal legacy. Bad for everyone else.




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Giving the EU the red card

By Angela Harbutt
June 2nd, 2013 at 10:00 am | 2 Comments | Posted in EU, Europe

The EU seems to be a  topic of some interest here at the moment (see “Liberalising the European Union” from Barry Stocker and “EU- It really is getting sillier by the day” by Editor). Here is one more little item that may be of interest.

On Friday, Foreign Secretary William Hague was over in Germany calling for a “red card” scheme so individual nations can block laws unwanted and unnecessary EU legislation. This is, in effect, an extension of the current “yellow card” system under which parliaments in member states can force the European Commission to reconsider a law. The red card would go further by blocking legislation altogether, though, as with the current system, the proposal would need a minimum number of national parliaments to agree to have effect.

Mr Hague said it was time “to make the EU more democratically responsive” and that:

“We should explore whether the yellow card provision could be strengthened or extended to give our parliaments the right to ask the commission to start again where legislation is too intrusive, and fails the proportionality test” (read the full speech here)

Hague, it seems, is confident of securing backing for his proposals from other northern European countries, including Germany. And it looks like this proposal is set to attract cross-party support in the UK. Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander is reported to have said that the Labour party would also push for a mechanism ensuring national parliaments have a bigger say in EU laws. One assumes that the Lib Dems will likewise get behind such a policy – (I believe I heard Chris Davies MEP indicating his support for the red card system on the radio yesterday, but please correct me if I am wrong).

All in all this looks like a highly practical suggestion that seeks to call a halt to the regulatory bloat coming from unelected Brussels bureaucrats. As Hague says (and I agree), the EU is not “democratically sustainable” without a “decentralisation” of powers. The challenge is to see this policy implemented as soon as possible.

That in itself, of course, in not enough. The UK action (or, more accurately, lack of action) on the olive oil jug ban was lamentable and if we are to see true reform of the EU it will require the member states to ACT when presented with unnecessary legislation, not just stand by and watch.



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Labour blows dog whistle on EU migration

By Leslie Clark
November 11th, 2012 at 10:31 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Europe, Labour, Migration

Reports of the death of Blue Labour have been greatly exaggerated – its spirit lives on in Labour’s new approach to EU migration. With the transitional controls on those from Bulgaria and Romania ending in December 2013 – which was already the maximum timeframe under EU rules – Yvette Cooper has said Labour supports extending the ban. Why?  It’s a handy way of ‘reconnecting’ with your core constituency ahead of the European Elections. Think Gillian Duffy.

Hysteria is already rife in the British press regarding an impending influx. Hilariously, The Daily Mail shrieked ‘30m Bulgarians and Romanians are set to gain unrestricted access to UK as EU regulations are lifted’, a remarkable figure when one considers that the total population of those two countries is actually less than that. Likewise, The Sun helpfully provided a Dad’s Army style map to inform its readers of another continental invasion.

Too often, migrants are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they are in work, they distort the labour market and steal ‘British’ jobs. If they aren’t in work, they leech off the state. So when debating such matters, it is time we searched for facts rather than populism. As a recent Open Europe report concluded,

 “…the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the UK’s new migrants from Eastern European countries have come to the UK in search of work rather than to take advantage of the UK’s welfare system.”

Freedom of movement is at the cornerstone of the EU. Last year, Maurice Glasman, the intellectual guru of Blue Labour, made his feelings known about Eastern European workers coming to the UK,

I think we should have a treaty change to stop it. Renegotiating treaties. Going back to the roots of the EU protection of workers and land.”

However, to quote the aforementioned Open Europe report,

In truth, trying to opt out of free movement is essentially the same as trying to leave the EU.”

Labour have to decide whether they support our continuing membership of the EU or allow Blue Labour Euroscepticism on migration to seize the day. They can’t have both.

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The Judean People’s Front or The People’s Front of Judea?

By Leslie Clark
October 5th, 2012 at 4:12 pm | No Comments | Posted in Europe

So the wonderfully named ‘We Demand A Referendum’ party is holding its first conference. It boasts a litany of ex-Ukippers and celebrity faces and doesn’t like the EU. Just like that famous scene from the Life of Brian, they appear to be virtually indistinguishable from their main competitor, UKIP:

Excuse me. Are you the We Demand a Referendum Party? 
Fuck off! We’re the United Kingdom Independence Party.

I imagine there isn’t a big vetting procedure on membership:

If you want to join the We Demand a Referendum Party, you have to really hate the EU. 
I do!
Oh yeah, how much?
A lot!
Right, you’re in.

We don’t need another Eurosceptic group. A recent Ipsos Mori poll on voter priorities showed that only 1% of respondents thought the EU was the most important issue facing the UK. The 1% must be the Popular Front of Judea.

Eurosceptic politics in a nutshell.

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