Whatever happened to the VETO?
Like everyone else, I applauded the Prime Minister’s courageous decision to Veto a new EU Treaty a few weeks back. But with hind-sight, I’ve come to a much more cynical view.
First, he had little option but to veto the deal. There would have been hell to pay at home if he hadn’t.
Secondly, as many commentators have observed, there was in fact no Treaty on the table to veto. He merely indicated that in the event such a Treaty came forward, Britain would not sign. Good news, but not quite as dramatic as the headlines.
Third: the one substantive sticking point was the UK’s insistence that any new intergovernmental agreement between a sub-set of the 27 (and it certainly won’t be as many as 26) should be clearly not an EU treaty, and should not use the EU institutions to administer it. This was always a long-shot — after all the EU institutions deal with other EU programmes that cover a sub-set of states. Think €uro or Schengen.
But now we’ve given that up, and all we’re left with is an opt-out. Worth having, but perhaps not worth the hype. The word in the corridors here is that the Commission will just wait for a future UK government that will agree to “roll the new agreement into the Treaties”, rather as the 1997 Labour government dropped Major’s Maastricht opt-out on the social chapter.
Meantime, the objective of repatriation of powers is dropped at least until 2015 in deference to the Lib-Dems (tail wags dog), while the excellent idea of a Conservative manifesto commitment for an EU referendum in 2015 remains a pipe-dream, because Cameron believes we’re “Better Off In”.
James Delingpole on Watermelons
Delingpole’s new book “Watermelons” (environmental activists and eco-freaks are green on the outside, red on the inside, like watermelons) is essential reading for all those concerned about climate issues, whether wind farms or subsidies or the economic damage caused by Chris Huhne or the power shortages we’ll see in a few years if we go on with these lunatic green polices.
I wrote a review for TFA, so I won’t write more here, but find my review on my blog.
Hot air in high places
I never cease to be astonished at the amount of nonsense we hear in the European parliament. In the Unemployment Committee, on which I serve, we are constantly discussing issues and projects which provide us with material for undergraduate-style debates — but so far as I can see, have absolutely no use or relevance in the real world.
For example, we have the EU’s “Year of Active Ageing”. Have you ever heard of it? No. I thought not. Nor the EU’s Skills Passport?
These are displacement activities, whose main function is to give MEPs a warm feeling, and a sense of usefulness while achieving nothing at all. My frustration with this nonsense finally spilled over in January. See my three-minute rant here:
On Feb 13th, we had a debate on “fiscal discipline”, predicated on the assumption that all the problems of Greece and Club Med were about careless spending, and nothing to do with being locked into a currency at a dramatically uncompetitive exchange rate. I made the point with great vigour that the fundamental problem was monetary union, that the €uro was a bankruptcy machine, that it was driving up unemployment in Greece, Spain and Portugal, that we in the Unemployment Committee should be concerned about it, and that the first step towards a solution was to dismantle the single currency.
Sadly, while they certainly heard me, they clearly weren’t listening.
The Battle of Naseby and the contempt of the Party
I share the frustration and fury of local residents who go to heroic lengths to oppose wind farm planning applications, with their fundraising, their mugging up on the technical factors and the law, hiring counsel and winning their cases locally, only to see their local decision overturned by the government’s Planning Inspectorate.
I was so incensed by the case of Kelmarsh, overlooking the Naseby battleground, that I wrote to the Minister for Communities, the estimable Mr. Pickles. You can see the reply he caused to be sent on my blog:
The Party loves to talk about localism, but on wind farms, it treats local opinion and local decisions with utter contempt. I’m not surprised that many previously loyal party members are so angry that they are looking elsewhere — over wind farms, over Europe, over HS2.
Wind Farm Subsidies
Following Chris Heaton-Harris’s letter to the PM, signed by 100+ MPs, I joined my colleague Struan Stevenson MEP in lending support to this campaign by writing to Prime Minister David Cameron.
Who is my employer?
The Pharisee, seeking to justify himself, asked Our Lord “And who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10, 29).
Personally, I’ve always had a pretty fair idea about my neighbours, but for a dozen years I’ve been stumped by the question “Who is your employer?”. It incessantly crops up on forms of one sort or another.
For my first ten years in Brussels, I was paid by the British government. But were they my employer? And for the last two and a half years, since 2009, I’ve been paid by the European institutions. But I don’t think they’re my employer. If anything, I’d like to think that the four million residents of the East Midlands were my employer, but they may not see it in those terms.
Now I have the answer. I do not have an employer at all. Apparently as an MEP I am a “Public Office Holder”, not an employee. Let’s see how that plays the next time I have to fill in a form!
The Resignation Saga
I’m old enough to be an Eagles fan, and recently I’ve been particularly recalling that great line from “Hotel California”:
“You can check out any time you like, But you can never leave!”
It’s been a bit like that over my resignation. I’ve been ready to sign on the dotted line as soon as I received credible assurances from CCHQ that they would respect the democratic decision of East Midlands Conservatives and voters in 2008/9, and clarify their position with regard to the succession of Rupert Matthews.
I have sought to resign in favour of Rupert, and I have used my best efforts in good faith to overcome the objections of the Party, but so far I have to admit that things are not going well. It is not just that I received no satisfactory response from CCHQ: I have received no response or acknowledgement whatever, which seems downright rude.
First of all CCHQ insisted that there was a Party rule requiring Rupert to face another candidates’ panel. This was simply untrue. There is no such rule. It seems that the Party simply wanted a procedure that would enable them to block Rupert with some semblance of due process.
Then we have the Party Chairman’s obdurate and stubborn refusal to discuss the succession until after I formally resign. But it is good practice in all large organisations to do succession planning before a vacancy actually arises. Clearly the Party’s objective in refusing to do so is to enable them to block the succession after I, having resigned, can no longer have any influence on the outcome.
Warsi clearly wants to ignore the established succession procedure under the regional list system, and to disregard the democratic choice of several thousand Conservative Party members in the East Midlands. Her behaviour is disgraceful. It sends a message to Party members, activists and candidates: you can serve the Party with enthusiasm and loyalty for decades, but don’t expect any loyalty, or even consideration, in return.
Flying the flag
At the very first ever session of the elected European parliament in 1979, the very first speech from an MEP was an intervention by the Rev. Ian Paisley, demanding to know why the Union Jack outside the building was upside-down. My very first speech in the EP in 1999 was on the same point. And when I arrived at the parliament at 7:00 a.m. on Feb 14th, there it was upside-down again.
One or two curmudgeons have asked if I have nothing more important to worry about. I actually think that showing due respect for our national flag is well worth worrying about. But as I have often written, there is a huge media bias in favour of quirky stories. Issue worthy press releases about European constitutional issues or financial regulation or the debt crisis, and they end up on the cutting-room floor. Find the Union Jack hung upside-down in Strasbourg and everyone wants the picture.
Clichés: Is this a record?
After twelve years (and a half!) in the European parliament, I’m pretty familiar with Brussels-speak and EU jargon. But I was recently invited to a seminar whose title took cliché to new levels. In one single title, I identified no fewer than three clichés. Try this for size:
“Call to support for low-carbon economy and combating social exclusion in the draft regulations on the Structural Funds 2014-2020”
Priceless. So many of the speeches we hear in the parliament consist of a long string of mix’n’match buzz-phrases, welded together (as Mark Twain put it) with a thin mortar of originality. But this deserves a prize. I particularly liked the forced juxtaposition of two wholly unrelated but politically-correct objectives within their “thematic concentration”.
Quote of the month
“The fact is that the whole anthropogenic warming theory is based not on observation but on computer models: in this case, it seems, computer models in which so-called “feedbacks” involving water vapour and clouds greatly amplify the small effect of CO2. It is, incidentally, interesting that none of the computer models which feed the theory, not one, predicted the present global warming pause: so why, one might ask, should one have any faith at all in their predictive powers about anything else?” –William Oddie
“Do you hear the people sing?”
I mentioned this Les Mis song in my January newsletter. Find it here. Play it loud!
Blackadder on the Euro
Baldrick: “What I want to know sir, is before there was a Euro, there were lots of different types of money that different people used. And now there’s only one type of money that the foreign people use. And what I want to know is, how did we get from one state of affairs to the other state of affairs”
Blackadder: “Baldrick. Do you mean, how did the Euro start?”
Baldrick: “Yes sir”
Blackadder: “Well, you see Baldrick, back in the 1980’s there were many different countries all running their own finances and using different types of money. On one side you had the major economies of France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, and on the other, the weaker nations of Spain, Greece, Ireland, Italy and Portugal. They got together and decided that it would be much easier for everyone if they could all use the same money, have one Central Bank, and belong to one large club where everyone would be happy. This meant that there could never be a situation whereby financial meltdown would lead to social unrest, wars and crises”.
Baldrick: “But this is sort of a crisis, isn’t it sir”.
Blackadder: “That’s right Baldrick. You see, there was only one slight flaw with the plan”.
Baldrick: “What was that then sir?”
Blackadder: “It was b***ocks”.
Celebrating the Euro…
French TV channel Canal Plus asked members of the public how the government should mark the tenth anniversary of the Euro. Top marks to the unnamed pensioner who replied: ” How about a minute’s silence ? ”
A tribute to our President
Our new President of the parliament, German socialist MEP Martin Schulz, has taken to ringing a little bell to call for order in the Hemicycle. I decided it would be appropriate to circulate to colleagues a couple of verses from Lewis Carroll’s famous poem “The Hunting of the Snark”:
The Bellman himself they all praised to the skies —
Such a carriage, such ease and such grace!
Such solemnity, too! One could see he was wise,
The moment one looked in his face!
This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
And that was to tingle his bell.