The Great Cameron Speech
Great. We have a referendum promise. For 2017.
But hang on a minute. Can we trust the very man who in 2007 gave us a “cast-iron guarantee” of a referendum — then broke his promise on a technicality?
Can we trust a man who says the referendum is on a renegotiated package that he won’t even start to renegotiate before 2015?
Can eurosceptics trust a man who may well be neither Prime Minister nor Party Leader by 2017? Can we trust a man who is pledged to campaign “Heart and Soul” for Britain to remain in the EU? Who believes that “membership is in British interests” but can’t explain why?
What will he do if (as I expect) he comes back with nothing, or with trivial and nugatory concessions? Will he say “I don’t have a package I can recommend, so we won’t have a referendum”? Or perhaps “I couldn’t get a good deal so I’ll campaign to get out”? I don’t think so. Read more here.
…and a Czech take on the speech:
Let us say NO to Brussels centralisation
Ladislav Jakl, Director, Political Deptt, Office of the President of the Czech Republic:
The British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that in two years he will push for a referendum on Britain’s membership of European Union. At first sight, this news seems like a glimmer of reason in the dull Brussels greyness. But let us not be mistaken.
Cameron certainly does not plan to leave the European Union. He is on far too good terms with the Euro-establishment for that. Instead, he is pursuing the opposite goal. First, he wants to outdo his Eurocritical rivals within the Conservative party by stealing their theme from them. In order to deliver a referendum in the next parliament, he needs to win the next election. Thus he is forcing his critics to commit to his victory and to become Cameron loyalists.
Second, and most importantly, Cameron will do everything in his power after the elections to ensure that the result of the referendum is a vote in favour of Brussels and EU membership. This will definitely crush the opposition within the Conservative party. His critics would not have a platform in the referendum from which to carry their fight, because the referendum itself would be pushed for by the official Conservative leadership.
The argument about Cameron taking the ground away from the critics outside the Conservative party (UKIP above all) is a topic for a separate debate. I do not wish to enter into it. Instead I want to pick up the gauntlet and speak about the Czech Republic.
Such a referendum should also be announced in our country, and as soon as possible. Unfortunately neither any government nor any parliamentary entity will do it. They were tamed long time ago. It is therefore necessary to create a new platform. The prospects for the people who have had enough of Brussels tightening the screws are good.
We shall see how long-term supporters of referendums in general referendum react. Are they going to help? Or are they going to find ways around it? What is the ODS going to do – the ODS which has been steered by its leaders towards eurosocialism for several years? It remains to be seen.
In any case, it is necessary to start now. Anyone who wants to help with the preparation and initiation of such a referendum for the Czech Republic to leave the European Union, please write with suggestions of how you can help to the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You rarely gain a great deal in politics by being angry, and I try to avoid it — though in truth it was anger at the way that our freedom and democracy was being compromised that got me into politics in the first place.
And I have to admit that I’m getting a bit hot under the collar as the EU debate heats up, and we see all the old lies trotted out again.
“If we leave the EU, we’ll be isolated and marginalised”. Note that the people telling us this are the very people who said we’d be isolated and marginalised if we left the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992. They were wrong. They’re the same people who told us we’d lose our banking and financial services businesses to Frankfurt if we failed to join the €uro, and we’d lose inward investment too. They were wrong. Now they’re trying it again, and they’re wrong this time, too.
We’re a major trading nation, a major military power. We’re on the UN Security Council. The OECD. The World Bank. NATO. The Commonwealth. The G8. And as an independent nation, we’d regain our seat on the WTO. And they say we’d be isolated? It’s not so much leaving the EU. It’s rejoining the Rest of the World, where the growth is.
“Half our exports go to the EU”. No. In reality it’s around 40%, and declining. The EU is rapidly shrinking in importance, in share of global trade and global GDP. And in any case, 40% of our exports to the EU, which amounts to only about 20% of global GDP, is not so much a measure of how well we’re doing in Europe, as of the leeway we need to make up in the rest of the world.
“It’s vital we remain in the Single Market”. No it’s not. The Single Market is an old-fashioned, sub-optimal Customs Union, overlaid by massive, costly and onerous regulation. Much better to be outside it, with a free trade deal.
“Three and a half million British jobs depend on EU membership”. Nonsense. The jobs depend on trade — which will continue — not on membership.
“Leaving the EU will damage trade”. No. With a Free Trade Agreement, our trade with the EU will be largely unaffected. But we shall be in a better position to seek more favourable trading relationships outside Europe, especially with the Anglosphere.
“We’ll be subject to regulation by fax, like Switzerland and Norway”. But that’s the wrong comparison. Why compare a large economy like the UK with a couple of small states on the margins of Europe? Are America, and China, and Canada, and Korea, and Mexico all subject to “regulation by fax”? No. And nor should we be. The trouble is that these Europhiles have forgotten what “Independence” means.
“We’d still have to pay for access to the Single Market”. But hang on a bit. We’re the EU’s largest export market. We buy much more from them than they buy from us. If they ask us to pay for access to their market, we’ll charge them double for access to our market. This is an absurd idea. Countries don’t charge other countries for market access.
“We should think about the costs of leaving the EU”. No. We should think about the costs of staying in. That’s about 10% of GDP, or £150 billion a year, according to Tim Congdon, one of the UK’s most respected economists.
Out of the EU, we’d retain European market access. Cost savings would enable us to address our fiscal problems and reduce our tax rates. Free of EU energy policy, we could have cheaper energy. Free of UK regulation, we’d have more flexible labour markets. What’s not to like, especially for inward investors? For all these reasons, we’ll be Better Off Out.
The EU: Long-Term Decline
In the mid nineties, the EU amounted to around 30% of global GDP. Today, it’s around 20%. By 2050, it could be around 10%. That is, if we abandon the EU’s preposterous target of 80% emissions reductions by 2050.
This target could barely sustain a primitive agricultural economy. If we seriously try to stick to the 80% figure, we’ll be like Burkina Faso. We’ll each have a thatched hut, an acre and a cow. If we’re lucky, that is.
It’s a mystery to me why we want to tie ourselves exclusively, or preferentially, to an economic area in long-term relative decline. Someone remarked that we had shackled ourselves to a corpse, and they were not far wrong.
“Stomping on their graves”?
There’s a media frenzy around reports that back in the ’80s, police used the personal details of dead children to establish under-cover identities for officers working incognito to infiltrate anarchist and terrorist groups who were believed to pose a threat to our society (read more here). One paper called it “Stomping on their graves”.
Of course we expect the tabloids to exploit emotive stories, and to fulminate with synthetic fury against the establishment, but this, surely, is going over the top. This would be a “victimless crime” — except that it’s not clear that it was a crime at all. And it’s not a new idea. Certainly the adoption by spies of the identity of a dead child has been a staple of crime and espionage novels for a long time.
I can’t speak for others. But if I’d had an older sibling who had died as a baby before I was born, I think I’d be gratified rather than offended to think that they’d unwittingly done a posthumous service to society, when that service may have had the effect of keeping us all safer. This story may sell newspapers, but really I think we have more immediate problems to worry about. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that millions of pounds, and thousands of hours of police time, and a whole lot of paper will be wasted on a formal enquiry and a door-stop report.
I’m frankly sickened when I hear our Prime Minister, and assorted government ministers (with Peter Tatchell bobbing along behind), insisting that “Gay Marriage” is “in line with conservative principles”. Because we value marriage, they say, and because we believe in it, we should broaden the definition so that it becomes available to people who reject marriage, as it has existed for millennia, entirely. And of course while we broaden it to include one new category — homosexuals — we open the door to heaven-knows-what further broadening in future.
This is a grotesque travesty. These people are clearly out-of-touch with reality, or with veracity — or perhaps with both. Conservatives (both large and small “c”) do not do “alteration for the sake of novelty”. They read Burke. They respect the wisdom of their forebears. Above all they respect, and value, and protect, the institutions on which a successful society depends. High on the list of such institutions is the institution of marriage. Broadening the definition of marriage does not strengthen it. It dilutes and undermines it, and robs it of its special nature and value.
Marriage is defined not by politicians, but by culture and history and reproductive biology. Certainly the meanings of words can change over time with usage (although marriage has remained essentially the same for thousands of years). Reproductive biology, however, does not change over time, if we exclude the increasingly bizarre medical/surgical interventions that seek to subvert nature.
Tim Montgomerie recently tweeted an opinion poll showing that the same-sex marriage issue would, by 2015, reduce the Tory share of the vote by as little as one percentage point. He obviously hasn’t noticed the rather dramatic shrinkage of the Tory party. Members, officers and activists are deserting (or failing to renew) in droves. By 2015, their foot-soldiers on the ground will be decimated. Many of these former Tories are joining UKIP. The last four weeks have seen record numbers joining the Party. We in UKIP respect the life-style choices (within the usual caveats) of all citizens. If homosexual couples want to live together in Civil Partnerships, that’s fine with us. But we don’t want to undermine a fundamental institution of society, nor do we want to give gratuitous offence to those faith communities who strongly reject the change.
I did a great deal of local radio following the Great Cameron Speech. On Jan 23rd I had an exchange with Bill Newton Dunn on BBC Radio Leicester. It concluded thus:
RFH: “The European Union is making us poorer, and less democratic, and less free, and we should be Better Off Out”
BND: Hrumph hrumph. Well you won’t expect me to agree with that.
RFH: I certainly don’t expect you to agree with that, Bill. You’re an unreconstructed Europhile from the last century.
Interviewer: “I’m afraid that’s all we have time for”.
Saving the Planet
On Jan 22nd I attended a dinner debate organised by Giles Chichester’s European Energy Forum, on the subject of bio-fuels for transport. I particularly noticed a young man at the next table, Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, because he was wearing brown shoes with a blue suit — something I should never do, and a significant sartorial solecism.
During the debate he told us that he was a Liberal, but a Green Liberal, and his objective was to save the planet. Shortly after he sat down, I passed him a hand-written note:
Bad News: You can’t save the planet. Good News: It doesn’t need saving.
At least he had the good grace to smile.
The new European Citizens’ Initiative calling for the suspension of the EU’s damaging Climate & Energy Package is up and running, at www.affordable-energy.eu. Please sign, and please circulate the link through e-mail, blogs, newsletters, and social media. This is your chance to strike back against the EU’s lunatic energy policies. Don’t miss it.
A Declaration of Independence
I have a new two-day-a-week American Intern in my office, Morgan Bevil from New York, and I was pointing out to her the framed facsimile of the American Declaration of Independence, which hangs on my wall, a very welcome gift from former staffer Joe Bono (from New Jersey).
Re-reading the opening lines of that beautiful 18th Century copperplate, I was struck by their relevance to our own time:
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
I seem to have spent a lot of time recently “declaring the causes” why we seek to achieve that separate and equal station for our own country.
The Rule of Law, or Moral Blackmail
The government seems to be replacing the Rule of Law with governance by innuendo, press releases and moral blackmail. On the Council Tax referendum threshold, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles sets the rules, then complains when councils work within them.
The government writes an incredibly complex tax code, then complains when multinationals obey it. Stop whingeing, Dave, & change the rules. I write about this in more detail here.
Boris Johnson: Maybe it’s the Sun, not the CO2
The Mayor of London comes out (almost) as a climate sceptic. Read it here.
HS2 — The best way to invest £32bn?
We keep hearing that it’s time to catch up with countries like France and Germany and Japan, and get ourselves some high speed trains. But there’s a fundamental difference.
We live in a small and crowded island. Major cities are closer together. This means that the costs in terms of ploughing through existing development are higher, while the time savings, on shorter routes, are lower. The cost/ benefit equation is much worse for the UK than for larger countries like Germany, or (even more so) China.
In my view, for what it’s worth, we’d do better to spend some money on new rolling stock (from Bombardier), longer platforms and up-grading the present system (with special reference to commuter lines), rather than sending a whole new route ploughing through the crowded countryside.
And there’d be change left over to start on the new airport capacity that the South East so desperately needs. And maybe some road up-grades, for all those drivers who’ve been paying through the nose for road tax and fuel, and have seen precious little for their money. Read my blog piece here.
Dry January — or dry February?
Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph has been running a sort of journal about his “Dry January”. In fact it seems to have been a pretty damp January, interspersed by occasional showers of good burgundy. Nonetheless, he’s found it a strain.
Personally, I’ve tended to do a dry February, for two reasons. First, both my birthday and Burns Night fall in January, and it would be a shame to spoil them. And secondly, February is shorter than January.
Then again, I remember that wonderful line from Omar Khayyam: “I often wonder what the vintners buy, one half so precious as the goods they sell”.
Also have a look at the UKIP MEP web-site www.ukipmeps.org