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  • Merkel’s no to Cameron: time to settle Britain’s relationship with the EU

    Last Tuesday  21:53, by Iwantout

    We can agree that we have come to the point when the UK must decide what relationship it has with the EU. Your assessment that the UK can go no further down the federalist path is undoubtedly accurate.

    Your comments re migration and influence over legislation are too basic.

    The simplistic welfare cost benefit discussion ignores the social costs to health, education etc. Dept of Health figures show the current annual cost to the NHS of the 611k “non-active” EU migrants (EU figs Oct 2013) to be approx. €1.8 bn (£1.5 bn); about 1% of the NHS budget. The Dept of Education estimates that an additional 155,000 primary school places will need to be provided by 2017/18 largely as a result of migration. The debate is much more complex that net welfare payments.

    We can all agree that controlled migration is beneficial to everyone, but how can any government plan effectively (housing, schools, power, transport infrastructure, etc) when very large movements of people can happen at extremely short notice ?

    With regards to the impact on employment for the low skilled, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development surveyed 1000 businesses, the results were published 30/09/14. It stated “some younger British workers were likely to have failed to find work because of the huge influx of migrants from Poland etc”. More than 25% of manufacturers and 23% of all employers said EU migration had reduced job opportunities for young Britons. Two thirds of the migrants from the 8 east European states were in low to middle skilled jobs despite 60% being graduates. So low skilled UK people cannot find work and higher qualified migrants (educated at the expense of their home countries) end up in low paid work here. Difficult to see a winner, apart from employers having to pay less for their staff.

    Legislation from the EU largely comes from the comitology process, this has representatives from all the EFTA countries (and therefore would include the UK). The UK would not have a vote but given that since the 01/11/14 the EZ can pass QMV legislation against the wishes of non-euro countries that does not seem to be much of a sacrifice.

    The final point of course is that the free movement of labour is only one of the four pillars. The remaining pillars have not been completed despite strenuous efforts by the UK since 1992, so why is the movement of labour so sacrosanct?

    The EU has red lines, but so do the UK voters. Indeed one of the most interesting aspects of this situation is the way ALL the parties have lost control of the situation because they refused to engage with the public for years on this subject. A failure by the EU to recognise the popular feeling could well result in a “Brexit” regardless of how UK politicians campaign and how would that impact on the whole EU structure? All we want is trade, but you want to create a US of E, with a major country walking away would that becomes easier or harder ? (16/12/14)

  • Fiscal Policy of Europe and the Euro: Past, Present, and Future

    28 November 2014  20:49, by Iwantout

    The Europe has most definitely not been financially united since 1992. Remember ‘Europe’, the ‘EU’ and the ‘EZ’ are entirely different things and conflating them causes confusion. The euro is not even the currency of many EU member states. At least two have permanent opt outs and are under no obligation to ever join the euro, yet (at present) they remain full members of the EU and the needs of those states must also be considered by the EU with as much care as any euro member.

    It is almost impossible to even argue that the EZ states themselves are financially united. There is no banking union, no transfer union, no direct tax raising powers etc. I accept entirely that many federalists want these powers, but as of today they do not exist yet are symptomatic of a united financial state. Indeed currency controls are in existence within the EZ itself, I point to Cyprus. An entirely impossible position in a financially united state, imagine not being able to move your money between Yorkshire and Lancashire to see the point. I could also point out that some national euro coins (the commemorative ones) are not even legal tender across the whole EZ.

    When the euro was launched there were five qualifying conditions. Only one state ever met them all at the time of entry (Luxembourg), this is the foundation for the ongoing crisis that the EZ finds itself in.

    The Growth and Stability Pact has been routinely ignored by the larger states since its inception, long before the 2008 crisis. By 2011 it had been broken 60+ times yet absolutely no action whatsoever was taken by the EU. And this is the “preventative arm” that you ask readers to believe in ? Even today Germany, the strongest economy in the EZ has a debt ratio of 76.9% of GDP (and has been over 60% since before the founding of the euro and therefore constantly in breach of the GSP). Mind you when Greece is at 175%, Italy at 133% and the EZ as an average of 90.9% you begin to see exactly how meaningful the GSP is.

    In terms of the bails outs, these were of course entirely illegal and reference to Article 123 TFEU and Article 21.1 of the Statute for the ESCB show this to be the case. But laws in the EU can be ignored if political circumstances make it preferable.

    Given these realities why should any person seriously believe the GSP or indeed any of the other financial mechanisms within the EZ are credible or indeed will be followed as per the written word ? 28/11/14

  • JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER for Dummies

    12 November 2014  14:34, by Iwantout

    “He also courted controversy when he defended banking secrecy and the Grand Duchy’s tax and economic privileges as a tax haven.” Well since the report of the International Consortium of Investigatory Journalists (05/11/14) we now know exactly what this sentence means and the industrial scale of the tax avoidance he oversaw.

    Mr Juncker spent time criticising those he accused of aggressive tax avoidance, and of national leaders who he declared were defending national interests over the needs of the EU. At the same time it is now clear he was doing exactly that which he was so publicly condemning in others.

    Today we have a situation where a commissioner directly under the control of President Juncker is investigating the actions of Prime Minister Juncker to see precisely what offences are disclosed and we the electorate are supposed to be content. At the same time as of today (12/11/14) Mr Juncker has declined to present himself to the Parliament to answer questions on the issue.

    Reports in Der Spiegel suggest there are at “least two cases of impermissible state aid” in the Luxembourg tax affairs which would of course be illegal.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/juncker-faces-uncertain-future-amid-tax-loophole-investigations-a-1002062.html#js-article-comments-box-pager

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/editorial-on-tax-problems-of-eu-commission-president-juncker-a-1002075.html

    (These articles are worth reading if only to see a German journal berating European journalists for failing to investigate and challenge the EU leaders and structures to uncover just this sort of hypocrisy, and the way Luxembourg helped FIAT arrange a tax rate of 0.03% on 2.3bn euros.)

    In the final analysis Mr Juncker has a straight forward conflict of interest and at the very least should hand over control of the Commission and temporarily absent himself from all EU activities until the matter is fully investigated. Resignation is also a matter he should be considering.

  • Europa and the bull: The significance of the myth in modern Europe

    26 October 2014  23:32, by Ronald Griffin

    I would like to say, that I am fascinated by all of the enlightening and intellectual comments, I agree with them all thank you!!

  • Open letter to Jean-Claude JUNCKER regarding the designation of Mr. Tibor Navracsics as Commissioner for Education, Youth, Culture and Citizenship

    2 October 2014  06:50, by Hans L. Schmid

    Citizens all over Europe may express their opinion on the future of Europe directly on www.our-new-europe.eu.

  • Two European institutions, One president, and the Lisbon Treaty

    22 September 2014  08:04, by Emmanuel

    to the Editor: you write “There is also the Council of Europe, an international organisation currently comprised of representatives of 47 European, Asian, and North American countries.”

    I don’t know where you get that from. The US and Canada are only observers. As for northern Asia, that means Azerbaidjan, Armenia, Georgia, but this is still “Europe”, in the “from the Atlantic to the Ural” acception.

    More info on coe.int.

  • Yes or No? We are all Scottish

    11 September 2014  11:03, by Alexandre Marin

    If I were a scottish citizen, I wouldn’t vote independence for the following reasons :

    First, Scotland has a large autonomy. The real matters in which Scotland has no sovereignty are the foreign affairs. If Scotland decides to become independant, it will have such sovereignty only in a theorical constitutionnal reality. Scotland is not powerful enough to have a real independant foreign policy and to have an influence on the international relations (neither is United Kingdom, only a European diplomatic federation is able to carry such power).

    Secondly, as European federalists, we criticize the Member-states because of their national selfishness ; they do not care about long term European interests, but only about their short-term leader’s interests. Therefore, we should avoid praising such selfishness at the regional level when we blame it at the National level.

    Then, if we consider voting independance because of the fear that the U.K could leave the EU, and doing so, force Scotland to leave the EU as well, why didn’t we decide to organize the referendum about Scottish independance after the British referendum about the UK’s withdrawal from the EU ? Scottish people could have saved the UK form such withdrawal, and if the majority of the British citizens had decided to leave the EU anyway, then Scotland would have decided to leave the UK to go back in the European Union.

    Finally, it contradicts two European values, as this articles reminds very well : first, we are stronger together, and this is why the EU has been created. The second one is the unity in the diversity, that is to say the idea that our differences are not a weakness for our unity, but a strength. If we fail to honour these two values at the National level, why would we do so at the European level ?

  • Europe vs. USA: Whose Economy Wins?

    4 September 2014  16:38, by Karl

    Interesting topic and posts. I always enjoy the condescension of Europeans. Lest our European “allies” forget, a lot of the US debt acquired consistents of shouldering 75% of the NATO budget. You know, the “alliance” that has allowed you to build your continental utopia. You can continue to believe that “Russia will never invade” nations such as Germany, France, etc. and live in your fantasy utopia. Naive at best. As history proves, bullies only understand force, and your defense forces are a joke. No wonder Putin invades Ukraine with impunity. Not in our backyard, but yours.

    For may part, as an American, I would agree that we should withdraw from Europe (as you seem to want) and let you fend for yourselves...like you did in 1914 and 1939. Oh wait. My bad. We’ve shed enough of our blood and tax money protecting you since World War II. Grow up and fend for yourselves. While you talk (and regulate) everything to death in Brussels/Strasbourg, we’ll continue to act. Empire? Probably. Decline? That’s been a topic since the 1940’s. I’ll take my chances on this side of the pond. Good luck with your utopia, comrades.

  • JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER for Dummies

    28 August 2014  23:51, by Iwantout

    Thank you for this piece. I had no idea that a law degree was one of the most difficult degrees in Europe, I would have thought that accolade probably belonged to one of the sciences, mathematics, engineering, or medicine etc. Although being fluent in five languages is certainly impressive.

    I did not know that Mr Juncker had only ever worked in politics, albeit for in country only the size of medium sized city. (By the way you forget mention that he was the protégé of Jacques Santer, a previous Commission President)

    Regarding Mr Juncker and the SREL scandal, the Parliamentary inquiry into the affair noted that Mr Juncker had been deficient in his control over the service and that he had failed to report all of the service’s irregularities to the enquiry commission, worrying given his famous quotes “When it becomes serious, you have to lie” and “I am for secret, dark debates.” Let us agree that despite all his supposed experience and hard work he was unable to control the SREL, an organization with 60 staff, let’s hope he does better with the 55,000 directly employed EU personnel. (Although of course Mr Santer couldn’t even control the 15 commissioners he was directly responsible for in 1999)

    We know Mr Juncker had a hand in the creation of the Euro and a central role in the Growth and Stability Pact. The 23.1% of unemployed youth must be pleased that such a central figure has been elevated to a more powerful role.

    His involvement with the Troika and the imposition of policies which have reduced the Greece from the status of developed market to emerging market (the first country in history to make this move) also speaks well of his abilities, although as he was only chairman of the euro group and thus not possibly responsible for much of the resulting policy I am sure we can accept your assertion that he was a “good cop”.

    Who chose him ? Well Mr Juncker was not on any ballot paper across the EU. He avoided campaigning in a number of countries including the UK and his EPP managed to win the grand total of 28,014 votes out of 16,454,950 cast (0.17%) and come twentieth here. Of course the vast majority of EU voters across the continent stayed at home in even greater numbers than ever before and simply refused to engage with the entire process, hardly a ringing endorsement. Finally the European Parliament breached treaty provision and demanded that Mr Juncker be nominated, just another day of EU power grabbing.

    But regardless, we can all agree with your final paragraphs in section 9. He has a clear “penchant for European federalism” which for the majority of us here in the UK is good news. Any move at all in that direction can do nothing other than push us even more decisively towards the exit door, almost certainly a good result for the UK and possibly the rest of the EU, although of course a few countries will have to increase their contributions to make up for our absence.

  • JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER for Dummies

    27 August 2014  00:56, by AndrewTurvey

    Excellent article - many thanks!

  • The unbelievable short-sightedness of British politics

    25 August 2014  23:42, by Iwantout

    Perhaps your writer should stop trying to suggest that the anger in the UK directed at the ECHR and the associated Court (as well as the ECJ) is a matter of Conservative Party politics and instead look at the comments merging from across the political spectrum and more importantly from the most senior judges in the land. A few examples.

    Lord Sumption, a Supreme Court Justice remarked (28/11/13) that the Court had gone far beyond it’s remit into policy making and “most people would regard as inherently political”.

    Lord Justice Law, a senior Court of Appeal Judge in a speech (28/11/13) stated openly that judges in Britain had been too subservient to the Human Rights Court and that this was a mistake. He noted “there may be perfectly properly be different answers to some human rights issues in different states on similar facts”.

    Lord Judge, the former Lord Chief Justice commented (05/12/13) “In my view the Strasbourg is not superior to our Supreme Court.”

    Lord Neuberger, President of the UK Supreme Court, commented (13/02/14) “The idea of courts overruling decisions of the UK Parliament, as is substantially the effect of what the Strasbourg and the Luxembourg courts can do, is little short of offensive to our notions of constitutional propriety”. He has now indicated (and this is a judge not a politician) that British courts will not in the future automatically follow the jurisprudence of the Strasbourg court, instead they will take account of that Court’s rulings but may well end up disagreeing and rule independently.

    Jack Straw, the Labour Home Secretary who brought in the Human Rights Act 1998, wrote a leading article in The Times (14/08/14 entitled “Let’s keep the pressure on this arrogant court, Strasbourg’s climb down over prisoners shows that Britain must retain its independent stance”) roundly condemning the actions of the Human Rights Court and noting that it has far exceeded its remit, as well as totally ignoring legislation that restrains the Court itself, in particular Article 3 Protocol 1. He was clear in his view that UK courts have supremacy.

    The above are not political extremists, but the direct heirs of David Maxwell Fyfe who led the British jurists which as your correspondent notes were amongst the main authors of the ECHR in the first place.

    In short the view appears to be emerging from the judiciary and politicians of all colours that the Court has stretched its remit beyond breaking point and is no longer a body concerned with the implementation of justice so much as politics and policy making over the heads of elected representatives. As such it has become seriously devalued.

  • Germany: the torment of European gender equality

    16 August 2014  11:51, by Jordan

    The article begins declaring Germany’s top position economically and the article doesn’t acknowledge the contribution women make to this economy. Has anyone considered that the aptitude of women and their abilities at home with children by raising them well and the influence of church as contributing factors to economic prosperity? It has and we might do well to worry less about who has which role and focus more so on fulfilling our roles to the best of our abilities for both men and women no matter where they are.

  • European governments, citizens have voted – now respect their vote!

    5 August 2014  16:10, by Iwantout

    Just a quick update regarding the 2014 EP elections; today (05/08/14) European Voice has published the fact that the elections actually saw yet another record low in voter turnout. The 43.09% claimed shortly after the election was apparently based on exit poll estimates, the fully official figure now states that actual turnout was in fact 42.54%, i.e. half a percentage point down; so much for the spitzenkandidaten inspiring the voters to turn out and Viviane Reding’s slightly hysterical tweet that they were a “game changer”.

    (http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/european-parliament-elections-2014-reveal-lowest-voter-turnout-ever/ )

    I wonder how many pro EU sites will inform their readership of this embarrassing fact ?

    For anyone interested since the Parliament has been subject of direct elections public participation has fallen from 61.99% of those eligible to vote to the new low of 42.54%, impressive.

  • Game, Set and Match: the European Council chooses the path of democracy and appoints Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission

    8 July 2014  20:39, by Jean-Luc Lefèvre

    Sur le conseil de Charles, j’ai relu ce “Discours de Zürich” du 19 septembre 1946 où Winston parle de “Famille européenne” et d’ “Etats-Unis d’Europe”...Et c’est vrai!!! Grande-Bretagne, Commonwealth et la puissante Amérique étaient invités à “être les amis et les promoteurs de la nouvelle Europe”!!! Spectateurs donc, mais enthousiastes. Ce que n’est pas CAMERON! Il y a bien régression de la perfide Albion!

  • Unemployment in the Globalization Age

    6 July 2014  20:16, by George McDuffee

    While some interesting and important points are discussed, the reality of yet another seismic shift in the socioeconomic tectonic plates, on the order of the shift from hunter/gatherer to fixed agriculture, is never discussed.

    This is critical point in that actions which would indeed correct many of the problems in a “static” environment, will be useless in a “brave new post-post-industrial world.” Several of the driving forces are: Automation, which eliminates the need for many employees; Artificial Intelligence/computerization, which eliminates the need for even more employees; Genetic Modification/bio engineering, and nanotechnology.

  • Game, Set and Match: the European Council chooses the path of democracy and appoints Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission

    5 July 2014  13:24, by Charles

    "il devrait savoir que le grand CHURCHILL lui-même, au lendemain de la seconde guerre, appelait de ses vœux les “Etats-Unis d’Europe”.

    Oui.... mais sans la participation du Royaume Uni, si vous lisez bien ce qu’il a dit

  • Game, Set and Match: the European Council chooses the path of democracy and appoints Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission

    3 July 2014  22:03, by Richard

    First. we should understand that democracy includes adhering to the rule of law. The Treaties make it eminently clear that it is the Council, and not the Parliament, that nominates European Commission President. The Parliament may, of course, decline to accept. It is worth noting that the Council is comprised of elected persons and is thus just as reflective of the voice of the voter as is the Parliament.

    Second, it is worth noting that less than 10% of the European electorate actually voted for parties who are part of the EPP Group. The other 90% voted for other parties or did not vote at all. I doubt that anyone actually based their vote on a preference for Mr Juncker (or had even heard of him). In Germany, for example, the CSU openly campaigned on a “Vote for us because you like Angela Merkel”. This reflects the fact that most votes are cast in a national sense. There is no true European demos.

    The one clear message from the recent elections is that overall there is no wish in the electorate for more integration or more federalism. Yet Mr Juncker favours both. He is hardly likely to represent voters in the UK or France!

    I am afraid to say that it is delusion to claim that his elevation to President represents any great triumph for democracy. In any case, he is simply a civil servant, he is certainly not the equivalent of Mr Obama, however much the authors of this article might dream of this.

    As to Mr Cameron; first, being in a minority does not make one wrong. I would prefer Mr Cameron have the courage of his convictions rather than the approach by other countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands who changed their position to simply follow the majority.

    Likewise, I do not wish Uk MEP’s to sit with the EPP or any other group/party whose policies they do not agree with simply to have “influence”.

    One should keep in mind how happy Nigel Farage was at the elevation of Mr Juncker. He knows that this will make it far more difficult for Mr Cameron, should he win the elections and call his referendum, to achieve a vote for the UK to remain a member of the EU.

    In response to the comments above (I am afraid my French is insufficient to reply in that language); no one in the UK ever thinks of the Empire, it is long past and a distant memory or simply something in the history books for people here. Also, Winston Churchill did indeed call for a “kind of United States of Europe” but he specifically excluded the Uk from being part of it.

  • Game, Set and Match: the European Council chooses the path of democracy and appoints Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission

    2 July 2014  11:17, by Jean-Luc Lefèvre

    “La démonstration que les choses ne sont pas exclusivement décidées à Bruxelles”? Dans la mesure, certes, où la voix du citoyen a été entendue (le président de la Commission est issu du parti qui a obtenu le plus de voix au récent scrutin), mais si JUNCKER l’a finalement emporté, c’est bel et bien “Bruxelles” en tant que siège de l’exécutif européen avec, à sa tête, un fédéraliste convaincu qui, pour la première fois (on se souvient des claques britanniques aux précédents candidats trop fédéralistes comme DEHAENE et VERHOFSTADT) s’est imposée. De cela, on peut à juste titre se réjouir.

    Qualifier l’attitude de CAMERON de “pathétique” me paraît doublement justifié. Pathétique d’abord son manque de lucidité et sa capacité de prendre en compte la réalité du Royaume Uni. Son arrogance insulaire ne lui permet plus, désormais, d’affronter seul que l’Argentine...et encore, pas en football! Ne parlons pas des autres défis posés par une mondialisation à laquelle il est illusoire de vouloir échapper. Pathétique encore quand il qualifie JUNCKER d’ “homme du passé” dans la mesure où CAMERON étale ici son ignorance de l’histoire et son nanisme politique: il devrait savoir que le grand CHURCHILL lui-même, au lendemain de la seconde guerre, appelait de ses vœux les “Etats-Unis d’Europe”.

    C’est aussi à cette amnésie que l’on mesure le déclin d’un Royaume qui n’a plus d’uni que le nom à l’aune de ses relations avec l’Ecosse et même le Pays de Galles pour ne rien dire de l’Ulster.

  • The EU administration: small and efficient

    27 June 2014  13:56, by Iwantout

    Please can we remember when we talk about the size of the EU bureaucracy (and the EU itself says it employs 55,000 civil servants rather than the 33,000 you claim http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/sefcovic/administration/eu_civil_service/the_eu_civil_service_en.htm ) and then compare it with national civil servants we are not comparing like with like.

    For example the British Revenue and Customs may very well employ 80,000 civil servants, but they are collecting taxes both for the UK and also the EU in the UK. In other words the EU has simply instructed national civil servants to undertake a function for them. The EU is an extra layer of officers on top of those the states employ not instead of.

    In addition the EU civil servants create many new tasks for national civil servants through the imposition of regulations, directives etc. Undoubtedly you are correct that if the single market did not exist then each state would employ officials to check goods etc. But what you forgot to mention was that the EU requires all states to employ officials to monitor the passage of goods between states and check that they are of the correct quality; the work of trading standards officers (technically employed by UK local authorities) undertaken for the EU, to therefore claim savings is a little dubious.

    Simply counting the number of officials directly employed fails to give anyone a clear idea of the size of the EU machine. The real question is who is creating the work, what does it cost and who ultimately requires the work to be done?

    An example of the cost of the EU bureaucracy, the UK Regulatory Policy Commission (an independent body) examines the cost to business of changes in legislation originating in both the UK and the EU. For 2013 they estimate that the repeal of various UK legislation saved business £274m pa. New UK Legislation cost £128m, a net benefit to business of £150m. The cost of new EU legislation for 2013 alone amounted to an additional £1.3bn pa. EU legislation repealed saved £2.5m, so a net cost to business of £1.2975bn; hardly the evidence of a lean efficient body encouraging economic growth.

    Never forget many of the EU officials are extremely well paid both financially and with perks (a 70% final pay pension scheme after 35 yrs). The 16 grades of salary range from 2,654 – 18,370 euro per month, with 16% ex pat allowance (minimum of 505 epm), 171 epm household allowance, 626 epm for school aged children etc etc. Tax rates are usually lower than that paid by national employees (generally less than 25% tax for high earners as compared with 40% in the UK). Given this low rate of taxation EU officials in pay band AD 11, mid manager level, take home more per annum than the UK Prime Minister. (£83,000). Just ask yourself, if they were receiving salaries roughly equivalent to what they would get in their home countries why is competition for places so fierce ?

  • The EU administration: small and efficient

    27 June 2014  10:42, by Ana Paula Laissy

    I congratulate you for your informative article and for being brave to ’dare’ defend the European civil service. The work we do seems indeed ’invisible’ for all those who criticize us without even showing the inerest and cusiosity to learn a bit more about the European integration’s real benefits. I would just invite them to look back at the recent wars in the Balkans, the war in Ukaine (just to remain within the European borders)...The peace, the human and social development we collectively managed to achieve despite the ’crisis’ has no price and no comparison in any other part of the globe...

    NB. I suppose you mean 500 million European citizens and NOT 5 million!

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