Since the Tories won in May (sorry the Coalition) EU integration is continuing at such a pace it’s getting increasingly more difficult to keep up. Peter Oborne in today’s Telegraph has this email regarding the implications of the Spending Review for the future of British diplomacy:
Peter, following the Spending Review, Foreign Office funding by 2014-2015 (GBP 1.3 billion) will be exactly half the amount envisaged for the nascent European External Action Service (which will have risen to Euro 3 billion by then, or GBP 2.6 billion).
This will reflect a fundamental shift in UK diplomatic influence and activity.
Civil servants and diplomats follow the money. It is one of the reasons why historically in Brussels the best quality civil servants and diplomats tend to come from Ireland and other smaller states – because the EU budgets far exceed their own home country’s ministry budgets. That was never the case for the larger countries in the EU, until now.
A young diplomat from the UK joining up in 2015 will be faced with option of joining the UK diplomatic corps or an EU corps with twice the funding. Which will the most ambitious opt for?
This revolution in UK diplomacy is taking place against a backdrop of a Foreign Office already thrown into internal confusion by David Cameron.
He has this year paved the way for a commercial-first policy for diplomats, saying that UK diplomacy should henceforth focus on trade interests. This is all very well, but it goes against the FO tradition of a mixed training and corps in which diplomats moved between trade and political appointments.
He also caused consternation by moving a non-career diplomat – Simon Fraser – to become the permanent secretary for the diplomatic corps as of July this year. Fraser was at the department of business before that. It was the first time a non-diplomatic background civil servant had got the job.
Interestingly before 2009 Fraser was on secondment to Brussels for four years where he was Peter Mandelson’s trade spokesman. He is a europhile. That will probably not give the FO much confidence as moves into a demographically weak position vis a vis its new European rival corps!
None of it a surprise. The Tories simply can’t give this country away fast enough.
A good spot by Witterings from Witney of this marvellously acerbic article by Gerald Warner in the Scotsman:
“REJOICE! Rejoice! It is Dave’s South Georgia moment. The greatest prime minister since Gordon Brown has won a stupendous victory over the European Union – in his own words, a “significant prize” – by restricting the increase in the EU budget to a paltry 2.9 per cent. Makes you proud to be British. Gawd bless yer, Mr Cameron, you’re a toff! They don’t like it up ’em… This latest British “victory” bears some uncomfortable resemblance to such historic triumphs as the Charge of the Light Brigade and the three previous Afghan Wars.”
“Six months into his premiership, the EU wide boys have already taken the measure of Dave as a hollow man, full of wind and what’s-it. It is a pity a larger proportion of the British electorate did not share that insight.”
“Last week Dave described himself as a Eurosceptic. With Eurosceptics like that, who needs Ken Clarke?”
Now there’s something I thought I would never see, Stephen Fry upsetting feminists. It looks like in response on twitter, that Fry has had a hissy fit.
Cameron’s going to regret this:
My wife knows how he feels, before she went out this evening she got a ‘guarantee’ from me that I wouldn’t have more than 2.9 cans of Stella, sadly I got carried away, I’ve ignored her and had far more (maybe 6). Oh there’s trouble ahead but hey what can she do now?
Update: This is an extract from a Cameron email from 30th April 2010:
With trust in politics at an all time low and people tired of politicians breaking their promises, this contract couldn’t be clearer…
…And I can understand why: the years of broken promises, the expenses scandal, the feeling that politicians have become too remote from the people – they’ve all taken their toll. That’s why I’m making this contract with you.
For too long, you’ve been lied to by politicians saying they can sort out all your problems. But it doesn’t work like that. Real change is not just about what the government does. Real change only comes when we understand that we are all in this together; that we all have a responsibility to help make our country better.
Personally I’ve no problem about Harriet’s ugly politics, if she wants to personally insult another person then that’s the price of living in a free country – even if it does understandably upset other people. Though the more unhappy the Lib Dems are, the better in my view.
My objection is that she is the woman who introduced this nonsense (my emphasis):
An Act to make provision to require Ministers of the Crown and others when making strategic decisions about the exercise of their functions to have regard to the desirability of reducing socio-economic inequalities; to reform and harmonise equality law and restate the greater part of the enactments relating to discrimination and harassment related to certain personal characteristics…
Yet again one rule for them…
It’s interesting to note with how little grace that Labour have taken to opposition.
This article in the Economist highlights the difficulties Angela Merkell had about amending the Lisbon treaty at the recent European Council meeting. Merkell is worried, with good reason, that the current challenge in the German Constitutional Court to the Greek bailout may prove successful, however other countries are worried (i.e. Cameron) of the problems that changing the treaty would unleash:
Viviane Reding, the European Commission’s vice-president, spoke for many national leaders when she declared yesterday: “Look back at what had to happen with the Lisbon treaty. We needed ten years to bring that treaty into being. So for heaven’s sake, I think it would be irresponsible, and I say that again, if we were to reopen the Pandora’s box.”
Now do you spot anything odd about that quote? The Lisbon Treaty negotiations didn’t start until June 2007 – that’s only 3 years ago. Now, for a coincidence, the EU Commission’s university; the European University in Florence just so happened in 2000 to produce a draft report of an EU ‘Constitution’ in the same year as we had these quotes:
“The Charter of Fundamental Rights should be seen as the central element of a process culminating in the European Union’s adoption of a constitution. ” — Resolution of the European Parliament, Agence Europe, 16th March 2000
“There is good reason to accept this text as the basis for an eventual European constitution.” — German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder , The Irish Times, 16th October 2000
And there was me thinking that the Lisbon Treaty was different because Labour said so:
Secondly, we do not propose to have a referendum on the reform treaty precisely because it is not a constitution.
Update: The Final Redoubt ‘celebrates’ the upcoming anniversary of the Czech Republic’s capitulation on Lisbon.
Here (my emphasis throughout):
Amid criticism from some within his own party that he should have pressed for a budget freeze, or a cut, Mr Cameron insisted he had made “a real difference” by putting the 2011 budget on the agenda and persuading other states to reject the “crazy” 5.9% rise – which he said was now “dead”. While he had wanted a freeze, he said had been “looking down the barrel of a potential 6% increase” and his aim had been to stop it adding: “We have succeeded quite spectacularly, we put together a big alliance to stop that juggernaut of 6% in its tracks.”
“Succeeded quite spectacularly?” Excuse me while I find a tissue to wipe the copious laughter tears from my eyes:
But asked if he could guarantee that the budget would not rise by more than 2.9%, Mr Cameron said: “I am sure they [EU leaders] are good for their word.” A spokesman for EU budget commissioner Janusz Lewandowski said the final rise was still uncertain.
Ouch ouch my sides are hurting. And:
Last week Mr Cameron said he was calling for “a cash freeze in the size of the EU budget for 2011”. But on Thursday his officials briefed that he had accepted a freeze was not possible.
Martin Schulz, the German leader of Europe’s Social Democrat MEPs, the parliament’s second biggest bloc, said Mr Cameron’s promise was “nonsense” and the Prime Minister was “setting himself up for a fall”.
He said: “The negotiations have barely begun – it is not for Mr Cameron to announce their conclusion.”
He added: “The figures he is talking about bear little relation to reality. He is setting himself up for a fall.”
A diplomat from one of EU countries that signed Mr Cameron’s letter predicted that the final deal would be larger than promised. “It will be very difficult to keep at 2.9 per cent with what the parliament is saying,” said the diplomat.
And a European Commission official stressed that Mr Cameron’s guarantee “doesn’t change anything” because legally binding “conciliation” talks continue until Nov 11.
In office but not in power, eh, Mr Cameron?