Have Your Say And Make A Difference

Credit where credit’s due, sometimes one has to acknowledge that occasionally the EU gets things completely right, and today against all the odds, contrary to all my expectations and constant criticisms, the EU has begun the much desired process of democratic reform, to the extent where it now leads the way on democracy.

As per the requirements of the Lisbon Treaty today is when the European Citizens’ Initiative comes into effect:

In accordance with the Regulation, it will only be possible to launch the first European Citizens’ Initiatives from 1 April 2012.

Which allows:

….one million EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies, by calling on the European Commission to make a legislative proposal.

Don’t delay, you can find all the facts here, learn how to sign up here and follow the procedure here. We can all make a difference, all we need is enthusiasm. Please partake, together we can help make the EU a safer, happier and more prosperous place to live for everyone.

Update: and you know what? UKK41 agrees with me

Advertisements

It Took Its Time…

…But the Sun gets it:

CHANCELLOR George Osborne was yesterday accused of crumbling to euro judges by enforcing the hated Pasty Tax.

A European Court of Justice ruling meant he was under pressure to either slap VAT on all hot takeaway food or axe the duty completely.

In the case, a German won a bid to carry on selling grilled sausages without charging VAT.

Last night the Treasury admitted they had taken account of a number of court cases. Some Tory bigwigs reckon Mr Osborne will do a U-turn — a call made by The Sun’s Who VAT All the Pies? campaign.

A Big Fix

Patrick O’Flynn in the Express today writes that:

 “Downing Street has finally awoken to the danger of losing support to UKIP – one poll this week had UKIP on seven per cent to the Conservative 33 per cent, with Labour way ahead on 43 per cent.

“Cameron’s chief pollster Andrew Cooper has realised, after a decade of advising there should be no talk about Europe or immigration, that these issues are important to voters after all and especially to potential Tory voters,” says the source. 

Despite Cameron’s wishes to the contrary the issue of Europe is not going away, particularly regarding the Conservative party. So Cameron is trying to find a way to dodge pressure to leave the EU and to do that he’s apparently planning a rigged referendum:

…let me assure you that slightly under the surface big things are happening. I was this week reliably informed that David Cameron is very seriously thinking about pledging to hold a EU referendum, either on the day of the next election or soon after it.

But:

…the bad news is that he does not wish to hold the referendum the Daily Express and so many of its readers have been crusading for since November 2010. You see, Mr Cameron does not envisage anything so vul- gar as a straight question about whether Britain should stay in the EU or leave. Such a stark choice would, after all, mean him having to implement faithfully the result.

Instead he is mulling over holding an “indicative” referendum in which the people of Britain get to tell him their preferred “direction of travel” on matters European then leave him to sort out the details on their behalf.

In other words we would get the inevitable “repatriating powers question” which would win the vote and be phrased in such a way that allows ‘cast-iron’ to carry on as normal. And, displaying further contempt for the electorate and the seriousness of the issue, Cameron intends to hold the referendum on or around polling day in order to maximise the Tory votes. A mechanism therefore merely to prop up Cameron’s position –  everything about it will be rigged for his benefit, the question, the timing, and the funds.

But there is hope, 3 years is a very long time, and Cameron is not a very good politician – so there’s plenty more cock-ups to go yet particularly with Europe (if he’s still PM). When he pretends to be Eurosceptic a la ‘veto’ it has a tendency to go backfire spectacularly. So if he opens that Pandora’s box it has the potential to go all horribly wrong (for him).

Benefits Of The EU?

The saga of ‘PastyGate’ rumbles on. Despite the VAT’s origins in Brussels, what’s intriguing (and not entirely surprising) has been the Tory response or lack of to damaging headlines.

A tax on food obviously resonates deeply, particularly after a budget that reduced the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p (my emphasis):

“This is basically a tax on the working man of Britain,” she says, “and on the many elderly and unemployed people who come by here for a pasty every lunchtime.

“My hot pasties would go up by 50p from £2.75: for some people, that will make a big difference. I’m planning to put a sign up in the window: ‘Hot for the rich, and cold for the poor.'”

But only a couple of years ago Cameron was desperate, as opposition leader, to ‘decontaminate’ the Tory brand: no issue was too cuddly to avoid and, acutely aware of his Eton background, he was eager to play down any thoughts that the Tories are for the rich – as his awkward interview with Andrew Marr in 2009 demonstrated.

Yet here we are with a tax which will hit the working man the hardest, and from Cameron et al there’s silence. Osborne could have tried covering it up by saying it was all Brussels’ fault – “we’ll fight them on the beaches etc” even though we all know in reality it would be empty rhetoric as it so often is.

But no, instead they’re prepared to take the electoral polling hit, prepared to scupper their next electoral chances and prepared to recontaminate the ‘brand’ (and once that sticks it ain’t going anywhere). In short preparing to destroy their own party just for the sake of appeasing our EU masters.

All of which demonstrates very clearly who the EU benefits, and it certainly ain’t us.

An Uphill Battle

It’s long been my view that a referendum on EU membership is far from a foregone conclusion and will probably put back the cause for years.

Over the last couple of days has further confirmed that view. Two stories have agitated the MSM to a great degree reflecting popular anger, however they are stories which also do not acknowledge the dead hand of Brussels that lies behind them. A trait that is very common.

Firstly there has been much consternation over the dramatic increase in Royal Mail stamps. But what’s not mentioned is that many of the recent problems of the Royal Mail, including the dramatic rise in the cost of stamps, stem largely from EU Postal Directives – a point that was made here and expressed very clearly by a Government review of the postal services in 2008. See here, page 19 onwards. However in the MSM? Not an ‘EU mention‘ at the time.

And secondly there’s also George Osborne’s extension of VAT for all hot food as per his recent budget. Now VAT is, as Autonomous Mind rightly says, an EU Tax:

This concerns the proposal in Gideon Osborne’s coagulation budget to impose VAT on hot take-out food.  Anyone with a modicum of knowledge about the governance of this country will know Value Added Tax is a European Union matter and that member states must impose a VAT rate – currently with a minimum standard rate of 15%.

VAT is one of the most obvious and long-standing EU interferences in our life. Therefore any major changes will almost certainly have the dead hand of Brussels behind it. And so it proves as Richard North demonstrates:

And there gripped the cold, mindless jaws of the VAT Sixth Directive, of which the ECJ had so cruelly reminded us. To their horror, HMRC have confronted their worst nightmare. If the fish fryers are selling hot food rather than services, and have to charge VAT on it, so does everybody else who sells hot food.

That is what the Sixth Directive says: you can’t charge different rates of VAT on the same goods. If a member state charges VAT on some hot take-away foods, it must charge the same rate of VAT on all hot take-away foods. They must, therefore, all be charged at zero rate or the standard (higher) rate. And, of course, Georgie opted for the higher rate, taking in the (hot) puddings and pies.

The acknowledgement from the MSM? Er…nowt, nothing. Now, I’ve often wondered whether large scale omission of EU matters in our country by our MSM is due to laziness and ignorance or a deliberate ‘conspiracy of silence’. A Twitter exchange today with Daniel Knowles from the Daily Telegraph suggests the former.

Daniel Knowles has blogged about the recent VAT changes, couching his piece in the classic, and politically self-comforting style, of Tories are rich and toffs:

This morning, the Conservatives have no such luck; for raising tax on Greggs Cornish pasties, George Osborne is described as a “modern Marie Antoinette”. In its leader column, the newspaper says that “unlike Sun readers”, he and his Cabinet colleagues, “don’t worry how to pay for food, rent or petrol. If they ever have done, they certainly can’t remember how it feels now”. For a moment, I thought I was reading the Daily Mirror, or at least a Dan Hodges blog post.

Daniel misses the point of course, it’s not the love of being a toff that is the reason but the Tory love of the EU that has led to this change. A point I mentioned to him on Twitter with revealing responses. Firstly we had the usual “No one cares about this because of the EU”:

As I’ve pointed out before people do care about the EU because it affects the majority of the top ten issues that they care most about. But then Daniel is not even “sure this is an EU issue at all”. FFS, call yourself a journalist? No of course VAT isn’t, not at all. Then we get this:

Apparently the Sun doesn’t mention the EU so that’s all ok then? Because the Sun is the Oracle when it comes to all matters EU. But then…we get to the final flurry:

Let’s remind ourselves that the self-proclaimed “Assistant Comment Editor at Telegraph.co.uk. who writes about politics and economics” thinks Thatcher introduced VAT for ideological reasons. Oh dear, oh dear. I had moments of doubt whether he was taking the piss or being serious. But I’ve not a reply since when I highlighted his mistake.

And if that’s bad enough then there’s today’s Daily Express. In 2010 the Daily Express ran with this front page below:

The Daily Express is the only British paper to openly advocate complete withdrawal, whilst the Daily Mail and the Telegraph still want in. Yet today’s front Daily Express looks like this:

Despite two EU open goals, the Daily Express in the print edition does not mention the EU once regarding the price of stamps, nor (scanned here) on page 2 in relation to VAT on ‘hot foods’

The Express has editorials on both matters:

SINCE the advent of the internet making the nationwide delivery of ordinary post pay its way has become more challenging.
Many fewer letters are sent these days so economies of scale are less effective than they once were.

The Royal Mail also has to cope with private competitors plundering the lucrative business despatch market, so the scope for subsidising letter delivery from other very profitable activities is also limited.

And yet the one thing that will hasten its decline is round after round of massive rises in the price of stamps. There is still a lot Royal Mail can do to become more efficient but it doesn’t even seem to want to try.

Not everyone is able to access the wonders of email and almost everyone does, on occasion, need to use the post.

That the organisation that ushered in the Penny Black should now be anticipating the £1 first class stamp suggests it has lost the plot.

And:

THE revelation that Chancellor George Osborne cannot remember the last time he ate a hot pasty offers a rare political opportunity for Labour.

Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls would be fully justified in making some fact-finding trips to hot food takeaways.

Although by the looks of things he probably already has.

So the so-called Eurosceptic “we want out” Daily Express, even in their editorials, cannot bring themselves to mention the EU on issues which clearly agitate their readers. With EU friends like this who needs enemies?

Absolutely hopeless.

Safest Roads In Britain…?

…are… *drum roll*….in Swindon, which scrapped its fixed speed cameras nearly 3 years ago:

A Wiltshire town that decided to get rid of its speed cameras has the safest roads in Britain, a report has revealed.

Swindon, which scrapped its speed cameras in July 2009 to save on council costs and trial other traffic calming measures, has just two accidents per thousand registered vehicles on its roads – the lowest rate in the UK. The town became the first English local authority to decommission fixed cameras, although it decided to maintain mobile cameras used by police.

Swindon saw little change to the number of accidents after the cameras were scrapped, with no fatalities in the six months following their removal. 

Despite the scaremongering at the time and accusations by MPs of council leaders “playing politics with lives” the reality is that speed cameras have had little effect. But then they were never about road safety