Penny Mordaunt: Debasing The Political Debate?

It’s a rather sad indictment of the media’s coverage that MP for Portsmouth North Penny Mordaunt’s joke speech in the Commons makes the front page of a Sunday newspaper. This at a time when a proper debate is ongoing in the wake of Owen Paterson’s and Cameron’s speeches earlier this week regarding our membership of the EU and immigration.

We’re not sure that a slightly silly speech by Penny Mordaunt as a “bet” on behalf of her constituents warrants front page coverage. But we have long given up on the media having a sensible debate on anything serious as Evan Davis demonstrated on BBC’s Newsnight earlier this week.

However this blog rather more fondly remembers her gallant efforts to remove a certain Andrew Andronikou as administrator to Portsmouth Football Club, efforts which turned out to be successful.

Andronikou had previously been an administrator at Swindon Town FC and memories of his time there are less than kind to this blogger. If we were to be very generous we could consider that he had a questionable integrity. In our original post we slightly pulled our punches and it is the only post which has been published on here that was “legalled” before publishing.

So here on TBF we are entirely grateful for the efforts of Penny Mordaunt…

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The EU Game Cameron Plays

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when it comes to all matters EU, Cameron – the cast iron Prime Minister – is not to be trusted.

Yet he is also a man under political pressure not only from his own party but what he perceives as the UKIP threat for his general election chances. This is evident with his 2017 referendum promise which was made under duress while he had previously been anxious to avoid one at all costs.

So as we enter the final straight leading up to May 2015 we had a much-hyped speech on immigration yesterday. Its purpose not only to try to win the election but form the basis of winning an EU referendum in 2017.

In his speech we had the typical Cameron flourishes which were a rehash of his “commitments” over the Lisbon Treaty. With Lisbon he was repeatedly asked what would happen if it was ratified by all member states before he came to power. “We won’t let matters rest there” was his response, which as we all know, letting matters rest there was precisely what he did. A U-turn that almost certainly cost him the 2010 election.

Yesterday we had a variation of the same theme.

If our concerns fall on deaf ears and we cannot put our relationship with the EU on a better footing, then of course I rule nothing out.

Cameron repeated the “I rule nothing out” during the questions and answers session which followed his speech. Cameron hinting he would consider exit but not actually specifying it and we think it’s fair to assume that he won’t.

However the more interesting point concerned how Cameron was going to attempt to wriggle himself out of the hole which he has very firmly plonked himself in, namely that any reforms to satisfy eurosceptics needs treaty change and that can’t be done in the two years he proposed, if at all.

Cameron acknowledged during the Q&A session following his speech that his whole package required treaty change (my transcript):

Guardian: Patrick Wintour from the Guardian. You’ve cited Open Europe in your speech. Open Europe’s figures show that even if you’re on the minimum wage and you lose your tax credits a Pole or a Bulgarian will still have a financial incentive to come to the UK. Why are you sure that these measures will repel people from coming to the UK and secondly does this require Treaty change in your mind

Cameron: The answer to the second question is yes. These changes taken together they will require some Treaty changes. There’s a debate in Europe about exactly which bits of legislation which bits of the Treaty you’ll need to change but there’s no doubt this package as a whole will require some Treaty change. And I’m confident we can negotiate that.

Such arguments have been made often on the internet so it’s refreshing to see Cameron finally and publicly coming to the same conclusion. It’s also interesting that his numerous references to Open Europe effectively outs it as the europhile organistion that it is and that its own purpose is to keep the UK in the EU.

So…how to remove himself from a hole? Well we get a very clear indication of how he is attempting to do it from the superb analysis by Richard North of Cameron’s speech:

What the Prime Minister has done is narrow down the “reform” spectrum to cover one subject, and one subject only – immigration. To be more specific, it has been narrowed down to freedom of movement.

This has a number of positives for Cameron. By linking the freedom of movement to the issue of benefits, has made Cameron try to look somewhat tougher on both. Then by concentrating largely on immigration he’s turning his fire on UKIP.

With UKIP exiting the EU arena and going for the anti-immigrant vote as its sole purpose, topped off by an all round aggressive undertone that by Farage’s admission alienates half the electorate, it’s an understandable strategy from Cameron. It’s not the definite “ins” or the definite “outs” which matter, it’s the more sensitive “don’t knows”, “couldn’t care less”, and “could be persuaded either way” votes which win a referendum.

Thus by proposing what “appears” to be more a moderate sensible solutions to a concerned electorate rather than one of a more robust and alienating policy of repatriation (nevermind confusion) it would leave UKIP with nowhere else to go. It’s a similar scenario to countries such as Cuba whose economy used to rely mainly on one export- sugar. Any failure for whatever reason in the product and you’re buggered.

Another positive for Cameron is that there are mechanisms within EU membership which are “already possible without treaty change, or even additional EU legislation“. Those which do require treaty change conveniently can be achieved via Article 48 without the need for an IGC (Intergovernmental Conference):

…Article 48 – which deals with treaty change – also allows for a “simplified procedure”. Potentially, this would allow the procedure to be completed on a rainy afternoon in Brussels, perhaps on the margins of a European Council. There is, though, a small condition. The changes permissible are confined to Part Three of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which, just as it happens, include freedom of movement. Against all the odds, therefore, Cameron could pull off a quickie treaty and come home in triumph, waving a piece of paper.

What we can see here therefore is Cameron relying on the rather misleadingly named “self-amending” parts of the Lisbon Treaty. He will attempt to return from ‘negotiations’ claiming he’s reformed the EU via Article 48, in this Cameron is attempting to do “a Chamberlain“. It’s as transparent as it’s dishonest.

However there are also some significant negatives with Cameron’s strategy. The hurdles for Cameron are not over. Article 48 is limited to what it can and can’t do and it cannot just change the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) on a whim as and when, despite some of the eurosceptic rhetoric.

While Article 48 by-passes the need for a complex full-blown EU treaty and an IGC, any amendments still require the UK Parliament’s permission (along with the other 27 member states):

The amendments shall enter into force after being ratified by all the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.

And under Article 48.7 we can see an implicit approval clause

Any initiative taken by the European Council on the basis of the first or the second subparagraph shall be notified to the national Parliaments. If a national Parliament makes known its opposition within six months of the date of such notification, the decision referred to in the first or the second subparagraph shall not be adopted. In the absence of opposition, the European Council may adopt the decision. 

In short it means Parliament always agrees to amendments unless it specifically objects within a certain time period. Therefore as we can see from Article 48 the key point is that Parliament still has a say in any potential amendments to the Lisbon Treaty.

Thus we could be in an interesting position where Cameron’s much fabled “piece of paper” is rejected by Parliament. Realistically this is unlikely. With all main parties supporting EU membership, the likelihood is Parliament will support it, but with lots of pantomime – Labour and the Lib Dems complaining it didn’t go far enough. Here would be a repeat of ERM membership – all parties supported it, for example Labour as represented by a future Chancellor known as Gordon Brown in 1990 although their criticisim was that membership didn’t go far enough:

We needed an investment Budget to deal with the problems of training in industry, a Budget that would pave the way for negotiations to enter the European monetary system [ERM], a Budget that would do something about the problems that industry now faces, with investment flat and falling away.

While permission from the UK parliament maybe assured, Cameron also requires unanimity within the European Council as this Parliamentary document makes clear in its conclusions; “…any Treaty revision by means of simplified procedures, and any changes to decision procedures by means of passerelles, will be subject to veto by the Government in the European Council or Council of Ministers.”

Thus initially Cameron has to have the approval of the other 27 member states, via the European Council and then via their own respective individual parliaments as well. Here we can probably expect likely objections to Cameron’s proposal to limit immigration to come from countries such as Poland or Romania both of which have a veto (a proper one unlike a phantom one).

Another difficulty for Cameron is, and one that has always been present, if the UK requests too much then it leads to other countries demanding concessions as well. And has always been the way through the horse trading (and consensus) which typifies EU politics the UK will give up more than it achieves.

So it is more than likely that Cameron’s package will be whittled down to non committal “declarations”, “protocols” and “technicalities”. All accompanied by theatre, marching bands and cheerleaders…but no substance. Wilson’s “New Zealand butter” writ large. All helpfully promoted by our europhile media.

Encouragingly, and somewhat revealingly, while Cameron acknowledged Norway was a part of the single market he did not specifically mention during his speech that it was “governed by fax” which he has been prone to do in the past. This is possibly a new development. And so we wonder if Witterings from Witney’s meeting with Cameron in August on this and other matters (coupled with Owen Paterson’s recent speech) had a far more reaching resonance than we might have fully appreciated. Certainly Cameron has not used the phrase since. Instead he noted:

Those who argue that Norway or Switzerland offer a better model for Britain ignore one crucial fact: they have each had to sign up to the principle of freedom of movement in order to access the single market and both countries actually have far higher per capita immigration than the UK.

Which seems to suggest the Prime Minister knows full well (or has been informed by one of his constituents) that we can have single market access without being members of the EU, thus removing ourselves from the political union baggage which he claims he wants to do. It appears that we are beginning to establish the Norway option within the public debate.

Rather incoherently he then argues that EEA membership is not an acceptable option because it has to sign up to the principle of freedom of movement, but at the same time argues that within the EU and the single market he can negotiate restrictions. A claim that becomes even more absurd when the EEA agreement, under Articles 112-3, allows greater scope to place restrictions on immigration.

And further danger emerges for Cameron that by narrowing his reforms down to one issue he risks alienating those who wish “further and deeper reforms” such as big business represented by the likes of the CBI or members of his own side. It’s also a tacit admission from the Prime Minister that he has somewhat painted himself into a corner – he has nowhere else to go either.

With this in mind we increasingly wonder if Cameron has simply just changed the hooks on which he has impaled himself and in this he is entirely beatable.

Paddington Bear And UKIP?

It says something of the media combined with the rather aggressive anti-immigrant message of UKIP, that it now means a review of a children’s film has to somehow tie in with an anti-UKIP message – and that doesn’t reflect well on either UKIP or the media. This from the Spectator:

Deborah Ross revels in this wondrously British new film – and its anti-Ukip message

And this from Michael Bond himself (my emphasis):

So Bond’s not a UKIP supporter? He winces. “A dreadful thought, I can’t think of anything worse. I’m a great believer in being a member of the EU. I think it was one of the best things Churchill ever did. I don’t want us to leave Europe.

Though in this case I think Mr Bond should stick to writing children’s stories – history and politics is clearly not his forte.

What’s becoming apparent though such views which infiltrate a simple review of a children’s film becomes just another example of UKIP fundamentally poisoning the ‘out’ campaign…

UKIP: Remain EU Members?

Following Owen Paterson’s speech regarding leaving the EU and remaining in the EEA as to reassure the British public the silence from UKIP in response has been very revealing.

For a party which claims that it wishes to exit, when it has for a considerable time believed it was a pressure group to force the Tories to do the “right thing” and repeatedly wanted the Tories to have a referendum, as endorsed by Nigel Farage, that they cannot even acknowledge Paterson’s arguments speaks absolute volumes – absent from UKIP’s website as it is.

No wonder then without an exit plan and no party line to take Paterson’s intervention has meant as a result that Douglas Carswell on the Daily Politics floundered badly.

In this context the Private Eye cover above (click to enlarge) hits the bullseye. Without a coherent exit policy and pressure within the party supporting the “Ollivander” fantasy which says that, despite most rules being made elsewhere means we can just simply leave overnight with the “Life on Mars” option without consequences, demonstrates yet again comprehensively that it’s increasingly a case of “vote UKIP, vote EU.

Owen Paterson On EU Exit

It says something of Cameron’s lack of political judgement that his cabinet reshuffle in July as a token gesture to promoting women removed Owen Paterson from collective cabinet responsibility which had kept him largely silent. Now removed from such responsibility Paterson is now able to express his views much to the discomfort of Cameron.

A long time criticism of UKIP is that they do not, despite 20 years in existence, have a credible plan to exit the EU. A criticism which they still fail to address. The very same accusation of course can be leveled at David Cameron. He reiterates if he can’t get the reforms he wants he will campaign for exit.

However not only are Cameron’s many promises of renegotiating our membership by his 2017 referendum promise unworkable –  and cannot be delivered in time even if they were – like Nigel Farage Cameron does not have a workable roadmap for EU exit in the event of inevitable failure. On a hook he very much is.

Enter Owen Paterson who today gave a speech on the UK’s relationship with the EU. The essential content of his speech, which will be very familiar to regular readers of EUreferendum – with the conclusion that “Cameron should cut to the chase and commit to invoking Article 50 the moment a Conservative government takes office after the election (page 16).

Once the decision to invoke Article 50 has been made, agreement should be concluded as rapidly as possible. But speedy negotiations impose certain constraints. We should remember that the Swiss bilateral agreements with the EU took 16 years to negotiate. The much-vaunted EU – South Korea FTA took almost 18 years to come to fruition – in the form of a 1,336 – page trading agreement. 31 We need, therefore, to pick a proven, off – the – shelf plan.

However, our participation in the Single Market is fundamental to protecting the UK’s economic position. This brings us to the only realistic option, which is to stay within the EEA agreement. The EEA is tailor made for this purpose and can be adopted by joining EFTA first. This becomes the “Norway option”. We have already seen that Norway has more influence in international decision – making than we do as an EU Member State. Using the EEA ensures full access to the Single Market and provides immediate cover for leaving the political arrangements of the EU. To ensure continuity and avoid any disruption to the Single Market, would also repatriate the entire Acquis and make it domestic law, giving us time to conduct a full review in good order.

With an electoral mandate at a general election, there is no need for a referendum to invoke Article 50, but instead have one after exit negotiations have been concluded. 

Using the Norway option / Flexcit as a ‘stepping stone out’ any referendum would then be a straight choice between the deal done or re-applying to join the EU which would include joining the Eurozone minus also all the lost opt outs involved in previous Treaty negotiations. As a consequence the status quo effect would then very significantly shift to the “outers”. This strategy would be similar to our entry in the early ’70s but for obviously opposite intentions.

Of course it’s unlikely that Cameron will adopt Paterson’s arguments, although it’s not unknown for Cameron to change his mind on EU matters. The key point though is we now have a major politician discussing Article 50 and the Norway option publicly in a way which has rarely, if at all, been done before. That in itself is huge progress.

Paterson’s arguments are also a way of allowing Cameron to remove himself from the hook on which he’s impaled himself. Article 50 has the two year clause which fits in neatly with a promise of a 2017 referendum, Cameron’s desire to repatriate powers and Cameron’s to remove the UK from “ever closer Union.

Whether Cameron listens is another matter – we obviously remain sceptical, but the debate regarding Article 50 and Norway is now out in the wider public domain. And that is progress, no wonder the Europhile Mats Persson looked miserable on the BBC’s Daily Politics show (10:40 mins in)

England Flags And Other Matters

“I took her to a supermarket…I said pretend you’ve got no money, she just laughed and said oh you’re so funny. I said yeah? Well I can’t see anyone else smiling in here.” Jarvis Cocker, Common People.

Without being presumptuous it must have been a rather surreal week for Dan Ware. There he is going about his daily business, his only “crime” being that his house is draped in England flags with a white van parked in his driveway and he becomes, through no fault of his own, the centre of a political scandal and resignations.

It’s rather ironic for a chap who himself admits he does not vote that he has created more political waves by hanging up an England flag than casting a vote via the ballot box. How very revealing…

Labour MP Emily Thornberry, who tweeted a picture of the house, then compounded the feeling that Labour et al are out of touch by attempted to excuse her faux-pas by claiming that it was an “amazing image”. The phrase “you should get out more” springs to mind here. Not unsurprisingly Ed Miliband does not come out of the episode well either as Labour, run by a metropolitan elite, comes under ever increasing scrutiny that it is losing its core working class support.

It’s also interestingly symbolic that the flags on Mr Ware’s house were of England, not of the UK, which he had flown to celebrate the World Cup:

The father of four said he had simply put up the three St George flags to celebrate the World Cup, and that it was ‘not political’.

Here we see an example of this unappreciated and largely unnoticed change in recent years of the increasing tendency of England football fans no longer universally flying the Union flag of the nation team but instead waving the flag of St George. As a national sport, national tensions and issues tends to spill out onto “the terraces” thus it can be a good indication of the nation’s woes – a canary down the mine.

Local rivalries are a classic example – the bitterness surrounding Chesterfield against Mansfield is a reflection of the 1984 miners strike and the reasons behind the intense rivalry of Liverpool and Manchester Untied is laid bare by the reference to the Manchester Ship Canal on United’s badge.

Thus if we look back to the 1966 World Cup final, it is curious from a modern perspective (aside from England actually winning a trophy) to see the number of Union flags being waved among the crowd in support of England:

A practice that continued into the 1970 World Cup in Mexico – here England against Brazil…

…right up to the 1990s. Here are England fans in Italia 1990:

And against Germany in the World Cup 1990 semi-final:
Yet fast forward on 10 or 15 years and we see a complete change, hardly a Union flag in sight. The contrast couldn’t be clearer.

The World Cup in Japan 2002:

…in 2006:

…and in 2010 in South Africa:

The year of change is relatively easy to pinpoint, it happened almost overnight – 1996, or more specifically the Euro ’96 UEFA tournament which was held in England and they played all their games at Wembley.
Euro ’96 was a watershed moment where very significant numbers of England fans took to waving the St. George flag and widely ditching the Union flag (below):
 
The reasons why are less easy to pinpoint. It appears to have been a combination of a reasonably successful football tournament for England where it had a very good chance to win it, the success of the song “three lions“, the changing dynamics of football fans with the establishment of the Premier League four years earlier and the embarrassment of the Union flag being tarnished with hooliganism a year earlier. All of which was topped off with an added dash of free England flags and hats handed out by The Sun newspaper.

In addition in 1996 there was also the context that the obviously incoming Labour government, against the loser Major, was openingly advocating devolution, particularly to Scotland as promised by Blair’s speech in Blackpool 1996:

I vow that, with the consent of the people, we will have devolved power to Scotland, Wales and the regions of England…

Devolution was always a Pandora’s Box – give politicians power (in this case SNP) and they want more. Labour is now reaping the “rewards” for unleashing consequences that they didn’t understand nor anticipated. In Scotland it has lead to the independence referendum, which despite the “yes” camp losing has not settled the issue. Labour is also now under pressure from the SNP at the next election. And in England it has lead to a rise of Englishness which even Miliband acknowledged awkwardly in 2012. He put Euro ’96 down to…

Since Euro 96, English football fans have helped to reclaim the flag of St George from the BNP.

That may have been the unintended consequences, but Miliband overlooks that instead of reclaiming the flag of St George from the BNP, it is a demonstration of the Union fragmenting and England reasserting themselves.

In this respect Labour has an “England problem” where Miliband’s “long-term problems will come from south of the border, and in particular how he deals with the question of Englishness.” And this brings us back to the real issue of Emily Thornberry’s misguided tweet.

EU Referendum Blog

It appears that for reasons unknown that EU Referendum has suffered a massive denial-of-service (DOS) attack deliberately targeted at the site, thus access over the last 24 hours has been unavailable.

Update: From Complete Bastard:

EU Referendum blog is down again and it’s a big attack. Somebody REALLY doesn’t like us. Our host can’t do anything about it so we are in the process of moving to another provider (again).

Update 2: http://www.eureferendum.com now appears to be working normally

What is clear is someone is not happy at all. This is a deliberate, and very directed attack – the UGG site appears be acting as cover…