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)

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Removing The UK From The ECHR?

While much emphasis domestically is concentrated somewhat understandably on the UK’s membership of the European Union an often forgotten supranational influence on the UK is by the Council of Europe (pictured above) – notably in the form of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) pictured below:

The Council of Europe is a European body, based in Strasbourg, which was an attempt – the second attempt – by Jean Monnet to create “ever closer Union” soon after WWII.

In this it is nothing more than a failed predecessor of its far more successful offspring, the EU – established by the Treaty of Rome 1957. In simple terms the Council of Europe could be considered historically as ‘a dry run’ for European integration. It’s tempting therefore in light of its intrinsic failure to view the Council of Europe, with its same flag and anthem, as a relic of the past which has little importance.

Yet while the Council of Europe floundered in its primary role of creating “United States of Europe” it found a new purpose in human rights, inspired by the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). But this diversity into a role that was not intended meant a flawed and weak structure in the form of the Committee of Ministers, which was unable to keep in check the very court (ECHR) it established. Thus, powered by its supranational ambitions, we now see an unelected court unrestricted by the normal conventions of the separation of powers – no proper legislature to keep it in check.

So unsurprisingly we increasingly see the unchecked ECHR acting as both a judiciary and a legislature combined. A classic example would be prisoners’ right to vote regarding the UK. Despite the UK’s Parliament’s long-standing objections as a reflection of public opinion the matter remains unresolved to the ECHR’s satisfaction.

We see another example when it comes to immigration. Booker in his Sunday Telegragh column notes:

But the real problem posed by loss of control over our borders stems not from the EU treaty or even laws passed by politicians. It comes from law made by judges, most notably those of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), as they have interpreted international treaties to mean something quite different from the way their framers intended.

And with the case of Golajan Tarakhel, the ECHR has taken upon itself to trample all over the Dublin Regulation and EU Treaties on a whim. A mixture of unaccountable power with the increasing role of pressure groups has led to a disproportionate effect despite only appealing to a narrow politically active section of the electorate. This has led to mission creep or what is known as “rights contagion”. 

Thus inadvertently what we have here is a war of the supranationals. Jean Monnet despised democracy, and its messy outcomes, and wanted an “organised world of tomorrow” What irony then, and with some amusement, that the mess he left us was at least two supranational organisations at odds with each other – the failed Council of Europe, and its court, now trying to exercise its power against its EU successor.

What is clear is to regain control of our borders we must also remove ourselves from the ECHR as well. Out of this though emerges an interesting question; if the UK joins EEA/EFTA as part of the Flexcit process of exiting the EU would leaving the ECHR as well jeopardise our position in EFTA/EEA?

Firstly it’s important to note that membership of the EU does not mean we have to remain members of the ECHR. It is not a requirement of existing member states.

There is no explicit clause in EU Treaties for existing member states to come under the jurisdiction of the ECHR, a point which as we see on Question Time 2012 left Nigel Farage backtracking somewhat under pressure. Nothing in the relevant EU treaties requires adherence to the ECHR as a condition of continued UK membership of the EU – if they had meant to say that, they would have said it. But they didn’t.

As Julien Frisch notes on his now defunct blog (my emphasis):

Since through its member states the legal traditions of the ECHR are also informally part of the EU’s legal traditions, the European Court of Justice (the EU’s court) is already taking into account rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, but so far there is no legal obligation for the Union to follow the Human Rights Convention’s provisions.

As per our membership conditions the UK only has to conform in principle, confirmed by the EU Commission:

Respect for fundamental rights as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights is an explicit obligation for the Union under Article 6(2) of the Treaty on European Union, and the Court of Justice has held that the Convention is of especial importance for determining the fundamental rights that must be respected by the Member States as general principles of law when they act within the scope of Union law.

The rights secured by the Convention are among the rights guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In the negotiations for the accession of new Union members, respect for the Convention and the case‑law of the European Court of Human Rights is treated as part of the Union acquis.

Any Member State deciding to withdraw from the Convention and therefore no longer bound to comply with it or to respect its enforcement procedures could, in certain circumstances, raise concern as regards the effective protection of fundamental rights by its authorities. Such a situation, which the Commission hopes will remain purely hypothetical, would need to be examined under Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty on European Union.

In other words the Commission’s reply confirms that European Convention standards are general principles of EU law. Thus as long as the UK adheres to the principles of the European Convention even via a domestic bill, for example – a UK Bill of Rights which closely follows the Convention – there is no need for a EU requirement for membership of the ECHR to enforce it. This enforcement could be done by domestic judges alone.

However complication, in terms of EU membership, comes in the form of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The Lisbon Treaty gave an enhanced role to the ECJ in human rights protection with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. The ECJ less an independent judiciary body but more a fundamental component to help facilitate European political integration.

While Lisbon broadened the scope of human rights protection within the EU, it came with a problem of overlapping jurisdiction. There are now two equally binding legal texts, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU and the European Convention of Human Rights, and subsequently two corresponding European courts; the ECJ and the ECHR both concerned with human rights protection but also inevitably concerned with who will be ‘top dog’. A problem which was compounded by Article 6 (2) of Lisbon which requires the EU to join the Council of Europe given that it now has a legal personality. Some five years later the legal complications have yet to be resolved.

Inevitably therefore the opaque imprecise nature of implication often leads to contradiction and dispute between differing supranational bodies each eager to assert its supremacy – in blunt terms a penis measuring competition.

Therefore we can see that one benefit of leaving the EU but retaining a EFTA/EEA status would remove us from the ECJ jurisdiction and as such removing a possible judicial conflict. Also EFTA/EEA status means that no longer is “Single Market status” one of a supranational organisation but instead is made up of treaty rules which are agreed by countries with the EU rather than between EU “member states”.

Yet despite this another possible supranational conflict may arise. Similar to EU membership there is also no specific requirement in the 1994 EEA agreement for countries to join the Council of Europe and thus come under ECHR jurisdiction.

That said the question of whether EEA countries had to be members of the Council of Europe never arose as a political issue due to applicants already being long-standing members of the Council of Europe when they joined the EEA; Norway in 1949, Liechtenstein in 1978 and Iceland in 1950. In fact no country has ever applied to be a member of the EU or EEA without first being a member of the Council of Europe and no country has ever left it.

But while EEA members are directly removed from the ECJ they rather like EU member states still have implicit obligations to the ECHR not explicit ones and they are subject to another supranational court – the EFTA court which is modelled on the ECJ. The implicitly of ECHR obligations are made clear in the preamble of the EEA agreement that “a European Economic Area will bring to the construction of a Europe based on peace, democracy and human rights”.

Thus although not specified in terms of adherence to the ECHR, the EEA agreement it is argued could be endangered if EFTA states were able to obtain advantages, for example in competition, by applying provisions of European integration law in a manner conflicting with the ECHR. But even here we can see that the EFTA Court is willing to stand up to the EU and the ECJ when it ruled that Iceland did not break EU depositor protection laws by refusing to return Icesave money. 

Thus Europe is awash with unaccountable supranational courts each eager to compete with the other. So as Switzerland has shown we are beginning to seeing a conflict between these competing and incompatible supranational bodies and democracy – where despite a vote earlier this year imposing limits on immigration, Switzerland has been caught by an ECHR judgement on deportation.

In the words of Chris Grayling over prisoners right to vote; “Parliament must squarely confront what it is doing and accept the political cost”.

Cameron: Being Less Than Candid

Witterings from Witney back in June requested a meeting with his MP – David Cameron – in order to try to take him to task on being less than candid on matters EU.

Yesterday WfW had such a meeting with his MP. Time constraints meant, due to the involved subject matter, a verbal meeting would be inadequate to cover the issues sufficiently, so instead a dossier was handed over to Cameron in person to reply to in writing.

The contents of the full dossier submitted to Cameron can be found on WfW’s blog, where, in themes familiar to us, questions have been asked about the “veto that never was”, the “European budget cut that never was” and that “Norway is not governed by fax”.

Interestingly WfW notes (my emphasis):

I only spent just over 5 minutes with David Cameron as I did not wish to give him the opportunity of providing a short verbal response, wishing him to commit himself to a written response. Skimming through, he repeated that he had vetoed a treaty and cut the budget; although he made no mention of negating any bailout. The section on Norway appeared to ‘stop him in his tracks’

A couple of interesting points emerge here. Cameron is happy to reiterate inaccurately to a constituent that he vetoed a “non-existent” treaty yet at the time in 2011 he could not make the same commitment to the House of Commons.

On a slightly more optimistic note, having spoken to WfW last night, it appears that the arguments against the “Norway governed by fax” may have come as something of a surprise to Mr Cameron. It leaves us wondering whether he has been poorly briefed on this matter.

Sometimes it shouldn’t be underestimated how ignorant most MPs are about the EU and how much they are susceptible to a meme that is well established and doing the rounds by those with prestige.

The view that ignorance not conspiracy is often the cause is understandable particularly when we consider that the eurosceptic movement is not immune to this either, as illustrated by the continuing nonsense over November the 1st.  The below graphic is doing the rounds on Facebook:

Thus if Cameron has been poorly briefed he might subsequently have a “Pauline Conversion”. We suspect not of course and his written responses will be interesting. But one thing remains true – thanks to WfW Mr Cameron can no longer deny he wasn’t told…

Nick Clegg In Oxford

Tomorrow (Tuesday) Nick Clegg will be hosting a debate on ‘Britain’s Place in the EU’ in Oxford, as Witterings from Witney noted on his blog on the 12th:

Digressing slightly, Clegg is to hold what is being termed a ‘no holds barred’ Q&A session about ‘matters EU’ in Oxford on Tuesday 20th May. I have applied for a ticket, only to find that being granted one will involve a ‘ballot’ – consequently I am not holding my breath).

To try to increase WfW’s chances of winning in the ballot I also applied for tickets via three different names including my own. Well as it happens and rather unexpectedly we’ve been notified today via email that every application has been approved – so we wonder how popular it will be. Given I’ve been accepted as well I intend to join WfW tomorrow attending the Q&A with a view to taking Clegg to task over lies regarding the EU in a public meeting.

And we won’t be the only ones seeking to hold Clegg to account, the Oxford Activist Network intend to hold a protest against Clegg’s presence in Oxford.

Any suggestions from readers on questions to ask Mr Clegg will be very welcome in the comments…

Scientology And Other Matters

Tim Stanley from the Telegraph makes an interesting case about the cult-like behaviour of a seemingly substantial number of UKIP members. He doesn’t say the words “cult-like” of course but that’s what it is – that some in the party and/or UKIP voters are unable to cope with any criticism no matter how slight or well-intentioned it is:

The trouble is, [UKIP] needs more than just leaders. Slowly, it draws to itself activists who are essentially refugees from mainstream politics. Most of them are reasonable people. Many are not. For example, when Mr Farage made the humane case for accepting refugees from Syria, the Ukip Facebook page came alight with angry commentary. “Have you been smoking crack with Toronto’s mayor?” asked one. Another: “Sorry nigel dont agree. This country is full now but with more scum headed our way in a few days.” And another: “keep out of UK its full up ENGLISH are the ethnic minority now.” Someone even asked whether Nigel was being bankrolled by “the Muslims”.

I’ve experienced this unpleasantness at first hand. I have been making a series of tongue-in-cheek online videos for the Telegraph that offer “five top tips” for the party leaders on how not to mess things up in 2014. The one I filmed for Ukip was intended to be as light-hearted as Mr Farage himself: keep Godfrey Bloom under lock and key, avoid Scotland, read your own manifesto. The emails and thousands of comments that followed contained personal vitriol of the sort you rarely get from any other party supporter — and that would probably horrify reasonable Ukip sympathisers. Common themes were my ugliness, youth, class and sexuality. [We moderate comments, but you’ll find plenty of belters on YouTube].

…why should any reporter write nicely about a party whose supporters throw homophobic insults at them? Especially when “Ukippers” effectively write their own negative headlines. It wasn’t journalists who made Godfrey Bloom refer to women as “sluts”. It wasn’t the media that made Lord Pearson forget the contents of Ukip’s own manifesto. And it is far too easy to find one of the party’s activists willing to say something derogatory about a minority.

Given that UKIP is a threat to the established order, and that the media in general see UKIP as a problem to be eradicated, it is tempting to dismiss Tim Stanley’s comments as part of an establishment which aim to belittle the party. Yet looking through the comments below Tim’s piece they largely make the point for him. They illustrate quite clearly that anything mildly critical is tantamount to heresy.

Sadly this is also personal experience, and experience of fellow bloggers, which suggest that Tim’s comments are uncomfortably accurate.

For example to merely venture on this blog the (not unreasonable) point that UKIP has failed in the 20 years of its existence to offer a coherent exit plan brings out rapid condemnation, despite the obvious fact UKIP has many well paid MEPs yet there is no real policy on the matter. This is a point that has been made elsewhere

Revealingly only by the phenomenal hard work of Richard North (unpaid) has there been an attempt to answer the longstanding question about Brexit and how it can be done. And he has done it by putting forward a very coherent and detailed argument in terms of the “Norway” option which has been shortlisted for the IEA Brexit prize. To point out the lack of such a policy where UKIP is concerned though is heresy.

Autonomous Mind has had similiar problems when he makes the following justifiable points:

For as long as I choose to blog (which may not be much longer given the way I am feeling), shutting up about it isn’t an option for the simple reason that, rightly or wrongly, Farage is seen by many as the head of the Eurosceptic movement by virtue of his position as UKIP leader.  If he fails, the Eurosceptic cause will fail.  Hoping no one will notice the failings by keeping quiet about them is not the way to get the problems addressed.  In speaking out I am not trying to ‘do down’ or undermine UKIP.  I am trying to draw attention to what needs to be improved in the hope more people will apply pressure for change.

And Witterings From Witney too:

To turn to the Guardian article, this is a damning view of Nigel Farage, albeit one that is undoubtedly a dish of revenge served cold. If Farage is someone who does not do policy and is not interested in running his party, why on earth would any sane person elect him to run the country? With regard to Bloom’s assertion that the party is without brains, that has become apparent when one considers the number of open goals that have been missed.

I am often taken to task by commenters on this blog for my condemnation of Ukip – aka Farage – and admonished for criticising the ‘only alternative’, come the next General Election. To which I can only reply with one question:

Just why would anyone vote for another political party headed by yet another politician who, it seems, does not do detail or policy; who would appear to care not one jot for his country or those to whom he appeals for support, but would appear to be interested in only one thing, namely – and would seem not to care by which avenue that he achieves it – power?

But it was just as badly “fixed” in 2004 and then again in 2009, when Nattrass was a beneficiary of the system that made him an MEP. Only now, though, when he has fallen out with The Great Leader, and become a victim of a rigged system that also brought in Farage’s drinking mate, Godfrey Bloom, does Nattrass go public and complain.

This desperately weakens the power of Nattrass’s complaint, and the UKIP cult members have been quick to point this out. But this is the standard fare of the cult, which specialises in blackening the names of detractors. They will do anything but concede the truth and admit that, even though Nattrass is not the most sympathetic of characters, he is not necessarily wrong.

In fact, we don’t really need to rehearse the issues, once more. Most recently, it was Will Gilpin and before him many more, all saying roughly the same thing. Again and again, we see the same charge: Nigel Farage “only wants people in the party who agree with him”. More particularly, he surrounds himself with sycophants and, from Sked onward, levers out those who present a challenge to him.

That is probably the way it is going to be for as long as Farage has a grip on the reins of power within the tiny pond that is UKIP, but it also typifies small party politics, which get caught up in the grip of a single individual – as with the BNP and Nick Griffin. The test will be whether UKIP can survive the demise of Farage, and rebuild itself without falling prey to the cult of The Great Leader.

And we come back to Tim Stanley who believes the party needs a “chill pill” (an ungainly phrase):

Believe it or not, Ukip needs to lighten up

It’s not a “chill pill” UKIP needs, instead it’s grown up policies, detail, strategy and above all maturity – the recognition that politics is a very rough game where criticism comes with the territory, and not all of it is unfriendly or malicious. However in the absence of this we see a cult in the form of Nigel Farage’s UKIP, not too disimilar to the ‘cult’ of some in the media who have a “love affair” with Cameron:

In a very unhealthy way, party politics in the UK is beginning to develop a feel not dissimilar to that of North Korea where, amongst the faithful, only expressions of the most abject adoration are permitted.

Sadly, though, with the cult of the leader also comes the cult of the follower. The lumpen masses, mindless and inert, demand leadership before they can begin to exert themselves. Gone is the initiative, independence and assertiveness that once made our nation great. We whinge and whine that we have no leaders, and then demand absolute fealty to our anointed ones, whom we are expected to follow over the edge of a cliff if demanded.

Thus those not in awe of the “Great Leader” become a ‘Suppressive Person‘. This is no way to exit the EU.

The "Norway Option"

Above is a trailer for the video of the Norway Option, which can be purchased here. I will be attending a Bruges Group meeting on Saturday (£20 on the door), along with Witterings from Witney, which has a discussion on the best way to exit the EU. Speakers include Richard North, Christopher Booker, Mary Ellen Synon, Professor Tim Congdon, Kieran Bailey (the 15 year old who’s made it onto the shortlist for the Brexit prize).

Given the fundamental disagreements between Tim Congdon and Richard North on how to exit, it will more than likely prove to be a lively affair.