It Tolls for Thee

I voted in the last European referendum.  I had just turned 18 and had recently come back from eastern Europe.  Visiting such places as Sarajevo in the then Yugoslavia. I saw the place were the shots that set off the first of two world wars were fired.

I imagined a peaceful Europe from the Atlantic to the the steppes  – from Estonia to Portugal.  From Iceland to Greece.  And this was when Greece, Spain and Portugal were still fascist and eastern Europe was occupied by the Soviet Union.  Some hope!

For all its faults, and there are many, I believe the European Union has done us, Europe and the world proud – and it would have been a even better place if Britain and the British had been more positive from the beginning.  No use crying over spilt milk.

I have driven twice to the Russian border through a wide a variety of peoples and landscapes –  past so much history – never having to show a passport or even to change money (except when I left Britain).

In the sixth form, in the week of the 1975 referendum, I read out part of a dissertation by John Donne in the school assembly.  Then, as now, the debate had been about jobs and prices.  But I wanted my fellow school pupils to realise that the issues before us were far more profound than commerce and trade deals – important though they were.  I doubt whether I succeeded.

Sometimes we only miss things once they have gone.


If you want a trade deal with China

If you are in doubt Britain’s membership of the European Union, have found the conflicting “facts” confusing or simply really believe that Britain has already lost its sovereignty.  Watch this.  It might be long but it covers that ground.

This is not the £350m a week lie from the Brexiters or the WW3 warning from some in Remain.  It is solid evidenced based considered information in context.


Is Turkey Joining the European Union?

The short answer is no.  The clue is in the name – European Union.

Anyway to join it would have to have the unanimous support of every current member state.  Just one veto and it will not happen.  At the moment there are several member states ready to use their veto.

It will also have to pass the fitness tests in democracy and governance etc and out of thirty such tests it has begun one.  At the current rate it will take more than decades to pass them all.

All those Turks with visas?  Well there are about 80,000,000 people living in Turkey and 4% have passports.  Still that is about 3,200,000 people with passports.  They could all travel to Europe without visas but they are only available for short stays for holidays and business and they do not apply to Britain because we are the only European member state (apart from reluctant Ireland which feels it has to follow us) which is opted out of the European of free movement (although we have not opted out of the Schengen agreement itself).

Our border police would stop them coming here – unless of course the British government had been given them a visa to visit Britain.

It is entirely possible that a Turk could settle in, say, Germany and get German citizenship and then freely move here.  It would take about twelve years and they we would have to able to speak German.

Euro Debate

Philip HammondThe British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond who is, of course, our MP is speaking on the referendum at 7:30 on Wednesday, 15 June at Manby Lodge School, Princes Road.

It is an open, non-party political meeting so everyone is welcome.  It is anticipated that the the meeting will last 60-90 minutes.

Is Europe more democratic than Britain?
What’s a trade deal compared to the single market?
Who gets our taxes?

European Democracy

european-union-flag-1024x7681Brexiters have a constant refrain that we need our democracy back.  It is true that democracy means different things to different people but I would contend that there is a general consensus that for a place to be democratic its laws must be passed by a representative body and that those representatives must be replaceable at elections.

Is the European Union democratic?  No European law can be passed without the consent of the European parliament. The lower house of that parliament is elected directly by the people of Europe.  Indeed it is more representative of the European people than the British government is in representing the British.  Members of the upper house of Europe are appointed by their respective governments – not as democratic as it should be – but better than the British upper house of Lords which is simply appointed by our Prime Minister alongside people who got there simply by birth.  So Europe is democratic.

Of course the more astute Brexiters might well say that okay Europe is democratic but we  British are out-voted all the time by the other Europeans because there are 64m of us and 444m of them.  This is true.  However, Britain votes on the winning side 87% of the time – not 100% – that is far greater than your chance of electing the government of your choice in Britain which currently is stands at 37% (or 24% depending on your point of view).  Britain has greater sway in Europe than you do in electing your British government.  In fact, over twice the sway – pretty good odds if you ask me.

Brexiters say – but we want 100% and 87% is not good enough.  Hang on – who is the we? Here in Elmbridge we recently voted for a new administration which is not Conservative. Yet we are still governed by a Conservative administration in Surrey.  Do the people of Elmbridge suddenly claim that we fear being swamped by the rest of Surrey?  Surrey has continually elected Conservative administrations for over century yet Britain has, on many occasion, been run by the Labour party.  Does Surrey aim for Sexit?  Leaving because you do not like the wider view is a possible decision.  But if we are intent to apply this idea in relation to Britain and Europe why not equally apply to England and Britain or Surrey and England or Elmbridge and Surrey?  Would we, the people of Elmbridge, leave Britain because we are often outvoted by the rest of the island? Of course not.  There is no consistency to it – the “we” argument does not cut it.

Getting rid of the Government
Except in the recent Elmbridge elections we can only vote for a third of the councillors each year.  It can take a number of years to change administrations. In some ways this is a good thing because the public mood at the time of a particular election would not overly affect the administration.  In any case there is a debate to be had.  Surrey has a general election every four years, Britain and Europe every five years.

Just as the people of Surrey can remove their government  – though choose not to – the people of Britain and the people of Europe can get rid of theirs.  In 2014 Europeans had the chance of removing the majority administration but did not do so.  In 2015 the British had a chance to change their government and chose to do so.  It’s up to the people.

In Europe the Conservative Party (74 MPs) and UKIP (46 MPs) are in opposition and the Labour party (190 MPs) and the Liberal Party (70 MPs) are in government.  Perhaps that’s why UKIP and so many British Conservative MPs want to leave.  Who knows?

Euro myth-buster

Thames DredgingFlooded with lies over dredging…

The chaps at the Daily Express are getting really desperate now!

They reported here that the European government was to blame for the recent and ongoing floods across Britain, backed up by a claim from no other than UKIP donor, Arron Banks. Sounds a bit fishy to me…

They claim that the EU banned dredging, but this is a lie. The decision to dredge is solely up to the British government, and in fact our very own Environment Agency has spent £21m on dredging over the last two years.

The EU actually helps prevent flooding. It facilitates coherent policies across borders, the spreading of best practice and cooperation between the best scientists and experts.

This campaign is already getting dirty with all of the mud flinging.

Air pollution limits watered down

european-union-flag-1024x7681In the 28 October meeting of the European Council (Senate) the British Conservative government voted in favour of watering down the air pollution limits.   The Conservatives once again have not acted in Britain’s best interests.

By instructing the British representative in the European senate to vote to water-down the air pollution limits set by the EU, the Conservative government has given into the money-fuelled motoring lobby and put thousands more British lives at risk.

Pollution knows no national borders – when we pollute our skies it impacts upon France and Ireland and when they do the same, it comes over to our air and pollutes us right back. That’s why cooperation at a European level is so important.

Euro Results

Now that the Euro election results are in we can see the full picture.  For any new law to be passed in Europe it has to gain a majority of the votes in the upper house and a majority of votes in the lower house. In the upper house that means it has to have the support of at least two of the People’s Party, the Labour Party or the Liberal Democrats.  If the Conservative Party, the Green Party and UKIP all voted together they would get less than 10% support.

Euro UH 2014-02

The upper house is not directly elected – not yet anyway.  Members of the upper house are appointed by the the member governments.  Most governments in Europe are either run by the People’s Party or by the socialist parties (Labour).  The Liberal Democrats are the lead party in two member states and are in coalition with the Conservatives in Britain.  The Conservative Party only governs in Britain as the senior coalition partner. The Green party is a junior coalition partner in a number of member states.

The lower house of the European legislature (confusingly called the Parliament) is directly elected and the recent elections have shown gains by the Eurosceptic parties at the expense of the broad range of traditional parties.  However, although significant, these gains are not sufficient to change the law making process through Europe.

Euro LH 2014-02



To pass a law in the lower house only the support of the People’s Party and the socialist parties (Labour) is required.

So despite the press coverage in Britain highlighting the landslide gains for UKIP.  The full results show that UKIP’s success in Britain does not translate into any change of power at all.

The Eurosceptic’s success in the Euro-elections have mainly affected two important member states – France and Britain.  The National Front’s gains in France and UKIP’s gain in Britain mean that Britain’s and France’s place in Europe cannot be guaranteed.  A Europe without Britain is conceivable.  A Europe without France would be an interesting development.  A Europe without Britain or France would probably change beyond all recognition.

As France’ economy is still in deep trouble the National Front will probably continue to make gains.  However a lot can happen to Britain’s economy before the national elections in 2015.