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NATO and the Enemy Within

February 6, 2017

Theresa May returned from her visit to Trump raving about having secured his support for NATO. For this Mrs May was highly commended by all and sundry. A foolish commendation.

Trump has whinged loudly about the lack of contribution to NATO by its members. He has threatened to pull America out of NATO if the other members do not pull their weight. That would actually be a very good move. Not for America but for all of the other members. 

What is NATO for? Primarily it exists as a deterrent. It is there to protect each member from attack by non-NATO members. If anyone attacks any NATO member, all NATO members are bound to defend the member who has been attacked. Which is all very good when NATO members behave in a responsible way and do not invite attack. Think about that. Think about that in the context of the Trump regime. 

Can Trump be relied upon not to provoke attack? The first thing Trump does in the morning is cast an inflammatory tweet or several in the direction of the victim of the moment. He has no notion of diplomacy and zero respect for the rule of law. He believes he is empowered by presidency to trample upon anyone who stands between him and power. Trump stands as a bull on the steps of the White House waving a red flag at every other bull on the planet. It can only be a matter of time before one of those bulls charges at Trump's red flag. 

When - and when seems more probable than if - that happens, who wants to be bound to save Trumpistan? I do not. And I do not think that any nation with a government in its right mind should want to remain in a NATO of which Trumpistan is a member. 

Thank you NATO, you've done a grand job of peace keeping for many decades. But now it's time to say goodbye. For the enemy is not without; the enemy is within.

 

A Sovereign Nation of Liars

July 1, 2016

A child who lies is punished; a politician who lies may become Prime Minister. 

Last week's referendum was won by Leave in consequence of a campaign based more on lies than truth. None on the Remain side would have been happy with the vote to Brexit, but most of us would have accepted it if it had not been underpinned by and derivative from lies, i.e. if it had been an outcome from a properly democratic process. 

This week matters have deteriorated further. The predictions of the many economists and other experts - all those experts that Gove dismissed as unnecessary - are transpiring to be accurate. Project Fear has turned out to be Project Reality. Would the Leave voters have listened to the experts if the Leave campaigners had not shot their arguments down in flames before the experts had had the chance to fully explain? Certainly some would - those who now say they regret voting Leave because they didn't understand what they were voting for and wish they'd had more information. 

Information was actually available. In abundance. But it was not to be found in the places that the majority of voters visit. The FT, Economist, Guardian, university websites, Radio 4 and BBC World Service current affairs programmes are the natural habitat only of Britain's educated - those damned elites. The tabloid papers have by far the highest sales and readership. Half of the adult population listens to Radios 1 & 2. During the week before the referendum the majority of trends on Twitter were reality television programmes and football. If you're going to ask the nation to make a decision in a referendum about something as critical as the nation's future, you need to run a rigorous public information campaign instead of allowing the opposing sides to engage in a free-for-all cat fight aided and abetted by the atrociously biased tabloid press. Far better would be to not have run a referendum at all. What is the purpose of an elected government if it is not to make the important decisions for the country?

However, it is too late and the clock cannot be turned back. But it can and should be stopped. With immediate effect. 

The lying leadership of the Leave campaign have already backtracked on their campaign promises. They have no plan at all for Britain's future outside of the EU nor the foggiest idea of how to extract us from it. Farage has delivered a tirade of insults to the European Parliament, Boris has been brexicuted by Gove, and Gove, goaded by Mrs Gove and a number of self-seeking MP's is vying for the position of Top Dog. The Leave leadership should, without exception, be banned from any position in public life ever. 

To continue along the path to Brexit is political insanity as well as financial suicide. About as sensible as driving a brand new Aston Martin blindfold at a hundred miles an hour down the wrong side of the M4. And it will have about the same consequences. 

The outcome of the referendum was the outcome of a campaign of lies. It cannot therefore be reasonably claimed to be valid. And nor should it be for that would set the most appalling example to every child in this country. How is the importance of honesty and truthfulness to be taught to children to whom the rewards of lying have been demonstrated by the holders of the highest positions in the country? 

There is nothing to be gained by anyone from Brexit. Nothing. Without access to the single market, the economy will suffer far more than we can afford. And there can be no access to the single market without freedom of movement of people. Whatever the Leave leadership liars might say to the contrary. The process of Brexiting will take an eternity, during which time not only Britain but the entirety of the EU will suffer. And all the while, the rise of the far right and xenophobic nationalism will escalate throughout Europe. To continue along the road to Brexit would be amoral. 

What should we do instead? We should swallow our national pride and do a rapid about turn. Then we should act to repair the damage as fast as possible. With all haste we should deploy a sizeable chunk of our reinstated piggy bank to solving the terrible social problems that caused the Brexit vote in the first place. 

If we do not pursue this course of action we will soon find ourselves a very small Sovereign Nation of Liars. 

 

A Blonde Nightmare

June 29, 2016

Today I have written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. I have written to complain about Boris. My email is below. If you would also like to write, the email address is standardscommissioner@parliament.uk

Dear Sirs

I write to complain about the behaviour of Boris Johnson which I perceive to be in contravention of The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament as laid down in your publication:   http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmcode/1076/1076.pdf.

A great deal of Mr Johnson’s recent behaviour in connection with the Vote Leave campaign warrants complaint. I shall, however, restrict my complaints to a couple of specific points which are easy to verify as both were sign written on the side of Mr Johnson’s campaign bus. The first is the claim that £350 million is taken by the EU from Britain every week. The amount which constitutes Britain’s rebate is not taken. The second is the claim that this £350 million would be used to fund the NHS if Britain were to leave the EU. Sequel to the referendum in which Britain voted to leave the EU, this claim has now been withdrawn.

Both of the above claims by Mr Johnson have transpired to be untrue. As there appears to be no evidence that their lack of truth is derivative from mere mistake, it is impossible to conclude that these claims constitute anything less than blatant lies.

Mr Johnson’s claims do not accord with the rules stated in Section V. ‘Rules of Conduct’ in the above publication. In particular his claims contravene the following points:

10. “Members shall base their conduct on a consideration of the public interest, avoid conflict between personal interest and the public interest and resolve any conflict between the two, at once, and in favour of the public interest.”

There are no circumstances when the failure of any politician to tell the truth is in the public interest. This could not be more true or of greater importance than in a campaign for a referendum upon which the future of Britain and Europe is significantly dependent.

15. “Members are personally responsible and accountable for ensuring that their use of any expenses, allowances, facilities and services provided from the public purse is in accordance with the rules laid down on these matters. Members shall ensure that their use of public resources is always in support of their parliamentary duties. It should not confer any undue personal or financial benefit on themselves or anyone else, or confer undue advantage on a political organisation.”

The claims of Mr Johnson are widely perceived to have been made with the objective of conferring advantage upon himself. Of unquestionable certainty, they were made with the specific intent of conferring advantage upon the Vote Leave campaign.

16. “Members shall never undertake any action which would cause significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole, or of its Members generally.”

The consequences of the claims of Mr Johnson have caused immense damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons.

I trust that this complaint will be investigated thoroughly and with urgency.

Yours faithfully

HMH

Thank you

June 23, 2016

Thank you to all of my wonderful followers on Twitter who re-tweeted my tweet on the Emergency Proxy Vote today. We managed to help a surprising number of people who thought they could not vote due to unforeseen circumstances. This included one woman who was rushed into hospital to have her baby last night. 

Thank you too to Maddy, my daughter's friend, with whom it all began. Maddy could not get through the floods to her polling station this morning and then she had to catch a flight to Europe for work. 

Never subsume fear to hatred

June 17, 2016

The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 sparked my interest in politics. I was a 15-year old in an all girls boarding school when I heard about the Act on the News on the transistor radio that I kept hidden under my mattress. We were not allowed radios and we were not allowed to think for ourselves. We were told what we thought and what we believed. The trouble was that I was always in trouble because I did not believe what I was told.

On that morning in 1975, the report of the Sex Discrimination Act was too important to keep to myself. I charged into breakfast and announced the news to the dining room. Immediately I was silenced by the headmistress who then proceeded to tell us that it was a terrible piece of legislation concocted by the wrong sort of government - a Labour one. We were not socialists and we did not support anything that socialists might do for it could only be wrong. Foolishly, I retaliated. With the result that I spent the rest of the day standing in a cold corridor. But punishment was good as I had a day to think. At first I thought that I was right. By the end of the day I knew I was right and for the remainder of my time at school I refused to listen to anything uttered by any member of school staff. The following summer I stormed out of the school, never to return. 

Some years later, having gathered 'O' and 'A' levels at evening classes, I went on to do a degree in politics. After my daughter was born I returned to formal study; this time to a masters degree in Political Theory at the LSE. But not one day has passed since that morning in 1975 when I have not lived politics, history and philosophy. 

Why am I telling you this? Because I am an obsessive? Yes: because I have been an obsessive for over forty years. And because nothing has occurred in those forty years as important as next week's referendum. 

The EU has brought us many benefits, most of which we could survive without. It is also significantly flawed, often resembling the mythical brontosaurus with two brains that don't communicate with each other. None of this matters too much. The EU might be difficult to reform, but it won't be impossible. Reform will take time and effort. All reform does. But however flawed and lumbering, the EU is the most important institution of our 21st Century lives. It is the lifeblood of our peace. 

If the EU is allowed to fragment and disintegrate, nationalism will step into the breach. Nationalism is the greatest evil known to Europe. It was a primary cause of both world wars that cost the lives of many millions of people throughout Europe and far beyond. Nationalism generates xenophobic hatred and xenophobic hatred fuels nationalism. It creates a vicious downward spiral that pitches people against people and nation against nation. Since the end of the 19th Century nationalism has resulted in endless wars and no good whatsoever. And now, across Europe and across large tracts of the world, nationalism is on the rise. 

Chamberlain returned from his negotiations with Hitler in September 1938 declaring 'Peace for our time'. Within a year, Hitler had rescinded on the agreement and invaded Poland. Nationalism never gives up and it has no respect for compromise. The further it advances, the faster it dispenses with reason, respect and rationale. Nationalism is politics parallel to pyramid selling: it sucks people in with impossible promises that deliver disaster to the vast majority.

In recent months we have seen the referendum campaign dividing our country. It has been a pitched battle between Fear and Hatred. And this week that battle has cost the life of a Member of Parliament who was a wife, daughter, mother and friend. Jo Cox was an amazing woman with an amazing future ahead of her. She was assassinated by a man who is mentally ill and probably allied to the political far right. But who he is is less significant than the fact that, were it not for the referendum, he would almost certainly not have killed Jo Cox. The assassin and his victim are both casualties of nationalism.

We have witnessed the first British death of 21st Century nationalism. Now we should do everything within our power to ensure that it is the last. 

Project Fear has not conducted itself well. I include myself amongst its offenders. Project Fear has had the disadvantage of having nothing new to sell. Promoting its advantages has been a bit like trying to sell a villa in Sicily to the owner of a villa in Sardinia: there's not enough difference to make it worth considering and the buyer could even lose out. The only selling point is fear: Sicily has more active volcanoes than Sardinia.

But the behaviour of Project Hatred has been worse. It should have been Project Hope. For hope was its biggest selling point. The hope of dreams. That magic wand that could restore nostalgic Britain to her imperial past. That silver bullet that could exterminate those detested EU regulations that have dictated our lives. You know - all those ghastly rules that make us safer and give us protection we do not want. Project Hope could have pitched our dreams into a happy and prosperous future of sailing the seven seas in silver ships that would return laden with gold and jewels. But Project Hope did not do that. Instead it assumed the form of Project Hatred. It tore into the people in our midst and at the countries from whence they came. It incited its followers to hate their neighbours and the countries from which they originated. It blamed them for each and every one of societies ills - ills that have nothing whatsoever to do with either the EU or any European or foreign national. Project Hatred adopted nationalism and proceeded to thrust its lies down the throat of anyone with their mouth open and their mind closed.

Project Hatred has done this until it has delivered the blood of a British mother onto a pavement in Yorkshire, at the same time destroying the life of her family and depriving our country of a rising star. Project Hatred will not stop there. More blood will be shed and more lives will be lost. That is the course that nationalism takes. It is written in the blood of many across the history of Europe and in the blood of one upon a Yorkshire pavement. 

Oh Fools! Stop now. For foolishness has gone too far and grief is too great a pain to bear.

Please can we work with those around us to improve our world to the benefit of all and the detriment of none. Please can we settle for what we have.

Please.

The Great European sandwich filling

June 12, 2016

A child of average intelligence leaves primary school with sufficient knowledge of geography to be able to position Britain, America, Europe & Russia on a map of the world. Many Brexiters appear unable to do this. So let's make it very simple. To the west of Britain, across the Atlantic Ocean, lies America. To the north east of Britain lies Russia. Russia has a land border with several EU countries.

Putin is in charge of Russia. Putin is not friendly to Britain or to the EU. Putin would like Britain to leave the EU because that could result in the break up of the EU. NATO is increasing its presence in the Baltic states and Poland is in the process of recruiting a 35,000 strong Home Guard. Such moves are not indicative of confidence in Putin as a peacemonger. 

In November there is a distinct possibility that the USA will elect Trump as its new president. Trump is lacking in many things including diplomatic skills, political knowledge and the desire to maintain peace in the world. He has not the slightest care about the well-being of Britain or Europe. Last week he didn't know what Brexit meant; this week he's all in favour of it happening. 

Europe and the UK lie between the domains of Trump and Putin. We're the filling in the sandwich. In the 1970s we moaned and laughed about British Rail sandwiches which comprised a mangy bit of soggy ham flanked by two measly slices of  dried up white bread. If the UK opts to Brexit, it is in danger of becoming a single slice of soggy ham wedged between two enormous doorsteps of bread baked by Putin and Trump. That would give us everything to moan about and no cause for laughter. If we stay in the EU, we are part of the filling in a sandwich with a bite-defying content: British ham, Bratwurst, chorizo, saucisson, pepperoni, salami and so much more. The population of the EU countries combined is larger than the populations of the USA and Russia combined. Which results in a sandwich with more filling than bread.  

Common sense says it's better for us to be part of the Great European sandwich filling that can defy the bite of Putin and Trump.  

18 days to go...

June 4, 2016

18 days to go until the Referendum and where are we now?

90% of economists and just about everyone with any expertise in the world of economics and finance has told us we're #StrongerIn and that a Brexit would severely damage the UK economy. But the Brexit cheerleaders do not want to hear. Farage says that £45 billion is a price worth paying. He says this with all the confidence of a seedy estate agent flogging a house that hasn't yet been built. Gove says he's had enough of experts. In his last incarnation, the experts had had enough of him. So he was moved from Education to Justice where he has demonstrated manifold skills in injustice. Boris continues to bumble round Britain belching baloney and diesel fumes. His German bus is still sign-written with the NHS logo and the claim that the UK sends £350 million to the EU every week. The BFG (Boris-Farage-Gove) and their cronies repeat the £350 million lie at every opportunity; apparently incapable of understanding the simple mathematics of the UK's EU contribution. 

The BFG persist in their claim that we can have Trade Deals with whomsoever we wish post-Brexit. The heads of state of all of these countries have told them that either we can't or we can't for a very long time. Furthermore, all of Britain's friends have implored us to stay in the EU. But with deaf ears & blind eyes the BFG blunder onwards brandishing fantastically generous offers of funding to the NHS, the farmers and everyone under the cool summer sun.  To date they have reallocated the EU funds many times over BUT none of it has been allocated to the making of new Trade Deals. Nor has any money been allocated to the complicated legal process that will follow from a Brexit. Nor to the making and amending of  laws to replace those detested ones that are currently on the statute book due to the EU. 

'We want to Take Back Control' is the mantra of the BFG morning, noon and night. What exactly is it that is Out of Control? Sovereignty appears to be the main offender. That's been commuted to the EU. Well, some of it has. We're members of a club and we agree to the club rules. We do this because the club works to our benefit, and in the areas of trade and travel we benefit enormously. We have gained more freedom than we've sacrificed. And we have a veto on issues of paramount importance.

Of sovereignty, Thomas Hobbes said: "The obligation of subjects to the sovereign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth by which he is able to protect them." Largely due to the EU combined with NATO we've enjoyed many decades of peace in Europe. I have serious doubts about the endurance of peace in Europe if we depart the EU. Poland is building a Home Guard of 35,000 and NATO is establishing military bases there. This is in response to the threat from Russia. Nationalism is on the rise across Europe and far beyond. There have been few instances since the French Revolution when extreme nationalistic politics have resulted in neither tyranny nor war. Narrow, nationalistic sovereignty looks increasingly like a devil in disguise and can do little to protect us. 

The other area in which the BFG are insistent that we need to take back control is immigration. Their current fad is for an Australian style points system. However, the media have pointed out that the Australian system has resulted in higher immigration into Australia than the UK has under its own current system. There's also a serious ethical problem with such a system: if we cherry pick the medics and engineers and so on from countries less well off than ourselves, who is going to look after the people left behind in those countries? Nothing could be more wrong than for us to poach their professionals.

Immigration is not and cannot be easily controlled. It comes with big advantages, not least of which is a constant supply of labour that we desperately need. So long as people have transport they will find a way of moving from one place to another. The smartphone and the internet have combined to open the window on the world to the whole world and the world wants to move to where the good life is. Nothing and no one can stop that process. It's an unintended consequence of globalisation and technology.

Our choices are limited. Either we can bark nostalgic mantras about the greatness of some unidentified point in the past and attempt to hole up on an isolated sandcastle that destiny will dissolve into the North Sea. Or we can accept the world we live in and make the most of it by collaborating and compromising with our willing and friendly neighbours. 

 

 

Burgers for Brexonomists

May 21, 2016

Brexonomics can be defined as the economic process whereby the least efficient and most expensive form of trade is to be preferred above any other.

If you live in Plymouth and you want a take-away burger on a Saturday evening, do you go to the MacDonalds in Plymouth or the one in Aberdeen? Brexonomists go to Aberdeen. Everyone else goes to the MacDonalds in Plymouth. The latter have popped down the road in the car, queued for a few minutes, driven home and eaten their grub while it's still hot. Then they've spent a relaxed evening curled up on the sofa watching a film and drinking a glass or two of wine. By the time they're tucked up in their cosy beds, the Brexonomists are just landing at Aberdeen airport...and they won't be home until Sunday evening. Cost of MacDonalds for Brexonomists = Burgers + return flights to Aberdeen, taxi fares, hotel for night and 24 hours of their time.

Why would the UK seek to buy something from half way round the globe when it can buy the same thing in the EU with no hassle and lower transport overheads? 

If you own a sweet shop in Winchester, to whom do you sell your sweets? The Brexonomist will sell his sweets to Mexico or Outer Mongolia. All other Winchester sweet shop owners will sell to the people of Winchester. They do this because the sweet eaters are there and it takes no effort to find them. And nor do they have to pay to transport the sweets to them. Or waste time. Or damage the environment with the pollution that is caused by transporting anything anywhere.

Why would the UK choose to sell to a country on another continent rather than the EU when the EU is on our doorstep and trading with it it is cheap and easy? 

The Brexonomists are finding it increasingly difficult to find any country that wants to trade with them. Most economists and most of the world keeps on telling the Brexonomists that trading with them would be difficult and expensive; they keep telling the Brexonomists that trading with the neighbours and keeping in with the neighbours if by far the most sensible and cost-effective route forward.

But the Brexonomists refuse to listen. Some of them are lying in bed with their heads buried under the pillows and their fingers in their ears. They are chanting blah blah blah very loudly to deafen out the voice of reason that is trying to talk sense into them. Other Brexonomists are lying in the bath with their heads under the water. They are blowing bubbles and hoping that the nasty big elephant will leave the room before their breath expires.

Perhaps they are just tired and bad tempered after that very long journey that resulted in a great big bill and a cold congealed burger.

 

 

MEP data: Peanuts from Circus Monkeys

May 14, 2016

Being the sort of person who needs quantitative data to make sense of the world, today I've been looking at numbers - numbers that relate to our MEPs. 

The UK has 73 MEPs in the European Parliament. Of these only 39 want us to remain in the EU. 29 want to leave and 5 still can't make up their minds. In essence, that means that 29 of our MEPs do not believe in the EU and 5 have no idea whether they believe in it or not. 23 of the 29 offenders are UKIP and 5 are Conservative. 

We complain that we get a raw deal from the EU. One the whole we don't. But we should. And this, I believe, is the underlying reason. A UKIP supporter standing as an MEP smacks at a turkey voting for Christmas. In the UK almost no one has any idea who their MEPs are. In the rest of the EU almost everyone does. Only a paltry minority of UK voters bother to vote at all and most of us have no idea when the last EU election was or when the next will be. I have yet to meet anyone who knows that we have batches of MEPs representing regions. 

In the UK we send our failed politicians to Europe. In the rest of Europe, the best of aspiring statesmen are sent as their country's representatives. In the UK we elect people to be MEPs who do not believe that the EU should exist at all. And we pay them good salaries to fail to represent us. 

If we stay in the EU - which I hope and believe we should - we need to radically reappraise our attitude. Or we deserve to receive peanuts from our circus monkeys. 

The MEP data is in the table below. More info is available at http://www.europarl.org.uk/en/your-meps/uk_meps.html

Please don't shoot the messenger but do think long and hard and seriously about how we move forward after 23rd June. If you have the time and commitment to fight the battle to bring about the necessary changes to this extraordinary mess... contact me. 

PARTY

No. MEPs REMAIN LEAVE UNDECIDED

TOTALS:

73 39 29 5
Ulster Unionist 1     1
Sinn Fein 1 1    
SNP 2 2    
Plaid Cymru 1 1    
Lib Dem 1 1    
Labour 20 20    
Green Party 3 3    
Democratic Unionist 1   1  
Conservative 20 11 5 4
UKIP 23   23  

 

An elderly Wiltshire farmer

May 9, 2016

Martin Shallcross, an elderly Wiltshire farmer, says that without the EU it would have been impossible to make a living from farming.

My mother (87) found this article in a 2014 edition of the Blackmore Vale Magazine.

We had been discussing how farming might fare with a Brexit when my mother said she recalled a local farmer saying that the EU was essential to the survival of British farming. In no time she emerged from her study - a terrifying space stuffed to the gunnels with books, papers and magazines - with the article.  

No accusations of scaremongering please because this dates from 2014 - long before the EU referendum was on the agenda.

 

Recipes for Campaigners

April 29, 2016

The bank holiday weekend is here at last so here are a couple of recipes for a very quick feast - just so you don't starve while you're campaigning to keep us in the EU. 

 

ASPARAGUS & BROAD BEAN RISOTTO - feeds 4 - takes under 30 mins all in

750ml chicken stock (strong) plus 50ml dry sherry or similar.

Large mug frozen peas & broad beans. Fresh asparagus or other green stuff.

220g Arborio risotto rice. Small onion finely chopped. 2 fat cloves garlic roughly chopped. Oil & tiny knob butter.

          Instructions:

Fry onion. Add rice & garlic. Stir for a minute or so. Chuck in everything else. Stir intermittently but more at end

Serve with parmesan shavings and green salad

 

SUMMER FRUITS JELLY WITH PORT - serves 5 - takes about 7 mins to construct plus a few hours to set

500g bag of frozen summer fruits (or raspberries)

2 packets sugar free raspberry jelly (Note: jelly is made up double strength)

100 ml port (or strong red wine)

A good slosh of blackcurrant squash or Ribena (undiluted)

          Instructions:

Chuck fruit into a bowl.

Make up jelly using half a pint of boiling water

Throw port & Ribena into liquid jelly

Top up to 1 pint with cold water

Pour jelly over fruit

Stir well

Chill in fridge until set (doesn’t take long with frozen fruit)

HAPPY WEEKEND!

 

Breakfast in Dover

April 28, 2016

This morning I put three nonagenarians onto a coach in Dover. They were heading off to Europe for a week - a week which they believe may be their last holiday outside of the UK. 

Over breakfast in a nondescript hotel, they told me that they didn't think they'd be able to cope with the travelling if Britain opted to leave the EU. One pointed out how much longer the queues are if you don't have an EU passport, and another commented on how much more paperwork there is if you're not an EU citizen. All were concerned about the loss of the EHIC card which pretty much guarantees free medical care anywhere in the EU. At the moment, they know that if they are taken sick on holiday, one of their children can hop in the car and drive over to rescue and repatriate them. They would not be prepared to take the risk of travelling without that knowledge. 

So there you are: if the UK opts for Brexit, many of our elderly people could lose out on their last few years of European travel. Would you really want to deprive your elderly parents of such pleasure? I'm sure I wouldn't for that would be a travesty and a tragedy.

 

The Minister for Injustice

April 25, 2016

We have a Minister for Justice. Mr Gove. In his previous incarnation he was Secretary of State for Education until he upset almost everyone in education. Now Mr Gove has upset me. In fact, he has lit the blue touch paper. I've just read the 38 Degrees' fact check on Michael Gove's reasons for leaving the EU as given on Today on Radio 4 (https://speakout.38degrees.org.uk/campaigns/michael-gove-leave-fact-check). 

Mr Gove gave the usual line of flawed argument about how much better off we'd be outside of the EU. That's nothing more than we've come to expect from Brexiteers, and it's water off a duck's back to anyone with a modicum of intelligence. But then he said: 

 “Outside the EU we could have a points-based system like Australia. We could welcome talented people from across the world but block those whose presence here isn’t in our interests”

To that, coming from the Minister for Justice, I take exception.

What is justice? Is it not about fairness, reasonableness and being fair and reasonable to all people? Apparently not for Mr Gove. For our Minister of Justice, justice is something like that which was applied by 17th Century slave owners to their slaves. Mr Gove is happy to take into the UK the "talented people from across the world" but he won't have anyone else. He is happy to take the talent away from poor countries. He does not appear to care that they have greater need of their talent than we do, and he does not care what happens to those who are left behind in countries devoid of talent - devoid of talent because he has poached it from them. 

I do not and cannot see this as justice. I see this as injustice. I see it as the sort of injustice that was endemic in and characteristic of British Imperialism. I see it as the sort of injustice that belongs in the distant past; the imperialistic past for which most self-respecting and other-respecting Brits feel apologetic and embarrassed. 

In Mr Gove we do not have a Minister for Justice. In Mr Gove we have a Minister for Injustice. In this, the 21st Century, I call for his resignation. Though there's much of me that would prefer to step back a few centuries and call for something more painful. 

Odes to Political Toads

April 22, 2016

Today I'm in a particularly mean frame of mind. I'm thoroughly disgusted with the attitude of Boris & Co. to Obama, repulsed by the repulsive Trump, and waiting pointlessly for a reply that is resolutely not forthcoming from my requests to the Brexit leaders for direction to the location of their costings for the post-Brexit trade deals (conspicuously absent information). And it's raining. So, to entertain myself I've been writing a few very bad odes to our political toads...

TRUMPETING TRUMP

I am Trump for President

Once a crook but now just bent

First I wing it then I sling it

But you’ll hear me, lowly limpet

Listen to me blow my Trumpet

 

BALONEY FROM THE BLONDE BUFFOON

I am Boris, brash and boorish

But on my bike I can look poorish

First I bullshit then I bodge it

If that fails then I just dodge it

For nothing wrecks it quite like Brexit

 

BARRAGE FROM FARAGE

I am Farage, best known for barrage

Of facts I’ve reformed into milky mirage

A soup of red herrings

For kippers – poor things

Who can’t see through my lies

With their firmly closed eyes

They’ll find they’re not wise

When Brexit’s the prize

And tabloid sensation

Becomes isolation

Then I’ll have the power

To make them all cower

While I sit in the pub

Eating tax-free grub

And drinking my beer

With a happy sneer

How to decide on the EU referendum

April 17, 2016

Voting in the EU referendum is almost certainly one of the most important things that any of us will do this year for the outcome will be a huge determinant of the future of the UK. When facts are wrapped in hyperbole and presented by biased parties, it is very difficult to separate fact from opinion and fiction. But it is extremely important that we all try to do this. 

The most comprehensive explanation of the Remain case is David Miliband's speech of 12th April. The full text of the speech is here: http://labourlist.org/2016/04/britain-needs-europe-and-europe-needs-britain-full-text-of-david-milibands-pro-eu-speech/

I would advise everyone to read this. If you are considering voting to leave the EU you will be doing so from an informed position instead of one of ignorance. 

The speech is quite long and covers many different areas. If you are not used to reading in-depth material, it is best to print the speech and then read through it slowly and carefully. Look at each section in turn, and make notes beside each argument. Pause frequently to give yourself time to digest and think through each point. Think carefully about what you agree and disagree with and why. Refer to other sources if you are in doubt or something appears unclear. 

You will need at least a couple of hours for this exercise, but it will be time well spent and, at the end of it, you can put your hand on your heart and know that your vote will be based on an informed decision. Whichever way the referendum goes, only about half of us are going to be happy with the result - that's life and politics. Just be sure that you are casting your vote in a direction that you will never regret. 

Domestic Simplicity

April 15, 2016

Sometimes the best answers are the simplest ones, and this certainly applies to the EU referendum debate. Most people in the UK are just normal down-to-earth people leading ordinary lives in ordinary places. We're not the ones with huge incomes or vast amounts of savings stashed in off-shore accounts, and we don't inhabit mansions. Estate management is about hoovering the house and mowing the lawn. 

Our general concerns are to make our money go as far as it can, to provide for our families and educate our children. We care about our homes and we value our holidays. We worry about our health and we are eternally grateful for the NHS. We are the ones who need to know where we stand. We need to know that we can pay the mortgage or rent, that we can afford to eat reasonably well and that there is enough in the kitty for a treat at the end of the week. 

For this to happen, financial and political stability are imperatives, and they can only pertain if we stay in the EU. Today, George Osborne has announced that a Brexit would drive up the mortgage rate and the CEO of Southampton Airport has spoken out in favour of staying in the EU. There is a consensus amongst the financial community, the travel industry and the majority of UK businesses that the UK is #StrongerIn the EU. 

The Brexiteers have spent the UK's contribution to the EU many times over. Today Buffoon Boris and Michael Gove have told us that this money can be spent on the NHS (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/14/eu-referendum-spend-brussels-billions-on-nhs-instead-boris-johns/). Where it will actually need to be spent - it and a great deal more - is on paying for the trade deals and re-making of laws that Brexit will necessitate. And all that will be available to fund those crusades will be the remainder after the farmers have received their subsidy - the one that they will need to replace the huge subsidy lost from the EU. 

For domestic simplicity at both a household level and a national lever, it makes no sense whatsover to leave the EU. If we stay in we know exactly where we stand. We stand where we are now. We know we can pay our rent and mortgages, buy our food, staff our hospitals and care homes, and enjoy cheap and easy travel to Europe. Our jobs will be more secure and we will keep all the benefits that we need in the form of paid holidays, reasonable working hours, sick benefit, parental leave and maternity pay. And - most important of all - we can continue to enjoy peace and prosperity alongside our friends and neighbours in Europe. 

The saying 'If it ain't broke don't fix it' was never more true. The EU ain't broke so don't Brexit. 

 

 

 

Recipe for Disaster

April 13, 2016

I promised you all my Recipe du Jour so here it is:

KIPPERS WITH RED HERRINGS

Ingredients:

Several thousand Kippers. 

1 Master Chef

A number of facts relating to the EU to be coarsely chopped into a large pile of Red Herrings

Method:

The Master Chef needs to be well soused before he is installed in the kitchen. This is easily achieved by sending him to lunch with an FT journalist beforehand. See below for details of a recent lunch that proved acceptable. Ideally, the Master Chef's lunch should include approximately two weeks' supply of units of alcohol.  

It is important that the brains of the Kippers are not too well developed, otherwise the mixture might curdle. The more hungry and strongly smoked the Kippers are the better. The Kippers should then be distributed across social media to ensure maximum contact with the Red Herrings. 

The well soused Master Chef should now be placed in the kitchen with a laptop and drip fed with facts relating to the EU. He will then stir the facts in the cauldron of his mind until they are dizzy with distortion. And that is the point at which they are ready to be fed as Red Herrings to the hungry Kippers. 

The poor Kippers, having been too hungry to properly chew upon the Red Herrings, will immediately disperse them via social media to all other Kippers. The end result should resemble a slightly lumpy soup not dissimilar to a bouillabaisse. If it is boiling furiously enough it will serve a substantial army. 

An appropriate lunch for a Master Chef:

 

 

 

 

Projects Fear & Ignorance

April 11, 2016

Social media and the press are awash with Brexiteers calling anyone who wishes to stay in the EU a scaremonger and labelling the In campaign 'Project Fear'. This terminology is meant to be insulting. However, it should be differently interpreted for it is entirely reasonable and sensible to be frightened about the consequences of a Brexit. 

An ugly divorce that would cost the UK its friendship with its European neighbours and result in a protracted period of political and economic uncertainty is definitely something to be feared in an already unstable world. The financial cost of Brexit would be astronomical. Neither the making of laws nor the making of trade deals can be done without vast expense and an immense amount of time. 

Until a few weeks ago, when I joined Twitter, I don't think I'd ever believed that many people take the output of the tabloid press as fact. Twitter has opened my eyes to a world in which the uneducated cling to their ignorance, strongly encouraged to do so by a manipulative tabloid press and far too many power-hungry politicians, two of the worst offenders being Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. 

Today Farage has been instructing his followers to return the Government's pro-EU leaflet to Downing Street. Surely, everyone who is due to vote in the EU referendum should be reading all available information from every source on both sides. For that is the only possible way of making an informed decision. 

At the moment, it appears that there are approximately equal numbers of people on each side of the EU equation. But it is not an equal equation. The vast majority of academics, scientists, economists and businesses favour staying in the EU. Intelligence, it seems, resides almost exclusively on the side of  #StrongerIn. 

If the UK is not to be driven out of the EU by ignorance in the coming referendum, it is essential that everyone is fully informed. Which means that everyone needs full access to all information, and that means presenting this information in a format that is accessible to the less educated. The nation's media, especially the tabloid press, has an absolute duty to refrain from idiotic sensational headlines and propaganda, and to educate their readers. Ignorance is not bliss, and it is cruel and unfair to encourage it.

Time to Cancel the Referendum?

April 1, 2016

The referendum on the alternative vote system in 2011 cost over £75 million. The EU referendum will cost more. And the cost is not limited to the direct overheads of the referendum itself. 

We are already paying a high price for the political and economic instability that the referendum is creating. Investors from outside of the UK are sitting on the fence and will continue to do so until the outcome is known. 

Most of the world appears to want Britain to stay in the EU. All of the EU countries want Britain to stay in. The vast majority of UK businesses want us to stay in; ditto our scientists and academics. The Economist and the Financial Times - the most intelligent and rigorous of the UK press - are strongly in favour of staying in. In fact, the debate in recent weeks has clearly indicated that the brains of Britain want the UK to stay in the EU. 

A Brexit is not guaranteed to be a disaster but it is certain to result in a long period of political and economic instability - and that we cannot afford. Nor can we afford the very high cost of negotiating trade deals and every other deal that will be necessitated by a Brexit. Nor the cost of reassessing and/or re-making all of the laws that the EU has made for us. 

The main factors that are driving the Brexiteers are fear of immigration and a desire for UK sovereignty. But a Brexit will not reduce immigration - if anything it will make it worse. The rights of refugees are governed by the UN Convention on Refugees and not by the EU, and post-Brexit the UK would not be able to return refugees to the country where they first entered the EU. It seems improbable that any additional sovereignty would result either because trading and all other forms of interaction with other countries will be at least as much on their terms as those of the UK. 

This week the British steel industry has fallen into a perilous state. Tens of thousands of jobs and the entirety of the industry are under threat. The best hope is for an external buyer (or several) to be found. But the chances of that happening seem remote until the matter of the UK's membership of the EU is resolved. And I can't see the steel industry surviving another dozen weeks of uncertainty. 

A referendum would be good. Apart from anything else it would clear the air. But I do not think we can afford either a referendum or the protracted period of uncertainty entailed. And we definitely cannot afford the even longer period of uncertainty that would follow a Brexit. We cannot afford it now and we cannot afford it anytime soon. Right now we need to backtrack, stop squabbling and pull together so that we can work with our neighbours in Europe and with the rest of the world to solve the vast number of problems that are in dire and desperate need of solution.

 

 

Corrections for Mr Hargreaves

March 30, 2016

This morning I received the LEAVE.EU letter from Peter K. Hargreaves that I believe has been sent to most people in the UK. Being firmly anchored in the other camp, I would not have expected to agree with the content of the letter but I would have expected it to be well-written. It was not. The standard to English was considerably below that which I expected of my children when they were sixteen.

The letter begins by addressing me by my full name including the initial of my middle name. That is incorrect. A letter should either be addressed to title-of-person plus surname or, if the person is one with whom you are on first name terms, the first name on its own.

The sentence which commences in line three states: "You will soon have the opportunity to vote in a referendum, its importance cannot be over emphasised." This should read: "... referendum, the importance of which ..." Overemphasised should be written as a single word. 

Next sentence: "Your vote will determine our future relationship with the EU." My vote will not do that, and it is to me that the letter is addressed. My vote may contribute to determining ... but it can have no greater effect upon the outcome.

The final sentence of the next paragraph reads: "Expect much misinformation over the coming months that you will need to filter." Should I not be expecting much information that I will need to filter for misinformation? 

In the second sentence of the third paragraph, the semi-colon between "freedom" and "E20 billion" should be a colon because the second statement is the explanation of the first statement and contains no verb.

The penultimate line of the third paragraph should have a comma between "and" and "in" because there is a comma after "cases".

In the second line of paragraph four, the EU is referred to as "they". The EU is singular and, being singular without gender, should be referred to as 'it'. The same applies to the use of "them" in the sequel sentence. 

The fourth sentence of paragraph four tells me that I "will be subject to scaremongering by interests..." 'Interests' cannot scaremonger, or indeed do anything else. 'Interests' is a passive noun which requires a subject to carry out the action. 

In the next but one sentence Mr Hargreaves urges me "to listen to real people and entrepreneurs who create wealth, not heads of big institutions whose cushy lives will be disrupted by change." It therefore appears that he is telling me not to listen to him. Until fairly recently, Peter K Hargreaves was chief executive of Hargreaves Lansdown, an enormous public company. In May 2014 The Sunday Times Rich List ranked Mr Hargreaves as the 39th richest person in the UK with an estimated wealth of £2.4 billion. And who are these "real people" to whom I'm meant to be listening? The only people who are not "real people" are the imaginary people who populate the world of fiction, or possibly the darker world of Cartesian philosophy that resides behind 'Cogito ergo sum'.

I am next requested to ask myself: "does the EU benefit you or make your life evermore complicated?" Those are nonsensical alternatives for they are not mutual exclusives. Having children both benefits my life AND makes it evermore complicated. Enforced retirement could greatly simplify a person's life but not have any beneficial effect. 

Mr Hargreaves goes on to state that the EU "certainly adds a huge amount to your grocery bill" but he fails to either substantiate or to reference his claim. I have yet to find anywhere in Europe where I can do a week's grocery shopping for less than I can in my local Tesco superstore. Perhaps it's just that Mr Hargreaves would find shopping in Tesco too demeaning. 

In the second sentence of the final paragraph on the front page of the letter, the definite article is missing. This sentence should read: "The future of THE United Kingdom..." 

Two lines later, Mr Hargreaves tells me that "it is vital that comment is not political." How can any valid comment be anything but political when the topic in question is the main political body of Europe? It's his error for in his next sentence he tells me that he belongs to no political party. So I'll assume he meant to say that "it is vital that comment is not PARTY political."

Further on in the same paragraph, Mr Hargreaves challenges "anyone" to come up with more reasons to stay in the EU than his current 115 reasons to leave it. That challenge is patently ridiculous as not all reasons carry equal weight. A university student may be able to produce a dozen reasons for not wanting to attend a lecture: it's too cold to get out of bed, it's raining, I've lost my umbrella, I can't afford the bus fare, etc.etc. And then only one reason for wanting to attend: I want my degree. That one reason outweighs the sum of all of the reasons on the other side of the argument. 

On the reverse side of the letter, Mr Hargreaves lists some of his reasons to leave. 'Integral' is the correct spelling of the word written 'integeral'. 

And then, in the final paragraph, I am invited to "consider the form below". It is not possible to 'consider' a form. One could consider completing a form or consider sending a form, but one definitely has to consider doing something to it. 

Finally, the final comma should be a full stop because the second part of the final sentence has no connection to the first part. 

If Peter K. Hargreaves wishes to be taken seriously, he should pay serious attention to the construction of the material that he disseminates. 

 

Portsmouth votes to Brexit

March 29, 2016

Portsmouth City Council has voted to support Brexit. This was comprehensively reported by Greg Heffer in the Express on 24th March (https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/655066/Portsmouth-City-Council-votes-Brexit-EU-referendum-Penny-Mordaunt-Ukip).

According to this article: "The council’s motion stated: "Due to the negative impact that EU directives such as the agency working time directive, the EU procurement rules and the EU waste framework directive have on the ability and cost of Portsmouth City Council to fulfil its obligations, this council agrees that Portsmouth and indeed all of Britain would be better off outside the European Union."

So it seems that Portsmouth City Council would like to see the people who elected it denied the protection of the EU in their working lives. It would also prefer not to have to comply with the EU on landfill. Today I have been to Portsmouth and been shown the sizeable hills that are made of landfill waste and the ventilation systems to disperse the methane that these hills emit into the atmosphere. If anywhere needs stricter waste regulations, it's Portsmouth. 

Further on the article states: "Council officers are required to be politically neutral but Ukip claimed the result means taxpayer-funded newsletters to Portsmouth residents will not be able to “stealth promote” pro-EU messages in the run-up to the referendum." 

That Portsmouth City Council were deploying time (for which taxpayers are paying) to debate this issue is politically partisan, and therefore in direct contravention of the requirement to be politically neutral. That newsletters promoting the pro-EU message will be prohibited but pro-Brexit newsletters will be permitted is not only politically partisan but also politically and morally wrong. For to allow only one half of the arguments and facts to be disseminated is to deny the people of Portsmouth the right to the full information that they need in order to make properly informed decisions.  

Will we see, at the time of the next General Election, Portsmouth City Council voting to exclude all political parties apart from UKIP from campaigning in Portsmouth? In the present Portsmouth is the first city to vote for Brexit; in the future Portsmouth could be the first city to vote for a One Party State. 

The view of one British truck driver

March 22, 2016

The repercussions of a Brexit seem to be boundless. Yesterday I was chatting to a lorry driver at a motorway service station. He is self-employed and owns one truck. He employs a co-driver and they earn their living transporting furniture to European countries.

To deliver to EU countries is incredibly easy as there are neither borders nor customs. However, when he has to deliver to Switzerland, which he does fairly frequently, he says "the customs palaver is a nightmare". He reckons that the combination of waiting around and form filling adds about £500 to the cost of the contract.

If the UK were to leave the EU then every delivery into every EU country would cost an additional £500. That cost would have to be passed on to the client, and the client would have to pass it on to his customers. Which would result in goods from the UK being significantly more expensive for EU customers. 

"Do you think you'd lose business due to this?" I asked. 

"Of course I would," he replied. "The EU countries will just buy from other EU suppliers so the UK and me and my mate will all lose out."

There must be many thousands of small British businesses in a similar position. Which amounts to yet another reason why the UK needs to remain in the EU. 

Turkey

March 18, 2016

There appears to be a great deal of concern and much misunderstanding about the decision of the EU to grant Turks visa-free travel into EU countries. 

First, dear xenophobic Brits, you do not need to worry at all because the Turks will only be admitted into the Schengen countries. The UK is outside of the Schengen area. 

Second, the visas that are being granted are only Tourist Visas. This means that working is prohibited so Turkish people will not be allowed to work in the EU. It is only people belonging to EU member states who are permitted to work in the EU. Turkey is not an EU member and will not be able to become one until/unless it meets all of the membership criteria laid down by the EU. 

Should Turks be able to travel to EU countries without visas? Yes, I believe they should. Turkey is helping the EU out in a big way with the migrant crisis so it is fair and reasonable that it should benefit in return.

British citizens are required to have a visa to enter Turkey, but this is a very cheap and easy process that can either be done online for $20 or on arrival in Turkey for £20. The visa granted to British citizens is valid for 90 days. For Turks travelling to the EU, the visa required is much more expensive and difficult to obtain. There is a huge amount of form filling to be done and endless documents have to be supplied. It can take several weeks for the visa to be granted and the cost is approximately 100 Euros for a one-week tourist visa. 

So now you can stop worrying: The threat from Turkey is no more of a threat than the turkey that sits on your dinner table at Christmas.

You can find a full but easy-to-read explanation of the deal that has been reached between Turkey and the EU here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35840272  

 

 

Brexit cannot cure Immigration

March 13, 2016

The greatest of all factors driving the campaign to leave the EU appears to be immigration. I use the verb ‘cure’ in the title because immigration seems to be widely perceived as a disease. The moral issues of immigration are not going to receive attention here. The sole objective of this article is to explain why Brexit cannot act as a magic wand to end immigration into the UK. If anything, leaving the EU could result in more immigration. Why? I will explain as simply as possible and will give references below so that you can find out the full story for yourself.

In 1951 the Geneva Convention gave the right to all persons fleeing persecution in their own countries to seek asylum in other countries. The Geneva Convention was a product of the United Nations and nothing to do with the EU. Many countries throughout the world signed up to the Geneva Convention.

Under the terms of the Geneva Convention refugees (i.e. people seeking refuge) can breach immigration rules and cannot be penalised for illegal entry or stay.

In Britain, the UK Borders Act 2007 gave the British authorities the right to automatically deport some foreign nationals: ones imprisoned for specific offences and ones who have been imprisoned for more than a year. These people are only a very tiny minority of immigrants.

The Geneva Convention is enshrined in international law so leaving the EU cannot not change anything for the UK. Anyone arriving here seeking asylum must be given asylum until their case has been heard. After that, an asylum seeker can only be deported if their case is found to be faulty. Otherwise, each refugee must be granted asylum – and that means the right to remain in the UK.

In the EU the final (2013) version of the Dublin Regulation (a piece of EU law) gave every member state of the EU the right to return an asylum seeker to the first member state at which the person entered the EU. The effect of this has been that there are far more asylum seekers in the border states of the EU. This was part of the intention of the Dublin Regulation as it was hoped that this would cause the border states to ensure the security of their borders.

The recent migrant crisis was not anticipated and could not have been foreseen. However, the combination of the EU regulations and the additional border agreement - the Le Touquet Agreement - between Britain and France has given the UK a great deal of protection from the current influx of immigrants as the British border authorities are able to operate on French soil. In the event of a Brexit, this arrangement would almost certainly be terminated by the French. They would have absolutely no reason to keep it. All of the migrants currently held in France would then move to Britain and we would have no choice but to keep them until the case of each and every one had received a full hearing. There can be no doubt that anyone fleeing Syria, along with many other war-torn countries, cannot be denied refugee status. That means that all of these people would have the right to reside in the UK. 

If the UK were to leave the EU, we would no longer have the protection of the Dublin Regulation. We already have a land border with Ireland and, if Scotland separates from the UK (probable with a Brexit), we will have a second land border with an EU state. Anyone entering the UK will not then be able to be sent back: they will have an absolute right to remain here in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

There can be absolutely no doubt whatsoever that we would have far more immigrants here if we were not in the EU.

Bottom line: Brexit cannot cure immigration into the UK.

Sources:

https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/explainers/understanding-migration-and-asylum-european-union

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dublin_Regulation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asylum_in_the_European_Union

http://www.unhcr.org.uk/about-us/history-of-unhcr/the-1951-refugee-convention.html

http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10.html#_ga=1.88985375.586451014.1457785453

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/libertycentral/2008/dec/16/uk-borders-act

The European Courts: Elected or Unelected?

March 9, 2016

High on the list of complaints levied against the EU is the claim that UK sovereignty has been handed over to an unelected court in Europe that inflicts its decisions upon us. Is this correct?

Let’s take a look at the structure of the European court system. To begin with, it is not one court but several. There are two main entities: The European Court of Human Rights which is in Strasbourg in France and The Court of Justice of the European Union which is in Luxembourg. The latter consists of three separate courts: the Court of Justice, the General Court and the Civil Service Tribunal.

To expand, let’s start with Luxembourg and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) (French: Cour de justice de l'Union européenne). This is the institution of the European Union (EU) that encompasses the whole judiciary. So that’s the court at the top of the tree.

The CJEU is the chief judicial authority of the European Union and oversees the uniform application and interpretation of European Union law, in cooperation with the national judiciary of the member states (i.e. all the countries that belong to the EU). The CJEU also resolves legal disputes between national governments and EU institutions. It can also take action against EU institutions on behalf of individuals, companies or organisations whose rights have been infringed.

The CJEU consists of two major courts and one specialised court, each of which has a different function:

  1. The Court of Justice, informally known as European Court of Justice (ECJ) hears applications from national courts for preliminary rulings, annulment and appeals.
  2. The General Court hears applications for annulment from individuals, companies and, less commonly, national governments (focusing on competition lawState aid, trade, agriculture and trade marks).
  3. The Civil Service Tribunal, a specialised court which hears disputes between the EU and its staff.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ), officially just the Court of Justice (French: Cour de Justice), is the highest court in the European Union in matters of European Union law. As a part of the Court of Justice of the European Union it is tasked with interpreting EU law and ensuring its equal application across all EU member states.

The ECJ is the highest court of the European Union in matters of Union law, but not national law. It is not possible to appeal the decisions of national courts to the ECJ, but rather national courts refer questions of EU law to the ECJ. However, it is ultimately for the national court to apply the resulting interpretation to the facts of any given case. Various treaties give the ECJ the power for consistent application of EU law across the EU as a whole. This court also acts as arbiter between the EU's institutions and can annul an institution's legal rights if that institution acts outside its powers.

So, who sits in the ECJ, where do they come from and how do they get there?

The Court of Justice consists of 28 Judges who are assisted by eleven Advocates-General. The Judges and Advocates-General are appointed by common accord of the governments of the member states of the EU. Each one holds office for a renewable term of six years. The treaties require that they are chosen from legal experts whose independence is "beyond doubt" and who possess the qualifications required for appointment to the highest judicial offices in their respective countries or who are of recognised competence. Each member state nominates a judge whose nomination is then ratified by all the other member states.

The President of the Court of Justice is elected from and by the judges for a renewable term of three years.

The judges are assisted by eleven Advocates General who are responsible for presenting a legal opinion on the cases assigned to them. They can question the parties involved and then give their opinion on a legal solution to the case before the judges deliberate and deliver their judgment. The intention behind having Advocates General attached is to provide independent and impartial opinions concerning the Court's cases. Unlike the Court's judgments, the written opinions of the Advocates General are the works of a single author and are consequently generally more readable and deal with the legal issues more comprehensively than the Court,

Six of the eleven Advocates General are nominated as of right by the six largest member states of the European Union: Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and Poland. The other three positions rotate in alphabetical order between the 23 smaller Member States.

So, the judges are drawn equally from the member states of the EU, and the Advocates General are drawn from nine, one of which is always the UK. Thus the UK has a greater representation in the ECJ than the majority of member states. Furthermore, it is the member state that choses its members of the ECJ.

For more information on the ECJ see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Court_of_Justice

The other major court in the CJEU is the General Court (European Union).  If you were to take a legal case to the EU, this is the Court that would hear your case.

The General Court (previously known as the "Court of First Instance") is composed of 28 judges, one from each Member State, plus a registrar. The Judges are appointed for a renewable term of six years by common accord of the governments of the Member States.

So the UK supplies a judge to the General Court and is represented equally with each and every member state of the EU.

For more information on the General Court see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Court_(European_Union)

Completely separate from the above courts, and not a part of the EU, is the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR; FrenchCour européenne des droits de l’homme). This is a supranational or international court established by the European Convention on Human Rights.

It hears applications alleging that a contracting state has breached one or more of the human rights provisions concerning civil and political rights set out in the Convention and its protocols. An application can be lodged by an individual, a group of individuals or one or more of the other contracting states, and, besides judgments, the Court can also issue advisory opinions. The Convention was adopted within the context of the Council of Europe, and all of its 47 member states (which include Turkey, Russia and Ukraine) are contracting parties to the Convention.  

So, who sits in the European Court of Human Rights, where do they come from and how do they get there?

All of the judges are elected for a non-renewable nine-year term. The number of full-time judges sitting in the Court is equal to that of the contracting states to the European Convention on Human Rights. So there are 47 judges.

Judges are elected by majority vote in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from the three candidates nominated by each contracting state. Judges are elected whenever a sitting judge's term has expired or when a new state accedes to the Covenant. The retiring age of judges is 70, but they may continue to serve as judges until a new judge is elected or until the cases in which they sit have come to an end. The judges perform their duties in an individual capacity and are prohibited from having any institutional or other type of ties with the contracting state on behalf of whom they were elected. To ensure the independence of the Court judges are not allowed to participate in activity that may compromise the Court's independence.

The UK therefore has a judge in the European Court of Human Rights, and that judge is one chosen by the UK.

However – and this is a very important consideration - the EU referendum only applies to the EU and NOT to the Council of Europe. We are only voting to stay in or leave the EU. That means that we will still be bound by the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights whatever the outcome of the EU referendum.

To conclude, I would argue that the European courts, whilst not being directly elected by the general population, could not be accurately described as either unelected or unrepresentative. As these courts can overrule the decisions of the UK national courts, we have given a share in our sovereignty to them. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is a matter of opinion.

My thanks to Wikipedia which was the primary source for this article. 

Ceasefire Please!

March 6, 2016

Too often I have been surprised at how many of us Brits know almost nothing about our representatives in Europe. We have spent decades complaining about the EU and the raw deal that we believe we get from it. And yet we do not even know who is representing us there. In contrast, most people in France and Germany know know who their MEPs are and hold them in high esteem. 

Over the past ten days, I have conducted a mini online survey to find out if anyone does know who their MEP is. With only forty respondents, the results cannot be claimed as conclusive evidence. However, they do indicate an alarming lack of knowledge about our MEPs. The vast majority of respondents do not know the name of their MEP and two-thirds do not know which political party their MEP belongs to. Only 55% voted in the last elections for the European Parliament and three-quarters do not know when the next election takes place. You can view the survey results at http://bakehousecottage.com/survey-results.  

We are now on a roll to the EU referendum, an event which will be a crucial determinant of the future of the UK, and quite possibly a determinant in the endurance of the United Kingdom in its current united form.

The EU debate is rapidly turning into a civil war on social media. The weapons are words and the language is fear. Both sides are equally culpable of scaremongering. Yet, one might ask what the alternative strategy might be when the debate is underpinned by a fundamental problem that confounds both sides: our inability to see into the future. There is no way of possessing true knowledge of what the precise outcome would be whether we stayed in the EU or left it. All that can be done is to make predictions based on deduction and guesswork. 

My personal view is that a more accurate deduction can be made from a known situation than an unknown one. It therefore follows that as we are currently in the EU, we can predict more accurately what the future position might look like inside the EU than outside of it. Furthermore, it takes no more than a cursory glance back at social and political history to confirm that good relations are rare following the termination of agreements, be they between individuals or groups or nations. 

When evidence is lacking, emotion tends to take over. We cannot have evidence of the future because evidence only exists after the event: evidence is a product of past; the residue of the past that has survived into the present. So, with regard to the future, dispossessed of evidence we resort to emotion. When it comes to the future of our nation, by far the strongest emotion that we have at our disposal is fear. And thus we appear to have turned into something like terrified parents screaming "you will be killed if you cross that road" at a small child. 

For far too long we have grumbled about the EU without bothering to keep ourselves informed or take any real interest in our representatives. We can't turn back the clock but we can change our behaviour and our attitudes towards the future - our future as individuals and as a nation. We need to slow up, calm down, and apply ourselves to careful and thorough consideration of the information that does exist. And we need to make a monumental effort to stop scaremongering. 

Please can we have a ceasefire in the civil war on social media?  

The Divorce Bill

March 2, 2016

Those who desire Brexit are claiming that there will be no problem establishing independent trade deals with EU member countries. They also seem to believe that such deals can be made quickly and will be sought as determinedly by the EU members as by an outsider Britain. And one of the main reasons cited for wanting Brexit is the cost to the UK of EU membership. 

If trade deals can be established, they must necessarily be a costly compromise. The EU will want to maximise tax revenues from trade with an outsider nation, and it will insist upon compliance with all EU regulations for both the trading procedure and the product or service traded. The red tape that will attach to trade with the EU will surely be far more extensive - and therefore time consuming and costly - than it is now. The payment and collection of taxes is a very expensive process. 

Then comes the question of who is going to do the negotiating of the trade deals ... and who is going to pay for that. The bottom line is that the bill will be met by UK tax payers. That means you and me. And it will be an enormous bill. We all know couples who have ended up with a horribly reduced standard of living after the divorce fees have been paid. Divorce from the EU will not be dissimilar in cost and effect for the UK. 

When considering the timescales involved in formulating trade deals, consider the fact that it has taken more than 42 years for Britain to negotiate a position within the EU that is satisfactory to the point that the majority of the UK's MPs and MEPs are in favour of remaining in the EU. If it has taken over 42 years to reach this stage, is it reasonable to believe that the divorce settlement in all its facets can be negotiated in a matter of months? Ten years would appear to be an optimistic estimate. 

If we leave the EU, I think we have a good chance of landing ourselves with the highest divorce bill ever recorded, along with all of the hellish interim stages that divorce entails. We'd do better to stay in the EU and put in a plea for marriage guidance counselling for all of the 28 nations in the overcrowded marriage that Europe is. 

John Glenn's Views

February 28, 2016

On 22nd February I asked John Glenn, my local MP, which side of the EU debate he would be supporting. This is what he said:

Thank you for contacting me about the EU Referendum.

This weekend we saw the conclusion of the Prime Minister's negotiations for reforms to Britain’s relationship with the EU and the formal declaration of the date of the Referendum.

I have often said that I have been a Eurosceptic all my political life and this has not changed. Despite progress made in some areas, the EU is still in need of significant further reform: on immigration, on benefits entitlements, on legal sovereignty and protections for non-Eurozone economies.

The slow process of achieving consensus and progress on reform in Europe is deeply frustrating and I wish more could have been achieved – particularly in the area of economic reforms.

At different points over the past months, I have strongly considered supporting the UK leaving the EU and come very close. I respect those who have come to that conclusion but for this referendum, I cannot join them.

I have come to the very reluctant decision that I will be voting to remain in the European Union.

Whilst I recognise the long-term opportunities that would exist for Britain outside of the EU – the freedom to negotiate our own trade agreements, to reshape domestic regulation originating from the EU, and to negotiate ad hoc participation in cooperative projects like the European Arrest Warrant, I am persuaded that these are outweighed by the certain short-term costs to the health of our economy and the security risks associated with being seen to pull away from our closest European allies at a time of grave instability in our world.

Given how long the EU reform negotiations have taken on tightly defined areas of policy, it is clear that to create a viable post-EU future for the UK would take many, many months if not years. And with that comes the inevitable costs to jobs and security during that undefined transition period.

I do not rule out that there may be a time when - with positive global economic conditions it would be right to take that step and forge a future for the UK outside of the EU. But with fragile global economic conditions and our own domestic economic position still not secure, I do not believe now is that time.

I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to a different pathway for Britain’s future – we will not be heading for ever closer union with our European neighbours; we have protected the City of London and the Pound and we have stopped people from taking UK benefits when they have not paid into our system.

However, whatever Westminster politicians like me say about whether to ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ I only have one vote.  I am proud that this Conservative government, for the first time in 41 years, has given the final say to the British people – and that decision will be binding.

The concerns I have had my whole career about the EU project will not go away: and I can assure the people of Salisbury and South Wiltshire that I will continue to press for further, wider, future reform of the EU, to secure the position in Europe that the UK needs.