Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Monday should have been a schism in the modern political history of Britain. It should have been the catalyst for a new chapter in politics and inter-territorial relations. I say it should have been, because it wasn’t.

When the Coalition Government pledged a new form of governance embracing direct democracy and established e-petitions they should have known membership of the European Union would be mooted.

Perhaps in the wake of the Eurozone crisis, with ongoing bail outs and economic reverberations keenly felt in our own markets, people are more disillusioned with the European project than ever before. With Polski Skleps opening on a large number of commercial streets, perhaps there is an increasing perception of unjust competition for jobs with migrants from other EU member states, causing people to demand a rethink.

Yet I do not think this is what really underlies the call for a referendum. People in Britain are by nature far from hostile to their European neighbours, or economically egocentric.

Instead it is simply due to the Government’s track record of failing to heed the vox populai on Europe that the public are clamouring to be heard.

It was back in the 1970s that the UK held its first, and only, referendum on membership to the then European Economic Community. It was a free trade organisation. No Parliament. No common currency. Just a few years later Harold Wilson promised a referendum that never came, and again in ‘83, Labour pledged to withdraw from the EU in the following Parliament, but lost the election.

A decade later European leaders signed the Maastricht Treaty creating the modern day European Union. Denmark and France were the only member states to put it to a vote.

In 2004 Tony Blair promised a referendum on the European Constitution Treaty and all three main political parties promise referendums in their general election manifestos the following year.

France and the Netherlands held referendums and rejected the proposals, causing the European Commission to repackage and rename it the Lisbon treaty after only minor concessionary changes. In Ireland, after the public voted against Lisbon the Commission demanded a second referendum and poured millions into the campaign

The UK signed it without recourse a public vote and the High Court rejected calls for a judicial review into the legality of the ratification.

This week’s debate represented 37 years of defying public opinion and reneging upon promises, allowing power to be passed to a foreign body that today makes 75% of our laws.

Do not buy the argument that it’s because the timing isn’t right. The debate over whether to hold a referendum did not make a given date a condition. It merely called for a promise that has for so long been broken to be enshrined in law so that for the first time the public would be given a say.

The fact that public opinion has been unscrupulously ignored should anger all voters, whether pro-Europe, or Eurosceptic. The argument is not about whether the UK should or shouldn’t be in the EU. The argument is whether you the electorate get to decide.

It is hard to fathom why the Conservative and Labour Parties operated a three line whip. Only one Lib Dem MP voted for the motion and all three Plaid MPs opposed it.

Roger Williams Lib Dem MP for Brecon & Radnor and Glyn Davies Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire both voted that you should be denied a say.Read the full list of MPs who do not sign up for democracy here.

Last time I checked, ‘democracy’ was defined as a form of government in which all people have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives, coming from the Greek terms “demos” (people) and “kratos” (power).

Thursday, 20 October 2011


If the reports are to be believed and Colonel Gaddafi has indeed been killed in Sirte it will represent the dawn of a new day for Libyans who have suffered under his regime for more than forty years.

However it is in many respects a shame that he was not brought to trial in The Hague and his cronies may well now seek to flea prosecution on the global stage.

We must not forget that Gaddafi was not only a tyrant but also incredibly calculating and was able to woo his foreign counterparts who then allowed him to remain installed as a dictator for the four decades he ruled over Libya.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Come on Wales!

It is actually a sorry thing that I am not in Brussels tomorrow to watch what should be an exhilarating match as Wales take on Les Bleus in New Zealand.
As a nation we are so incredibly proud of our rugby, and to be in the finals of the World Cup would surely put Wales on the map across the globe.
As people across Wales set their alarms for an early start on Saturday I want to echo their cheers of support and cry out a resounding


Every toe and finger is crossed.
This really could be, I hope and pray, our time.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Evidentally Turkey is not just for Christmas

I was recently invited to write this article for Public Service Europe. It raises interesting questions over who is working in Brussels, and how democratic a system is being employed.

Although I find there to be countless examples of why the EU flies in the face of democracy, I attempted to keep this item contemplative rather than empassioned, raising the key issues that I believe many readers would find interesting.

Here it is:

If complaints already exist about the level of legislative intrusion Brussels has on domestic governance, then imagine the consternation that could be felt with the revelation that such legislation is not only made by those 26 other nations who are members of the EU, but equally by a raft of other countries that are not.

Recently the Turkish Government appeared to gloat when they publicly announced that Turkish officials will be “shaping the EU’s future politics and legislation”. However they were not referring to finally being granted the membership that is so widely debated. Instead they were referring to the signing of a “memorandum of understanding” for the secondment of Turkish officials at the European Commission. The action, entitling Turkish foreign officials to steer policy alongside civil servants in Brussels, was ratified in Strasbourg at the end of last month by Minister for EU Affairs Egemen Bagis and Vice President of the Commission in charge of Inter Institutional Relations and Administration, Maros Sefcovic.

Turkish professionals with be employed at the Commission as “Seconded National Experts” - a scheme that allows applicants, usually from the EU member states, to work for the European Commission on secondment, while still receiving pay from their employers alongside generous subsidies from the EU. However the scheme also extends to non-EU member states, with Brussels labelling the recent agreement with Turkey a “milestone” for EU relations.

Turkish bureaucrats will work alongside Eurocrats in policy making and the implementation of EU politics, meaning effectively, Turks will have a role in shaping the EU agenda.

The majority of domestic laws, often estimated at around 75%, emanate from Brussels. To learn that Turkish officials will also be instrumental in creating legislation, despite Turkey not being a member of the Union, reveals what many may perceive as a democratically bankrupt and unaccountable lawmaking process. Laws affecting Britain can be developed by Turkish officials with no accountability to the British taxpayer and with questionable adherence to British interests.

As a candidate country for EU membership, Turkey is increasingly working within and alongside the EU. This is despite the fact that Turkey has been occupying a large part of Cyprus, a full EU member state for years and has been linked to potential security risks.

Alongside a customs union with the EU, which significantly increased the volume of trade between Turkey and EU member states, and EU foreign direct investment in Turkey to a tune of around €9 billion per annum, Turkish officials will now have SNEs in Brussels who will “work alongside Commission officials, helping to achieve the strategic objectives defined by a Directorate-General or Service for the benefit of EU citizens.”

Many would argue that increased cooperation between the EU and Turkey is no bad thing. However, without elected representatives in Parliament it is questionable whether they should have influence in the Commission.

It is not just Turkey given the privilege of having EU civil servants. A job advert for the EU Institute for Health and Consumer Protection stated that officials were wanted from “Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovnia, Croatia, FYR of Macedonia, Iceland, Israel, Montenegro, Serbia, Switzerland, and Turkey. Applicants of other nationalities cannot be considered for this specific call.” Indeed European law would likely prevent such a job advert being placed by a UK company that wished to specify that only certain nationalities apply.

Without doubt in a bid to pave the way for these other nations to eventually join the EU, work both on the ground in third countries, and within Brussels by third country nationals, is something about which the Commission remains tight lipped in the public sphere.

Yet it would appear that Turkey was calling somebody’s bluff by announcing their new found powers within the corridors of Brussels.

While civil servants across Europe are threatened with redundancies, pay cuts and pay freezes due to austerity measures, it is surely a bitter pill to swallow to learn that officials are being appointed from a wide range of non EU countries and also enjoy handsome remunerations on top of their pay.

Most importantly, I believe it is essential that the voting public are made aware of such contracts. After all, as an organisation that purports to be democratic, transparency and accountability should be the cornerstones of EU operations.