Tag Archives: EU

You’re not a citizen, you’re a subject.

If you are British and you’re reading this, I’ve got some news that may shock you: you’re not a citizen of the United Kingdom, you never have been – you’re only a European Citizen. Rubbish, I hear you cry – I’m British through and through, a proud British citizen, John Bull, as British as they come – but gird your loins, because it’s true: you’ve never been a citizen, because you can’t be a citizen without fundamentally guaranteed rights of citizenship.

The 1948 British Nationality Act made everyone in the crumbling empire a ‘Citizen’ yes, but it didn’t fundamentally change the relationship between ‘we the people’ and the Sovereign state. Magna Carta & The bill of rights never granted us citizenship, we’ve always been Sovereign subjects. The one thing that’s been the same over three hundred years of ‘modern’ parliaments is that no one parliament can bind another. Our ‘rights’ to freedom of movement, the vote, fair trial by jury with appeal, even the right to life – these absolutely basic freedoms are not enshrined anywhere in British law in any fundamentally sticky way, they are simply privileges afforded to you by the grace of parliament, privileges that could be taken away by any government with a big enough majority.

We have of course signed up to the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the Council of Europe’s European Convention on Human Rights (1950), but it should be remembered that neither of these are legally binding, they can be ignored and thrown aside at the whim of any parliament. The only citizenship you hold in the UK is that of the European Union, it gives you the right (not the privilege) to vote, to move freely, and to live your life with fundamental rights guaranteed by law.

With the election coming up so quickly think carefully about where you lay your vote: the parties crying out for us to leave the EU make no promise of fundamental constitutional change, and frankly constituional reform (alongside financial reform) needs to be the top priority for any incoming government.

Our rights need to be enshrined in perpetuity: our constitution or basic law should be take precedent over any individual parliament. The rights of the people in Britain should come first, and ironic as the Daily Mail might find it (and let’s not forget this is the same paper that thought Hitler was a good idea) so far the only place that’s done that for us is the European Union. So as you place your tick in the box tomorrow, and I hope you will be ticking a box, think carefully about who is most likely to make the revolutionary constitutional reform that for the first time in our history will place the British Citizen above their representatives.

Greece fucks it up.

So, we want your money, but we don’t want to do anything for it, we want it all, better, and now. So fuck you. If you still think bailing out the Greeks was a bright idea – watch them now bring their own country to it’s knees despite €120 billion, from the Eurozone, Us, the Yanks and anyone else.

For those of us that grew up in continental Europe during the cold war the Hammer & Sickle is something that’s very unwelcome. Markets are crashing through the floor, Portugal, Spain and Ireland frankly are on the brink of another downgrade, and all because no one is prepared to stand up for treaties that were designed to prevent this from happening in the first place.

They had a chance to salvage this, to bring things under control – but no, they want it all, now: and guess who’s going to have to pay for it.

And if you thought this was a European problem the DOW is down -2.02% today – I bet the traders are loving Obama’s spin on this on. Frankly I’m to disappointed to blog about this any further: details here. I have an awful feeling this is going to spread now, and the UK’s gilts are going to be in the spotlight, especially if we’re delivered a hung parliament on Thursday/Friday.

talking of the EU

The leaders debate this evening, despite being billed as the Foreign policy debate, again failed entirely to properly cover the European issue: considering it’s the poltical equivilant of a cosh for all the parties to clout each other with, that’s not surprising – but it’s quite depressing that there doesn’t appear to be any leadership on the issue.

I grew up in what was West Germany, and Germany is arguably the most Pro-European in the Union. I speak 2 European languages to a decent standard and love the place both to travel and do business: don’t get me wrong though like all institutions the EU has more than it’s fair share of problems which all need reform; because of this I have a long held love/hate relationship with the EU: but let’s be clear on a few points.

Personally speaking I don’t have a problem with the Euro – I think as a businessman that the Euro is a good thing, it gives us block strength against the world powerful dollar and the up and coming Chinese and Russian currencies, as we found out during the ERM disaster, and more recently in the Credit Crunch, the Pound, although still a reserve currency, is – because of our own economy – hugely exposed to Global fluctuations and hedging. Don’t get me wrong though, I love the Pound – much like I loved my Deutschmark’s when I first really learned the value of money saving my allowance, but I can’t help but think that we’d be better off, and we’d find a new power in Europe if our (frankly, huge) economy joined Germany and France in the Eurozone… potentially so much so, that we could excerpt serious reform of Eurozone policies; something Germany in particularly would likely support us in.

When it comes to freedom of movement I’m baffled about the Schengen Agreement and why Britain feels it needs to be outside the core structure of the agreement: first and foremost as an Island our ports would clearly need to retain custom control to the wider world; and let’s be under no false pretence – entering the Schengen Agreement wouldn’t just suddenly open our borders to one and all: we are still an Island, and that will not change (unless the EuroBridge ever goes ahead!). Britain’s position on Schengen is fundamentally flawed as an argument – we won’t open our borders, except to Ireland – where we have no juristiction over their immigration or border and port controls. We’d save a fortune using Frontex rather than establishing our own border patrol force and many experts predicts that it would actually help the immigration issue. Especially considering that migrants from the East and the South passing through Europe to get to Britain would have to be dealt with under the terms of the Dublin Agreement (which we’d be able to wield with teeth) and in partnership with other nations as part of one co-operative block: they’d have no right to settle here having passed through our official ‘border’ 1000’s of miles before they reach our shores. (via land, rail and continent to UK sea travel). Immigration is a European problem, full stop. Just ask the Italians, the Daily Mail might like to make out that it’s Britain against the world, but if we opened our eyes there’s clear room for European unilateral action to control and temper immigration to all of our benefits.

I think the European human rights legislation (despite the protestations of the Daily Mail) is bang on, Human Rights are none negotiable, how we interpret them in our legal system for criminals and immigrants needs sensible debate, but the fundamental rights of the individual to live without pain, humiliation, servitude, torture and with freedom of expression & association and discrimination are just that: fundamental. To often the ECHR and other human rights legislation is blamed for allowing rapists and pædophiles to walk the streets, that’s not human rights failures though, that’s a failure of our justice system to interpret the various bills, and a failure of politics in the UK to adequately caveat criminal legislation to ensure that those who break our laws or attempt to breach our controls on citizenship are always held to account within boundaries that protect the public in the first instance.

You might think that I’m a screaming integrationist because of this, but you couldn’t be further from the truth: indeed I think we need to fundamentally examine and change the way we  integrate European laws into our own, for too long we’ve taken everything and integrated it wholesale into our own law – something that almost no other nation in the Union does, that needs to change so we protect our national interests both personal and corporate more effectively. We also shouldn’t give up our Military; the idea of a European Armed Forces sounds wrong, we already have NATO – and we have provisions for nation state (and by proxy military) support of European nations written into the Lisbon Treaty, that’s as far as that needs to go. I also think that tax needs to be set locally, personally I’d prefer a flat rate system for all, (and that’s another article), but I don’t think that the EU presently has anywhere near the amount of consensus required, or indeed the amount of economic similarity between the various nations in the Union to harmonise our tax affairs successfully.

Other stuff though I’m more open to conversation about – I’d prefer Germany’s road laws for starters, but if you think for one minute I’d like their or the French, Italian or Austrian police systems you can think again. I think we should harmonise Europes extradition and immigration policies so it isn’t up to individual nations to support asylum seekers who travel into the EU, it should be a union wide issue. I love the idea of harmonised green energy requirements – not just by directive, but by treaty – it takes the wiggle room away from politicians that are happy to talk the talk but generally ignore the elephant in the room.

And you know what, I’m not going to stop there – the ferrying of MEPs between 2 (technically 3) locations, is outrageous, pick one place, and that’s where the affairs of the EU shall be carried out, travelling between Brussels and Strasbourg accomplishes nothing but burning cash. There also needs to be more direct power devolved to the people, presently the system is a mystery to most – so it needs transparency, especially within the groups that draw up the directives, what drives them – the interests they represent and the way they come to their respective decisions needs to be better understood. And finally (although far from finally I could wax about this all night) we need to do away with the worst policy ever implemented between European nations since the appeasement of National Socialism: the divisive, horrifically expensive, widely abused, anti-comptitive Common Agriculture Policy. It’s an unruly disaster that’s tainted an entire generation of politicians and laypeople against the EU, so in my view the quicker it’s dismantled the quicker all Europeans will be able to look their African neighbours in the eye, the quicker we’ll reduce friction between nations that have abused the CAP and those that haven’t, and most importantly the quicker we’ll cut the cost of running the EU in general: and cutting the size and cost of any element of government in my book can never be a bad thing.

There are plenty in UK politics that want to isolate us: and if there’s one thing we should learn from our own history is that Britain’s always been stronger, whether as an Empire or as part of the Allies against fascism and communism, when it co-operates closely with it’s friends: and for all of our sibling rivalry there’s no doubt that we’ve got plenty of friends in Europe.

Europe, the issue that just won’t go away.

For most people in the UK, Europe is just about Johnny foreigner wanting to straighten our bananas; or at least that’s the impression you get if you believe most news outlets and a good chunk of our politicians – the xenophobia toward Europe and the EU can be cut with a knife, it’s awful, cloying and destructive.

For year after year the rhetoric has become increasingly hostile: and in my experience it’s not representative at all: so you have to wonder why it’s allowed to continue? Well of course the media doesn’t help; the sillier aspects of the EU administratitive functions are easier stories, and you can add a twist of them against us that you just don’t get from the same administrative department in the UK doing exactly the same thing… but that’s just not it.

No, the problem lies much deeper: it’s entrenched in our politics – none of the major parties (and I include the Lib Dems here) have a cogent European policy, a policy that doesn’t waver depending on which hack they’re chatting with, or which audience they’re addressing. No one dare put their head above the parapet and tell the truth: and the truth is that we’re in it. We’re a respected major component of the EU, and we’re constantly frustrating our nearest neighbours by seemingly ignoring this power. The UK has again and again made specific accommodations in European legislation and European treaties for it’s own gain – the idea that we always come off worse is a complete fallacy.

What we need to do is engage – we need to leave this idea of the ‘Great’ Empire in the past, the ‘special relationship’ we have with our friends across the pond doesn’t get nearly the same scrutiny as the EU does: time after time the USA have screwed Britain over and yet the USA is still great? Just ask yourself, who is setting the agenda – don’t be led by a few hacks desperate for an stereotype driven story, and don’t listen to a politician that believes we’d be better standing independent of our neighbours: because they’re wrong. The world has changed, China, India, the whole Middle East and Russia are growing in power, and it’s a fool that thinks that we’re going to be entering into fair or balanced trade agreements with any of those economic zones… Just ask America about their trading woes with China and you’ll realise just how difficult a time our little island would have.

Europe and the EU are great things, they’re things that the UK should be front and centre in all the time, together we and our European neighbours are the largest economy in the world, we’re one of the largest armed forces groups, we’re the most diverse cultural and economic zone in the world. It’s about time the UK stood up and looked at just how damn strong we can be if we engage properly with Europe.

So Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Brown – come clean: let’s have your real positions on Europe, right here, right now.