Europe as She is Governed

Most important, isn\’t it?

Apple wine, the tangy drink famed for its thumping hangovers, is fuelling a crucial election campaign in Germany, pitting regional patriots against the bureaucrats of Brussels.

The European Commission wants to strip the wine label from bottles of the cider-like drink, known locally as Ebbelwoi, on the ground that it is not made from grapes. Yet Ebbelwoi has been drunk, and marketed as wine, since the 16th century in the state of Hesse.

It is part of the region’s historical identity and tourist trade. Tens of thousands of visitors to Frankfurt travel to the apple-wine cellars and taverns of nearby Sachsenhausen to sample the drink, which usually contains between 5 and 7 per cent alcohol. It is often drunk with sugary lemonade, hence the headaches and a reputation, especially among Asian tourists, for loosening the bowels.

“We cannot allow this history, this original Hessian product, to be robbed of its tradition by a change of name ordained from above,” Martin Heil, manager of a leading apple-wine cellar, said.

Under the Commission proposal, tabled in July, the EU definition of wine should conform to the rules of the International Wine Organisation. It should be made from grapes, not apples or other fruit.

Yes, the government of 450 million people must indeed spend its time regulating the labelling of a 400 year old drink. Just as it has passed a law insisting that, for the purposes of jam making, carrots are fruit. With a fine of up to £5,000 or 6 months in jail for breaching said law. Yes, it\’s a criminal law, not civil, to insist that carrots, when in compotes, are not fruit.

Can we leave yet?

Good News Folks! We\’re Leaving!

Quite excellent news today then. We\’re going to be leaving the EU if Gordon Brown has his way.

The report cautioned: “The prosecution and conviction for the expression of non-violent opinions under certain provisions of the Turkish criminal code are a cause of serious concern. The number of persons almost doubled in 2006 compared with 2005 and there was a further increase in 2007. The Turkish legal system does not fully guarantee freedom of expression in line with European standards.”

Mr Rehn added: “It is not acceptable that writers, journalists, academics and other intellectuals . . . are prosecuted for simply expressing a critical but completely non-violent opinion.

If you don\’t have freedom of speech you can\’t be in the European Union. OK, seems fair enough.

Freedom of expression is in trouble too – possession of "extreme" pornography not covered by the Obscene Publications Act will be a crime. And freedom of speech gets another kicking, with a new crime for inciting hatred against gays, lesbians, the transgendered, and disabled people. Not that I\’m in favour of hating anyone, of course, but people should be free to express their opinions, repugnant or not.

As El Gordo wants us to not have freedom of speech, ergo, we have to leave the EU. A high price to pay, I know, but there it is, that\’s what ought to happen.

Peter Preston

What delightfully garbled logic. If we try to leave the European Union then:

It was there at the heart of the so-called constitutional treaty, but almost nobody noticed. It is there again in the reviled reform treaty, but no one has mentioned that so far. Turn to clause 57 and article 35, then: "Voluntary Withdrawal from the Union". Scan, for the first time, precisely how we\’d get out of Europe. You can (paragraph 1) decide to withdraw if you like. You must (paragraph 2) negotiate with the council of ministers. You\’ll need to agree the details of that withdrawal and a framework for future relationships with the EU. The European parliament will want to approve this, too.

Thereafter, every dotted line signed, you\’re out. The treaties of membership don\’t apply – unless (paragraph 3) there\’s still haggling to do over the small print; in which case, you\’re free from those obligations after two years while the argument goes on. But note (paragraph 4) that you\’re off the council the moment you signal your intention to pull out. You have no voice in other decisions the EU may take. The ministers who remain will use qualified voting. No vetoes apply.

So therefore we can\’t leave because it would all be too complicated.

Which really rather misses the point. All of this only comes into effect if the Constitutional Reform Treaty is ratified. The current situation is that we pass an Act of Parliament and we\’re out.

All of which means that it\’s a great deal simpler for us to leave now rather than later, doesn\’t it?

Michael Henderson on Little England

A quite excellent column, quite excellent:

Contrary to those who use the terms "Europe" and "EU" as synonyms, there is a difference between the two that even the bigots of Middle England recognise. Most English people are perfectly happy to acknowledge the existence of Europe.

After all, it is this island race that saved the continent from Napoleon and Hitler, so it could be said we have done our bit to maintain order.

But — and this cannot be stressed strongly enough — Europe is not the EU. One is a physical entity that has developed over centuries, and has given the world its greatest civilisation; a civilisation to which the people of this country have contributed in full measure.

The other is a sclerotic bureaucracy run by pen-pushers for the benefit of their own kind. To point that out is to exercise the scepticism that we expect from our elected representatives, who, in this case, are letting us down.

Both read it all and it\’s something of a cut out and keep piece I think.

The Bin Tax

So, some sense at least:

Gordon Brown has been forced to intervene to shelve controversial Government plans to levy "pay as you throw" bin taxes on millions of households across Britain.

Excellent. It would simply have led to an increase in fly tipping and thus a decrease in public health at the same time as increasing the total costs of the rubbish collection and disposal system. However, there\’s one further problem:

However, the decision to shelve the plan will infuriate local councils who face fines of up to £3 billion under EU laws if they fail to increase recycling.

How are these targets to be met and these fines to be avoided? I\’ve still not been able to find an argument in favour of these taxes in the first place. Other than "we must save resources" which is, as anyone who actually looks at the problem knows, drivel.

Can anyone tell me why they are being imposed? Anyone at all? Anyone point me to a justification of them? Don\’t get me wrong, a certain amount of recycling makes very good sense. Steel, copper and aluminium cans, for example, make straight economic sense all on their own. That\’s where we get the results from the WRAP report from: not, as many assume, a reduction in CO2 emissions from what we "will" recycle under the new schemes, but a counting of what we already acheive with what we already recycle. But because it makes sense to recycle some things does not mean it makes such to recycle all things. My consumption of a couple of thousand calories a day to keep body and soul together does not thus mean that my consuming twice or thrice that is a good idea now, does it?

There are things where, because of externalities, simple market pricing does not lead to the optimal calculation: for example, pricing in the methane from things rotting in landfills. But we\’ve solved that because now we collect said methane. We\’re also not running out of land for landfills, not in any way.

There are also things which cost more in emissions and in money to recycle than landfilling them would: these are things which make the environment worse if we do recycle them. Even WRAP tells us that green glass for roadfill is one of these.

So, other than the idea that the EU is a group of know nothing control freaks, why will we be fined if we continue to use the best, both economically and environmentally, method of waste disposal, landfill?

Seriously, is there anyone out there able to tell me why we have this lemming like rush to recycle? Willing to argue the point?

Err, Sir Brian?

Via Tim I see this letter in the Times.

Sir, You say that anything more than administrative changes in the EU treaty “must require a referendum and therefore a referendum is required” (“Cold Calculations”, leading article, Oct 23), and the Tories taunt the Prime Minister with the accusation that his reason for refusing a referendum is his fear of losing it.

In fact, that’s one, although not the only, perfectly rational and honourable reason for not holding a referendum. Not only the Tories but much of the Europhobic press would exploit the worst kinds of anti-European xenophobic prejudice to secure a “no” vote, not out of any genuine opposition to specific provisions of a treaty whose main purposes you yourself admit are necessary after EU expansion, but in the unacknowledged hope of bringing about Britain’s eventual exit from the EU.

If that is their aim, they should come clean about it: a referendum on British membership, as now advocated by the Lib Dems, could be a healthy way to lance the boil.

But for the UK, probably alone of all EU member states, to reject a treaty regarded by every single EU government as sound and necessary would make us the pariahs of the union, and may well result in our expulsion from it, an outcome that only a minority of the electorate seems to want.

Brian Barder
HM Diplomatic Service, 1965-94
London SW18

Now I don\’t just want the UK to leave the EU: I want the EU to not exist. Certainly, that makes mine an extreme opinion. But what would, despite it coming from such an acknowledged extremist such as myself, make the federast case a great deal stronger would be a proper cost benefit analysis of the UK\’s membership.

Like, perhaps, this one done by Patrick Minford?

Ah, sorry, my mistake. The reason that a cost benefit analysis is not done by said federasts is that it wouldn\’t support their case: the costs are vastly higher than the benefits. Thus we should leave, whatever else the Continentals want to get up to. If they wish to impoverish themselves then it\’s a free world, isn\’t it? No good reason that we should follow them down the plughole though.

Immigration, Immigration

An interesting little note for those worried about immigration.

There\’s really only four types of immigration.

1) From other EU countries. In law, we can do nothing to change this, as all EU citizens have an absolute right to live in any EU country.

2) Asylum seekers. Not a lot we can do as asylum is governed by UN measures.

3) Family reconciliation. This we can change if we should so wish. It would be instantly decried as racist (on pretty good grounds as well).

4) Primary migration from outside the EU. This is currently something which the UK does control. It\’s pretty small as compared to 1 and 3 but it is something which the UK Govt controls.

For the moment:

A single European work visa, to be known as a Blue Card, will be introduced alongside a global advertising campaign to attract thousands of “highly skilled” migrants, EU officials announced yesterday.

The visas, coloured blue to match the EU flag, are intended to rival the American Green Card by offering permanent residency anywhere in Europe after five years’ work.

The card will be targeted at qualified migrants who will be able to bring their families with them after a 90-day application period as part of a programme to meet an estimated short-fall of 20 million skilled and non-skilled workers by 2030.

“We will have a shortage of labour in the future and this is already true of some sectors,” said José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, announcing details in Strasbourg yesterday. Plans for a common EU approach to non-skilled workers are also in the pipeline to combat illegal immigration.

Of course, the Govt says that it has an opt out from this: one that actually means nothing as once someone is in the EU and legally so for two years then they can move anywhere else in the EU.

I\’ve no worries about the actual meat of the program: it\’s a points based one just as Canada or Australia run. Rather this is a heads up to all of those who do worry about immigration. If you actually want to be able to do anything about it, you have to understand that the only way that anything can be done is by leaving the EU.

 

 

The Constitution

Well, quite:

It is what the row about the European constitution is all about: what control do we have over our own destiny; and how do we call those who govern us to account?

Leave aside this specific document recently signed. Think about the larger situation. We, the Plain People of Britain, cannot throw out those who create 80% of our laws. Democracy has usefully been described as the ability to throw the bastards out.

Ergo, we are no longer  a democracy, as we cannot.

Anyone else not entirely happy with this situation?

How Nice of you Gordon

Stirring stuff, eh?

Gordon Brown has launched a desperate attempt to halt the campaign for an EU referendum with a high-risk pledge to block any further extension of Europe’s power for at least a decade.

The only slight problem is, having signed away the British veto on so many matters, they can extend their powers whatever you say. So that pledge is a little late, isn\’t it?

Something I don\’t Understand About the Federasts

Seriously, this isn\’t just a snide aside, I really don\’t understand the logic here:

This desire to move forward is partly driven by an acute awareness of the constantly changing position of Europe in the world. During the time we have be mulling over internal organisational matters, China has leapfrogged to become larger economically than a number of the bigger EU Member States. India, Brazil and others are moving fast up the inside lane.

As newly developing economies continue to grow, Europe\’s share of global economic activity will shrink. At the same time, global organisations are increasingly important in addressing the big issues – whether the WTO for trade or the UN International Panel on Climate Change.

Faced with this emerging 21st century world order, European countries have come to realise that their joint interests are best defended by being able to speak as one, with a strong united voice. Their collective weight means that they will still be able to remain very much in the game.

All of the international organisations (WTO, UN etc) work on the basis of one country one vote. So if we all get together we get one vote instead of 27. How does this increase our influence?

 

 

Boris and Damson Jam

Boris Johnson has a lovely piece about how to make damson jam: and how the EU might make it illegal for you to do so then sell it.

You can sell it to raise money for the church roof. You can sell it at the side of the road, and if all else fails I can think of worse careers. And yet there is a cloud on the horizon, at present no bigger than a man\’s hand, and it is the forthcoming review of the EU\’s 2001 directive on jams, jellies, marmalades and sweetened chestnut purees.

We all know how these reviews become consultations, and how consultations become regulations; and there is a chance that someone in Brussels may decide to bring home-made jam within the scope of the regulations — and then what? We jam-makers would be obliged to state, on oath, the exact sugar content. We might be obliged to warn that jam is a potential cause of obesity, and heaven knows what else.

It is absurd that this innocent industry should have this threat lowering over it, and it is all because of the qualified majority voting — the veto-abolishing system that will be greatly extended by the new reform treaty.

Wekk, quite, we can indeed imagine such a thing happening. This directive is, after all, the one that defines carrots as fruit (that any legal system should do such an inane thing is simply proof that said legal system is a nonsense and should be abolished but that\’s another matter).

However, looking through it, I don\’t see that it currently has any let out for home made jam. It would thus appear that it is already illegal to sell the stuff without declaring its sugar content.

Polly on the Reform Treaty

Hmm, looks like she\’s making that old mistake again:

The dysfunctional dominance of four newspaper groups, with four fanatical Europe-hating owners, will try to force a referendum.

Do media outlets create the opinions of their consumers or do they chase them? Is the Mail\’s immigrant lsbians building mosques will damage house prices something that Paul Dacre forces down everyone\’s throat or is he a masterly reader of the prejudices of Middle England (sad though it may be to think that that actually is hat motivates Middle England)?

As has been pointed out here many times before, the academic research seems to indicate the latter. Just as it is with almost all businesses: you find out what people want and then go and make it for them rather than make what you want and then force it people.

Only Margaret Thatcher, by demanding an exemption, allowed him to launch Sky on almost entirely US programming – against EU rules.

So if we had adhered to the EU rules there would be no Sky? Do we think that Sky is a positive or negative upon life? And thus whether those EY rules are a positive of a negative? Football would be wildly different if Sky did not exist, vastly poorer, for example. Consumer choice if wildly up as well: these are normally thought of as positives, aren\’t they?

We would join Switzerland and Norway on the outside, subject to EU laws on the single market but unable to influence them. That, of course, is what the Euro-crazies want.

Yup, exactly. That is indeed the minimum of what we want. Now the question becomes, why would that be a bad situation to be in? Can anyone provide rational arguments to bolster the view that this would be worse than the current situation? We\’d be free of CAP, of the CFP, of all of the federalising motions, we would have freedom of movement of capital, goods and labour across the marketplace: exactly what we\’ve always wanted anyway.

If desiring that makes me a Euro-crazy then please, sign me up.

Blog Action Day!

Yes, brought to you by the European Union, it\’s Blog Action Day. When we all blog on the one subject, the environment and how the EU can affect it. Most exciting, don\’t you think? TEBAF is with it, the Environment Commissioner will be having an internet chat this afternoon. So, what can we say about the environment and the EU?

Well, let\’s look at what they actually do. There\’s the insistence upon recycling rather than landfill. This leads to greater emissions of greenhouse gases, not fewer. For example, using a wormery to recycle garden waste creates NO2, while landfill creates methane. The overall effect of the two gases, in CO2 e terms, is the same. But we collect the methane and convert it to CO2, creating energy in the process. The NO2 just goes into the atmosphere. Thus a truly environmental program would landfill such waste, creating one 23 rd of the greenhouse gases than wormeries. And, yes, the EU does insist that we don\’t landfill such waste.

Then there\’s the biofuels program. One report says that such crops use more fossil fuels than they replace. Another that simply letting trees grow and burning fossil fuels would reduce emissions from the biofuels plan by 50% to 90%. Err, the EU insists upon 10% biofuels.

And what about EUTS? This is a cap and trade system, one in which the transerable rights are given away, not auctioned. The nett effect of this is that it works just like a carbon tax, but with a huge amount of corporate welfare thrown in.

And then there\’s the puerile idiocy of the Common Fisheries Policy and….well, make your own list.

So, with this track record, what can we say about the European Union and the environment? It\’s clear and obvious that the UK would be better off out of the system (that much is clear to suckling babes) but what is the best thing the European Union could do about the environment? Clearly, stop existing.

So there we have it, the simple and clear message to the European Union on this auspicious day of blogging for the environment.

Bugger off and die would you?

Moron

I\’ve just had an email asking me for money to support some federasts. Yes, I know, laugh. It was some French intellectual as well. Who says this:

Franck Biancheri expressed his deep belief that the European construction has now reached a crucial stage of its history and that the main challenge of this decade consists of being able to reconcile democracy and European unity; for otherwise the course of history will lead to a united but undemocratic Europe embodied by the emerging populist trends.

Look, Frankie, I hate to have to break this to you, but democracy is in fact populism. That\’s err, the point. What the mob wants, the mob gets. That\’s actually what democracy, the rule of the Demos, the mob, actually means.

A more reasonable campaign would be to protect democracy from European Unity: but that\’s something that Franck seems unable to understand. A more subtle approach might be to try and protect freedom and liberty from all three of the EU, democracy and the mob…..but then that\’s a very lonely furrow ploughed only by the most committed liberals,

 

 

Well, Quite….

*

Here\’s a flavour: "It\’s not a constitution – there is no anthem, no ancient Greek mottos. And although the EU\’s pooling of some powers to give Europe greater weight in the world will always be objected to by British diehards, we need to remember that for the little bit of influence over our own actions that we grant others, we get an equivalent measure of influence over theirs."

Speaking as someone who has zero interest in gaining a measure of influence over anything the Greeks, or Portuguese or Poles want to do with their justice systems, or much else beyond ensuring they guarantee free trade, I cannot see what there is for us in this ever-closer union,

 

Can They Do This?

I would be surprised if they could:

Romania is to limit the right of young doctors to work abroad after government figures showed that almost half were leaving in search of better paid jobs, causing serious staff shortages, Eugen Nicolaescu, the Health Minister, said.

I get the point of what they\’re trying to do: after you\’ve paid to train someone you\’d like them to stick around. But freedom of movement within the EU means just that, doesn\’t it? Not just entry into another country, but the right to leave one?

 

That Mandelson Peerage

So Tony Blair is not going to have a resignation honours list. Fine, whatever. However:

Some former Blair ministers, such as Peter Mandelson, would have expected peerages. Mr Blair is hoping that Mr Brown will give him a suitable award for his role in the creation of New Labour. Mr Brown would have to bury his differences with Mr Mandelson, who criticised his party conference speech last week.

Hmm. Not sure about that at all. Can you be a Commissioner if you\’re also a member of the legislature of a member state? Kinnock would have got a peerage for having been Leader of the Oppo: but he didn\’t get it untl afterhe had been a Commissioner. Chris Patten would have got one anyway for his Ministerial career: ditto, after leaving the Commission. In fact, I think it\’s pretty much settled that a retiring Commissioner gets a peerage anyway isn\’t it?

Only a minor point, of course, but I don\’t think that Mandy would have got one even if there had been a resignation honours list.

Guess Who Won\’t Be Getting This Cash?

Tebaf:

Civil society is encouraged to create its own forums for debate. The Commission will help NGOs to establish a network of websites where European issues can be discussed. A named contact point will be set up in each Commission department to allow a more equal access to the Commission by NGOs.

Me, nor anyone else who is critical of the institutions, or indeed of the institution itself. Funny that, isn\’t it? Duscussion never seems to include criticism.

Why not an NGO headed by Martin Tillack? We could make him our point man to "discuss" with OLAF.

Thank God We Have the European Union!

No really, I do mean it. Thank the Lord for the existence of the European Union.

For, as you will remember, they passed some laws a few months back that made roaming across international borders with your cell phone cheaper. Isn\’t that lovely?

Well, yes, indeed it is:

One especially lucrative business, however, has somehow escaped the Internet’s notice so far: international cellphone calls.

That’s about to change. Early next month, a small company called Cubic Telecom will release what it’s calling the first global mobile phone.

Now, most carriers offer special international plans: you pay more a month, you get slightly lower roaming rates. But even they can’t touch the appeal of Cubic’s cellphone. It makes calls to or from any of 214 countries — for 50 to 90 percent off what the big carriers would charge.

For example, consider this: at the MaxRoam.com site from Cubic, you can request local phone numbers in up to 50 cities at no charge. Now you can have a Paris number, a London number and a Mexico City number that your friends overseas can use to call your cellphone.

No longer must you hand out a series of international phone numbers for each trip you make, or expect your colleagues in the United States to pay $50 a pop to reach you.

Even that’s not the end of this phone’s possibilities. For a flat $42 a month, you can turn on its unlimited Wi-Fi calling option. It lets you receive unlimited unmetered calls to any numbers in the world from Internet hot spots, or make them for a penny a minute. Either way, you have little fear of racking up your bill.

But here’s the other dizzying news: Cubic’s cheap global dialing has nothing to do with the phone. The real magic is in the SIM card, the memory card that determines your account information.

So get this: For $40, you can buy this card without the phone. Cubic says that you can slip it into any GSM phone — even your regular T-Mobile or AT&T phone, as long as it’s an “unlocked” phone (one that works with other companies’ SIM cards). Then your own cellphone behaves exactly like the Cubic phone described up to this point, minus the Wi-Fi calling, of course.

So what\’s all this got to do with making roaming on the traditional networks cheaper? Well, by insisting that roaming is cheaper, they\’re compressing the pricing against which Cubic is competing: making it, therefore, more difficult for it to enter the market and prosper.

So the nett effect of the European Union regulations is to further entrench the incumbent Telcos at the expense of the upstart market entrant. That upstart being the one offering us 90% of roaming charges.

Thank God we have the European Union, eh?

Can we leave yet?