What Are These Cretins Doing?

For the first time in 10 years fishermen have been granted the right to catch more North Sea cod.

A deal hammered out in Brussels today saw the North Sea cod quota increased by 11 per cent for 2008, after scientists reported an increase in cod stocks.

"A deal hammered out"? So we\’re still at that insane stage whereby politicians trade quotas around a table? No one has got to the point that this is a Commons, and that property rights have to be assigned for it to be managed?

It is hoped that the deal will stop fishermen having to throw dead cod back into the sea before returning to port because they have accidentally surpassed their quotas.

An estimated 800,000 tonnes of dead fish were thrown back into the North Sea last year.

That\’s the problem you stupid cretins! That we\’re throwing back more than we land!

Oh, and message to journalists. This does not mean that fishermen have been granted the right to catch more North Sea cod. It means they\’ve been granted the right to land and sell more of the cod they\’re already catching and killing. Put it that way please, so that more people see the lunacy of the current system.

If I ever do decide to become that most despised of things, a politician (and it\’s under serious consideration) then this would be my cause. The Common Ficheries Policy is based on the most absurd misunderstanding of the basic economics of fisheries themselves and as such needs to be torn down and replaced with something sensible as soon as possible.

Just one example of what a sensible system produces is contained in a recent paper (sorry, the reference is somewhere out there). When fish stocks are actually owned, the most profitable level of stocks for the fishermen is actually one above (yes, that is above) sustainable levels. So if we get those property rights correct, the allocation of them, we\’ve then solved all of our conservation problems at one stroke.

Grr.

Well Done Greenpeace!

I know, I know, you\’ll not see that sort of headline around here very often.

However. Which environmental NGO did not take European Commission money to lobby the European Commission?

Which environmental NGO got right up the noses of the Comissars by getting people to email them?

No, of course I don\’t agree with why they did so and yes, of course I know that they\’re Luddites who want us all to convert to eating yurts around the tofu fires.

But full marks to Greenpeace for actually being independent of the Commission so that they can effectively lobby the Commission.

Morons

I can tell you what the effect of this will be:

Britain looks likely to lose its fight against the EU’s proposed new rights for temporary workers. Employers argue that the change, which would give Britain’s estimated 1.3 million agency workers the same pay and workplace conditions as permanent staff, puts 250,000 jobs at risk.

Ministers have run out of allies in frantic behind-the-scenes talks to block the legislation, after finding themselves on the wrong end of a piece of classic EU horse-trading. All but four of the 27 member states have swung behind the plans, enough to force Britain to go along under qualified-majority voting.

The rights, which are due to be decided by EU employment ministers tomorrow, would apply to workers hired through an agency or other third party and would take effect a maximum of six weeks after a worker has been hired.

No temp job will last longer than five weeks and four days. This is an advance in what manner?

Cretins.

Super Lorries

Errm, has anyone actually thought this through?

Superlorries weighing 60 tonnes and measuring 80 feet in length could soon be hitting the roads as part of Government plans to cut down on costs and carbon emissions.

Every time we\’ve had an increase in the allowable weight of lorries on UK roads imposed upon us by the EU (and all previous ones have been, whether this one is I don\’t know)  we\’ve had arguments about the costs of upgrading the bridge and road network to cate to them. It slightly worries me that there is no mention of such costs here.

What the EU is Really About

This is really rather fabulous. How the EU really works:

One of the problems with the European parliament is that it is not quite a parliament at all. Its members have no powers to introduce legislation; that is the function of the European Commission – the executive of 27 unelected grandees, one nominated by each European government (ours, a nice parting gift from Blair to Brown, is Peter Mandelson). MEPs only have limited powers to amend or block legislation in consultation with the Council of Ministers, drawn from the national governments of each member state. Beyond controlling budgets the the parliament – the only directly elected European body – concerns itself largely with talking and hoping that the commissioners, and their 16,000 civil servants, are listening.

There are, it quickly becomes clear, in my lonely press box, several structural reasons why the latter is problematic. MEPs\’ speeches are rationed according to the relative size of each of the parliament\’s 10 party groupings. Speakers are generally granted a precise minute, or a minute and a half to hold the floor. This timing is projected, in Countdown-conundrum fashion, on a pair of big screens at the front of the chamber, and policed by a chairperson with an absence of humour and a gavel. There are various strategies for expanding your minute: some MEPs try to talk very fast and cram all their thoughts in one deep Slovakian breath; others, rebels, ignore the clock and talk for a maverick 67 seconds. Most, though – unloved politicians who have scraped through national ballots with 20 per cent turnouts – carefully fill the time with platitudes in the understanding that no one is paying attention (except, on this occasion, unfortunately, me). Their role is to be mock politicians in a mock debate, providing the European executive with a semblance of direct representation. The result, through headphones, is a repetitive, intangible stream of euro-consciousness; it is only when a speaker addresses the chamber in English, 20 minutes in, that I understand nothing is being lost in translation, and my heart properly sinks.

The debate is concerned with the consequences of globalisation, which, delegate after delegate agrees, is a big issue to which Europe must face up. Many believed that this facing up was urgent. Some thought it was vital. Others argued it was critical. At one point Annemie Neyts-Uyttebroeck ventured the opinion that Europe perhaps needed to \’help Africa develop economically\’, (polite applause), but regrettably did not have time to venture how this might be done; Ryszard Czarnecki similarly wondered if peace could not be promoted in South East Asia, (much nodding), while Sophie In \’t Veld called for \’better legislation for women\’ (who could argue?). The big screens displayed a rolling list of the next three speakers, like a book of the dead, and in this way perhaps the longest two hours and 20 minutes of my life passed in measured increments. There were several rhetorical devices that the format mitigated against: personal anecdotes, specific examples, jokes, argument, passion, anger, thought. In their absence I couldn\’t help feeling the debate lacked a spark. Eventually, the relevant commissioner, Margot Wallstrom, rose to release those present from their shared torment. \’We have this morning created a clear focus for the Lisbon Agenda,\’ she suggested. No one laughed.

As Wallstrom talked, the majority of MEPs were coming into the chamber for compulsory voting and their tide of chat inundated her summing up. Wallstrom was caught between the rock of having to shout (very un-European) and the hard place of having nothing at all to say. When she finally sat down the speaker thanked her for her \’courage\’ in the face of overwhelming indifference.

Go read the rest.

Health Tourism

This is going to open something of a can of worms:

Britons travelling abroad for health care, ranging from dental work to open heart surgery, will have their treatment funded by the NHS.

They will simply have to pay their travel and accommodation costs, plus any top-up fees if charges in the foreign hospital are higher than NHS costs.

Because, of course, any such rights in the EU apply to everyone.

The plans say that patients should not be given drugs or treatments that their own state system does not fund, and that where there are waiting lists, domestic patients should have priority over foreign patients. Beyond that, EU residents would be free to travel for non-emergency care in any of its 27 countries.

But I would assume that it would be only people who would be eligible in the home country for care who would be eligible in another for care. And it isn\’t true that all EU health care systems are in fact universal ones, not at all. Look at the withdrawal of French health care from early retirees for example (I think the reason is that they\’re not of an age to get pensioners\’ care an also have no income which is subject to the health care tax).

So the first necessity will be for each and every hospital in the EU to become expert in the eligibility standards of 27 different health care systems. Plus, of course, in the treatments and drugs available. So an English woman treated in France for breast cancer would be denied Herceptin, as she would at home, while a Scot or French one, in the same hospital, under the same oncologist, might get it.

That\’s going to be fun, isn\’t it?

 

Museum of Europe

Interesting:

A recreation of a torture chamber used during Spain’s Franco-era is shown at the temporary quarters of the Museum of Europe in Brussels. Organisers hope to open a permanent museum in the next few years that will illustrate the Continent’s road to unity after the Second World War. Scarlet lingerie, a Soviet ballistic missile and the good-luck charm of a Portuguese lorry driver are other unexpected items in the exhibition, called It’s Our History. Plans for a permanent museum have been delayed by legal, political and financial problems.

Wouldn\’t it be interesting to add a few more torture chambers? Post WWII we might have a Greek one (the colonels), a Portuguese one (Salazar et.al….after all Amnesty was founded to protest the jailing here of two students), so a trio from the Fascists. Then we\’d have a Lithuanian one, a Latvian one, An Estonian one, East German, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Slovene, Romanian, Bulgarian…or is torture by socialists not something we care to remember?

The Boy Dave (M)

Quite:

It is hard to make a speech about the European Union’s goals and not, at some point, seem to move beyond ambition to delusion. David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, failed to avoid that pitfall entirely yesterday

The Boy Foreign Secretary

Bold stuff:

He will suggest that by 2030 all cars purchased in the EU should have zero carbon emissions.

What an excellent suggestion. The response to which is "How"?

What technology are we to use? Electric? Hydrogen? Fuel cells? Chip fat?

In another bold move, he will suggest that by 2030 "we should consider extending the single market beyond our immediate neighbours, and to the Middle East and north Africa". This extended free trade area would not be an alternative to EU membership, but complementary.

I\’ve got a bold idea for you as well. Why don\’t we just declare free trade tomorrow? You know, with the globe? As we know, the gains from trade come from the imports we buy, not from the exports we make. So why are we waiting until 2030 to avail ourselves of this opportunity to make us richer? What is to be gained by waiting 23 years?

That Reform Treaty

Referendums on the new European Union Treaty were "dangerous" and would be lost in France, Britain and other countries, Nicolas Sarkozy has admitted.

Well, of course. That\’s why we\’re not getting such a vote, isn\’t it? Can\’t let the proles make the wrong decision now, can we?

Spectrum Auctions

Oh aye?

The new agency would have a say on cross-border issues. Among the most important will be the ability to tell countries how to apportion spectrum – in other words it would decide which frequencies can be used for wifi, or broadcasting TV to mobiles and digital TV sets.

As television sets across Europe switch from receiving analogue to digital signals, governments are planning to raise billions of pounds by auctioning off the analogue spectrum for other uses.

So what\’s the betting that a few years down the line spectrum becomes a common European resource with that money flowing to Brussels then?

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?