David Cameron Claims He Will Restrict EU Migration – Here’s Why He Can’t

Freedom of movement of workers within the EU is governed by the core EU treaties. The British government denies this and pretends it can restrict these rights without leaving the EU. Since that is not correct, I thought it would be worth quoting the relevant parts of the Treaties.

The full texts can be found on the EUR-Lex website, which provides access to all EU law.

So here are the relevant pieces:

Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (the “Treaty of Rome”, 1957, as amended)

Article 45

1. Freedom of movement for workers shall be secured within the Union.
2. Such freedom of movement shall entail the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers of the Member States as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment.

Treaty on European Union (the “Maastricht Treaty”, 1992, as amended)

Article 3

2. The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime.

Article 45

1. Freedom of movement for workers shall be secured within the Union.
2. Such freedom of movement shall entail the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers of the Member States as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment.

Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (2000, made legally binding by the Treaty of Lisbon, 2009)

Article 15

2. Every citizen of the Union has the freedom to seek employment, to work, to exercise the right of establishment and to provide services in any Member State.

Article 45

1. Every citizen of the Union has the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.

As you can see, it really is cut and dried. To amend the freedom of movement provisions would require amendments to these core Treaties of the EU. None of the other member states are going to be up for re-opening the negotiations on these core treaties, just to help David Cameron with his difficulties managing his divided Conservative Party. Indeed, it would be as ridiculous to suggest it as it would be to suggest that California should control migration of people from Texas.

Mr Cameron reckons he will produce proposals by Christmas. Good luck with that one, Mr Cameron.

José Manuel Barroso Goes Out in a Blaze of Mediocrity

PM welcomes José Manuel Barroso
Who’s Influencing Who? David Cameron with Jose Manuel Barroso
Image by G8 UK via Flickr

José Manuel Barroso is the outgoing Chairman of the European Commission. The Commission proposes all new law in the EU, so its Chairman is probably the most powerful man in Europe.

Mr Barroso has just been interviewed by the BBC.

He said that Britain would have “zero influence” if it left the EU. An interesting position to take, if you think about it. It implies that he and his friends take absolutely no notice of any countries outside the EU. Very revealing. I hope the Prime Ministers of Canada, Australia, South Africa, Brazil and Russia are taking note.

Mr Barroso said Britain could not negotiate with the US and China “on an equal footing” on its own.

Yes, Mr Barroso lives in such a dream world that he actually believes the US and China see him as an equal negotiating partner. I suspect the truth is that the US see him as a pawn and China see him as pretty much irrelevant in global terms.

We should remember once again how important an independent Britain actually would be. Certainly not a superpower, so not able to play superpower games. Not in the same league as Mr Barroso’s wannabe superpower, it goes without saying. But still important. Don’t believe me? Tell you what, let’s compare Britain with Canada.

Canada is an independent country living in the shadow of a more powerful neighbour, just as an independent Britain would be. In Canada’s case, it is the United States. In the case of an independent Britain, it would be the European Union.

The figures below are in dollars, because they come from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise stated.

First, the size of the economy. The figures for GDP are:

Britain – $2.4 trillion
Canada – $1.5 trillion

Britain’s economy is quite a bit bigger then. In fact, the UK has the ninth biggest economy of all the countries in the world.

Next up, population:

Britain – 64 million
Canada – 35 million

Britain has getting on for twice the population of Canada.

That brings us to GDP per head – how rich are individual Canadians compared with Brits? (I’ve used figures based on Purchasing Power Parity here, which takes out the distorting effect of exchange rate fluctuations.)

Britain – $37,300
Canada – $43,100

Fairly close. Canada is narrowly ahead here – as an independent country remember.

That is the economic picture. But what about military power?

Here are the figures for expenditure on the military:

Britain – 2.49% of GDP, amounting to about $60 billion
Canada – 1.24% of GDP, amounting to about $19 billion

We spend a lot more than Canada on defence then – in fact, three times as much. Do we get some bang for that extra buck? For that, we can get some figures from Wikipedia:

Britain – 205,850 active personnel (387,570 including reservists); 77 warships and submarines in the Royal Navy; 1169 aircraft in the Royal Air Force.

Canada – 68,250 active personnel (119,000 including reservists); 33 warships and submarines in the Royal Canadian Navy; 391 aircraft in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Obviously these figures don’t give the full picture, but you get the general idea. Britain is one of the strongest countries in the world, militarily speaking, lagging only behind the world’s superpowers. And we are, of course, a country with nuclear weapons. (Some of us think that is a bad idea, but that’s another story!)

For what it’s worth, we also have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, complete with a veto. That will not last if we stay in the EU, because eventually we will be forced to give it up in favour of the EU’s having the seat itself. But an independent Britain would have it.

Mr Barroso also said that free movement of people within the EU is an essential principle of the EU. In that he was of course absolutely right. After all, since the EU is a new country in its own right, not having free movement within it would be as absurd as not having free movement between California and Nevada.

Meanwhile our own government yet again were showing the extent to which they misunderstand the nature of the EU.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening told Sky’s Murnaghan programme: “Free movement of labour was never meant to be an unqualified principle, irrespective of how it might have worked on the ground.”

Wrong, Ms Greening. It absolutely was, and is, meant to be an unqualified principle. People should always have the right of free movement within their own country. If the EU is a country, and it is, expressly, by EU treaty, then of course there should be free movement within it.

People like Ms Greening really do believe the EU is a free trade area gone wrong. They actually believe it. They clearly have not read the EU treaties, or listened to EU politicians.

“Britain is stronger in the European Union,” Mr Barroso said, pointing to the Ebola crisis as an area where Britain would not have the same level of influence if it was outside the EU.

“David Cameron wrote to all of us about Ebola… What would be the influence of a prime minister of Britain if it was not part of the European Union?

“His influence would be zero.”

Being in the European Union, our Prime Minister can write to the other EU member states! And the result of Mr Cameron’s letter? Nothing, zero, zilch. It had no effect at all. In fact, Ebola is a case in point where Britain has acted, albeit weakly and insufficiently, and the EU has done absolutely nothing. It is also a case in point where British “influence” in the EU has had little effect.

You saw from the comparison above that Britain compares very favourably with Canada as far as economic and military importance are concerned. Consider then: does Canada have zero influence? More important, does Canada have more or less influence than Britain-in-the-EU? Or is it about the same?

Mr Barroso’s comments were demonstrable nonsense, unless they are interpreted as a pure threat to the recalcitrant people of the United Kingdom.

There you have it.

Britain in the EU: very little influence and destination to be part of another country.

An independent Britain: influence in the world likely to be comparable to Canada’s today.

True, we do not have a future as a superpower either way, even if we wanted it. But a future as powerful and influential as Canada is today is not half bad.

That is in the short term of course. There is another, wider picture too. Britain has strong links, resulting from our history of Empire, with the countries that are now in the Commonwealth. Those countries include Canada, South Africa and Australia, but also, crucially, India.

India was the “jewel in the crown” of the British Empire. India is growing almost as fast as China. As it develops economically, and with its population of more than 1 billion, India will in the future be the jewel in the crown of the Commonwealth as well. Perhaps it already is.

India will be one of the world’s superpowers, without a shadow of doubt. And here we are, uniquely well placed to have a “special relationship” with that country, similar to the one we had in the past with the United States.

Today, locked in the EU, we cannot talk with India on an equal footing. Outside the EU, we could. Suck it up, Mr Barroso. The Indians would do business with us in preference to you any day of the week.

The Commonwealth today has the potential to be much more significant in the world than Mr Barroso’s beloved EU. And we have the potential to be a truly leading member, at the heart of it, with people whom we understand, and who understand us.

That is where our future lies. It is a positive future, full of prosperity and yes, influence in the world. It is a much more attractive future than as a vassal of Mr Barroso’s inward-looking and declining fiefdom.

Why I Left the Tory Party Four Years Ago

A friend drew my attention to this article by Simon Heffer in the New Statesman.

How interesting to see Mr Heffer, who is a robust Conservative, writing in the traditionally Labour New Statesman!

The article is an analysis of why so many Conservatives have deserted the party for UKIP, and of the crisis in the Conservative Party brought about by the mistakes of its current leadership. It certainly struck a chord with me.

I thought readers might be interested to see my response to my friend, and I hope she will not mind my reproducing it here:

Thanks for sending that link. It’s a very interesting article, which even talks about me:

“people who have abandoned the party over disillusion with its policies and its failure to be more robustly and unapologetically conservative”

Yes, that just about sums it up.

There is one more point though: once somebody like me breaks with the Conservative Party, something happens. After a short while we stop thinking of ourselves as Conservatives. Our “tribal loyalty” is gone. That means winning us back will take much more than undoing the mistakes that drove us out in the first place.

The other problem that David Cameron has is this: he is facing a leader (Nigel Farage) who has far more charisma than he does. Once someone like me becomes part of Nigel’s army, the tribal loyalty is now to him. That means the Conservatives will not win me back whatever they do from now on. It is therefore too late for them to consider how to undo their mistakes.

Actually, it goes further. We have been treated as enemies (not even just as opponents, but as enemies) by the Conservative leadership. They hate us. With every UKIP victory, they hate us even more. “Fruitcakes, nutcases and closet racists” is not the language you use about your political opponents. Those are not criticisms or expressions of opposition. They are words you direct at people you hate.

The Conservative leadership hate me and everyone like me. I do think there is a “class” component to that hatred. Our response is twofold: to attack them and seek to bring them down, and to reach out to our former colleagues who remain in the Conservative Party. Many of them think like us and remain in that party only because of that tribal loyalty.

I do not know where this will all end. I do know that I despise David Cameron much more than Ed Miliband. Mr Miliband is an opponent, someone I disagree with. Mr Cameron is someone who has gone out of his way to turn me into his enemy.

Mr Osborne is Selling Eurostar – Covering the Interest on the National Debt for a Couple of Days

For Sale – One Not-So-Careful Owner
Image by Mike Knell via Flickr

The government have announced plans to sell their stake in Eurostar.

So far so good – there is a good case for believing that a private sector operator might run the service better, and invest more in it, than the government.

Except that the French State has first refusal on the stake, and I suspect is likely to buy it. That means the railway will still be in the public sector – just someone else’e public sector.

What is even more curious is the reason given for the sale. Said George Osborne:

As part of our aim to achieve £20bn from assets sales by 2020, the sale proceeds would make an important contribution to the task of reducing the public sector debt.

Britain’s public sector debt is somewhere in the region of £1.4 trillion.

That £20 billion will be one seventieth of the public sector debt. And that is the total asset sales due by 2020 – six years from now. The government hope that selling the Eurostar stake will raise £300 million, or one four thousand, seven hundredth of the debt.

Put it another way – the total asset sales over the next six years will raise the interest on the national debt for a bit less than six months. The sale of Eurostar will pay the interest on the national debt for a grand total of two and a half days.

Or yet another way – selling Eurostar will stop the debt rising for one whole day.

Some of the other assets included in that £20 billion of planned sales look distinctly dodgy as well. The BBC says they include “legacy Royal Mail pension assets” – which means the government would be selling the assets in the pension fund and conveniently forgetting its liability to pay the pensions. A good way to fund public sector debt perhaps – but not a reduction in it.

But let’s get back to those figures. A paltry £20 billion to be raised by asset sales over six years, and Mr Osborne thinks it will make an important contribution to reducing public sector debt. £20 billion. Compared with a deficit this year forecast at something over £100 billion and total debt of £1.4 trillion.

Wait! Surely Mr Osborne can’t have made the mistake of being confused between debt and deficit could he? Surely he doesn’t think that the £100 billion deficit is actually the debt? Surely he doesn’t think that the £100 billion that the government will add to its debt pile this year is the figure for the total debt?

Surely he couldn’t have made that mistake? Could he?

The Electoral Maths Give the Lie to David Cameron’s Delusions

Poor David Cameron. His delusions about UKIP are continuing. Perhaps they haven’t had time since the by-elections to hold focus groups to tell him what to think.

“What last night demonstrates is that if you see a big UKIP vote, you will end up with Ed Miliband as prime minister and Ed Balls as chancellor, Labour in power…”

Interesting. Let’s remind ourselves of that vote in Heywood and Middleton – one of Labour’s “safe seats” – shall we?

Labour – 11,633
UKIP – 11,016
Conservative – 3,496
Lib Dem – 1,457
Green – 870

It was UKIP who were challenging Labour in that by-election. Not the Conservatives. They were crushed in that by-election. In fact, the paltry Conservative vote kept UKIP out. If the Conservatives had not stood in Heywood and Middleton, UKIP would without a shadow of doubt have won.

On the other hand, if UKIP had not stood, would the Conservatives have won? Not a chance. In 2010, before the UKIP surge, the Conservatives were 6,000 votes behind Labour in that seat. And that was in a general election in which the Conservatives overall emerged as the largest party.

The Conservatives never had a chance in the Heywood and Middleton by-election, and that would have been just as true if UKIP did not exist. UKIP’s involvement in that by-election very nearly robbed Labour of that seat.

What about Clacton then? UKIP trounced the Tories there. Those were the headlines. But what happened to Labour in Clacton?

In the general election, Labour polled 25% of the vote in Clacton. In the by-election on Thursday Labour got 11%. The intervention of UKIP did not boost Labour. In fact, previously Labour voters deserted Labour and voted UKIP instead – to keep the Conservatives out. It was that tactical voting that the Conservatives and Labour have been championing, this time working against them.

Where was the threat of a Labour government then? In Heywood and Middleton, UKIP almost took the seat, which Labour had held since it was created in 1983. Where even Margaret Thatcher’s rampant Tories failed in 1987, UKIP very nearly succeeded in 2014. In Clacton on the other hand, it was UKIP who won the seat and the Labour and Conservative votes both fell.

In both by-elections, the rise of UKIP led to a fall in vote share for both Labour and the Conservatives.

The message from those by-elections is that if you vote UKIP, you may well indeed get UKIP, as they did in Clacton and almost did in Heywood and Middleton. Even if UKIP don’t actually win though, where is the evidence that UKIP are damaging the Conservatives but not Labour?

The truth is, UKIP are damaging both Conservatives and Labour. In the North, UKIP are now the main challenger to Labour. In the South, UKIP are the main challenger to the Conservatives.

All of which leads me to our First Past the Post electoral system. It has been supported by the Conservatives and Labour for one simple reason: they believe that it preserves their own power. It had that effect in the past, because in truth, both Labour and the Conservatives are regional parties. The South was Tory territory, and the North belonged to Labour.

A national party like UKIP found it hard to break that stranglehold. Even with a decent vote share, UKIP could have ended up with no seats. First Past the Post helps regional parties like the Tories and Labour. BUT that is only true if those two parties are far ahead in the polls.

As the UKIP vote has risen, we have now reached the point where First Past the Post is beginning to damage the Conservatives and Labour. In the North, the Conservative vote is being squeezed by UKIP as Conservative voters try to keep Labour out. In the South, the Labour vote is being squeezed by UKIP as Labour voters try to keep the Conservatives out.

The tactical voting that is encouraged by First Past the Post could cost the Conservatives and Labour dearly next year.

In fact, it is mathematically very easy to imagine UKIP coming third in the popular vote but ending up as the largest party in parliament! And all because of that First Past the Post electoral system that David Cameron is so wedded to.

There has been an interesting change in the mood music coming from the Tories. On Friday Grant Shapps, Conservative Party chairman said this:

“Here’s the truth. UKIP say they take votes from everyone but in reality they take seats from Conservatives.”

In reality UKIP take seats from the Conservatives. Not votes, mind. Seats.

They are finally beginning to realise that the UKIP are on course to take seats in Westminster.

The BBC article ends with this:

Owen Jones, columnist for The Guardian, told the BBC the by-election results showed “our entire political elite is a walking, talking disaster”.

He said the Conservatives and the Labour leadership had “failed to provide solutions to the everyday problems of people”.

I am quite sure that even Nigel Farage could not have put it better.

More Doubts on MH-17

The BBC reports a new development on the MH-17 air disaster.

You will remember that MH-17 was a Malaysian Airlines airliner that was shot down over Ukraine back in July. All the passengers and crew were tragically killed.

The official Ukrainian and Western explanation has been that the aircraft was shot down by a BUK ground-to-air missile system supplied by Russia and operated by the Ukrainian rebels. Indeed, NATO has been clear that the evidence for this is overwhelming.

The Russians have put forward an alternative idea: that the plane was shot down by the Ukrainian Air Force. The case for that is well summarised in this article in the New Straits Times.

This theory has been rubbished by NATO and by the Ukrainian government, and pretty much ignored by the Western media. They have been adamant that the rebels were responsible.

I have previously on this blog said that I think it is more likely that the rebels shot down the airliner. However, there is very much still doubt on the matter – regardless of the posturing from NATO.

Now today we have this new development.

The Dutch Foreign Minister, Frans Timmermans, has said that one of the passengers was found with an oxygen mask on. Mr Timmermans was defending an emotional speech that he had made to the United Nations in July.

When asked on Wednesday night if he had created an image that had not really taken place, Mr Timmermans said: “Oh yes? Can you be so sure about that?”

He acknowledged that those on board, 196 of them Dutch, would not have seen the missile hit the plane.

“But do you know that someone was found with an oxygen mask on their mouth – and so they had the time to put it on?” Mr Timmermans said.

If this is true, it is evidence for the Russian theory of what brought down the airliner.

If the airliner had been downed by a BUK missile, it would have broken up immediately. The oxygen masks would not have had time to descend, let alone a passenger had time to put one on.

However, that alternative explanation, involving the Ukrainian Air Force, was that an air-to-air missile was used against the airliner, and then it was finished off with cannon fire.

In the interval between the missile and the cannon fire, there might well have been time for an oxygen mask to be put on.

It is possible of course that Mr Timmermans was being over-graphic in his description and that the detail about the oxygen mask is not true. But this does add to the already-existing doubt surrounding this awful tragedy.

UPDATE: A reader in the comments has linked to evidence that Mr Timmermans has indeed withdrawn his comments. That still leaves the cause of the disaster unclear, but it seems that Mr Timmerman’s oxygen mask statement was plain wrong.

UPDATE 2: There is more on this (in English) on Deutsche Welle here. Although it is true that one passenger was found wearing an oxygen mask, it is not known how he came to be wearing it, as no traces of DNA, saliva or fingerprints could be found on the mask.

To Nick Clegg: Being Nice Doesn’t Make You Fit for Government

Nick Clegg has been making his leader’s speech at the Liberal Democrat conference.

The massed (but dwindling) ranks of assembled Liberal Democrats listened as he outlined their party’s approach to trying desperately to stay relevant in British politics.

He attacked the “bitter tribalism” of British politics – before bitterly attacking the Labour tribe as having “nothing to say” and the Tory tribe on the grounds that “compassionate Conservatism” is “dead and buried”.

He said that the Liberal Democrats would borrow less than Labour, and cut less than the Tories – and also promised tax cuts for 29 million people.

Let’s see now. Borrow less. Cut less. Tax less. Er… doesn’t add up, does it? No wonder he said the Liberal Democrats stood for “a different kind of politics”. It sounds in fact as though they stand for a different kind of maths as well.

The centre-piece of Mr Clegg’s speech was a promise to put improving mental health services at the centre of the party’s manifesto at the next election.

He also promised to make the mental health changes a “red line” in any coalition negotiations after the election. Always assuming, of course, that his party has enough MPs to be relevant in those negotiations.

Mental health services is a very worthy issue. Indeed, the County Council on which I sit passed a motion about improving them recently, with support from all four political groups. But is it enough to be a vision for Britain’s future?

Every political party needs a fundamental reason to exist. A vision for the country’s future, or (more old-fashioned) a class of people whom they will champion. It seems the Liberal Democrats have neither. They are not the nasty party. They are the nice party. But being nice is not enough to make you fit for government.