Libertas vs. the Lisbon Treaty

Libertas has been campaigning loudly (and expensively) against the Lisbon Treaty, which now involves taking out full-page ads in local newspapers. In these ads, they repeat several old pieces of dressed-up nonsense about the Treaty. I reproduce them here in full for the purposes of dissection.

8 Reasons to Vote No to Lisbon

1. Creates an unelected President and a Foreign Minister of Europe

The new President and Foreign Minister for Europe will be appointed by the European Council by qualified majority vote. Although many of the terms and conditions of these roles have yet to be decided, they will be committed through the Lisbon Treaty to “drive forward” the agenda of the Council and discussions have already taken place to provide a presidential palace and executive jet for the President.

There is no such thing as “President of Europe”, and Libertas’s use of the term is deliberately misleading. The Treaty merely changes the existing part-time position of “President of the European Council” to a full-time job. Currently each head of government takes it in turn to be President for six months at a time, in addition to their real job. The President’s role is comparable to that of Secretary General of the UN.

The so-called “Foreign Minister” is similarly misrepresented. The EU already has a Foreign Relations Commissioner, whose brief will be expanded by Lisbon. Matters of foreign policy will remain subject to national veto, so the Foreign Representative will only be able to act if and when all governments have come to an agreement.

The agenda of the Council is set by the members of the Council, i.e. national heads of government. The Council President and Foreign Representative are appointed by the Council to help the Council get its job done – that’s what “drive forward the agenda” usually means. There is nothing remarkable about this.

The EU has considerable clout in the world, but has a very fragmented governance system which makes it hard for non-EU countries to deal with it effectively. These proposals introduce some needed continuity into the EU’s external relations. By using terminology that deliberately and misleadingly evokes the trappings of statehood, Libertas are attempting to turn these sensible proposals into bogeymen.

2. Halves Ireland’s voting weight while doubling Germany’s

The Lisbon Treaty would implement a new system of voting by the European Council which is primarily based on population size. This means that Ireland’s voting weight would be reduced from 2% at present to 0.8% if the Treaty was implemented, while Germany’s would increase from 8% to 17%.

Libertas have deliberately left out the rest of the new voting rules, which state that measures must be passed by 55% of the member states, representing at least 65% of the population. This was specifically designed to protect the interests of the smaller states. They also neglect to mention that Ireland (and all other small states) will remain significantly over-represented in the European Parliament.

Representation based on population is fair, especially when combined with protection for smaller states. The current voting system is based on arbitrary voting weights that were drawn up in back-room deals in which some countries got short-changed.

3. Abolishes Ireland’s Commissioner for five years at a time

The Lisbon Treaty proposes to reduce the number of Commissioners to two thirds of the number of member states. This would mean that, on a rotating basis, Ireland would have no seat for five years out of every 15 in the body that has the monopoly on initiating legislation. This would clearly affect a small country like Ireland to a far greater extent than, for example, Germany which is having its voting weight doubled under the Treaty.

This does not “clearly” do anything of the sort. They repeat their over-simplification of the new voting system, and again they forget to mention Ireland’s over-representation in Parliament, which is involved in amending all Commission legislation. They also gloss over the fact that a country of 4 million having the same status in the Commission as one of 80 million is the epitome of small-country power.

By contrast, under the current system they simply can’t find enough work for 27 Commissioners to do, and the problem of overstaffing will only get worse as more countries join.

4. Opens the door to interference in tax and other key economic interests

Article 113 of the Lisbon Treaty specifically inserts a new obligation on the European Council to act to avoid “distortion of competition” in respect of indirect taxes. The proposals for a common consolidated tax base and the commitment of the French government to pursue it combined with a weakening of Ireland’s voice in Europe through the loss of a permanent Commissioner and halving of its voting weight represent a clear and present danger to our tax competitiveness.

The CCTB can be vetoed at any time by Ireland under either the old or new systems. Commissioners and voting weights have absolutely nothing to do with it.

5. Hands over power in 60 areas of decision making to Brussels

The Lisbon Treaty provides for more than 60 areas of decision making from unanimity at present to qualified majority voting. Some of those areas include decision-making on immigration, sport, culture, transport and the appointment of the European President and Foreign Minister.

This is true. Whether you think it’s a bad thing or not all depends.

6. Gives exclusive competence to Brussels over International Trade and Foreign Direct Investment

For the first time, under the Lisbon Treaty foreign direct investment would become an exclusive competence of the EU as part of its common commercial policy. This means that the tools which have been used so successfully by the IDA to attract tens of thousands of jobs to Ireland will become the sole preserve of the European Union and the Irish Government will have to seek permissions

They mention international trade in the heading but not the body. This is because international trade has always been the exclusive competence of the EU and Europe as a whole has benefitted enormously from the arrangement. Foreign direct investment has come to Ireland for many reasons – mainly the English language and favourable tax rates, neither of which are threatened by Lisbon.

7. Enshrines EU law as superior to Irish law

On June 12th we will be voting on the 28th amendment to the Irish Constitution which clearly restates the following:

11° No provision of this Constitution invalidates laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the State that are necessitated by the obligations of membership of the European Union referred to in subsection 10° of this section, or prevents laws enacted, acts done or measures adopted by the said European Union or by institutions thereof, or by bodies competent under the treaties referred to in this section, from having the force of law in the State.”

Not this old canard again (it’s a perennial favourite of British Eurosceptics).

Note the use of the word “restates”. This is because EU law has always been superior to national law. If countries were free to contradict any EU law they liked (or didn’t like), it wouldn’t be worth the paper it was written on. That’s how it works.

Lisbon changes nothing.

8. The Treaty can be changed without another referendum

Article 48 of the Treaty enables changes to be made to it after ratification without the constitutional requirement for another referendum in Ireland. This is confirmed by the independent Referendum Commission on its website which states: there “may” be a requirement for a referendum to implement such changes.

Yes, but only some provisions may be so amended, and all such changes are subject to national veto. A referendum is required in Ireland if (and only if) the Irish Constitution needs to be amended – this is a matter of Irish constitutional law and is unaffected by Lisbon.

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14 thoughts on “Libertas vs. the Lisbon Treaty

  1. Please Irish People, in the name of Europeans peoples , vote NO !

    See the comments below this french article http://www.liberation.fr/actualite/monde/330142.FR.php
    Most of the commentators wish Ireland could vote NO.

    If ever it’d happened, this would be a huge slap in the face of the European Commision technocrats who are completely disconnected from reality. The current way the European Union is designed is mainly in the interest of politicians, media and corporations and definitely not in the interest of the majority of the people.

    If ever Ireland voted YES, Europe would become the poodle-puppet of the USA, specially into military domains.

    Please, be wise, vote NO and do not fear the pressure of the press and of politicians.

  2. “The current way the European Union is designed is mainly in the interest of politicians, media and corporations and definitely not in the interest of the majority of the people.”

    I suspect Microsoft might disagree with you there.

  3. I hope the Irish vote no, even though it will mostly be for the wrong reasons. Of course, it doesn’t matter if they do vote no – they will simply have to vote again until they make the “correct” choice. The French and Dutch have already rejected this constitution, sorry treaty, (perhaps for opposite reasons!), but the will of the people is only ever a temporary inconvenience for the leaders of the EU.

    This is because EU law has always been superior to national law.

    This is what I object to. IMO, the EU has no right to be superior to any national law. There is no unified European identity or demos to require and legitimize a supernational body holding legal superiority. The EU is corrupt, unaccountable, and has utter contempt for the people of Europe. I honestly do not see any good reason for it to exist – any benefits it has brought, for example freedom of movement, could have been mutually agreed by the national states anyway, as the EU has done with other countries like Norway and Switzerland.

    I would prefer to see the nations in Europe (and others) co-operating in different single-issue groupings in specific areas (e.g. NATO, ESA, CERN, ECMWF, etc), according to each nation’s individual preferences and abilities. All the issues of vetos, qualified majority voting, voting rights, Commissioners etc, completely disappear if every country simple chooses to adopt (or not, or repeal) in a national law any legal idea discussed between different nations.

    I suspect Microsoft might disagree with you there.

    I suspect the decision may have been different if Microsoft was a European rather than an American company.

  4. Hi, Ed. I was waiting for you to weigh in on this one ;-)

    I hope the Irish vote no, even though it will mostly be for the wrong reasons. Of course, it doesn’t matter if they do vote no – they will simply have to vote again until they make the “correct” choice.

    I think that’s a misrepresentation. When Nice was put to a second vote, it was after amendments were attached to the treaty clarifying Ireland’s right to remain neutral. The politicians were told by many people that the neutrality issue was the main sticking point and they dealt with it, apparently to the satisfaction of voters.

    And the Lisbon Treaty is not the same as the Constitution – most of the really controversial bits have been left out.

    IMO, the EU has no right to be superior to any national law. There is no unified European identity or demos to require and legitimize a supernational body holding legal superiority.

    You have your strongest argument here. I’m quite partial myself to Jefferson’s idea of the “consent of the governed*“. The question is, to what extent do the people of Europe consent? From personal experience, I find most people I know from other European countries (granted, generally University-educated) agree with the idea of the EU in general, and feel European. This is not to say they agree or disagree with specific policies, but they do meet at least some of the requirements of a “demos”. On the other hand, I find them generally unfamiliar with specific legal issues such as the content of the Lisbon Treaty – but then again I doubt they are experts in their national constitutional law either. (How many of your friends know how the Parliament Act works?).

    As a counterexample, it is questionable that a UK demos actually exists. Scottish politics revolves around significantly different issues than in England, but at least they have the same political parties. Northern Ireland politics, by contrast, is completely disconnected – two of the three main UK parties don’t even stand there, and the Conservatives regularly come 7th or 8th in elections. We may be familiar with general UK issues because we see them on TV, but most of them have no effect on us. Abortion term limits, for example.

    The EU is corrupt, unaccountable, and has utter contempt for the people of Europe.

    Hehe, you should come to the RoI and see real corruption at work. The Lisbon treaty makes the EU more accountable, by giving national parliaments a role in EU legislation for the first time. Personally I think it should go farther by making the Commission directly accountable to the European Parliament – European elections might actually be worth turning out for. But unfortunately I agree that Valery Giscard d’Estaing is contemptible. Luckily he’s not in the running for President of the Council… I hope.

    I honestly do not see any good reason for it to exist – any benefits it has brought, for example freedom of movement, could have been mutually agreed by the national states anyway, as the EU has done with other countries like Norway and Switzerland.

    Norway is a prime example of Hobson’s choice. The EU is big, and they are small. Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein in particular have negotiated a one-sided deal which makes them part of the single market but gives them no influence whatsoever over single market policy. In a Europe without effective supranational institutions, all smaller countries would have to go along with what the biggest countries did or lose out. Take the USA’s unequal relationship with Canada and Mexico, for example. Is it better to have an EU where common rules apply and everyone has a say, or one where Germany and France decide something between themselves (you know that they will) and everyone else has to follow behind?

    I would prefer to see the nations in Europe (and others) co-operating in different single-issue groupings in specific areas (e.g. NATO, ESA, CERN, ECMWF, etc), according to each nation’s individual preferences and abilities. All the issues of vetos, qualified majority voting, voting rights, Commissioners etc, completely disappear if every country simple chooses to adopt (or not, or repeal) in a national law any legal idea discussed between different nations.

    Fair enough. I don’t think they would get much done this way though. You’re basically talking about a United Nations of Europe, and we all know how effective the original of those is.

    I suspect the decision may have been different if Microsoft was a European rather than an American company.

    The EU has blocked many mergers of European companies on antitrust grounds, although none of them are as high-profile as Microsoft.

  5. Hi, Ed. I was waiting for you to weigh in on this one ;-)

    Glad I didn’t disappoint :-)

    And the Lisbon Treaty is not the same as the Constitution – most of the really controversial bits have been left out.

    Have they? Reading the quote from Giuliano Amato here

    http://www.europeannocampaign.com/351.html

    I can’t say that I trust them. It’s all in how it is interpreted later. The Americans have a much simpler and more elegant constitution, and they are still arguing over the original bits 200+ years later.

    I find most people I know from other European countries (granted, generally University-educated) agree with the idea of the EU in general, and feel European.

    Agreed. But which level of government has their first loyalty? Are they willing to sacrifice their national interest for what is best for Europe? e.g. are Germans willing to pay massive tax transfers to the likes of Italy to even out the economic divergence that threatens the Euro?

    If we are all European now, why is there more than one team from the EU in Euro 2008? :-)

    As a counterexample, it is questionable that a UK demos actually exists.

    Agreed. If anything, it seems people want smaller political entities, not larger. Many Scots want independence, even after being part of a very successful grouping for 300 years. Many English completely agree. Then we have the Welsh, Basque, Catalans, Corsicans, Cornish, Bretons, etc. Now whether it would be a good idea for any of these groups to get independence from the countries they are currently part of is debatable, but there is popular support within these regions (to differing extents) for it.

    Someone once said:
    ‘Ernest Renan put it aptly more than a hundred years ago when he defined a nation “as a group of people united by a mistaken view of the past and a hatred of their neighbours.”‘

    I don’t think we are at this stage yet in Europe as a whole. :-)

    Hehe, you should come to the RoI and see real corruption at work.

    Not much different here these days. The key thing for any demos is not so much choosing their government, it’s knowing that they can, when necessary, get rid of them ( by voting or by pitchforks, ropes and lampposts as required). Larger groupings make this harder to arrange.

    Norway is a prime example of Hobson’s choice. The EU is big, and they are small.

    They seem to be doing OK despite this! OK, Norway will not have any trouble selling their major export products (oil and gas) – this may not apply to other countries. However, there is the argument that the benefit of trade is not what we export but what we import, hence a successful trade negotiation could be simply saying “Hello, we’re over here. Please sell us some stuff”. Switzerland also seems to do OK, and Iceland’s current problems are not EU related. Liechtenstein is getting pushed around a bit over banking secrecy, but on the whole has also done OK, given it has a population little bigger than Newry.

    … everyone else has to follow behind

    Falling behind is only a problem if they are heading in the correct direction! This is why I laugh at the great fear that the UK could be left in the slow lane of a two speed EU. I would prefer a 27 speed EU.

    You’re basically talking about a United Nations of Europe

    Not really – I don’t see a need for an overall umbrella organisation in Europe like the UN is on a world-wide basis. The interactions can be on a more ad-hoc basis, and hopefully occur at a lower level, without the need for direct involvement by government ministers.

  6. Have they? Reading the quote from Giuliano Amato here

    Wow, they’ve collected all the usual bogeymen on one page. It reminds me of discussions on the old ISCA foreign affairs board where one guy called Salaam used to misquote one interview by Golda Meir ad nauseam as if her personal opinion were the only evidence required to prove the guilt of Israel.

    The Americans have a much simpler and more elegant constitution, and they are still arguing over the original bits 200+ years later.

    An alternative view is that the US constitution is too simple. Take the particularly contentious 2nd amendment:

    A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    That’s all it says. Does “the People” mean any individual under any circumstances? Or does it only apply to organised militias? How “well regulated” does a militia need to be? The fashionable “original intent” doctrine takes the writers’ meaning rather than the literal text to be paramount, which is rather like Alice trying to decipher Humpty Dumpty. US constitutional law discussion often takes on the language of theology.

    European treaties, on the other hand, tend to be written in longhand legalese. This makes it difficult for laymen to understand, but easier for the courts to deal with. We haven’t got to the stage where the personal politics of individual judges have as great an influence over fundamental policy as in the US (see also: abortion).

    Agreed. But which level of government has their first loyalty?

    Most people are quite comfortable with multiple levels of government. There’s always a tension between centralism and decentralism, and always a debate about where powers should reside. I think it should be possible to find a balance.

    are Germans willing to pay massive tax transfers to the likes of Italy to even out the economic divergence that threatens the Euro?

    Does economic divergence threaten the Euro these days? I haven’t heard much said about it in a while. And we do pay already, in the form of the structural funds, which aren’t particularly controversial.

    If we are all European now, why is there more than one team from the EU in Euro 2008? :-)

    :-p

    Someone once said:
    ‘Ernest Renan put it aptly more than a hundred years ago when he defined a nation “as a group of people united by a mistaken view of the past and a hatred of their neighbours.”‘

    I don’t think we are at this stage yet in Europe as a whole. :-)

    Oh, I dunno. Anti-American and anti-Russian sentiment is pretty high at the moment. ;-) Although it does seem to be either one or the other, depending on what country you’re in…

    The key thing for any demos is not so much choosing their government, it’s knowing that they can, when necessary, get rid of them ( by voting or by pitchforks, ropes and lampposts as required). Larger groupings make this harder to arrange.

    Yep. Which is why I support the concept of the Commission being directly accountable to the EP, so we really could vote the bastards out.

    OK, Norway will not have any trouble selling their major export products (oil and gas) – this may not apply to other countries.

    Yes, but the oil’s running out. Meanwhile they continue to adopt new EU regulations into national law without any representation in the decision making process. I’m not sure that situation is tenable in the long run.

    However, there is the argument that the benefit of trade is not what we export but what we import, hence a successful trade negotiation could be simply saying “Hello, we’re over here. Please sell us some stuff”.

    Surely balance of trade has something to do with it…?

    Falling behind is only a problem if they are heading in the correct direction!

    No, that’s what I meant. If you don’t have any say in the decision-making process, you may be put in a position where you have to go in the direction you don’t like, just because everyone else has already done it.

    I don’t see a need for an overall umbrella organisation in Europe like the UN is on a world-wide basis. The interactions can be on a more ad-hoc basis, and hopefully occur at a lower level, without the need for direct involvement by government ministers.

    There already is loads of stuff done at low levels. But not everything can be done ad-hoc. Creating the single market requires (it’s still not finished) modifying thousands of pieces of national legislation. That’s a lot of work and it does need to be organised at the highest level.

  7. they’ve collected all the usual bogeymen on one page

    Unfortunately these bogeymen (excluding Gisela Stuart, who doesn’t qualify for bogey status here, nor man obviously!) were the ones selected to write the constitution.

    ISCA

    Brings back memories…..

    This makes it difficult for laymen to understand, but easier for the courts to deal with.

    Yes, it isn’t a good idea for individual judges to determine what the law actually means, but overly complicated documents, especially something that is supposed to be a constitution, are not good either. How can the public feel that it is something they should uphold and defend, if they cannot understand it? A complicated constitution is a very convenient excuse for those in power not giving the public a vote.

    Does economic divergence threaten the Euro these days?

    The strong Euro is OK for Germany, because they have adjusted their costs (painfully) over the past few years to cope. Unfortunately, other countries such as Italy got their houses somewhat in order to join the Euro, but didn’t keep the discipline necessary afterwards.

    structural funds, which aren’t particularly controversial.

    Does Ireland still get any? They probably shouldn’t, given that they are now one of the richest countries in Europe per capita. Also, it is one thing to pay structural funds to countries that are far behind the rich ones, as e.g. Ireland and Spain were, and the Eastern European ones are now. It another matter when you have to pay for the bad economic policies of another “rich” country. In other words, without a co-ordinated fiscal policy, will the Euro survive in the long term? The next few years should certainly be a good test.

    I support the concept of the Commission being directly accountable to the EP, so we really could vote the bastards out.

    OK, this would be an improvement, but not much. Does the EP ever change much from election to election? Marshalling the support for a complete change is difficult, which probably comes back to the lack of a unified demos. The fact that the EP doesn’t like having to follow its own rules is very worrying:

    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/politics/danielhannan/jan08/despotisminparliament.htm

    Norway…continue to adopt new EU regulations into national law without any representation in the decision making process.

    I read somewhere (sorry, can’t find the reference, and it may have been Switzerland) that they have adopted 3,000 EU regulations, compared to the 100,000 in force here.

    Surely balance of trade has something to do with it…?

    Possibly, but of course you do not have to have a balance with each individual trading partner. Also, if your domestic economy generates sufficient wealth per year, surely you can always afford the imports?

    Someone once said that trade negotiations were basically “I’ll stop throwing rocks into my harbours, if you stop throwing rocks into yours”. The logic of ever wanting to block your own harbours is dubious.

    No, that’s what I meant. If you don’t have any say in the decision-making process, you may be put in a position where you have to go in the direction you don’t like, just because everyone else has already done it.

    I still don’t understand why would we have to follow in this case? For example, if everyone else wants to increase taxes, but we would like to cut them, what should we do? Follow them but hope to be able to moderate the increase in the discussions? Or proceed with our own policies, maximising the difference and thus, we believe, our competitive advantage? Of course, we may not be correct in our choice, but then we will have to live with the consequences, as will the others with their choices.

    Creating the single market requires (it’s still not finished) modifying thousands of pieces of national legislation.

    I want a free market, not a single market. The single market costs more than it provides in benefits:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2006/10/23/ccpers23.xml

    Common standards for things like car safety etc are a good idea, but things like the social chapter are completely unnecessary (perhaps even at a national level).

  8. Unfortunately these bogeymen (excluding Gisela Stuart, who doesn’t qualify for bogey status here, nor man obviously!) were the ones selected to write the constitution.

    There were 105 members of the convention that drew up the constitution. It’s a little disingenuous to hand-pick the most controversial figures and present them as if there were no alternative opinions. Pretty much every one of those guys is now out of office anyway.

    How can the public feel that it is something they should uphold and defend, if they cannot understand it?

    The same might be said of the vast majority of ordinary law too…

    A complicated constitution is a very convenient excuse for those in power not giving the public a vote.

    Neither the US Constitution nor any of its amendments were put to a referendum. In fact there’s a great deal of American legal argument on file concerning why exactly referenda are a Bad Idea.

    Unfortunately, other countries such as Italy got their houses somewhat in order to join the Euro, but didn’t keep the discipline necessary afterwards.

    And later you talk about throwing rocks in your own harbour… ;-)

    structural funds

    Does Ireland still get any?

    Not after the current budget expires IIRC.

    Does the EP ever change much from election to election?

    Yes, the position of largest grouping passes regularly from left to right, although there has never been an absolute majority. Wikipedia has an interesting article which is worth a look. One point of note is that the Council appears to be letting Parliament nominate the Commission President, even though there is nothing formalised to that effect.

    The fact that the EP doesn’t like having to follow its own rules is very worrying:

    This does sound dodgy. I think the author is overstating his case though.

    I read somewhere (sorry, can’t find the reference, and it may have been Switzerland) that they have adopted 3,000 EU regulations, compared to the 100,000 in force here.

    I can’t find a reference either. I did find this interesting news report about Norway’s relationship with the EU. The “fax democracy” quote is telling.

    Also, if your domestic economy generates sufficient wealth per year, surely you can always afford the imports?

    Yes, this works if you have an essentially unlimited supply of money-making stuff, e.g. oil.

    Someone once said that trade negotiations were basically “I’ll stop throwing rocks into my harbours, if you stop throwing rocks into yours”. The logic of ever wanting to block your own harbours is dubious.

    I agree completely.

    I still don’t understand why would we have to follow in this case? For example, if everyone else wants to increase taxes, but we would like to cut them, what should we do?

    I don’t mean taxes.

    For example, our neighbour Bigland passes a regulation saying that all new cars must have a Widget meeting certain specifications. The car companies will then sell us cars with Widgets installed according to Bigland’s specs, because it’s cheaper for them to produce one model. If we then pass a law asking for different specs in our Widgets, the car companies will surcharge us for the inconvenience of installing non-standard Widgets. They won’t surchange Bigland because their business is more valuable. So we have a choice – copy Bigland’s law or pay up.

    The single market costs more than it provides in benefits:

    I’m not going to argue with the numbers, because I’m not familiar with the document referenced. I would be suprised if a study reaching exactly the opposite conclusion didn’t surface before too long though… :-)

    Common standards for things like car safety etc are a good idea, but things like the social chapter are completely unnecessary (perhaps even at a national level).

    The social chapter was introduced because of fears that workers would be exploited in cheaper countries (read: new EU members that maybe don’t have as well-seasoned rights laws as us). The only controversial part of it was the limit on the working week.

  9. Let’s see if it works this time…..

    It’s a little disingenuous to hand-pick the most controversial figures and present them as if there were no alternative opinions.

    From Gisela’s comment, alternatives opinions were not welcome.

    The same might be said of the vast majority of ordinary law too…

    Good point Ignorance is no defense, so they say, but who actually knows every law? Why do we need so many? How many are actually read and debated in detail before they are passed?

    A constitution at least should be memorable.

    In fact there’s a great deal of American legal argument on file concerning why exactly referenda are a Bad Idea.

    Within a country, perhaps. California is a good example of why referenda are bad, though the Swiss seem to do OK. EU treaties are different though. We give power to our national politicians (aka the hired help), so that they look after the things that must be done collectively. If they wish to hand over some of that power to another body, we should be consulted directly – they should need our authority to do this.

    And later you talk about throwing rocks in your own harbour…

    Did they actually do that?

    the position of largest grouping passes regularly from left to right,

    Assuming a continental Europe definition of “right” :-)

    The “fax democracy” quote is telling.

    The problem for the Norwegians is that if they join the EU, they will have to pay a lot of money into EU funds, to get virtually nothing back, and they will still have very little say on policy. They may also lose control of things such as fishing, to the disaster that is the CFP.

    Yes, this works if you have an essentially unlimited supply of money-making stuff, e.g. oil.

    Any activity that generates wealth will do.

    So we have a choice – copy Bigland’s law or pay up.

    Yes, the problems of being a small country. In the US, each state and perhaps even local government has the right to determine what can and cannot be added to petrol, thus there are many different variants. A small (by market size) state who decides to set a unique standard is going to have more expensive petrol. It’s a cost-benefit question of whether the local standard is worth the cost.

    The social chapter was introduced because of fears that workers would be exploited in cheaper countries (read: new EU members that maybe don’t have as well-seasoned rights laws as us). The only controversial part of it was the wording of the right to strike clause.

    Call me cynical, but I think it was introduced to eliminate competition to the countries with extremely expensive social legislation. The British working hours opt-out is a good example:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/652ef47a-3688-11dd-8bb8-0000779fd2ac.html

    If other governments care that the British might be working too much, I doubt it’s because they are concerned about our health. As I said, I’m not sure much if any of this law is required at a national level. The greatest protection for any worker is to live in a vibrant, dynamic, growing economy, where they can get another job if the boss tries to exploit them.

  10. If they wish to hand over some of that power to another body, we should be consulted directly – they should need our authority to do this.

    How about the US Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery and authorising Congress to make it a federal offence? Or the Sixteenth Amendment permitting a federal income tax? In the US, amendments need only be passed by Congress and three quarters (!) of the states.

    And later you talk about throwing rocks in your own harbour…

    Did they actually do that?

    I was referring to fiscal discipline. If the Italians can’t keep their finances under control, they’re the ones who suffer the consequences. The only danger is if other countries are called upon to bail them out, and the treaties specifically forbid this.

    Assuming a continental Europe definition of “right” :-)

    Now, now. You’re tarring everyone with the French brush here. There are many countries in Central Europe these days who have proper right-wing parties. Some a little too right-wing perhaps…

    The problem for the Norwegians is that if they join the EU, they will have to pay a lot of money into EU funds, to get virtually nothing back, and they will still have very little say on policy.

    They would have more say than they have now, which is none, and they already pay money into the EU to cover the running costs of the bits they have signed up to, such as the single market and Schengen.

    They may also lose control of things such as fishing, to the disaster that is the CFP.

    IIRC, that’s the main concern keeping Iceland out.

    Any activity that generates wealth will do.

    Any activity that generates sufficient wealth to cover your balance of trade deficit without building up problems that will come back to bite you.

    If other governments care that the British might be working too much, I doubt it’s because they are concerned about our health.

    No, not at all. From their point of view, the British can do things cheaper because they treat their workers badly (just look at the junior doctors). In order to stay competitive, they would have to loosen their own rules and inconvenience their workers. Now you may say about time too, but in this view the British have effectively forced them to do so, bypassing their democratic process, and this would still be so even if the UK wasn’t a member of the EU.

    How soon after the UK leaves will someone propose to levy China-style anti-dumping rules?

  11. How about the US Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery and authorising Congress to make it a federal offence? Or the Sixteenth Amendment permitting a federal income tax? In the US, amendments need only be passed by Congress and three quarters (!) of the states.

    The difference is that the USA is a country, while the EU is not (at least I don’t think it should be). Of course, the Thirteenth Amendment came during or shortly after the bloodiest war in US history.

    I was referring to fiscal discipline. If the Italians can’t keep their finances under control, they’re the ones who suffer the consequences. The only danger is if other countries are called upon to bail them out, and the treaties specifically forbid this.

    Interesting that bailouts are forbidden. What would happen? Kick the offending country out of the Euro and the EU? Or if, for example, the Italian government were to default on its Euro-denominated bonds, there may be pressure for the ECB, and thus the other Euro states indirectly, to organise a bailout, to avoid serious damage to the Euro itself.

    Now, now. You’re tarring everyone with the French brush here. There are many countries in Central Europe these days who have proper right-wing parties. Some a little too right-wing perhaps…

    Definitions of left and right are too confused to be meaningful. I do not consider the BNP, Le Pen etc to be right wing – they are socialists, but on a racial/nationalist basis, rather than a class basis. Yes, there are some good right-wing, as in free trade, free market, libertarian, folk in Central Europe, but the right wing in “Old Europe”, including Cameron et al here, are a bad joke. I would like to see more Barry Goldwater style politicians nationally, and in the EU – see his quote on “streamlining government” here:

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Barry_Goldwater

    over the running costs of the bits they have signed up to, such as … Schengen.

    Funny how a lack of border controls has a cost :-)

    IIRC, that’s the main concern keeping Iceland out.

    Probably.

    Any activity that generates sufficient wealth to cover your balance of trade deficit without building up problems that will come back to bite you.

    We all seem to be having problems with the last bit at the moment.

    No, not at all. From their point of view, the British can do things cheaper because they treat their workers badly

    i.e. give them greater freedom to make their own choices.

    (just look at the junior doctors).

    Ok, they are badly treated (to the benefit of the taxpayer, and maybe the patients). Could having a state organisation as a monopoly employer be to blame?

    In order to stay competitive, they would have to loosen their own rules and inconvenience their workers. Now you may say about time too, but in this view the British have effectively forced them to do so, bypassing their democratic process, and this would still be so even if the UK wasn’t a member of the EU.

    They may feel that way, but IMO they have no right to impose any change here, just as we have no right to impose changes there. We would not allow Ford to dictate pension policy and wages for Toyota, just because they are getting hammered by their legacy costs. Governments should also be subject to anti-trust rules!

    It’s also not clear that they would have to change, if they are more productive despite their shorter working hours or higher taxes, through healthier, happier workers, more capital investment, better education or whatever. Or maybe the population would prefer to be poorer, but have better quality of life. The point is that each country should make their own choices, and compete in a free trade area (the correct size of which should be the entire world, perhaps minus the real b*****ds such as the current regimes in Burma or North Korea).

    How soon after the UK leaves will someone propose to levy China-style anti-dumping rules?

    As far as France and Germany are concerned, we import more from them that we export to them. Also they (or their companies) have heavily invested here, e.g. in utilities. If the UK leaves, a trade war would not be in their interest, at least by the producer/exporter focused view they usually adopt.

  12. The difference is that the USA is a country, while the EU is not (at least I don’t think it should be).

    Don’t you mean “nation”, or maybe “demos”? You originally said (I paraphrase, sorry) “we pay the hired help to get things done – if they want to subcontract out, they should ask us first”. This is applicable to any layer of government. When the US constitution was written, it is highly doubtful that it was either a nation or a demos.

    Interesting that bailouts are forbidden. What would happen? Kick the offending country out of the Euro and the EU?

    They would probably have to kick themselves out. Compare with those South American countries that have unilaterally dollarised – would the US really notice if they defaulted? The larger the eurozone gets, the less important any one member is.

    Definitions of left and right are too confused to be meaningful.

    They always were a shorthand, but in general I take it that the Left wants to regulate business rather than people and the Right wants to regulate people rather than business. Gordon Brown’s problem is that he seems to want to regulate everything.

    Bugger Lisbon, I really wanted Gordon to lose the 42-day vote. It seems the DUP (predictably) sold out for cash in the end. Not that my opinion of them could get any lower, mind.

    But that’s a subject for a different blog post…

    I would like to see more Barry Goldwater style politicians nationally, and in the EU – see his quote on “streamlining government” here:

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Barry_Goldwater

    Haha, I love this one:

    A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.

    Judging by my devil’s-advocate contortions in this comment thread, I guess that makes me a liberal then. ;-)

    Funny how a lack of border controls has a cost :-)

    Yeah, they seem to have this strange idea that criminals might try to escape the long arm of the law…

    i.e. give them greater freedom to make their own choices.

    Or give them less protection against being arm-twisted into their employer’s choices.

    Don’t worry, I agree with you – I’m just playing devil’s advocate again.

    Ok, they are badly treated (to the benefit of the taxpayer, and maybe the patients).

    Depends if you think getting treated cheaply by a sleep-deprived, hyper-caffeinated junior doctor is value for money…

    Could having a state organisation as a monopoly employer be to blame?

    Nah, I think American junior doctors are treated just as badly.

    They may feel that way, but IMO they have no right to impose any change here, just as we have no right to impose changes there.

    But we are forcing change on them – by undercutting them with cheaper produce. Not to the same extent as China and India, but there are still import controls on them.

    The free-trader says – you signed up to open your market to goods and services from our country. This is obviously a Good Thing, because it will force you to change your errant ways and become more efficient and productive, like us.

    The dirigiste says – you are forcing us into changing our domestic policy, not because we want to, but because we signed up to something without checking the small print carefully enough. Sound familiar? (This is the argument most French no-voters gave the pollsters after the constitution referendum).

    Free trade is probably the most pressing issue of our time (well, maybe after global warming), and the two sides are still trying to get one over rather than win each other over. It doesn’t fill me with hope.

    If the UK leaves, a trade war would not be in their interest

    When did that stop anyone? But seriously, what may be in the country’s interest and the government’s interest aren’t the same thing. It wouldn’t be the first time a government did something stupid to get re-elected. Throwing rocks in harbours and all that.

  13. When the US constitution was written, it is highly doubtful that it was either a nation or a demos.

    Well, only the 13 colonial states, and in the middle of the Revolutionary War, if I remember the history correctly. I’d still say they were more of a demos than the current EU.

    For some reason, I’ve just remembered about the Jibjab masterpiece This Land, so I’ve added a link to that just for fun.

    The larger the eurozone gets, the less important any one member is.

    Which may be a bad thing, if some think they can free-load on the system, i.e. act recklessly, but not suffer the consequences in their currency. It will be interesting to see if a currency union without political/fiscal union can survive in the long term, or if it will, as the Eurosceptics fear, lead to political union.

    They always were a shorthand, but in general I take it that the Left wants to regulate business rather than people and the Right wants to regulate people rather than business. Gordon Brown’s problem is that he seems to want to regulate everything.

    I guess two axis are needed: socialist – capitalist (or should it be free-market) on the business axis and authoritarian – libertarian on the people axis.

    Bugger Lisbon, I really wanted Gordon to lose the 42-day vote. It seems the DUP (predictably) sold out for cash in the end. Not that my opinion of them could get any lower, mind.

    Agreed. Interesting move from David Davis. Not sure what, if anything, it will accomplish.

    Depends if you think getting treated cheaply by a sleep-deprived, hyper-caffeinated junior doctor is value for money…

    Depending upon the cost of providing decent pay and working hours for all, and the number of extra junior doctors, the alternative might be no doctor available. :-(

    Nah, I think American junior doctors are treated just as badly.

    Right of passage thing then for junior doctors worldwide. Though even the consultants often work 60+ hour weeks, not that the idiots in government writing their latest contract actually believed that.

    But we are forcing change on them – by undercutting them with cheaper produce. Not to the same extent as China and India, but there are still import controls on them.

    In surveys of where is a good place to do business, the USA and Finland often jockey for top position. Two very different countries.

    Free trade is probably the most pressing issue of our time (well, maybe after global warming), and the two sides are still trying to get one over rather than win each other over. It doesn’t fill me with hope.

    Me neither. The current economic problems seem to be encouraging governments to listen to the siren call of protectionism, especially the likes of stopping food exports. Could be the 1930’s all over again. Global warming is worrying, not so much for the science, as that is still too immature to be relied upon. What is more worrying is the irrational political madness it is encouraging, giving the luddites and the socialists new excuses for meddling in and controlling our lives.

  14. Pleace vote for democracy and against the treaty of lisbon

    Dear irish people!

    Pleace stop the treaty of lisbon! Is is antidemocartic, militaristic, antisocial. The disadvantages are much bigger, than the advantages. The EU can live with its actuell laws. They should only be changed into a democratic direction. With the treaty of lisbon, the european council is able to change this treaty in great parts without asking the parliament. This is nearly the same law, which mades the nationl- rassistic- party of Germany so powerfull in our country in the year 1933. Our basic law (the german constitution) and all other european constitutions should not be replaced by the treaty of lisbon. But the new treaty tries to bring all right- sytstems in a lower level than the new european right. Here is my informationpage: http://sites.google.com/site/euradevormwald/english . When you have some more english information, pleace send me a link or text or write it into the visitors book of my page. And pleace spread this text all over Ireland.

    In the hope in your activities for a better Europe, Felix Staratschek, Freiligrathstr. 2, D- 42477 Radevormwald (Germany)

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