Sayeth the EU: lack of language skills mean that UK citizens are under-represented in the EU civil service.

Entirely possible; due to the fact that English is understood the world over, relatively few people take the time needed to really be comfortable in other languages.

That said, there are a good few people out there who have studied foreign languages, and are fluent in it. So there may well be another reason that people aren’t willing to leave London and work in Brussels with a bunch of squabbling folk in an institution that many here believe is, at best, a nuisance.

But I can’t quite think of what that reason might be…

And now, you will give the right answer

As you’d expect, I’m pretty livid about the fact that the EU is making Ireland vote again on Lisbon. It’s disgraceful that a supposedly democratic organisation is unwilling to take the only democratically offered opinion on its Treaty, and is ensuring that said Treaty is voted on again (and again, and again) until the stupid electorate gives the opinion that the EU wants to hear.

However, I’m even more livid that the Irish are likely to vote yes. They did this on Nice, as well, and that was a fucking stupid precedent to set. There are many honest, simple and sensible reasons to vote against that, and changing the national mind just showed Brussels that it could be done.

Likewise, there are a great many reasons to vote no again this time round. My top three, based not on the actual document but on the way that the document is being pushed, are:

  • The text is still unread by the vast majority of people, and not understood by most of those who have read it. When it doubt, if you can’t understand the text of a new law and those who wrote the new law won’t explain it properly, vote against.
  • The EU specifically structured the Treaty to avoid referenda in the countries of Europe, because they knew that some of them would be likely to reject it. Why? Is it because they knew it’d be unpopular, or because they knew that it wasn’t needed?
  • Being asked again, like a naughty schoolchild, is insulting. Tell them to fuck off, and take the answer they’re given, not the answer they want.

Please, Irish folk – say no. It was the right answer then, and it’s the right answer no.

This has been a plea, not on behalf of any political party, but on behalf of the 750 million other EU citizens that were denied a vote on this treaty, because our leaders were scared of what we’d say…

Democracy is an interesting thing

Along with the thoughts running through my head at the moment regarding the Irish no vote for the Lisbon Treaty, I’ve also been musing on the fuss in Sark.

I may be wrong, but my thinking of the events is as follows:

  1. Barclay brothers decide they want a nice, private retreat with few neighbours.
  2. They decide to buy a rock off the coast of Sark, thinking that it seems to be a rather nice place.
  3. They buy this, and, for a time, it was good.
  4. They then decide that, having nearly as much money as God and more attitude, they should have some say over the law of the land they own, and not just over the ownership.
  5. They then realise that they can’t vote in Sark, because Sark doesn’t bother with this ‘voting’ malarkey.
  6. They take Sark to the European Court, despite the fact that Sark isn’t under the jurisdiction of the European Court, to bring about democracy.
  7. The seven people and two dogs that vote in the resulting election vote against the ideas of reform that the Barclays championed.
  8. They decide that it’s their ball, and they’re going home.

So, what do you do when a people decide, democratically, that they don’t fancy democracy much? It’s an idea that’s long fascinated me, because when today people might decide such a thing, is it right that the lack of democracy continues in perpetuity on the basis of one vote? Or should there be cut off points – repeat the vote every ten years or so just to check that it’s still what people want?

And the second thought that occurred was this: what did the Barclays think that they were doing? How did they think that a small community would react to two outsides coming in and telling them how things should be run?

Dear Irish Folk:

When asked the last time, you did the right thing. Whatever your reasons, you did the right thing. As the only electorate offered any say at all in the ratification of the EU Constitution Lisbon Treaty, you stood up for everyone when you said NO.

However, in the eyes of the Irish government, the governments of the EU hard core and the self-appointed leaders of the EU, you did the wrong thing. And thusly they’re gonna ask you again, and then likely again and again until you give the answer that they want to hear.

Six months ago, you took the opportunity given to you in Bunreacht na hÉireann to manage your own self-government, and to prevent that right of self-determination being taken from you by Brussels.

So, when the time comes again, please do the right thing once more. When asked if you want to hand yet more power to Brussels, say no. When asked if you want to remove barriers to the EU making laws, when those barriers are the only thing holding back torrents of red-tape, say no. When asked if you want to join the ranks of countries bullied into signing, say no.

In short, when Brussels bullies Dublin into asking us all to sign up to a document that the fecking Taoiseach signed without reading or understanding, tell both of them to fuck off.


That’s not how it works, is it?

Oh goodie. Everybody’s favourite big-state cheerleader does an article about the mother of all big-state boondoggles: that is to say, the BBC talks about the Common Agricultural Policy.

Buried in among all the other things that could just be replaced by four words that would best set forth an optimum future for the CAP (Get rid of it!) is a little paragraph from (who else?) the French:

Speaking before the deal was reached, French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier said he would “not allow the milk quotas to be scrapped without accompanying measures, precautions being taken”.

“Some would like to lift all restrictions on milk production. We know perfectly well that if we produce a lot more, the prices drop, and everyone loses.”

Really? Who is this everyone? Is it the average EU citizen, who will end up paying less for milk? Is it the average EU government, which would spend less on a subsidy? Is it the productive dairy farmer, who would be able to ramp up production more effectively to meet demand?

Or is it the unproductive dairy farmer, who only continues to exist because the productive ones are being hamstrung? Is it the governments of the countries with unproductive dairy farmers, who are in thrall to the unions of said farmers?

Personally, I can’t see why the milk quota exists at all. But then I’m just a shameless capitalist about some things…

Well do the decent thing then…

From last week’s Economist:

In the EU’s corridors October 2009 is now quietly being touted as an ideal date for a second Irish referendum. Claims that a new Irish vote might be hard to win are brushed aside: Ireland must accept its responsibilities, and make every effort to ratify Lisbon, huff Euro-grandees (and leave the EU if it fails, murmur the hard-core federalists). Yet Ireland faces perhaps the deepest recession of all. Bullying its prime minister, Brian Cowen, into holding a new referendum could amount to leaving whisky and a loaded revolver in the study and expecting him to do the decent thing for Europe.

I’m sure that we can count on Brian Cowen to do the decent thing for both Ireland and Europe.

Considering that, in that metaphor, the decent thing would be to drink the whiskey and come out shooting…

Yes, that’s it

They can’t be serious, can they?

Declan Ganley, the millionaire businessman who bankrolled and masterminded the successful “No” campaign in the Irish referendum, is a target all the same. Many in the European establishment would like to see Mr Ganley come a cropper, see his campaigning days terminated and his nascent political career liquidated before he can do any more damage.

The mysterious Mr Ganley is now talking about turning his think-tank Libertas into an EU-wide political party. He’s been touring Europe looking for support for his campaign to turn next year’s elections to the European Parliament into another referendum: on what he calls the anti-democratic Europe of the Lisbon Treaty. You remember – that’s the one that so many say is just like the constitution the Dutch and French threw out.

But the European Parliament has instructed the Irish authorities to investigate his funding and motives: many believe that the mysterious Mr Ganley is a stooge of the American military industrial complex, doing the bidding of the right-wing neo-cons in the CIA and Pentagon, hell-bent on smashing the rise of a political Europe.

You’re right. It couldn’t be that the EU didn’t sell the new Treaty. It couldn’t be that the Irish government was less than full throated in its campaigning, having other (useful) things to spend its political capital on. It couldn’t be that the Irish were a tad annoyed at being told that the EU Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty weren’t one and the same, when they clearly were.

No, the Irish said no because of a US conspiracy. Clearly.

There are some delusions that just can’t be believed…

For all the wrong reasons

If I was to hear rumours of tax cuts, how do you think I’d react? Joy, perhaps? Maybe a little happy dance?

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be doing either. Because it’s an EU proposed tax cut.

The EC, which is the executive arm of the European Union, said it wants to relax value added tax and state aid rules in a move to help small businesses (SMBs) cut through administrative red tape and promote economic growth.

Under the VAT changes proposed, labour-intensive and locally-supplied services including restaurants, cleaning and gardening services, domestic care and small computer outlets would be eligible for a reduced VAT rate, in some cases as low as five per cent.

EC Commissioner for taxation and customs union László Kovács said he wanted to clarify Brussels’ position on reduced rates in the various sectors highlighted under the new proposal.

“I want to provide certainty about the application of reduced rates beyond 2010 for labour-intensive sectors and provide all Member States with the same options. There is no reason why restaurant services, for example, should be allowed to benefit from a reduced rate in one half of the European Union but not in the other half,” he said. [emphasis mine]

So, a reduction in VAT to 5% for certain things. All good, yes?

Well, no. And let me count the ways:

  1. Levying taxes – at different rates – is the function of a nation. It is not, nor should it be, the function of any supra-national entity. Following this proposal to the logical conclusion would mean tax harmonisation within the EU, which would likely end up with everyone having French levels of taxation. Which would cripple everyone, not least the smaller, faster and more sensible low-tax countries in the east of the bloc.
  2. It reminds me, once again, of the fact that the power to remove VAT from anything is not held by the nations of the EU, it is held by the EU itself. Which is very fucking annoying.
  3. Why are certain industries being favoured here? Surely if there are reasons for reducing tax (and there surely are) then it should be reduced for everyone.
  4. It has all the hallmarks of being a short term fix to try and cushion any effects of the economic downturn. When any tax reduction should just be made permanent and anyone who proposes raising it again should be horsewhipped…

Aside from that, I’m all for it. Obviously.

Tragi-comic happenings

You know, if I didn’t think that they fully intended to ignore the message, I’d be amused by the bemusement in Brussels over the Irish ‘No’ vote.

Correspondents say the assembled foreign ministers will be keen to hear their Irish counterpart’s views as they look for ways to overcome the crisis.

After their meeting in Luxembourg, a two-day EU summit in Brussels – starting on Thursday – is expected to chart the way ahead.

The way ahead: respect the opinions of the only population that was asked, and bin the damn thing. And then come up with something that isn’t an affront to democracy and national politics.

Or, dust down the European Union All Purpose Plan B:

Leaders will want to know why the referendum come up with such a clear No and what changes could be made to accommodate the disparate concerns of Irish voters, she says.

They also want to work out how soon a second vote might be possible, if at all, our correspondent adds.

Demand to know why the stupid proles came up with the wrong answer, and then see how quickly you can bully them into giving the correct answer.

Here’s hoping that they don’t do that, because that would be a) stupid, b) wrong, and c) insulting.

There was something I heard on the radio yesterday, along the lines of “Why is any YES given to the EU seen as a final answer, while and NO is just a holding pattern for further discussion?” And that’s a thought that’s been festering since…

Speaking of Festering Thoughts, how about this one. Without so much as a public statement, the Home Affairs Minister in Jersey amended the criminal code to allow for indefinite detention of suspects without trial… How the fuck does that work?

Happily, now that people have noticed, the thing seems to have been withdrawn. But the fact that it could be put in place without so much as a question being asked in the States is a little bit worrying…

We’ve been there before, haven’t we?

Anyone else getting a nasty taste of déjà vu? I mean, all the European leaders have already signed an EU constitution, only to be royally smacked down by some of their pesky voters. So they’ve obviously learned; they’re not going to ask their voters.

And Brown knows how well that’ll play, which is why he sent a pleb to sign it in public; he left his signing of it until later, when there’d be no joyful celebrations as he signed away quite a bit in the way of national sovereignty.

So he’s not only a total bastard, but he’s ashamed of it. And rightly so.

Best explain that, please?

Some of you may have noticed, but I’m not a massive fan of the EU. In fact, I’m generally of the opinion that it’s a woeful waste of time, money, prestige, talent and work.

Oh, and it’s not what anyone signed up for. And it’s not in any way accountable to itself, let alone to its member states. And it’s trying to set in stone things that many member states have no interest in setting in sand.

I could go on, but these opinions are well represented in rants passim, so I’ll concentrate on something else: David Milliband’s fuckwittage.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has suggested the European Union should work towards including Russia, Middle Eastern and North African countries.

And thus, one assumes, ceasing to be called the European Union. Perhaps the Greater Eurasian Co-Prosperity Sphere. Or, on a longer time-scale, EarthGov.

But he said: “The truth is that the EU has enlarged, remodelled and opened up. It is not and is not going to become a superstate. But neither is it destined to become a superpower.”

Instead he said the EU had the chance to be a “model power” which could develop shared values between countries.

“As a club that countries want to join, it can persuade countries to play by the rules, and set global standards. In the way it dispenses its responsibilities around the world, it can be a role model that others follow.”

Yes, the EU has a lot of values it can share with other nations. It can teach, for example, how to reduce an agricultural industry to absolute dependency on the state. It can teach how to completely remove a government from democratic accountability. It can teach how to supply vast amounts of money to the private bank accounts of leaders and their friends. In short, it can share its wisdom of how to be the antithesis of good governance.

Actually, that might work out. Perhaps the EU is a force for the Greater Good after all. It’s showing all the possible ways to fuck things up, so that other nations can learn what not to do.

Pity it’s sacrificing the sovereignty, economic well being and political freedom of many nations and many hundreds of millions to do it, but then you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs…

So, Mr David Milliband is not only the Foreign Secretary, he’s also an absolute cock when it comes to the EU. Not that we expected anything different, of course.

Things wot I do like to see

As with the last attempt to get an EU constitution passed, I’m quite keen on having the to say no to the current one. Mainly because the current on is fairly identical to the previous one, but also because I’m generally against the EU in the first place…

But, being the charitable sort, I’m not averse to putting myself in the shoes of those I disagree with. So, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a Brussels, power-hungry, red-tape loving, bureaucratic bastard of an EU policy wonk.

What would annoy me most?

  • The new EU countries who aren’t nicely toeing the party line, and are missing all those perfect opportunities to shut up and do as they’re told? Not hardly, because they’re nicely cowed by the disappearance of the chequebook, and sure it’s only the political classes that need to change their mind for the grand EU project to keep going.
  • The traditional and predictable eurosceptic nations, where the gutter press and the silly people can be counted on to rant and rail against the expansion of EU powers, while their politicians get on the Brussels gravy train? Again, not so much, because no matter how much noise the masses make, the politicians keep ignoring them and doing what politicians do best: fuck ‘em over and stay on the gravy train for as long as possible.
  • Traditional europhile nations that, on occasion, produce nasty results at referenda? That is very annoying, but it’s easily solved by not allowing people to have referenda on such trifling things as handing over the reins to an unelected mob in a small city in a country that doesn’t even want to be a country any more…
  • Or the initially europhilie nation that’s becoming more and more eurosceptic and is also constitutionally bound to hold a referendum on any treaty that involved changes in the legal status of the country? That would be rather annoying, wouldn’t it?

Of course, the shameful result of the Nice referendum could be tried for again (‘Oh, you silly plebes, you gave us the wrong answer. Try again, and don’t forget what side your bread is buttered on…’), but the increase in cynicism is palpable in Oireland, so I do how hope that a) the nation votes no, and b) the nation votes no again, and c) the nation votes no again, until they stop asking the fucking question and let the EU constitution die.

The ideal result: a scenario where the will of a million people on the very edge of a continent can disrupt the plans of the rulers of half a billion folk. Thus illustrating that the EU is not, and can never be, a democratic institution and should be carefully demolished and replaced with something less stupid. Like, and I’m talking crazy here, an economic community where people can trade freely between nations. Rather than a massive political conglomerate whose tendrils are busy invading every aspect of life…

The central issue

In passing, the Economist hits on a rather crucial problem with the entire European project.

So are national politicians silly to worry about being obliged to toe an imaginary EU line? Sometimes, yes. One diplomat this week marvelled that anybody could see a treaty article inviting people to support the “good functioning” of the EU as a legal instruction. It is, he said, a statement of political opinion—it means as much as European politicians agree it means.

But this is an unsatisfying answer to politicians in a place like Britain, where laws mean what they say, and are not deployed as mere slogans. If sweeping declarations in the charter about outlawing discrimination are not meant to overturn national policies, a Pole asks, why are they there? “When we ask what all these big words mean, everybody tells us: nothing special, don’t worry. But we should avoid this kind of rhetoric.”

Some of us are used (or were used, considering the recent spate of badly written laws) to laws saying what they mean, and being tested on what they mean in court. We’re unsure of how to take laws that ramble on a bit about grand ideals while not actually stating, definitively, what the fuck they’re on about.

Other EU countries do it differently, and are used to lots of flamboyant laws that consist of hundreds of lines of waffle for every word of law.

So how, pray, does anyone propose to write laws that satisfy both sides? How can you write a law that is both honest and overly grand? One that is legally sound with one that has aspirations to literary greatness? One that is common law versus one that is Napoleonic? How does one mesh chalk and cheese?

More to the point, why would you? Differences breed competition, competition breeds progress. Trying to put a one-size-fits-none law over the whole of europe can’t do anything but flatten the differences, and thereby flatten the things that make us what we are and define where we’re going.

Once again, I arrive at the biggest question I have about the EU and all the laws it brings forth: Why?

Well that would bother me some

A random conversation on the door a while back led me to discover something mentioned here, and also to the Convention in question.

Now, it depends on how you translate it. The nice, legalise version on the Europa portal says:

1. Europol, the members of its organs and the Deputy Directors and employees of Europol shall enjoy the privileges and immunities necessary for the performance of their tasks in accordance with a Protocol setting out the rules to be applied in all Member States.

Which sounds a little over the top, but broadly acceptable. The translation on the wiki is closer to the one I was in discussions about last night, though.

“The officers of the EU police force, Europol, are immune from criminal prosecution should they break the law while carrying out their activities”

The discussions were with a fella who knows a little (not a lot, but a little) about the way the PSNI operate, and he was basically saying how unfair it was that everything the local cops did was done with the knowledge that, should they cross the line a little, they could themselves end up in front of a judge. And how it would be so much better if they could all just go the way of the Euro cops and just be immune while working.

Obviously, I then felt the need to check that out, because blanket immunity falls squarely onto Ed’s List Of Fucking Stupid Ideas. And my investigations didn’t satisfy me enough for comfort, to be honest. In what ways are Europol immune? Which translation is closer to the way the law is interpreted in member states? And who the fuck made it possible that there could be such ambiguity in such an important case?

And they say we should have a constitution written in the same fashion? Balls to that…

The conversation in question may have touched on this story, and may have paraphrased the quote from the USPCA officer (“It is a farcical situation, the law can be used back against the people who are trying to enforce it.”). With the basic sentiment from me that the use of laws to keep a check on those implementing the law are the very best possible use of said laws. But I digress…

Check the skies for horsemen, four of them

I fear that the end times are nigh; there must be a strange alignment of planets and/or ley-lines, because something I never though would happen has come to pass.

I find myself in agreement not only with politicians, but with the big trade unions. And I feel dirty because of it.

Gordon Brown has rejected calls from two trade unions for the government to hold a referendum on the new EU treaty.

The GMB and RMT had joined the Tories and UKIP in demanding a vote by tabling motions at the TUC’s annual conference.

See, what’s happened here is that the unintelligible, bastardish and power grabbing EU constitution has been replaced by a treaty no less power grabbing, just as bastardish and a little bit more unintelligible. But because it’s a treaty, not a constitution, Brown has decided that he’s not bound by the previous administration’s promise to put the changes to a referendum.

Because he’s a cock like that.

Naturally, I can justify the aforementioned unwelcome agreement by saying that my reasons for disliking the Brown policy and that of the unions are very different: I fear for the power being handed from London to Brussels, while they seem to fear the power not being handed over.

The GMB union said it was concerned the UK’s opt-out from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights was being retained in the transition from the constitution to the treaty.

“Let’s stop being shy about the fact that, in recent years, the achievements in terms of developing a social Europe seem to have dried up and that doesn’t satisfy our members.”

Gah, they’re worried because not enough continental style social policies are being carried over. Said continental style social policies also going by the nickname ‘final nail in the competitive economy that feeds the nation’.

So, very different reasons, but the same aim. I still feel mighty dirty about it…

Further obstacles

Phrases that I’m quite wary of, especially when uttered by governmental types:

There are no technological obstacles, only legal ones.

Oh dear. So what you’re saying is that it’s only the law that’s stopping you from stomping all over freedom of expression, not the technology.

Well done, that law, sez I.

Of course, there are also moral obstacles (yes, I know, morals and the EU don’t mix too well). And technological ones, when you take into account proxies, mirrors, etc, etc. So there’s no hope of this actually working, unless you believe that viewing child porn online stopped happening when BT started blocking the sites…

And even then, it would still be wrong, but again, this is the EU we’re talking about. Right and Wrong don’t seem to feature in any of their decisions.

You could tell it was a LibDem idea

I have thought long and hard about it, and have come to a simple and subtle solution that should resolve many issues with the European Parliament.

Basicially, any MEP who comes up with nonsense like this is to be taken out the back of the parliament and beaten with big fuck-off planks with nails in them. This beating will be telecast into the parliament chamber, and will carry a message at the end along the lines of “So, anyone else got any bright ideas?” in all the languages of the union. I suspect a reduction in stupid ideas would happen quite quickly.

It was nice of Mr Davies to volunteer to be the first recipient of the first beating of the new programme, for this wonderful ignorance of the basics of human nature. There exists a demand for fast, powerful, fun cars and it is then followed by a supply of such cars. The supply does not predate the demand – the only examples which appeared without a specific demand that I can think of are the Veyron and all the fucking daft exo-friendly cars like the Lupo that then dies because of lack of demand.

But the good MEP has clearly seen that the people still want nice cars, and won’t be dissuaded from them. Which is why he’s trying to make it illegal to sell them, working on the basis that the demand will dry up if the supply does. This is not how it works. The demand will still be there, and it will be met. Probably by modification of existing cars, which is much worse for the environment. Because a 19 year old in a garage in Oldham can’t really spend the same amount on greenery that BMW can…

So, for this particular exercise in stupidity and unintended consequences, Mr Chris Davies is now admitted to the Order of the Badly Bruised. All those wishing to participate in inducting Mr Davies to the Order should form an orderly queue…

A small price to pay

I’ve long been of the opinion that Ireland, and the UK, would be better off outside the EU. And probably best off in something like the European Economic Area. Because you get access to the Free Market (for a fee), and you don’t get the nonsense political and social planning aspects.

It’s what Norway has, and Norwegians are pretty happy with it.

Plus, there would be a hell of a saving. Currently, the fee for Norway to be the the EEA is about £137m, or about £30 per person per year. Whereas it cost the UK something in the order of £33 per person in 2005 to be in the EU, and it’s only like that because of the old rebate, which is being reduced.

£3 per person per year doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s £180 million. And on top of that there would be the saveing on costs of compliance. And just think of all the blue paint and dye that would be saved if we didn’t have to put those bloody blue flags up on everything…

Boo hiss to the collaboration

Seeing as how I’m not from Manchester, it follows that I should be a fan of Man United. Which is why I’m less than impressed to see this sort of behaviour.

Basicially, Man U is taking on a EU selected XI. While I like the overall concept (Man U v the EU), I dislike the reason they’re playing.

The match marks the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and United’s 50 years in European competitions.

Ah yes, the Treaty of Rome. Which the UK didn’t sign at the time, seeing as how they didn’t join until sixteen years after the date being celebrated. So surely it should be one of the founder members that should be the opposition team?

Anyway. Because of this anniversary, there has been a lot of nonsense talked about how the EU is the bestest thing ever. Do you use olive oil in your cooking? Apparently the EU made that possible (their contribution towards soy sauce is unreported). Did you cheap enjoy a flight to the south of France recently? Because the EU did that too (my cheapish flight to the US a few months ago must be a fluke). Did you work with a foriegner recently? Because the EU will claim credit for that as well (I’m sure my Lebanese and Egyptian co-workers will be happy to hear that, considering I work with more of them than EU citizens).

Of course, the EU has done a couple of half decent things, but they’re mainly things that could (and should) have been done by the old European Economic Community. You know, the thing that people thought they were joining when they joined. And economic community, based on reducing the barriers to international trade. Which would have been a Good Thing.

Instead, we’re left with a nonsensical political hybrid, unsure of its purpose. And in its uncertainty, it’s grabbing any purpose it can. Hence its move from economic matters, through policy matters, through social engineering and currently into criminal matters1.

And to top it off, all of the things its involved in, it does hamfistedly. So not only is it power hungry, its also shockingly inept.

Which sould be a comfort: it’ll eventually collapse under its own bureaucratic stupidity. Except it’s quite likely that it’ll drag us all down with it…

1 – Sadly, this does not mean that those involved will face criminal charges. Instead, it means that they get to create laws. This cannot end well.