Thursday, April 28, 2005

A graphic on the Tories' website exhorts users to
"become a member of the most open and democratic British Party"
Now, why would they want their visitors to join Labour?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Eurosceptics sometimes like to pretend that increased EU co-operation on defence might somehow conflict with or undermine NATO.

This myth is nicely blown out of the water (no pun intended) by NATO themselves. Here’s what the organisation's Secretary General, had to say about this in 2003:
“What is this row about European defence all about? Will the European Security and Defence Policy really damage NATO?

“My answer is an emphatic no. I have been as robust as anyone in my opposition to unnecessary duplication between NATO and the European Union. … But that does not mean I do not welcome a stronger European security and defence role, including the ability to conduct autonomous EU missions where NATO decides to stand aside. …

“I therefore welcome the agreement reached recently among the EU members on strengthening EDSP because it involves no unnecessary duplication. I am also reassured by the commitments to a strong Atlantic alliance, and to complementarity between NATO and the European Union, being made on all sides of the debate. …
“NATO and the European Union both have more than enough to do without a new round of theological nit-picking.”
Read the full article in the Nato Review journal.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Ah, the joys of campaigning in nice weather. There were some 50 people out helping in my local key seat of Shipley today.

As ever, there's no shortage of stories from the doorstep. There was the householder with the worst garden in the street, full of rubbish and rusting metal, who protested that the government isn't doing enough about the environment. And there was the telesalesman complaining that the UK's near-full employment meant nobody was ever at home any more when he rang around.

It's also interesting to hear people's reaction to the various election slogans. One constituent turned "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" into "Are you remembering what I'm remembering?".

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Ian Aitken, a columnist in the left-wing journal Tribune, is a long-time eurosceptic. Or, at least, he used to be. His account of his recent conversion is grudging, to say the least, but coherent:
“As a member of the Leftish Eurosceptic tendency (as opposed to the Right-wing version of the same), I have had serious reservations about [Robin] Cook’s recent commitment to the European cause. However, his account of his desperate but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to persuade Blair that Britain belongs with Europe rather than George Bush’s America has finally convinced me that it is time to plump for the shabby compromise that is the European Union.”

Friday, April 15, 2005

I was amused to learn, via Google, that the Tories are advertising my book on their website!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

When Radio 5’s Simon Mayo asked Ken Clarke yesterday what slogan he would put on a pro-constitution billboard, Mr Clarke’s suggestion was:
“The constitution makes the decision-making clearer and easier inside a Union of twenty-five, when the old rules that applied to six won’t apply, and it makes no significant extension of powers to the EU – what it does do is make it clearer than ever before that this is to be a union of nation states and not a federal superstate and it, I think, will enable us to take clearer decisions, it will stop the competence of the Union being extended surreptitiously as some people fear it might, and it will, I hope, enable us to get more workmanlike in this giant organisation we have now created on the key things like striking up some common foreign security policy attitudes, making sure democracy, liberal values, free market economies are truly entrenched in the ex-Communist states in the East, making sure Europe’s voice in the world continues to be heard against the Americans, the Chinese, the Indians, our friends and our enemies, and making sure that we get the best advantage out of what is in terms of population the biggest free market in today’s globalised economy.”
It had better be a big billboard.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Andrew Moravcsik is a professor of politics at Princeton University, an expert on EU history, and a regular contributor to Prospect magazine, which I read. In a recent issue of Prospect, he reviews a new book by Telegraph journalist Christopher Booker and blogger Richard North, entitled 'The Great Deception'.

In his detailed review (available online at cost), Professor Moravcsik points out that Booker and North are wrong about the foundations of their anti-EU argument.

"To Booker and North's credit, and in contrast to the ravings of many eurosceptics, they do seek to prove their case. … Yet one is immediately sceptical of books peddling a 'secret history' historians have missed, and sure enough, Booker and North advance their case only on the basis of severe historical and statistical distortion."

He then goes on to address Booker and North's ideas in detail, demolishing each of them in turn. What is interesting, though, is not just his authoritative rebuttal but the fact that Booker and North actually based large chunks of their conspiracy theory on their interpretation of the professor's own research! Moravcsik is therefore in an excellent position to point out their errors:

"On this point [De Gaulle's original vetoing of the UK's EU membership], Booker and North rely almost entirely on my own scholarly work, which they prominently portray as the 'real story'…. Very flattering, except that Booker and North misconstrue what I wrote, which accords fully with the new EU historiography."

Another interesting point is that Moravcsik quite clearly does not simply regard his differences with Booker and North as simply a scholarly disagreement on academic details. He observes that the two sceptics repeatedly "obfuscate", "obscure facts" and "fail to mention" key conclusions of the studies they cite. He adds that their understanding of economics "is even dodgier than their history", and discussing a central plank of their argument for intergovernmentalism over international democracy, he remarks, "No serious historian would contend that".

Professor Moravcsik's conclusion:

"Booker and North never demonstrate that British 'intergovernmentalism' - 1950s-style international co-operation without majority voting and legal supremacy - ever constituted a viable alternative [to international democracy]. Even Nafta and the WTO no longer really function in this way.… In the end, then, Booker and North are thrust back on the classic eurosceptic dogma - not xenophobic nationalism, but the complaint that the EU is an 'undemocratic' scheme of centralised regulation. Yet their own story undermines this loose libertarianism. In nearly all their regulatory horror stories the villains are not Brussels bureaucrats - too few in number to exercise much direct control over national policies anyway - but well-meaning British officials exercising their own discretion. And why not? A democracy in which governments placate angry fishermen and abandon regulation designed to prevent the collapse of fish stocks, as recently occurred in the US and Canada, is no democracy at all."

Back to the drawing board for Booker and North?

Friday, April 08, 2005

So the election has been called! The European Parliament doesn't stop for elections in member states (with 25 countries to take into account, we'd never actually meet if we did!). So British MEPs don't get any time off for the general election, though of course I and many others will be devoting any spare time to helping with the campaign.

On another note, the Tories' policy on Europe is getting madder and madder. These days, even their own colleagues in Parliament's conservative and Christian Democrat group tell me they hope the Conservatives don't win!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A rather comical article in today's Scotsman discusses the outcome of Kilroy-Silk's 'week with the gypsies' for a TV documentary. It has the following inspired opening:

"In every Western society, there’s a group of people against whom it’s easy to be prejudiced. We don’t trust them, not do we like the way they look. We don’t know quite how they make a living. All we know is, they never seem settled, causing trouble wherever they go and leaving behind a mess. For all these reasons, the Kilroy-Silks of this world are an easy target for bigots."

Interesting report in the Sunday Times: France's no campaign thinks that Britain gains too much influence in the new constitution!

"As debate intensified in France's referendum campaign on the European Union constitution last week, the voters were invited to consider an unusual question: should they try to be more like the British?

"Strange as it may seem, the complex exercise of trying to imagine Europe's future has led to Britain becoming the focus of the May 29 referendum....

"The change is rooted in French perceptions that they have lost influence to the British in an enlarged EU, and the belief, encouraged by the French left, that the proposed EU constitution will result in France being swamped by what one commentator described as the 'free-market mania of the Anglo-Saxon world'."

Friday, April 01, 2005

And as it's now past midday, I can highlight this article from the Yorkshire Post without fear of eurosceptic reprisal:
Fury as Brussels batters Yorkshire pud

Yorkshire pudding could become the dish that dare not speak its name – thanks to a half-baked decision by eurocrats in Brussels. …

The EC Milk, Fats, Flour, and Oil Committee has ruled Yorkshire Pud must be sold as "puff batter snacks" under the Protection of Geographical Indications of Origin for Foodstuffs policy.

Read the full article here.

My office today put out this press release:
The current system of basing EU institutions jointly in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg has sometimes been called “schizophrenic”. But European decision-makers have been unable to agree on a single location for Parliament, Council and the Commission – until now.

Richard Corbett, a Labour MEP and EU constitutional expert, explained:

“The search for a single location for the ‘capital' of the EU, secretly codenamed ‘Europa', has been going on for decades.

“We had to find a central location which embodied the ideal of European unity without giving preference to any member state. That was our main stumbling block.”

Read the full press release here.