Much blood and treasure spent preserving European freedom

Let’s get one thing clear to start with. Our past wars haven’t all been glorious. Think of the shameful Opium wars in China, and I’m sure you can cite more.

What you can’t ignore is that for over 200 years Britain has fought wars in Europe to rid them of tyrants of all sorts.

Why, therefore, are Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria, and others so keen to forget our contribution to preserve their freedoms, which has been at the cost of much blood and treasure on our part, not least in the 20th century.

Their attitude seems to be “punish the Brits”. Here’s an example today, in teasing UK cities to enter, spending time and money preparing a submission for the European Capital of Culture 2023 competition, which will be announced next week, and then this week to say their entries should be “immediately be discontinued” is shameful.

Guido posts Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson’s views on the EU

Splendid. I need no excuse to post Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills. It is, perhaps, my very favourite heavy metal rock anthem.

In Guido Fawkes blog is the BBC Newsnight interview with Bruce Dickinson, the band’s lead singer, and an unusual character to lead a heavy metal rock band. Here’s Run to the Hills, followed by Bruce’s Newsnight interview – click on image to watch.

Alternative legal opinions on the High Court judgement on Parliament’s Brexit vote

I’ve read the whole High Court judgment on the case of Miller v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. You can read it HERE.

The point of law was whether the Government had the power to sign Article 50 of the Treaty of the European Union. The judges said no it had not, and in consequence Parliament must have a vote prior to its signing.

In our constitution Parliament sits above the law – not though the rule of law. Inasmuch that the Government is answerable to Parliament. I suppose you could say that Parliament is superior to Government. Government governs – such a simple concept. Parliament oversees and holds the Government to account – again a simple concept. No need for the Judges to interpret this process – when it’s blindingly obvious what the nation expects the government and parliament to do – and that is to sign Article 50 to leave the EU.

judicial-power-projectIf you’d like to read some learned legal views on the High Court judgement, then you can at the Judicial Power Project. Pleasingly they’ve got five short legal critiques, and other brief legal views of what happens next, and the bigger picture.

Here’s the final part of one of the five views, worth reading all five. This one by Richard Ekins [click to read], who is Associate Professor of Law in the University of Oxford and Head of the Judicial Power Project.

The Government’s intention to trigger art. 50 by way of the royal prerogative, challenged in Miller, is entirely consistent with this rule. It is consistent also with responsible government and parliamentary democracy, for the Government is and always has been accountable to Parliament for its exercise of the prerogative.

Parliamentary sovereignty is rightly fundamental to our constitution. But the Miller judgment was not necessary to protect it and, welcome rhetoric notwithstanding, does nothing to uphold it.

‘Europe and the Sovereignty of the People’ a talk by Vernon Bogdanor

I liked Professor Vernon Bogdanor’s lecture on The Queen at 90′ so much I’m posting another of his lectures.

This is his lecture on Europe and the Sovereignty of the People’, delivered on 30 June 2016 at Europe House, London, under the auspices of Nuffield College, Oxford, and filmed by the BBC Parliament Channel.

Sadly, I’ve not been able to find it on iPlayer in BBC Parliament Briefings as I had for The Queen at 90. So the transcript, below, will have to do. It’s an entertaining and hugely informative review of how referendums fit into our Parliamentary democracy. For example, Prof Bogdanor says,

The referendum gives us a form of constitutional protection—perhaps the only form of constitutional protection for a country without a written constitution—in which Parliament is sovereign and can do what it likes.

SME decision makers split on EU-Referendum, in YouGov Survey

Interest in the upcoming referendum on our position in the European Union is taking off. I don’t think it’s yet the hot topic in pubs and bars, that’ll happen closer to the date of the vote.

Meanwhile, I’ve been offered access to a recent YouGov opinion poll. Which, on the basis that small firms accounted for 99.3 per cent of all private sector businesses in the UK, could be of interest to you. The YouGov poll was commissioned by QuoteSearcher who are a niche insurance specialist.

You can download the details at Results EU Exit, or a summary at QuoteSearcher. The YouGov study details are,

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 683 SME decision makers. Fieldwork was undertaken between 22nd- 26th June 2015.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Associated with the study are comments from Professor Simon Down, Lord Ashcroft International Business School – Anglia Ruskin University, who comments on Small vs. Medium Enterprises perspective,

“There is actually a huge difference between a small and medium-sized business, the latter quite often being much more substantial, formalised and professional than their counterparts. This is the issue with “lumping” the two together as an “SME” can range anywhere between 10 and 250 employees which means there is a large difference between the two.”

“In medium sized enterprises there is a much greater need for skills in a range of different sectors and technologies etc. Furthermore, these companies will have at least one tier of managerial staff who will have one to two specialisms, meaning the skills that they are looking for are likely to be much more sophisticated.”

“Smaller businesses not hiring from outside the UK could come from a lack of resources or skills which are required to hire specialist workers from different nations. Meanwhile, medium sized businesses are generally more formal and can have dedicated HR departments who will hire a person with the required skills regardless of where they are from. If they need people they’ll get them from wherever and deal with the costs and administrative procedures. This is particularly true for those that work in high-tech companies, biotech firms etc. as the skills they need to grow are not always in high supply in Britain.”

Even deus ex machina can’t solve this Greek tragedy

220px-Euripides_Museo Pio-ClementinoThe ancient Euripidean Greek tragedies relied on deus ex machine – the intervention of the gods – to solve a problem that had previously seemed impossible to solve. So the Greeks must hope for such intervention to resolve their financial crisis.

The Greek state was sclerotic, being unable to collect its taxes, with huge over manning in state industries, and endemically high levels of corruption. The corruption extended to fiddling the figures on which to enter the Euro.

You could say that the Greeks are the architect of their own downfall. That’s true, though the role of the EU in the current crisis shouldn’t be down played. The vaulting desire of the EU bureaucracy to uphold the political vision of the Euro cast Greece into the stranglehold of the troika [European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund] and crushing austerity.

One possible solution may be if the EU, and IMF forgive a large part of Greece’s debt and the new government makes the necessary reforms in tax collection, eradicating corruption and patronage. A final solution, that would be painful for Greece, although could be liberating in the long term, is to default on the debt and leave the Euro.

Whatever, there’ll be no deus ex machine this time.

Britain outside the EU? The German view

Britain outside the EU - A German ViewHere’s a view on Britain and the EU from a German perspective – Britain outside the EU? – The German View. Not one you’re likely to find in the UK press.

The report produced by Almut Moller, Head of Program, Alfred von Oppenheim Center for European Policy Studies, for German think tank, The German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP).

The article appears in its English version in World Affairs Journal.

Energy, passion, and committment

We’ve returned from an engaging and stimulating visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Over the next few days I’ll provide more fulsome reports of the visit. All of the MEP’s we met showed energy, passion, and committment.

One fact I can relate is that northern France and Belgium was bitingly cold, with snow showers, sleet, rain, and chilling wind our constant companion throughout the week.

Visiting the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Euro_ParlWe’ve visited the European Parliament in Brussels and watched a plenary session of voting. This week we’re watching a plenary session in the alternative European Parliament in Strasbourg.

It’s a different system to our Parliament. Discussions and scrutiny is done in committees, with MEP’s voting at a plenary session on the work coming out of the committees. For a Briton it’s odd to see a session purely for voting. Votes are registered electronically, and the results appear on a huge screen.

We’ll get opportunities to talk with some of MEP’s representing the South East of England – Daniel Hannan, Nirj Deva, Richard Ashworth, and James Elles.

After a couple of days in Strasbourg we’ll be stopping on the way back in Ypres, visiting the war graves and watching the Last Post being played at the Menin Gate.

Always hoping for better weather when we leave these shores, this time we’re not expecting it to be either warmer or drier. Ah, well, at least it’s a break.

Capital conomics win the Wolfson Economics Prize

Lord Wolfson, chief executive of fashion chain Next, put up £250,000 for the Wolfson Economics Prize in November 2011. The aim of the competition was to ask economists around the world to produce a workable solution to the following question:

“If member states leave the Economic and Monetary Union, what is the best way for the economic process to be managed to provide the soundest foundation for the future growth and prosperity of the current membership?”

Why is the question important? In the design of EMU no mechanism was created for any member to leave. The aim of the prize was to suggest a solution to this problem.

Roger Bootle and a team from Capital Economics were declared winners of the prize on Thursday. The winning entry is HERE.