Blackadder goes to Brussels: history’s shadow on the EU

Michael Gove has a plan so cunning it might be appointed Minister of State for Cunning in the next reshuffle. The plan is to write an essay for the Daily Mail criticising a broad mass of Leftists historians for their interpretation of the First World War. Gove asserts that they advance ‘myths’ such as the war’s futility and poor leadership, which undermines the courage and patriotism of the British Tommies who died fighting for ‘Britain’s special tradition of liberty’. He argues that history is taught badly in schools, relying on Blackadder videos, ‘misunderstandings and misrepresentations’. Continue reading…

Theresa May’s 75,000 migrant cap might undermine pro-migrant arguments

In late November I dissected David Cameron’s plans for restricting EU migrant benefits and rights, calling them ‘old, wrong or useless’. Over 70 Conservatives have signed a proposal defying European law to retain migration controls. This led the government to delay the Immigration Bill so rebels cannot humiliate the government or raise anti-Romanian/Bulgarian amendments before January. A Home Office document leaked to the Sunday Times suggests the Tories are proactive, not running scared.

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Trafficking and slavery: Europe policing sexual morality

Prostitution has always been a complicated topic in politics and law. The issues are more complex now than ever due to the intersecting scourges of trafficking and modern slavery. Britain is bound by the 2011 Anti-Trafficking Directive which insists governments reduce demand for exploitation and abuse.

France has just passed, and Ireland is considering, the ‘Nordic Model’ of prostitution regulation which outright criminalises those who purchase sex. Women’s relative safety in Norway and Sweden, and lower gender-based migrant exploitation, have led a coalition of MEPs and women’s groups (e.g. Equality Now) fronted by Mary Honeyball MEP to pressure Britain to follow Scandinavia’s example.

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Kiev rocks as WTO rolls out $1tn deal

Prince Grigory Potemkin-Tavricheski was a favourite of Empress Catherine, the Russian leader who brought about the golden age of expansion in the eighteenth century. After the annexation of Ukraine and the Crimea, Catherine appointed Grigory as governor-general of the new provinces with orders to modernise and rebuild the war-torn region. Unfortunately Grigory wasn’t very good at rebuilding the land, being primarily a military man, so when the Empress visited he simply erected fake villages along her route to give the impression of progress. Rumour has it, he even employed cheerful, healthy actors to play happy peasants along the Dnieper River.

The term ‘Potemkin Village’ has entered the English language as a hollow or false construct. The people of Ukraine would do well to remember its origins in their homeland. Protests in Kiev have entered their third week, with over 500,000 occupying Independence Square and City Hall, agitating for the resignation of the Azarov-Yanukovych government, the freedom of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, and closer ties with the European Union.  As a symbolic rejection of Russian power they toppled a longstanding statue of Vladimir Lenin, encouraged by ‘Dr Ironfist’ Vitali Klitschko, boxing champion, PhD and opposition MP.

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EU activists spur Cameron’s renegotiation efforts

Tory backbenchers and MEPs are attempting to rouse No.10 into action. It’s been ten months since Cameron’s ‘Bloomberg Speech’ promised renegotiation and referendum, yet the strategic contents of that new deal haven’t been fleshed out in the slightest.

The EU Fresh Start group, led by Andrea Leadsom, George Eustice, Chris Heaton-Harris, has the implicit support of William Hague. He wrote the foreword to their January 2013 Green Paper, ‘A Manifesto for Reform’.

The new mandate aims to establish ‘clearly and precisely how the EU must be reformed’. It opens with a mournful picture: ‘[T]he EU has reached a crunch point of sink or swim. Europe simply cannot afford, economically, to continue doing what we have always done, because Europe cannot afford financially to get what we have always got.’ It goes on to propose reforms under three sections:  Competitiveness, Flexibility and Democratic Accountability.

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‘Nasty Country’ immigrant restraints are old, wrong or useless

Before we knew Cameron’s Romanian/Bulgarian restriction details, I predicted they‘d be more hot air than substance.  Analysis shows the Tory proposals are either already in law, unenforceable or inappropriate for the problems at hand. The only consequence to Cameron’s sabre-rattling is Brussels’ reaction: Commissioner László Andor warns that Britain will be branded ‘the Nasty Country’. This might damage Cameron’s renegotiation prospects, but in the short term suits him fine: who would migrate to the Nasty Country with its Hostile Environment? Continue reading…

Cameron’s migrant block: hearts & minds in reverse?

Romanian and Bulgarian migrants might face continued restrictions to rights and benefits in the UK after 1 January 2014, according to sources near David Cameron. He wants to double (or possible quadruple) the time-period migrants have to live in Britain before they can receive benefits, from three months to six (or a year). Details are yet to solidify.

As I discussed last week, EU law means Britain must let all EU migrants in, and it is important the government decides what to do once they’re here. However, recent revelations suggest government migration policy is already quietly ‘open door’, so January’s influx will only be affected by an atmosphere of resentment or welcome, not actual law.  Recent moves such as Border Agency arrests at London underground stops and the infamous ‘GO HOME’ van are already contributing to this, dubbed Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’.

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Integration is the best policy for 2014′s Romanian and Bulgarian migrants

On 1 January 2014, Romanian and Bulgarian citizens will gain all the same rights as French, German and Dutch ex-pats in the UK.  Some will come to Britain, although nobody is sure how many. The government are cagey about their estimates after spectacularly underestimating the number of ‘A8’ citizens wanting to come in 2004. MigrationWatchUK estimate about 250,000 in 5 years, Migration Matters only 20,000, and a BBC poll implies c.119,000 total.  Our borders services don’t collect enough data for accurate estimates.

Although it’s unlikely that they’ll all descend on one seaside town on New Year’s Day demanding JSA, social housing and dental treatment, estimates do suggest numbers so substantial that our already-straining services will be under severe pressure.  Cameron has vowed to keep his belt permanently tight, but in this instance, he should show a little post-Christmas cheer, both for his own benefit and that of the country. Likely ‘pinch-points’ need a funding boost.

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The EU’s transatlantic chumocracy

Round two of negotiations for TTIP, the transatlantic trade deal between the EU and America, kicks off this week. On Friday former Prime Minister John Major spoke of the ‘truly shocking’ state of Britain, in which ‘the upper echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent‘. Nowhere is this more evident than the EU debate, where the ‘pro’ side is dominated by big-business interests keen to safeguard their profit margins.

Last week I examined the CBI’s study of Europe’s benefits. I was surprised by their claim EU membership was worth 4-5% of GDP (£1,225 per person). That figure comes from a ‘review of the literature’ (pp.79-81) rather than primary research. There’s only one problem with this approach: the literature reviewed by is heavily weighted towards positive EU assessments.

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Business split on EU stance, but all support reform

The last week has seen studies and counter-studies from different Eurofactions. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) released a report today arguing ‘EU membership is the best vehicle for achieving these open, global ambitions in the 21stcentury’. The CBI’s study is hefty at 187 pages, and concedes that there are numerous areas in which the EU should improve, but ultimately concludes against a British exit.

In cold cash terms, they claim:

‘It is not unreasonable to infer from a literature review that the net benefit arising from EU membership is somewhere in the region of 4–5% of UK GDP or between £62bn and £78bn per year – roughly the economies of the North East and Northern Ireland taken together. This suggests that households benefit from EU membership to the tune of nearly £3,000 a year – with every individual in the UK around £1,225 better off.’ (p.11)

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