Open Europe bulletin.The EU and You - How the EU affects everyday life in the UK.
The EU now has a powerful influence on our everyday lives. But as a result of the way EU legislation operates, it is often not clear to either voters or even the media when a particular decision or policy originates from the EU. Most people are not aware that the EU is responsible for such diverse things as fortnightly bin collections, higher electricity bills, home information packs and rules on children of twelve having to sit in car booster seats.
As a result, by far the most common question asked by journalists about the Lisbon Treaty is: "but how will this affect our daily lives?" As food for thought, a new paper from Open Europe reviews a selection of the everyday effects of EU law. ‘The EU and You’ attempts to demonstrate the true scale of the influence the EU exerts over issues which really impact on people's daily lives in the UK. Download the briefing here: http://www.openeurope.org.uk/research/euandyou.pdf News in brief MEPs vote to keep expenses theft secret. MEPs have been threatened with a legal challenge after voting to keep secret details of how they spend £180 million in expenses every year.
A confidential internal audit report into the employment of members’ assistants revealed widespread malpractice and "massive suspicion of fraud" worth £100 million a year, but senior MEPsrejected a draft ruling that they should reveal what they pay their staff and claim on expenses. Abuses included salaries for assistants that were paid to accounts run by MEPs themselves; an office management "service provider" that traded in timber; payments to people that do not exist; and staff Christmas bonuses worth up to 20 times the employee's monthly salary. (Summary of the report FT Telegraph WSJ, 4 March) UK defeated on EU law to force cars to drive with lights on all day. A new EU directive has been passed forcing cars to drive with their lights on all day.
Britain opposed the directive but was unable to prevent European transport ministers approving it because of majority voting in transport policy. Labour MP Stephen Ladyman, who was Transport Minister during earlier EU Council discussions on the measure, said: “This directive will kill a lot of motorcyclists.” (Mail, 29 February) Cost to UK of European regulation up 16 per cent in one year; £47bn since 1998. The British Chambers of Commerce's 2008 Burdens Barometer shows that the total cost of the major regulations to UK business approved since 1998 has now reached £66 billion.
Of this, £47 billion (71 per cent) originated from EU regulations. This is up 16 per cent on the previous year (£40.4 billion in 2007). Burdens Barometer 2008 Giscard d'Estaing: EU President should follow in the footsteps of George Washington. Former French President and author of the EU Constitution Valery Giscard d'Estaing, has called for the new EU President to be appointed after ratification of the Lisbon Treaty to follow in the footsteps of George Washington. He wrote on his blog: "This is about the first fixed president of the EU and we must have George Washington in mind as the precedent."
Meanwhile, federalists have launched a campaign to create a single EU super-President. (FTTelegraph, 10 February) £500,000 extension of Strasbourg Parliament. The controversial Strasbourg building of the European Parliament - which stands empty for more than 300 days of the year - is set to be extended just ten years after it was built, at an estimated cost of £500,000. (Sun, 14 February) EU wants 19 details to “profile” every passenger.
The EU Commission wants to force travellers on domestic and EU flights to provide 19 pieces of personal information such as credit cards details, mobile phone numbers and email addresses. The UK Government is reported to be lobbying for an extension of the plan to rail and sea passengers as well. (Telegraph, 23 February) Children as young as six could be ushered into private booths and fingerprinted at European borders. (Evening Standard, 14 February) Patricia Hewitt for next EU Commissioner?
There are rumours that former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt has been approved by the Cabinet as Britain's next European Commissioner. Meanwhile there are rumours that current EU Commissioner Peter Mandelson could stay in Brussels after stepping down to work for his friend and former boss Tony Blair, if the ex-Prime Minister becomes the first permanent EU President. (Evening Standard, Telegraph, 26 February) EU renewable targets to cost UK consumers £3bn in higher electricity bills. According to the FT, the subsidy system for renewables in the UK is the most expensive in Europe, bar that of Italy.
The total subsidy for renewable energy sourced from consumer energy bills will rise from £600m a year to £3bn a year in 2020 in order for the UK to reach EU targets for renewable energy. The article notes that the nature of the UK system means that funds are generating large profits from existing wind farms, rather than producing many new turbines. Peter Atherton atCiti Investment Research said of the bumper profits underpinned by generous subsidy: "It's a bonanza. Anyone who can get their nose in the trough is trying to". (Times FT, 3 February) EU stockpiling controversial legislation for after EU Treaty ratification.
There have been several reports that the EU is withholding controversial legislation until after ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in the UK. The controversial Health Directive will be reintroduced only once ratification is complete, as both the UK and Ireland are opposed.
Plans to harmonise Europe's corporate tax base are also being held back. According to European Voice, French President Nicolas Sarkozy plans to create an elite defence group of the EU's six biggest member states once the Treaty comes into force. The UK will not support the plan publicly until the new Treaty comes into force, but an EU official told the paper that the UK had pushed for the provision when the Constitution was being drafted.
There are also reports that there are plans underway to create a powerful new EU ‘Interior Ministry’ under the Lisbon Treaty, which will be agreed in secret by Brussels’ officials over the next four or five months and without any public or parliamentary scrutiny. (EUobserver European Voice Telegraph Waterfield, 15 February) Open Europe research - the Blank Cheque Antiques dealer arrested at gunpoint under European Arrest Warrant on baseless grounds.
According to Antiques Trade Gazette, a London-based antiques dealer, Malcolm Hay, was seized under a Greek-issued European Arrest Warrant, having been unwittingly caught up in a case of stolen Greek artefacts simply by doing business with a regular customer, a registered antiques dealer based in Athens. At one point Hay was arrested at gunpoint at London's City Airport and spent two days in custody before being taken before an extradition tribunal.
Following his arrest and remand in custody, Hay was released on a £20,000 bail and spent the next six months fighting extradition in the English courts and simultaneously charges of theft in the Greek criminal court relating to the 1999 transaction. His eventual discharge from the Warrant in England came on January 9 after UK magistrates ruled that the Crown Prosecution Service had failed to clarify whether or not the Warrant was valid because of the lack of a formal summons in the Greek courts. (ATG, 20 February) Open Europe in the news EU bunch of lying thieves News of the World 9 March Commenting on recent report on MEP corruption Open Europe said, “These people should all be going to jail. They are criminals and it’s a disgrace this corruption has been covered up.”
What has the EU ever done for us? Sunday Express 10 March The Sunday Express had a double page spread based on Open Europe’s recent report “The EU and You: How the EU affects everyday life in the UK”, which shows that the EU is responsible for such diverse things as fortnightly bin collections, higher electricity bills, home information packs and rules on children of twelve having to sit in car booster seats. LorraineMullally is quoted as saying “The EU now has a powerful influence on our everyday lives. But as a result of the way EU legislation operates, it is often not clear to voters when a particular decision or policy originates in the EU.”
Denying a referendum will damage the EU Our Kingdom 7 March Writing on the Open Democracy ‘Our Kingdom’ blog, Open Europe’s Hugo Robinson argued that the Government has won a “pyrrhic victory” on the Lisbon Treaty in the Commons. On Europe, MPs make another mistake Telegraph Three Line Whip 6 March The Telegraph Three Line Whip blog noted, "Open Europe, the cross-party campaign run by Neil O'Brien, was behind the push for a referendum and has played a blinder.
When it seemed that nobody cared, Neil and his colleagues worked overtime to devise ways of keeping the matter in the public eye." Call referendum to restore trust in politics Today BBC Three Counties Radio Al Arabia TV Independent Radio News Time FM Radio Talksport 4-5 March Open Europe’s Neil O’Brien appeared on the BBC Today programme arguing that a referendum was essential to restore ailing trust in politics. Lorraine Mullally was interviewed on BBC Three Counties Radio and Radio Talksport, while Hugo Robinson appeared on Al Arabia TV, Independent Radio News and Time FM, discussing the need for a referendum.
The ruthless politics of the Lisbon Treaty Times 5 March On the Times Red Box blog Sam Coates looked at Open Europe’s recent achievements, describing the organisation as “a significant force in British politics.” Coming or going? Guardian 26 February Neil O’Brien had an article on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website arguing that “Nick Clegg is only calling for a referendum on ‘in or out of Europe’ to cover up the fact that he is against a referendum on the real issue in hand - the revived constitutional treaty.” EU to investigate staff payments Al Jazeera Express 22 February Lorraine Mullally was quoted in the Express: "This is a disgraceful theft of taxpayers' money.
It shows why EU politicians should not be given yet more powers and more money, and why we need a referendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty." Alistair Tebbit was interviewed about the revelations on Al Jazeera. "We are absolutely astonished at the scale", he said. Labour EU rebels hit out at 'expulsion threat’ Telegraph 5 March Open Europe was quoted in the Telegraph, arguing that "MPs are not shown important EU documents until it is too late to do anything about them. It makes a joke of the parliamentary process." Unanswered questions Irish Times 4 February The Irish Times picked up on Open Europe’s recent briefing on the ‘unanswered questions’ which will need to be resolved after ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.
Alan adds: Of course the Lisbon Treaty, the constitution of the European Union, is now in force and we are under the EU jackboot, with a banking union set to follow. Once you totally control the banks as well as over 80 per cent of all new laws coming into force, you have control of any nation. Goodbye, Great Britain! Our book with that as part of its title is on sale in our web shop, together with DVDs exposing the EU.
I give some Powerpoint talks on this subject and the spiritual deceipt behind the EU and its mysterious 12-starred flag. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like me to speak in America, Canada or Britain.