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BRUSSELSWATCH
London
Richard ROBINSON: A sceptical view of the EU
Interests: EU, European Parliament, EMU, Foreign Policy
Recent Activity
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The LibDems want a second referendum: on the terms of Brexit. Tim Farron has said that they will vote against triggering Aritcle 50 unless the government concedes a second referendum on the negotiated terms. It is ironic that a party that opposed the first referendum now wants a second. In fact before they were against a referendum they were for one: In 2004 Chris Huhne said, “In a referendum campaign, the British public will be able to decide on the arguments themselves following an open debate. Without a referendum, the anti-Europeans would argue that the EU could only function by... Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2016 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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‘75% of our laws are now made in Brussels’. A UKIP poster makes this claim, common among Europsceptics. Indeed, we have heard figures as high as 84%. Then again, former Europe Minister, Dennis MacShane is fond of quoting a house of Commons Library study of 2005 that concluded that just 9% of our laws were made in Brussels. So what is the truth? The 84% figure was obtained from an answer given by the Undersecretary of the German Parliament, relating to the number of European Directives and Regulations adopted by Germany in the period 1998 to 2004. The calculation fails... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2016 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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At Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn used four of his six questions to ask about the Posting of Workers Directive. Neither he nor the Prime Minister explained what it was, so the exchanges were fairly unintelligible to most people watching. Posting of workers occurs when services are provided across borders within the Single Market. A posted worker is sent by his employer in one member state on a temporary basis (usually less than a year) to carry out work in another member state. In the single market, companies in one EU country must be able to provide services in... Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2016 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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Over the next six weeks we will be looking at the claims made by each side in the referendum debate, trying to unpick fact from fiction. To begin, let’s look at what the EU costs us. ‘Every week we send £350 million to Brussels, enough to build, staff and equip a new NHS hospital every week.’ The sum of £350 million a week represents the UK’s gross contribution to the EU budget of £19.1 billion a year. This figure, however, ignores Britain’s rebate, negotiated by Mrs Thatcher in 1984. In 2015 the rebate was £4.9 billion. This is never sent... Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2016 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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What do the recent floods have to do with the European Union? Nothing you might think, but while the EU did not cause the floods, it does bear a more general responsibility. During the 2014 European Elections, I tried to persuade voters in the South East that elections to the European Parliament were important because the Parliament played a major role in framing legislation that impacted every aspect of our lives: from the safety of the food that we eat to the quality of water that we drink, from the medicines that we take to the number of hours we... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2015 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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While the European Commission insists on economic reform in Greece, it is taking a more tolerant approach to France’s stubborn budget deficit. Two years ago EU finance ministers gave France another two years to bring its deficit down to the 3% of GDP mandated by EU treaties. The French government, however, now predicts that the deficit will remain at 4.1% both this year and next, and only fall to the required 3% by 2017. The rules for controlling budget deficits in Eurozone countries were first set out in 1991 in the Stability and Growth Pact. They were adopted at the... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2015 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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In the Leaders’ election debate last night, Nigel Farage addressed the subject of ‘Health Tourism’: ‘There are 7,000 diagnoses in this country every year of people who are HIV positive … 60% of them are not British nationals.’ Is he right? National Health England reports (http://tinyurl.com/oxuv79h) that 6,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in 2013. Data on country of birth is available for 83% of these, of which 54% were born outside the UK. So, a significant number, if not quite the 60% of 7,000 that Farage quoted. It is important, however, to note that NHE records place of birth... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2015 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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Anyone who has bought the Kindle edition of a book from Amazon will have seen the disclaimer “Unlike print books, digital books are subject to VAT”, and perhaps wondered why this should be. Books are zero rated presumably to encourage us to read, so why charge VAT on e-books? France and Luxembourg both decided to charge a reduced rate of VAT on books delivered electronically. France charges 5.5% compared with a standard rate of VAT of 19.6%; while Luxembourg charges just 3%. Both have now been declared illegal by the European Court of Justice (Case C-479/13). The VAT Directive, adopted... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2015 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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The average Englishman will tell you three things about the EU: they ban straight bananas, their accounts have never been satisfactorily audited, and MEPs waste a fortune moving between Brussels and Strasbourg each month. There is more truth to the first two assertions than the Europhiles like to admit. But the third count against the EU is undeniable. The cost of moving 751 MEPs and their staff 270 miles south for four days each month is estimated at up to €200 million. Only a few, with vested interest or hermetically sealed in the EU bubble, seek to defend keeping a... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2014 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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“This time it’s different”, declared the strap line of the European Parliament’s advertising campaign for May’s European election. In one respect, however, it was not different: new figures from the European Parliament now show that turnout was again down: at 42.54 % a new low. It has fallen in every European election since the first in 1999. In my south-east constituency, this year’s election was certainly more focused on the issue of Europe, if not on European issues, than either of the previous two elections in which I have been a candidate. Opinion became polarised between those in favour of... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2014 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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My Satnav let me down. Years ago, a day campaigning would involve Ordinance Survey maps and Street Atlases, stops to ask directions and long walks from the wrong end of the street to a meeting point. Today, I just programme a post code into my trusty TomTom and set off,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2014 at CAMPAIGN DIARY
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Friday night was supposed to be a night off. Instead of my usual Friday speaking engagement I had arranged to attend a Burns Supper in Frimley. I had an English teacher who maintained that Eliot wrote poetry; Betjeman wrote jingles. I feel rather the same about Burns, who sometimes approaches... Continue reading
Posted Jan 26, 2014 at CAMPAIGN DIARY
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One of my responsibilities for our election campaign is to coordinate the efforts of our ten candidates. It would be easier to herd kittens. I have come to Brussels partly to enlist the support of our MEPs' assistants. They are the real powers behind our MEPs' thrones, maintaining their diaries... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2014 at CAMPAIGN DIARY
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This is what we aspire to: the Monday morning Eurostar. This morning I am heading to Brussels for a couple of days of meetings but can't help reflecting that this wouuld be my life were I to be elected. However unlikely, you can't be a candidate without considering the possibility... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2014 at CAMPAIGN DIARY
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Yesterday, one of my political opponents was murdered. When a suicide bomber detonated his load in the Taverna du Liban restaurant in the Wazir Akbar district Khan of Kabul, he killed twenty one, among them the restaurant owner, four UN personnel and Del Singh, a Labour candidate here in the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2014 at CAMPAIGN DIARY
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Friday night meetings are always difficult just because it takes so long to get anywhere. Tonight I was in Beaconsfield which should be about an hour and a quarter from home. But it’s a Friday night so I left at 4:30 to be sure to be there by 7:30. In... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2014 at CAMPAIGN DIARY
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The South East Region European Constituency wraps around London from Dover to the New Forest and north to Milton Keynes so I spend an inordinate amount of my time in the car, usually on motorways. This morning saw a pause in the rain and the sun came out so I... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2014 at CAMPAIGN DIARY
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Turnout has fallen in each election to the European Parliament since the first in 1979. At the same time, the power of the Parliament has increased from little more than a talking shop to today when, on most issues, the Lisbon Treaty gives it equal weight to Member States. In the UK, in 2009, less than half of those eligible to vote chose to do so. Many that did, knew little or nothing of the work of the parliament or the individuals that they were voting for. Some treated it as an opportunity to make a statement about the performance... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2013 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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What chance does David Cameron have of successfully negotiating a new relationship with the EU? Clearly there will be reluctance on behalf of some EU countries to grant the UK a special deal, a privileged position with full access to the single market with none of the obligations to which they have signed up. It might, therefore, be wise to frame any renegotiation as a bid to reform the EU rather than merely to repatriate powers to Britain. With Britain’s net payments to Brussels now topping £12 billion, the other net contributors will be very aware of the risk that... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2013 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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The American President’s State of the Union address to Congress is a major political event of the year and dominates the political agenda during January. By comparison, the President of the European Commission’s annual speech to the European Parliament is barely reported. The fact that for the past four years, the President of the Commission has styled his speech “State of the Union” is a nod to the ambition among the Brussels elite to create a United States of Europe. The implied comparison on the part of José Barroso is typical of the hubris that infects Europe’s civil servants. For... Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2013 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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Turnout has fallen in each European election since the first direct elections in 1999. In 2009 less than half of those eligible to do so took the opportunity to vote. To the European elites this represents a paradox. The Parliament is the only directly elected of the EU’s institutions. With each successive treaty it has acquired powers at the expense of the Commission and national governments. In my experience, voters generally act rationally. So it is worth considering why this might be. Decision-making in the EU is obscure, with the commission retaining the exclusive right, in most cases, to initiate... Continue reading
Posted Jul 19, 2013 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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The European Commission is unhappy with the coverage it is getting in the press and, being the Commission, it has decided that this is the fault of the press itself. So it is to spend 3.2 milliion Euros of our money to tell us what a wonderful job it is doing. It is proposing to finance an “independent” online news service to counter the “inadequate and shallow” reporting of the mainstream media. While the request for bids pays lip-service to “quality journalism”, it makes it clear what is required: “The purpose is to filter, select and explain the news to... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2013 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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Last week, Martin Schultz, President of the European Parliament, tweeted, “The US have one currency, one Central Bank and one Government. Europe has one currency, one Central Bank and...17 governments! Cannot go on like this.” Anyone who believes that the drive towards a Federal United States of Europe is over is woefully mistaken. For those of us who believe that national sovereignty is an essential guarantor of our historic freedoms, there is no more potent sign of this drive for a federal super-state than the explosion over the past twenty years in the EU’s jurisdiction in the area of Justice... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2013 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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I'm not in favour of politicians (especially MEPs) having immunity from prosecution, so in principle I was happy to see French Front National leader Marine Le Pen stripped of the immunity which would have prevented her prosecution in France for racism. She is alleged to have compared Muslim street prayers to the occupation of France. But I suppose that if immunity has any purpose it is to allow our elected representatives the freedom to express their views, even when we judge them offensive. The attitude of the European Parliament in removing her immunity is more surprising given the lengths to... Continue reading
Posted Jul 2, 2013 at BRUSSELSWATCH
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“The Common agricultural policy is the most stupid, immoral state-subsidised policy in human history, give or take communism.” Former British ambassador to Poland, Sir Charles Crawford. For all its pretensions to be more, the EU is still very much an agricultural community: nearly half of its annual budget is still spent on subsidising agriculture. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) discriminates against British farmers, costs every British household £400 a year in higher food bills and impoverishes the Third World. Even after the proposed reforms the largest beneficiaries of CAP subsidies will be large agribusinesses in France, Italy and Spain. British... Continue reading
Posted Jul 2, 2013 at BRUSSELSWATCH