Readers will know that I have written to my Member of Parliament about this country’s membership of the European Union and in so doing questioning statements he has made. Likewise, following public statements made by Laura Sandys and Nick Clegg they too have been contacted, questioning their statements that have recently appeared in the media.
Needless to say, I hold out little hope that a response will be received from Sandys or Clegg; and if one is received it will no doubt be a repetition of parliamentary convention that I am not a constituent of theirs, or they will copy the response of David Cameron and provide two pages of A4 explaining how, if I want ‘change’, I should be voting for their respective parties.
We, who are interested in politics, can complain among ourselves and comment on blog articles as often as we like – but that, actually, accomplishes little I would suggest.
However, never one to give up easily, I have also written to Ed Miliband along similar lines to David Cameron – so let us see what response that provides. As will be seen in the email – reproduced below – I have made the point that politicians are continually bleating about the need to engage with the electorate – which never seems to happen – so I, as a member of the electorate, am attempting to engage with them; and that consequently I hope that I will receive a response.
Dear Mr. Miliband,
Much is made of the disconnect between the electorate and politicians and this is no doubt due to the lack of honesty and the lack of truth in what politicians tell the electorate; something that must also reflect on why the electorate question the integrity of our politicians.
I write not as a constituent of yours, but as a member of the electorate to whom you appeal in your efforts to become our country’s next prime minister. I am also well aware of the parliamentary convention whereby Members of Parliament maintain they can only respond to constituents on matters raised by them; however, from time to time politicians make statements through the media – and via the internet – which are, in effect, directed to the electorate at large and thus are liable to question by any member of the electorate.
In this regard I wish to concentrate on the question of the UK’s membership of the European Union.
In January 2013 David Cameron gave a speech in which he said:
“How can we sensibly answer the question of ‘in or out’ without being able to answer the most basic question: what is it that we are choosing to be ‘in or out’ of.”
When considering the mountain of words that have been uttered or written by anyone, be they of the pro-EU or anti-EU factions, never has anything so true been uttered than those words above.
How can the British electorate make an informed decision in respect of the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union – in any referendum that is granted or when politicians discuss this subject – when the true facts have been hidden from them; and I contend, deliberately so it would seem.
You have criticised David Cameron for his lack of honesty and truth on the question of this country’s membership of the European Union; and, regrettably, I have to suggest the same criticism can be leveled at you.
You made a number of points in your speech at the London Business School in March this year and I wish to use this opportunity to take you to task on some of them.
You stated that almost almost half of all overseas investment in the UK comes from within the EU, directly providing 3.5 million jobs. In respect of the number of jobs, on what is this statement based? Are you ‘parroting’ the remarks of Nick Clegg on the BBC’s Today programme of 30th October 2011; or the remarks of Stephen Byers and Tony Blair in the year 2000; or in the same year the report issued by the South Bank University; or the figure of 3.5 million mentioned during a BIS debate in the HoC about overseas investment, based on an analysis apparently conducted in 2006; or the BIS report from February 2011 on the UK Response to the European Commission Consultation on the Single Market Act; or the report in 2000 by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in which it stated that: “detailed estimates from input-output tables suggest that up to 3.2 million jobs are now associated directly with exports of goods and services to other EU countries and which went on to say that: “there is no reason to suppose that many of these[jobs], if any, would be lost permanently if Britain were to leave the EU; or, finally, as recent as June this year when Danny Alexander spoke in Washington and stated that 3.3 million jobs are connected to this country’s continued membership of the European Union?
There has always been a mantra put forward by politicians in favour of EU membership that the United Kingdom has to be ”in the EU to trade with the EU’ – a mantra that is palpably false, but one that like David Cameron you perpetuate. Yes, without doubt there are British jobs linked to trade and services with the other 27 members of the EU, but these jobs are not linked to our membership of the EU as they arise from our membership of the Single Market. You know as well as I – or you should do – that it is possible to be fully functional participants in the Singe Market without being members of the EU, something which can be done by applying to re-join EFTA and remaining in the EEA.
David Cameron has ‘rubbished’ what is now called the ‘Norway Option’; something with which you appear to agree with your insistence that we have to remain in the EU in order to ‘have influence’. Condemning Norway to ‘government by fax’, having ‘no say’ in decision making and thus not being at the ‘top table’ is pure hogwash.
I am forced to ask where is the honesty, truth – coupled with your integrity – in denying that where the World Trade Organisation is concerned we all know that, within the EU, trade policy is an exclusive competence of the commission; subsequently we also know that in dealing with the WTO the framework for negotiations is decided at EU level by consensus and we are then represented at the WTO ‘top table’ by the European Commission.
The WTO situation is not unique, take for example the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations, known as WP.29 and held under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Council Europe where our interests are once again represented by the European Commission. Or take the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (on which Norway again has her own seat) which jointly manages the fisheries in the region,where the UK interest is represented by the European Commission and where we are not even parties to the enabling treaty, the EU having taken over our seat.
On both bodies Norway has a voice in the formulation of standards and decisions which are then handed down, in the form of dual international quasi-legislation for implementation by governments and trade blocs.
Where the setting of global standards is concerned, Codex is the ‘top table’ for food standards’ and there are many more: the FAO based in Rome; The OECD based in Paris; the ICAO based in Montreal; the BIS based in Basel; and the UNFCCC based in Bonn.
The point has to be made that it is from these dual international quasi-legisation that the majority of the bulk of Single Market regulation originates, making the EU no more than an intermediary player processing standards agreed elsewhere over which it has no control. At this point it becomes obvious that a seat at Brussels is not one at the top table.
Norway, as a member of the EEA, sits on over 200 EU Committees and from the EFTA website we learn that decision shaping is the phase of preparatory work undertaken by the European Commission to draw up new legislative proposals; that the Commission has an exclusive right of making proposals for new legislation but is obliged to call on advice from external sources when doing so; that the EEA Agreement contains provisions for input from the EEA EFTA side at various stages before new legislation is adopted; that input can take the form of participation by EEA EFTA experts in EC committees or the submission of EEA EFTA comments, as well as the adoption of resolutions in response to Commission initiatives; that as the initiator of EU legislation, the Commission is responsible for the preparatory work leading to draft proposals and that for this purpose, advice is often sought from experts of the Member States; that EEA EFTA States’ influence on the shaping of legislation is significant at this pre-pipeline stage, as the EEA Agreement provides for extensive participation by EEA EFTA experts in the preparatory work of the Commission; that in accordance with the EEA Agreement, the Commission shall informally seek advice from experts of the EEA EFTA States in the same way that it seeks advice from experts of the EU Member States.
In view of the above and that the UK would have far more influence on the global stage than we do as members of the European Union, I have to question your assertion that we are better off ‘in’ than ‘out’.
During this speech you said that Progressive politics must also be capable of responding to the concerns people have [around the benefits system]. Setting to one side the benefits system, the one thing you – and politicians in general – do not do is respond to the concerns of the people. If you had any such wish to respond to the concerns of the people you would immediately instigate a procedure whereby the electorate could question – and if necessary overturn – any decision that government, be that national or local, intended to implement.
You wrote, in your City AM article recently, that you are clear leaving the European Union would be a historic moment of economic self-harm: a betrayal of millions of people and businesses whose future depends on our EU membership. I would suggest to you that the greater betrayal of millions of people and businesses is the failure of politicians (with the exception of Owen Paterson) to be honest – and thus truthful – on the subject of this country’s membership of the European Union.
We hear repeatedly from politicians that there is a need for them to engage with the electorate – something that never seems to happen. As a result I am attempting to engage with politicians and therefore I trust I may look forward to a response from you in due course,