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The Clown Prince Across the Water

Could Boris Johnson actually end up as Britain’s prime minister?

And in that key word lies the rub — and Cameron’s worst nightmare. The rise in prices on the Boris Index is a sign that many Tories are resigned to losing the next general election. The right, which has never wholly trusted Cameron’s attempt to “detoxify” the party’s image, is disgruntled; the center worried that a panicky “lurch to the right” spells electoral calamity. It remains rather easier to imagine Boris as leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition than as prime minister. Indeed, even Tapsell only ventured that “perhaps” Boris could be a credible prime minister.

Boris is fun. But political prime-time is not the same as light entertainment.

So a large part of the pro-Boris bandwagon is predicated upon Cameron being ejected from office after a humiliating election defeat in 2015. Boris, back in parliament by then (even though his second mayoral term does not end until 2016) would then be swept into the leader’s office by depressed Tory members who want nothing more than to be cheered-up.

It takes no great powers of political analysis to perceive that this would be a high-risk adventure. For instance, the idea of Boris ever — even accidentally — having responsibility for Britain’s nuclear missiles is not a soothing one. But nor is it an idea that can be dismissed as evident nonsense.

For the time being, Boris is urging some measure of loyalty. “After 2016 who knows what will happen” he says. “But I’m very, very happy with the job of mayor of London.” Discontented Tories — i.e., his putative rivals — should “cool their porridge” and “save their breath.” They need to “put their shoulders to the wheel, all hands to the mast, and all shoot from the same trench — to mix my metaphors.”

And yet none of this quite convinces. Boris’s relationship with Cameron has long been uneasy. Cameron was two years Boris’s junior at Eton (and Oxford) and, befitting the time-honored conventions of the British boarding school, the older boy has never quite lost the sense of superiority first ingrained by seniority when the pair were teenagers.

It certainly seems that way. In an interview with a French radio station this month, Boris suggested, in his typical style, that he and David Cameron were “like Wallace and Gromit” though, as the Guardian observed, “he didn’t say which was the absent-minded inventor and which his far brainier dog.”

Be that as it may, many Tories still consider Boris the Clown Prince Across the Water. This despite a record of achievement that is, by objective standards, negligible. Boris has performed adequately as mayor of the capital city, but even his staunchest admirers are hard-pressed to produce any lengthy list of achievements he has to his name. London’s mayor has relatively few powers. Like being governor of Texas, it sounds a weightier position than it really is. There is a fear that, just as the United States was lumbered with George W. Bush, so Britain could be stuck with Boris. Like Bush — whom Boris once described as a “cross-eyed Texan warmonger” — Johnson’s appeal is as much a matter of style as substance. He talks “Real Tory.” From his euroscepticism to his enthusiasm for lower taxes, Boris tickles the Tory party’s erogenous zones. And he does so in a fashion that seems to entertain the public.

Perhaps it is a feature of these rancorous and gloomy times that Boris is no longer as preposterous a notion as he once seemed. He is not a “serious” politician but, as election results in Italy and Israel have shown recently, non-serious, populist, politicians are able to capitalize upon public discontent.

Before he became mayor of London, Boris briefly served as shadow arts minister in 2004. Upon his appointment he told one interviewer, that “Look the point is … er, what is the point? It is a tough job but somebody has got to do it.”

We may yet hear a variation on that refrain once again. Being leader of the Conservative Party is a tough job that someone has to do. So why not Boris?

The mind, as Boris might admit himself, boggles.


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via The Clown Prince Across the Water – By Alex Massie | Foreign Policy.

via The Clown Prince Across the Water – By Alex Massie | Foreign Policy.

Cartoon for Today- The Bankers


Now I just happen to wonder who is left to pick up the tab

“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and the corporations which grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered”

Thomas Jefferson


“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system; for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning”

Henry Ford


“I care not what puppet is placed upon the throne of England to rule the Empire on which the sun never sets. The man that controls Britain’s money supply controls the British Empire, and I control the British money supply”

– Baron Nathan Mayer Rothschild


Britain declared uninhabitable

BRITAIN is unsuitable for human life, the UN has declared.

It is rather nippy

As forecasters predict ice, snow, darkness and blade-like freezing winds that can actually slice your face off, the UN declared the country uninhabitable and began evacuation procedures.

A UN spokesman said: “We just want to get as many people out alive as possible, then we’ll figure out distributing them across pleasanter places like Spain.

“The weather is obviously a huge concern but Christmas adverts, middle class angst and the presence of Ed Balls’ face also make Britain a humanitarian crisis.

“We’ll be sending helicopters in about a week, keep watching during the X Factor ad breaks for details of where to rendezvous. Maximum two pieces of hand luggage each.

“In the meantime, just stay inside. Do not attempt to leave the house or even look out of the window, it’s far too psychologically damaging.”

Asked why the UN was not taking similar action in Scotland, the spokesman said: “The Scots thrive on misery. It’s like sunlight to them.”

British father-of-two Stephen Malley said: “I leave for work in freezing darkness and then I leave the office in freezing darkness.

“I’m sure this country is like a giant haunted house, actively trying to kill its inhabitants.”

via Britain declared uninhabitable.

via Britain declared uninhabitable.

Imagining A British Future Outside Of Europe, And Europe Without The Brits

3bee17be3beab2413b5af554788ce187_londonAs the crow flies, it’s 320 kilometers (199 miles) between Brussels and London. But at 8 a.m. sharp on Wednesday, when British Prime Minister David Cameron stepped up to the microphone in the basement auditorium of US media company Bloomsberg’s European headquarters on Finsbury Square, the Channel suddenly got a lot wider.

n Brussels, the lack of desire to even react to Cameron’s challenge made itself felt – and if it hadn’t been for loud calls of protest, the spokeswoman for EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso would just as soon have broken up the midday press conference after delivering three succinct statements.

But the fact is that — even if both sides affirm that they don’t want to pull up the drawbridge — Wednesday’s speech put two questions out there front and center: Can there be a European Union without the British? And can the British manage without the EU?

The clear answer to both questions is: Yes. Of course they can manage without each other. Whether they would manage better is another issue. None of the 27 and soon to be 28 (Croatia) EU countries – not even the French – want Britain to leave. Brussels is a bazaar, and at the negotiating table the British are heavyweights that others happily align with.

A case in point is the EU 2014-2020 budget, which an alliance of countries led by London and Berlin recently rejected much to the anger of many Brussels functionaries and parliamentarians. The British and Germans were also long-time partners on environmental issues.

Northern European countries align with Britain when it comes to Commission involvement in the labor market, for example in opposing quotas for women on boards. Britain is also a powerful advocate for all those who favor EU enlargement.

And of course the vision of a European Defence Community without Britain is a paper tiger. “London has to be part of any joint European foreign and security policies if they are to be taken seriously,” Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a European Parliament member from Germany’s Free Democratic Party, told Die Welt.

Fate of The City

However, even before the outbreak of the crisis such visions had moved to the bottom of the agenda. And what with the challenge of ensuring that their joint currency has a solid future, the euro-zone countries have other more important things on their plate right now than going over dozens of agreements with Cameron’s people.

“Renegotiating contracts that London signed is an illusion,” German Christian Democratic Union politician Gunther Krichbaum, who chairs the German Parliament’s Committee on  European Union affairs, told Die Welt. “All the other states would have something they wanted to renegotiate too and at the end of the day you would have the same compromises.”

If London really does decided to push for an ultimate confrontation, draw the consequences and pull out of the Union, what it loses – access to the largest market in the world, with 500 million consumers — would be far greater than what it gains. And in a free-trade zone, the British would have to accept rules they had no hand in creating.

A “Brexit” might not shatter the Union – but Britain itself just might end up shattered: in 2014, the Scots, will be voting for their independence, and some may be more inclined to separate from the UK, if it is leaving Europe. If that were the case, Cameron would have burned both hands with his referendums.

Just how serious leaving the EU would be for the British economy is something economists and business folk disagree on. However the fact is that half of the country’s exports go to EU member states and some 3 million jobs depend on it. The common market is hugely important for Britain, indeed Cameron stressed that in his speech.

However, there is the possibility for the UK to hammer out a free trade agreement with the EU as the Swiss have done. Last fall, a study conducted by the Institute of Economic Affairs, the London-based free market think tank, concluded that that option would mean that leaving the EU would only cost Britain one percent of its GDP.

Still, British companies and business associations are worried about the country’s current tendency to cut itself off. And rightly so: many multinationals use Britain as a base from which to drive continental business. With the British out of the Union, these firms might soon be moving their headquarters to Dublin, Frankfurt or Paris.

London as a financial hub would without a doubt take the biggest hit. Said Chris Cummings, Chief Executive of TheCityUK, an influential lobbyist from the London financial industry, after Cameron’s speech: “Our recent Competitiveness Report found that 40% of financial services firms choose the UK as a place to set up and grow their business because of our access to the EU.” In this sector particularly firms are very mobile and would not hesitate to move.

Tom Brown, head of the loans department at the Norddeutsche Landesbank in London, is even more direct. “Without the EU, London as a financial hub would be reduced to a fraction of the size it is now,” he said, adding that the reason London grew to become Europe’s largest banking center was because Britain joined the EU. “Without the possibility to move offices and workers freely around the EU, the City would be washed up.”

Read the article in the original language.

Photo by – Bertrand Hauger

via Imagining A British Future Outside Of Europe, And Europe Without The Brits – All News Is Global |.

via Imagining A British Future Outside Of Europe, And Europe Without The Brits – All News Is Global |.

Flanagan supports British call to legalise drugs

The Independent TD due to table a private member’s Bill on the legalisation of cannabis has welcomed a report by a British parliamentary committee which recommends legalising drug use.

Luke “Ming” Flanagan, an Independent TD for Roscommon, who intends to table a Bill early next year, said it “didn’t come as any surprise” that the British committee had concluded legalisation of drugs should be considered.

Mr Flanagan said, in relation to cannabis, legalisation would take thousands of cases out of the criminal justice system each year, freeing up Garda resources. He also said if taxation were applied on sales of the drug that this would generate revenue and legalisation would take profits away from drug gangs.

“From a health point of view people would know what they were getting,” Mr Flanagan added, saying drug dealers bulk out quantities of illicit drugs, with a variety of substances the health effects of which are unknown. The TD made his comments after the British parliament’s home affairs committee said Britain’s drugs policy was not working and called on prime minister David Cameron to appoint a royal commission to review the issue.

The report said it had been impressed by Portugal’s decriminalised regime where users are not prosecuted over small amounts of drugs and are instead referred to a non-criminal “dissuasion commission”.

It said the government should also fund research into the effectiveness of marijuana legalisation in the US states of Washington and Colorado, as well as into Uruguay’s proposed state monopoly on cannabis production and sale.

However, Mr Cameron yesterday ruled out a fundamental review of the government’s approach to drugs: “I don’t support decriminalisation. We have a policy which actually is working in Britain. Drugs use is coming down, the emphasis on treatment is absolutely right, and we need to continue with that to make sure we can really make a difference,” he said. – (Additional reporting PA/Reuters)

via Flanagan supports British call to legalise drugs – The Irish Times – Tue, Dec 11, 2012.

via Flanagan supports British call to legalise drugs – The Irish Times – Tue, Dec 11, 2012.

North American Free Trade Agreement and the European Union Compared


The North American Free Trade Area, is together with the European Union, one of the largest manageable trade areas in the world. For all of its successes, the European Union is more than a customs union, it is a free mobility space for all European nationalities, which makes it the template, a model for progress.

Let us compare for the early 1990s:

(a) the 15 countries comprised in the European Union (data for which here include three countries that were to join in January 1995),

(b) the six Eastern European countries likely to join the European Union in the long term under the Europe Agreement,(1)

(c) the EU constituencies; 27 countries to date (2011),

(d) EU and NAFTA countries compared,

(d) major world trading blocs, especially Mercosur which is being courted by both NAFTA and EU, and

(f) the NAFTA schedule for managing the opening of duty-free trade by item for each of the three countries.

Data on the major trade blocs are included in order to show the context in which NAFTA and EU discuss expansion. The Europe Agreement to unite the continent east and west was signed on October 5, 1992, at Luxembourg; and the EU’s negotiations to develop a special relationship with Mercosur have acquired importance by mid-1994 as Mercosur debates how closely to try to relate to NAFTA.

Comparison is presented in five tables. Tables 1, 2, and 3 cover population, GNP, GNP/C, and export share in GNP for the EU, Eastern Europe, and NAFTA. Table 4 covers the same data for major trade blocs. Table 5 shows the relative importance of the major trade blocs, using the USA as reference point. Table 6 presents the current situation of economic blocs as through statistics for six countries, Japan standing as its own economic bloc.

Table 1 allows us to examine the ranges in country size for population. Reunited Germany has the largest population, 81 million. Italy and the U.K. follow as the second and third largest countries, virtually tied at 58 million persons. Germany’s population is 207 times larger than the smallest country–Luxembourg has only 389,000 persons. In terms of GNP, Germany is 134 higher than that of Luxembourg

Given such disparities in size, is it “fair” that the EU member countries have disproportionate voting rights which are weighted in favor of small countries? (For shares of voting rights, see Appendix A.) One good argument for such weighting is that Luxembourg has the highest GNP/C of EU’s (US$ 35,260) and the highest export share in GNP (94%). Spain has a larger population (39 million) but has EU’s lowest export share in GNP (17%). Such complexities explain why weighted voting rights are not as arbitrary as first glance might have us believe. In any case big countries have enough votes that it takes the votes of many small countries to reach the present blocking minority of 23 votes, a total which once the EU reaches 15 countries will be 26 votes. (2)

Table 2 shows ranges in size for the six countries of Eastern Europe seeking to join the EU. Poland has the highest GNP (US$ 75 billion), much higher than that of EU member Ireland (US$ 42 billion). Unfortunately Poland is weak in exports, which amount to 19% of its GNP. Hungary’s advantage is due to its earlier leadership among the former communist countries in carrying out economic reform, its GNP/C being 54% higher than that of Poland.

The relationship of Poland to “smaller” countries is interesting. Although Poland has 4 times the population of Bulgaria’s 9 million, Poland has the lowest export share of GNP. Bulgaria has the second largest export share in GNP (45), after the Czech Republic, which leads both in export share in GNP (58) and also in GNP/C (US$ 2,440) as compared to the rest of the Eastern European countries.

With regard to the two poorest countries seeking to join the EU, the poor economic performance of Romania is noteworthy. The Romanian GNP is hardly double that of the Slovak Republic (US$ 10 billion), yet the two countries are equal in GNP export share (28%). Romania’s trade with Eastern Europe collapsed in 1991 along with the COMECON trading organization. Subsequent growth in trade with the West has been slow, and current-account deficits of more than US$ billion have been recorded in each of the last four years. In terms of population, Romania is 4 times larger than that of the Slovak Republic (5.3 million). The legacy of a high-inflation environment and modest growth accounts for the Romanian currency’s very small purchasing power. Despite all theses shortcomings Romania became a full member of EU in ten years, that is December 1st, 2007.

The Slovak Republic with its small population and economy calls our attention. How can it hope to compete in an expended EU? Although its population is only 5 million and its GNP is only US$ 10 billion, Slovakia has a relatively high level of export in GNP, 60% higher than the larger Romania.

Given the above disparities, interests within the EU have been divided into five “constituencies.” (3) (See Chart 1.) The “Core” constituency is France and Germany (which founded in 1951 the European Coal and Steel Community to rebuild war-torn Western Europe). To this core are appended Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg, too close geographically and too small economically to avoid being drawn into the orbit of power.

The second EU constituency is made of the “free traders” Britain and Denmark (both of which joined the EU in the early 1970s). Britain leads the way to open a common market of goods, services, capital, and people while at the same time trying to prevent the rise in Europe of any singly powerful country.

The EU third constituency involves the poorer, newly democratic members admitted in 1980s (Greece, 1981; Portugal and Spain, 1986), each seeking to modernize their economies in order to guarantee against a resurgence of any authoritarian rule. This expansion widened the gap between richer and poorer countries, the latter including Ireland and to some extent Italy.

The fourth constituency involves Eastern Europe, which freed itself from Russian rule after 1989. It sees admission to the EU, proposed for the year 2000 by Germany, as guarantee against the resurgence of Russian authority in the region.

The fifth EU constituency involves the European Free Trade Association (Austria, Finland, Norway, Sweden), which has realized, except for Norway, that it must not be left out of the EU as it expands to include even Eastern Europe. Indeed Austria may move directly into the Core.

Given the divergent interests of these five constituencies, two models offer future direction to solve the problem of disunity within unity. The British model, which seeks to give more or less equal weight to, the concentric circles depicted in Chart 1, thus encourage cooperative diversity; and the German-French model, which seeks to move forward with monetary union and unified foreign policy focused on the center circle in Chart 1. The idea that Britain may resist France and Germany by refusing to join the EU monetary union has prompted The Economist to write:

If Britain stays out, only to change its mind later {as it did about the EU], it leaders may seem as silly as Churchill now seems, for this comment on the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community 43 years ago: ‘I love France and Belgium but we must not allow ourselves to be pulled down to that level.” (4)

Turning now to a comparison of the EU and NAFTA, several factors emerge. The population of the two trade blocks is about the same (363.3 million for NAFTA, 345.0 million for the 12 EU countries, and 368.8 for the 15 countries in 1992). With regard to economic differences, Germany emerges as having the biggest sheer economic power, followed by France and Italy within the EU.

Noticeable is that the USA has the highest GNP among all countries (US$ 5.9 trillion) and the highest GNP/C within NAFTA (US$ 23,120).

Comparing the countries with lowest export share of GNP in each unit, NAFTA’s Mexico with only 14% has much less than the EU’s Greece, which stands at 23%. Romania and the Slovak Republic have twice Mexico’s export share in GNP.

With regard to the power of population and GNP, the index in Table 5 is based on the fact that the most important country is the USA, which equals 100. while Mexico has one-third of the U.S. population, but only 5% of GNP.

Table 5 shows why Japan is often seen as the economic “enemy” of both NAFTA and the EU, its power being concentrated in one county which has established a web of trade dependency worldwide. Its GNP/C is 21% higher than that of the USA.

Japan’s accumulation of world trade capital is one of the reasons why so many other countries are trying to compete globally by implicitly forming trade blocks. NAFTA gives the USA, Canada and Mexico the possibility of expanding international and international trade at Japan’s expense.

The USA dwarfs most of the Western hemisphere in terms of GNP, except for Canada, which reaches 84.3% of the U.S. total. (See Table 5.) Although the European Union is 48% larger in population than the USA, its GNP/C is only 89% of the U.S. amount.

In establishing itself as FTA linchpin in the Americas, (5) Mexico has done so in spite of the fact that it has only one-third of the U.S. population, 5% of the U.S. GNP, and 15.3% of the U.S. GNP/C at the same time, however the NAFTA framework enhances Mexico’s tremendously as U.S. business investment has arrived with new impetus beginning in 1994, especially after the national “defeat” of the Chiapas rebels in August at ballot boxes almost everywhere in Mexico.

In relation to the USA, Mexico’s GNP/C exceeds by 3.5% that of Mercosur’s 12.8% share of the USA’s GNP/C, while Germany, with about the same population as Mexico, has 96% of U.S. GNP/C, raising the average for the EU to 80% of the same figure.

To further this comparison, let us note the fact that since 1994 the New York Times (NYT) is carrying a regular comparison of the NAFTA-EU-Japan economic situation for competition (See Table 6.) To represent the EU, the NYT gives Britain and Germany; to represent NAFTA, it gives all three partners; to represent global competition, it gives Japan.

The bottom line for global competition is shown in the 1993 manufacturing wage gap given in Table 7. With five leading countries of Western Europe trying to compete under a burden of hourly scale averaging nearly US$ 21, Japan and the United States nearly tied in the US$ 16 hourly range, and the Asian “tigers” (Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, and Hong Kong) averaging about US$ 5 hourly, two facts are clear. Mexico with its US$ 2.41 hourly manufacturing average is the attractive partner wherein factories can be established in the Western Hemisphere. Eastern Europe with its US$ .90 is the equivalent area of the future for the European Union.

Although Germany is moving important manufacturing funds into Romania, for example, the EU has yet to formally bring Eastern Europe into a formal relationship like that enjoyed by Mexico with NAFTA. Eastern Europe as a whole (except for the Czech Republic) awaits the opening of it economies, which remain largely non-market as is shown in Appendix B.

The NAFTA model for opening its three countries over 15 years provides a much easier process than that faced by Eastern Europe of having to integrate into the EU on a complete basis and mostly all at once. The effect of NAFTA integration on Mexico, the USA and Canada is shown in Table 8, which divides the process into the following time frames for elimination of tariffs: immediately as of January 1, 1994, and within 5, 10 years, and 15 years.

With regard to immediate action by Mexico, it eliminated duties on all U.S. and Canadian products not made in Mexico, that is on 43 percent of its purchases in those two countries. Although most of Mexico’s purchases seemingly come from the USA (63.4 percent in 1992) and little from Canada (1.0 percent), the reality is that much of the Canada-Mexico trade is lost statistically when it passes through the USA where it becomes incorporated into U.S. trade data.

The USA took immediate action to eliminate duties on nearly 50 percent of Mexican imports and Canada 19 percent of Mexican imports. Canada’s actions involved a complete opening to Mexican textiles (including thread, cloth, and clothing), which in 1992 reached about 17 million dollars in value. (Mexican textile exports to the USA were 56 times greater.)

CONCLUSION and Positive Outcomes, as well as updates on NAFTA

NAFTA and the EU differ greatly in three major ways. The EU goes beyond NAFTA’s trading plan to include free movement of citizens as workers and students; and EU seeks eventual unification of such potentially controversial areas as currency, foreign policy, and military coordination.

The second difference is that NAFTA has the trading edge to expand beyond Mexico into Latin America. Not only do the USA and Mexico have large trade experience with the region that dwarfs that of the EU, but Mexico has made the many agreements that at once make expanded trade possible as well as require it to make multilateral sense of its many bilateral agreements. Canada has far to go in developing trade beyond the USA, and both countries face stiff competition from Japan. Under Mexico’s leadership in bringing about the integration of the Americas, however, NAFTA seems well positioned to compete with the EU as it takes its first serious steps to develop relations with Mercosur.

The third major difference is that the “core” for NAFTA is the USA, for EU it is two countries. With Mitterrand’s term coming to an end in France and Jacque Delors not only retiring as the unifying head of the European Commission but declining to be the front-runner to replace Mitterrand as president of France, the question is whether or not Germany can count on either a dynamic concept of the EU or France as traditional ally as it seeks ever greater EU unity on all fronts.

via North American Free Trade Agreement and the European Union Compared | olgaandrei.

via North American Free Trade Agreement and the European Union Compared | olgaandrei.

A country called Europe fills UK sceptics with fear

OPINION Cameron was brutally clear when he foresaw the need to intensify EU union. Such concerns may force a UK exit

As brave europhile Brits walk in fear of Brexit and Tory Eurosceptics and their UK Independence Party cousins inhale the sweet smell of success, other Europeans watch with bemusement how Britain, after decades of obstreperous membership of the European club, may finally pick up its armoured handbag and go.

The recent history of Europe has accustomed us to reversals, but few have materialised as fast as this: the secession of the UK from the European Union, once a topic for post-prandial jousting, is now a hot potato on Europe’s political menu.

Whether Brexit should be dreaded or welcomed as the exit of a poisonous flatmate has become a matter of serious examination in European capitals. Would British withdrawal badly weaken the economic and ideological foundations of the single market, allowing excessive statism a free rein? Would a British departure deal a fatal blow to Europe’s global clout by depriving it of British diplomatic and military heft? No consensus has formed – though on balance, most EU leaders would prefer the UK to stay in.

So why the change? As with pretty much everything else in Europe these days, the answer lies with the euro zone crisis. Strikingly, the dynamics at work have found their first clear expression in an interview UK chancellor George Osborne gave the Financial Times in July 2011. In one of the most richly ironic moments of recent European history, it fell to a British chancellor to become the first big hitter of any big EU member state to speak of the need to transform the euro zone into a fiscal union. In effect, Mr Osborne was demanding a far greater curtailing of national sovereignty in the euro zone than its member states had hitherto envisaged. He did so at a time when such federalist encomiums were viewed as offensively provocative by the governments in Berlin, Paris or Madrid, all of which hoped – and continue to hope – that taming the euro zone crisis will not exact quite such a steep price in terms of national sovereignty.

Britain’s partners were seriously annoyed and the mandarins of Whitehall were left gasping for air at this reckless jettisoning of centuries of British attempts to stop the continent from coalescing into a single political entity. But this was no erratic lapse; Mr Osborne clearly expressed the view at the top of British politics.

Single government

A good year later, a moment of beautifully unguarded prime ministerial language unfolded on the Late Show with David Letterman in the US. David Cameron, having famously failed to pass Letterman’s knowledge tests on the meaning of Magna Carta and the authorship of Rule Britannia, went on to explain later in the programme that “in Europe if you have a single currency, you are going to end up with effectively some form of single government . . . I don’t want that for Britain . . . I don’t want to be part of a country called Europe.” He said this having previously made clear that the relationship between euro zone member states must surely come to resemble that between Texas and Nebraska for the euro to survive.

Most of Europe’s media ignored the comment because it was made on the Letterman show and most of the British media predictably zeroed in on Mr Cameron’s amusing failure to remember his Old Etonian Latin. They glossed over the far more important and astoundingly frank assertion by their prime minister that the euro zone, unless it disintegrated, must effectively become the United States of the Euro and that the United Kingdom under his stewardship would not wish to be part of “a country called Europe”.

Confront British officials with this moment of prime ministerial candour and they will give you a pained look. It is a rare moment indeed when it is the head of government himself who publicly lays out a matter of fundamental political import in such starkly simple – or, as some critics would say, simplistic – terms as to leave no room for diplomatic subterfuge or political compromise.

But if Cameron is right and the euro zone must basically become like a country called Europe if it is to survive (with which this author happens to agree), then, barring some unforeseeable economic cataclysm, a vast majority of Britons will choose to stay outside it for decades to come.

Equally predictably, the European Union would then be reduced to some kind of glorified European free trade area encumbered with too many obsolete institutions. Whether the UK would remain in it or negotiate some other form of access to its single market would be a secondary issue.

Surely ambitions to build a European foreign and defence policy – the one other big constitutional issue to settle – would gravitate away from the EU towards the country called Europe. After all, wars cost money and a fiscal and budgetary union would soon seize control of military expenditure.

It is unclear yet whether market pressures coupled with the objective to strengthen the euro’s foundations will suffice to make the euro zone’s leaders surmount their innate conservatism and submit their countries to the joint exercise of a massively expanded euro-zone financial, fiscal and budgetary authority.

Obviously, the vast majority of the euro zone’s present leaders hope that Mr Cameron is wrong and that salvaging the euro will require merely a series of gradual moves towards deeper integration, each of which can be fragmented or fudged sufficiently to avoid the dangers of a referendum at home – or of a make-or-break confrontation with the UK over the nature of its relationship with Europe.

London’s red lines

But equally obviously, if it is the UK that sets the bar too high, if it is London that tries to extract painful concessions from its partners as the price of allowing the euro zone to salvage itself through deeper integration, then all euro-zone leaders are now determined to ignore the red lines drawn up in London and find other ways to achieve their goal.

For decades, Europeans implicitly accepted a special British right to constantly wield its veto as the unpleasant but necessary price to pay for British club membership. Today, the stakes are too high for such tolerant behaviour.

The gamble of the euro’s founders was that once the euro would be launched, no matter how steep the price of further political integration, the price of monetary disintegration would always be higher. History has embarked us on a gigantic experiment to see whether that prediction will come to pass.

What becomes of the UK in Europe or outside, it has now become a fascinating but minor part of that far broader narrative. Continental federalists such as this author, of course, will be tempted to wish the UK Godspeed and bon voyage. After all, it might even become possible to build a US of E once the flatmate with the armoured handbag has moved out.

via A country called Europe fills UK sceptics with fear – The Irish Times – Mon, Dec 03, 2012.

via A country called Europe fills UK sceptics with fear – The Irish Times – Mon, Dec 03, 2012.

EU Soviet Agenda and Comrade Cameron  

A recently unveiled EU poster sports the oppressive Soviet hammer and sickle symbol numerous times

BRUSSELS – Belgium – The EU’s Soviet agenda was laid bare today with the unveiling of a new EU poster that finally puts to rest the bloc’s Soviet credentials.

The new poster is a clear signal that the EU is a Soviet Fascist bloc and is a direct threat to freedom, democracy and humanity as a whole.

A warning from history

“Not only are we laughing in the face of all citizens within the European Union, we are also revealing ourselves to be truly a Soviet system where we amalgamate and assimilate all within our borders. We destroy all individuality, all nationality, and dictate all economic policy. This is the EU, and when we get our stormtroopers goose stepping on the streets, you will see what you have got yourselves into. Remember that evil is allowed to happen when good men stand by and do nothing. The EU was allowed to happen, as was Stalin’s Soviet bloc, and Hitler‘s Reich. No one did anything, nations stood by until it was too late, banks financed them until it was too late. The same is up with the EU, no one did anything, and unelected EU bureaucrats now rule over you. You pay for my unlimited expense account and my diamond encrusted pension plan, my unlimited global travel perks and my laughter at you pleb citizens, the scum that you are, I laugh at you,” an unelected EU bureaucrat said from the EU parliament yesterday.

British premier, David Cameron, who knows very well what the EU is and how it will finally reveal itself to be a totalitarian Soviet Fascist state, was all too eager to proffer his congratulations to the EU for its recent Nobel Peace Prize.

“I have been told to say this by my superiors in Brussels. I say to the British people that the key to joining the Eurozone will be Scotland. When they embrace the EU, as Southern Ireland did, then we as England will be given no choice but to join the EU as well. I know the plan, as do many other cabinet members. A referendum in Scotland is the key to the Scottish people breaking up Britain until it is ultimately weakened. Divide and conquer, as always, a British Empire trick is being used against us, and I am complicit with my masters, as a traitor to Britain. I have emphatically denied the British people an In/Out EU referendum, because I know that the British people do not want any part of the EU. To this end, I am a liar and traitor to my own people but my masters have promised me great things for delivering the UK to them on a platter. Our laws in Britain are fully managed by Brussels/Germany now and it is going to get even more insidious in the future. We were not defeated in WW1 and WW2 but Britain will be defeated by me denying the people their rights to determine their destiny. You say we live in a democracy, I say you do, but that democracy is under EU regulations now and they will tell me what to do about how much democracy you are allowed from now on. So please carry on as you are, watch your Come Dancing and Britain’s Got Talent shows. Do not think for one second about what is going to happen to you, or your children in the future. Why not just text away and read your Facebook page. There is nothing to worry about.”

via EU Soviet Agenda and Comrade Cameron .

via EU Soviet Agenda and Comrade Cameron  .

The global war on free speech

ook back at the big events of the past decade and ask yourself: did we find out too much or too little of what the powerful did in our name? Did we know too much or too little about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Did we enquire too much or too little about the cheating of the bankers?

When I posed this question during my testimony to the Leveson Inquiry back in January, I swear I saw the judge’s eyes roll. I fear Lord Justice Leveson had been persuaded long before that journalism was a problem for society, not part of the solution to its ills. He could have been forgiven for coming to this instant conclusion, having listened to the heart-rending testimony of Milly Dowler’s parents, or Kate and Gerry McCann, or of other victims of hounding and despicable behaviour.

Even though I have worked in the profession, or trade, for more than two decades, I hold no candle for the press as an institution. My concern is broader. Freedom of expression – the bedrock of democracy – is under threat in Britain, as it is around the globe.

Wherever you look, someone with power, somewhere in the world, is trying to prevent the truth from getting out. In dictatorships they often resort to violence. But usually those with power hide behind laws that, while technically legitimate, are designed to chill free speech.

We think such measures are the preserve of places like China and Russia. And they are. In China the media are severely censored. Dissidents are routinely jailed. Western media are blocked online when they become inconvenient, as the New York Times was recently after revealing details of premier Wen Jiabao’s family wealth.

In Russia, investigative journalists are killed when they find out too much. The internet is now severely restricted. Members of the punk band Pussy Riot languish in penal colonies for protesting in church.

But dangers also lurk in so-called democracies. In Greece, a magazine editor yesterday went on trial for having the temerity to publish details of the tax avoidance schemes of the super-rich, as ordinary people suffer greatly from austerity. If normal ethical standards were applied, Costas Vaxevanis would have been celebrated for his intrepid reporting. But shooting the messenger has become the norm for politicians and business leaders, as a means of diverting attention from their crimes and misdemeanours – and frightening whistleblowers and journalists. In France, presidents and ministers have for years hidden behind privacy clauses to keep their dodgy financial affairs secret. Hungary’s recent press law, requiring media outlets to be licensed, has led to a spate of overly critical editors being sacked and radio stations taken off air.

What is so dispiriting is that we in Britain appear now to be leaning in this direction. We increasingly regard free speech as a danger.

There are a number of reasons: some of it is the result of bad law; some of it is economic. Politicians, lawyers and the public are struggling to come to terms with rapid technological changes. The internet was supposed to be the vehicle that broke down old rules and hierarchies. We suddenly acquired a voice through emails, blogs and social networking. We could bear witness to events through sound recording and cameras on our mobile phones.

The power relationship shifted. Gone were the days when a mere citizen would have to send a letter to their MP, who would occasionally deign to reply. Mostly they didn’t, seeing engagement or accountability as an intrusion on their valuable time.

That has changed, thank goodness, and cannot be reversed. The moment George Osborne’s assistant queried, possibly innocently, his standard-class train ticket, that episode was in the public domain.

Yet at the same time we struggle with Twitter and Facebook and the freedoms they afford. Online, the extremely poor joke and the offensive remark have now become matters not for peer groups to sort out, but for the authorities. So the hapless young man who tweets in frustration about blowing up an airport is arrested; a stupid boy who insults the Olympic diver Tom Daley is visited by the police; and the equally pathetic young man who makes an ill-judged “joke” about the disappeared Welsh schoolgirl April Jones is taken in, too.

I am as angered by these remarks as anyone, but is it the state’s job to arbitrate matters of taste and decency? When Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, was invited on to the BBC’s Question Time a couple of years ago, to howls of outrage, I saw it as important to defend his right to appear – and to make a fool of himself, which he duly did. To misquote Voltaire, the only free speech worth defending is that of the person whose views you find most obnoxious.

Everywhere around the world, it seems, the right to take offence has been elevated into a human right. Usually, but not always, this “right” is exercised through religious belief. Most cases are seen through the prism of “insults” to Islam. But this “right” now seems to be exercised by whoever wants it.

What does all this have to do with our press? The best word I can find is “raucous”. A raucous, argumentative society is a healthy society. Of course we need laws to protect people – from child pornography to incitement to violence. We need state secrets. But the Official Secrets Act has often been used for the wrongful purpose of protecting the reputations of ministers and officials. We need anti-terrorism measures, but not the outrageous Communications Data Bill currently being discussed in Parliament, that would give not just the security services but dozens of lesser public bodies the right to demand emails and social media traffic from any citizen in the land. These plans are dangerous; they are also manna from heaven for the Russians and Chinese, who love to point to the West’s double standards when their records are held up to scrutiny.

We need libel laws, but not those that for years have indulged sheikhs, oligarchs and other super-rich figures, preventing anyone from writing about them. These laws are being changed, but I fear the end result will fall far short of the improvements the libel reform campaign I helped to lead has sought.

Throw in the economics: many newspapers have closed or been pared to the bone, particularly in the regions. Whose interests are served when local councils know that planning decisions and other dodgy dealings will go unreported? The same goes on a national scale, not just about politicians, but sports stars and their agents and businesses on the take. Investigative journalism takes time, requires patience and indulgence from editors, and costs money. That is the area that is being cut back most of all – to everyone’s detriment.

So how come a general view has been allowed to take hold that our press is out of control? The terrible acts of a few, hacking the phones of the vulnerable with no possible public interest, have handed the moral ground and political power to those who want journalists to be more “respectful”.

I have attended a number of press conferences over the years involving prime ministers and US presidents. When the two leaders marched into the room, the Americans would stand to attention; the Brits would sit sullenly. I know which I prefer.

Nobody sensible will defend the old-style boys’-club regulation of newspapers. Of course, something more vigorous must emerge from the Leveson Inquiry. But I have worked in many countries – not just under authoritarian regimes – where journalists are seduced by the offer of a seat at the top table, or are persuaded not to ask that extra question. “Go easy, we don’t want trouble” could all too easily become the mantra here. Would, I ask myself, this newspaper have had the courage to break the story about MPs’ expenses in the post-Leveson world? I would like to think so, but I’m not sure.

We all want to strike the right balance. But perfection is elusive. Forced to choose, I would rather have a public space that goes too far than one that – like so many countries around the world – is pliant in the face of power.

John Kampfner is a former editor of ‘The New Statesman’ and former chief executive of Index on Censorship

via The global war on free speech – Telegraph.

via The global war on free speech – Telegraph.

Mean Streets-Accommodation Crisis

An accommodation crisis faces Irish people coming to live and work in Britain. As we reported last week many Irish workers are arriving with little awareness of the high start-up costs and the shortage of accommodation. In the most extreme cases they can run out of money very quickly, have no access to benefits and find themselves homeless or sleeping rough, a report from the Crosscare Migrant Project warned. And when people do find somewhere to live they end up paying large sums for poor quality, cramped accommodation with little hope of moving up the property ladder because of the high deposits and advanced rent payments demanded by private landlords.

Today we reveal the extent of the problem nationwide — with other major cities including Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, reporting a massive housing problem. And we also highlight the human cost of the crisis, with the sobering story of one young man’s depressing experience. In London, Leslie Ryan, a housing officer at the London Irish Centre said: “People underestimate the initial expense involved in moving to Britain. People stick it out for a long time at home. They hope to avoid immigration, spend a lot of their savings in Ireland and then arrive here strapped. People might think £1,000 is enough money to arrive over with. It’s not.”

In Liverpool, Breege McDaid, from Irish Community Care on Merseyside, said: Landlords are stricter, rents are higher, there’s a lot of low quality accommodation and a lot of Irish people want to live in the city centre. People don’t have the fall back position of staying with family and friends because their support network is at home. And when they do find somewhere to live the accommodation can be smaller than what they are used to. Space becomes a side issue.”

And in Birmingham, Norah Cox from Irish in Birmingham, said: “Prices have gone up, availability is less and there’s not much building going on.” The impact on emigrants, as our special report this week reveals, can be devastating. Newly-arrived Stephen Ward, from Co. Down, explains how he was almost driven to despair trying to find somewhere to live — before he was eventually directed to an Irish housing support organisation in London. Meanwhile, there are warnings that things are going to worsen…

Advisory services are now pointing to the introduction of benefit caps in April 2013 which will have a harsh impact on people living in social housing. The austerity-driven measure will drive more and more people into an already over-subscribed and cramped private housing market place, it is predicted. Adding to an already dire situation with potentially catastrophic circumstances for not just the Irish in Britain but everyone looking for somewhere to stay in the country’s overcrowded towns and cities.

Stephen Ward has been sleeping on a sofa at a friend’s house for nearly three weeks. It wasn’t the start to London he expected; but then he didn’t expect it to be so difficult to find somewhere to live. This is London, after all!

Picture the scenario. From the window of the aeroplane the city stretches out to infinity in every direction — a grand stage for a glut of reality TV shows like Location, Location, Location, Property Ladder and Homes Under the Hammer. Finding somewhere to live? Piece of cake! So the plane lands, you grab a copy of the Evening Standard, have a quick scan of the property listings, toast your new town with a few scoops, then settle on the sofa to nurse a sore head — just for a few days until you find your feet. The days pass, so do the weeks and before long you’re not toasting your new home but cursing it. Your neck hurts from the arm of the couch, your feet ache from tip-toeing about all the time and your new room doubles as the recreation area by day as well as that not so comfortable rest area by night. Welcome home? Correction, welcome to your new life in Britain. Stephen is not alone.

For many Irish people arriving in Britain, this is very a familiar story. Because London’s streets are not paved with gold, but people…and lots of them. Free movement around Europe and the draw of London’s durable economy has made Britain the convenient country of choice for the continent’s upwardly mobile — not just plane after plane-load leaving from Ireland.

But when it comes to housing, supply is short, demand high. Ditto rent and council tax costs, not to mention the financial outlay needed to get to the first rung of said Property Ladder. In some areas the outlay feels like it could plug a budget deficit. Irish welfare groups based in Britain and support agencies in Ireland say securing accommodation is now the single biggest issue facing Irish emigrants to Britain. Money is tight, while property finite, often small and sometimes of poor quality. The market place is full of home-run opportunities for landlords while the bleachers are bulging with desperate would-be tenants, trying to enter the field of play. You can buy your way in…if you have enough money. Many don’t. Many arrive unprepared, armed with neither money nor knowledge of how things work and the time it takes for a wheel full of spokes like National Insurance and Bank Account numbers to turn.

Stephen had ticked the boxes when he arrived and had a big mark in the one that counts, or so he thought. He had secured a nursing job in a hospital before he arrived from Banbridge in Co. Down. He thought that everything else would fall neatly into place. A few days on the couch, a bit of rooting about on the web after collecting that coveted first paycheque — but the weeks passed while he waited for the hospital to clear his paperwork and before long he was out of cash and sofa time. “I ended up in a desperate situation,” he says. “With a job lined up I thought everything would fall into place. But after a few weeks I just about had enough money to get the Tube up to the London Irish Centre in Camden. I was close to tears to be honest. I didn’t figure it would take so long for my paperwork to be processed and didn’t bring enough money from Ireland to get me through that start-up period. I didn’t know what I was going to do.”

The experience chimes with a recent report by Crosscare Migrant Project which revealed that finding somewhere to live and arriving with enough money to live in the interim are among the most acute problems faced by thousands of newly-arrived emigrants. “People underestimate the initial expense involved in moving to Britain,” says Lesly Ryan, a housing officer at the London Irish Centre. “People stick it out for a long time at home. They hope to avoid emigration, spend a lot of their savings in Ireland and then arrive here strapped. People might think £1,000 is enough money to arrive over with. It’s not.”

One man who knows just how tough the property market has become is William MacGowan who has worked as an auctioneer in North West London for the last 22 years. MacGowan said the current demand for housing far outweighs supply. He is extending his business reach further into Greater London in order to secure accommodation for his clients. “It is the most competitive I have seen the market in over 20 years,” he says. “There’s nearly nothing to be had in North West London right now. The opening up of Europe has made Britain far more accessible, banks aren’t lending money to build and there’s just not enough accommodation to meet the needs of all the people coming in. The shortage of work means it’s more of an issue because people just don’t have the money. Tenants are in a worse position to do deals with landlords and the day is gone where you would have a list of properties to choose from. People think because of the size of the cities here they are going to have a huge choice but London can become a very small place when you are looking for somewhere to live. When you are on a budget you take whatever you can pull-off.”

And it is not just London that faces a housing crisis. Breege McDaid from Irish Community Care in Merseyside said securing accommodation for Irish clients in Liverpool has become an issue. “A lot of people are fine but it’s a big area for us because it’s more difficult now. Landlords are stricter, rents are higher, there’s a lot of low-quality accommodation and a lot of Irish people want to live in the city centre. “People don’t have the fallback position of staying with family and friends because their support network is at home. And when they do find somewhere to live, the accommodation can be smaller than what they are used to. Space becomes a side issue.” It’s a similar story in Birmingham. Norah Cox from the Irish in Birmingham said there is a shortage of property there too and more and more people coming into the city. “Prices have gone up, availability is less and there’s not much building going on. It’s not just Irish people who are being affected. It’s everybody.”

Back in Camden, the London Irish Centre directed Stephen to Innisfree Housing Association, who provide supported accommodation for their clients, 60 per cent of whom are Irish. “I lived in London before, for seven years,” explains the 27-year-old, “but returned to Ireland for two years, so when I was coming back I knew what the property market was like but I just ran out of money. I was skint. But the guys in Innisfree managed to find me a room in one of their houses in West London. There are five other people in the house and all of them came there through Innisfree. They provide support with the deposit and you just start paying rent once you are working. “It was a comfort to know I’d be living with other Irish people, people who know where you are coming from, have similar interests in sports like the GAA, and music. You would have concerns about sharing space with so many people, but it’s something you have to accept as part of city life here.

“The cost of accommodation means you will have to be earning big money before you can afford to have your own place. But the bedrooms are big, there’s a garden. The people are nice, hard-working.” Jean O’Rourke, a Housing Officer with Innisfree, explained you need both money and time to adjust. “The initial start-up costs of finding somewhere to live would surpass most people’s expectations. Paying a month deposit and typically, six weeks up front, that’s the first thing people don’t realise. Then there’s the actual experience of actually living here, of adapting to big city life. Houses and flats are typically small, people live in less space than they are used to and the standard of accommodation is not always very high.”

Take it from Stephen Ward, the best approach is to do your planning before you leave. “To be fair, you’re at nothing if you arrive in Britain now with a couple of grand in your back pocket,” he says. “You need that much to get you through the settling in period, to cover your deposit and rent up-front. If you don’t…well, there are some great support services or you better find a friend with a good sofa.”

via Mean Streets.

via Mean Streets.

Land of no return

Ireland’s economic struggles have created a generation of “involuntary non-returns” who have been forced out and are unable to go home.

This is according to leading academic on the Irish in Britain, Professor Mary Hickman , who describes reality of this latest wave of emigration out of Ireland as “depressing”. A long-term researcher on the community in Britain and founder of the Centre for Irish Studies at London’s Metropolitan University, Professor Hickman is preparing to document the new wave of emigration from her new position as Professorial Research Fellow at the Irish studies centre based in St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

“Since the fall of the Celtic tiger we see the proportion of people leaving Ireland, who are Irish born, rising each year, successively,” she said. “I do think there might be an expectation that there is more done for these citizens by the Irish government in the coming years. There may be a feeling that they are owed something more, due to the calamitous catastrophe in Ireland.”

She added: “The issue is even if these people think they are making a positive decision to leave, that they are leaving voluntarily, that becomes involuntary as they can’t go back because there are no opportunities. This is an issue potentially facing quite a number of people – I would call it involuntary non-return. It’s a really difficult situation to be in and it’s important that this is documented.”

In leaving her 25-year role at London Metropolitan University last month Ms Hickman gains the opportunity to do more research while based at St Mary’s – who recently began investing in and expanding their Irish studies centre. “I would be more than happy if this hadn’t happened to Ireland and no one was emigrating unless they really wanted to,” she said.

“Its a bit depressing. We had all that emigration in middle of the 19th century, then in the 1950s, then in the 1980s and here it is again. I think people during the Celtic tiger thought it would not happen again, but it has.” She added: “It will of course inform the work I will be doing over the coming years and my recent move has allowed me the flexibility to do that.”

Regarding the move between universities, she added: “Lots of things fuelled the move, some personal but ultimately I had been at London Metropolitan since wet up the Irish studies centre in 1986. I felt 25 years was enough at any one institution. What is great about St Marys is they are self-evidently investing in Irish studies. There has been a centre there for some years, but it was recently reconfigured and re-launched, it was fortuitous for me at a time when I decided I had done my stint at London Met that they were expanding and approached me to offer the position.

“I held a high profile management job previously, but with this new professorial fellowship the prime axis of what you are doing swings back to research rather than management. This post releases me from all that, which is great as I want to draw together all the research I have done on the Irish in Britain over the past 25 years and this gives me the time to do it.”

via Land of no return.

via Land of no return.

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