Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Conference

A brighter future

Christopher Booker
Barry Legg
John Midgley



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bruges group conference speakers table2


bruges group conference speakers table3
The EU: A Denial of Opportunity

First of all, a word of thanks to Brian Hindley, my co-chairman. The title of our conference today is ‘Better Off Out’. That is the title of a book written by Brian and Martin Howe in 1996, which examines the cost/benefit analysis of EU Membership. It has only taken 10 years for the idea behind the book to evolve into a fully fledged campaign. Thanks Brian for getting us started.

Today, many people marvel at the growth of China, India and the other BRIC economies. Personally I find the success of the United Kingdom more amazing. We are the fifth largest economy in the world and were fourth until recently overtaken by China. How much more successful we are than countries with huge land masses, abundant natural resources and billions of people available for work. In terms of enterprise, ingenuity and wealth creating capacity Britain is one of the largest powers in the world. Mr Chairman. Those of us who recognise the success and ingenuity of the British people are not the little Englanders that our opponents claim. We arte not the little Englanders, it is those who deride our country and its traditions, those who claim we are too feeble to stand on our own two feet and those that belittle a culture based on enterprise and independence. Those indeed are the little Englanders. I believe that this country has been held back and sabotaged by our membership of the European Union for at least twenty years. Our so called leaders are quite content to see this country and its people poorer and less successful than they would otherwise be. Indeed these so-called leaders lack the courage and integrity to challenge the established orthodoxy that Britain could not survive and prosper outside the European Union. I believe that if, over the last twenty years, Britain had not been a member of the European Union every man woman and child in this country would be about 20% better off.

Just think about it. No shadowing of the Deutschemark in the 1980’s and no ERM membership in the 1990’s. No Lawson boom and no Major bust. No sea of regulations imposed on British businesses by Brussels under Blair and Brown. No Common Agricultural Policy for us to fund for over twenty years. Yes, we could easily have been 20% better off. Enterprise would have been stronger and we really could have made education, education, education a priority.

From 1945 to 1979 the United Kingdom experienced deficient leadership. The men who lead this country either belonged to a different age and could not understand where the present day strengths of our country lay and what domestic reforms were necessary, or they believed that more State direction would bring success to the United Kingdom. These leaders were too concerned about Dean Acheson’s tag that ‘Britain had lost an empire and not found a role’. The solution to Britain’s problems during the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s lay within. Salvation could not be achieved by subsuming Britain’s influence into a prototype country called Europe.

Since 1990, we have reverted to type and once again experienced deficient leadership. We have been led by men who would have been better suited to the role of followers rather than leaders. Their understanding of the actions required truly to set the people free in order for them to achieve their true potential clearly has been lacking. Their priorities have been egotistical and ever anxious that people should think well of them. That they should earn that establishment bromide that they are indeed decent men. How I wish that Tony Blair could have made a success of his career as a rock star or that John Major had got that job as a bus conductor. Unfortunately, Ladies and Gentleman, experiments in human cloning have been all too successful and there is now an entire political class whose highest aspirations are to be in office but not in power. They have no wish to rise to the challenges that face this country and they hide behind platitudes such as those uttered by Douglas Hurd of ‘wanting to see Britain punch above its weight’. They fail to understand that Britain is a great country, a world economic power, and that subsuming its interest into the European Union means that Britain lacks any punch at all. We are not even allowed to put the gloves on. In the Doha trade round, Britain had no voice and no influence. Indeed we tacitly supported a protectionist and derigist agenda devised to protect small but influential vested interests on Continental Europe. We witnessed the humiliation of an anti-British trading agenda being advanced by one of our own countrymen, Peter Mandelson, whose declared loyalty is to the European Union. We had no voice despite the fact that an open and liberal trading system has been so successful across the English speaking world. If Messrs. Blair, Brown and Cameron are sincere in their oft expressed concerns about world poverty and the barriers which exist against third world products, why don’t they do something about it? Instead of sitting around drinking Fairtrade coffee why don’t they decide to join the ‘Better Off Out’ Campaign? If they did we would once again have a powerful voice in world trade negotiations. Many countries around the world would welcome that leadership. Once more we would be free to negotiate our own trading relationships with any country in the world. We could insure that there were no barriers to third world and Commonwealth agricultural products having access to United Kingdom Markets.

The success of British business achieves today is in spite of the efforts of our politicians and not because of them. It really is remarkable that the enterprise, ingenuity and hard work of the British people can achieve so much in spite of the obstacles that are put in its way – high taxes, wasteful public spending and a vast wave of red tape.

Why has Britain been so successful? I believe it is because we have followed an evolutionary approach in our development and worked with the grain of human nature and not against it. Our Common Law system gave people the freedom to do things unless they were prohibited. The Continental approach allows people to do what they are permitted. The European Union believes in a top-down approach where the state in the form of its bureaucracy designs an economic and social model into which people and businesses must fit. They do not believe in an evolutionary approach but require that all social institutions are, or ought to be the product of deliberate design. Hayek called this the fatal conceit. |It follows that there is an elite whose role it is to design and build these institutions and mould society so that it conforms to its concept of what is just and efficient. This flawed system has led to the relative economic decline of Continental Europe over the last thirty years. What is more, this highly taxed and highly regulated model, which leads to slower growth and higher unemployment will become even more damaging as global competition intensifies. Capital flows are being directed away from the European Union to the United States and Asia at an ever increasing pace.

For many years, strongly committed Europhiles like Heseltine, Patten, Clarke and Blair insisted that we were winning the argument in Europe. That is a point of view that, either through ignorance or dishonesty, entirely misses the point. The European Union is not a flexible and pragmatic institution. They say you can only do things that are permitted by the centre and in a way that the centre dictates. It is a deliberately designed institution constructed on principles that are contrary to the successful British way. A deliberate policy of economic policy of economic integration in accordance with a predetermined model will ensure that in future Britain will decline along with continental Europe.

Ten years ago, Brian Hindley wrote his book ‘Better Off Out’ and place a question mark at the end of the phrase. Has the time come to remove the question mark? Much has happened over the last ten years which has exposed many misconceptions about the European Union. Most UK politicians, from Margaret Thatcher down, believed that the single European Market would create a genuine free trade in goods and services. That has not happened, nor was it ever intended. Jacques Delors saw the Single Euopean Act as a major step in the European Project towards a United Europe. It was about level playing fields and the regulated concept of ’fair competition’. It was about protecting domestic markets from the threat of globalisation. The single market has not encouraged genuine competition and its regulations damage free market forces in the European Union. The current EU commissioner for Enterprise and Industry has recently announced that EU regulations were costing the European economy some 60billion Euros a year. That is about five and a half per cent of EU GDP and several times bigger than the Commission’s own estimate of the extra GDP growth that has occurred due to the Single Market.

Not surprisingly the business lobby that constantly argued that EU Membership was all important, since it provided market access, seems to have gone very quiet. Even business has gone cold on the single market. Businesses recently polled by Open Europe concluded that the costs of Single Market regulation outweighed the benefit and by a 60/30 majority they supported reducing the UK relationship to the European Union to that of a free trade area, which would entail the repeal of the European Communities Act of 1972. This is now the mainstream view. Only a few Europhile dinosaurs attempt to argue that the outdated structure of the European Union is a appropriate in a competitive and global 21t century world economy. Where else in the world is the European model being imitated? Nowhere. Recently even the Council of Economic Analysis in Paris led by Deville Pan and dominated by Enarques accepted that ‘economic integration has stagnated and no longer promotes growth. The Euros creation has not produced the knock-on benefits expected.’ Indeed they concluded that the Euro has had a numbing effect on EU members since they no longer feel the need to control spending and make structural reforms.

What has been the response of the political establishment in this country to this new realism about the European Union? As arguments in favour of EU membership have weakened, the political establishment has decreed that these issues should not be debated. The Conservative Party wishes to be known for its toleration in all things. We all know what that means. But the only thing that it will not tolerate is one of its Members of Parliament that Britain should leave the European Union. Any MP who does that is barred from holding office. The Conservative Party is really very out of touch with Modern Britain. Opinion polls show that between 30 and 40% of the British people wish to leave the European Union. Only 3% of Conservative MP’s hold that view. The Conservative Party really must get back in touch and maybe an A list consisting entirely of outers should be constructed to work towards redressing this imbalance.

Our major political parties steadfastly refuse to provide leadership. Their leaders wish to be in office but not to exercise power. We have seen the Europeanisation of our once great political parties. Like those on the continent they have become indistinguishable from each other. How do the policies of Chirac differ from those of Mitterand? Turn out at our elections has fallen. But how can our parties thrive, if so many decisions take place at the European level? Soon Parliament will be asked to approve the State Aid for Ailing Political Parties Bill. The Parties will present themselves as a 21st century version of British Leyland. Claiming that they have some great new policies waiting on the conveyor belt, but unfortunately the consumers are not sufficiently interested in them. While in the meantime they need an awful lot of taxpayers money to keep their organisations going. It will be interesting to see how many Members of both Houses of Parliament will vote against these measures. I suspect very few.

Even now the EU is seeking to extend its tentacles and find more areas of national life where it can create level playing fields and impose excessive regulation.

The UK is a country with a world class financial centre. Indeed, New York is concerned that London may even become the world’s leading global player. Yet another example to those who belittle this country’s achievements that Britain is still a great global economic powerhouse.

The EU is not helping us to achieve this success. Indeed it may well derail it. Their Financial Services Action Plan will require our most successful industry to alter almost every action and activity they currently undertake, including how they trade and what they can offer their clients. These changes are wide ranging and will be costly. It is part of a project to create a Europe wide financial regulator. In financial services it is necessary to have light regulation and flexibility to adapt to a rapidly changing world. Once an EU Directive is established for Financial Services its provisions will be set in stone. Only London’s international competitors are likely to benefit from this.

During the last ten years it has become increasingly transparent that the EU’s economic model is not working and is holding Britain back. The principles that underlie it will not enable Britain to maintain its economic standing in an increasingly competitive world. We need to get out of the EU before any more damage is inflicted.

Speech by Nigel Farage MEP

Why Britain must leave the European Union

Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, a very good morning to everybody. When the Chairman kindly introduced me this morning, as sitting on the extreme right, I thought perhaps I was at a conference hosted by the BBC as opposed to the Bruges Group because whilst Mark Wallace may be right in general terms, in that the media are giving us and our arguments a better hearing that does not apply, ladies and gentlemen, to ‘The Today Programme’, who are as bad as ever, and I really do wonder whether we should be paying ₤131.50 for our BBC license next year to listen to that drivel every morning.

I think it’s worth just taking a step back. It was 1988 wasn’t it, when Mrs. Thatcher made that speech in Bruges? The implications of it were considered to be so serious that her own party ditched the greatest peacetime prime minister that we’ve ever had in this country. The Bruges group was set up by Patrick Robinson, a chap I was at school with and I joined the Bruges Group, I think in 1989 and just think back then, think of the abuse that organisations like this got; ‘Little Englanders, out of touch’ and always the implication that if you believed in an independent self-governing Britain, that somehow this was a neo-fascist, semi-racist type of argument. In fact I would say that the Bruges group, were in fact, the original fruitcakes. But haven’t we come a long way because the views that are represented on this platform and in this hall today are now the majority opinion in this country.

As much as I thought Barry Legg’s speech was excellent, Barry you’re wrong in saying that 30-40% of people want to leave the EU. Now I don’t know what you’re doing tomorrow lunchtime but if you want to come to my local pub I can promise you it’s unanimous in there. It’s how you ask the question isn’t it and it’s linked directly into the theme of this conference today. If you ask people ‘do you want to leave the EU?’ full stop, yes you’ll get 30-40% that say that’s what they want, but if you ask people ‘do you want to leave the EU and to replace that with a genuine free trade agreement, which is what the English people thought they’d signed up to in the first place’. The last opinion poll that asked that question in a big survey, was 62%. So we do represent the majority view and I saw that opinion poll which was conducted by Open Europe and it can’t be long can before Open Europe reach the logical conclusion of their own arguments, but to see 60% of British businesses saying they wanted a divorce from political union and a simple free trade agreement was, I think, the most encouraging opinion poll that I’ve seen since I’ve been involved in this movement and it’s not just the butcher, the baker, the candle stick maker, important though all of those people are. It included people like Michael Spencer, the chief executive of ICAP, the man who was recently voted the most powerful man in the city of London saying that in the city the cost of regulation inside the single market exceeded any potential benefit from it. So we’re heading in the right direction and the media, apart from the today programme, which is awful, is heading in the right direction. People are coming out and saying ‘it’s time we got ourselves out of the European Union’. The only place in this country that hasn’t changed and hasn’t changed a bit are our three traditional political parties that are representing us in Westminster.

I can’t believe there has ever been a time where the thoughts, hopes and aspirations of ordinary people were more divergent from that of their elected representatives. There is a massive gap, a huge vacuum that exists and just look at the parties. We’ve got the Liberal Democrats, absolute, total, complete Euro-fanatics and yet when their canvassers were busy taking votes in the Bromley bi-election, in which I stood recently, they were busy telling people on the doorstep that the Lib Dems were now Euro-skeptic. Funny isn’t it, but I think the Lib Dems get left out of this all to often, they don’t get attacked by organisations like the Bruges group. They don’t even get attacked by the Tory party or Labour party, they’re too busy tearing chunks out of each other, although quite where they find the policy differences to do that is beyond me but never mind. Look, it’s about time that Liberal Democrat voters up and down this country knew that the Liberal Democrats wanted in to the Euro and that the Liberal Democrats, under the European Convention on Human Rights think it a good idea to give all prisoners the vote. I suspect that if every Liberal Democrat in Devon and Cornwall knew that they would get a lot less votes and then we’ve got the Labour Party. Which still has some good patriotic people within it, however none of those are in the cabinet. Now I got to know quite a few cabinet ministers during Britain’s EU presidency in the last six months of last year and I just could not believe the extent to which the Geoff Hoons are completely and utterly dedicated to handing over everything, absolutely everything. You’ll notice at Sancerre that whilst justice and home affairs did not at that meeting move on from a veto position to qualified majority vote you’ll notice that the British government did not raise any fundamental objections to that happening and I have a theory that after the decision independently to go to war with the Americans in Iraq, I have a feeling that this Labour government had decided that never again would the United Kingdom make any independent foreign policy decisions and that the sooner foreign policy too is tied up with the loss of veto and of a qualified majority vote the better. So people need to know that and Tony Blair himself, I think he really believed that as President of the EU for six months, that somehow he’d change everything, that somehow he’d get a very good deal. Well President Chirac made sure that he didn’t get a good deal and he didn’t like it very much did he, when I reminded him of that fact.

Then we have the Conservative and Unionist Party, Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, the party that receives over £4 million a year of taxpayer’s money already under short money formula to provide opposition. They are not providing any opposition in Westminster at all. I was asked by Iain Dale the other day on this new television show that he’s running, 18 Doughty Street. I was asked to comment on the Conservative Party’s policy on Europe. I said ‘I can’t, I simply don’t know what it is!’ apart of course from one policy, because there was one policy commitment wasn’t there, when David Cameron was elected, do you remember? The one promise that he made, that he was going to take the Conservative Party out of the EPP and he’s reneged on that hasn’t he? There is no Conservative policy on Europe other than an absolute, total, fanatical, dedication to staying members of the European Union and whilst today you will listen to some fine people that exist within the Conservative Party and I’ve got absolute admiration for people like Dan Hannan, for people like Philip Davis, for people individually who’ve got the guts, who’ve got the backbone to stand up and fight for the right things, they are but a tiny, tiny percentage of the Conservative Party just as the good people in the Labour Party the Kate Hoeys and the Frank Fields are a tiny, tiny percentage of their own party. For David Cameron to say that we mustn’t go banging on about Europe, well we will go banging on about Europe and we will do so because we believe that the best people to govern Britain are the British people themselves through the ballot box and we won’t stop until we get that.

So we’ve come a long way, but there is a lot more to be done. We’ve got to tell people the truth haven’t we? We’ve got to tell people that now 75% of the laws that are made in this country are not made by British Governments, are not debated or voted in a houses of parliament by the men and women that we vote, that these are just a direct interpretation of EU directives and EU regulations. Just think over the last few weeks, we had the new child booster seat laws, where kids under twelve have to have these new booster seats. Very good, if you’re a shareholder in Halfords I’m sure and we’ve also had the age discrimination legislation, didn’t we, which came in on October 1st, yet more nightmarish bureaucracy, especially for Britain’s small and medium sized businesses. Yet no where, but no where from the Labour, Liberal Democrat or Conservative Parties did we hear that this wasn’t in fact government policy, this was the direct interpretation of EU directive and I found it almost unbelievable that on a BBC programme, that’s on from 06:00 till 09:00 every morning, that’s right the Today Programme, the government ministers who were interviewed, in fact Alistair Darling was interviewed for 15 minutes, on the age discrimination laws, defending the laws and not once did John Humphreys say ‘of course, it isn’t really your policy is it minister, you don’t have any choice about that?’. So we’ve got to get out there and educate people about the extent to which we have already given away the ability to govern our country and we’ve got to tell people and especially people in business that I’m afraid the truth is that it doesn’t matter a damn who wins at the next general election of your in business. It will make no difference, because we do not regulate and control British businesses anymore and we’ve got to tell people that there is no renegotiation of our membership terms on offer in Brussels. Anyone that goes around and tells you that we can renegotiate our deal from within are frankly deluding themselves and deceiving the British public. It cannot be done.

I’m reminded of a Matt cartoon a few years ago and it’s got a British fisheries minister whose going off to Brussels and it shows a fishing boat with a trawl net and there was a fish inside the trawl net talking to a fish that was out swimming in the open sea and the caption from the fish inside the net was “generally I find it’s better to negotiate these things from within”. I don’t know how many people here are Daily Telegraph readers but I get the feeling three or four mornings a week that Matt has got it absolutely right and he certainly has there. But it’s interesting, isn’t it, to look at this campaign that we’ve had from the Bruges Group, the Freedom Association and the CiB and UKIP and Uncle Tom Cobley and al?. It’s interesting to see that it’s changing very fast. In my own organisation, we have decided that we will now campaign on a much wider policy platform, you know we want to campaign for lower taxes and flat taxes in this country. We want to campaign for wholesale deregulation and especially deregulation of companies that employ twenty people or less, you know we want to campaign for selective education in this country, believing that Britain’s brightest and best young children, especially those from poor families, shouldn’t be disadvantaged. The whole point about what we’re doing in my organisation is that we are putting down a blueprint for how an independent United Kingdom could and should be governed. We are looking forwards. You take the Freedom Association campaign and I have to say, very encouraging to see people of Mark Wallace’s age up on the platform doing their stuff, excellent and perhaps I’ll say something about the ‘Better off Out campaign’, because I know lots of people will ask this question at lunchtime. I think that is what the Freedom Association has done with the ‘Better off Out Campaign’ they have redefined Euro skepticism in this country. Well done them. Any member of parliament who is not prepared to sign up to ‘Better off Out’, is not prepared to campaign for the values that that campaign represents, frankly isn’t worth a damn. I’m not interested in being told he’s an awfully good chap really, you know and he told me at dinner the other night on the fourth glass of port that really and quietly he thought I was right, but better not to say it at the moment for tactical reasons, tactical reasons? Good lord, our country’s being given away wholesale and they say we should trust them, we should not but we should trust the people who have the guts to sign up to ‘Better off Out’ and I am absolutely determined that under my leadership of UKIP that we will not, as a movement that wants an independent Britain, shoot ourselves in the foot by fielding UKIP candidates against that caliber of people from the Labour and Conservative Parties who have the guts to stand up and do the decent thing. And we look to the whole nature, the whole agenda of today’s brilliantly organised conference here and we see again that it’s the Bruges group looking forwards, talking about different policies, talking about trade alternatives, talking about how we can be better off out. I think that everything that we’ve done collectively over the course of the last fifteen years has been rather like the rearguard action, we’ve been the rearguard from Dunkirk haven’t we? Small isolated pockets of people, fighting battles but always going backwards, always slipping backwards, but there is nothing to be ashamed of ladies and gentlemen, because we have actually managed through that rearguard action to save a couple of vital and important things. Whenever somebody tells me, ‘Oh well of course Nigel, but you’d achieve so much more if you’d be in one of the main stream established parties’ I always think to myself, if it hadn’t been for Jimmy Goldsmith, if it hadn’t been for the Referendum Party, if it hadn’t been for the fact that he put the fear of God into the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties and that he managed to get their leaders in a ‘half-Nelson’ and apply enough pressure to make them promise that they wouldn’t take us into the Euro without first having a referendum. If it hadn’t been for Jimmy Goldsmith and the Referendum Party we’d have joined the Euro in 1999.

And if it hadn’t been for the collective efforts of many of us and including some of our main daily national newspapers, the European constitution would have been rammed through the House of Commons on a three line whip and there would have been very little any of us could have done about it. So these are the important victories, vital victories, but still the overall impression is that we’ve been fighting a rearguard. Well, we now have a phenomenal opportunity. We now, as that very significant ICM poll shows us have an opportunity to engage British business, both big, small, medium sized, all of them, we can gain British business. Mark talked about dealing with students the other day and making the arguments about trade in the third world and how once they hear these arguments overwhelmingly the young people support the values that we stand for. So we have a very very important potential to engage with youngsters in this country and perhaps the most important category of all, we have the opportunity to engage and to get the support in one way or another from the millions of people and I’m thinking about the 9 million people who voted in the general election of 1992 and who now choose to vote for no party at all. We’re told, well Peter Mandelson tells us that it’s because we’re all so well off and comfortable we’re not bothered, but he’s wrong. Other people tell us that there is apathy, I don’t agree, I think it’s because of antipathy. They don’t feel there is anyone out there speaking up for them. There is a fantastic opportunity for all of us to get out there and engage these people. There will be no need from now on to fight any rearguards. I sense that the tide of public opinion in this country has well and truly turned. It’s now time for us to be out there on the attack, for us to be out there moving forwards and let’s not be backwards at coming forwards. Let’s make it absolutely clear to people that we would be better off out financially, not just because we’d stop giving £40 million a day to Brussels but because of the tremendous opportunities that are out there for us. I was amazed, on December 9th last year the Queen opened the Commonwealth conference in Valeta. Within the Commonwealth organisation we’ve now got 30% of the world’s population and what were they asking for at that conference. They were asking Blair and the British Government, they were begging, for free trade deals and yet here we are, at the head of the Commonwealth, with a third of the world’s population within it, unable, forbidden, banned from having our own trade policy. We’ve got to have our own trade policy back and one of the first places where we start to do free trade deals is with our kin, our friends the English speaking world within the Commonwealth and we’d be better of out politically. Able to make rules that shape and suit our own lives in these islands as opposed to having to accept one rule, of a one size fits all policy across 25 different nations with different languages, climates, cultures. It doesn’t work, so politically far better off able to shape our own laws and in terms our democracy, it’s interesting isn’t it that just one week after the Cenotaph ceremony down the road, one is reminded that previous generations thought the concept of parliamentary democracy and self-government to be so vital that they were prepared to risk everything they had to defend that very principle and compare that with this governments political class over the course of the last 30 years. Let’s get our democracy back and we’ll be better off out and I can’t quantify this, but in terms of our own self-confidence, in terms of our own pride, in terms of a feeling of who we are as a people and where we come from and what we want to leave our children and grandchildren once they have gone and I believe that membership of the European Union is increasingly becoming a humiliating experience because of what we’re witnessing. We’re witnessing prime ministers, government ministers, cabinet ministers, the heads of county councils, representatives of the appalling regional assemblies too. The all get the Eurostar on the way across to Brussels and they go into meetings and they hold out their cap and they say ‘please Sir, can we have some of our own money back’. Is that really what this country has sunk to? Are we really prepared to go on backing political parties that led us into that and show no desire to get us out of that? Well I, for one, am not. It simply isn’t good enough. We would be better off in every single way, for the economic arguments and the political arguments important though they are pale, as far as I am concerned, into significance in getting back our pride to be British people standing on our own two feet and trading with the world. That’s my assessment.

Now I said that I believe the tide has turned and truly I do, and what we have to do is to turn that into a tidal wave of public opinion. But the question that we all need to ask ourselves is that even if we have that tidal wave of public opinion, what is the mechanism; what is the method by which we can get what we want? We need to be very realistic about this. We have a first past the post parliamentary system for Westminster elections and it doesn’t really matter how good or bad UKIP are or I am or Jimmy Goldsmith was or any new party or group or formation that comes along it is going to be that difficult to get a new party in Westminster with 330 seats to form a majority before this country is totally subsumed. Doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting for, but it’s going to be dash difficult to do and given those circumstances it’s actually very difficult I think at the moment to see change in any of our three appalling traditional political parties so the real opportunity has to be, the real mechanism by which we get our country back surely has got to be a referendum, hasn’t it? That is the most likely way and that is the quickest way that we can achieve this. Now I know that Frederick Forsyth has already made his mind up on this and is campaigning very openly for the British to have a referendum and I know that Paul Sykes has been running quite big national newspaper adverts you may have seen over the last few weeks and he’s made his mind up that we need to have a referendum. But you know we can have various campaigns, we can have various speakers, we can have various papers and pamphlets but we also need, as Jimmy Goldsmith proved, to have some political punch, don’t we? Now I’ve spoken at many, Bruges group meetings over the years and I’ve never once been party political in any sense at all, I’ve always tried to be a good boy and not to do that. But I’m going to put an idea to you today which I admit is party political but which I think could bring that referendum, bring that opportunity to get our country back a bit closer. In 2009, so it’s someway off and we have time to plan, we have the next set of European elections. We know that the Labour lists and the Liberal Democrat lists will be Europhiles to the man. We know that in the Conservative Party the system by which the sitting MEP gets back to the top of the list means that the Conservative Party, with one or two great exceptions, will be overwhelmingly Europhile. We have an opportunity; because in the European elections the big parties cannot avoid a debate on the European topic. They can avoid it in general elections but they can’t avoid it in European elections and we know that because it’s a proportional representation election, whatever we may think of that system, that provides an opportunity for new parties and different parties saying different things. If you look at UKIP’s progress from 1994 when we scored 3.5% of the vote in the seats in which we stood in the elections to 1999 where we scored 7% of the vote across the entire United Kingdom to 2004 when we secured 16% of the vote across the entire United Kingdom, if we are prepared to put our traditional, tribal political loyalties behind us, if we are prepared to recognize that that election offers us a real opportunity, a real opportunity to express the views that we really think, I believe that there is an opportunity in those European elections for UKIP to come out of it as the biggest party in the country. If we can do that we will then put the fear of God into the political establishment in this country. It’s got to be no more Mr. Nice Guy, hasn’t it? We need to frighten those people and I believe that if UKIP comes out from those European elections in 2009 as the biggest party across the country, I believe in those circumstances, it will be impossible for the Conservative party and Labour party not, at a subsequent general election, to offer us the opportunity, after over 30 years, of a vote to decide whether we remain part, a province perhaps, of a new United States of Europe or whether we break ourselves free and win back our economy, our democracy and our pride. It’s worth thinking about.

Thank you.

If and when there’s a referendum on continuing in the EU or an alternative, what alternative do you believe would get the most votes?

Answer Nigel Farage MEP:
Well the difficulty with that of course is that it won’t be our side setting the question, will it? So we won’t be able to say “Would you in this referendum like to leave the EU? You’ll be a thousand pounds a year better off and free again”. I mean that seems to me a perfectly reasonable question. I think the conduct of the referendum, that’s the thing we must concentrate on. Yes, we can offer alternative visions and of course we must offer the free trade alternative visions, but we mustn’t offer just one. We’ve got to point out that there are several free trade associations around the world with whom we could link up with no political implications for this country whatsoever. So I am convinced that while a free trade alternative within the EU is very important, it is looking wider, it is looking at a global perspective that will actually win us that side of the argument. But I would say this, that we now have in this country an electoral commission and, when it comes to this referendum, which I believe we can achieve, it is beholden upon us to apply maximum pressure to make sure that the referendum we get is a free, fair and open referendum. That is absolutely vital. It needs a neutral question and it’s absolutely essential that organisations like the BBC and the Today programme make sure that both sides of the debate are equally represented and I am absolutely convinced, both in my heart and my head, that once we have this debate we’ll win it. I’m absolutely convinced of it.

Answer Mark Wallace:
Well, I agree with you entirely actually, that rather than specifically tying one organisation or one alternative into the question itself, I think if we get to the point where we have a referendum, which I hope we will, to say actually yes, the last thirty years or more we’ve been misled by the political class and the political establishment, that we’ve decided to go back to a referendum for the British people to make the right decision, I think to say then, once you’ve voted on this issue we’ll go ahead and choose what the alternative is, would be wrong, and the think the people wouldn’t buy it. I think there would have to be a national debate to follow that freedom and say, well, we are going to be getting our freedom and our national control off the European Union, and then let the British people have it, and then let them take full part in that debate afterwards.

I think also, as the government have done in the past over fox hunting for example, if you start getting involved in specific organisations and specific commitments, they won’t hesitate but find reasons to put us down – in exactly the same way they said, would you like a fox hunting ban, no fox hunting ban or some regulation on fox hunting as some kind of a compromise; they knew that that would split their opponents into two parties. Plus they risk boycotting the vote and we shouldn’t let that happen to us. It should be very clear that afterwards the British people will decide what they want to do.

Answer Barry Legg:
I happen to think that negative campaigning is very, very effective and the message in a referendum campaign is that if we carry on the way we are, if we maintain our EU membership, we are going to go down with the EU. That is the stark choice. It is a choice between going down with the EU or accepting freedom. Once we have freedom we can choose our trading relationships around the world. There will be plenty of people that want to sign free trade agreements, so let’s not get tied to particular concepts too closely. The EU is bad for Britain. Freedom is good for Britain.

When do you anticipate the referendum will take place and what damage do you think will be done in the meantime?

Answer Nigel Farage MEP:
Well, I think there is damage being done every day. We’re so often sold this idea by the so called eurosceptics in our major parties, who of course are no such thing, that membership in the EU is like a series of lines in the sand and that you are able to say “Right that’s it, we’re not going to integrate any further”; when people say that, they’re totally misrepresenting what the European Union is all about. It is a process. I mean, what do you think the 25,000 people that work for the European Commission do every day? Well, at least before lunch anyway. They come up with new rules and new laws, and directives and regulations get passed. Every single time that happens it helps just a little bit more to integrate the economies of the European Union. So the damage is being done the whole time. I absolutely take Barry’s point that the choice is between whether we go down with them or whether we make ourselves free, but I can’t anticipate when this referendum is going to be. There are many, many people talking about referendums, campaigning for referendums, and I think that the set of elections in 2009, because they’re a way off, give us a fantastic opportunity to pack the political punch so they can’t deny us a referendum. So if that strategy is to work and we have a referendum in 2010, accept the point that lots of damage will be done over the next few years, but I’m one of 27 million voters in this country that has never even been asked whether I think we should be self-governing or run from somewhere else, and I’ll bet there are one or two over-50s in this room who were given a vote in a referendum in 1975 but feel they were sold something completely different.

Answer Mark Wallace:
I obviously agree with that. I think it’s very important that we’re honest here, and the fact is I don’t know and none of us know when this referendum will happen. I’d like it to happen sooner rather than later, but I think it’s crucial that, if it does take five years, if it does take ten years to set it up, we can’t let ourselves get demoralised by that. We can’t think in five years it has to happen or it’s all gone. I think that would be absolutely fatal and very wrong. Like Nigel, I have never voted in a referendum. I was born in 1984. I wasn’t even alive when the original referendum happened. I think that we can point out to the British people generally, but especially to those people who’ve never had the opportunity to vote, that either we leave the European Union to assert the authority of the British people over their own state and over their own nation, or the European Union will come to an end eventually. It will come to an end crashing down on our heads and I think that if we can sell that to get a referendum as soon as possible then good, but if it does take a long time and if a lot of damage is done in that process then we still have to persevere through some very difficult times.

Answer Barry Legg:
I think it is a very good idea to have a referendum and I have no doubt that our point of view would win that referendum. But, because of that, I think in reality it is going to be very difficult to achieve. The whole track record of the establishment of this country is actually to put off difficult choices. If you look at the history of the twentieth century you will see difficult choice after difficult choice being put off for ten, 20, 30 years. So I fear that we have to go through quite a bit of hardship before we get to that position. So we have to campaign against the evils of the EU continually and forcefully. But I really welcome the day we do have a referendum.

We are deluding ourselves if we think there is going to be a referendum on this issue or, if there is a referendum, you have none of the three main political parties really interested in having a referendum, they’re too europhile, and if they do concede one they will be out to get the result that they want. Now I am so happy to hear Nigel Farage setting out the policy for using the European elections in 2009 to stimulate this. Have you got a strategy for getting into your party, for those elections, the members of the Conservative Party who want to get out of the European Union?

Answer Nigel Farage MEP:
Well, I know the audience thinks they’ve heard enough of you but I am going to ask you a question. Really, you’re the perfect person to answer that question for me. You’ve declared already that you are a Conservative Party member and that’s fine, but are you prepared in a European election to say that it’s better in a situation like this to put country before party and help us to try and achieve that in 2009?

Question, Ivor Lawrence:
I was a Conservative Member of Parliament for 23 years and a eurosceptic. Barry and I stood side by side on most of these issues over the years that Barry was in parliament. The problem with the Conservative Party is that the leaders read the party opinion poll that says, whenever they go around and ask, that people put Europe seventh on the list of items of importance. Question one: what are you doing, what do you suggest we do, to change the public view about the importance of Europe compared with housing, education and health, for example? Second question: since the Conservative Party is far more likely to be eurosceptic and to go along with the policy that you choose than the Labour Party, which believes in the living principles that Barry Legg outlined, how are they going to get power if UKIP does what it did in the last general election and stops, for example, my constituency, in which I will be standing as a candidate – does the candidate win as a result of UKIP doing that and that which the Labour party got in and now do we defeat our aim and our purpose? How, Nigel, do you answer that?

Answer Nigel Farage MEP:
Ok, fair enough, two big questions. I’ll try to be brief. Firstly, yes, if you ask them the question about the European Union, it’s number seven, but, if you ask them about immigration and how important that is, you are likely to find that that is their number one concern at the moment, and yet the truth is that as members of the European Union we cannot have proper border controls, embarkation controls, our own immigration policy. If you ask people about the economy and the relative levels of wealth, they’d probably put that as the second most important issue, and we have to point out to them through campaigning that, without membership of the European Union, every man, woman and child in this country would be better off by nearly one thousand a year – and that’s before we deal with the CAP and give them cheaper food. So that’s the way we have to do it. We have to engage the people on the issues and then link the issues to the European Union, and I’ve certainly learnt that through years of campaigning.

Now, your argument that the Conservatives are slightly less bad than the Labour Party – you said “They’re more likely to be eurosceptic” – well, under the leadership of Ian Duncan Smith that may very well have been true, under the leadership of Michael Howard that may possibly have been true, under the leadership of David Cameron it most certainly isn’t true. I’m prepared to have a wager with you that if Gordon Brown bested David Cameron at the next election, that the Labour Party will appear more eurosceptic in their manifesto and their rhetoric than the Conservative Party. I do not agree with the idea that we’d be better off with Cameron in government than we would with Gordon Brown in government. I got into politics completely accidentally, I didn’t have any plans to do it, I shouldn’t have needed to do it – had there been more people like you in the Commons who would have stopped Maastricht going through then I would never have got involved. But I came into this as a businessman and, if I was back running my business, employing people, trying to make money, trying to earn a living, it wouldn’t make a half-pence worth of difference whether Labour or the Tories won the next election, because British business is governed from somewhere else.

Answer Barry Legg:
It’s good to see an old colleague like Sir Ivor Lawrence here today. Having been an MP for five years my faith in the House of Commons is pretty low. I think Lord Boothby said, and I think he was a member from 1922 to 1960, that the House of Commons never changed anything in the whole of his period there except for the Norway vote. I think he is probably right. Unfortunately in 1992, when Ivor and I were there and we had a vote on the paving bill, which was to push Maastricht through, he and I voted against it and we came within 3 votes of making probably the most significant change since the Norway debate. But we failed, because of the composition of the Tory Party at that time. Now, the idea that people don’t understand Europe and can put it number seven, the basic point is that 75% of the laws in this country actually come from Brussels. They’re making all of the decisions, they’re making the decisions about the environment, they are making all the decisions. They’ve come up with financial regulations, they’ve come up with financial strategies, they’ve really got control over this country, and we’ve all got to get that message across – that Brussels rules and it makes the decisions on the key issues that are really important to people, and if we stay in there our growth rate is going to fall, we won’t be able to build more hospitals, we won’t be able to build more schools, we won’t be able to have more police, we’ll be going backwards as a country. It’s a very, very clear message.

Now, I’ve got a lot of respect for Ivor. I looked at the figures in his constituency and I don’t think it is right for Ivan to say, “Look, other parties shouldn’t stand so we can let the Conservative Party in”. The problem is that people are very dissatisfied with the main two parties and, if you look at the burden on Trent constituency and on other constituencies last time, sure the Tories didn’t get elected, but he didn’t get elected because UKIP was standing and quite frankly also because the BNP was standing, and, unless people come forward and give coherent, sensible principles, I believe that the profound discontent that exists in this country will find more and more extreme outlets, and that will be very bad indeed. Also, I think we have to bear in mind what the Conservative Party is doing at the moment with this A-list. It is determined to get in candidates that are not traditional Conservatives. The sort of eurosceptic candidates like myself and Ivor Lawrence frankly wouldn’t get into parliament now because our views are not in tune with where the leadership of the Conservative Party wants to be. I don’t believe that another Philip Davis can possibly be elected under the Conservative colours at the next general election, because the people that are around the party, Francis Maude etc, want to change the composition of the members of parliament, and we will see the character of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons change.

Answer Mark Wallace:
Very quickly, on your first question especially, “Why does Europe come so low on the list of people’s interests?”, this is specifically because, for all the reasons we’ve heard, it is very much in the interests of the main parties and of the pro-EU lobby certainly, to portray Europe or the EU as simply a foreign policy issue, to pretend it’s a committee of cooperation that ministers simply go away to, and that’s why whenever it’s presented as a stand alone issue, yes, people will say, “Fine, it’s massively important for criminal justice, which is currently trying to be taken away by the EU and our veto abolished, yes, they’ll say immigration is massively important, they’ll say economics health is important, they think increasingly (as I’ve mentioned) that fair or free trade with the third world is important. The thing is that, when David Cameron says he doesn’t think we should bang on about the EU, what we have to point out is that we have to bang on about crime, we have to bang on about tax, we have to bang on about immigration and our economy, and, if he doesn’t want to bang on about any of those things and bang on about the EU as you must do as a result, you shouldn’t be in politics.

I’m looking around here and I’m realising that I’m almost the only member of an ethnic minority in the room. The fact is, working in Tottenham I know there are a lot of ethnic minorities that tend to follow the Labour Party line and yet, until we have members of ethnic minorities in groups like this we’re always going to be open to charges of racism from people like certain BBC morning radio shows, and I want to know if you have any ideas about how we can get members of ethnic minorities, who often come from Commonwealth countries and should be interested in this, to be more interested in this concept?

Answer Mark Wallace:
Well, yes I think it is very interesting and, yes, over the years, especially from pushing a very artificial and quite deceptive politically correct agenda, I think yes the left have managed to jump onto the ethnic minority vote and say that you ought to vote for us naturally, and there has been a lot of smearing involved in that. But actually, increasingly, when you speak to people of ethnic minorities, especially those from the Commonwealth, you will find there a strong moral ethic based on a family ethic – and especially there is an ethic of hard work, personal responsibility and personal endeavour – and I think if you can tie these opinions to the European Union, which I think undermines so many of those things and certainly undermines economic vibrancy, entrepreneurialism and a freely developing economy, then I think we can point out that the European Union is opposed to that. Certainly at the debates in North London earlier this week at least 40 to 50% of the audience in that girl’s grammar school were from ethnic minorities. When we see the europhiles’ attempts to cast all of us somehow as racist, it’s a very interesting argument that actually we ought to have discriminatory preferential agreements simply with the EU and European populations over the rest of the people around the world. It looks like they’re the racists. When we saw a few months ago trainee doctors from Pakistan and India who’ve been training in this country, working in the NHS, who’ve run up first world educational debts, they were told that actually the NHS is going to have to prefer to recruit doctors from the European Union, and they were sent back to the Indian subcontinent with British level educational debts to try and work them off there, and I think that’s disgraceful – especially for so many of these countries that stood by us in the various wars of the twentieth century. I think it’s an absolute disgrace.

Answer Nigel Farage MEP:
It is not, of course, just the Today programme that likes to brand euro-realists as racists; one has to remember that the current leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, has said that UKIP are probably racist. We were told we’re racist because we believe in self-government and democracy and I think that that comment has done David Cameron far more harm than it has done to UKIP, because everybody knows we are a non-racist, non-sectarian party – we just simply want our country back. But I would answer the question by saying this. Last Friday I went down to Salisbury and I had lunch with an hotelier, an entrepreneur, a man who owns a big hotel chain right across the south-west of England that has done phenomenally well. He is Indian and he came to Britain in 1976 because he said he loved, respected and admired the things that England, as he saw it, stood for. He certainly had read far more Rudyard Kipling than I had, his knowledge of our history was greater than mine and his concern and dismay at what had happened to that country that he’d lived in for 30 years, and which his children were now growing up in, was even greater than mine. I would say this to you, from my experience of meetings across the country I’ve noticed that there are more and more people from ethnic minorities coming to these sorts of meetings, and in answer to your question about what we should do, I would say: nothing. And I’ll tell you why, because the arguments and values that we stand for are strong enough on their own to bring those sorts of people into the Bruges Group, into all these different organisations; there’s no need for us to go out there and advertise in Asian newspapers or do anything like that. Those people are beginning to come, they will come anyway.

This is a question for Nigel on the European Parliament. We invented parliaments; parliaments are driven to create legislation. What does the European Parliament do?

Answer Nigel Farage MEP:
Well, the most important feature of the European Parliament is of course that it is the biggest travelling circus since Billy Styles, isn’t it? I mean this amazing system where once a month we load the office into these tin boxes called canteens, and they’re loaded into lorries and they’re driven 300 miles down the motorway to Strasbourg, and they’re unloaded in your office in Strasbourg, staying there for four days a month before you load it back into your tin box canteen and take it all the way back to Brussels until in three weeks’ time the tin box comes the other direction. And this system of thousands of people travelling back and forth, supported by the very same people who think global warming is so serious that we’ll all be fried within two years!

Are you attempting to persuade and encourage very high profile politicians to come out in support of UKIP? Because that would really put UKIP and what it stands for on the map.

Answer Nigel Farage MEP:
Well, it’s been much easier, we’ve found, to attract people to join our organisation who were ex-MPs. We’ve got 14 ex-Conservative MPs that are now members of UKIP and we did have a brief affair with an ex-Labour MP! We would welcome ex-MPs from the Labour Party and the Tory Party. We would love to get people who are currently sitting in the House of Lords or the House of Commons to have the guts to come on board. It would take real courage for them to do so because they could get huge abuse from their own party, perhaps from elements of their own associations, and it would of course – and let’s be realistic about this – make their prospects of getting re-elected that much more difficult. But in answer to your question “Am I trying?” – yes.

Answer Mark Wallace:
Obviously as a representative of a non-party political organisation I can’t speak on behalf of UKIP, but Nigel just about manages to speak up on his own behalf I find, never known for being shy and retiring. So I think he is an excellent and quality professional in our field. But I think more broadly it is very important that we talk to a whole base of people. You mentioned Lord Tebbit, for example, who came out at the Telegraph debate at the Tory Party Conference and said, “A great way of cutting tax is to leave the European Union”, and he got an uproar of applause. I think more broadly the fact is that we’re better off out and if we can get these people to come out, at least in public, and say we want to leave the EU, not from a partisan perspective, then they ought to be very much encouraged to do so. It is true that seven of the MPs who have signed this “Better off out”, were newly elected at the last election. They’ve been told by David Cameron, you’ve just entered parliament and your ministerial or shadow-ministerial career is hereby over for announcing your own views. That said, I think with David Cameron I’m always very careful to thank him whenever I get the opportunity, because despite the euroscepticism announced by Michael Howard, Ian Duncan Smith and William Hague, it’s actually David Cameron who has been the first Conservative leader to give backbenchers free speech on the European Union, but an awful lot of those people have sacrificed their personal interests for that, and there are plenty of others who in private and over dinner and after several ports will say these things, and they are the people that we’ve got to work on and say actually, come on, the best thing for you and the best thing electorally for you as well would be to come out and say it.


Speech by Philip Davies MP

The EU: It’s the Economy Stupid!

In 2004 the European Union was included in the CIA World Fact Book, the open source publication which tracks the key characteristics of every nation around the globe. It was the first time a supra-national body had ever been included in the publication dedicated to tracking developments of nation states. The reason the CIA gave for the EU’s inclusion in the Fact Book was that “it has many of the attributes associated with independent nations: its own flag, anthem, founding date, and currency, as well as an incipient common foreign and security policy in its dealings with other nations. In the future, many of these nation-like characteristics are likely to be expanded.”

Well so much for the intelligence gathering abilities of the CIA, we could have told them that this is the way the EU is going years ago! Indeed they might also have mentioned that the EU has its own President, Parliament, Court and embassies.

But the inclusion of the EU in the CIA’s World Fact Book provides impartial third party endorsement of the fact that the EU has moved far beyond the idea of a common market which was sold to the British people by Sir Edward Heath and Harold Wilson back in the 1970s. The original Eurocrat , Jean Monet, the architect of the modern EU, first spoke of political union being the eventual aim at the time of the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, a fact which must have been known to our political leaders who took us into the project.

The EU is rapidly taking on more and more of the trappings of nationhood and Brussels much more than Westminster is becoming the source of UK laws with around 70% of our laws emanating from the continent.

How much longer can Britain claim to be a democratic country when more than two thirds of our laws come from an unelected and unaccountable supra-national state? Laws which take precedence over those passed by our democratically elected Government. If we don’t like what our Governments do we can show our disapproval in the ballot box. But no such right exists with the EU. The EU Commission can ride roughshod over the wishes of the British people and there is little we can do. We don’t even have anyone to complain to. My post bag is filled with letters complaining about laws the EU has passed or money the EU has wasted, but I can’t do anything about it I’m only a Member of Parliament. In fact no Member of Parliament can do anything about it, not even the Member for Sedgefield. Only collectively as a nation could really do anything to stem this ebbing of our democracy and that is through withdrawal from the EU.

Some people say that we shouldn’t be “banging on” about Europe. However we have to recognise that we can only effectively “bang on” about the issues we are encouraged to, such as making poverty history and sorting out the immigration chaos when we remove the dead-hand of the EU from these areas.

Now we are told that we need to be at the heart of Europe because not to be would see us lose our cherished influence. Well I must say that this influence we are told so much about by the proponents of the EU has done a superb job in overhauling the wasteful and damaging Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy. Some influence! The EU continues to lumber in a direction which is at odds with the UK’s national interest and all the British Government can do is to try and spin defeats as victories for British influence. But as skilful a politician our Prime Minister might be, even he had a job presenting his negotiating away part or our rebate for little more than warm words on the CAP as a victory.

The truth is that in this country we have already won many of our arguments on the EU.

People now realise that they were lied to when we joined the Common Market in 1973 and in the subsequent referendum of 1975, only a very naïve or disingenuous politician would seriously attempt to argue otherwise.

People know that the EU is wasteful and inefficient; that millions of pounds are wasted every day by the EU.

People know that the EU is corrupt, and that year after year the auditors refuse to sign off their accounts.

People know that the EU is undemocratic and unaccountable and that there is little they can do about EU civil servants who waste our money by the billions.

People know that the UK has lost much of its sovereignty and that the EU’s politically correct and often crazy laws take precedence over laws set by our Parliament.

On these issues the British people are with us and if they were asked in a referendum on these issues alone, we’d have a landslide.

But the reason we have not yet broken through is simple, and it is summed up by Bill Clinton’s election winning campaign slogan of 1992: “it’s the economy stupid”.

It is on the economy that the argument over whether Britain remains in the EU will be lost and won. This is something which proponents of the EU realised a long time ago.

People think about issues in the way that they affect them and if you are in business your driving concern is how something affects your bottom line. EU proponents understand this and they present their arguments in terms people can understand; jobs and trade.

Like it or not most people do not see the EU as being a bread and butter issue. For most people the distant and impersonal EU is less tangible than schools and hospitals, police on our streets and the money in our pockets. Few people spend much time thinking about the constitution, but mortgages, bills and pensions occupy most people thoughts on a daily basis. Equally if you’re in business you are going to be far more concerned with making money and growing your business.

By presenting Britain’s membership of the EU in economic terms they know that they can sell what is essentially a political project to the British people. It is unfortunate, if perhaps understandable, that people and indeed businesses will let issues which do not affect them on a daily basis slide if they are told that to do anything about them would hurt them financially.

Now I will agree with the EU proponents that the economy, jobs and trade is the area where this argument will be decided, but I disagree that it is their trump card. When you consider the economics; when you consider the EU’s effects on trade, jobs and growth you will find that the case for Britain leaving the EU is more compelling than ever.

So when a Europhile asks me why we should leave the EU, I will tell him: ‘it’s the economy stupid’.

We are told that if we were ever to withdraw from the EU Britain’s trade with our European neighbours would suffer, that our economy would suffer, that it would mean the loss of jobs and prosperity. We are told that over 60% of our trade is with the EU and that withdrawal would mean the loss of our markets. We are told that the single market has been good for our economy and that we would suffer financial consequences from withdrawal. We are told that if we came out of the EU then 3 million jobs would go. We are told that we get financial benefits from the EU projects.

Now I will be honest with you if I were the Managing Director of a small company or employed in manufacturing I am pretty sure that I would find these to be quite compelling arguments as they relate directly to my own livelihood, my own mortgage and my own pension.

Our political leaders repeat this mantra over and over again only on Monday in his speech to the Lord Mayor’s banquet the Prime Minister said:

“I can't see a single good reason for Britain not being at the centre of Europe and every good reason why it should be. Europe gives us weight and strength.”

But when you examine these issues in any kind of detail what you actually find is that the EU is bad for trade, it is bad for jobs and that Britain is worse off by being in the EU and that withdrawal would give Britain a more global outlook to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Let us look at these areas:

Now we are told that around 60% of UK trade is with the EU and that if we came out you can say good bye to that and around 60% of our economy and about three million jobs. Now I could quibble about their statistical sleight of hand as when they refer to this figure what they are actually referring to is export of goods and not the usual measure of exports which is goods and services, which when you factor in services means the EU is the recipient of around half of our trade. The reason I wont quibble the relative importance of EU versus non-EU trade is that to do so would be to give credence to the argument that this trade might be lost if we left the EU, which as I will explain is patently ridiculous.

The reason trade wont be lost is that it is a two way street, our European neighbours make money from us too. If fact they make more money from us than we make from them. When you look at the balance of trade between the UK and the EU, Britain has been running at a trade deficit since we joined in 1973. According to the House of Commons Library between 1973 and 2005 the cumulative trade deficit between the UK and the EU amounts to an astonishing £230 billion. Our EU partners have made £230 billion more from us than we have from them.

Now ask yourselves given the value of the UK market to the European economies what do you really think the chances are of the EU ceasing this trade if we left the EU? How many European businesses do you seriously expect will say “alright that’s it Britain has left the EU, I don’t care what it does to my profit margins I am no longer trading with them on principle”. Not very likely is it.

In fact the non-EU European country of Switzerland enjoys a healthier balance of trade with the EU than we do and has a far higher proportion of its trade with the EU than we do. So much for the benefits of EU membership.

Indeed this deficit continues to rise while the UK enjoys a surplus with the rest of the world and our surplus with the USA continues to rise year on year.

Britain built its wealth as a global trader, and our future prosperity depends on developing our own free trade agreements with China, India, the rest of the Commonwealth and Nort and South America. It does not depend on being part of an inward-facing, backward looking protection racket set up to protect inefficient continental farmers and businesses.

We were trading with Europe long before we were members of the EU and, if Gordon Brown doesn’t destroy it, I will bet you my parliamentary pension that we will be trading with Europe long after we’ve left too.

This also gives the lie to the claim that three million jobs would be lost, they would not. Let us accept their figure of 3 million jobs, these jobs may be dependent on trade with Europe but these jobs are not as EU proponents suggest dependent on our membership of the EU. Trade with Europe is not dependent on our membership and neither are the jobs is supports. The only jobs dependent on the EU are those of EU civil servants based here, which I will admit may have to find alternative careers; now I know the EU is a bloated bureaucracy but is hardly accounts for 3 million jobs now does it.

Importance the UK economy
In making the case for the EU its proponents claim that the EU is responsible for 60% of the UK economy, it is not. Exports of which the EU accounts for about half are responsible for 21% of UK GDP, so trade with EU countries accounts for about 10% of GDP. Now as I said I do not believe this trade would be lost and I mention it only because so much of our economy has little or no dealings with the continent, yet they must bear the burden of EU red tape and regulation. Now if you are a large multi-national you are better able to shoulder this burden. But if you are small business in Shipley then the effect can be crippling.

The benefits of EU Membership
If you want the truth about the EU and the much hailed single market, don’t go to a British Politician go straight to the horse’s mouth, the European Commission. For our friends in the Commission the EU is unashamedly a political project so to them unlike their British counterparts, its economic failings do not take away from the validity of the project.

Earlier this year Enterprise and Industry Commissioner, Gunter Verheugen, stated that EU regulations were costing the European economy 600 billion euros a year! 600 billion that amounts to around 5.5% of Europe’s total GDP!

On it own this figure is staggering enough that each year European businesses are losing the equivalent of the entire GDP of Holland each year, but when you consider it against what the EU estimates to be the financial benefit of the single market then case against the EU does become a little open and shut. Now the most recent Commission estimates are for 2002 when the Commission put the benefits at 165 billion euros, quite substantially less than the costs. Even when you take account of inflation the costs of EU membership to business is around three time the benefits.

So much for the economic benefits of the EU! Far from being good for business the bureaucratic EU is actually profoundly harmful to business, and that is by their own admission.

I wonder how much of these costs are falling on the shoulders of British businesses and I wonder what a British businessman feel about withdrawal when faced with a figure like that. Indeed an ICM/Open Europe poll of Chief Executives, found that 52% of businesses think the cost of implementing EU regulations now outweighs the benefit of the Single Market.

It also found that 52% think the EU is “failing” and 60% agree with me that we should leave the EU and just have a free trade only agreement with them. This is a remarkable transformation of business attitudes to the EU in Britain. Interestingly in that same survey only 24% thought that the Eu would gain in importance in the world economy whereas 35% thought it would decline. These Chief Executives believed that China, India and South America were the places likely to gain in importance economically in the future.

The EU is good for our economy
Since 1970 the United States has enjoyed net growth of around 25% yet the EU, this much heralded economic powerhouse has enjoyed net growth of around zero. When you consider those stark figures you have to ask whether the EU has contributed to this sluggish growth. When you compare the EU’s stifling levels of regulation and high taxes with the US’s business friendly low tax economy, you are forced to conclude that the EU’s social democratic model has contributed to this.

The UK if the Chancellor is to be believed has enjoyed the longest period of sustained growth, but what might this have been if we had not had the drag of the EU?

Adam Smith once said that there is an awful lot of ruin in a nation, well there is even more ruin in 25 especially when that 25 contains some of the most powerful economies in the world. The European economy can absorb much of the harmful effects of the EU before European businesses and European citizens begin to feel the pinch. But believe me that pinch will come. The EU cannot continue on its current track and still expect to see economic growth and be able to compete with the emerging economic powerhouses of China and India and a resurgent Russia buoyed by its vast mineral wealth. In years to come historians will look back and say the biggest winner of the EU project was China.

If we are to compete with the vastly cheaper labour forces of India and China our economy will need to be agile and competitive with a light regulatory touch not the EU model of crippling regulation, restrictive employment laws and high taxes. Surely the EU and the British Government must see the economic threat posed to our economy by India and China.

The cost of EU membership
Britain puts more into the pot than it gets out of it, we have long been a net contributor to the EU with British tax payers funding inefficient farmers across the EU and any number of wasteful EU social projects.

Since we joined the EEC in 1973 Britain has contributed almost £200 billion in membership fees. In 2007 British taxpayers will pile on another £14.2 billion on to this Bill for our continued participation. In 2006 the full cost to the UK both direct and indirect works out at an astonishing £50.6 billion and in 2007 this net cost of the EU is set to rise to £52.4 billion.

Any myths about the benefits to the UK of the EU were certainly dispelled by the excellent and timely research by the Bruges Group into the costs and benefits of membership. Let us just look at some of the findings.

The annual cost of EU membership for every man woman and child works out at £873; can you imagine what a hard working family of four on a tight budget could do with that kind of money?

Every minute of 2007 the EU will cost the UK £100,000. Every minute! It really beggers belief! Now I’ve got a chocolate bar for the first one of you who can tell me at the end of this speech how much the EU has cost us in the time its taken me to make it.

Just think what we could do with that money. Just think of the nurses, operations, policemen, prisons or, now don’t tell George Osborne I said this but dare I say it tax cuts. If Britain came out of the EU we could afford tax cuts, increased defence spending and spending on the public services. When you consider how wasteful the EU, how many people do you think would see this as the best way to spend this money?

We all know millions upon millions of British Taxpayer’s money is being wasted but the EU, but there is no independent means of proving this. Here in the UK we have the National Audit Office, so when the Government waste inordinate amounts of tax payers’ money on unwise or badly managed projects there is a body which can go over the books and show to the public what went wrong. No such body exists within the EU. The EU is left to police itself and as is common in the political cultures of certain European countries a level of waste and corruption is seen as inevitable and therefore there is little anyone can do about it.

The member states are also unlikely to do anything to expose this corruption. Those who are net receivers are unlikely to raise objections about an inefficient and wasteful system which directly benefits them. They know the EU doesn’t work, but it works for them. For net contributors like the UK the cost of the EU inefficient or otherwise is a debate which they don’t want to have. The last thing the British Government want is to have the EU wash its dirty linen in public and for the British people to see just how many doctors, nurses or policemen could be paid for with the money wasted in Brussels. Apart from the sporadic interest demonstrated by certain sections of the media, the British people remain oblivious to the staggering waste of the EU.

Ask yourself is this really a body to which we want to be committing billions when prisons are full to bursting, hospitals are closing and our armed forces are so stretched and poorly equipped?

Conclusion: It’s the economy stupid
The indictments against the EU are devastating. So when a proponent of the EU brings the debate on to the economy he is not playing his trump card but bringing it on to our territory. The EU is a failed economic system which costs the British tax payer and British business billions so it is we who should be challenging our opponents. It is they who should be defending the economic implications of their costly and wasteful position.

If Britain is to remain competitive in the 21st Century, if we are to continue to attract investment and win business then we will need to start by freeing ourselves from this stifling political union. The 21st century with the emerging economies of Asia is not a time for uncompetitive protection rackets. Businesses is global and if we are to compete we must be too. The internet means that the barriers of nation states and supra-national states are of much less relevance than they once were. Take online auction sites you can operate a business from your living room in Doncaster and trade with an artisan in Jakarta. Government must reflect this with a light regulatory touch and the main impediment to this is the EU.

So while we must continue to make our arguments about sovereignty, democracy, accountability and corruption, the most pressing arguments for leaving the EU, and those most relevant to the British people and British business, are economic. So when asked why we need to leave the EU, we should always quote Bill Clinton: it’s the economy stupid.


Speech by Christopher Booker

Better Off Out! OK, So What’s Next?

Last Sunday, in common I suspect with a good many of you, I was in my local church for the Service of Remembrance. In our Somerset village, the sun shone as we gathered round the war memorial commemorating the 20 or so villagers who had given their lives in the two wars. Standing next to me was a neighbour who had been involved in dangerous bomb disposal work in Northern Ireland.

When we walked back into the church, as we said prayers for the Queen, for Parliament and for the Commonwealth, various thoughts began to stir in my mind – thoughts which came to a head as we sang the last verse of the National Anthem:

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour,
Long may she reign.
May she defend our laws,
And give us ever cause,

To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen.

‘May she defend our laws’? Prayers for Parliament? Mention of the Commonwealth? How archaic and remote such references are beginning to seem in the Britain of 2006. As we are becoming only too keenly aware, a great many of those laws which we ask the Queen to defend no longer have anything to do with Parliament, or the Queen herself for that matter. They now originate from a wholly different system of government, in which we have very little say at all.

As for the Commonwealth, it has been reduced to a kind of historical appendix, serving very little practical or political purpose, except when occasionally some ceremonial get-together of its more than 50 heads of government gives Mr Blair the chance for another quick photo-opportunity, before he flies off to Brussels for another meeting of the European Council.

As for the Queen, she may still seem to be much in evidence playing her ceremonial part in our national life. But it is noticeable how, behind the scenes, our government is continually trying to erode all those symbolic references to the Queen and to the Crown which used to provide constant subliminal reminders of how our country was governed: in a way which recognised that our Parliament, our courts, our Armed Forces, our police and heaven knows what beside were all ultimately subservient to this timeless entity which was above them all.

Just a tiny example, but often in my work I have need to look up documents on the website of what for centuries was called Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, with the Royal coat of arms appearing on all our legal instruments. Only the other day did I notice that it is not called Her Majesty’s Stationery Office any more. It has recently been subsumed into something called the Office of Public Sector Information.

What is the theme of this conference today? ‘Better Off Out – OK, What’s Next?’ The assumption behind it, with which in many ways I naturally sympathise, is that the great argument over whether or not it is in Britain’s interests to remain part of the European Union has in a sense been won.

Whichever way one slices the cake on that one - economically, financially, socially, politically, intellectually, philosophically, morally -, the case is overwhelming. It is not in our country’s interests to be part of this strange, misbegotten, corrupt, grotesquely inefficient political entity.

I have often remarked, only partly in jest, that anyone who still thinks the European Union is a good thing either doesn’t really know much about it, or is in some way making money out of it. In recent years I have not come across many exceptions to this rule.

It should therefore be in every way in our country’s interests to look for some way out of the European Union. For 50 years we have seen this thing growing and multiplying, ever sending out new tentacles of power into the life of the ever-growing number of nations making it up. For decades its momentum was kept going by a curious form of dogmatic idealism, and by precisely that same pressure to be continually looking for new ways to extend its reach and powers. But in the past few years we have seen this vast misshapen creation at last faltering in its relentless onward drive.

In all sorts of ways it is showing signs of becoming inwardly exhausted. It is showing signs of having been so carried away by its limitless ambitions that it has overreached itself. Question marks over the future of the euro. Deep and growing concerns over enlargement - not only that still in the future but the disenchantment of those countries which joined in 2004. The continuing semi-paralysis which has followed last year’s double-rejection of the Constitution.

Everywhere we see signs of bewilderment over where the great project can go next. Inwardly, in many ways, it is dying on its feet. All that old idealism and confidence has been visibly draining away into the sand.

And yet. And yet. It is still very much there, this vast new form of government which now rules over us all, very much more than most people are aware. It still represents a huge proportion of the laws which govern our lives. The momentum of its onward progress may have slowed, but it is still churning out those laws. And when it comes to any thought that Britain might somehow find a way out of the deathly embraces of this form of government, I’m afraid I have to be among those here today who urge a note of caution.

When Richard North and I were writing The Great Deception, our history of the European project, we learned and came across many surprising things about it. One of the dark pleasures of writing that book was to discover just how hopelessly wrong the historians had been getting it all, how seriously the history of episode after episode the story had come to be rewritten. But one of the consequences of this is how little most people understand the nature of how this new type of government works.

There was one hugely important point about it which up to that time I hadn’t really taken properly on board. In a sense it is the cleverest single idea those who created the European project ever came up with, because it really is the key to understanding just how they have managed to keep hidden from view so much of the power this ‘Europe’ now exercises in all our lives.

Someone who grasps this point very well, and who put it so candidly that we quote him at the start of our book is one of our more dedicated Europhiles, a young man called Mark Leonard, who helps run an organisation called the Centre for European Reform. This is how he put it:

‘Europe’s power is easy to miss. Like an ‘invisible hand’ it operates through the shell of established political structures. The British House of Commons, British law courts and British civil servants are still here, but they have become agents of the European Union, implementing European law. This is no accident. By creating common standards that are implemented through national institutions, Europe can take over countries without necessarily becoming a target for hostility”.

The point Leonard is making – and as I say he is one of the project’s keenest supporters – is that the way it has been taking over the governing of Europe has not been to mount some spectacular coup d’etat, seizing power in a way no one could have missed. The point is it has left the institutions of each country’s national self-government in place, all still standing – monarchies, parliaments, the civil service, courts of law and so forth – so that it is very easy to miss just how much everything has changed. Very cleverly, the whole edifice has been gradually hollowed out from within, bringing all those institutions more and more under the control of the supranational government which lurks in the shadows behind them, without people noticing.

One of the themes of my Sunday Telegraph column in recent months, indeed it has been one of my regular themes for years, has been how again and again we have seen the media getting very excited about some intrusive new law which is affecting ordinary people’s lives. Yet repeatedly they report on this without revealing that the reason why we have to obey these laws is not because Parliament had enacted them, after our MPs had been given the chance to debate and vote on them, but because they originated in Brussels.

A superb example has been the acres of the coverage given to the nationwide shambles over the new arrangements imposed by our council waste collectors, supposedly to ensure that more of our rubbish is recycled rather than being buried in council tips. Scarcely a mention of the fact that none of this would have happened if we did not have to meet EU-imposed targets for phasing out the putting of waste in landfill – targets incidentally which we haven’t got a hope of meeting and for which we shall end up being fined billions of pounds. We have seen other examples on every side, from compulsory bucket seats in cars for any passenger below ‘135 centimetres’ in height to the threat Brussels directives are now posing to the City of London’s position as the world’s leading financial centre.

Such things have been written about ad nauseam. Yet how often do the media explain to us properly where these laws come from? Only last week, we saw yet again a report in the Daily Telegraph business news on a press release from the British Chambers of Commerce headed ‘Labour’s red tape has landed business with a £50 billion headache’. As both the British Chambers of Commerce and the Telegraph business news well know, almost none of that £50 billion headache in fact results from ‘red tape’ devised by Labour ministers. It derives from laws we have been forced to adopt since 1997 because of our membership of the European Union. But to the Telegraph City Page, as to the BBC, it somehow doesn’t seem relevant or convenient or politically correct to point this out.

Again, last Sunday, I wrote about a report by MPs on the dangerous chaos which is resulting from the fact that responsibility for all matters of air safety in this country have now been handed over from our own Civil Aviation Authority to a body in Cologne known as the European Aviation Safety Agency. It was the MPs themselves who described the result of this as ‘chaotic’, warning that, in terms of air safety, it was ‘an accident waiting to happen’. But there is absolutely nothing our MPs can do about it, because air safety, like the safety of ships, like the safety of our food, like safety on the railways, is one of those many areas of government which we no longer have the power to run ourselves. They have been handed over – by our MPs, let it be said - to one of the ever-growing number of European agencies: some incompetent bunch of European officials who are ultimately answerable only to their fellow officials in Brussels.

My friend Tony Jay, one of the authors of Yes Minister, once said that the point about the European Union is that it is ‘a bureaucratic empire without an emperor’. Again, that has been one of the cleverest reasons why it has got where it has – because it is faceless. Unlike the dictatorships of the past, this one has no symbolic Big Brother figure at the top. But that does not prevent us from living in what increasingly amounts to a one-party state, run by a form of government which we cannot call to account. What this also means is that, so subservient have our governmental institutions become to this vast bureaucratic empire, so enmeshed have our laws become with its laws, that, simply in the most basic practical terms, the technical business of extricating ourselves from it would be an extraordinarily complex and difficult exercise.

At least in theory that would be possible, although our civil servants have become so used to not thinking for themselves that one wonders whether they would any longer be capable of running this country without Brussels being there to tell them what to do.

But the real problem which stands in the way of our being able to contemplate the question which is the theme of this conference today is of course that we have three major political parties, the leaderships of which are wholly at one on this issue. The very last thing any of them want is to think about such a question, let alone encourage anyone else to think about it. It is an extraordinary fact that the more our political class has handed over the power to run our country to this shadowy system behind the scenes, the more determined it becomes not to allow anyone even to discuss it.

This is what Mr Cameron calls ‘banging on about Europe’. Whatever we do, is the view of Mr Cameron and his little gang of cronies running their Not The Conservative Party, we must not concern ourselves with how this country is actually now governed. As I said in my column last Sunday, it is not government these people who have hijacked the Tory Party are concerned with. It is merely their desire to win what is laughably called ‘power’. The irony is that, if and when they get it, they will discover that power is precisely what they no longer have.

If we want to discuss the question put before this conference today, this is where the problem lies. Before we can even think of a new policy agenda for Britain in a post-EU world, we have got to have some rather more coherent agenda for discussing how we are to get to that happy state in the first place. And the problem is that we have our three main parties totally at one in wanting to see any consideration of an alternative to membership of the European Union stuffed as far away out of sight as possible.

We are being asked to choose between increasingly interchangeable groups of political pygmies, who on by far the most serious political issue confronting our country, because it affects every single area of how our country is governed, will do anything they can to bury their heads in the sand and to stop the rest of us thinking about it. It is the most astonishing abdication of political responsibility in our country’s history.

But therein lies the real challenge. Because, unless we can somehow build a solid group of politicians grown-up and intelligent enough to understand just how far we have surrendered the power to run our own affairs to this weird, unworkable system of government we now live under … grown up and courageous enough to explain just what this means for the future of our country … grown up and passionate enough to force it back onto the national agenda in such a way that even our babyish media can see the point and start reporting on it properly – unless we can build such a phalanx of politicians who can provide the kind of independent-minded leadership our poor, sad, confused country is now so desperately lacking, then we are just whistling in the wind.

Speech by John Midgley

A Britain without political correctness

Thank you very much for inviting me back and asking me to speak on “a Britain without political correctness.”

Given the PC world in which we live you could equally have asked me to take you on ‘a journey to a foreign land’ – as the Shadow Foreign Secretary, in a previous incarnation, once said!

It’s the sort of topic that you can only dream of.

A Britain….

… where true freedom of speech is restored

….where local authorities consign “Acceptable Use of Language Guidelines” to the dustbin of history &

….where Christians (and, indeed, Jews & Muslims) can set out their religious and moral case on the “sinfulness of homosexuality” without being accused of a hate crime

It would be a country which believed in real equality of opportunity and not one which promoted “equality of outcome” …..

…..where jobs are awarded on merit and not subject to tokenistic positive discrimination (which is simply ‘discrimination’ with the adjective ‘positive’ tagged before it)

…..where government contracts are awarded on price and quality and not on the tick-box mentality of ethnic monitoring and the like &

…..where parliamentary candidates are chosen because they are good and believe in their Party’s principles and not because of their sex or the colour of their skin.

A meritocracy with merit!

We would have a nation where common sense thrived….

…..where you could send happy 21st or happy 60th cards to your workmates without worrying that your boss could be on the receiving end of an EU-inspired age discrimination claim

….where the “everyone must have prizes” mentality was ditched and “failure” is just that – not a “deferred success”

….where Tom could not only chase Jerry and bludgeon him, shoot at him and fire him out of a cannon in the cartoons but also where he could, once again, light up and have a cigar at the end of a hard days mousing &

…..where cooing at new born babies in maternity wards was acceptable – and not deemed to be a breach of their human rights.

This would be a Britain which revived equality under the rule of law (instead of, at times, having one law for one group of people and another for everyone else) and a Britain which eradicated “institutionalised political correctness.”

Of course in any free society, not everyone will agree.

There will still be those who try to preach a view of the world that is PC or culturally Marxist. But, without its presence in our main institutions, there would be an awful lot less of it – and it would, in my opinion, go the way that economic Marxism has done – out of fashion very quickly.

As I said at this conference last year, we can’t blame the European Union for all of this.

They didn’t ban Tom from smoking (that was Ofcom).

They didn’t try to ban Baa baa black sheep (that was the Oxfordshire Sure Start Centre).

And they didn’t establish lists of parliamentary candidates skewed in the hushed name of political correctness to favour women and ethnic minorities (that was our 3 main political parties).

Yet, the EU is responsible for a huge chunk of our institutionalised political correctness as, after all, it makes more than 70% of our laws.

Without European Union law-making we could return to the British way of doing things where, for example, the burden of proof in discrimination cases rests with the employee (the accuser) and not the employer (the accused).

We could get rid of the concept of “indirect discrimination” – where people claim to be offended even though the alleged “offence” was not directed at them.

We could also reduce the ridiculous situation where anyone who is dismissed who is not a young, white, male, heterosexual, able bodied person can claim sky’s the limit compensation by simply citing their age, sex, race, sexual orientation etc even when this has little to do with the real reason why they had been sacked or made redundant.

The age discrimination laws which came into effect about 6 weeks ago originated in Brussels.

This is going to be a bureaucratic nightmare. It won’t just lead (as it has done in some over-zealous councils and businesses) to the banning of age related birthday cards in the workplace but you will get the law of unintended consequences kicking in.

To some extent, we have seen it already:

  • Age Concern (who supported the new laws) have reported that, even in advance of the new legislation, age discrimination had increased by over 200% as older workers were laid off by good small firms who were concerned that they could not cope with its impact on their business.


  • Job adverts are becoming increasingly meaningless even though there is nothing in the legislation setting out how they should be worded. So:

“Office Junior wanted for local firm of accountants. We are looking for someone who is mature, smartly dressed, enthusiastic, fit enough to carry heavy post if necessary and articulate”


“Office Junior wanted for local firm of accountants. Person Required.”
We are seeing European legislation being gold-plated already in this area.

If you want to look at this quite straightforwardly……..

No EU legislation – no gold-plating!

A politically correct consensus has developed amongst the political elites in this country to the extent that I do not see any mainstream Party challenging – let alone promising to abolish – such laws at any time in the near future.

The frontbenches of the three main parties all voted to entrench and institutionalise political correctness by supporting the creation of a vast new quango, the Equalities & Human Rights Commission.

The voice of reason - Philip Davies – was, however, very vocal in opposing this nonsense in the House of Commons. Just as he is leading colleagues in arguing that the United Kingdom would be “Better Off Out” of the European Union he is way ahead of them in Parliament in campaigning against political correctness.

You know as well as I do that the quangos that will be submerged into this new one – the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Disability Rights Commission – are all good at spending our money, building new empires….and often (so often) having a counter-productive effect to that which they intend.

Whilst these are home grown bodies, in our Britain without political correctness they would have to go.

Yet there would be little point in passing a law in Westminster to do just that as, for example, we are signed up to the EU’s Race Relations Directive which forces Member States to maintain such politically correct bureaucracies.

And, at the same time we are paying for a European Institute of Gender Equality and a European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia.

The whole panoply of human rights laws and conventions – to built on by the Charter of Fundamental Rights – has stretched our patience & our sense of fair play.

  • human rights for travellers to camp on land without permission
  • human rights for bogus asylum seekers
  • human rights for prisoners to vote.
  • These are not rights. They are wrongs.

If you want a Britain without political correctness, then we’d be better off out of the Human Rights Act, better off out of the European Convention – and better off without the EU Constitution and Charter of Fundamental Rights.

And, yes, if want to achieve these things, in my personal opinion, we’d also be better off out of the stifling, bureaucratic, expensive super-quango of institutionalised political correctness – the European Union.

Irony is completely lost on the Eurocrats.

Even the Brussels Press Notice which welcomed the interfering Race Relations Directive was dated 6th June.


D-Day of all days.

Is this what my grandparent’s generation fought for?

Less freedom & democracy?

Political Correctness?

The growth of an all-embracing, centralising, morally corrupt Superstate?

I think not.

They fought and beat one of the most wicked regimes in history.

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan’s generation won the Cold War.

National socialism and Soviet socialism each had their strategies for social control.

Those who push political correctness seek to do the same. You must only have one view of the world - theirs. They want to control what you say and what you think.

They say that they are promoting tolerance. This is very rich when they are decidedly “intolerant” of anyone who challenges them.

But they are going to have to come up with a new line after the recent comments we’ve received:

What would they say to Councillor Karam Hussain from Dewsbury who has said, "People want to know why Asian people are getting this kind of special treatment. But Asian people didn't ask for it. They don't want these organisations [race equality bodies]. Asian people have been living in this area for more than 50 years and are quite able to look after themselves. They don't want to be treated differently. They feel insulted by these groups."

And how would they answer Denise O’Brien who said, ”I am female, disabled and gay. Please, not in my name. I don't need victimhood or special treatment. Political correctness is making artificial differences between people unnecessarily. Special treatment for minority groups in a lot of cases breeds resentment from those not included who have a genuine need of help.”

They want a Britain without political correctness.

We want a Britain without political correctness.

And a Britain without PC would, in fact, be more inclusive as it would reflect the wishes of the majority of the people in this country.

Britain coming out of the EU would be an important turning point in the road to a Britain without political correctness.

But the PC lunatics won’t leave the asylum overnight.

There’ll be a big debate over what we do.

But it will be our democratic debate.

With surveys regularly showing that most of the British people are fed up with political correctness, there’s every chance it can be shaped to our way of thinking.

Forging a Britain without political correctness would be like breathing a huge sigh of relief across our nation.

In fact it would be like sunshine after the rain!

We could have a Britain:

Where educating our children is about just that – their education.

Where teachers don’t have to get the parent’s permission to put on sun block but do have to tell them when their child is going for an abortion.

Where children learn about British history and are not brainwashed by a nonsensical European dimension which seeks to airbrush out the 2 world wars.

A country:

Where our police work to prevent and detect crime – rather than spending time monitoring the bedroom activities of their workforce and where we remove the vast army of “diversity” bureaucrats who do nothing to reduce crime and everything to interfere with effective policing.

Where burglars who break into your home lose their rights the moment they kick your door in.

Where Muslims who are suspected of crimes do get arrested during Ramadan without question & where prisoners being weened off illegal drugs or who suffer hurt feelings are not paid compensation.

Where the law is the law for everyone – and travellers have to get planning permission in advance of building on land just like the rest of us and, if they break the law, the authorities deal with them without the protection of so-called Human Rights legislation and the smokescreen of race relations laws.

Where those who are a threat to our national security are not given protection and are deported immediately.

Where extremists who come to this country to try to undermine our traditions and our rule of law are told they are not welcome.

Where people can call for reduced immigration and the removal of illegal immigrants without being called racist.

Where judges interpret the law and do not make it.

This would be a nation:

Where the colour black is just that – a colour and not a reason to get upset.

Where a blackboard is a blackboard.

A manhole is a manhole.

And where going to a fancy dress party dressed as a piece of coal for Halloween does not mean that you are being racially insensitive and need to go on “cultural awareness training”.

A Britain without political correctness is something we should strive for.

A Britain which is freer and more democratic.

A Britain which is less divisive and more tolerant.

A Britain which celebrates tradition and respects the rule of law.

A Britain which thrives on personal responsibility and common sense.

A Britain which is healthier, wealthier and wise.

That would be a Britain without political correctness.
I am eurosceptic but am wondering how pulling out of Europe impinges on the fact we’ve seen manufacturing businesses, utilities and the stock exchange bought by various other European countries. How do we get around that?

Answer Philip Davies MP:
Well, I don’t actually have a great objection to European businesses, organisations and companies buying our ones, in the same way I don’t have any objection to British businesses buying foreign ones. What I do object to is powers taken away without anybody having the ability to have any influence over it. So I see the two things as slightly different. I think what’s at issue here is our democratic control over what happens in this country. That’s what is being handed away. If we can actually get the powers back from the European Union to decide things for ourselves, we can decide ourselves whether we want to sell our organisations and businesses to other countries. I personally don’t have a problem with that. But what I do have a problem with is having no democratic say over what goes on in this country. That’s the bit I object to.

Answer Christopher Booker:
I’m not going to answer the question because I’m not a politician and I’m not good at answering questions, but I just wanted to tell one little footnote to that. There’s a story on which I’ve never been quite able to dot the ‘i’s and cross the ‘t’s, in terms of the one takeover which our questioner talked about – the Spaniards being rather good at this – the one that I think did stick in a lot of our throats. The Spaniards were able to buy the British Airport Authority which funds our airports. It didn’t seem to be such a terribly good idea for such a public service entity as that which runs our airports to be handed over to anyone other than the government of this country. However, it was done. Now, why was it done, why were the Spaniards able to offer so much money for the BAA? It emerges that the Spanish have got a very interesting little tax break deal going at the moment which says that if you make a bid for a foreign company in another country you get a tax relief of a huge percentage. So the Spanish have been going around buying up an awful lot of countries, though of course quite a lot of British companies have also bought companies in other EU countries. But, when it was put to the European Commission that this was surely not part of the rules to have this very individual privilege given to Spanish companies, as defined in the state aid rules, the Commission looked at it and said, “It is illegal, it’s definitely against European law, but since you’ve been doing it and since you obviously have all these deals still going through we’re not going to close the door on it for another four years. So for another four years you can carry on breaking EU rules.” That was why they were able to make their bid for the British Airports Authority. Anyway, it’s hardly an answer to the question.

Answer John Midgley:
Well, I think I said last year that really the campaign against political correctness as a core propensity won’t take a view on the rights and wrongs of what the Economic policy of the country should be. But on this particular subject, on a personal level, I happen to agree with Philip. I’m personally a free marketer, I believe in British companies having the ability to go and buy up companies in other countries, so if I believe that then why shouldn’t the companies from other countries be able to come and invest in British companies at the end of the day? This issue fundamentally, or ultimately, is about democracy. If you support a protectionist or socialist economic policy then let your vote matter in the country’s general election. I’m with Tony Benn on the side of democracy ultimately. If that’s the sort of policy platform on which you want to put yourself up for election, and to be voted on , and if the people don’t like it then let them vote you out at the end of the day.

I want to ask what he is doing or what can be done in the houses of Westminster to get other politicians to sign up to the “Better Off Out” campaign?

Answer Cllr Adrian Lee:
Yes, it is a battle as Christopher points out between the three main parties in parliament that don’t officially support leaving the European Union, so it’s difficult to tempt people to join the “Better Off Out” campaign. There are people who agree with us secretly but aren’t in a position to be able to say so. My job is to try and give them the courage of their convictions, and I always said when we first started this, when I became the first MP to say this at the Freedom Association meeting at the Conservative Party conference, that the measure of the success might be me this year, but how many people will be saying it next year (it’s now about 10) and how many will say it in the years to come? This is not going to be something that happens overnight. It’s a question of the moment we’re going to be able to build up year on year, and I am certainly doing my part to try to get MPs of all parties to try to have the courage of their convictions and say that we’d be better of out of the European Union. Another thing we’re trying to do at the moment is set up an all-party group for EU withdrawal. The problem is that it requires 20 signatures, ten of whom must come from the governing party, and it’s proving troublesome to find ten parliamentarians in the governing party to put their name to it, but if we could get an all-party group up and running, it would be a marvellous platform from which we could hold some enquires. We could invite Geoff Hoon to come to give evidence and give all the benefits of being in the European Union, and if he did come we could try to wipe the floor with him, and if he didn’t we’d make something of that too. So if we could get an all-party group going in parliament that would be much to our advantage. The difficult bit is getting ten government parliamentarians to put their names to it, but we will keep trying and Lord Stoddart has been doing a fantastic job.

Could I ask a technical question? The idea of this all-party group, what sort of status would it have? It would be just an all-party group, it wouldn’t be a committee of the house in any sense?

Answer Philip Davies MP:
All-party groups have the power to set up their own enquiries and, because it is all-party, it does have a certain amount of credibility within parliament.

Could you comment on European regulation affecting UK councils for example in their rubbish collection and other policies?

Answer Cllr Adrian Lee:
As a local councillor who’s actually on the governing executive, as I said at the beginning, for the London Borough of Hounslow, I think I may be able to answer that even more than the speakers, which is bizarre, largely because of something John Mitchell touched upon. A consensus has now been established, not only in terms of obeying the European regulations, but such a pernicious consensus on all things environmental that there is almost indoctrination at classroom level. We have not seen such a fright since the old days of peace studies, and frankly on a far greater scale – for example climate change classes and so on. There is now a belief amongst Conservatives, and this is coming down on high from the leadership, that you must follow everything to the last detail and out-green the liberals and out-green the greens, and actually anything that comes out as even more draconian, more regulatory than the other parties, to prove our green credentials. It is madness and if they’re not careful they are going to end up with a poll tax situation all over again, and that’s the first thing. The second thing is the European dimension. They keep that quiet, because to be brutally honest no councillor actually knows it, it’s kept so surreptitiously quiet. Most councillors are the sort of people, very worthy people, of all political parties, most of who are retired, who did their local job and were instructed by the officers (as local government civil servants are called) to fulfil their functions. And papers are pushed in front of them; the officers effectively prepare things for them, rather like the clerk in the magistrate’s court preparing for a group of JPs. And this is essentially what they do, they fumble in and they present policy handed to them by the officers, and they’re not really particularly aware that it’s the EU, and if it is the EU then they say, “Well, we’ve got to do it anyway. I don’t like it but we’ve got to make the best of a bad job.” It’s a ludicrous state of affairs and I do think it is going to be something that we are going to be able to explain, particularly the European dimension to it. We will be able to wake up the public to how pernicious the European controls on this country are. I’d like to hand over here to Christopher Booker because he actually mentioned this particular aspect in his speech and he may be able to put a bit more flesh on the bone from the European side.

Answer Christopher Booker:
I just wanted to ask out chairman in his role as a councillor a rather important question. You are a senior member of a council which has engaged in this massive recycling exercise which is getting everyone so worked up all over the UK. Your council collects a lot particular rubbish in specific bins for recycling. What happens to it next?

Answer Cllr Adrian Lee:
Now then, I don’t want to dominate the whole recycling thing. I’ll be quick. Our council hasn’t introduced this, but it’s being mooted, being pushed and pushed by the officers and unfortunately many of my colleagues have not dug their heels in and said, “Thus far and no further.” There is a better way, you can recycle many waste products, but to go over the top on this and have, for example, fortnightly collections, different coloured dustbins, different collections at different times in the month is a form of madness and when people are paying through the nose for council tax – and they are in this country – it’s absolutely obscene that they should have this pressure, in my opinion, added on to them. What we do with the rubbish is a very good point. Now there are going to be centres set up for things like kitchen waste. People are going to be penalized, for example, if they don’t wash out peach cans or baked bean tins. There are presumably going to be in some areas (and we don’t know yet because it’s early days) lines of people opening rubbish bags and going through them to see if anyone has effectively put the wrong thing in the wrong bag. Where does it go? Well it goes to special centres for special types of rubbish. Kitchen waste is the big thing at the moment, but boroughs across Greater London, and I can only speak for my own area of the country, are fighting like mad to get a kitchen waste centre. “We want one of those, if we can get it before the other boroughs we can make a packet out of this!” Of course it’s all completely artificial and being put upon by a mixture of government regulation, political correctness as John would say, and European Directives, and essentially they are creating economies out of this, false economies quite frankly.

Answer Christopher Booker:
The reason why I asked that question is because we have here a very enlightened, obviously bright and pretty gutsy local councillor. It’s quite clear that here is this massive great exercise and there is only one thing that is justifying it all, which is that we are recycling more of our rubbish. Here is a councillor at the heart of the whole thing and he hasn’t a clue. If you read the Sunday Telegraph I did write about this a week or two back, because I thought this is really by far the most important question. Here is this massive shambles going on, which is making a lot of people around the country incredibly unhappy and confused. It’s all being done in the name of recycling and it’s all being done because we handed over our waste policy to the EU as you all know. They produced this thing called the Land Fill Directive in 1999, which said that we are going to phase out landfill across the EU so we can’t put it in holes in the ground anymore. This was because of the Danes, Dutch and Germans, for particular reasons, not least because the Danes and Dutch didn’t have much land to put things in and then Holland is under water anyway behind those dykes. It was a policy that was dreamed up entirely without reference to the needs of the UK. We have actually made a virtue of land-filling in the last 50 years. It’s done in a very well-regulated way. It actually reclaimed a lot of land that otherwise couldn’t have been used for other purposes and I could take you to places where you would say, “Isn’t this a lovely piece of countryside” and I would say, “Yes, but there’s 50 feet of rubbish underneath of all that grass and all those trees.” It is such a good example of the completely mad way we’ve handed over an incredibly important yet boring part of all our lives to a system of government that has nothing to do with our needs. And the people involved with it at every level, including I have to say this councillor here from Hounslow, have no idea that the whole thing is a complete load of humbug because most of the rubbish we are collecting for recycling is not being recycled. Some of it is, more than we were doing a few years ago, but huge quantities of it, two millions tonnes of it, is being shipped out to China, Indonesia and parts of Africa where a lot of it is, guess what, being land-filled. It is a massive, outrageous scandal. It is farcical at one end and at the other it’s absolutely crackers because what it shows is how we have completely lost any kind of intelligent way of relating to the way in which our country is governed. And I’m afraid, although I don’t want to be unfair to him again, this councillor with his revelations of how he didn’t know whether there is any real recycling going on is just a symptom of how incredibly crackers the whole thing has become.

Answer Cllr Adrian Lee:
This councillor feels he has to defend himself a bit. I have to stress it hasn’t come into my local authority at the moment, but I’m the only voice apart from Robert Oulds and a couple of others on the authority who are actually opposed to this. Although we haven’t got all the facts at our fingertips at this stage my instincts are very strongly against it. Would any other member of the panel like to make a comment on the EU and landfills?

Will your position on Europe affect your chances of re-election?

Answer Philip Davies MP:
I honestly don’t know, possibly not. It’ll certainly affect my chances of being promoted, but I don’t want to be promoted. I want to stay on the backbenches anyway. To be perfectly honest it doesn’t really matter because once you start getting into the viewpoint of advocating things simply because of whether they’ll get you re-elected or not then you’re on a downwards spiral and will start causing all these problems in the first place. In Yorkshire people have a fine tradition of standing up and saying what they think whether people agree with them or not. You might not be popular, but you are much more likely to be respected and that’s the important thing in politics.

Answer John Midgley:
The only thing I would say is that Philip has been a stalwart supporter of the campaign against political correctness from its inception, and we spent a month with Philip during the last general election to help him get elected to parliament to be a voice against political correctness in parliament. Not only has he done that, he has also done a superb job on the subject of the European Parliament, and from my limited knowledge of the people on the doorstep of Shipley it appears that they’d be absolutely foolish to get rid of him at the next general election. So I reckon I’ll be up there and hopefully we’ll see one or two of you up there as well.

I would like to make a comment. Councillors have no authority. I was a member, for some time I must admit, of the Somerset waste partnership and I resigned on the grounds it was all a load of rubbish. We did what the government ordered us to do and if we didn’t the council was fined and if we did we were rewarded with a grant. I didn’t find that a very satisfying occupation. Now I would like to ask a question about local government. The government recently published a white paper encouraging the formation of unit groups, and that amounts to abolishing one tier of local government, namely the district councils. Now I believe that it is all part of the policy of clearing the decks to make way for regional government and I told my fellow Conservative councillors, all 24 of them in Somerset, about this and I have had no support whatsoever. My question is, what do you think about this policy of local government? Are we not now moving further and further towards regionalisation?

Answer Christopher Booker:
Councillor Forest is a councillor in the district of Somerset where I live and I can tell you now that he stands out a mile as being by far the most independent minded of the 24 councillors. Now, as to the regions, I think the thrust of your question is absolutely correct. As we all know the one time there has been any test of what we the voters, the people of Britain, actually think about the division of our country into regional governments (or certainly as far as England is concerned, although of course Wales and Scotland are all a part of the same thing), the one time it was put to the test in the north east you had a four to one rejection. Eighty per cent voted against regional government and in a sense that was a little bit like when the constitution was rejected by the voters of France and Holland. It did to some extent give them a little bit of a pause. John Prescott and all the people working with him who had been trying to push this regional agenda thought it was just a matter of, “We’ll go to the north east, they’ll give us the thumbs up and after that we can roll it out across the rest of England.” But the fact is that even though they suffered that monumental defeat at the polls, the pressures (as we have seen in recent days ladies and gentlemen in the rhetoric by Keith Mitchell in the Daily Telegraph, who is the leader of SERA, the South East Regional Assembly) to dismantle the counties and have a set of unitaries is the ultimate point of destruction of our local democracy, because the one thing above all the authorities are not in any way is democratic or drawing their strength from the people below them. They are simply creations of the central government with the aid, I’m afraid, of a lot of collaborators in local government, unlike Councillor Forest. I’m not going to go into the European dimension of this because it’s quite complicated, but I will just merely make the point that the one person in the Tory Party who has spoken out vehemently on the fact that this has got a European dimension (and this was about eight years ago) was Michael Heseltine, who said, “I’m in favour of the European Union, but I tell you when it comes to the breaking up of the United Kingdom in the name of some kind of regionalism, this is the part of Europe I do not want and I am totally opposed to it.” And if Heseltine believes it then who are we to say no?

How important is it that big businesses often see our way? Could they be the cavalry riding along the hill and if they are will they be here in time?

Answer Philip Davies MP:
I think they are. I actually think it’s all very well for MPs like me to say we’d better off out the European Union but to be honest politicians have lost so much credibility over the years that who’s going to believe a politician like me when I say we should be out of the European Union? In order to persuade people that we’d be better off out it is much better if our wealth creators themselves said, “We’d create more jobs if we came out of the European Union.” That’s a much more powerful argument to the general public than anything I might say, so yes actually I do think that businesses, big or small, are the cavalry that are potentially coming. Whether they can get here on time, I would say it’s never too late for them to get here. I’m an eternal optimist and whatever has been done I would like to think can be undone. What it requires is the political will to undo it, whenever the businesses get there and however late they might be. The poll I am referring to is a huge transformation of business opinion, particularly big companies like the CBI who are usually all for this European stuff. The fact that they are coming round to our point of view is a huge, huge advantage we’re going to have in the future, and like I say as far as I am concerned it is never too late for them to get there.

Answer John Midgley:
I agree with a lot of what Philip said, and in any big campaign against a major issue, a major constitutional issue as the European Union is, you need everybody to be involved from grass roots campaigners up, and big business is one of the most influential interest groups and of course they are a cavalry that can arrive and campaign. Who knows, we might actually see recyclers against the European Union going around kicking over wheely bins one of these days!

Answer Christopher Booker:
I have heard major questions over the years from Idris Francis and I would just like to say that the one we have just heard from him was by far the most elegant and succinct I’ve ever heard. That is not a criticism. Idris has asked some very, very good questions over the years, not least to our opponents, and he is particularly good at that. He goes down to Labour and Lib Dem and even Tory conferences and asks very good and embarrassing questions. Anyway, he asked a succinct question and my succinct answer is, yes, exactly the same as the others. It is a terrific step forward that big business is lining up, and that very important poll.

What can we do to ensure that the Conservative Party doesn’t select europhile candidates at the next European elections and instead selects good euro-realists in their place?

Answer Philip Davies MP:
The position about the selection of candidates for European elections in the Conservative Party is somewhat confused at the moment, as it probably is for parliamentary elections as well. What’s not clear is on what basis exactly candidates are going to be selected at the next election. It may well be that the incumbents are fast-tracked to the top positions on the list. We have been asking for some clarification as to what has been proposed but as yet we haven’t had it, so to be perfectly honest I can’t answer the question. If the incumbents are fast-tracked it’ll be very difficult to do anything about it, so I can’t offer any instant hope on that one. If it’s a local selection, which I would prefer it to be, then I would urge everybody to join the Conservative Party, go along to the selection meetings and vote for the most eurosceptic people to be at the top of the list. That’s how you can actually make a difference.


Speech by Daniel Hannan MEP

Human Rights and Civil Liberties

Ladies & Gentleman, before I begin my speech I wonder if you would bear with me for a few moments while I remember the founder of our movement, Lord Harris of High Cross. It’s only perhaps when such a one passes that we realise how rarely we can say of a man that he shaped his world. Ralph was born along with the expanding welfare state of 1940s Britain and disliking the world into which he had come he grappled with it and brought it into a shape more apt and pleasing. All of us, I think, are beneficiaries of his having done so. The Spanish have the saying that ‘when a great man passes it’s as though a library has burnt down’ but in this case I think that Ralph is survived by a library, a living library that’s volumes I see assembled here in front of me. A library made up of all of us who’ve been touched by his ideas and who’ve imbibed his thinking about the over-powering of the state and the freedom of individuals and how they’re both guaranteed by open and liberal markets and in praising Lord Harris perhaps I can move naturally into praising this organisation. You’ve always been the advance guard in the debate; we’ve always been, I having being one of the very first members, joining as a young man at the age of 17. Always planting the flag of the nation a little bit in advance of the following host, perhaps never more so than in the themes we are discussing this afternoon taking as our starting point the benefits and consequences of our withdrawal from the EU and looking at the detail of how that can ameliorate the situation of the United Kingdom strategically and tactically, strategically because amongst ourselves we need to be clear about what we are trying to get to, so the act of the leaving of the European Union is not so much a pain but a beginning. Also tactically because we need not only to address the 40% of the electorate who are already with us on wanting Britain to be an independent country but also that 60% who see it as an irrelevance or else as a negative and we need to be able to explain to our countrymen that this family to which we are hitched, this struggle for the recovery for our independence, is not a foreign policy issue it’s not something that happens over there in Brussels but has to do with the good governance of the United Kingdom. That’s the paradigm shift that we have failed to make. So when people list Europe as they do as number 11 or 12 in their list of concerns below tax, immigration, crime, health and education and all the rest of it, we need to be able to explain that all of these other issues are impacted by the legal framework that we joined on January 1st 1992 and that is something which as yet, let’s be frank, we’ve failed to do. If we had succeeded we wouldn’t be having this conference here. I can think of few movements which have created so successful an intellectual rigor and yet so totally failed to convert that into government policy as ours, the Euro skeptic movement. So we must go about sketching out in a very broad way the kinds of things that an independent Britain might be free to do the day after our parliament became sovereign again.

Now I’ve borrowed freely from a publication of which I was co-author and which was published last year called Direct Democracy and it was serialized in the Daily Telegraph and it was co-written by me and a group of younger Conservative politicians. It sets out a comprehensive programme for the decentralization of power and the democratization of power in the United Kingdom. We take as our precepts, first of all the idea that power should be exercised at the lowest feasible level, ideally by the individual citizen, but if that is not practicable then rather by village than by county, and rather by county than by Westminster. Secondly, that decision makers should be directly vulnerable through the ballot box to those who are affected by their decisions. In other words having got these powers back from Brussels we don’t just want to leave them festering in Whitehall, we want to pass them outwards and downwards to local communities and to individuals. There is no point in our pursuing a decentralist program vis a vis the European Union if we do not also apply it at home. There is no point in our arguing that it is wrong for us to be subject as a country to the unelected quango of the European Commission if in this country we are subject to a whole series of domestic unelected quangos ranging from the Child Support Agency and the Financial Services Authority to the Health & Safety Executive and the police force. There is no point arguing in a European context that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the people if we do not extend that same principle to local government. So, how do we go about bringing some of those precepts to life? How do we implement such measures? I take as my starting point the almost unique feebleness of local democracy in the United Kingdom. This is empirically measurable if you consider the financing. Local government in this country raises something like 25% of its revenue, all the rest comes from the treasury. Now across the EU as a whole that figure is 55% and a genuinely dispersed and free democracy like Switzerland is closer to 90%. No other country in the Western world has so fiscally centralized a mechanism. Now how can we get around that? Is there a way to reintroduce a proper link between taxation and representation and expenditure at the local level? Whilst we’re in the EU not really, or rather we can only do it by adding a new impost, a new levy, a new tax onto local communities.

Now here is a rather interesting and serendipitous coincidence we spotted when writing this book Direct Democracy. The amount of money that central government passes on to town halls every year happens to be exactly the same as the sum that it raises through VAT receipts, its round about £68 billion. So how about this, you could make all local government self-financing by abolishing VAT and replacing it with a local sales tax that would vary from county to county. That would introduce us in this country to something which we’ve never had before, which is tax competition, a downward pressure on taxes, because what we have at the moment is the opposite. Hands up here anybody who expects their council tax to go down on average in the coming year? Now there is a structural reason for that, the worst local authorities of all parties in face, I’m not going to try and make a party point out of this, but the ones that create the most depravation, poverty and misery in their communities are never held to account by their electorates because the consequence of their financial mismanagement is that they get more money from central government, that money then creates a larger group of people who are dependent on the state for their livelihood and means that people are more likely to vote Labour. Oh dear, I began saying I was going to be non partisan about this! But if we look at which councils there are in this country we see a fashion. Now if we had an American style system of competing tax jurisdictions then a local authority that raises levels of tax to too high a degree would find it was exporting revenue as it’s exporting jobs. So that would be the end of the beginning. Self financing local authorities should also have genuine legislative power.

Let me give just one example in one field of policy of how democratic process in this country is in need of bandages. At every election national and local all parties line up and promise that they would put more police on the street. Can you think of any election, at any level, when you haven’t had election addresses from every candidate saying we will have more Bobbies on patrol and have you ever actually seen any more police on the beat? At this last general election every single party made the same claim. Labour was going to do it through some voluntary scheme of additional constables, the Tories were going to do it through savings and the immigration crisis, the Lib Dems were going to do it by scrapping IT cuts. All of them make the same ritualistic claim and the reality is that the politicians are in no position to promise any such thing because the deployment of police is up to the chief constable, where and how he deploys his forces. Just imagine if it was, just imagine if you had an elected official, let’s call him the sheriff, who had the power, not only to control his budget, but to set his priorities and then we have to decide whether to spend this budget on additional speed cameras or on a dedicated patrol in your village, who would have to decide what categories of crime he wanted his force to prioritize, who also has the power to set local sentencing guidelines, although not to interfere in specific cases and then he’d have to stand for re-election on the basis of his record. That I suggest to you ladies & gentleman would give us all an incentive to go and vote for such a person. It would be restoring the basic idea that we invented in this country but turned our backs on that decision makers should be accountable to their local communities and what goes for policing I suggest goes across the board. It seems to me extraordinary for example that social security which has been a municipal function for hundreds of years is now centrally controlled or rather has got to the stage where local authorities are expected to administer a policy over whose framing they have no influence whatsoever. Again surely that is something that could be done at local level. I’d like to put it to you that this would not only make the scheme a lot more responsible and a lot less bureaucratic and a lot cheaper but would improve the behavior of those of us who lived under such a system. If you were my neighbour and you knew that I was claiming disability benefit whilst working as an electrician and you could see that direct link between your local tax bill you might have a rather different attitude towards that kind of behaviour than you would have at present, where it’s all lost in a large bureaucracy and we can go through policing, social security, health, education and planning.

I do not see any issue of policy which is, to put it like this, that is in Scotland devolved to the Holyrood Assembly that cannot in England be devolved to counties and cities which by the way would have the happy side effect of solving the West Lothian question, because once you have that kind of devolution in England all Westminster MPs would be there on the same terms. Now, you might say to me, well that wouldn’t leave our national parliament with very much to do. If these bread and butter issues that people are writing to their MPs about are all now controlled at the local level then what would be the point of having a national parliament and you’d be right that in one sense parliament would give up some of its jurisdiction, but I think it would compensate by taking considerable power back, from bureaucrats and quangos, from the EU and from judges. Consider the question ‘who governs Britain?’ How depressing would be the answer today, elected representatives at every level, local, national and European have lost ground to unelected functionaries and this problem goes well beyond the EU. Now once we have made that break of having self-financing and powerful local councils, I think the next step is for parliament to take control over those areas which have to be decided nationally such as foreign affairs, immigration and defense. Take those powers back from the standing officials. So, for example, what about a scheme that required every international treaty that the United Kingdom has signed to have to come before parliament so there would be a constant transfer of powers to elected national politicians from standing international quangos of technocrats, be they of the Whitehall variety, the United Nations variety or the European variety and what about a system whereby our diplomats, instead of pursuing their own policies regardless of the wishes of ministers were appointed by parliamentary committees.

I was horrified some years ago to read a book by Hugo Young called This Blessed Plot which some of you may have come across, it was written of course from completely from the opposite side of the argument from us. He thinks that the unification of Europe, the single currency and all the rest of it are wonderful ideas, but he was an honest enough chronicler to tell the story which cannot but unsettle everyone who believes in representative government. He had tracked down in retirement the civil servants and diplomats who had guided the policy of British accession to the European Economic Community, almost all of them interestingly had retired themselves to France, not a single one of them had stayed, and these elderly men unburdening themselves spoke very frankly about the way they’d pursued this deliberate policy of EU membership despite the declared opposition of some successive foreign secretaries and they were very proud of this, they said if it was left to the electoral process Britain would never have joined the Common Market. Now this is not a peculiarly British problem. I’ve yet to meet to country that doesn’t have diplomats who are more Europhile than the rest of the population. Are there any diplomats here by the way? It’s nothing personal. It’s simply the way that the structural bias in organisation kicks in and drags people into a position where they see it as their job to back up the other countries point of view rather than reflecting the wishes of their own elected government. It’s like that very old joke about the tourist outside Whitehall saying to the copper ‘which side is the Foreign Office on?’ to which he replies ‘that’s a very good question, sir’. Now that type of issue is something we can resolve by having a process whereby they have to be appointed. There’s a wonderful story told about Schultz when he was the American Secretary of State, whenever he appointed a new diplomat he would point them to a globe in his office and say ‘would you mind showing me where your country is?’ and they would point at Chad or wherever it was and he would say ‘no, that is your country and don’t forget it’ pointing to the United States. I think that such a reform would bring foreign policy back into line with the wishes of it people, and why stop at foreign policy, why not instead of the abuse of the current prerogative powers have this extraordinary powerful patrimony and concentration of power in the hands of the Prime Minister have every head of a statutory body appointed through parliamentary hearings, including our senior judges, because if our foreign office is pursuing it’s own agenda contrary to the wishes of our elected representatives how much more so are the others?

Think of some of the decisions we’ve had in recent years in defiance of any normal reading of the parliamentary statutes that have been adopted, culminating most recently in this wonderful case of prisoners being able to claim compensation because they were deprived of drugs upon their incarceration. We have seen a whole series of acts whereby our courts have pursued an agenda of their own directly in defiance of not only public opinion, but democratic opinion as represented in our parliament and it’s significant, I suggest, that these attacks of the judiciary upon the legislature are always in the same direction. So for example there was the mother of all stinks when parliament tried to impose minimum tariffs for certain offences. That was said to be a blow to judicial independence and an end to the separation of powers and an abuse of parliamentary majorities. What? When parliament tried to set maximum tariffs for certain crimes they had no problem at all, completely constitutional and very proper. Whenever a home secretary rules that this or that high profile serial killer ought not to come up for parole we are told that this must be a judicial process and it is wrong for politicians to stick their hands into what is going on in court. Except of course for when the politicians stuck their hands most violently into the judicial process after the Belfast agreement and ordered that a whole series of convicted murderers be released. Well that’s absolutely fine - there wasn’t a single judge who protested about judicial independence on that occasion. It has now become almost a daily event that some deportation order is blocked because the courts deem it to be in contravention of human rights legislation but have you ever heard of a single case where the courts stepped in from the other side to say this person whom has been allowed to remain in the United Kingdom ought not to have been. In other words we see, I suggest to you, an agenda that has been rejected at the ballot box but is being advanced through our court system and that again is something that as democrats we ought to be concerned.

Now all of these things would be possible when we became a sovereign country. The whole purpose of what we are arguing is not to do with Europe but to do with democracy and if we want the United Kingdom to be a sovereign democracy that has the supremacy of parliament and that is as much a question of having elected representatives who are in a position to deliver the manifestos upon which they were elected and it is about withdrawal from foreign treaty entanglements. There is no point, I repeat taking these powers back from Brussels if in this country they continue to be wielded by unelected standing bureaucracies. We should unashamedly be supporters of what is called sovereignty of parliament but is actually sovereignty of the people. Sovereignty of parliament is the useful shorthand meaning of the right of every citizen to live under laws. That’s the big argument to make; we should be more free citizens within a free country. We should be making the argument that an independent state fosters an independent citizen. That people are independent of the state if the state itself is independent and in making that argument, rather than seeing this withdrawal process as an end, see it as a means. A means to the end of a more democratic, more free and more prosperous United Kingdom.

Speech by Matthew Elliott

Making Britain Competitive Again: A new tax agenda
Thank you, Adrian.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to be speaking today to the Bruges Group.

It’s now 18 years since Margaret Thatcher made her famous Bruges speech, but her words still ring true today. As you will all know, Lady Thatcher said: “We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level, with a European super-state exercising a new dominance from Brussels.”

Since Lady Thatcher left office, the country has faced a dual threat of the British government rolling forward the frontiers of the state with rising taxes, and the European Union aiding and abetting this effort with countless regulations.

The theme of my presentation today is making Britain competitive again and it’s no secret, of course, that when it comes to competitiveness, Britain has rapidly been heading in the wrong direction of late, at a time when the phenomenal rise of China and India has rightly been dominating the headlines.

Much of this is down to Gordon Brown’s wrongheaded decisions on spending, regulation, and, of course, tax. But much less widely reported is just to what extent Britain’s hands are already tied, and how far the Government’s ability to set our tax policy could be eroded in future. Given the big government tendencies of so many of the ‘Old Europe’ countries, this can only be of great concern to taxpayers and businesses here at home.

So today I plan to set out:

  • How alarming Britain’s current competitive position is;
  • The extent to which our tax policies are already made in Brussels and how the EU could encroach still further on Britain’s fiscal independence;
  • How the EU is a threat to competitive areas such as the City of London, or indeed competitive countries such as Ireland; and
  • What could and should be done.

Britain’s falling competitiveness

So, to begin with, Britain’s falling competitiveness.

It has been clear for quite a time that Britain has been rapidly losing competitiveness in a number of areas, but particularly on tax. The effect of this is starting to be felt in a major way.

As Lord Forsyth’s Tax Reform Commission’s report put it last month, and I quote: “Across much of the developed world, governments are cutting personal and corporate tax rates and simplifying tax systems, while still improving public services. In the UK, the Government is increasing taxation and rendering the system ever more complicated. This is beginning to harm the UK economy, impair its effectiveness and reduce income growth and opportunity for individuals and families. Without reform, this will only get worse.”

If anything, this quote understates how bad things have got.

OECD figures show that the UK’s overall tax burden is now higher than high-tax Germany’s, and is fast approaching the Eurozone average. Over the last ten years the tax burden in the UK has risen by 3.3 per cent of GDP, whilst the average burden has fallen in the OECD.

The same story is true for business taxation. Six years ago, Britain’s main rate of corporation tax was well below the OECD average. Now it is considerably above the OECD average and as high as the average of the EU 15 countries. 25 of 30 OECD countries reduced corporation tax rates between 2000 and 2005. Britain did not.

At the same time the tax system has become ridiculously complex. Since 1997:

  • Britain’s tax code has doubled;
  • the Inland Revenue’s spending on administration has risen by 75 per cent;
  • and the annual Finance Act has grown by 50 per cent.

Rising taxes and vastly increased complexity are contributing to Britain’s fall down the world competitiveness league tables. Since 1997, Britain has fallen from 7th to 13th in the World Economic Forum’s ranking and from 9th to 21st in the Institute of Management and Development’s index.

The rising tax burden is making everyday life more difficult for ordinary families across the country. To give some examples:

Figures published in July by accountants Ernst and Young showed that households’ discretionary income – the amount that families earn after paying unavoidable expenses such as taxes and household bills – has fallen by 10 per cent since 2002.

The number of higher rate taxpayers has increased from around 2 million in 1997 to 3.2 million today because tax thresholds have not risen in line with average earnings.

The average household pays over £600,000 in direct and indirect taxes over a lifetime. And a household in the poorest fifth pays almost £250,000.

Young people pay a marginal tax rate of almost 50 per cent once student loan repayments and planned compulsory pension contributions are included.

And people are becoming increasingly aware that the large rise in the tax burden has not delivered what they were told it would deliver – better public services. An ICM Direct poll for the TaxPayers’ Alliance in August showed that by 56-17 per cent, people believe that “if Britain reformed public services and cut waste it could lower taxes without having to cut spending on vital services”.

Higher taxes and falling competitiveness are also forcing businesses to consider leaving Britain. A number of high-profile companies have already moved some of their operations overseas – including British Airways, high street bank Abbey, the Norwich Union, Prudential and Royal & Sun Alliance. Others may follow. Reports suggest HSBC may move its headquarters overseas in response to falling tax competitiveness.

As the Director General of the CBI recently warned, the current “trickle” of companies relocating abroad may become a “flood”. He said: “Current corporation tax levels are unsustainable. Either companies will relocate or corporate taxes will have to come down”. In a global business tax roundtable on 25 September organised by the International Tax Review magazine, the Chairman of the Hundred Group of Britain’s largest companies, Philip Broadley, said that there would be fewer compelling reasons for businesses to base their operations in the UK in future, and that this was partly due to the worsening tax system.

As a Financial Times leader on 11 October warned: “In the UK, the biggest and most productive sectors are also the ones that can most easily relocate abroad.

To keep them in the country will require simpler, lower and better applied taxes.”

Businesses are also being hit by the complexity of the current tax system. The Tax Reform Commission’s survey of businesses found that “19 per cent are considering transferring operations outside of the UK because of the complexity of Britain’s tax system”.

That’s an incredible statistic and one that has been underplayed in the media – a fifth of firms are considering transferring operations outside of the UK. The Tax Reform Commission survey also found that 78 per cent of businesses think the tax system has become more complex in the last five years and 60 per cent are having to increase spending on tax planning, tax law and tax advice.

The trend of companies leaving Britain is also affecting individuals. An ICM Direct poll for the TaxPayers’ Alliance in August 2006 found that one in five people knew of someone whose job had been affected by companies moving abroad.

The power of Brussels
So the evidence is devastatingly clear that Britain is heading in the wrong direction, and that Gordon Brown takes much of the blame.

But of course, it is not just down to Gordon Brown, the EU also plays a massive role.

We all remember the EU budget wranglings a year ago, when Britain gave up part of its rebate. As a result of this, there were numerous proposals to introduce an EU tax to fund the work of the EU’s institutions. A year ago Commission president Jose Manuel Barrose put forward plans for an EU tax equivalent to 3.5p in the pound. He had the backing of Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel, Austrian President Heinz Fischer and French Foreign Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. In January this year it was proposed to levy this on international air travel and currency transactions.

This has of course been rejected by British politicians of all parties, but given the Government’s dismal record of resistance, it would not be surprising if we saw this proposal being adopted.

Our politicians also fail to mention how the EU already has control over a number of areas that limit the power of elected British politicians to control British taxes. And plans are afoot to expand EU control over new areas of taxation.

The list is quite extensive, and so I shall deal with some of the major areas in turn.

The first area of EU control is VAT. As early as 1977 the Sixth VAT Directive was adopted which established a uniform VAT coverage across the EU. Now there is a minimum standard rate of VAT of 15 per cent, although Brussels, in all its benevolence, allows member countries one or two reduced rates of at least 5 per cent, and some areas can be zero-rated, such as food. So if a reforming Chancellor wanted to cut VAT from its current rate of 17.5 per cent to below 15 per cent, EU rules would prevent him from doing so.

And EU plans on VAT are still going further. In May this year, Laszlo Kovacs, EU tax commissioner, proposed a unified VAT system across the EU, which would see VAT charged and paid up front at the beginning of the supply chain, by the first supplier of the item. The next stop would be a single harmonised rate of VAT across the EU.

Secondly, import duties across the EU are set by Brussels, which has the effect of raising the price of many goods, including food, in the UK. As you will all know, the EU is a customs union, rather than a free trade area, which means the UK cannot unilaterally reduce tariffs for goods from countries outside the EU.

But trade outside the EU accounts for at least half of all UK trade, and this proportion will grow as countries such as India, China, Russia and Brazil take up an increasing share of world GDP, while the EU’s share of global GDP falls.

Thirdly, the unelected European Court of Justice has jurisdiction over, among many other things, freedom of establishment and free movement of capital. It has the power to strike down any national tax law that breaches those principles, and already has done so in a number of cases. Most of the 9 judges on the ECJ are not tax experts, and in around 80 per cent of cases take the decision recommended by the Advocate General, another unelected Eurocrat. Not surprisingly, the ECJ’s decisions have been very ad-hoc, leading to major confusion over tax law – and I’ll come back to one major ECJ decision later.

Fourthly, we all know that many member countries of the EU, and the European Commission, would like to bring in tax harmonization. They seem to believe that their own high tax economies would benefit from stifling the fast-growing and lightly taxed economies of the EU – as if competition from India and China didn’t exist!

It’s not surprising then that many of the lower-taxed EU countries are against tax harmonization. They rightly fear that it would bring their taxes up to the levels seen in high-tax countries such as France, damaging investment and growth in their own economies, and driving businesses away.

So what happens? Instead of accepting the opposition to tax harmonisation, the Commission and some member countries are trying to bring tax harmonization in by the back door through the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base, which is the EU’s effort to have an identical tax base for corporation tax across the EU.

The Netherlands, for example, believes that there should be a minimum 20 per cent corporation tax rate in the EU, which would increase the tax rate for millions of businesses in the UK and totally destroy the competitiveness of countries like Ireland, which has a 12.5 per cent corporation tax rate.

As Charlie McCreevy, the former tax-cutting Irish Finance Minister and now Commissioner for the Internal Market and Services, said in a speech to Ulster Bank last week: “There are many other member states who want [tax harmonization] by the backdoor and the latest thing is the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base …. I would worry a little because it is still in the background …. Some member states are very subtle about this and they don’t make it their spoken policy objective to have tax harmonization.”

Similarly Nicholas Sarkozy’s “mini-treaty”, that he is proposing in place of the rejected EU constitution, could establish “super-majority” voting on tax issues, meaning that Britain could lose its veto in this crucial area. The French, of course, are avid supporters of bringing in the constitution by the back door, and we know that our own Government may be supportive. Europe Minister Geoff Hoon has come out in favour of such a plan and will present British proposals by the end of the year.

And, finally, let’s not forget the EU tax. Of course, if an EU tax was the only way the EU was funded, taxpayers would at least be able to see, transparently, the true costs of the EU, which are currently hidden away. And so opposition to the EU’s waste and incompetence would be bound to increase. But an EU tax would never be in Britain’s interests.

So it all adds up to a pretty depressing picture of Britain’s ability to set its own tax policies, now and in the future.

One very recent example of the EU’s influence on tax policy is the widely-reported story that the ECJ may decide next week to follow its Advocate General’s advice and allow goods that are bought elsewhere in the EU and delivered to the UK to be levied only at the excise duty of the country of origin.

If the court does follow the Advocate-General’s advice (and it has done so in 80 per cent of cases), British shoppers could begin ordering alcohol and tobacco over the internet or from catalogues from other EU countries that have lower excise taxes.

This is a classic example of the dynamic argument in favour of lower taxes. Britons are being over-taxed for alcohol and tobacco, and so have long been trying to buy these items from the Continent. This expected ruling means that the Government stands to lose part of its £15 billion revenue from alcohol and tobacco. What the government should do is cut these excise taxes, which would mean fewer people buy from abroad and hence a smaller erosion of government revenue.

It was interesting to see the Evening Standard say earlier this week that the TaxPayers’ Alliance was keeping quiet on this case, hinting that our opposition to further European integration came before our support for lower taxes.

But given that we are against higher taxes and against wasteful spending of taxpayers’ money, we are against powers being taken away from elected British politicians and given to unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. It’s a worrying trend that the EU, through the unelected ECJ, is making more and more decisions that affect British tax law. This is wrong. Britain should be taking powers back from Brussels, not giving away ever more control.

If British politicians retain powers over tax, we can at least vote out politicians who raise our taxes and vote in ones who lower them, as happened in 1979. If control was given to the EU, British taxes would rise to the higher levels seen on much of the Continent and there would be no way that the British people could vote out European politicians and bureaucrats who raise our taxes. If Britain lost control of tax, 1979 could not happen again.

And this is not too far away. As Richard North pointed out in his EU Referendum blog this week: “When it comes to the sovereign right of a state to charge its own taxes, that sovereignty seems to have gone up in smoke.”

The threat of Brussels to competitive areas and countries
But the harmful impact of Brussels extends beyond taking ever increasing powers over tax. Its actions are harming leading areas of Britain’s economy, such as the City, and threatening the success of the most competitive economies of the EU, such as Ireland.

The City
So let’s take a brief look at the City. The City is one of the fastest growing areas of the UK economy. Financial and professional business services made a net contribution to the UK’s current account of £19 billion in 2004, a significant amount of which was generated within the Square Mile. The City itself contributes around 2.5 per cent to the UK’s GDP.

And the City is a world-leader in financial services. The statistics are quite amazing. It has 31 per cent of the world’s foreign exchange turnover, 43 per cent of the global foreign equity market, 70 per cent of the Eurobond market, 20 per cent of the international bank lending market, and 43 per cent of daily turnover in ‘over the counter’ derivatives. It is the world’s leading market for international insurance and has third largest share of pension fund assets under its management.

It is of course helped by the relative decline of New York after the imposition of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation. But it is being hamstrung by extra regulation from Brussels.

The EU’s “Markets in Financial Instruments” Directive, designed to create a single market in financial services, has come at a cost. The UK’s Financial Services Authority is about to release its estimate of the costs of the directive to the City. Last month it estimated the costs at £375 million, but this estimate was attacked by KPMG as being too low. Reports suggest that it will increase its estimate this month, possibly to around £500 million. This is a huge burden, and will only harm the City’s competitiveness.

And let’s look at Ireland – a country which has been transformed over the past 20 years as a result of cutting taxes. 20 years ago growth was stalling, government deficits and debt were huge, and the IMF was threatening to intervene in the Irish economy, as it had done in Britain 10 years previously. But then in 1987 the Irish government got its act together, controlled spending and cut taxes considerably.

Firstly, the standard rate of corporation tax was steadily cut from 50 per cent in 1987 to 12.5 per cent in 2003, where it remains.
Secondly, the basic rate of income tax was cut from 32 per cent to 20 per cent and the top rate from 56 per cent to 42 per cent.
And thirdly, the capital gains tax rate was halved, from 40 per cent to 20 per cent.

Together with a range of policies to increase economic freedom, the results of these tax cuts have been astonishing, and have transformed the country’s economic fortunes. It’s worth just taking a moment to recount the details:

  • Since 1992, economic growth has averaged almost 7 per cent.
  • GDP per capita is now significantly higher than Britain’s, and is close to US levels.
  • The Irish government is now in surplus and government debt has fallen from over 100 per cent of GDP to 10 per cent of GDP.
  • Unemployment has fallen from over 15 per cent to under 5 per cent.
  • Total employment has increased by over two thirds in the last 20 years, as the economy has absorbed increasing numbers of workers. The employment rate has increased from 52 per cent to 67 per cent.
  • Ireland’s long history of mass emigration has been comprehensively reversed, helped by thousands of Irish people returning to their home country.
  • Labour productivity has grown by an average of 3.2 per cent over the past 15 years, far higher than in Britain.
  • Foreign direct investment flows have been so great that Ireland’s stock of FDI is now the highest in the world in per capita terms after Hong Kong.
  • Tax receipts have increased fourfold since 1987, while corporation tax receipts have risen an astonishing sixteen-fold.
  • The surge in tax receipts has allowed public spending in Ireland to grow almost twice as fast as in Britain. Between 1989 and 2003, public spending in Ireland increased by 220 per cent, compared with a comparable rise of 120 per cent in the UK over the same period.

I know at this point that some will counter that the EU subsidies to Ireland were a major factor in the country’s economic take-off, but I beg to differ. To see the effect of massive subsidies, one only has to look at East Germany, which has some of the best infrastructure in Europe but no jobs, and Scotland, which as we all know could be doing so much better.

In fact, Ireland’s incredible success has not come about without battles with the European Union. Twice the EU claimed that aspects of Ireland’s tax regime amounted to “state aid”, which the EU says is illegal. And twice Ireland had to remove special low rates of corporation tax for certain sectors of its economy. Firstly, from around 1960 to the mid 1970s, Ireland charged zero corporation tax on profits from manufactured exports. The EEC (as it was then known) said this was an export subsidy, so the country was forced to end its zero per cent rate.

Ireland responded by having a 10 percent rate on all manufacturing. Then, in the 1980s, the EC complained that this was sectoral discrimination and so this 10 per cent rate has been abolished.

It’s just as well for Ireland, then, that the main corporation tax rate has fallen to such a low level. But its 12.5 per cent corporation tax rate is still being attacked by some EU politicians as state aid, and the EU’s moves towards tax harmonisation, which I spoke about earlier, would put Ireland’s competitiveness at risk.

What should be done?
So, where does this leave us? EU integration means that there is a serious danger of Britain giving up its sovereign right to levy its own taxes in the way it best sees fit. If a nation state loses control of its power to raise revenue, there’s little point in calling it sovereign any more.

This is wrong. Britain’s traditional way of doing things, different from the way things are done on the Continent, has served us well over many centuries. We have much more chance of correcting the mistakes made by so many of the current generation of politicians if we retain the power to change things. If that power is ceded to Brussels, then we have little hope of ending the big government consensus that is holding people back.

So what should be done about all this? I think the answer is clear. With regards to tax, Britain urgently needs to take back powers from the EU, and make sure no new powers are ceded to Brussels.

Firstly, we should take back powers over trade. We should retain our free-trade status with the European Union and European Economic Area but take back the right to set our own tariffs with the Commonwealth and the rest of the world. This would lead to greatly reduced trade barriers with the part of the world that is growing, and the part of the world that will be increasingly important in years to come. It can only aid Britain’s prosperity. Research last year by the Open Europe think tank found that Britain’s economy would be boosted by £11 billion a year if trade with countries outside the EU was liberalised. This benefit will increase as economies like China and India grow larger still.

Secondly, we should take back powers over VAT. We should be free to set our own VAT rates on our own chosen range of goods and services, and lower them if we wish to.

Thirdly, we should resist the temptation to join the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base, which would be a prelude to harmonisation of corporation tax rates across the EU.

Fourthly, we should reject the French-inspired minitreaty” that brings in the Constitution by the back door, and ensure that we retain our veto on tax issues.

And lastly, rather than accepting an EU tax, we should pull out of the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy and reduce our contributions to the EU budget accordingly. This alone would save Britain £10 billion a year.

It’s clear that, on the issue of tax alone, it’s time to start taking back powers, giving us the power to control our own future. Taxpayers deserve it. The economy deserves it. And Britain would be a better place to live and work.

Thank you.

Speech by Ronald Stewart-Brown

Why Britain no longer needs the EU for trade
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you, chairman, for that kind introduction. It’s a great honour to be speaking here today to the Bruges Group in the wake of so many outstanding speakers.

I’m very sorry that Brian Hindley isn’t here now because it was his and Martin Howe’s visionary iea paper Better off Out? ten years ago that first triggered my interest in trade policy. That’s an interest that’s taken me all over the place: to Geneva several times, to Seattle, to Leukerbad, to Brussels, to Washington, to Berne, to Cancun, to Strasbourg, to Hong Kong, to Salzburg and ultimately to here!

Before I launch into my main subject of Britain as a great, global trading nation and the whole question of how we might leave the single market I should like to reflect on the fact that all the speeches we’ve heard today on the great European question have been primarily from the British perspective. Our interest on our own is clearly to leave the EU providing we can develop a practical plan for doing so. But I’d now like to touch briefly on the European perspective.

Europe is in crisis, and no mainstream politician in France, Germany, Italy or Spain can do a thing about it. Many on the continent look to Britain to help Europe solve the grave problems it faces. So it does seem to me vitally important for this country to seek the high moral ground in its future European policy. Like it or not, every British government since Edward Heath’s has been morally and politically committed to the Brussels system. What happens on the continent matters to us. We can’t just walk away and leave Europe to its fate.

Europe first attempted to establish a stable political equilibrium with the Concert of Europe created by the Congress of Vienna after the Napoleonic wars. Most recently it did so with the new Brussels-centred community system the founding fathers established half a century ago with a bit of help from the Americans, and that worked well for many years. But the equilibrium of the Brussels system is now failing fast.

Establishing a new European equilibrium will not be easy. A great challenge of statesmanship lies ahead. I remain hopeful that the Conservative Party of David Cameron and William Hague will one day rise to meet that challenge. No other mainstream political party in Europe has the possibility of doing so.

Let’s remember that just two years ago William Hague published a brilliant biography of William Pitt the Younger. He surely understands the dangers of continental systems. You’ll know the story of Viscount Castlereagh, arguably the principal architect of the Concert of Europe. Can we perhaps hope to see William Hague emerge as a new Castlereagh if the EU eventually disintegrates, as now looks increasingly possible? The first stage in the process may be the international financial markets forcing Italy out of the euro.

David Cameron, let’s be fair, wants to win the next election. How can he fail to know the deep concerns that so many around the country are expressing about the European Union, as the truth about the EU becomes less and less possible to deny?

Well, that’s enough on party politics and geopolitics for me. I’m a humble trade policy specialist, but I don’t want to be too humble because trade lies at the heart of international relations. This is not well understood at the Foreign Office. A highly distinguished retired diplomat recently told me that trade policy was to do with economic policy and not foreign policy. But in my view at least, trade policy is of at least comparable importance to defence as a dimension of foreign policy.

What an astonishing muddle Britain’s foreign policy is in these days! We still pride ourselves on our special relationship with the USA as regards defence and NATO, albeit the Iraq fiasco is causing problems now. But as regards trade policy we’ve been completely subsumed into Europe. Was ever a great nation so utterly confused about its foreign policy?

Trade policy is a matter of vital national interest for any country, as you can easily see at any World Trade Organisation ministerial conference. I’ve been to three now. At Cancun in 2003 I’ll never forget the sense of triumph on the faces of the trade ministers of Brazil, India and South Africa when the new G20 coalition of developing countries they led successfully faced down the combined might of the EU and the USA on agriculture.

Nor will I forget the response of the retired British diplomat I spoke to at Seattle in 1999 when I compared the low profile there of Stephen Byers, who was then the UK’s trade secretary, with the very prominent role played by the Canadian trade minister Pierre Pettigrew. “It’s one thing”, I remember this former ambassador saying, “for a medium sized country like Canada to have manoeuvred itself into a pivotal position at Seattle. But for the UK it’s quite different as we’re a large country and we carry a lot of historical baggage and people would mind our having a prominent role in world trade negotiations.” We’ve got a lot of work to do to get some parts of Whitehall to start thinking seriously about the British national interest again!

I’ll come back to trade policy. But next I’d like to offer you a quick snapshot of how the UK’s actually been doing despite having no control of our trade policy. In 2005 our total merchandise exports were £211 billion, of which 82% was manufactured and semi-manufactured goods. Let no one say Britain has stopped being a great manufacturing nation! Our total service exports were £111 billion and our total earnings from direct investment abroad were £79 billion. That makes a total of £401 billion, which is about a third of our national income.

Over the last decade the pattern of our overseas income has of course been changing. Service exports have been growing at 8% compound and our earnings from direct investment abroad have been growing at 12%, whilst our merchandise exports have been growing at only 3%. So the share of our foreign income from these three sources deriving from merchandise exports has fallen from 67% to 53%.

But overall I think our trade performance has been quite healthy. Our foreign income from IT, financial and other business services was £60 billion in 2005. That’s over three times the level of ten years ago, and these are the sectors where we have a particularly strong competitive advantage. It’s always right to play to one’s strengths. True, we ran a current account deficit in 2005 of £27 billion, but judging by the general performance of sterling the markets are quite relaxed about that.

And what of the EU? Well, as you’d expect from its relatively slow economic growth, the share of our exports of goods and services that it took declined from 51% in 1995 to 48% in 2005 after appropriate adjustments. But one staggering thing is that our deficit on trade in goods and services with the EU in 2005 was £38 billion, up from £7 billion in 2000!

Remembering that it’s mainly businesses that trade and not governments, I’ve always thought it rather a nonsense argument to talk about the UK being dependent on its EU membership for trade. But if the argument has any weight the boot is clearly on our foot, not the rest of the EU’s. And to the extent that our huge trade deficit with the EU now is due to increased UK public sector purchases from the EU like Ken Livingstone’s new European buses, we may be in a much stronger bargaining position than we realise.

During the remainder of my talk this evening I’d like to try to cover four subjects. First the nature of trade policy, second the World Trade Organisation and the multilateral trading system, third the nature of the single market and fourth what would be involved in leaving it?

What is trade policy in essence? First, it should be about setting the tariffs we impose on imports from other countries and controlling what we import from other countries according to our criteria for things like food safety, public morals and arms control. Second, it should be about controlling the terms on which foreign businesses operate within the UK. Third, it should be about negotiating the terms on which other countries import from us and our businesses operate in their territories. One can negotiate these things multilaterally, as through the current WTO Doha round, or bilaterally or regionally through free trade agreements.

That of course is a great oversimplification, as any one who’s even glanced at the 490 page legal texts of the WTO Agreements would know. The whole subject is mind-numbingly complex. We’re into a world of tariffs, anti-dumping duties and countervailing duties, sensitive products, tariff-rate quota expansions, special products, agricultural special safeguard mechanisms, Swiss formulae; amber, blue and green box categories of domestic agricultural subsidies; and a whole host of other important jargon that there’s no point in my trying to begin to explain today.

Trade policy is therefore the perfect domain for bureaucrats, and in this country hardly anyone’s got a serious grasp of the subject now. So by default we’ve come to rely on the trade policy apparatchiks at Brussels who control the EU’s trade policy. Suffice to say that in no way is Peter Mandelson as EU Trade Commissioner pursuing the best interests of the UK alone. His job is to try to represent the best interests of the EU as a whole.

That brings us to the WTO and the multilateral trading system, which I can only talk about briefly today. To put it simply, trade is one of the best drivers of economic growth we’ve got. The free market process of discovery where buyers seek to transact business with sellers on the best possible terms, which is how competition holds sway, works even better on the international scale than within individual countries. The less governments interfere the better, although of course they’re bound to when they purchase goods from the private sector or outsource services, the process known to trade experts as public procurement.

We mustn’t take trade for granted. When things went wrong in the 1930s and every country went protectionist the consequences for the world were catastrophic. But with the modern multilateral trading system in place that can never happen again except in the, I hope, inconceivable circumstance that a major country decides to pull out of the WTO. In my view the multilateral trading system, encompassing services, agriculture and intellectual property as well as industrial products as it does, is one of the great wonders of the modern world.

Its development since the founding of the GATT in 1947 has been remarkable. Average developed country industrial tariffs have fallen from around 40% after the war to under 4% now. Originally the GATT had 23 founding members, now the WTO has 150 members. The proportion of the world’s GDP accounted for by trade in goods and services has grown from 8% in 1950 to 31% now.

A successful Doha round would be a great new leap forward. Pascal Lamy, the WTO Director General, has estimated that the total benefit of a successful Doha round would be two or three times that achieved by the Uruguay Round, the trade round that resulted in the creation of the World Trade Organisation in 1995. A huge amount of negotiating progress has been made over the last five years since the round was launched in 2001.

But as things stand today the Doha round looks likely to fail, in which case all that progress will be lost. If that does happen the prime culprit will be the European Union, that’s our country for trade purposes, because of its intransigent refusal to honour the commitment it gave at Doha in 2001 to make substantial improvements in agricultural market access.

If Doha fails between 20 million and 140 million people in the developing countries, depending on the figures you believe, will be condemned to continue in poverty which a successful Doha round could prevent. Our country will be responsible for that outrage - our country, the European Union, that is!

Before moving onto the single market, I should just briefly mention the dramatic growth of regional trade agreements around the world over the last ten years. As much as 40% of world trade may now be conducted under such agreements. Some, such as the NAFTA, are clearly trade enhancing, but many are not. Overall this trend constitutes a worrying threat to the non-discrimination principle that lies at the heart of the multilateral trading system.

Most regional trade agreements are inter-governmental free trade agreements. The EU’s supranational customs union, the leading edge of the EU’s international drive to single statehood, is unique in the world today. That brings me on to the EU’s internal or single market, the common market as we used to call it, the internal counterpart of its customs union.

When a large majority, including myself, voted in 1975 to stay in the then so called ‘Common Market’ most people thought it was basically just a free trade deal with a few downsides like higher food prices.How wrong we were! I think very few people realised that what we had joined was a customs union, even then in effect a single country as regards trade with the rest of the world.

Hardly anyone seems to have realised when we signed the Single European Act in 1986 that we were giving Brussels the power to construct a single borderless country for internal trade purposes. Admittedly, it’s not a very perfect one yet, with widely varying VAT rates and more than half its member states still clinging to their old currencies. And of course there are huge differences in excise duty on alcohol and cigarettes, though the European Court of Justice looks set to end that soon as regards cross border purchases*.

In some EU member states there are still massive barriers to free movement of services in areas like financial services and energy distribution, in particular to acquiring existing businesses or establishing new affiliates. And the services directive they have just finally agreed in Brussels will only have a very limited macroeconomic impact.

The biggest problem, of course, with the single market is regulation and I don’t need to repeat what several have already told us today, that EU regulation currently costs 5.5% of GDP, over three times even the European Commission’s most recent estimate of the single market’s benefits. No one in the EU or outside has ever come up with any practical means of reversing this monstrous tide of anti-enterprise regulation. Even some federalist think tanks such as the French Conseil d’Analyse Economique now recognize the single market has been a failure.

It really is beginning to look impossible to see any good reason for the UK staying in the single market. But how could we leave it? Historically speaking, it’s never been easy for a smaller country to leave a larger country, and I have no doubt that for the UK to leave the EU would be far from straightforward.

We need to recognise that if we do leave the EU there would be some significant downsides to changing to a free trade agreement between the UK and EU. Customs controls would have to be re-established for trade with the remainder of the EU, which would entail a significant one off cost. But more importantly, the loss of the single market’s free movement of goods could have material adverse consequences for some sectors.

Typically these would be the ones that are currently protected or supported by high EU tariffs and subsidies, such as agriculture, processed foods, tobacco, automotive products and textiles and clothing. Of these, the processed foods and automotive products industries are two of the biggest manufacturing employers in this country.

The principle of free movement of goods means that we don’t have any tariffs on goods traded within the EU. But under an EU-UK free trade agreement only goods which were deemed to have “originated” within the free-trade area that agreement created could be traded duty free. UK exports to the EU which did not meet that criterion would be subject to the same tariffs as they would have been if they were from the USA, Canada or Japan. In the UK at least, the paradox that not all trade under a free trade agreement is duty free is not well understood.

What we’ve yet to do is the necessary detailed research on the sector by sector implications of the UK leaving the single market. In my view there should be no great problem for the majority of sectors including most service trades, though negotiations would be complex and tough. We’d have the advantage of being able to use rules of origin from the EU’s existing free trade agreements with countries like Norway and Switzerland as a starting point for negotiation. And after all EU exporters to the UK as well as UK exporters to the EU would normally have a strong common interest in negotiating rules of origin that would minimise the proportion of their exports that would become dutiable.

I think there are some areas such as public procurement where we ought to be able to get a considerably better deal than we now have through the single market or indeed than any of the EFTA countries have at present. We’d be in a very strong bargaining position. So overall, I’m confident that the downsides of leaving the single market ought to be considerably outweighed by the benefits.

I hardly need to list these benefits to you:

  • the freedom to remove from our statute book all the anti-enterprise regulatory programmes we would never have introduced at Westminster such as the working time directive and the financial services action plan
  • the ability to negotiate our own free trade agreements with English speaking countries like the USA, Canada and Australia, which has already been mentioned today
  • the potential to end our financial contribution to the EU, currently running at a net annual rate of £5.5 billion
  • the right to import food on our own terms rather than the EU’s.

On this last point, if we chose to import food without any tariffs at all that could save the average family of four some £1500 a year. But I’m personally not yet convinced by the argument for unilateral free trade in food. The EFTA countries, which are all heavily dependent on food imports like the UK, each maintain quite high agricultural tariffs to protect their domestic food production, and their example is worth considering. Also our countryside does have environmental importance, and it would surely be tragic to let our farmland degenerate into a landscape of thistles, ragwort and bracken.

The key point I’d like to leave you with is the importance of putting together a detailed sectoral plan for withdrawal as soon as possible. I don’t think the transition will be simple. Indeed I don’t even think we can yet be certain it will be possible, though I very much hope it will be. No one has yet thought through the detail.

We need such a plan to present to the mainstream politicians to make the withdrawal option credible. It’s absurd to say blithely that free trade would continue if we left the EU. No country has ever left a mature customs union before, and we’d be breaking new ground in many ways. Inevitably there would be some disruption to business, but that’s fine providing it can be planned for. What business will not want to face is a long list of unquantifiable uncertainties about leaving the single market.

One of our biggest problems will be the dearth of international trade policy expertise in this country. Many aspects of our negotiations with the EU would be a zero sum game, and you can be certain that the trade policy specialists in Brussels would not want to help this country when we were deserting them.

In short, a daunting task lies ahead. I see every reason to start planning for it now.

Thank you.

* In the event, on 23rd November the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of the status quo on cross border exports of alcohol and cigarettes so that EU consumers will still only be able to avoid excise duty by importing such goods back to their home countries in person.

Copyright © Ronald Stewart-Brown 2007. All rights reserved.

Can you elaborate more on direct democracy and compare it to the American model?

Answer Dan Hannan MEP:
I’m not proposing that we elect judges. I’m proposing that there be a parliamentary hearing for senior judicial appointments which would be a considerably more open and democratic procedure than their appointment by a super quango which is what the government has now moved to. What previously existed was indefensible in theory but not so bad in practice, whereby the Lord Chancellor could nominate who he pleased, because, seeing the indefensibility of it, most Lord Chancellors tended to self-censor, knowing how ridiculous the situation was, so they tried to be fair minded. Now that we have this panel you will have far more political correctness, far more quotas and so on. We have far more of a problem than the Americans have, and have become far less aware of it. I mean there are enormous think-tanks and seminars there dedicated to combating judicial activism, but when you go to them you think, “I would give anything to have your problem rather than ours.” Just think of some of the cases we’ve had. For example a deportation overturned on the grounds that it would breach the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees inhuman and degrading punishment because the illegal entrant would not get the same medical attention in his own country that is available in the United Kingdom. No elected representative at any level decided such a preposterous thing and of course someone just invented that as they were going along. Similarly cases like – I mentioned earlier the case of the prisoner – cases like convicts getting pornography in their cells on the grounds of ‘freedom of expression’. These are plainly not what the law says in any normal reading, and what we have is a judiciary advancing its own agenda because it knows that that agenda would never get through elective legislatures. And no one has an absolute solution to this problem. It’s intrinsic in any system that someone has to be the final arbiter, but I think that you could substantially address it by having mechanisms to keep the ultimate decision makers in touch with public opinion.

In reply to the second question, the theory is that decisions should be taken at the lowest practical level. Now usually that is well below the level at which they are taken now and I’ve given as a rough guide the idea that most of the powers that are currently devolved to Scotland could in England be devolved to counties and cities. There are going to be some areas which are between the two. I think it is ludicrous when you talk about land acquisition and so on. It is absurd that we have a system – and we must be the only country in the world that does this – where central government dictates the number of houses that each county has to build. Since the fall of the Berlin wall everyone else has given up on doing that. It would be as though we tried to dictate how many chocolate bars were needed next year and how many cars; the rest of the world has moved on, but we still do it here. However, I accept that where it’s a big strategic thing like an airport, then you might need to have a measure of central government control. I’m not going to write the whole thing down in detail now but where we are at the moment is I think absolutely indefensible, with decisions that in any other country would be made at a town meeting or at a precinct level. How much do you pay the fire brigade, what hours does your school have, where do you put the speed bumps in the road? These things, in this country, are decided by one minister in Whitehall and then imposed uniformly across the whole population of 60 million people. Nowhere else in the world does that, so almost any change would be an improvement on the status quo from that point of view.

Should we ban the Burkah and is Europe infringing on our ancient British rights?

Answer Dr Helen Szamuely:
Can I deal with the Burkha first of all, because that it is a pretty straightforward question. Yes, I think we should ban it and as a matter of fact it is a view that is supported by a number of Muslim writers as well. In particular I was very impressed by an article by Yasmin Alibhai Brown, who I know is going to have people foaming at the mouth here, but as a matter of fact she was the first journalist to write unequivocally that the Burkha must be banned.

The other two questions: I don’t think the first one was a question, it was more of a statement, wasn’t it? That other countries are interested in their languages, but if they choose to learn English as well then that’s fine also. I don’t quite understand why that should be a problem. The business about rights is a little more complicated because after all this is the country that had the first petition of rights and the first bill of rights, so perhaps it isn’t a completely new idea. It really depends on how you define the rights and liberties that are important to Anglospheric ideas. The Americans took those ideas from Britain, from England. So I’m not sure you can just say it is all about UKIP and that rights are something those nasty Europeans have imposed on us. I think that rights are quite an old English ideal – that people do have rights, they do have liberty as well as duty.

Answer Dan Hannan MEP:
I think Helen pointed to an extraordinarily interesting and vivid paradox which is that it is our own countrymen doing this, it’s our own boys setting out from Easthead, Wanstead and Tipton to murder their fellow countrymen. And perhaps being an immigrant I’m also more alive to this bizarre way in which in this country we disparage our identity, and I think this is why we have the problem. The grandfathers and the great grandfathers of these boys had reason to resent us. We had gone in and pushed over their countries, we were occupying their homelands and yet in those days we were a confident country and we projected our confidence in such a way that people wanted to buy into it. And people were prepared – the great, great grandfathers of these children on the north west frontier – to take the white Queen’s meat and serve in her forces, and that ideal, that civic ideal of British identity as something that was not ethnic but value-based and that you could come into from wherever you came from in the world, found superb vindication in the millions of empire and commonwealth volunteers who twice in the last century were prepared to cross half the world in order to take up arms for a country in which they had never set foot, because they believed in what Britain stood for. How different is the experience of their descendants growing up today, exposed to the most self-hating, multiculturalist and anti-British local government and public sector. Perhaps it is precisely the experience of growing up in Wanstead, Tipton and Beeston and hearing from the moment you go to school that if this country stands for anything it is racism, exploitation and villainy. That makes it hard for these children to feel part of the community into which they have been born and that is not a Muslim issue, it is an issue for everybody. It is our own elites who over these past 40 years have systematically derided and reduced British identity. That is why the peoples of the four constituent kingdoms are groping back towards older patriotisms, finding that they no longer have anything that attracts them to British identity. And where does that leave the newcomer? What is there for him to be part of when there is nothing left of the ideal of the United Kingdom that we used to believe in, as a force for freedom and justice in the world?

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