Category Archives: UK politics

The UK and political union

The European Parliament Information Office recently hosted an event in Europe House looking back over 40 years of UK membership of the EU, and looking forward. It seems to have been a good discussion, which you can see on the hashtag #uk40.

One tweet from @EUouth quoted former UK Permanent Representative to the EU, Sir Stephen Wall:

This speaks to an important issue. There is evidence that the political dimension of membership was clear from the beginning of the discussion about the UK applying to join the EEC. This speech by Woodrow Wyatt, introducing a 10 minute bill in 1961, clearly mentions the political aspects:

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1961/apr/11/common-market

An intern working here a while ago turned up in our archives a speech by Alec-Douglas-Home when he was Foreign Secretary which also spoke to the political aspects. In this speech from 1970, which was made available to the media at the time, he says:

The last point I want to make is this. There has been some questioning on the Continent of Britain’s long-term intentions. We are asked whether we accept the political implications of the Treaty of Rome. The answer is an unequivocal Yes.

He quotes George Brown talking in the Western European Union in 1967

“We believe that Europe can emerge as a Community expressing its own point of view and exercising influence in world affairs, not only in the commercial and economic, but also in the political and defence fields.”

and goes on to say

We have no reservations about the institutional framework of the Communities. Nor do we jib at the evolution of these institutions.

The emphasis is his, as you’ll see in the original, which is linked to above.

So whatever has happened between now and then, it seems pretty clear that the UK government, and by extension media, was well aware of the political implications of its application to join the EEC.

I’ve also seen a House of Lords report from around the time of accession that also talks about the political aspects and the issue of the primacy of the decisions of the European Court of Justice, again something that was there from the beginning. I can’t find that report at the moment, so if anyone can point me towards it, I’d be very grateful.

 

 

Statement by EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard on UK’s long-term carbon target

 ”I welcome the ambitious goal announced by the United Kingdom’s government today to reduce emissions 50 per cent under 1990 levels by 2025. This is an outstanding example of strong willingness to act despite difficult economic times. It also confirms that clever climate policies are not only about climate alone; they are also about improving energy security, stimulating innovation, raising competitiveness, and creating economic growth and jobs. With this decision, the UK seizes a huge economic and innovation opportunity that will make its economy more competitive in the future”

#EUuk event, 10 December 2010

Friday was the culmination of several month’s work with Eurogoblin, Cosmetic Uprise and others, the bloggingportal event on EU and UK political blogging. I was rushing about sorting out the Wifi and making sure people were there, so you should head to Eurogoblin, Walaa Idris or Dick Puddlecote (any I’ve missed?) for a sense of how it went.

Anyway, better than reading what someone else said, you can watch it for yourself – we videoed both panels and are uploading them to the Rep’s YouTube site. They’re huge files and are going up in parts, so please bear with us.

Update 16 December 11am: I’m adding Jon Worth to coverage of the event. Though it’s not a report, it reflects what we conceived the event to be about – how to link the EU and UK political blogospheres, and mentions our event.

Update 10 January 15.45 And here’s the European Citizen’s post on it. He’s Bruno Waterfield’s favourite Euroblogger, dontcha know :)

Coalition on Europe

It’s amazing what you find if you read everything in your inbox! An e-mail with the coalition’s reponse to comments on its programme has languished in there all day, and I just got round to reading it. Pretty interesting stuff! Of course my main interest was the Europe section and it’s good to see a pretty straight-down-the-line defense of our EU membership. Also glad to see it wasn’t with foreign affairs, but was a stand-alone issue. I’m looking around to digging about in some of the other sections. Haven’t watched the video yet, I must admit.

Here’s the full set of links (let me know if you have any problems making them work – it may not all have made it with the cut-and-paste!):

The Coalition: Our programme for government

 http://programmeforgovernment.hmg.gov.uk/response/

 Our response

We thank all of you who engaged with this historic Coalition agreement by taking the time to read and comment on our programme. We promised government departments would read and respond to all comments that fall within their policy areas, and they’ve now done so.

 Below you can find a response to each section of The Coalition: our programme for government. These responses focus on the main themes raised in each section.

 You can also watch a video of Oliver Letwin and Danny Alexander discussing your feedback on the homepage.

 Links to responses

 These links take you to the websites of different departments, where the responses have been published.

 Banking

Business

Civil liberties

Communities and local government

Consumer protection

Crime and policing

Culture, Olympics, media and sport

Defence

Deficit reduction

Energy and climate change

Environment, food and rural affairs

Equalities

Europe

Families and children

Foreign affairs

Government transparency

Immigration

International development

Jobs and welfare

Justice

National security

NHS

Pensions and older people

Political reform

Public health

Schools

Social action

Social care and disability

Taxation

Transport

Universities and further education

Women in UK politics

The Robert Schuman Foundation have recently published some research which compares the level of ministers and members of parliament across the EU and show how many are women. The UK comes in below the EU average on all three indicators that they use:

Women ministers – EU average: 25.75%  //  UK: 17.39%

Women in national parliament – EU average: 24.32% // UK: 21.88%

Women in European parliament – EU average: 34.92% // UK: 33.33%

Which countries came top? You won’t be surprised to hear it was Finland for ministers, Sweden for national parliamentarians and Finland for women in the EP. Bottom? Hungary for ministers, Malta for the national parliament and Malta again for the EP.

Deeper Underground

There’s been a lot on the airwaves today about the announcement of more support to carbon capture and storage. It’s an issue I follow with interest, from my Science and Research days. I was quite surprised to hear one of the opponents today saying that there’s only one demonstration plant at the moment, in Germany, as I remember doing a press release in 2006 about a plant in Denmark, which was supported by European research programmes. We also set up the Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Power Plant Technology Platform, which has to develop a strategic vision for carbon capture and identify the research needed to make the vision reality.  But I think all the time I was working on research, my favourite carbon capture discussion (as well as the momst amazing visit I got to take part in) was when we went to Svalbard. The place was astonishing, not least for a budding geologist – look at the picture below for a textbook depiction of a glacier valley, plus there’s one I’ve added just because it was taken at around midnight!

Anyway, the interesting part is that they are really thinking about using carbon capture there. The original industry that drove the islands was coal-mining, so the repositories are there. Another element that hasn’t made the coverage today is that hydrogen is a by-product of the process of carbon capture. So the idea of the guy we spoke to there was that the process of capturing the carbon would produce enough hydrogen to power the vehicles that are used in Longyearbyen, Ny Alesund and the few other settlements. It obviously wasn’t just pie in the sky because I found details of this workshop about the issue on the net.

I want to break free

Libertas have launched their UK election campaign today. It’s an interesting one. There are various things about it that strike a chord with me – a pan-European political party, aiming to respond to (or create?) a European demos, rather than focussing on national issues; a call to ensure that European institutions work effectively – it may be a surprise to some, but that’s something that pretty much all of us would want. But I do wonder where Libertas are going to fit. They say they’re pro-reform not anti-EU, but that’s a pretty limited audience in the UK. The people who are going to vote for a party with an EU platform are more likely to be anti. That’s one of the things here – the people who really seem to care are the ones who don’t like it. I did have to laugh (hollowly) at one line in their press release:  “Almost 80% of laws that change the daily lives of Britons come from Brussels, and those laws are drafted by unelected, unaccountable civil servants. ” What, as opposed to the elected, accountable civil servants that draft laws everywhere else?! I have no issue with criticism, but at least let’s be fair about it!

Writing this made me think about what it is that stimulates European Commission proposals for legislation. I know from my time in policy DGs that often we are asked to propose something by the Council (national governments) or European parliament. So I just did a very quick and admittedly non-academic test. I looked at all proposals from the Commission in the last month (9 February to 9 March) which propose legislation (Decision, Directive or Regulation). Of the 27 proposed in that time:

5 amend or correct existing legislation, 2 repeal existing legislation, 4 implement international agreements and conventions (i.e UN level), 3 are administrative (members of committees etc), 1 applies to 1 member state only, 9 implement bilateral agreements with non-EU countries, 1 is part of the legislative proposal (taking into account the Parliament and Council amendments), 1 is at the request of the European Parliament (and inspired by the European Council) and 1 is at the Commission’s own initiative.

Now I accept that this is one month and is hardly scientific, but it does show that this idea of all legislation that comes out being a result of fonctionnaires sitting around in offices wondering what they can do now is a crude and inaccurate caricature.

Hail to the chief

Can anyone be blogging about anything else today but the inauguration in Washington of the man now clearly known as Barack H Obama? It really has felt like a momentous day, maybe more for what it represents than what actually went on. I went to a very interesting event this morning on this subject, discussing what the Obama Presidency could mean for EU-US relations. It had some very good speakers, including a great speech from Denis McShane, and several of them talked about the importance of Europe engaging actively with the Obama administration, and coming to them with ideas, rather than waiting to see what he wants us to do (and then letting him down…!) He has been very clear about his interest in working with the EU. I’m just watching the BBC coverage. They are at a party in Tottenham, and a television in the background had a woman who really looked like Floella Benjamin talking. I hope it was her – she’s a real personality from my youth!

Talking of interesting people, I met Baroness Perry last night at the Lords. She was Chairman of the Education and Training Sector Group that I worked on when I was at the Department of Trade and Industry all those many years ago. I contacted her before Christmas and it was lovely to see her. What goes around comes around: she’s now on the European Union Committee of the House of Lords, so we had a lot of current affairs to talk about, not just all stuff from the past. Especially with Ken Clarke’s appointment!