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Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Lord Pearson of Rannoch - April Fools Day
The UKIP peer made a striking contribution to the opening of the Second Reading debate in the House of Lords yesterday, linked here, as follows:
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, it is a great honour for my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke and me to speak in this debate on behalf of the UK Independence Party. It is the only respectable political party that is telling the British people the truth about the colossal folly of our EU membership.
Noble Lords: Oh!
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, the truth is still valuable to the British people, even if it is not valuable to some noble Lords opposite. The other main parties have misled and lied to them for some 36 years, and have thus brought this country to its present predicament. That predicament can be simply put: EU membership is ruinously expensive and has deprived us of most of our right to govern ourselves. The Lisbon treaty will complete the job and should, therefore, be rejected by this House at Second Reading.
Of course, our political establishment, so richly represented in your Lordships’ House, will not agree with me. It cannot face up honestly to either of those accusations, just as it dare not admit to how low it has brought this country in every other area of our national life. What do I mean by “our political establishment”? I mean the Members of the House of Commons and this place, the bureaucracy which supports us and the Government of the day and, a point often missed, the political media which feed off us. It is that political class, politely referred to as the “Westminster village”, which is becoming increasingly despised by the real people who earn the money to pay the taxes to keep it afloat. If those real people are denied a referendum on this Lisbon treaty, which they were clearly promised, our whole political system will rightly be held in even greater contempt.
To take the accusation that our EU membership is ruinously expensive, I can but refer your Lordships and future students of our national demise to my debate in your Lordships’ House on 8 June last year, calling for an official cost-benefit analysis into the benefits or disbenefits of our EU membership. I held similar debates on 27 June 2003 and 17 March 2000. No one can say I have not tried. The response from the Government and the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Benches has always been wearisomely the same. Like propaganda machines the world over, they parrot that
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the benefits of our EU membership are so wondrous and obvious that any objective government analysis would be a waste of taxpayers’ money—note the beauty of that.
As I have mentioned before, there have been several responsible private academic studies over recent years which put the economic cost of our EU membership conservatively at around 8 to 10 per cent of GDP, or £80 billion to £100 billion per annum. That sort of cost is supported by no less a personage than the EU’s competition commissioner himself, G�1/4nter Verheugen, who has put the cost of EU regulation alone at some 6.5 per cent of GDP.
The most successful piece of Europhile propaganda is that we cannot afford to leave the EU because 3.5 million jobs depend on our membership, with the implication that they would be lost if we left. It is that obvious nonsense, constantly repeated by Prime Ministers downwards, for many years, that has gone into the subconscious of the British people and made many of them fearful of leaving the EU. To be charitable, I can only hope that our political leaders mouth this fantasy because they do not understand much about international trade or commerce. Perhaps they really do not understand that if we left the political construct of our EU membership, our trade with our clients and suppliers in Europe would continue and so would the jobs which depend on it.
In the background, there is also the killer point that the EU sells us more than we sell them. We are the EU’s largest client. So if we left the EU, it would need to continue in free trade with us and none of our jobs would be in danger. There are at least two other killer points in the Eurosceptics’ economic locker. The first is that EU membership forces us to remain below decks on the Titanic of the EU’s over-regulated and sclerotic economy, now starting to sink fast after coming up against the iceberg of the free economies of the east. The second is that only about 9 per cent of our economy trades in the EU at all; about 11 per cent with the rest of the world; and 80 per cent stays right here in our domestic economy. Yet Brussels’ job-destroying over-regulation hits the whole 100 per cent of GDP of our economy. So the truth is the reverse of the Europhile propaganda; leaving the EU would create jobs—millions of them.
My second principal reason for suggesting that your Lordships should reject the Bill at Second Reading is that our present EU membership has already deprived the British people of most of their right to govern themselves; that is their right to elect and dismiss those who make their laws; and that the Lisbon treaty will deprive them of the rest. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, and my noble friends Lord Forsyth and Lord Blackwell have made the unanswerable case that the Lisbon treaty is indeed the same as the rejected constitution, give or take the flag and the anthem, which will continue to be used anyway.
So I will content myself with reminding your Lordships that most of our national law is now made in Brussels and then imposed on this Parliament and our people. The German Government have put the proportion of their national law made in Brussels at 84 per cent. Even our own Government have been forced to admit
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that the majority of law affecting our commerce and industry is now imposed by the Brussels system. That is bad enough, since our commerce and industry are the lifeblood of this nation.
In this important debate it is worth reminding your Lordships just what the Brussels law-making system is, and how it is the very antithesis of democracy. EU law, which is superior to British law, is proposed in secret by the unelected Commission. It is then negotiated in secret in COREPER or by bureaucrats from the nation states, and then it is passed in the Council of Ministers, where the UK Government is reduced to some 8 per cent of the vote and where they propose, under Lisbon, to throw away nearly all of their remaining rights to a veto. The resulting laws must then be rubber-stamped by this Parliament—if we get to see them at all—and executed by the self-same unelected Commission, aided and abetted by that engine of EU integration, the Luxembourg Court of Justice.
Two other features of the quagmire in which we find ourselves are that powers, once passed to Brussels, cannot be returned to national parliaments, and the treaties can only be changed by unanimity in the Council. That is why we in the UK Independence Party say that renegotiation of the treaties is not realistic. The only way out is the door.
Against all of that, the Europhile propagandists pretend that this brave new system of lawmaking is somehow rendered democratically respectable by the process of scrutiny in both Houses of Parliament. My noble friend Lord Vinson may have more to say in this regard, so I will content myself by pointing out that our EU scrutiny committees can do only that: they can scrutinise, report and debate, but they cannot change anything. I fear that I have come to wonder what the point of them is at all. They have certainly done nothing over the years to stem the steady handover of our once-proud sovereignty to Brussels, from the Single European Act in 1986 to Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice. There should have been a referendum on all of those, of course, but five wrongs will not make a right if we do not have a referendum on Lisbon.
It is somewhat devious of the Europhiles to pretend that Lisbon reverses this trend by giving real power to national parliaments. It is true that if, in eight weeks, one third of national parliaments can get their act together and get the parliamentary time from their Governments to disagree with a new legislative proposal with which most of those Governments will already have agreed, then Brussels must think again. However, the Commission can go ahead unless the Council and the Parliament—which will also have agreed with the proposal—change their minds and agree with the one third of national parliaments who do not want it. Even then, 54 per cent of the votes in the Council and 49 per cent of votes in the Parliament can agree with the national parliaments and be overridden. Some democracy, that.
Likewise, it is very naughty to pretend that Lisbon makes it easier for us to leave the EU. It would subject us to a two-year period of negotiation controlled by Brussels, whereas, at present, we could repeal the
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Single European Act tomorrow and walk free from this prison into the fresh air of free trade and sovereignty regained.
To all this the Europhiles reply that our membership of the EU is justified because it makes us more useful in standing up to international terrorism and combating climate change—which is a waste of time anyway—and dealing with immigration and so on. I predict that the idea of the EU doing any good in any of these areas will prove to be the triumph of hope over experience. How can an organisation responsible for the common agricultural and fisheries policies—the first killing untold numbers of people in the developing world and the second dumping 30,000 articulated lorries-worth of dead fish into the sea every year—be trusted to improve the planet’s environment? What hypocrisy.
On immigration, surely our membership of the EU has produced millions of immigrants about whom we can do nothing and the usefulness of whom your Lordships’ Economic Affairs Committee has now rightly queried. I remind the Government and your Europhile Lordships that we are an island. We should control our own borders to suit our own needs, while continuing our longstanding tradition of compassion towards those who really need it. We do not need our asylum policy to be controlled by Brussels of all places.
However, our political classes love the EU gravy train, the nubile translators, the endless committees and conferences, the travel to Bali and other agreeable places, the feeling that they are maintaining peace in the world—rather unsuccessfully, I submit—and generally doing good, while being very well paid by the rest of us for that luxury. The prospects for all that are greatly enhanced by the Lisbon treaty. That is why they like it and real people hate it. Real people are already very frustrated, to the extent that many of them no longer see the point of voting in general elections. They want our democracy back so that they can sack the people who make their laws. Real people will get more and more angry until they get it.
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