How long before Russia seeks a Cyprus naval base?

Posted on March 18, 2013

The EU’s latest step to “solve” the Eurozone crisis is the pillaging of the savings stored in Cypriot banks. It’s not hard to see the various harmful implications – a collapse of confidence in bank saving in Cyprus itself, a blow to the already miniscule levels of confidence in banking elsewhere in the EU, further reductions in bank capitalisation as savers realise the mattress is the safest place for the cash and so on.

One aspect of the affair that has yet to be widely considered, though, is the opportunities this offers to Russian foreign policy. Russians are the largest group of foreign savers in Cyprus (some legitimately, others less so), and the Russian government has loaned billions to keep the faltering Cypriot state and banking sector afloat.

Now, with Cyprus plunged into a new crisis, Putin’s Kremlin is reportedly “considering” the generous step of extending the existing loans and possibly offering more. The question this raises is simple: what will the Russians want in return for their kind helping hand?

The answer is disturbingly self-evident. Only this morning, the Russian navy announced it was to establish a new, permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean – the first since the post-Soviet retreat of the early 1990s.

At the moment, the Russians have a naval facility in Tartus, a port in Syria. Their shameful solidarity with Bashar al-Assad has been motivated at least in part by the desire to keep a foothold in the Med, but their ally’s position of power is now in doubt. At any time the Syrian regime could fall, and be replaced by a government of rebels who are unlikely to look kindly on hosting a naval base for the chums of the dictator they have just unseated.

So the Russian Mediterranean Naval presence needs a new home. Cyprus seems the natural place – it’s at the Eastern end of the sea, close to allies in Syria and potential enemies in Israel in the event of a conflict with Iran. Most compellingly of all, Cyprus is broke – and evidently ready to do just about anything for cash.

When the Eurozone’s fans say the single currency protects our security, I’m not sure a new Russian naval base on our doorstep was what they had in mind.

EU Budget: How did British MEPs vote?

Posted on March 15, 2013

The EU Budget negotiations have not run as smoothly as in previous years. In the past, the process was simple: everyone sits down, agrees to pay more cash to Brussels then off for champagne and canapes.

Then David Cameron shook things up a bit, pressing for an EU budget cut given the austerity member states are implementing. He secured an agreement with the other national leaders – which should have gone further, but was still an improvement on what went before.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament voted against the proposal. It wasn’t the final vote, but it was intended as a blocking measure to force the collected national governments to rethink their decision. The fact that various federalists in the Parliament tried to make the ballot secret – a scandalous attempt to avoid public scrutiny – shows that they know how unpopular that step is.

You would be hard-pressed in Britain to find anyone who thinks that while we are trying to save money at home, we should be paying even more to wasteful, undemocratic EU institutions. So how did British MEPs vote in our name?

Voted for the budget cut

Conservatives: Marta Andreasen, Richard Ashworth, Robert Atkins, Philip Bradbourn, Martin Callanan, Giles Chichester, Nirj Deva, Vicky Ford, Jacqueline Foster, Ashley Fox, Julie Girling, Daniel Hannan, Malcolm Harbour, Syed Kamall, Sajjad Karim, Timothy Kirkhope, Emma McClarkin, Anthea McIntyre, Jim Nicholson, Struan Stevenson, Robert Sturdy, Kay Swinburne, Charles Tannock, Geoffrey van Orden and Marina Yannakoudakis.

Labour: Michael Cashman, Mary Honeyball, David Martin, Linda McAvan, Arlene McCarthy, Brian Simpson, Catherine Stihler, and Glenis Wilmott

DUP: Diane Dodds

Ex-BNP: Andrew Brons

Voted against the budget cut

Liberal Democrats: Catherine Bearder, Philip Bennion, Chris Davies, Andrew Duff, Fiona Hall, Sarah Ludford, Edward McMillan-Scott, Rebecca Taylor and Graham Watson

UKIP: Stuart Agnew, Gerard Batten, Godfrey Bloom, Derek Clark, Nigel Farage, Roger Helmer and Mike Nattrass

Labour: Claude Moraes, Peter Skinner

Greens: Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor

Plaid Cymru: Jill Evans

BNP: Nick Griffin

So there we have it. I imagine that the Lib Dems are going to have some explaining to do, voting against the deal that their own party supported in Westminster.

As for UKIP, they are trying to rationalise away voting against a measure to save British taxpayers’ money by explaining that they want there to be no EU budget at all. That’s fine, but it isn’t a justification for voting for a bigger, more expensive Brussels right now.

As a Tory source points out, if UKIP vote this way in the final budget ballot then they may well be lining up with federalists to deliver an EU budget that grows every year…probably not the story they want to tell back home.

Video: The EU receives the Nobel “Peace” Prize

Posted on December 11, 2012

When the ludicrous news that the EU had won the Nobel Peace Prize was first announced back in October, I compiled a “Nomination in Pictures” exploring the supposed peace that Brussels has brought to the streets of Portugal, Spain and Greece.

Herman van Rompuy, Martin Schulz and José Manuel Barroso collected the award yesterday in Norway – a country which is outside the EU, and therefore presumably riven with civil war and cross-border aggression. A reader has produced the following video tribute to the most absurd Nobel award to date:

EU propaganda videos get racist – again

Posted on November 19, 2012

Six months ago, the EU was forced to withdraw a racist video using stereotyped foreigners to portray international trading partners as a violent threat to Europe’s safety. Today, in a video highlighted by the Telegraph’s Bruno Waterfield, they’ve repeated their mistake in a clear sign that Brussels hasn’t learned a thing.

This time the topic is the energy markets, and your friends in the European Union are claiming credit for the, ahem, innovation that you can change supplier. Having had to apologise for protecting you from kung-fu fighting Chinese people and sword wielding Indians back in March, now they are the only thing that stands betwen you and greedy, fez-wearing Arabs.

How long will it be before Brussels apologises for this new racist piece of propaganda?

The Tory voting for an EU budget increase

Posted on October 31, 2012

Today the Government faces at least two votes on the future of the EU budget. It is an encouraging sign of the times that the debate is now between whether to freeze or cut the amount swallowed by Brussels.

Only a few years ago the battle was about whether to give up our rebate or simply to agree to a slightly lower rise. (Needless to say, Tony Blair went for the more costly option and sacrificed part of the hard-won rebate). Nowadays there is hardly anyone to be found in the political world who will argue, publicly at least, for more cash to go to the EU.

But there is one exception.

No-one really noticed at the time, but last week the European Parliament voted on the proposed EU budget, which proposes a 6.8% increase in the amount wasted spent by the European institutions.

This was the point at which David Cameron rightly stated his opposition to the plans, telling his MPs that

We’ve not put in place tough settlements in Britain in order to go to Brussels and sign up to big increases in European spending

The vast majority of his backbenches, his party members and the electorate at large unquestionably agree with him or want to go further.

At this point, let me introduce Malcolm Harbour, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands. Faced with an opportunity to vote to save taxpayers’ money, be loyal to his party leader and win the appreciation of his constituents all at the same time, Malcolm did the oppositehe voted for the EU budget to increase above inflation.

The latest press release on his website is titled “Danger for an iconic brand”. It refers to the future of the London Black Cab, whose manufacturer is in trouble, but may as well be talking about Harbour’s own impact on the reputation of the Conservative Party.

These are the last convulsions of the now almost extinct Conservatus Pro-Brusselsaurus. Malcolm Harbour is a disgrace, but looking at the composition of the Commons today we have good reason to hope he may be one of the last of his plodding, bizarre species.

–UPDATE–

Malcolm Harbour’s office have been in touch to report that he has since corrected his vote to register against the Budget – they assure me that it was a “genuine slip of the finger” in the Parliament’s electronic voting system. Maybe the pro-EU Conservatives are in fact already completely extinct?

EU Nobel Peace Prize nomination in pictures

Posted on October 12, 2012

When Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize, comedy songrwiter Tom Lehrer declared that satire had become obsolete. Today we learn that the Peace Prize has been given to the European Union –  accordingly, satire has now been dragged out of her retirement home and beaten by riot police.

In case you were wondering why the EU could possibly be given the Nobel Peace Prize, here is a short, pictorial summary of the peace Brussels has brought to Greece and Spain in the last 18 months:

How to write a catchy song about the wonders of Eurofederalism

Posted on January 13, 2012

Sounds like an impossible task, doesn’t it?

Well how about we take the tune of Breakfast at Tiffany’s by nineties one-hit wonders Deep Blue Something, and recast the lyrics to include such gems as:

Democracy, freedom, subsidiarity
Federalism, the solution we’ve got

How does that sound? Dreadful, actually, but it didn’t stop the Young European Federalists doing the whole song, acting it out and uploading it to Youtube:

This clip has been doing the rounds for some time, but I thought I’d share it as a timely reminder that the true horrors of a Federal EU are far deeper and grimmer than simply bankruptcy, economic stagnation and the abolition of democratic sovereignty.

In case you missed those classic lyrics, or would like to sing along at home, here they are in full:

— VERSE 1 —
They say that we’ve got nothing in common
No cultural ties to build on
The project just can’t work
They say that nationalism will break us
Conservatives will fight us
But trust we really do care

— CHORUS —
And we shout what about Europe United?
Peace and safety for all of the people
Democracy, freedom, subsidiarity
Federalism, the solution we’ve got

— VERSE 2 —
They say we’ll never work together
To make our union stronger
Let us say no!
We’ll build a Europe bold and new
A democracy that’s true
Europe United as one!

— CHORUS —

— VERSE 3 —
We say the EU’s a confusion
Lacking a Constitution
But we know what to do
Reform now, we want to see enlargement
Accept our major statement
Europe united as one!

— CHORUS —

— CHORUS —

The undeclared vested interests of leading pro-EU Peers

Posted on December 16, 2011

We’ve heard a lot from pro-EU members of the House of Lords in the last week. Here are a few examples:

 

Lord Brittan: “In order to retain the goodwill which will continue to be needed in future, would my noble friend agree that it will be necessary-if not today, certainly soon-to make it clear that we are not going to try to stop the 26 going ahead by denying them the use of European Union institutions?”

Lord Mandelson: “My Lords, people will differ in their view about whether the Government’s negotiating position last week was tenable or realistic. Will the Government reflect on the utterly shambolic way in which they prepared their position and sought support for their proposals at the summit last week?”

Lord Clinton-Davis: “The Government have not been courageous but desperately cowardly and, most of all, barren of influence. Is that not the case?”

They seem happy to share their enthusiasm for giving up powers to the EU with us. But there’s something else they aren’t so happy about sharing – as ex-Commissioners each of them has to support EU integration or risk losing their generous, taxpayer-funded EU pension. Moreover, they don’t declare this financial interest when they speak in EU debates.

It sounds fanciful, but it’s true. The terms of employment for Commissioners are clear – the obligations of the role include the stipulation that a Commissioner

“shall carry out the duties assigned to him objectively, impartially and in keeping with the duty of loyalty to the [European] Communities

Importantly, these obligations must be followed

“both during and after their term of office”

The consequences of failing to express loyalty for the rest of their days are also clear, in black and white:

“In the event of any breach of these obligations, the Court of Justice may, on application by the Council or the Commission, rule that the Member concerned be, according to the circumstances, either compulsorily retired in accordance with Article 216 or deprived of his right to a pension or other benefits in its stead.”

That’s a clear conflict of interest. Any Peer or MP must declare their interest if they receive a pension from a company affected by a debate before they speak in it – and most companies don’t require undying loyalty even after retirement.

Bizarrely, though, these EU pensions – which are explicitly conditional on ongoing political support – are not currently declared by the Europhile former Commissioners during EU debates, and the House of Lords’ authorities are apparently happy for that secrecy to continue. Just as bad, the pensions are not declared in the online Register of Lords’ Interests.

How can it be right that a portion of our legislature are campaigning for an organisation which they have a financial vested interest in, and yet are not required to declare it?

A time for Eurosceptics to become the positive voice

Posted on December 12, 2011

The reaction of pro-EU voices to David Cameron’s refusal to support fiscal union has been very revealing.

It has been revealing in that it has demonstrated clearly that the tiny pro-EU rump left in this country are actually happy with the idea that unelected EU officials should be able to overrule democratically elected Governments to dictate how member states’ financial affairs are run.

It has been very revealing that the EU establishment clearly never intended for vetoes to be used, and in fact is happy to circumvent them – ie that they have been a smokescreen all along.

It has also revealed what many of us have been saying in and around Westminster for some time – voters are sick of seeing British leaders roll over to have their tummy tickled at the EU negotiating table. Voters overwhelmingly agree with David Cameron on this one, and he’ll gain from that. Paddy Ashdown, by contrast, must be counting himself lucky that he’s no longer accountable to the electorate, so he can safely run round town shouting the EU’s message.

Most revealing of all, in my view, is the stark demonstration that the pro-EU side of British politics deeply and fundamentally lack faith in the abilities and potential of modern Britain. Without the protective wing of Mother Brussels and her trade barriers to shelter us, we are surely lost, they claim. Not for a second do they mull the idea that Britain has the capability to stand on its own two feet.

When they talk of retaining British “influence”, they mean that we can only retain influence in a reputational sense by sacrificing it in a practical sense. They mean that only by giving up our actual control over how we run our economy, our criminal justice system, our food production, our trading relationships and much more can we retain the cosy feeling of attending EU leaders’ banquets.

This is an insidious and depressing philosophy – talking Britain down, and automatically assuming that British scientists, entrepreneurs, business people and ordinary workers can never make their own way in the world. To use a 1970s term, they want a return to managing the nation’s decline.

For far too long the EU’s cheerleaders have been able to portray themselves as being on the sunny side of the street. They loved to make out that they were the friendly, positive optimists who saw sunny uplands in Britain’s future.

Contrast that to their message today:

“Suez seems mild in comparison. What sort of nation is it that rejoices in its own defeat?” – Labourlist

“At a time of economic crisis, we have made it more attractive for investors to go to northern Europe.” – Paddy Ashdown

“A Britain which leaves the EU would be considered irrelevant by Washington and will be considered a pygmy in the world.” – Nick Clegg

“In a world in which the influences of the old powers is diminishing by the day, Britain’s prime minister has attacked his closest partners and left our country weaker and more isolated” – Chris Davies MEP

There are plenty more bits of negativity where those came from, too. The peculiar and rare strain of politics that is Euro-enthusiasm is now essentially united around the core belief that Britain is a basket case. That’s not an idea which will set the electorate on fire with enthusiasm.

It is time to seize properly on this issue, and for eurosceptics to become the voice of positivity.

Where those who believe in integration see only weakness, we see great potential in Britain. Where they want protectionism, even at the cost of our economic health and starving bellies in the Third World, we want free trade and new enterprise. Where they look to secure a bed in the Little European retirement home, slowly dwindling away with the rest of the EU’s outdated economies, we want to reach out to trade with the whole world – India, China, Brazil and others.

When you talk to voters about the great issues of the day, they want to know what the future will look like for their children. Would they rather hear someone say “we think they’re done for, so we’ll give up their democratic rights in order to buy a seat in a declining economic bloc”, or “we’ll have faith in them to innovate and trade with the whole world”? The Lib Dems’ reluctance to collapse the Coalition and face an election rather answers that.

Mandy’s McAvity memory loss on the origins of the Euro crisis

Posted on November 15, 2011

Peter Mandelson has been industriously digging himself a hole over the Eurozone crisis. Normally a fervent debater and a nimble performer when it comes to picking his words carefully, he got a bit of a shoeing from Paxo on Newsnight last night.

It can’t have been comfortable for the Prince of Darkness, but there are further troubles ahead if he sticks with the line of attack that he has chosen.

We’re choosing to be outside [the Eurozone] and not showing up at those Councils and bodies where the decision-making and economic discussions of the Eurozone are taking place

The problem he faces on this one is a curmudgeonly, sociopathic Scotsman called Gordon Brown. Back when Brown was Chancellor he was notorious for not bothering to attend the meetings of ECOFIN – the council of EU Finance Ministers. When the group met, McAvity Brown more often than not was nowhere to be seen.

As the FT reported in 2006:

Gordon Brown, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer, has not been to Brussels for a single meeting this year….Mr Brown has the worst attendance record, going to barely half the meetings since 1999. In 2004 he made it to a little over a third of meetings.

The difference between then and now is that while today’s Government are refusing – rightly – to take part in building a new Euro bailout package, which would be as expensive as it would be unpopular, back then Brown was skipping the very meetings which sowed the seeds of the current Eurozone crisis.

Around that table in the late 90s and the early years of the 21st Century a consensus developed that it was acceptable for the vast majority of Eurozone countries to brazenly breach the Stability and Growth pact, running huge deficits and piling up vast national debt mountains.

Now that is crashing down on all our heads leaving Britain, Europe and even the whole world to pay a heavy economic price.

Brown opted out of those meetings, passing up a chance to warn of the consequences of the Eurozone countries’ actions. Then, of course, Mandelson went on to help him limp on as Prime Minister for three miserable, costly years.

Does the good Lord really want to start this argument?