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Completely oblivious to the real world, the "colleagues" in Brussels today have launched their strategy on adaptation to climate change, complete with an address from Connie Hedegaard, the commissioner for "climate action".

This is on the back of COM(2013) 216 final, the strategy document which was published on 16 April, and today's monster report from the the European Environmental Agency (EEA), plus no less than nine Commission staff working documents, such as this one, and this, where the detail is buried. 

No one outside the loop is going to read but a fraction of the hundreds of pages – life is too short. But the problem for us all is that climate change adaptation is now to take a central part in all EU policy-making, as we see here, in a report which outlines the principles and recommendations for integrating climate change adaptation considerations under the 2014-2020 rural development programmes. 

That adaptation is now a key policy driver is indicated in the foreword to the EEA report, written by professor Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of Agency. Adaptation, she writes, is not simply about doing more, "it is about new ways of thinking and dealing with risk and hazards, uncertainty and complexity". 

And in a clue to the mindset, we find McGlade telling us that climate adaptation requires precautionary "science" and approaches, with an emphasis on "probability and multiple reactive thresholds", rather than a reliance on the statistics of the past. There is also scope, we are told, "for increased complementarity between adaptation and mitigation actions".

If I were to be honest, I would have to admit that I don't actually know what "probability and multiple reactive thresholds" actually mean. The phrasing does seem to stem from decision field theory - or perhaps not. The jargon is impenetrable. McGlade might just as well be writing in a foreign language. In some ways, she is. 

Needless to say, the media does not even attempt to penetrate the jargon. Most newspapers ignore today's event, with only the loss-making Guardian running a report. And even then, it focuses on the tangible issues, rather than the true focus of the initiative, with is to re-shape Commission policy. 

However, with this event occurring a day after Russian scientists warned that we may be entering a prolonged period of global cooling, this is a classic example of the juggernaut rolling on, blind to the reality. 

A clue to just how distant the thinking is from the real world lies in the COM final, which blithely tells us that "snow tourism" is one of the economic sectors which is "already facing the impact of climate change", despite the industry just having enjoyed a record season.

But now, with "adaptation" embedded in the very heart of Commission policy, there will be no rooting it out. This is the intellectual equivalent of the herpes virus - the only sure way of destroying it is to destroy the host. And, before we can rid ourselves of it, that is what we will have to do. 

Meanwhile, the juggernaut rolls on, and on, and on …

COMMENT THREAD


mirror 029s-ugl.jpgIt is perhaps a measure of how rattled is the political class that we should see the front page of the Daily Mirror devoted to an attack on UKIP. 

That there are a few seriously unpleasant types attracted to UKIP is a given, as is the case with all political parties. Within the ranks of the Conservative Party, I could point to some deeply objectionable racists, one of misterial rank. And, as one commenter remarked, is the UKIP dross any worse that the "bitter socialists" who cheered the IRA bomb at Brighton, or the vile racist comments at Lady Thatcher? 

In tactical terms, therefore, the focus on the handful of "embarrassing candidates" – which had Jon Humphries spluttering over his microphone this morning – is a mistake. And, as the actress said to the bishop, there is no such thing as bad publicity - certainly in terms of politics. 

Throughout its life, UKIP has always struggled to gain attention, and the current media attention is worth millions as advertising. Small wonder then that a YouGuv poll for The Sun is forcasting a 14 percent share of the vote for UKIP, the effect of which is expected to increase Tory losses. 

Furthermore, the publicity is putting a spark into an otherwise lacklustre campaign, which can only serve to drive up the turnout. That can only assist in offsetting the postal votes already cast. The more people who actually turn out on the day, the better it is for UKIP. 

If the establishment parties had any sense, they could of course, take UKIP on over its tragically amateurish policies. Their problem is, though, that the policy offerings from the so-called "lib-lab-con" are nothing to write home about either, which leaves them nowhere to go. 

What they really don't understand is how much they are loathed. UKIP has assumed the mantle of the protest vote, giving the ordinary man an opportunity to kick the establishment in the teeth. And thus, the more the establishment squeals and squirms, the more attractive a vote for UKIP actually becomes. 

Add to that the brand recognition that the media is obligingly giving, gratis, to the upstart party, and we can expect a comfortable increase in support on Thursday. 

Interestingly, the rise of the protest vote is a phenomenon happening all over Europe, with numerous dissident parties emerging, all attracting similar levels of support. And in each of the countries where they have emerged, the establishment and media reaction has been similar and equally misguided. 

Basically, the establishment, and especially the political class, has lost touch with popular sentiment, and has no idea how to respond to it. The rise and rise of UKIP in the UK (largely England) is a testament to that, and it would now seem that the prattling media, unwittingly, have become Mr Farage's greatest allies. And the more they prattle, the better it becomes.

COMMENT THREAD

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Publicised by Euractiv and many others yesterday was the news that the University of Delaware had sold power from electric vehicles to the power grid for the first time – in what appears to be the first working application of the Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) concept.

There has to be a reason why a website specialising in EU news should be carrying this item, and that is undoubtedly because V2G is slated as an essential of the EU's response to increased use of intermittent and highly variable renewable energy, and in particular the use of windmills. 

A more detailed story about the cars is here, which highlights the upside of this event. Vehicle owners are actually getting paid to connect their vehicles to the grid, but only as long as their stored electricity is available when called for. 

To explore this further takes us into highly complex areas, delving into the realms of "dynamic demand" – a sophisticated means of adjusting load demands. This is seen as an alternative to the "spinning reserve" system which is based on providing additional power when the demand increases.

In the traditional electrical supply system, generators feed electricity into the grid and, when demand increases, as it can do very quickly, additional capacity is brought on-line, usually fossil fuel plants (gas), already warmed up and "spinning", able to feed power into the grid within seconds. 

With the advent of wind power, when supply can drop very quickly and cannot be increased, things change. "Spinning reserve" would have to be massive, the costs enormous, and the emissions high. Thus, the alternative being proposed is this "dynamic demand".

The basis of "dynamic demand" is regulating the grid not by adding capacity but by adjusting (i.e., removing or shifting) the demand continuously, using (in one system) the frequency of the electricity supply as the trigger. In the UK, mains electricity is normally supplied at 50 Hertz. When it drops below a certain frequency level (which happens when the supply is low), the system is geared to shed load. 

In the case of electric cars in the V2G system, charging is interrupted – thus the load is shed. But, as an added refinement, the accumulated power is returned to the system as a contribution to stabilising the frequency. When there is an excess of power in the grid, the electricity frequency increases and the cars start charging again, bring the frequency back down. 

When the car batteries are fully charged, there is even a suggestion that the car heaters should be automatically turned on, to use up the "wrong-time" electricity. 

That is what is meant in practice by yesterday's piece, in which we identified a report to governmentrecording that, "No longer is it considered viable for electricity to be provided 'on demand' in response to the requirements of end-users".  

In November 2010, former energy minister Chris Huhne called this a seismic shift in energy policy and one which EU commissioner for energy, Günther H. Oettinger, called in the same month a "paradigm shift in the way we produce, transmit, distribute and trade energy".

The importance of this cannot be over-emphasised. The historical relationship between supplier and customer has been completely turned on its head. Instead of providing the capacity to meet demand, industry is required to make its priority "decarbonisation".

In this new "paradigm", customers will have to make do with what the industry can supply. When electricity runs short, there are two options available. The first is called "demand management" and the second, "demand response" – sometimes called "demand-side response " or DSR.

"Demand management" is a euphemism for cutting supply, while "demand response" is a bundle of techniques for shifting consumption from peak periods to times of lower demand. And in what is known as the "market-based approach", the response is initiated at the customer end, on the basis of variable price signals.

Underpinning this is a triad of "smart" technology, the "smart" grid, the "smart" meters and "smart" appliances. In the fully developed system, the grid is able to communicate with appliances, via the smart meters, sending information on price levels, which can be changed – increased or decreased - at half-hour intervals.

The theory is that individual appliances will be programmed to accept electricity only below pre-set price levels. When the price is increased above the levels set for the appliances, they will either not start, or shut down, and remain inactive until the price drops.

In this context, the electric car is just another "appliance", accepting electricity only when the price barrier allows. But, with the V2G system, there is that additional refinement of returning electricity to the grid.

A more basic system, though, is set out by the European electricity group ENTSO (European Network of Transmission System Operators), which is defined as "Low Frequency Demand Disconnection (LFDD). Arguably, this is a form of demand management.

This does not need a "smart" grid, or even a "smart meter". Instead, appliances rely on the grid supplying electricity at the set frequency. The frequency of the electricity supplied is continuously "read" by chips embedded in domestic appliances and when it falls below pre-set levels, the appliances shut down and will not restart until the frequency is back within limits.

What makes this different, in principle, from the "market-based approach" is that there is no communication between the generator and the customer. There is no data transfer. This is "autonomous DSR". But, like the "market-based approach", if it is to support frequency regulation in case of extreme events – severe supply shortages – a large number of appliances must be fitted with chips.

Here we come the bombshell. ENTSO is telling the EU commission that the best way to secure the necessary number of appliances is to make fitting chips "a mandatory requirements for a pre-defined list of devices". Fridges are high on the list.

Looking at the way the supply situation is deteriorating, it might well come to the stage where the commission believes it has no option but to agree. It will be either that, or Europe-wide power outages. Therefore, in a very short time – by EU standards – we could find a large range of electrical appliances compulsorily "chipped".

And then the fun will start.

COMMENT: "BIG BROTHER" THREAD

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One way Mr Cameron could counter the influence of UKIP, which is even getting Roy Greensladeworked up, might be to treat the electorate like adults, and stop trying to take us for fools.

Doubtless, there may be a few people impressed with his claim – retailed by the Express, but very few other newspapers - that "we" (the Conservatives) will peg Council Tax, but he might be more convincing if he admitted that local authority spending is largely out of control.

A more serious politician would, for instance, acknowledge that, while rises in headline figure of Council Tax are being held down, local authorities are simply ramping up their charges elsewhere, and devising new ways of extorting revenue from increasingly unwilling "customers".

Thus, as Booker was able to point out last February, there has been a gradual shift from Council Tax to fees and charges, so much so that this source of income now exceeds the headline income from Council Tax. 

But, like the proverbial snake oil salesman, Mr Cameron seeks to keep our attention focused on just the Council Tax. He neglects to tell us that, in the past six years local government spending in England alone has risen by more than 25 percent to an all-time record of more than £170 billion. 

The freeze on Council Tax rates, therefore, is so much window dressing, making Mr Cameron's entreaties an irrelevance. 

And although not all people will realise this, we have learned to adopt the default position that, when politicians tell you something, they are either lying or trying to hide something. In this particular case, such a position would be completely justified. 

Before leaving this subject, though, we might perhaps pass further comment on the controversyraised yesterday over UKIP's lack of policy. Here, it is all very well complaining about Mr Cameron's dissembling, but – in the policies area of its website, UKIP doesn't even have a dedicated local government section. 

Its latest manifesto, however, tells us of its belief that "council taxes should go down, not up, especially when times are tough and people are finding it hard to make ends meet". 

Then says UKIP, in a sort of "no-shit, Sherlock" sort of way, "That means finding ways of delivering services more cost-effectively, not just automatically cutting service delivery". Like Cameron, though, no mention is made of the way local authorities are grabbing money from other sources. 

On the plus side, the party tells us "it's time to bring power back to the people", so major decisions should be subject to binding local referendums, if the people demand it. On the petition of five percent of the local population, it says, major planning and service provision decisions should be put to a local vote. 

Strangely though, the party fails to notice the failure of the referendum initiative of Council Tax, devised by Mr Pickles, where a proposed increase of two percent on the tax triggers a referendum. We note that councils have simply responded by increasing rates by 1.99 percent, by-passing the referendum requirement. 

Putting local government budgets on the map, by requiring them to be submitted, in toto to referendums, would be a real exercise in bringing power back to the people. One longs for the time when local people really do exert their power and reject a council budget. 

But such issues are not for politicians, neither Tories nor UKIP. They are all taking us for fools. 

COMMENT THREAD

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One of the great boast of the "colleagues" in the past has been the number of countries wishing to join the EU. Amongst those ready to join, it was always implied, were Iceland and Norway – if only those pesky people would stop being so hostile about "mother Europe".

Any road, one part of that dream is well and truly shattered with the general election in Iceland. There, the centre-right has returned to power after voters rejected the austerity policies of the outgoing social democratic government. The victory, it is generally acknowledged, will sink Iceland's bid to join the EU. 

With the votes now counted, the Independence Party and the Progressive Party gained a combined total of 38 seats in the 63-member parliament, taking 51 percent of the national vote. The Social Democratic Alliance and its junior partner, the Left-Green Movement, were projected to lose just over half of their seats. 

Before the elections, Bjarni Benediktsson, leader of the Independence Party, together with the Progressive Party – the two big winners of the day – had made it clear that they could terminate EU accession negotiations, which had in any case been suspended since January, in anticipation of the elections. 

And no one can suggest that this is anything other than a full-blooded rejection. Unlike so many other countries, where apathy rules, in Iceland there is no shortage of interest in the political process. Turnout was over 80 percent of the nearly 238,000 voters. 

With a population of 320,000 little Iceland is going it alone. Despite the huge problems it has confronted, this is a self-confident nation that does not feel the need to shackle itself to a corpse. The rejection is complete, and effectively final. 

COMMENT THREAD

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The Observer is running a front page story on UKIP's "chaos" over policy. One response, though, is to smile at the din of the chickens, inbound to diverse roosting points. At the same time, one despairs at the ten wasted years when some serious policy development could have been underway.

Then, one can only marvel at the irony at the Observer identifying the ghastly Bloom as the "senior MEP" complaining about the lack of policy. Farage aside, if there is one man at whose door responsibility can be laid for the policy vacuum, it is Godfrey Bloom. 

On the other hand, though, this is a win-win situation for UKIP's critics. Given a policy vacuum, they can criticise the party for its lack of policy. But, had the party actually develop any policy worthy of its name, it would then be open house on attacking UKIP policy. 

The fact is, of course, that no matter what UKIP did at this current juncture, it is creating such a "disturb" that its rivals would be seeking weaknesses to bring to the attention of the electorate. That is what party politics is all about. 

The great shame is that, should UKIP actually succeed in gaining a number of seats, then the policy vacuum will really matter. Successful candidates will find themselves having to make policy on the hoof, with all the lack of coherence and contradictions that that implies. 

From there, the likelihood is that we will see a familiar pattern. The newly emergent party will be no more able to deliver than the ones it replaces. After a short honeymoon, faction fighting will break out (as it always does). Disillusionment will sets in, the public will loss faith and move on to another potential saviour – or give up altogether. 

It is never possible, nor wise, at this juncture, to predict what will happen, but one can always learn from the past and what has happened. And here, for more then ten years, I have been warning UKIP about its lack of intellectual base, and the lack of is policy development. Now, the wasted years are taking their toll. 

Needless to say, Lord Ashcroft in the Mail on Sunday has a different "take", charging that the UKIP leader is in it for himself, destroying the only chance eurosceptics have of getting an "in-out" referendum. 

If it was the case that Cameron's offer of a referendum was genuine, and that he was truly set to give us an "in-out" choice, instead of a rigged poll, based on some mythical renegotiations. But, since the offer lacks any credibility, Ashcroft's points simply amount to special pleading. 

What the establishment politicians cannot cope with though, is that they are so tarnished by their lies, deception and indifference to public wishes, that an increasing number of voters would prefer the dubious blandishments of the Farage show, compared with anything that they have to offer. 

No one with any intelligence seriously expects UKIP to deliver anything of substance. But as a commentary on the poverty of establishment politics, it is very hard to beat. 

To the extent that a vote for UKIP is a vote against the establishment, it doesn't really matter what the likes of the Observer or Lord Ashcroft say. In fact, the more they squeak and squirm, the more attractive UKIP becomes – since the whole objective is to see the establishment in disarray. 

But when the UKIP supporters are done, there will still be that policy vacuum, and there will still be some serious politics to do. One trusts that there will be some grown-ups left to fill the gaps that UKIP leaves. 

COMMENT THREAD


Mail 028-big.jpgThe Mail on Sunday, in its front-page lead today, has picked up on the role of "smart" technology in maintaining our failing electricity supply system.

In particular, the paper is identifying the role of "smart" appliances, telling us that fridges and freezers in millions of British homes will be automatically switched off without the owners' consent under a "Big Brother" regime to reduce the strain on power stations.

The National Grid, it says, is demanding that all new appliances be fitted with sensors that could shut them down when the UK's generators struggle to meet demand for electricity.

Electric ovens, air-conditioning units and washing machines will also be affected by the proposals, which are already backed by one of the European Union's most influential energy bodies. They are pushing for the move as green energy sources such as wind farms are less predictable than traditional power stations, increasing the risk of blackouts.

To assist in explaining what is going on, we also have another piece, telling us that the smart technology will cost us billions – and thousands of lives. On top of Booker's earlier piece, and his more recent report, the message is beginning to get through that our masters are up to no good.

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But with the Mail picking this up - and giving it the profile it deserves, we see a light shining on a dark corner of UK energy policy, as set out in September 2011 in a report to Defra entitled, "Delivering the Benefits of Smart Appliances" by EA Technology - for which £73,150 was paid.

Chillingly, this gave the game away, admitting that the principal drivers for change in the electricity industry related "to the wide ranging measures being implemented to reduce greenhouse gas emissions", and in particular, to "the increasing move towards the wide-scale deployment of time variable renewable generation, particularly wind generation".

Because of this, the report said, "No longer is it considered viable for electricity to be provided 'on demand' in response to the requirements of end-users". Rather, it said, "a co-ordinated approach is required whereby energy production and demand become integrated to ensure the use of renewables can be optimised whilst also minimising the use of fossil fired generation". 

In other words, the primary objective of the electricity industry is not to meet demand, but to enable the optimum usage of renewables.  The huge cart is being run before horse.

This mess could be avoided, says the Mail editorial if we reintroduced rationality into our energy policy, cancelling the closure of perfectly serviceable power plants, building new gas and nuclear generators, and exploiting the shale gas which lies beneath our feet. 

All that is needed is a return to sanity in the political class, which – if it understands nothing else – must see the cost and intrusion of the "energy-saving" scheme will be deeply unpopular with voters.  But, one might observe, when did voter sentiment ever have anything to do with it?

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Last week writes Booker, it was reported that 3,318 places in the USA had recorded their lowest temperatures for this time of year since records began. Similar record cold was experienced by places in every province of Canada. So cold has the Russian winter been that Moscow had its deepest snowfall in 134 years of observations. 

Here in Britain, where we had our fifth freezing winter in a row, the Central England Temperature record – according to an analysis on WUWT – shows that in this century, average winter temperatures have dropped by 1.45ºC, more than twice as much as their rise between 1850 and 1999, and twice as much as the entire net rise in global temperatures recorded in the 20th century. 

But, hang on, Booker says. It wasn't meant to be like this. Weren't we told that, thanks to all that carbon dioxide we are pumping into the air, the world was faced with global warming; that, according to the computer models, temperatures were due to rise by at least 0.3ºC every decade; and that snowfall in Britain was "a thing of the past"?

And the questions keep coming. Wasn't it to meet this unprecedented threat that our MPs voted almost unanimously for the Climate Change Act? Weren't we meant to be "giving a lead to the world" by cutting our CO2 emissions by 80 per cent in 40 years, doubling our electricity bills by heaping taxes on fossil fuels, and spending hundreds of billions on subsidising all of those 32,000 wind turbines? 

Somehow oblivious to this, Booker wearily continues, the world's emissions of CO2 have continued to hurtle upward, by 50 percent since 1990. Yet global temperatures have obstinately failed to rise. Attempts to get a global agreement on cutting CO2 emissions have collapsed. 

Pretty well every developed country, apart from Britain, is going flat out to build more fossil-fuelled power stations – leaving our own politicians almost alone in the world, with their fantasy that, by "decarbonising" our economy at unimaginable cost, we can still somehow give everyone else a lead in changing the earth's climate. 

Has there ever in history been such an almighty disconnect between observable reality and the delusions of a political class that is quite impervious to any rational discussion? This was superbly illustrated by two Commons debates on Thursday 18 April, when for the first time we had an MP, Peter Lilley, standing up in Parliament to confront the rest of them with an utterly withering blast of reality. 

On one side were those still lost in their bubble of make-believe, led by Tim Yeo, the man who earns £200,000 a year on the side lobbying for firms in the "renewable" industry. On the other was Lilley, simply mocking them all, pointing out with facts and figures just how "united in lunacy" they had become. 

When Yeo claimed that China has "some of the most ambitious decarbonisation plans in the world" (without admitting that he is paid up to £1,000 an hour by a firm trying to sell feedstocks to China for biofuels), Lilley reminded him that China is now adding more CO2 to the air every year than all Britain's emissions put together, and that by 2030 it will be responsible for half the world's total emissions. 

So contemptuous was Lilley, and even at times so funny, that his speeches are well worth reading in full on the Commons website.

But, by golly, says Booker, when one sees what childish idiocies were being parroted by all those MPs around him, it brings home just what a problem this collective flight from reality is presenting us with.

COMMENT THREAD


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With a nice sense of timing, the Mail has commissioned Robin Page to write a rollicking piece about local government and the lack of democracy therein.

Page always makes for entertaining reading and his experiences as a councillor for South Cambridgeshire District Council strike a chord. Councillors, he says, are more interested in feathering their own nests, wasting money on the trappings of office and imposing politically correct drivel on council taxpayers. 

As to democracy and independence, he believes the sheep on his farm have more individuality and freedom of thought than most councillors, who are "merely party hacks obsequiously following thediktats of their political masters in Westminster".

When you've finished the piece, though, you are none the wiser as to what to do about an affront to the very idea of democracy. One comes away with the vague sentiment that it was all somehow better in the 1980s and 90s, when councillors weren't paid, there were no party politics and John Prescott had yet to do his worst. 

Completely lacking, though – as so often from this type of lament – is any sense of what precisely is wrong and, more to the point, what ordinary mortals can do about it. 

Given that the elections are next week, many of the commenters on the piece are directing readers to vote for UKIP, as if that would make a blind bit of difference. We are looking here at a irretrievably flawed system – changing some of the councillors can have only a marginal impact. 

In fact, South Cambridgeshire District Council embodies some classic example of the failure of English local government, not least because, in any democratic system, the council has no reason to exist. 

Formed on 1 April 1974 after the Heath/Walker local government reorganisation, by the merger of Chesterton and South Cambridgeshire Rural Districts, it surrounds the city of Cambridge, but is separate from it. 

With no town in the area and no single population centre exceeding 10,000, and a hundred separate settlements, it lacks a natural focus, relying on a newly expanded Cambourne for its administrative centre to govern a population of nearly 150,000 and increasing. 

In democratic terms, a mixed population of commuters, white collar workers, academics, industrial workers, agriculture it lacks a demos, either in geographical terms, or in the sense of there being a community sharing a common interest. 

With a population of 150,000, it is only slightly less than half the size of Iceland, a nation in its own right with 56 municipalities. Whatever South Cambridgeshire District Council might be, it is not localgovernment. 

These two defects – the lack of a recognisable demos and the sheer size of the population – means that there cannot be anything approaching democracy. And that is without addressing the "power deficit", the fact that the very structure of local government makes it an agent of central government, excluding mere people from the decision-making process. 

All of this renders Page's laments a matter of detail. Even if the issues he raises were resolved, his local authority still would not be democratic. 

Therein is our problem. The system is so fundamentally flawed that no amount of trimming round the edges will make any worthwhile difference. With a great deal of effort, it might be possible to achieve marginal improvements, but nothing fundamental will change. 

Ironically, though, in 2006, South Cambridgeshire was ranked as the fifth best place to live in 2006 and is one of the least deprived areas in Britain. There is, it appears, life without democracy – but we should stop pretending we have democratic local government or, for that matter, ever did have it.

COMMENT THREAD


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In what is being seen as a direct snub to British concerns about migration from other EU member states, László Andor, commissioner responsible for employment, social affairs and inclusion, hasdelivered a speech introducing a proposal for a directive aimed at ensuring "the better application of EU law on the right of EU citizens to work in another Member State".

The right of every EU citizen to work freely in any country within the European Union, enshrined in the Article 45 of the Treaty, constitutes an essential part of the EU's Single Market, and indeed of the European Union itself, says Andor. Yet, he complains, there is a persistent problem with public and private employers' lack of awareness of EU rules. 

This lack of awareness or understanding of the rules, he says, is a major source of discrimination based on nationality. People also consider that they do not know where to turn to in the host Member State when faced with problems concerning their rights to free movement. 

Thus, the Commission's proposal aims to overcome these obstacles and to help to prevent discrimination against workers on the basis of nationality by proposing practical solutions. 

The press release tells us that the directive, if approved, require member states to create national contact points providing information, assistance and advice so that EU migrant workers, and employers, are better informed about their rights. 

It would also require the provision of "appropriate means of redress at national level" and allow labour unions, NGOs and other organisations to launch administrative or judicial procedures on behalf of individual workers in cases of discrimination. 

The rationale behind the proposal was demonstrated in an October 2010 public opinion survey conducted by the Commission that found that 67 percent of respondents felt "not well-informed" or not informed at all regarding their rights as EU citizens. This lack of awareness is evident not only among individuals, but also among private as well as public employers. 

While EU rules on free movement of workers are long-established, the way in which they are applied in practice can give rise to barriers and discriminatory practices (perceived or real) for EU migrant workers when working or looking for work in another Member State. 

Indeed, says the Commission, just three percent of the EU labour force, or 9.5 million people, live and work in another Member State. An additional 1.2 million people live in one EU country but work in another. 

And so it is that, while Switzerland is able to exclude EU workers, EU member states are being told that free movement of workers is "good for people and good for the [EU] economy", and that they should encourage more migrant workers to come to them. 

In response, a Home Office spokesman tells the BBC that: "We will forcefully resist any attempt from Europe to load additional burdens on to countries like Britain. He adds: "We are already taking tough action to stamp out the abuse of free movement, to protect our benefits system and public services: we will not allow this country to be a soft touch".

However, when it comes to this proposal for a directive, this will pass through the ordinary legislative procedure, which means that it will be approved in Council by qualified majority voting. The UK, on its own, cannot block this new law. 

How, precisely, Mr Cameron's government thus plans to "forcibly resist" the directive is not specified. One suspects, though, that this is pre-election rhetoric which will come to nothing. In due course, we will be establishing help lines and drop-in centres for wannabe migrant workers, and penalising employers for not giving them jobs. 

COMMENT THREAD

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A bit a lazy journalism here in the Express and another newspapers today tells us that "lazy" MPs are to get an extra twelve days "holiday" because, as the Telegraph puts it, "there are not enough new laws to debate".

We need to put aside this cheap shot, suggesting that because Parliament is not in session, MPs are necessarily (or at all) on holiday. Many, to my certain knowledge, are extremely busy during session breaks, on constituency and other political business. It really is childishly silly to characterise such breaks as "holiday".

Needless to say, though, in focusing on this point, the assembled journalists miss the substantive issue. It is not as if we are short of new laws pouring onto the statute book. In fact, we see a torrent of new laws and, as we saw earlier, no end of new proposals to debate.

The real story, therefore, is the way that our legislation has been outsourced to Brussels and beyond, so much so that MPs have been reduced to discussing policy issues generated elsewhere, over which they have little or no control.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has rarely been busier, listing on its database 1,301 "legislative acts" so far, for its 2009-2014 session. That is where the action is, demonstrating how far the power has drained from Westminster.

This, of course, was precisely what Hugh Gaitskell predicted in his "thousand years of history" speech of 1962, with the Westminster parliament being reduced to the status of a county council. And so it has come to pass yet, when it happens, not one journalist reports on the reason why Parliament has so little to do.

COMMENT THREAD 



Richard North 26/04/2013

 EU politics: white man speak with forked tongue 

 Friday 26 April 2013
NO10 026-let.jpg

Mr Cameron is the man who, by his own account, seeks to repatriate powers from the European Union, to which effect he wants to negotiate with the "colleagues" at the earliest opportunity.

But, by the same measure, here is a man who was written to Herman Van Rompuy, welcoming his proposals "to discuss tax evasion and fraud at the May European Council".

In so doing, he welcomes "the initiative of the Commission's recent Action Plan on Tax Fraud and Tax Evasion, which sets out a range of proposals on which Europe can show leadership".

This "initiative" was announced in December 2012, in the form of COM(2012) 722 final, making 34 separate proposals for EU action.

We have such things as "an alignment of administrative and criminal sanctions", the use of an EU Tax Identification Number (TIN), reinforced cooperation with EU law enforcement bodies, and a European taxpayer's code – all of which amounts to one of the most significant EU power grabs that we have seen in many a year.

But not only is Mr Cameron buying into this, with a degree of enthusiasm that is by no means universal - with Austria prominent amongst the refusniks. He is also offering to implement controls on our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, to bring them into line with EU expectations.

Thus, with tax fraud and evasion becoming a major new activity for the EU, taking us down the pathto a common European tax system, Mr Cameron is substantially increasing our involvement in EU affairs.

Here then, we have a man speaking with a forked tongue. On the one hand, he says he wants a "managed retreat" from the EU while, on the other, he is second to none in enthusiasm to see the EU take on more powers. As always with politicians, therefore, we need to judge them by what they do, rather than by what they say – although the gushing sentiment from Mr Cameron tells its own story.

The UK, he says, looks forward to continuing to work with all Member States and the European Commission on this hugely important agenda and to addressing these global issues with global solutions.

He is confident, he adds, "that the upcoming European Council and the G8 Summit will be remembered as the turning point in the battle against tax evasion and avoidance and the restoration of confidence in the fairness and effectiveness of our tax systems".

Does this really sound like a man who is committed to reducing the role of the EU in UK affairs? I thought not.

COMMENT THREAD


NO10 026-let.jpg

Mr Cameron is the man who, by his own account, seeks to repatriate powers from the European Union, to which effect he wants to negotiate with the "colleagues" at the earliest opportunity.

But, by the same measure, here is a man who was written to Herman Van Rompuy, welcoming his proposals "to discuss tax evasion and fraud at the May European Council".

In so doing, he welcomes "the initiative of the Commission's recent Action Plan on Tax Fraud and Tax Evasion, which sets out a range of proposals on which Europe can show leadership".

This "initiative" was announced in December 2012, in the form of COM(2012) 722 final, making 34 separate proposals for EU action. 

We have such things as "an alignment of administrative and criminal sanctions", the use of an EU Tax Identification Number (TIN), reinforced cooperation with EU law enforcement bodies, and a European taxpayer's code – all of which amounts to one of the most significant EU power grabs that we have seen in many a year. 

But not only is Mr Cameron buying into this, with a degree of enthusiasm that is by no means universal - with Austria prominent amongst the refusniks. He is also offering to implement controls on our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, to bring them into line with EU expectations. 

Thus, with tax fraud and evasion becoming a major new activity for the EU, taking us down the pathto a common European tax system, Mr Cameron is substantially increasing our involvement in EU affairs. 

Here then, we have a man speaking with a forked tongue. On the one hand, he says he wants a "managed retreat" from the EU while, on the other, he is second to none in enthusiasm to see the EU take on more powers. As always with politicians, therefore, we need to judge them by what they do, rather than by what they say – although the gushing sentiment from Mr Cameron tells its own story. 

The UK, he says, looks forward to continuing to work with all Member States and the European Commission on this hugely important agenda and to addressing these global issues with global solutions. 

He is confident, he adds, "that the upcoming European Council and the G8 Summit will be remembered as the turning point in the battle against tax evasion and avoidance and the restoration of confidence in the fairness and effectiveness of our tax systems".

Does this really sound like a man who is committed to reducing the role of the EU in UK affairs? I thought not. 

COMMENT THREAD 


local 025-imm.jpg

Much as we might like to do it, there is no chance of us following in the footsteps of the Swiss Federal Council which has announced restrictions for the next twelve months of workers from EU member states to the Swiss labour market.

The decision, we are told, is in response to calls from the "far right" Swiss People's Party, and comes despite the opposition of the left and the country's powerful financial sector. 

The sudden announcement may also have something to do with the fact that Switzerland is a democracy and that there are two referendums pending, aimed at limiting immigration. One is from the Swiss People's Party and other from the right-wing ecological group Ecopop. Predictably, the federal government is anxious to head them off at the pass. 

The trigger for the new restrictions is a recent surge in the number of southern Europeans taking up residence, especially from Portugal and Spain, with up to 80,000 extra arrivals each year. These are settling in the country as the eurozone debt crisis bites in their home countries. 

And what enables the Swiss government to put up the barriers is a clause in the bilateral agreementon migration with the European Union, of 21 June 1999. This permits temporary quotas on residency permits for EU residents wishing to work in Switzerland. 

In its decision, Switzerland is applying to the EU as a whole limits already in effect to newer EU entrants Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic. Bulgaria and Romania are covered by a separate migration regime until 2016. 

In a belated attempt at damage limitation, Social Democratic justice minister Simonetta Sommarugatells a rather unhappy Brussels, "the EU is and will remain our most important partner". But, she says, "It's a fact that there is unease among the population, and it's necessary to take this unease seriously". Can one imagine a British minister using such words? 

Catherine Ashton responds by saying she "regrets" the move and underlining the "great benefits" of EU-Swiss work mobility. She also notes that the split in permit quotas between the EU8 and EU17 groups is contrary to the 1999 agreement, which did not permit differentiation between EU member states. 

With blissful insouciance, the Swiss government has limited to 2,180 the number of workers from the new entrant EU nations that could work in the country, at the same time holding the 17 older EU states to 53,700 for 12 months. 

However, all good things come to an end, and the limiting clause is set to expire in 2014. Between then and now, though, there are those pesky referendums which could force new negotiations. 

Then, perhaps we will see a clash of wills, as the people assert their rights to control their own borders – in a way that only independent status will allow. 

COMMENT THREAD