Tag Archives: President Vaclav Klaus

David Davis puts the Cat among the Pigeons

David Davis

It’s gratifying to be proved right, though rather less gratifying when it’s on such a fundamental subject as Britain in the EU.

Since I posted yesterday, David Cameron has been put in a very invidious position by the ex-Tory Shadow Home Secretary David Davis.  Davis has, in effect, issued a direct challenge to Cameron’s authority on Conservative policy towards Europe.

Writing here in the Daily Mail, Mr. Davis has called on the Tory leader to offer the public a referendum on the future of Britain’s relationship with the EU.  Davis’s challenge is, of course, a direct result of yesterday’s announcement that Cameron has abandoned his “cast iron” pledge that the Tories would hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

Cameron and the Tories have consistently and constantly argued that the Labour Government should have held a referendum on Lisbon.  What price honesty now, Mr. Cameron?

As we all know, the Conservatives made their U-turn after the Czech government caved in and signed up to the Treaty yesterday, removing the final obstacle to its ratification.  I would have thought Cameron and co might have anticipated this happening and made their policy accordingly.

For David Davis all seems startlingly clear.  He proclaims today:

“What we should do is, in my view, clear. We should have a referendum, not on the treaty, but on the negotiating mandate that the British Government takes to the European Union.

“The question should contain four or five specific strategic aims which clearly summarise our objectives.

“The sort of things we might include are: recovering control over our criminal justice, asylum and immigration policies; a robust opt-out of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights; serious exemptions to the seemingly endless flood of European regulations which cost the UK economy billions of pounds each year; a recovery of our rights to negotiate on trade; exemption from European interference into trade in services and foreign direct investment rules; and an exemption from any restrictions on our foreign policy.

“The referendum should be the first piece of legislation in the new parliament, and should be held within three months of the election.

“Some fear this would become an ‘in or out’ referendum, a decision on whether to continue our membership of the European Union. It would be nothing of the sort. Killing this tired old canard is one of the reasons the referendum question has to be absolutely clear in language and intent.

“Of course it is possible that we will not achieve every change we want.

If that is the outcome, we should give the British people the right to accept or reject it in a further referendum.”

So that’s all right then Mr. D.  Hold a referendum which will have no status whatsoever with the EU Council of Ministers, the European Commission or even the European Parliament and then seek to impose Tory Party prejudices on the EU as a whole.  Wow, that’s one hell of a policy.  I’m glad you believe it Mr. Davis because I can assure you no-one in the EU will give it even the smallest chink of the light of day, your referendum notwithstanding.

This David Davis nonsense only serves to highlight Tory wrong headedness on Europe.  The Davis faction, which to an outside observer seems to be the Tory grassroots, most Conservative MPs and the majority of the Shadow Cabinet, are quite honestly living in la la land.  It will simply not be possible to do what they want.  It is not a credible policy.

Since the Lisbon Treaty for the first time allows existing EU member states to withdraw from the European Union, the only referendum which makes any sense at all is the one on whether the UK remains in the EU or comes out.    

 David Davis in his article rejects such a referendum on EU membership, presumably because he thinks the he and the anti-Europeans would lose.

 The views of the Tory Party, as opposed to those of David Cameron, on Europe obviously remain confused to put it mildly.  It will be interesting to see whether my hunch that Cameron will go with his Party turns out to be correct.

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David Cameron sits on the Horns of a Dilemma

EU CameronThe time has now arrived for David Cameron to come up with a new Conservative European policy.  Since Czech President Vaclav Klaus has ended all speculation and signed the Lisbon Treaty, the Tories no longer have even the slightest amount of wriggle room.  Cameron’s muddle through and hope for the best approach will no longer wash.  But what decisions will he take, or perhaps more to the point, what decisions will his Party allow him to take?

Many Tory MPs, most of the grassroots and right wing newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph want a hard line on Europe.  It never ceases to amaze me just how much time and energy the Tories are prepared to waste on the European Union.  I am utterly convinced that the Eurosceptics are fighting a lost cause; Britain has been in the EU for over 30 years and over half our exports go to EU countries.  We are in the EU and in Europe.  It would be madness to leave and expose Britain to an extremely uncertain and isolated future.  I believe the British people understand this and if push came to shove would make their views known.

However, Cameron no longer has the luxury of time on his side.  He needs to be credible from today right up to the General Election.  Will he follow his Party or go with the centre-right heads of government in the European Council?  The European leaders whom Cameron may once have viewed as his allies in Europe are almost to a man and woman fed up with the Tories leaving the EPP to set up their own Eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists Group.  There is little doubt that they will tell him that the EU works on the basis of compromise and that if the Tories seek to undo the Lisbon Treaty which has been the best part of 10 years in the making, and which grants Britain various opt-outs, British influence in Europe will suffer.

So heads (credibility with EU leaders) you lose with the grassroots and tails (popularity with Tory members) you lose with the heads of state.  If I were Mr Cameron (thankfully there’s no chance of that), this is a dilemma I would rather not have to face.  My strong hunch is that Cameron will go with his Party just as he did when he promised to take the Conservatives out of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) in the European Parliament in order to get himself elected Tory Leader.  The Conservatives have, after all, already decided that, should they form a government, they will introduce a law stating that future change to EU treaties will require ratification by referendum.

Going with Party rather than seeking influence in Europe’s corridors of power would be utter lunacy.  Surely any intelligent and right thinking person can see that Britain needs influence in the EU.  The EU is both our present and our future.  While I, for one, would never argue that the EU as presently constituted is perfect, influence gives Britain the opportunity to make improvements and stand up for our national interests.  Since the Tories have in the past claimed they do not wish to completely withdraw from the European Union, where is the logic in any future policy which may give away British influence?

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I support Tony Blair for President (even though I was against the Iraq War)

Blair at the European Parliament

Now is the time, I believe, for all good men and women to stand up and be counted.  I believe Tony Blair is not only the right person to be the new President of the European Council, but the only possible choice.

 It all comes down to how we see the EU and where we want Europe to go in the future.  While I am not a European integrationist as far as domestic policy is concerned, I do believe the EU’s presence on the world stage needs to be strengthened.  The EU should be able to rise to what we may now call the “Obama challenge”, an idea first articulated by Henry Kissinger when he asked, “If I want to talk to Europe, who do I ring?” 

 The two new posts (a President of the European Council and a High Representative for Foreign Affairs, both to serve a minimum of two and a half years), to be created under the Lisbon Treaty will go some way towards answering this question.  Answering this question becomes ever more crucial as the years go by and both Europe and the world change.  Indeed, the environment in which Kissinger operated over thirty years ago is almost unrecognisable today.

 One of the ways to deal with the Kissinger question is, I believe, to have a strong and experienced President of the European Council, a charismatic leader who will be President Obama’s equal, a real player on the international stage.  In short, the EU needs a credible leader to execute its external relations policy. 

 Foreign affairs and defence have moved beyond the realm of individual nation states.  The EU itself now has a developed common security policy and speaks as one voice on very many external matters.  The only time in the recent past when this did not happen was the Iraq War when Britain went out on a limb with the United States.  I opposed the Iraq War all the way through, spoke against it in public and voted for the resolutions in the European Parliament condemning the war.

 I am not, therefore, a blind Blair loyalist.  But I do believe he is the man to be President of Europe.  He is also an ex-Labour Prime Minister, and hence our, the Labour, candidate.  I have never had much time for those Labour Party members who were against Blair because they viewed him as not “old Labour” and not left wing enough.  Tony Blair is Labour. End of story.

 Tony Blair’s record as Labour Prime Minister speaks for itself – the national minimum wage, Sure Start, extended maternity leave, paternity leave, a massive reduction in NHS waiting lists, a huge hospital building programme, a reduction in class sizes, peace in Northern Ireland, tripling overseas aid, establishing devolved government in Scotland and Wales and setting up the London Assembly, to name but a few.  You will all, I am sure, be able to add to this list.     

 Given that it is now almost certain that Czech Republic President Klaus will sign the Lisbon Treaty, it will probably come into force towards the end of November.  The EU therefore has less than two months to shape its future.  Let’s hope it takes the bold decision and appoints the man who once affirmed that “We are at our best when we are at our boldest”.

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Czech President Klaus’ Civic Democrat Party is a Member of ECR Tory Group

Pres Vaclav Klaus

In 2009 prima donna President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic founded the Czech Civic Democratic Party (Obcanska demokraticka strana, abbreviated to ODS), which vies for the title of the most right-wing political party in the Czech Republic.

The ODS, you may be aware, is one of the parties which make up the Tory group in the European Parliament, the European Conservatives and Reformists.  Again we see the Tories true colours in the people they choose to work with.    

Most of us would, I think, agree that Vaclav Klaus is a most unpleasant man.  According to the weighty press coverage he has received over the past couple of weeks he is revelling in every minute of his show stopping performance on the Lisbon Treaty.  Acting like some tin pot dictator, he is going against the wishes of the two houses of parliament in the country of which he is President and the constitutional court there, not to mention the other 26 EU countries which have ratified the Lisbon Treaty.

President Klaus is also, according to today’s Guardian, a womaniser who despises feminists and mocks environmentalists.  He is also a climate change denier.

Quite a dossier!  We are now seeing what David Cameron is really about.

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