Thursday, June 28, 2012

All very depressing

The news yesterday was particularly depressing; worse than that was the discussion around some of the items.

The picture on the front page of the Evening Standard of the Queen shaking the bloody hand of Martin McGuinness filled me with despair. The man should have been put on trial for multiple murder and for involvement in many more. Instead his hand is shaken by Her Majesty who, no doubt, had to go and spend some time washing her own fingers afterwards. It is appalling that she was made to do this. I cannot even begin to imagine how survivors of murderous attacks and families of those who had not survived must have felt.

Compared to that, the information that Tony Blair was guest-editing the paper elicited nothing but a snort of derision from me. The Standard is so bad that even Blair could not make it appreciably worse though I did leaf through it even faster than usual, speeding past his cronies Bill (Clinton), Bob (Geldof) and others.

If I thought Sarah Sands, the editor, capable of such a joke, I would have assumed that she deliberately handed the editing over to Blair today so she would not be responsible for the first publication of that dreadful picture (no I am NOT linking to it) but I really do not think she has enough sense for that.

The other depressing news is that the wrecking of the House of Lords misnamed reform is going ahead though I am looking forward to it tying up Parliamentary time to the exclusion of absolutely everything else. This may be Cameron's Hunting Bill, which took seven years, interminable hours of debate and was finally passed in a seriously botched version.

It seems that Cameron, who spoke in support of this measure at PMQ has threatened to sack any Minister who opposes this utterly un-Conservative piece of legislation. There are threatened rebellions but, as usual, I do not hold out much hope. The best one can assume is amendments that develop into long debates though, as usual, there is talk of guillotining these in the Commons, which would be outrageous on a matter of constitutional change.

The egregious Deputy Prime Minister, leader of the Lib-Dims who managed not to improve on their electoral achievement two years ago and whose support has been sinking steadily since then, has told us in his own inimitable fashion:
We should just get on with it. I hope people won’t tie themselves in knots in Westminster. It’s something people want.
I have not come across many people outside the rather ridiculous Westminster hothouse who do want this or even care about it.

When it comes to MPs, that is members of the elected House, the public is quite adamant:
The head of the Commons anti-sleaze watchdog today warned MPs they should be “very worried” over reforms to their pay and pensions.
Ken Olisa, senior board member of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, has received scores of damning assessments of politicians’ value during his review of parliamentary salaries.
Responses from the public branded MPs “despicable, incompetent, corrupt and treacherous” and said they “should get paid the same amount as British Army privates”.
Maybe it is time the government had a look at the Commons. Oh wait, they have had a look. So far they have managed to legislate on a set parliamentary term, have controlled the possibility of introducing a vote of no confidence, made two attempts to control the 1922 Committee and are now intent on destroying the independence of the House of Lords. Not, I think, a government that cares about democracy, constitutionalism or liberty. Yet their vandalism of the British Constitution is applauded by the very people who should find it abhorrent.

An elected House of Lords, I hear in jubilation from members of the party formerly known as Conservative and others of UKIP. We are progressing towards democracy.

Well, that depends on your definition of democracy. If it consists of nothing else but voting and the right for anyone who gets more votes than other candidates to do whatever they like, then these people should be supporters of the European Parliament (UKIP might be since that is the only place in which they can get any seats) and of an elected EU President. Surely, once that President is directly elected by the people, or however small proportion of them bothers to vote, it will all be democratic.

If, on the other hand, one thinks of the need to control elected dictatorships, the need for some balance in the political structure and the need for independence in at least some of our legislators, then possibly an elected House of Lords is not the answer to the problems we are facing.

Of course, this is all displacement activity. As I asked one Conservative MP who was pontificating on the need to reform the House of Lords in such a way as not to lose the primacy enjoyed by the Commons, what does any of it matter while most of our legislation comes from the EU? She refused to discuss the matter, dismissing the European issue as of no importance. That tells you a great deal about Conservative MPs and their understanding of the legislative process.

You couldn't make it up

But then you wouldn't need to. After all, we have known for some time that there were many ... ahem ... sources of information that the Communist states used when trying to winkle secrets out of Britain. Some of them were on the left and some on the right; some did it for money and some out of loyalty to one of the most evil systems in history (though, to be fair to the Soviets, they always preferred go "give presents" even to the most devoted servants, considering that to be safer). Many passed on information to agents of the East European People's Democracies, presumably understanding where it all ended up eventually. Or maybe they did not know or care.

The news that a little known Conservative MP of the 1960s, Raymond Mawby, was so anxious to get money that he sold information to some Czechoslovak agent made me laugh out loud. The whole tale is so preposterous. Don't get me wrong. I am aware of the damage Communist agents did to this country and the West in general throughout those and previous decades; I am also aware of the fact that there is still much to come out about people who were considerably higher up or in better position to pass on information than Mr Mawbey and that is not to mention agents of influence.

However, a glance at what Mr Mawby had to trade is enough to make one laugh:
In time Mawby would be paid directly for political information - normally £100 per time. One file in the archives has a receipt signed by Mawby himself for that sum.
Mawby later handed over lists of parliamentary committees, details of fellow Tories and a supposedly confidential parliamentary investigation into a Conservative peer. "Mawby has also promised to carry out tasks such as asking questions in Parliament according to our needs," the Czech handler wrote in a plan on how to use him in 1962.
That plan involved asking him to supply more confidential material from Parliament "gradually deepening the compromising of his position".
He also drew a floor plan of the Prime Minister's office. As the Czechs were not going to bomb the place, the only reason they might have wanted a plan would be to decide where to put bugs. Did they do so, one wonders. Did they use the information he passed on about some of his colleagues or officials in the party for blackmail?

Mr Mawby did not lose his seat till 1983 but it is unclear whether he went on passing information about his colleagues and officials in the Conservative Party to the end or not.

Meanwhile, let us not forget that brilliant episode of Yes, Prime Minister in which it transpires (among the world-shaking events concerning Benjy the dog) that a previous Director General of MI5, who had been cleared by an investigation conducted by Sir Humphrey Appleby, was, in fact, a Soviet spy.

From memory, a conversation went something like this:

Hacker: But if two of us are ... two of them then ... errm ... all of us are ....

Appleby: All of them?

Told you so, part 3,765

With all the fuss about the hapless Chloe Smith being destroyed by Jeremy Paxman I thought I would remind readers of my posting about her at the time of her election as the youngest MP and a compassionate Conservative to boot. I stand by every word I said.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Radio 4 this evening

This might be of interest to readers of this blog. Analysis, about the only reasonable and radically different programme on the BBC will be discussing Eurogeddon this evening at 8.30. The blurb says:
Chris Bowlby examines whether the eurozone will disintegrate or become a closer political and economic union. He considers the effects of both scenarios, and the implications for borders and cash movements.
If you miss it, fret not: the programme will be available on iPod and on line indefinitely.

Friday, June 22, 2012

No, you can't renounce EU citizenship

Well,  you can, but you then have to renounce your UK citizenship as well though, perhaps, one can then revert to being a British subject of HM Queen. After all, most of us would prefer that, anyway.

How do I know this? Because HMG has so replied to Lord Stoddart's Written Question:
what is the process by which British subjects may renounce their European Union citizenship.
The reply should be of some interest to those who think that reforming the EU or changing our "relationship" with it (a non-existent concept) are possibilities.
Under the Maastricht Treaty, every citizen who is a national of a member state is also a citizen of the Union. The UK has defined its "nationals" for European Economic Area (EEA) purposes as:
British citizens;
British overseas territories citizens who derive their citizenship from a Gibraltar connection and;British subjects under Part IV of the British Nationality Act 1981 having the right of abode under s.2 of the Immigration Act 1971.
A UK national as defined above who renounced that status and did not have the nationality of another member state would cease to be a European citizen. It is not possible, however, to renounce European citizenship while remaining a UK national.
And who signed that infamous treaty? Which party was in government then, for they cannot be said to be in power any more?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

We all avoid taxes (or should do)

I am happy to say that I have never seen Jimmy Carr do his comedian act but, I understand, it is the usual "let's bash the bankers and rich people and anyone who is not part of the trendy left" variety. Indeed, a number of people I know have expressed some surprise that he is described as a comedian at all. But I digress.

The problem with Carr is two-fold: he has avoided taxes (a completely legal and, indeed, legitimate) action and he has done so after making all sorts of nasty sneering attacks on bankers and their like who avoid taxes. In this, Mr Carr is no different from Comrade Livingstone who was caught out during the Mayoral election campaign. That sort of hypocrisy, not exactly unknown among the Left, makes one laugh helplessly.

On the other hand, the idea of a Conservative Prime Minister calling the actual tax avoidance not the hypocrisy immoral is only funny to those of us who never believed in the Boy-King's credentials as a true conservative. He is a big-statist and a man who believes in high taxes because he believes that people should have their lives run by the state and not have the choice to do what they want with their money. His Chancellor, a disaster if ever there was one, is endlessly thinking of schemes that might get rid of  legitimate tax avoidance or allows people to decide to give their money to charity, as it were, or to spend it on their children's education. Then Georgy-Porgy has to retract or do a U-turn.

The truth is that we all avoid taxes if we can. Every time we buy ISAs or look for a savings account that pays less tax we are doing just that and, indeed, we should be. There is nothing immoral in it. It is highly moral not to give more money than is absolutely necessary to the state to squander on huge pharaonic projects as well as regulatory disasters (just to name two things the state does). Let us not even consider how many of us pay cash for work rendered because that is the only way to avoid huge amounts of bureaucracy as well as evade VAT.

Here is a highly entertaining article by Mark Littlewood, Director of the IEA, on how he avoids tax, though he does admit sheepishly that he is not as good at it as Jimmy Carr. Though, I suspect Mr Littlewood is not about to cave in publicly on the subject. I also suspect that when the hue and cry dies down, Mr Carr will go back to using whatever scheme saves him more money.

And the solution: well how about a less complicated system of lower taxes? Could that be achieved? The Taxpayers' Alliance has produced a report, which suggests that it is possible to do so. Of course, we do need a government that believes in low taxation and small state. Not sure how we are going to achieve that.

More on Egypt

The election commission has delayed its announcement of the result, which would indicate that the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, has probably won. Announcement is now expected over the week-end and Secretary of State Clinton has described herself and her government as being troubled by this further delay and continuing uncertainty. Not half as troubled as she might be in a week or so if the Islamists do take power.

One election result still outstanding

Last Sunday there were three elections. The French parliamentary ones that went largely as expected (though Ségolène Royal lost her seat and the first round against First Girlfriend Valérie Trierweiler and Marin Le Pen's niece has become the youngest MP (one of two for the NF) while auntie lost by 118 votes.

The French electoral system was changed from proportional representation to first past the post in the late eighties specifically to keep the National Front out. This does not seem to be working any more.

The Greek election went as one would have expected and, truth to tell, nothing much has changed though they do now have a government.

That leaves the second round of the Egyptian presidential election, the results of which will be announced tomorrow but the Muslim Brotherhood is already declaring victory. Whether they will be able to keep it remains questionable. The general opinion is that the military will not give up power.

The Wall Street Journal has a sober appraisal of what is likely to happen in the country but seem to be under the misapprehension that there was a moment from the fall of Mubarak (who may or may not have died) when the army was not in control. The truth is that it was an army coup that toppled Mubarak not a popular revolution. Since then the Supreme Council of Armed Forces has been in power. More than that: the army owns a great deal of Egypt's economy. As this article puts it:
Until this very day, the role of the military establishment in the economy remains one of the major taboos in Egyptian politics. Over the past thirty years, the army has insisted on concealing information about its enormous interests in the economy and thereby keeping them out of reach of public transparency and accountability. The Egyptian Armed Forces owns a massive segment of Egypt’s economy—twenty-five to forty percent, according to some estimates. In charge of managing these enterprises are the army’s generals and colonels, notwithstanding the fact that they lack the relevant experience, training, or qualifications for this task.
The military’s economic interests encompass a diverse range of revenue-generating activities, including the selling and buying of real estate on behalf of the government, domestic cleaning services, running cafeterias, managing gas stations, farming livestock, producing food products, and manufacturing plastic table covers. All this information is readily available on the websites of relevant companies and factories, which publicly and proudly disclose that they belong to the army. Yet for some reason the military establishment insists on outlawing any public mention of these activities.
The question we have to ask ourselves, disregarding the analysis given by the media, is whether that is the worst case scenario for Egypt.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Worth repeating

A friend reminded me of what George Orwell wrote in 1941 in England Your England, the first part of The Lion and the Unicorn [yes, I chose that Russian website quite deliberately]:
In intention, at any rate, the English intelligentsia are Europeanized. In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of
standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box. All through the critical years many left-wingers were chipping away at English morale, trying to spread an outlook that was sometimes squashily pacifist, sometimes violently pro-Russian, but always anti-British. It is questionable how much effect this had, but it certainly had some. If the English people suffered for several years a real weakening of morale, so that the Fascist nations judged that they
were ‘decadent’ and that it was safe to plunge into war, the intellectual sabotage from the Left was partly responsible.
The intellectual sabotage from the Left, both soft and hard, is very largely responsible for the mess we are in with regards to the European Union as well as other enemies of Anglospheric traditions and liberties. It is particularly odd in that a great many of this country's real intellectuals were and are on the right of the political spectrum, yet it is somehow assumed that to be an intellectual you need to be left-wing. The phenomenon is not new: one saw it in Russia before 1917 but that is not a precedent I should like to see any country to follow.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Must. Stop. Laughing.

News reaches us all that the great fighter for free speech, Julian Assange, has asked for asylum in Ecuador. It seems he walked into the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and "told diplomats he was being persecuted for political reasons".

This is the man who, proclaiming that truth mattered above all, unredacted US cables that he released, thus making the names of oppositionists in countries like Belarus known to the government agencies and is highly regarded in that freedom loving country, Russia (here, here and here) but has fought tooth and nail against his own extradition to Sweden on charges of rape. Sweden is not precisely Belarus or Russia in terms of its judicial structure and openness.

Some time ago, I suggested that Assange might think of asking for asylum in Russia.
If all these people's [Jemima Khan, John Pilger et al] worst suspicions should come true and the United States asks for his extradition, Mr Assange can, one assumes, apply for asylum in Russia. Of course, he will not be able to publish any material that might damage or seriously criticize the Russian government if he wants to stay alive and healthy, but he can, as the old Soviet joke had it, criticize the United States to his heart's content.
Maybe Assange took my advice and decided on going to Ecuador, instead, where as a friend of mine has pointed out, the chocolate, at least, is excellent.

As the Guardian points out,
By choosing Ecuador, he has alighted on a country that is clearly in accord with his political views, not closely aligned with the United States and, he will hope, beyond the reach of the European arrest warrant system.
It may be beyond the reach of the European arrest warrant but it may have an extradition treaty with Sweden, anyway. My guess is that the Ecuadorian authorities are rather unhappy about the situation though they talk bravely about analyzing the situation and taking a decision on the basis of that analysis.

There is another problem but that applies to that much derided group, the trendy luvvies.
Assange was granted bail on a surety of £240,000 raised and pledged by supporters. His apparent flight from the legal process could now place that money at risk of confiscation by the court.
One really does have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at the whole story.

Somehow I remain unconvinced

Lord Willoughby de Broke asked HMG
how many new non-departmental public bodies have been created since the last general election.
We usually refer to them as quangos and their bonfire has been promised for some time. Ever since the last election, as it happens, though it has been somewhat slow in coming. The subject was covered by this blog in various ways here, here, here, here, here and here. A shambolic state of affairs, with little understanding of why quangos exist and what they do.

HMG, of course, thinks otherwise, as this reply to Lord Willoughby demonstrates:
Since May 2010, so far 92 quangos have been directly abolished and another 103 merged together to leave 50. Our overall plans will get rid of a third of public bodies and will save the taxpayer £2.6 billion over the spending review period.
Since May 2010, the Government have established and classified nine new non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs) which were not previously in existence in another form. Six of these are independent monitoring boards which must, by law, be set up each time a new prison or probation trust is established. Departments must submit a full business case for any NDPB which clearly demonstrates the need for its independence. Further information on the size and spend of the NDPB sector will be published in the autumn. Overall numbers of NDPBs are substantially down since the general election and continue to fall.
As ever, a good deal of the reply deals with what will happen rather than what has happened and it is not clear that merging quangos with, possibly, some of the work going back to the civil service will save any money. We shall have to wait for that autumn information though it might have been useful if HMG could see its way to providing some interim figures now.

It is also unclear whether the six new quangos or NDPBs announced in the Queen's Speech have been included in the rather vague calculations provided in this response.

More than a little worrying

L. Gordon Crovitz writes about the failure on the American government's part, so far, to protect the freedom of the internet from a power grab by the UN, its little known agency the International Telecommunications Union (founded in 1865 but taken over by the UN) and the various "freedom-loving" members thereof who want to control the internet.
The failure by U.S. negotiators to stop attacks on the Internet became known only through documents leaked last week. They concern a U.N. agency known as the International Telecommunications Union. Founded in 1865 to regulate the telegraph, the body (now part of the U.N.) is planning a World Conference on International Telecommunications in December, when the 193 U.N. member countries, each of which has a single vote, could use the International Telecommunications Regulations to take control of the Internet. The U.N. process is mind-numbing, but as Vincent Cerf, one of the founders of the Web, recently told Congress, this U.N. involvement means "the open Internet has never been at a higher risk than it is now."
As to what other countries have in mind, pay attention to this:
The broadest proposal in the draft materials is an initiative by China to give countries authority over "the information and communication infrastructure within their state" and require that online companies "operating in their territory" use the Internet "in a rational way"—in short, to legitimize full government control. The Internet Society, which represents the engineers around the world who keep the Internet functioning, says this proposal "would require member states to take on a very active and inappropriate role in patrolling" the Internet.
Several proposals would give the U.N. power to regulate online content for the first time, under the guise of protecting against computer malware or spam. Russia and some Arab countries want to be able to inspect private communications such as email. Russia and Iran propose new rules to measure Internet traffic along national borders and bill the originator of the traffic, as with international phone calls. That would result in new fees to local governments and less access to traffic from U.S. "originating" companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple. A similar idea has the support of European telecommunications companies, even though the Internet's global packet switching makes national tolls an anachronistic idea.
Now I would be the first to agree that there is the odd problem with the internet but these proposals would not solve them and would destroy the good it has brought to us all.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Missed my chance

I was going to blog about the girl who had been successfully blogging about her and her friends' school dinners until the council banned her from taking photographs of the food but I missed my chance. Her cause has become the fashionable cause of the twitterati and Jamie Oliver has weighed in. I understand the council has now backed down and the unfortunate girl has become a celebrity herself. May she survive it and may she continue her interest in food, something that is sadly lacking in many parts of this country. We already have too many campaigners, said I to someone who was praising Martha Payne as one such member of that group, but not nearly enough people genuinely interested in food.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Outrage is as outrage does

Will this assure that China is removed from the United Nations Council for Human Rights? Don't be ridiculous.

French politics is so much fun

Anne-Elisabeth Moutet (full disclosure: she is a good friend) writes about the enthralling saga of the new French President's two women, past and present, politician and political journalist. First Girlfriend Valérie Trierweiler appears to be following Carla Bruni in one respect: making her husband/partner a political laughing stock.
The woman many of the French are calling “Rottweiler” then illustrated the shortest way to link the words “pride”, “goeth”, “before” and “fall”. Nicolas Sarkozy had been kicked out of office chiefly for having paraded his private life with ostentation. Demurring that she would play “no political part whatsoever”, Trierweiler made it difficult to forget her existence for one minute. Whether she was bemoaning that she didn’t like the title “First Lady” and inviting the public to think up a new one, or insisting that she could remain a working Paris Match reporter “in all independence” while maintaining a staff and office at the Élysée Palace, she was hardly ever out of the news.
Scenting a rich vein, the political puppet show Les Guignols de l’info hastily recycled the puppet they’d used for Jacques Chirac’s spin-doctor daughter Claude, slapping on a new wig and redoing its make-up to rush their Valérie on air. They now portray Hollande as a bumbling, henpecked husband. Deferring to She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, the President is depicted fleeing to the comforting arms of a softer, sweeter, more understanding female – Angela Merkel.
Absolutely priceless.

Yes, yes, I know that this is not what politics should be about and France has many problems (even more than they had before François Hollande became President) but it is considerably more entertaining as well as elegant than the interminable saga of the Leveson enquiry that seems to grip the British media.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Inevitable, really

When things go wrong, blame someone else; when things are really difficult, start beating up those who look a bit different. That seems to be happening in Greece where it has become a little hard to go on and on about Chancellor Merkel being the new reincarnation of the Gestapo because she thinks Greece should try not living on German money since the Golden Dawn has done well in the elections.

It seems that the usual anti-foreigner riots are beginning to break out with journalists who try to film what is going on getting beaten up as well. I assume the fact that the journalist in question was Israeli was merely a coincidence.

I do love the comment made by the Greek ambassador to Israel:
The ambassador emphasized that the attack was "an isolated incident and is in no way indicative of the overall situation in Athens, where citizens and visitors enjoy a safe, secure and hospitable environment."
He added that the incident does not reflect or represent Greek values or traditions, a people who "have fought hard in their history not only for freedom, but also for the freedom of thought and expression, non-discrimination and tolerance."

Meanwhile the BBC has seen fit to report the "far-right MP's" assault at his left-wing colleague, who happens to be female, which makes the story even more piquant.

Of course violence is not new in Greek politics nor is it confined to what our media calls "the far-right". Left-wing demonstrators murdered three bank employees (one of whom was pregnant so it is really four people killed) during strikes in 2010.

Attacks on right wing politicians by trade unions are not unknown and neither is violence in debates by Communist MPs. Still, an actual brawl in Parliament may be raising political discussion to a new level.

It ain't over till it's over

And that could apply to just about everything: the euro, the Coalition government, the Greek economy (no, I guess, that one is over) and the latest Irish referendum vote, which will not require a second one as it went the "right" way.

Our chaps are not giving up, though. I had the following e-mail from Anthony Coughlan of The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre, which is the leading eurosceptic group in that country:
Dear Friends,
The item below may interest you in that it seeks to draw attention to the constitutional challenge which is taking place in the Irish Courts to the ratification of the European Stability Mechanism Treaty and the Article 136 TFEU amendment of the EU Treaties which authorises the ESM Treaty for the Eurozone.
This constitutional challenge has been launched by an Independent member of the Irish Parliament (Dáil) for Co.Donegal, Mr Thomas Pringle. His case is due for hearing in the High Court in Dublin on 19 June.
There are also constitutional challenges to the ESM Treaty in Germany and Estonia. The item below is a copy of a letter to the German Ambassador in Ireland requesting him to urge his Government not to ratify the ESM Treaty until the issues raised by Deputy Pringle have been adjudicated on by the Irish Courts.
The letter sets out the reasons for regarding the ESM Treaty and the Article 136 TFEU amendment in so far as it authorises that treaty as in breach of the EU Treaties and in violation of the Irish Constitution.
Similar letters have been sent individually to the Ambassadors in Ireland of the other EU/Eurozone countries which have not yet ratified the ESM Treaty or approved the Article 136 TFEU amendment.
Here is the letter itself:


The National Platform EU Research and Information Centre 
24 Crawford Avenue 
Dublin 9 
Tel.: 00-353-1-8305792 

 Friday 1 June 2012 

 Your Excellency, 

I am writing to you on behalf of this organisation to request you to draw your Government’s attention to the fact that the proposal to ratify the European Stability Mechanism Treaty as it stands and to approve the Article 136 TFEU amendment to the EU Treaties as authorizing the Stability Mechanism envisaged in the ESM Treaty, are unlawful under the EU Treaties and are therefore unconstitutional in Ireland and the other EU Member States. 

I am writing on similar lines to the Ambassadors to Ireland of the other EU Member States which have not yet ratified the ESM Treaty or approved the Article 136 TFEU amendment. 

You are doubtless aware that there are constitutional challenges to the ESM Treaty and the Article 136 TFEU amendment in your own country, in Estonia and in Ireland. In this country Independent Dáil Deputy for Donegal Mr Thomas Pringle has launched a constitutional challenge on these matters which opens in the Irish High Court on 19 June. 

We are informed that Deputy Pringle’s lawyers are seeking a constitutional referendum in Ireland on the ESM Treaty. They are also claiming that the EU Treaties should be amended under a different provision of the Art.48 TEU treaty revision procedure than that being currently used if the ESM Treaty as it stands is to be lawfully ratified under EU law. 

Deputy Pringle’s legal action is seeking to defend the principle that the EU is an entity governed by the rule of law in face of a political attempt to change the EU treaties by subterfuge and to open a way to transforming the present EMU into a fiscal-political union for the Eurozone. 

While my colleagues and I are not involved in Deputy Pringle’s action, we and many other Irish people share his concerns that the integrity of the existing EU Treaties and the Irish Constitution be upheld in face of the attempt by some Eurozone Governments effectively to take the Eurozone captive for their own ends and to organize the Economic and Monetary Union on quite different principles from heretofore by means of this ESM Treaty. 

May we respectfully request you therefore to urge your Government not to proceed with your country’s ratification of the ESM Treaty or approval of the Article 136 TFEU authorisation until the Irish Courts have ruled on the issues raised by this constitutional action. 

The reasons which lead us to believe that the ESM Treaty as it stands is illegal under EU law and unconstitutional in Ireland are the following:- 

1.) Article 3 TFEU of the EU Treaties which have been agreed by all 27 EU Member States provides that monetary policy for the countries using the euro is a matter of “exclusive competence” of the EU as a whole. It is not therefore open to the 17 Member States of the Eurozone to attempt effectively to diminish the competence of the Union and to establish among themselves a Stability Mechanism entailing a €700 billion permanent bailout fund to lend to Eurozone governments as envisaged in the ESM Treaty. 

This ESM fund, to which Ireland would have to make significant contributions for the indefinite future, would trench profoundly on monetary policy for the euro area. The Stability Mechanism envisaged in the ESM Treaty is effectively an attempt to find a way round the “no bailouts” provision of Article 125 TFEU, whereby it is forbidden for the EU to take on the debt of Member States or for Member States to take on the debt of other Member States. It also breaches other EU Treaty articles. 

The ESM Treaty if ratified as it stands would effectively amount to an attempt to open a legal-political path to what France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy called for last November, namely “A Federation for the Eurozone and a Confederation for the rest of the EU”. 

A radical step of this kind, which would transform the Economic and Monetary Union from what it has been up to now, may only lawfully be taken by means of the “ordinary” treaty amendment procedure of Art.48.2 TEU. It cannot lawfully be done by means of a mere Decision of the European Council of Prime Ministers and Presidents under the “simplified” treaty amendment procedure of Art.48.6 TEU. 

The latter procedure is meant to deal with minor technical amendments to the treaties, but it is currently being used by the governments of the 17 Eurozone countries in an attempt to alter radically the character of the EMU by ratifying this ESM Treaty as it stands. 

2.) How can it be lawful for the ESM Treaty to permit a permanent ESM loan fund to be established for the 17 Eurozone countries when the express terms of the Article 136 TFEU amendment, agreed by all 27 EU Governments, authorises a Stability Mechanism only if that is established unanimously by the Eurozone States, as the general provisions of EU law require, viz: “THE Member States whose currency is the euro may establish a stability mechanism to be activated if indispensable to safeguard the stability of the euro area AS A WHOLE ” (emphasis in capitals added)? 

The Art.136 amendment to the EU Treaties does not say that “Member States”, meaning SOME of them, may establish a Stability Mechanism, but rather “THE Member States”, namely ALL of them (In French “LES” Membres rather than “DES” Membres). 

Yet the ESM Treaty which has been concluded among the 17 provides that the Stability Mechanism it envisages may come into being once States contributing 90% of the capital of the proposed fund have ratified the treaty. 

The eight largest Eurozone States, a minority of the 17, can therefore establish this Stability Mechanism, while other Eurozone States that may need assistance from it badly are excluded. How then can this be a Stability Mechanism “for the euro area as a whole”, as Article 136 TFEU, which still has to be constitutionally approved by all 27 EU Member States, requires? 

Likewise the so-called "Fiscal Treaty" - the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the EMU – on which Irish voters have just voted and which cross-refers to the ESM Treaty, provides that it can come into force when it is ratified by 12 Eurozone Members. Does not this treaty also require unanimous ratification by all 17 Eurozone Members before it can be lawfully binding on them under EU law? 

3.) How can the ESM Treaty be lawfully ratified by July 2012, as is the stated intention of the 17 Eurozone governments concerned, when the Article 136 TFEU amendment to the EU Treaties authorising a Stability Mechanism does not have legal effect, once it has been constitutionally approved by all 27 EU Member States, until 1 January 2013? 

Does not this mean that any treaty purporting to establish an ESM before 2013 must be legally void? ESM Treaty No.1 which was signed by Eurozone Finance Ministers in July 2011 but was never sent round for ratification, conformed to the 2013 time-frame set by the Art.136 TFEU authorisation, whereas ESM Treaty No. 2 which was signed by EU Ambassadors on 2 February 2012 does not. 

This shows again how the exigencies of a political response to the financial crisis by some Eurozone States puts them in breach of EU law and therefore of the Irish Constitution. 

4. ) EU Member States may only sign international treaties that are compatible with EU law. The EU Court of Justice has made clear that intergovernmental agreements cannot affect the allocation of responsibilities defined in the EU Treaties. The provisions of the ESM Treaty and the Fiscal Treaty which involve the EU Commission and Court of Justice in the implementation of the proposed ESM go well beyond what is permissible under the current EU treaties and are therefore unlawful. 

May I inform you that copies of this letter are being released to the Irish and international media for their information regarding the concerns which are widely shared in this country that the proposed ESM Treaty is in violation of EU law and in breach of the Irish Constitution. 

Yours sincerely 
Anthony Coughlan 

One wishes them all the very best of Irish (and other) luck but nobody holds out much hope that legal arguments will sway the euro-elite and the desperate promoters of the European project. Still, this is something to watch with interest.

I asked Anthony Coughlan if he had had any responses. His answer was "none of sufficient interest to merit publicising". I can well believe that.