Friday, October 26, 2012

Last Monday in the House of Lords

Lord Liddle, who, according to Wikipedia is "s principally known for being Special Adviser on European matters to prime minister Tony Blair and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso" asked a question that makes very little sense until one recalls the noble lord's previous occupation:
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have for making the case for the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union.
Rum. I thought we have been members of the European Union ever since it existed and were, indeed, signatories to the Maastricht Treaty, which set it up. What can the noble lord mean? If one reads the rest of the exchange it becomes clear that other peers, including the Minister found it hard to understand what on earth Lord Liddle was talking about though, obviously, his purpose was to demand to know why the government why HMG "clear leadership that our membership of the EU is vital to our economy and essential to our place in the world?"

 Later on the Leader of the House repeated the Prime Minister's statement about the European Council and a singularly uninspired one it was, too. So much so, that the debate, usually quite exciting on these occasions, lacked the usual vim. What could one say about a Council, which seems to have come to the conclusion that there is much to be done and much will be done any minute now or, rather, in the near and not so near future but we are going to have a proper time table, any minute now.

Their biggest promised achievement is:
On trade, the Council agreed an ambitious agenda to create 2 million jobs across Europe. This includes completing free trade deals with Canada and Singapore in the coming months, and starting negotiations with the US next year on a comprehensive transatlantic trade and investment agreement. And we made some progress on the launch of negotiations with Japan 'in the coming months'. This deal alone could increase EU GDP by €42 billion.
2 million jobs, eh? Well, that should solve all our problems.

Lord Willoughby de Broke pointed to one interesting problem [scroll down to the end of the debate]:
My Lords, one of the Council conclusions on which I hope the noble Lord can enlighten the House is headed,
"Developing a tax policy for growth".
Is this a tax policy for having higher taxes or lower taxes? Secondly, the same paragraph of the conclusions refers to, "enhanced cooperation to be launched on a Financial Transactions Tax". Was that supported by the British Government?
Well, was it? Hard to tell from the answer:
My Lords, on the first point, we are not in favour of any new taxes emanating from the EU. Secondly, we have not supported a financial transactions tax. We know that certain elements within EU countries have got together and decided to impose a financial transactions tax. I believe that in the long term that will prove to be against their interests.
After all, HMG supports the idea of a banking union, cheerfully pointing out that it will not affect Britain. So, it is reasonable to suppose that they assume that a financial transaction tax will not do so either. And the Porcine Air Force is about to take off.

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