Monday, June 30, 2008
There is a very important poll result in the Commission's new Eurobarometer poll which has been completely overlooked amid the frenzy about Ireland.
We finally got round to looking back at the previous results of the Eurobarometer to put the most recent result into context. We have pieced together the series of Eurobarometers back to the eighties.
The result is really striking. The EU has not been this unpopular in Britain since 1983.
Here is the finding from the latest poll:
UK, June 2008
Generally speaking, do you think that the UK's membership of the European Union is...?
32% Bad thing (+4 since December 2007)
30% Good thing (-4% since December 2007)
8% Don't know
Taking everything into account, would you say that (OUR COUNTRY) has on balance benefited or not from being a member of the European Union?
50% Not benefited
14% Don't know
That is striking enough.
But if you put that in historic context, the last time the EU/EEC was this unpopular was during the run up to the UK rebate negotiations.
Back then Mrs T was frantically battling to get the famous "rebate" in order to stop what was then one of Europe's poorest countries from paying the lion's share of contributions.
Have a look:
Here is the proportion saying membership is a "good thing" in blue and a "bad thing" in pink.
Or here is the proportion saying good minus that saying bad.
As you can see, from a lead of 44% in the summer of 1991, support for the EU has collapsed and 2% more now think the is a bad thing than good thing.
As EU leaders arrogantly try to ram through the Lisbon Treaty despite the Irish "no" vote they should reflect on this - they really are dancing on a volcano.
"There have been errors in the way that Europe has been built," Sarkozy acknowledged during a television interview on the eve of the starting day for the six-month French EU presidency.
"Something isn't right. Something isn't right at all,"
But what "errors" are they?
More from Kouchner too:
A formal handover ceremony of the EU presidency from Slovenia to France was held in Nova Gorica on Monday, with Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel telling his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner that the union was "in rather good shape."
"You say it's in good shape," Kouchner remarked. " Well, yes, let's rather say it is in average shape."
Firstly there is a big office block being torn down between the Council's Justus Lipsius building and the shiny new Lex building.
Justus Lipsus... LEX building
Its replacement is going to be rather unusual looking...
... and apparently this will be the new Council building when they move into the Residence Palace in a few years time. Clearly the current building, with a mere 24 kilometers of corridors, is too small.
However, there are some other big buildings going up. On the other side of the Schuman Roundabout from the Commission there is something big under construction.
The trademark glass curtain wall - which seems to be compulsory for all buildings in the EU area - is just being stuck on at the moment.
And then there is a third huge new building. It is being thrown up round the back of the Council on the Belliard side.
Are these new buildings just offices for lobbyists, or are some of them for the new EU institutions set up by the (rejected) Lisbon Treaty? Do any Brussels residents know?
There are certainly some very grand designs afoot for the EU quarter.
According to AFP, there is currently a competition for architects to carry out "operation facelift" which will tart up the whole area and incorporate a bunch of new EU buildings (another 220,000 square metres of EU office space, according to wikipedia)
And it's not like the EU is cramped for space now. The Commission already seems to occupy a fair chunk of Brussels and lists 68 main buildings in Brussels. (Never mind the buildings of the Parliament or the Council or the buildings outside Brussels.)
To paraphrase Jose Barroso, is there a degree of empire building going on here?
They have a question down.
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will place in the Library a copy of the European Commission's report on the COREPER meetings on the European External Action Service held on 7 and 13 May 2008
Jim Murphy, Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office:
holding answer 13 June 2008
It is for the European Commission to decide what it does with internal records of meetings attended by its officials.
Er... Coreper is not a committee of people who work for the Commission - it is a committee of all the Permanent Representatives of the member states. Basically our (civil servant) ambassadors to the EU. And can't we publish what our own British officials are saying in Brussels? (hint: no)
On the other hand I can see how it would be an easy mistake to make given the tendency of our Perm Secs to go native over the years.
It's like the old joke about the lost tourist in Whitehall who asks a policeman which side the Foreign Office is on:
"Supposedly ours, but you have to wonder sometimes."
To cut a long story short there will be no problem in terms of positive discrimination in employment. Article 141(4) of the TEC allows this:
With a view to ensuring full equality in practice between men and women in working life, the principle of equal treatment shall not prevent any Member State from maintaining or adopting measures providing for specific advantages in order to make it easier for the under-represented sex to pursue a vocational activity or to prevent or compensate for disadvantages in professional careers.
This was inserted into the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997 after the 1995 Kalanke case, in which the ECJ had shot down a regional German "positive discrimination" law.
Article 141(4) is not a complete catch all. "Positive discrimination" rules still have to be based on evidence of de facto inequalities and have to be based on transparent and objective criteria.
But the UK Government's plans will (probably) avoid falling into that trap.
If there is going to be a problem it will be on access to services - e.g. are insurance and healthcare companies allowed to practice positive discrimination? Can she force them not to discriminate on age grounds if there are rational reasons to do so?
The Association of British Insurers certainly don't like the proposal on age discrimination.
“Legislation, no matter how well-intentioned, could have the unintended negative consequence of forcing some insurers to withdraw certain products altogether, reducing competition and availability, and pushing up prices for all age groups.”
Could the ABI say that anti-age-discrimination rules were a restriction of their freedom of establishment under EU law? It certainly seems odd that a French company could offer a certain rate, but one based in the UK could not.
A few years ago the EU had to bin its plans to ban gender discrimination in insurance.
When they came back with a new version (the Gender Directive - which came into force in April) it allows insurers to discriminate based on an objective set of criteria based on data published in official tables. But no such tables exist for age discrimination, at least not yet.
Even if the UK were to adopt such an "objective" approach in the UK legislation, it could be challenged as it has not been agreed under EU law.
The whole issue of positive discrimination and anti-discrimination is much more messy in Eu law as soon as you move away from pay and conditions and in to social security and the provision of services. In the early 1980s the EU tried and failed to agree a directive on positive discrimination.
It seems to us that the UK could run into some problems with the new equalities legislation, unless EU law in this area is changed. So it will be interesting to have a close read of the Commission's proposal on Wednesday.
On the other hand we could be completely wrong. EU law experts (we know you are out there) what do you think?
The Telegraph reports that "Mobile phone companies could stop offering free handsets to their customers after the European Commission vowed to cut the price of phone calls." Apparently "The mobile industry warned that as many as 100 million Europeans could be priced out of the market." It also says that the EU and the UK's OFCOM are on a collision course.
The (ongoing) mobile phone row is quite interesting - not just as an example of the EU's amazing ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory - but also of a fundamental tension in the way the EU does things.
The EU: retro -and not in a good way
In the case of mobile phones the commission had and has a choice between (a) measures to increase competition in the wholesale market and increase transparency, or (b) direct price controls.
The former is clearly better from an economic point of view (the idea that the Government should control prices directly has been rather discredited since 1989), but the latter is more visible and more populist. The Commission went for the latter, so that it could show it was "delivering benefits" for citizens.
Mobile phones are far from being the only example of this. One of the best writers on this subject is Giandomenico Majone. It's quite hard to pin down exactly where he is coming from (federalist? confederalist?), but one of his main theses is that the Monnet method of integration by stealth is failing.
He argues that the EU often has to choose between efficiency and deeper integration or democratic legitimacy and deeper integration, and always has to choose deeper integration.
He also argues that an inevitable side effect is over-regulation and an institutional framework which is too rigid to allow innovation (and few government policies are worse for innovation than direct price controls)
As well as being bad for the economy, Majone's real worry is that the "community method" is bad for democracy. In a paper for Jacques Delors' think tank Notre Europe he writes:
The fact that the functionalist (or Monnet) approach to European integration taken in the 1950s entails a fundamental trade-off between integration and democracy.
The logic of the approach is such that any time a choice between integration and democracy has to be made, the decision is, and must be, always in favour of integration. This logic is evident in the case of the classic Community Method.
The most important feature of the method—the Commission’s monopoly of legislative and policy initiative—represents a flagrant violation of both the constitutional principle of separation of powers and the very idea of parliamentary democracy.
As we saw above, legitimacy involves the capacity of a political system to engender and maintain the belief that the existing political institutions are the most appropriate ones for
a given society. In the case of a new system such as the EU, which cannot count on traditional sources of legitimacy, this presupposes the ability to sustain popular expectations, on the grounds of effectiveness, for a period long enough to develop legitimacy upon a new basis. This is the reason why the poor economic performance of the EU economy over decades is so worrisome also from a normative viewpoint.
With which we can only agree.
Following the Tory expense scandal that accounted for their leader Giles Chichester and chief whip Den Dover, the Conservatives have appointed Phillip Bushill Matthews to lead their delegation in the European Parliament.
Speaking to a local newspaper Bushill Matthews said: "The national press only seem interested in selectively promoting the 'gravy train' image of the European Parliament."
This is a bit rich, coming from him, as his own book on the Parliament was called "The Gravy Train".
Apparently the book tries to "debunk the gravy train image."
Good luck with that in light of recent events.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Barroso is now fighting for his political life - and coming under sustained fire from Sarkozy. He would have been fine if the Lisbon Treaty carve up had gone ahead as forseen. He could have stayed at the Commission while "balancing" appointments were made for the proposed Foreign Minister and President. But without those jobs to fill to balance the ticket, he could be out on his ear.
That's part of the reason the Commission are going to do some more supposedly "social" stuff.
The word on the
* More anti-discrimination legislation.
* A tightening up of the European Works Councils Directive
* The Health Services Directive (likely to be rebranded as the "Patient Mobility Directive".
* Maybe something on parental leave.
The most interesting stuff is probably the anti discrimination point. The focus is on the access to services side, rather than employment rights. That means things like insurance - no discrimination on things like age or sex.
That’s always controversial if there are rational reasons for insurers to do things (e.g. the furore a few years back when the EU tried to clamp down of cheaper car insurance for women - because they crash less.)
There are certainly some uncertainties about the current EU law on age discrimination. But the new proposal sounds like it might go further than just "tidying up."
The UK is certainly up for supporting it. Indeed, the UK may be preemptively carrying it out with its own legislation. In Parliament yesterday:
Ms Patricia Hewitt (Leicester, West) (Lab): May I warmly congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on a set of proposals that will come to be seen as a major landmark in the long march to equality? Will she also ensure that the Government do everything possible to support the French presidency in its attempt to get early agreement on proposals for a European framework directive on equality, which will set minimum standards for all European citizens, across the European Union?
Ms Harman: I can certainly assure my right hon. Friend that that will be the case. I pay tribute to our Members of the European Parliament, particularly Michael Cashman, for their pioneering work at European level.
A slightly random thought is that the UK Government may have another interest in all this. Unless they carefully dot all the "i"s and cross all the "t"s then the Government's plans to allow positive discrimination might potentially fall foul of anti-discrimination EU law... which would be "interesting". More in the next blog.
Faced with a lack of coordination between member states' policies and laws, which sometimes lead to unsolved legal issues, the report recommends the creation of a European Citizen Card.
The card would act as a "judicial passport" which would serve as a permanent residence permit, a work permit, a certificate of nationality, a health card and a social security card.
Wonder what no2id will make of this?
It certainly looks about right: Ireland, the UK, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands always same to wind up on the same side in the Council.
... but actually it's something else. And perhaps the eastern countries might look different if it was what we thought. But anyway, it's interesting that 210 million people in Europe have something in common.
When oh when will the BBC run something like this? Its just great TV.
Our fave moment is where one MEP is so busy running away that she runs into a wall. Ouch!
Cameraman - Please come out of the lift - what is the problem?
MEP - Such impertinence!
Cameraman - Why is it impertinence?
MEP - *runs away*
Hans-Peter Martin must be tout unpopular in the comedy Parliament.
But so is Paul Van Buitenen
Try also this. Good to see that they have time on their hands.
Vaguely charming though.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
We can't think of any other Government deparments who do this every day, and we were wondering what had prompted this burst of europatriotic fervour.
Is Ed Balls trying to make up for his sins against European integration? (have a look at his pamphlet on "euro-monetarism" to get an idea of what he used to say)
Or is it just because the department of "Children, Schools and Families" doesn't have to deal with Brussels as much as some others do? Does dealing with Brussels on a regular basis make you less keen on it?
Answers on a postcard.
Suppose the future reform of the House of Lords required the approval of every county. Suppose that all county councils agree the reform, except Herefordshire, which votes "No".
What should be done? Should reform be abandoned because one county votes against? Should Herefordshire be asked to vote again, in light of the support of every other county? Should Herefordshire's concerns be identified, if possible, and an attempt made at a compromise?
That is the situation facing European coutries, [sic] who negotiated a package of reforms to the EU, which one country has rejected, while most if not all of the others continue to support it. Reform of the EU needs approval from every single member state.
So in Corbett's vision the EU is a bit like... a single country?
National governments are going to become like... county councils?
Thanks for clearing that up. At least it's nice to know what the direction of travel is.
He's also put his finger neatly on the reason why a federal EU can never work - people just don't feel part of the same demos, and won't accept being outvoted in this way.
Once again Richard, we salute you.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Think again. The NHS Confederation now has an office in Brussels and six people working full time lobbying the EU.
According to their website they are dealing with everything from working time to emissions trading, green vehicles and "eHealth".
They churn out briefings and hold receptions:
The Office is organising a Reception in the European Parliament, Brussels, on Wednesday 10 September. The event will be hosted by a cross-party group of MEPs. High-level representatives of the NHS will attend and senior delegates from the EU Institutions and key stakeholders will be invited. The event will promote the Office and its work to the wider Brussels community and will present an opportunity for NHS colleagues to discuss EU developments impacting on the NHS.
We can't decide. Which is worse: that the NHS is wasting cash on on Brussels lobbying, or that they feel that they need to?
EU Observer reports that Jouyet thinks that the Irish no vote was masterminded by sinister american neocons.
"Europe has powerful enemies on the other side of the Atlantic, gifted with considerable financial means. The role of American neo-conservatives was very important in the victory of the No."
Yes dear, its all a big conspiracy...
but where do the CIA, Mossad and the invisible lizard men fit in?
They will explain away, cover up or distort the evidence of failure in order to protect good intentions from the harsh winds of reality.
The EU's environmental policies seem to be a particular case in point.
Example: being Emissions Trading obsessives we seized on this recent study from MIT with glee. But sadly, it is complete tripe.
They say that the scheme has been a great success:
"Verified emissions in 2005-06 were lower than EU emissions in 2002-04, even after allowing for plausible upward bias in the pre-2005 data."
"In a preliminary but detailed analysis of this data, Ellerman and Buchner (forthcoming in Environmental and Resource Economics) concluded that a reasonable estimate of the reduction in CO2 emissions attributable to the EU ETS lies between 50 and 100 million tons for each year, or between 2.5% and 5% from what emissions would have been without the EU ETS."
Why oh why are people still claiming that the first phase of ETS was a success? It clearly wasn't.
Firstly, there are simply no comparable numbers for 2002 or 2004. The data just doesn't exist, so no meaningful comparison can be made. For a supposedly academic paper to make such a glaring error is unforgivable.
Secondly, if you look at the numbers that do exist, it is crystal clear that emissions have gone up under the EU scheme - just under 2% up. EU industry now emits 37 million tonnes more Co2 than when the scheme started in 2005. That's the equivalent of the whole industrial output of Sweden and Ireland put together.
One response is to say that emissions would have gone up even more without ETS. But that quickly leads into an economist's fantasy world where more or less any number can be plucked out of the air by changing the baseline assumptions. Why say 50 million or 100 million tonnes? Why not virtually any other number?
The EU is a certainly world leader in talking about climate change.
But its record is poor: the failing ETS; a pro-biofuels policy which is good for the CAP but bad for the planet; a fishing policy the EU Commissioner responsible admits is "immoral", and a common agricultural policy which still promotes industrial farming. Such massive policy failures drown out the individual efforts of millions of people who have diligently remembered to turn down the thermostat and not leave the telly on standby.
But hey, you can never do the wrong thing as long as your intentions are good, right?
Monday, June 23, 2008
The Swedish Council on Legislation (Lagrådet) – the Swedish expert body on constitutional matters - was commissioned by the Swedish government to give its opinion on the most appropriate way to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. It has concluded that the
The reason: they say the Lisbon Treaty is “essentially equivalent to the Constitution”.
In fact, to save effort and avoid repetition the Council just quotes the opinion it gave on the EU Constitution back in 2005.
The paper, which has landed today, carries a somewhat innacurate cartoon celebrating the Irish "yes" vote.
Why does the EU man have a weird beard?
In fact, come to think of it, isnt' whole thing arguably as mad as a box of frogs?
He is right that it is a terrible gamble for Cowen:
A second "No" would not just delegitimise the Lisbon Treaty; it would delegitimise the EU leadership that had required the second referendum; and it would condemn the Irish government that had sided with Europe's élites against its own people.
And he is right that they could get most of the treaty by the back door - be it by decisions in the council, or via the "Croatian Gambit."
We also thought that that was the most likely way to side step the no vote - have a look at our briefing note from last week. But having soaked up the atmosphere at the European Council last week we are not so sure.
Consider these few points.
Firstly, they think they can win it. We are about to see a propaganda campaign of such ferocity you'd barely believe it. "They are going to throw the kitchen sink at us", warned one old hand at the European Council on Friday.
Secondly, they have gone slightly mad. Rather than sneak in via the back door, they are determined to smash down the front door and grab what they want. This is not rational, but it seems that it is what they are going to do. Partly to try and get back some legitimacy, partly because it has worked before, and partly because it is simpler and easier to agree than a complicated operation to chop up the treaty into bitesize chunks.
Thirdly, if it goes wrong, there is always a fallback plan.
First there was plan "A", the EU Constitution.
Then there was plan B, the strangely familiar looking "Lisbon Treaty".
Now there is plan C, a second referendum, but even if it goes wrong, they can just default to plan D - going down the stealthy route that Hannan expects.
And of course, they (apart from the absurdly europhile Cowen), don't really have much to lose. If there is a no vote the EU might be mildly is embarrassed again. So what?
But if they go for plan D now, and something goes wrong, then what then? Why use your emergency backup plan before you really have to?
It seems crazy. But they are so determined to have the Treaty, they just can't wait.
Why are they so keen? The most significant thing about the Constitution is that it's the first treaty to be self-amending. So there will be no need for any further treaties, and no opportunity to call for a referendum in future.
Referendums are the only device which managed to check the relentless march towards ever closer union. Once the voters are cut out of the loop, the process of political integration will be able to accelerate, and the pesky voters won't ever be able to get in the way again.
He didn't have to wait long. In the selfsame paper we have this garbage.
UKIP, Le Pen and the Tory eurosceptics could not care less about Ireland's future. They only want to use our referendum result to serve their misguided political goals, goals that never have -- and never will -- serve our interests.
Ah Le Pen - still being trotted out by the pros as if he had been leading the no campaign.
And there's more. Wolfgang Munchau turns nasty in the FT.
So within a couple of weeks, the chances of Ireland ending up outside the EU have turned from zero to a distinct possibility. The same goes for the Czech Republic, another potential non-ratifier. I do not want to get into the legal details of how a country’s departure from the EU could be accomplished. Suffice it to say that it can be done within European law as long as there is political will.
Oooooh! Mysterious and dark EU forces. Or utter balls more like. Still, don't let the facts get in the way of a good column.
The FT also went on a fishing expedition to find so people to say the no vote was bad for business. Herbert Hainer and Peter Löscher and Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer all have a go at the Irish decision. Ruttenstorfer says, "I am quite disappointed by the decision of the Irish people".
With that kind of attitude, lets hope they all go over to Ireland for the second referendum.
Amazingly Cowen is still insisting that no decision has been taken on a second referendum.
In reality the only question is whether to do it before or after Christmas.
Friday, June 20, 2008
The Times story on 18 June ran with the headline “Irish voters failed to understand the Lisbon Treaty”, citing a figure from the EU Commission stating that, amongst No voters, “40 per cent blamed the fact that they did not understand the treaty.”
Below is the extract from the briefing note pushed around by the Commission – the basis for the story in the Times, and other papers:
However, when we compare this with the official Eurobarometer poll, published today (20 June) – after the Summit had concluded – we see a very different picture:
Just 22% of No voters said their vote was informed by a lack of knowledge/ familiarity with the Treaty.
The EU Commission’s unofficial briefing seems to have arbitrarily doubled the proportion of voters falling into this category – presumably if this had not been done, pre-summit headlines focussing on Irish voters “failing to understand the treaty” would not have occurred.
Are we missing something here?
If not, this certainly looks like a very clumsy piece of politically-driven propaganda on the part of the Commission designed to make the Irish voters look ignorant.
Unless we are missing something, they have lied to journalists, and this should be a big story.
What Peter Oborne says about the Political Class is right. If you lie morning, noon and night, you earn the respect of your peer group.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
It must be nice to be somewhere people like you.
The Times say the Irish government will be given four months till October to sign up to a deal, before a second referendum. It's so depressing.
On a happier note, we have spent the day sending a message to the euro-establishment.
And plenty of journalists ventured out from behind the barbed wire (which is everywhere) to come and say hello.
We couldn't understand the passion until the reason became clear in a piece in the Herald...
“I remember, in the last four days, as I was in Ireland he was in the United States at a conference and I think he acted the same way a month ago – rather than go to the Economic Affairs Committee of the European Parliament he went to a horse race.”
Hint: Its not the horse race that's bugging him...
How dare he no-show the mighty mighty European Parliament.
Truly, hell hath no fury like an MEP snubbed.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Some interesting little slips from the pro-euro crowd:
Shirley Williams said by failing to provide "information" the pro-integration forces were "as guilty as the Irish".
Sorry - "guilty" of what?
Paddy Ashdown said that "the Irish have made it very clear they want ratification to continue".
Sorry - you mean the Irish Government?
Lots of other bilge about "parliamentary sovereignty" from people who have never been elected too. And the news that the Czechs have suspended their ratification process. Hurray!
A protester was removed from the public gallery of the House of Lords today after shouting "give us our referendum" during a discussion on the EU Lisbon Treaty.
The young woman left quietly, escorted by a doorkeeper, after shouting the phrase twice followed by "it is a democracy".
Sorry, I mean, "to descover the real reasons behind the no vote".
They have given out the findings to selected journalists, but have not published it, so we can't see what questions they have asked.
Its a reminder that the European Commission is not just a civil service, but a campaign group.
McNally: "They haven't told us what they want to do next".
Andrew Neil: "Yes they have - they just said no!"
McNally worked for Jean Monnet in the 60s. I don't think anything that could happen or any argument anyone could advance would make him change his mind now.
That's the problem with the appointed Lords - its a snapshot of the politics of 30 years ago.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Will the madmen in charge blow up the EU by pressing ahead regardless?
If the EU is given control over more and more controversial issues (like defence, or migration) but has little (and perhaps declining) legitimacy, then isn't it doomed to buckle at some point?
In Strasbourg, EU Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has been criticised for not reading the Lisbon Treaty prior to the referendum.
At a news conference on the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament's Socialist leader Martin Schulz rounded on Mr McCreevy saying he was particularly disappointed by Mr McCreevy's statement that he had not read the Lisbon Treaty.
'We have to ask Mr Barroso what kind of people he has in his Commission, particularly if you have someone acting as the deregulation Pope in Europe who goes home and says he hasn't read the treaty and doesn't understand it,' said Mr Schulz.
Speaking of the Pope, - he'll be mad as hell at his staff for being advised to back the wrong horse.
Getting the sack is one thing, excommunicated another.
According to the Irish Indie, opposition strategists are now trying to liken Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen to Gordon Brown.
Not sure what to make of that. They are not really in the same position. Cowen was pretty popular when he took over, but why should losing a referendum damage him in the long term? Politicians are obsessed with the idea that if they lose a referendum they will lose the elevtion. But it 'aint so... The Swedish Social Democrats went on to win the elections after the euro no vote.
Give the voters some credit - they can tell the diffence between an issue and a party vote.
People who have a vote on legislation (even if they were never elected) don't seem too keen to let the rest of us have a vote....
From: Lord Stone
The government was elected to decide these complicated things for them
And without wishing to be dismissive
I’m sorry I shouldn’t have replied t your first email
As I can’t spend my time on all these blogs
I will vote to complete the long passage of this thing on Wednesday
No I don’t believe in Government by referendum
Enjoy the day
From: Jim Hood MP
The sovereignty of the British Parliament demands that the UK supports the decision of its own Parliament not the decisions of others
Interesting to note that Open Europe does not support the right of the UK Parliament to legislate for the UK.
Jim Hood MP
Yeah nice one Jimmy. You've got us there.
We have started an email doing the rounds...
Last Friday the people of Ireland voted to reject the Lisbon Treaty.
But politicians across Europe are refusing to accept the result. They arrogantly insist that the Treaty must go ahead anyway. Despite the no vote, the UK Government is planning to carry on regardless, and ratify the Treaty in the House of Lords on Wednesday.
This is part of an attempt to isolate and bully the people of Ireland.
Please take 30 seconds to send a message to Gordon Brown by signing the petition on the Downing Street website.
Tell Gordon to respect the verdict of the Irish people - and drop the Treaty.
How politicians are refusing to listen to the no vote
French Europe Minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet says: “I don't think you can say the treaty of Lisbon is dead even if the ratification process will be delayed.”
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says: “We are sticking with our goal for it to come into force. The ratification process must continue."
Spanish Europe Minister Lopez Garrido says: “The treaty will be applied, albeit a few months late.”
European Commission President Jose Barroso says: “The Treaty is not dead. The Treaty is alive, and we will try to work to find a solution.”
British Foreign Minister David Miliband says: “18 countries have now passed the reform treaty...each country must see the ratification process to a conclusion... there needs to be a British view as well as an Irish view.”
Don’t let the politicians get away with it.
Sign the petition now and send it to your friends.
Monday, June 16, 2008
"I don't think you can say the treaty of Lisbon is dead even if the ratification process will be delayed."
- Jean-Pierre Jouyet, French secretary of state for European affairs, Reuters, 16 June
"I am convinced that we need this treaty. Therefore we are sticking with our goal for it to come into force. The ratification process must continue."
- German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier Reuters, 14 June
"Of course we have to take the Irish referendum seriously. But a few million Irish cannot decide on behalf of 495 million Europeans,"
- German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, Deutsche Welle
"We think it is a real cheek that the country that has benefited most from the EU should do this. There is no other Europe than this treaty. With all respect for the Irish vote, we cannot allow the huge majority of Europe to be duped by a minority of a minority of a minority."
- Axel Schäfer, SPD leader in the Bundestag, Irish Times, 14 June
The treaty "will be applied, albeit a few months late".
Lopez Garrido, Spanish secretary of state for EU affairs, Forbes, 15 June
"The Treaty is not dead. The Treaty is alive, and we will try to work to find a solution."
- European Commission President Jose Barroso, Press Conference, 14 June
"Citizens are transmitting signals of fear and uncertainty. You can say it’s not rational, but we need to react because they are signs of difficulties with the democratic process."
- Giulio Tremonti, Italian finance minister, FT, 16 June
"Now is the time for a courageous choice by those who want coherent progress in building Europe, leaving out those who despite solemn, signed pledges threaten to block it."
- Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, Irish Times, 14 June
"In no case should the Union be stopped in its tracks. We need to examine the existing possibilities to assure in any case the entry into force of the Treaty and to associate Ireland with it."
- Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme, AFP, 14 June
"The treaty is not dead. The EU is in constant crisis management -- we go from one crisis to another and finally we find a solution,"
- Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, Deutsche Welle, 16 June
"We shall effectively look for ways to ensure it comes into force. Irrespective of the results of the referendum in Ireland, I think that we can deliver an optimistic message - Europe will find a way of implementing this treaty,"
- Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, BBC, 13 June
"As in previous such situations, we shall overcome. I am convinced that sooner or later these reforms will see the light of day."
- Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, Reuters, 17 June
...Though there is one dissenting voice…
"The project is over in its entirety. It makes no sense to continue the ratification of a dead document. The Irish No vote represents a victory for freedom and reason over artificial elitist projects and European bureaucracy".
- Czech President Vaclav Klaus, EUobserver, 16 June
Sunday, June 15, 2008
"Crucially, the treaty contains a clause that states that do not agree to its provisions are required to leave the European Union."
So where is the clause? What is the article number?
In reality it only exists in the mind of Hutton.
Let's have a look at his track record of predictions:
1980s - We must go back to wage controls and the 'corset'. Thatcher's economic reforms have failed.
1990 - Britain must join the ERM, which will be a huge success.
1993 - Germany and Japan are the economies of the future, we must become more like them.
1998 - The Asian financial crisis spells the end of globalisation.
Not the first time he has talked utter balls then.
If you want to read a transcript of him letting Clegg off the hook, it's here.
At one point Marr literally makes Clegg's arguments for him (hardly surprising given that Marr himself called for a European Constitution in 1999)
He says that Clegg is saying "lets not bully the Irish". Er, no.
The whole point of ratifying Lisbon in the UK, is exactly to bully and isolate the Irish. And that is what Clegg is backing, despite the fact that he says the ratification should not continue.
A cream puff interview if there ever was one.
France eyes defence EU transport, naval moves
PARIS, June 15 (Reuters) - France will propose launching a European Union aircraft carrier group and a joint fleet of military transporters as part of efforts later this year to boost the EU military, French defence officials said.
But suddenly he is handed a total gift. Irish voters kick out the Treaty of Lisbon.
Surely it's time to take to the airwaves, and say (with a barely surpressed smile) the treaty is dead and its now time to "move on".
That's got to be the right move surely? It's certainly what Tony Blair did after the French and Dutch votes.
But no. Broon dithers. He lets Miliband (17 and three quarters) go on TV instead and say the Government will press on regardless. Doh!
In the distance we hear Andy Coulson and Steve Hilton clinking champagne glasses, and Dave immediately takes to the airwaves to say what everyone is now thinking: Gordon Brown is "arrogant". Tony Blair, watching telly somewhere, laughs so hard that he spills his chablis.
Ughhhhhh. There is a reason this poor guy is 20 points behind in the polls.
And now, as if you needed another reminder that Labour shot itself in the foot last year by turning down the only candidate with any grasp of the real world...
From the Sunday Times:
Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP for Dagenham who came third in last year’s deputy leadership contest, said: “We can’t just press on relentlessly with the treaty and disrespect what the people have said.”
Sorry fellas, you missed yer chance. At this rate you will be able to try again in 2010 though.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
It is a James Larkin moment. The monument to this great Irish democrat and fighter for freedom stands on Dublin’s O'Connell Street. On it is inscribed: “Les grands ne sont grands que parce que nous sommes à genoux: Levons-nous. Ní uasal aon uasal ach sinne bheith íseal: Éirímis. The great appear great because we are on our knees: Let us rise.”
Today there are two sides in Europe: Us versus them. The progressives versus the reactionaries who believe that EU referendums should only have one answer, Yes.
The Irish have spoken, and struck a blow, for all of us, Britons, French, Dutch, all of us Europeans, who are sick of the way we are ruled. It does not have to be the way our rulers tell us it is. Once, politics was about left and right, today a new division is opening up between those accept the elite view of the world and those who demand something different.
And if you had any doubts left at all, the reaction from the political elite shows that the Irish people made exactly the right decision.
Since the no vote, Europe’s whole political elite has paraded in front of the cameras to say they won’t listen to Ireland.
Next week at the European Council, a coalition of the small countries: Ireland, the Czech Republic, maybe Denmark and Sweden, will call for the treaty to be dropped. But they will come under intense pressure from the big members to carry on regardless.
Surprisingly perhaps, Britain will be in the bullying posse, calling for the Treaty to go ahead. Having denied the British people a referendum on the text, Gordon Brown is intensely embarrassed by the Irish vote. Like a man caught with his pants down, Brown plans to try and hurry the Treaty through the British Parliament before next Wednesday.
We had a moment of hope last night when Ed Davey appeared on the box to say that Gordon Brown should not go ahead with ratification. But today the Lib Dems are telling journalists that they will, despite this, vote for ratification in the Lords. (which they have the votes to stop)
So there are two possibilities:
1) Nick Clegg is so weak he can't even stand up to an old woman like Shirley Williams
2) Nick Clegg is a deeply unprincipled euro-scumbag who says one thing and does another.
Dear reader - which do you think it is?
Friday, June 13, 2008
A small selection:
Sarkozy and Merkel: “The ratification procedure is already complete in 18 countries. We hope therefore that the other member states will persevere with the ratification process.”
"Naturally we are disappointed, it is a hard blow," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement. "Nevertheless I am convinced that we need this treaty. Therefore we are sticking with our goal for it to come into force. The ratification process must continue." (Reuters)
Italian Foreign Affairs Minister Franco Frattini said: “This is a serious blow to European construction” but “the path of European integration must not however be stopped.”
The President of the Commission, Jose Barroso said in reaction to the no vote: “The Treaty is not dead. The Treaty is alive, and we will try to work to find a solution.”
Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme: “In no case should the Union be stopped in its tracks. We need to examine the existing possibilities to assure in any case the entry into force of the Treaty and to associate Ireland with it.”
Hugo Brady, Centre for European Reform “The proeuropean consensus of yesteryear within the Irish media has been sapped from the British right-wing newspapers, in particular the tabloids which stirred up national anxieties”
Federalist MEP Andrew Duff: It was a “mad idea” to hold a referendum because is opened up the floodgates of “populism, nationalism and xenophobia”
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said : “Ireland will certainly find a way of ratifying this treaty”. (Shame on you Donald!)
Federalist MEP Richard Corbett says: "It is inconceivable that all of the others will simply say "too bad - one country has said ‘No’ to the package as it stands, so let's forget reform and stick with the current system for evermore... Nor should we accept the bleating from Eurosceptics that there is somehow something undemocratic about a new referendum."
More as they come in...
We are going to try keep this open all day, emulating the redoubtable Richard North over at EUreferendum who is doing the same thing but doubtless doing it better.
The euro dropped like a stricken plane after Reuters put round rumours fromt he "unofficial counts that are supposedly going on all over the place. Lots of wire copy going bananas.
Paddy power paid out on a yes last night, according to AP.
AP now saying that "Early signs point to Irish rejection of European Union treaty" off the back of rumours about unofficial counts... but all just all rumours for now.
Ohmygod whats going on?
Various Irish journos say tallies are "massive" no?
Irish Times say early counts "lean towards no"
But RTE saying picture is mixed
Our view: if they can't win convincingly even in the most pro-euro country in europe then they really are in trouble in the long term.
We just got back a new ICM poll of 1000 voters in the UK which we commissioned - on what woudld happen if there were a referndum in the UK. It woudl be a two-to-one no vote.
"If a referendum were being held in Britain, would you vote for or against the new Lisbon Treaty?"
20 Don't know
Full tables are here
Win or lose we say - "now give us a referednum in Britain"
Richard North says
"Looking good! And more ... and even more. Some were suggesting 60-40 to the "no" campaign, but it is looking firmer - see new updates below. The first official results from the 43 constituencies will start to come through shortly. Full results expected at 3-3.30 (BST)."
RTE now say
"Complete tallies are available from around half the constituencies - although they come with a strong warning that some of them may not be all that accurate.
Judging by those tallies, middle class constituencies like Dublin South, Dublin South East and Dún Laoghaire seem like to have a 60-40 vote in favour of Lisbon.
However the No vote is said to be ahead in Dublin North West, Dublin Central, Cork North Central and South Central, both Kerry constituencies, both Tipperary constituencies, and Galway West."
Garret Fitzgerald calling it a 55% for no
Do we trust him? No.
AP say "I do not see how we're going to claw back our position based on the numbers I'm seeing. It's going pretty much all the way of the 'no' camp," said Pat Rabbitte, former leader of the opposition Labour Party.
Early indications Friday of results from Ireland's crunch EU referendum are "not looking good" for the "yes" campaign, Europe Minister Dick Roche told Agence France-Presse. "From what I hear it is not looking good," he said after the RTE state broadcaster reported that the "yes" vote's support was "in difficulty
David Rennie's thoughts - mainly about Cowen's position in the event of a no.
Finally some more (unofficial) numbers from MarketNews International
In two areas, Mayo (electorate 95250) and Galway East (electorate 80569), the yes camp has already conceded defeat.
In Dublin South-West, there is a report 60 per cent - 40 per cent split in favour of the No side, and this 60:40 tally is repeated in Dublin North-West, Dublin Central, and Dublin North-East.
Elsewhere in the country, tallies from Limerick West indicate a 59 per cent No vote and a 41 Yes vote.
Tipperary South tallies show 50.3 per cent Yes and 49.7 per cent No vote, while Tipperary North tallies indicate a 50:50 split.
Initial tally figures from Sligo-Leitrim suggest a 66 per cent No vote, Roscommon-South Leitrim indicates a 55 per cent No vote, while Donegal South-West (55 per cent No) and Donegal North-East (63 per cent No) are also showing an anti-Lisbon trend.
In Louth, the tally split was reported to be a 57 per cent - 43 per cent in favour of No. In Meath West and East, the split shows a 60-40 percentage advantage to the No side.
Both Kildare constituencies appear to be bucking the trend, however, with early tallies indicating a 57 per cent - 43 per cent vote in favour of Lisbon.
BROWN COMMITS ELECTORAL SUICIDE?
Mark Mardell reports that the no are winning on News 24.
He says Brown phoned Sarkozy to say that he would press ahead with ratification in the event of a NO. That would be total madness - surely? But lets not count chickens here - still think its going to be a yes.
According to http://www.referendum.ie/home/, with 16.74% of the votes counted, the No side is at 53.63% and the Yes side at 46.37%.
Call from Libertas, the Irish No campaign, a bit back.
Q: “Have you definitely won?”
Meanwhile, Neil has done an interview with former Europe Minister Denis MacShane on the Simon Mayo show on Radio Five Live. He is literally shaking with rage and stormed out of the studio before the end of the interview...
Dan Hannan says “the Noes have it, and have it convincingly.”
Official results at 4.
With results in from 28 of the 43 constituencies, the Lisbon Treaty is being beaten by a margin of 53.6% to 46.4%.
That margin is expected to tighten as more results are announced, but the result is not in doubt.
Neil has written some thoughts on what it all means for the speecie.
(THE HAGUE) - The Netherlands, which rejected the EU constitution three years ago, will continue ratifying the Lisbon treaty despite its apparent rejection by Ireland, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said Friday.
Appalling. Their own people said no by 63%
The BBC are asking how the no campaign were able to so successfully "scaremonger." Their coverage all day apart from Mardell has been extremely iffy.
"The treaty is not dead"
"18 member states have already approved the Treaty... we should go on with the process."
Jackie Davis from the EPC on the BBC:
Barroso's words "reflect the view all across Europe". Presumably not in Ireland.
Czech PM Mirek Topolanek says:
"The rejection of Lisbon Treaty presents a political complication. However the European Union does have a stable legal basis, which enables the Union to continue its functioning in a standard way."
"The consequences of the ‘no’ vote and further proceeding should be discussed at the upcoming European Council meeting. I do not consider Irish vote to be less valid than the French and Dutch vote."
"The Czech Republic will continue preparing itself for the EU Presidency in the first half of 2009 as we have - from the very beginning - reckoned with both possible outcomes of the ratification process."
The hopeless Denis MacShane claimed on News 24 that the Treaty was defeated by Gerry Adams and the Socialist Workers Party. He has finally turned into Comical Ali.
Various Libertas people spoke next. They say they want a more democratic, more transparent Europe with less waste. Not quite what mcshameless was saying.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The UK Government would ignore an Irish no and crack on with the Treaty regardless:
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain has told European Union partners it will continue parliamentary ratification of the bloc's Lisbon reform treaty even if Ireland votes "No" in a knife-edge referendum on Thursday, a senior EU diplomat said.
The diplomat said London had reassured key partners it has "no intention to pull the plug on this", despite strong pressure from Eurosceptics demanding a British referendum or the scrapping of the ratification process.
And they are deciding how the new institutions will work behind closed doors (shhh! don't tell the voters...)
According to Bruno Waterfield:
Before setting out Dublin’s detailed and decided position on both the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the role of the “foreign minister, now called a High Representative (HR) for foreign affairs, Ireland’s EU ambassador, Bobby McDonagh, pleaded with his colleagues to keep the Irish voters in the dark.
“(We) have to remain cautious in presenting these issues (referendum)!,” the minutes record Mr McDonagh as saying.
Mr Mcdonagh then went on to set out his Government’s position – a stance that has never been debated in public and certainly not in front of the children during the Irish referendum. These words, from a secret document, have never been published.
And there was nowt on the BBC 6 or Ten o'clock news either.
Not a peep about the pompous speeches of people like Lord Kerr, who assured us that the Treaty was "no big deal".
Nothing about the disgusting behaviour of the Liberal Democrats, who really have treated the public like idiots.
In fact the whole thing passed off quite without incident. Just what the Government wanted.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The Lords debate on whether there should be a referendum is happening now.
We're watching the debate, listening to the dreary, tendentious balls being spouted by the all the ancient europhiles.
Our favourite europhile argument is that a referendum is not needed, because other governments are no longer planning to hold referendums. So that proves that the Treaty can't be significant enough to have a referendum on.
Nice one. No circularity there.
No argument is too pompous or too anti-democratic for the europhiles. God, how they would hate it if we, as well as Ireland, were having a referendum.
It's shocking how empty the Labour benches are. No doubt they will all turn up for the vote, having listened to none of the debate.
During the course of the debate, the Lib Dems have managed the stunning feat of taking three different positions on a yes or no issue. They were for a referendum at the election, abstained in the Commons, and will now vote no in the Lords.
Inded, when Shirley Williams was asked about it as an aside on the World at One today she admitted that MPs had broken their promise. But she didn't feel like that was a problem for the Lords. She said "almost every single" one of her colleagues would vote against a referendum:
Asked if that was not awkward for Mr Clegg, she told BBC Radio 4's The World at One: "
"We've discussed this at length with him. "The position in the House of Lords has been democratically reached: the Parliamentary party in the House of Lords has been consulted and they are of one mind. "Don't forget they include some of the most prominent champions of entering the European Community that ever existed and therefore they are not suddenly about to abstain on something they feel so strongly about as a matter of principle.
"In the Commons it was frankly different because there were some Members of Parliament who had precisely given their constituents a promise they would vote in favour of a referendum and felt bound by that; that is not true of any of the peers."
We think that's pretty shocking.
But will any of the broadcasters seriously cover this evening's vote? We think not.
** Update: David Owen made a very good speech - in which he quoted both Pericles and Swift. That's more like it.
Andrew Duff was quoted saying that, in effect, all this money has come out of their own pockets and has in no way been creamed off from their expenses.
We think a separate, more interesting question relates to the MEPs who use Cowley Street as their service provider for staff. The Indie named Andrew Duff, Fiona Hall, Bill Newton Dunn and Sarah Ludford as doing that. So you would be talking £650,000 a year, or £6.5 million over a decade. That's not small beans for a third party.
However, the party is not willing to divulge either who the money is used to employ or how much has been received. The data will not show up on the electoral commission website.
When we rang their press office their spokeswoman said those pieces of information are "not something that is a matter of public interest" and suggested that "we have been very transparent." She also pointed to Nick Clegg's recent proposal for a code of conduct.
The Lib Dem press office did however say that all such money was kept in a seperate bank account, and was spent purely of staffing costs.
That's all good, but the problem is that party leaders need to show us, rather than just tell us that they are being transparent .
It's no good in the current climate to make a speech about transparency, but then refuse to say how you are spending public funds. If Nick Clegg wants the Lib Dems to be the clean party, then he has to publish the numbers...
Labour MEP Claude Moraes has answered the transparency initiative. Well done Claude.
That means 46% of UK MEPs have now replied. Just a few more to go before we can start saying the refusniks are in the minority...
24 FULL RESPONSES
42 NO RESPONSE
The Times and the Telegraph this morning report all kinds of strange suggestions.
One is that Open Europe is part of some kind of "witchhunt" against MEPs initiated by David Cameron. Nope.
Another is the bizzare claim that people at Open Europe have "written speeches" for the Tories (nope - never have, and we are the last people they'd ask).
But the really odd suggestion seems to have come from a meeting of Tory MEPs yesterday. The argument that some of their old guard seem to be making is that if MEPs are forced to disclose more information... then loads more stories about sleaze and financial mismanagement will come out.
According to the Times: "Conservative MEPs gave warning yesterday of a “timebomb” of further damaging disclosures about their expenses when they are forced to apply Westminster-style transparency."
Shurely that's an argument for Cameron getting MEPs to publish all their details? On a practical note, if there is more to come out, it will come out sooner or later.
The whole argument seems rather like the Blazing Saddles moment where Bart puts a gun to his own head and takes himself hostage... but in real life it probably won't work so well.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
We're not so sure. There's an interesting account of the shooting down of Lieberman-Warner in the Senate in Time this week. The Sentate was largely still debating whether to "do something" and the discussion never really got to the detail stage. Even so the numbers are still a long way off a majority - really only 36-40 senators are on for it.
Wait till they actually look at the specifics of emissions trading as a particular policy to reduce emissions and those numbers will fall further.
One of the main supporting arguments for doing something (and it is fair enough) is calls to kick kick what is always described as "foreign oil".
But as McKinsey's report for the Commission points out, Emissions Trading means importing lots more foreign gas (30% in the case of the EU) because that is the swing sector in ETS. In Europe that means more dependence on Putin, and presumably for the US... Chavez?
If you want "energy security", you probably want a different policy...
To be fair, no one ever called Lieberman-Warner itself inevitable. Sponsored by Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Republican John Warner of Virginia, and taken to the floor by Democrat Barbara Boxer of California, the liberal chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, the bill was never given much chance of passage. Its carbon-reduction targets were tougher than the business community wanted, but not as tough as many greens demanded. And it was complicated, even bloated — it would have raised $6.7 trillion over 40 years by auctioning global warming pollution permits, using great gobs of that money to buy off various interest groups. But it was significant just the same, because its six-month-long journey from environment and public works committee to Senate floor helped force some reluctant Senators to begin thinking seriously about the issue. Boxer calls the result "a road map [for] the next President, so he knows where are the consensus areas and where are the difficult areas."
It would have taken a truly great floor debate to begin resolving some of those difficult areas — a half dozen thorny deal-breakers (how to contain costs, what to do about China) that need to be figured out before any such bill can pass. But not much of that table setting took place last week, because the debate never made it past the partisan bickering and economic fear mongering. Lieberman-Warner was strangled in its crib, because moderate Democrats weren't ready to go this far, because Boxer and the enviros weren't willing to compromise on their core issues, and because the opponents of global warming legislation remain strong, even though their favorite old tactic, denying the science of global warming, has been all but abandoned.
Just about every Senator who spoke last week, Democrat and Republican alike, wanted to be on record saying that climate change is real and must be dealt with. But far too few were willing to debate the solutions to the crisis, because the opposition has found a new, well-fortified position. It argues that the U.S. can't adopt a cap on carbon emissions (at least not this one) because it would drive up energy prices and wreck the economy.
In fact, the Republican leadership spent last week trying to create not just a new litmus test for climate action but a new third rail for American politics: It wants any climate bill that causes the slightest increase in energy prices to be seen as a non-starter. "Any action should not raise the cost of gasoline or energy to American families," said Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe, the longtime leader of the denial-and-delay crowd, and his words were echoed by many others. That's an impossible standard to meet, and if the Republicans succeed in establishing it, Congress may never get this done.
Lieberman-Warner, like any cap-and-trade bill, would increase the cost of energy derived from fossil fuels while giving clean, alternative energies an enormous boost. In other words, it would drive up gasoline prices and coal-powered electricity rates in the short term (though by smaller amounts than the doomsayers were claiming last week) while delivering far greater energy savings over the long term — by unleashing a clean energy economy that creates jobs and helps free the U.S from dependence on foreign oil.
That's a deal worth taking: a two-cent-per gallon increase in gasoline prices each year between now and 2030, according to an EPA report, in return for deep reductions in gasoline consumption. But with gasoline at $4 a gallon and rising, this was a terrible time to ask panicky voters to think about such a deal. And the Republican leaders were only too happy to exploit the high cost of energy. A G.O.P. strategy memo made public by Democratic leader Harry Reid summarized it this way: "The goal is for a theme (example: climate bill equals higher gas prices) each day, and the focus is much more on making political points than in amending the bill... or affecting policy."
Republican leader Mitch McConnell had an amendment ready that would suspend the bill if it caused gasoline prices to rise by any amount. If that amendment ever went to a vote, it would force the bill's supporters to come out in favor of higher gas prices, and the Republican TV attack ads would produce themselves. No wonder moderate Dems wanted Reid to ditch the bill. At a meeting of Senate Democratic legislative directors, on Monday, June 2 — the day the Senate took up the bill — staffers were howling that Reid and Boxer were leading their bosses into the Valley of Death, forcing debate on a bill that didn't have the votes to pass, one that Republicans would soon be calling the "Boxer Climate Tax Bill" and "the largest tax increase in history" even though it offered nearly $1 trillion in tax cuts to help people pay for rising energy costs.
Reid brought the bill to the floor despite the exquisitely bad timing because climate change is his top domestic priority and because the issue won't be any easier to debate when a gallon of gasoline costs $5 or $6. Barack Obama was busy clinching the nomination and didn't show up for the debate (neither, for that matter, did John McCain). So, for the first couple of days of the fiasco, as the Republicans deployed parliamentary delay tactics and trotted out bogus studies that "proved" the bill would wreck the economy, the story line seemed to be this: What excuse would Reid use to get this bill off the floor?
Then McConnell overplayed his hand, forcing four beleaguered Senate clerks to read the entire 492-page climate bill into the record on Wednesday night — an eight-hour ordeal that unfolded as a wild electrical storm crashed through the Washington area. Twisters touched down here and there, rain lashed the hot streets in wicked sheets, and giant lightning bolts arced through the sky near the Capitol dome. Scientists caution that no single storm can be linked to climate change, but if ever there was heavy weather sent down by angry climate Gods, this must have been it. "It should give Senators pause," said Reid, and then he filed for a procedural vote to break the Republican filibuster. He had found his way out of the Valley of Death. "McConnell sent flowers to the clerks who had to read the bill aloud," says one Democratic policy adviser. "But Reid should have sent flowers to McConnell."
The Republicans had reason to want the debate over as well. They had managed to line up in a circular firing squad, since a number of G.O.P. senators, including Mel Martinez of Florida, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, and the party's standard-bearer, John McCain, support the cap-and-trade approach if not this bill in all its details. And some Republicans find themselves in tough reelection battles in states where voters take the climate crisis very seriously — John Sununu of New Hampshire, Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Gordon Smith of Oregon — and don't like being associated with delay tactics.
When Reid's procedural vote finally came, on Friday morning, 48 Senators voted to move ahead with the debate, and 36 voted against. Boxer was happy to claim that a total of 54 were in favor of moving ahead — because six absent Senators, including Obama, McCain, Hillary Clinton, and Ted Kennedy, had written letters saying they would have voted in favor had they been present. Fifty-four would have been significant — the first time a majority of Senators voted for climate action. But 48 is the number in the Congressional Record, and it only got that high because 10 moderate Democrats who would have voted against the bill cut a deal with Reid: nine of them voted for the procedural motion to help their party save face, then they published a letter explaining why they didn't support the bill.
That detail was overlooked in the cheerful post-vote statements of the green groups. But that's not surprising; it's their job to be optimistic and keep pushing and pushing and pushing. So they pointed to a hopeful sign: 10 Senators who had never before supported cap-and-trade legislation voted for Reid's attempt to move the bill forward. That was good news by any measure. But it would be a stretch to call it a sign of inevitability. This is a war, and in war, the outcome is never preordained.