South West Conservative MEP European Conference Saturday 5th September 2015
Conference was opened by Ashley Fox MEP who asked that debates on our membership be noted for the respect shown to people holding opposing views. Julie Girling MEP commenced the full and very interesting day. We had speakers from European Court of Auditors, Open Europe, Taxpayers Alliance, Business for Britain, National Union of Farmers, Conservatives for Britain and British Influence before the final session of Break Out Groups to discuss and debate. Ashley and Julie plan to write to David Cameron making him aware of the agreed principles of the conference when he engages in renegotiation of our membership of the EU.
The day was dedicated to presenting facts and the final ‘Break-Out’ group session produced some little known realities. The EU give grants to the CBI and the Unions for the promotion of the EU, who knows perhaps the BBC receives grants to show favourable reporting on the EU?
First speaker was from the European Court of Auditors, its common knowledge that the EU hasn’t been able to lodge audited accounts for twenty years. Phil Wynn Owen, UK member of the EU Court of Auditors told the meeting that the EU could now file qualified accounts but false accounting and fraud could still be 7-17% of budget. The Court holds no powers but an adverse report causes the Commission some discomfort. Each member of the Court of Auditors is required, on taking up their position, to swear under oath ‘Only to serve the Union’. Auditor reports can be found online.
Second session: was for speakers from Open Europe and Tax Payers Alliance gave information which confirmed what the other said. Both are ‘Think Tanks’ and take no position but would work to make either in or out work for people. Concerns raised were; EU is out of touch, rather than adapt in order to compete the EU is engaging in protectionist policies. Sir James Dyson says that the EU is being motivated by a notion that regulation and more regulation is the answer to everything (that was used as a quote – Sir James did not attend). It was said that the EU did not see the benefits of trade. Iceland has trading arrangements with both China and India the EU has yet to open discussions with either. Both speakers in this session referred to our history of trading with the world and offered that a United Kingdom outside of the EU would have nothing to fear, at present membership has an additional estimated cost of over £1,400 per household per year on top of membership cost. TPA warned about the creeping tax powers of the EU; 65-70% of all our laws are coming from Brussels and tax harmonisation has already caused disputes with the Tobin Tax and VAT on vehicles high on the list. UK has appealed on ‘fifty-five’ occasions about new EU measures seen to be against British interests and we have failure to overturn even one despite EU Treaty’s setting out that it would be illegal for the EU to bring measures against the national interests of a member state.
Session three: speakers for Business for Britain and National Union of Farmers presented their cases. Britain; It was pointed out; “when given our referendum in 1975, we were encouraged to join a cricket club only to find they were playing rugby” Since then Maastricht and Lisbon have moved the rules without seeking authority of the peoples of Europe, in fact, where any referendum took place the people rejected Maastricht and Lisbon and the EU simply ignored the expressed wishes of the people. Ireland had to have a second referendum to come up with the “right” answer. 95% of British Businesses do not trade with the EU but they are forced to pay taxes and comply with the complex rules imposed from Brussels. The UK remains a member of the World Free Trade and should we vote to leave the Lisbon Treaty guarantees an amicable trading arrangement. Emphasised, was the fact that we are the EU’s biggest market and any suggestion that we wouldn’t be given favourable trading arrangements is nonsense. The NFU don’t wish to hold a position on membership, the EU gives funding for farming – in questions it was accepted that tax raised in the UK and sent to Brussels who returned funding (less admin costs) for UK farming. Unclear whether a future UK government even had a policy on farming! There are 40,000 EU legal Acts which govern farming.
Though not part of the planned agenda Dr Liam Fox spoke briefly of his position on the EU, a point of regret is that he felt a need to declare that he is a loyal believing Conservative but in this matter Country comes before party. He said his greatest objection to the EU is the phrase that keeps recurring in all the treaties, “Ever closer Union” logically that means “Union”. Sovereignty should not be so undervalued to be given away; we were asked to consider the Euro and ask the reasons to allow countries so diverse with no plan or hope of merging their economy to join – the only answer can be that a political goal is far more important than all those across southern Europe who are unemployed and with zero prospects. The Euro remains as result of printing money (QE) but confidence requires more than blind ambition to become a super state. Loss of democratic accountability – there has been seven referenda in EU member states, all results ignored. Defence, the EU plan to have foreign office which would displace the UK at the UN, even remove us from the permanent Security Council. They plan their defence force, but we have defence as part of NATO which has kept the peace for seventy years and keeps America interested in Europe. Apart from that some member states operate conflict neutral policies, even more fail to meet military spending agreements; so why would the UK trust our defence to the EU. Dr Fox said he wasn’t old enough to vote in 1975 but his father remained utterly convinced he was sold down the river; and it’s that perception that will need to born in mind when ensuring fair play in the coming referendum. We are told of negotiation to improve terms of our membership – “Better membership of a bad club”, remaining would not be as a member of a fixed rule club because “Ever Closer Union” will always be present. Leaving won’t be without problems but we will be in charge of those problems and for the solutions we choose. We will be in control of our borders and who is permitted to stay, we were told to turn our TV’s on to find how the EU is managing borders.
Session Four: Should we stay or leave the EU? David Campbell Bannerman MEP Co-Chairman of Conservatives for Britain for leaving and Peter Wilding Director of British Influence for staying. The MEP spoke first pointing out some facts that would be questionable in business, a new country becomes a member, they are permitted to have a Commissioner who should be given a job so a job must be invented and the new Commissioner must be given new staff. Business wouldn’t recruit and then decide on a job so why does the EU think it’s normal? He then touched on points of earlier speakers – lack of influence of member states, loss of border control, inward looking, a stagnating economy since introduction of the Euro and far too slow in responses to world trading shifts. Peter Wilding suggested that the UK problem was one of confidence – we should have the confidence to go in and lead, he said we require a Winston Churchill to dominate to that the EU would benefit from the best and proven leadership.
A show of hands was taken before conference retired into discussion groups – attendance was over 100 from the south west of England and it was noted that we provide the government with its majority. Ashley declared about two thirds would leave if the referendum were on the day the remaining third would stay in a reformed EU.
Final session: Ashley asked group representatives to share thinking which would be passed in a letter to David Cameron from the conference.
No closer Union
No over ruling Nation States
No EU foreign policy or defence force
Supremacy of UK Law on UK matters/no over ruling British Courts (clash of law types)
Scrap monthly moves to Strasburg
Free movement to take jobs not to seek jobs
Border control to be responsibility of the member state
Free Trade Community not EU Union
Opt out when EU acts against national interest.
Bureaucracy has no added value – so conference called for a major reduction of rules
This Conference Report was produced by Roy Garner—Association Chairman, who attended the event