Brussels sprouts an idea

Baroness Murphy

Like many British, I am deeply ambivalent about the long term ‘European Project.’ My difficulty is that I see the value, indeed the imperative, of Britain being part of a United Europe in perhaps 30, 40, 50 years. I believe a politically united Europe is the only way our distinct culture will survive and thrive economically to counterbalance the growth of the great Asian powers, the resurgence of Russia and the cultural infiltration of the United States.  Chris Patten argues the case in clear laymen’s terms in his book ‘Not Quite the Diplomat; Home Truths about World Affairs’ 2006.  But how do we get there? In principle we will need to move towards fiscal and political coherence sooner rather than later but the difficulty is we are so fundamentally different in our outlook on the way we conduct affairs in society at present that one can see the impossibility of signing up to a new treaty which drags us into fiscal alliance. We have clearly benefitted from not being part of the Eurozone in the current crisis, even though our economy is so closely tied to Europe’s.

Before the Eurozone was established the constituent nations created rules about the way they would behave. There were rules on deficits, borrowing, criteria for joining and so on which were then ignored, treated with contempt by Greece, Italy, Portugal and other countries and tolerated by France and Germany for the sake of the ‘bigger picture’. What confidence do we have that a new accord will be able to take account of the disparities in economic productivity of the constituent countries or be able to impose a sense of political responsibility in the Greeks and other southern European states? I cannot see how a new treaty will change much.

This is not to say that David Cameron’s stance was anything to celebrate; it seems to me that it was inevitable and possibly sad that we could not be part of something that moved us farther forward rather towards a democratic union rather than back. But I cannot see he had any other choice. We are not ready to cede democratic control to leadership outside these islands; mutual trust and understanding are absent.






21 comments for “Brussels sprouts an idea

  1. Dave H
    10/12/2011 at 12:11 pm

    The problem with the European project is that it has been rushed through on a political timetable, not an economic and cultural one. As such, it is always going to struggle, especially when the sticking plaster of ever more petty regulation is used to fix the cracks.

    For Britain, there are extra hurdles because our justice system is different and our approach to politics is different because historically we’ve had single-party politics without the need to consult with partners. We tend more to the permissive mindset, where anything not explicitly forbidden is allowed, in contrast to the approach where everything is forbidden unless specifically allowed. We came to the project with a history of being successful and top dog.

    All of that is inevitably going to make it much more difficult for the UK to integrate into a European model, and trying to force things is likely to rub up the population the wrong way, exactly as is happening now. As a nation we’ve never taken kindly to being told what to do.

    It’s been said in jest, but contains a lot of truth: “Our relationship with Europe is one of understanding and trust. They don’t understand us and we don’t trust them”.

  2. ladytizzy
    10/12/2011 at 5:59 pm

    Don’t sweat it, BM, it’s so 2012 to consider the EU with/without the UK in a future when you’ll not be around to blame/hero worship.

  3. Gareth Howell
    10/12/2011 at 6:43 pm

    the only way our distinct culture will survive and thrive economically to counterbalance the growth of the great Asian powers, the resurgence of Russia and the cultural infiltration of the United States.

    The only.

    These dozen or 15 intergovernmental organizations should be the ones at the table for the most important meetings at the UN.
    My own campaign is for the greater recognition of the ECO (Economic Cooperation Organisation) which would help to solve some of the Middle east problems as well
    Lord Howell of Guildford believes that EEC (Eurasian Economic community) is the one to look at carefully for the future. Documents were signed only the other day committing Belarus to it, from the border of the EU to the China sea.

    I don’t know even about infiltration. I should say thoroughgoing domineering and domination, which does not worry me too much in these tiny islands, since we have the EU to back us up!!!

    The union of Yugoslavia did not prevent it from tearing itself apart in a highly traditional way in the 1990s, mainly due to its leaders lack of understanding of intergovernmental developments in world affairs.

    Now individually, and weaker they are joining
    the EU, Croatia about to become the second after Slovenia. Their voting powers individually will be/are insignificant. Together they would have amounted to … something.

    Similar if not the same considerations apply to central Asia; Human rights law is condemned roundly by such as HRW( Human rights watch and possibly Amnesty and others,
    but if they were able to work together to incorporate the convention in to international region’s law it would be infinitely easier and much better represented
    to the international community as a whole.

    It ain’t easy for the UN to deal with every country individually. Much better to have a hierarchy of command from Globe to region to nation state.

    The geographic boundaries of our part of the world have changed a good deal over the last 2-300 years, with various competing empires, and they may change again over the next ones, hopefully with less blood and thunder than in the past, and more negotiation round the table.

    With globalization, and globalism, empire in transnational terms is a thing of the past;
    in terms of shareholder power, with some international companies enjoying a greater income and capital base than small sovereign African states, it may be a thing of the future.

    If those companies declared themselves as sovereign organisations, they would be far more transparent and easier for us to understand, which is probably not what they want.

    As it is, an attack on any of their properties and installations worldwide, as Elwes and others have hinted recently, is considered to be an attack on what amounts to sovereign territory of that corporation, and is responded to, with private armies described euphemistically as “Security organizations” organised as often as not from Scotland or the rest of the UK, ready to defend them with unequivocal murder and mayhem, whether in South America, or Africa.

    It is those organisations, with which the UK government was implicated in 2003, through its holding of 30% of BP, that was in part the cause of the war in Iraq. The immediate
    signing of the Gulf oil PSAs (Production sharing agreements) which had become abeyant due to a belligerent Iraqi government, was done even before the fighting got under way.

    Independently, small nation states CANNOT resist an invasion motivated by the effective lobbying of other more powerful national governments, by those international companies.

    Intergovernmental organisations are absolutely essential for a peaceful future
    for most parts of the world, and the EU27/NATO/SHAPE(Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers in Europe) are no exception to this golden rule.

  4. Rich
    10/12/2011 at 10:00 pm

    “I believe a politically united Europe is the only way our distinct culture will survive and thrive economically to counterbalance…”

    I have to challenge this statement. I see two assumptions that, as an American, I recognise may be true, but can’t simply let pass without explanation. Specifically, I want to know about two words: “only” and “our”.

    Why is a United States of Europe the only way for Europe to accomplish those goals? How does that extreme of the European project do better at counterbalancing economic powers than the old EEC or economic union among the Commonwealth countries or the Anglophone countries? Is the fear with Russia that it will be too strong economically or that it will pose a military threat? If the latter, would a political union with Germany at the center really be better than NATO? How would a political union do anything about American cultural “infiltration”? America managed to actually culturally infiltrate the Soviet Union and China, so how would letting Brussels make your decisions make a difference? Wouldn’t retention of NATO coupled with a purely economic link with the US, Canada, Australia, NZ, and countries like Japan and maybe India accomplish the goals you set out just as well?

    As for “our” culture, isn’t part of the problem that the UK is culturally distinct from Europe? That the cultural impulses that lead individual Frenchmen and Germans toward closer union do not infect Britons? Do not the British share at least as much with the Canadians, Aussies, Kiwis, and (gasp) Americans as they do with the Continent?

    • Gareth Howell
      12/12/2011 at 9:26 am

      If the latter, would a political union with Germany at the center really be better than NATO?

      A series of interesting, “attitudionalist”(?)
      questions from a US citizen(?) with which I largely agree. The way of the world is not something that politicians can do that much to legislate for, merely follow it and explain it to their people.

      I pick up the above comment since it seems to be inaccurate in that SHAPE and NATO will always be the guiding powers at the back of West European defence systems, and guarantees
      the existence of the EU27.

      We have recently seen attempts to form a EUprofor(?) and ISAF(?) which are more European based military enterprises, in Afghanistan in particular, but with limited success, since there has been until now, no concerted EU foreign policy.

      With the arrival of the Danish president and his worthy assistant Baroness Ashton the European foreign Affairs representative we should see more European based initiatives rather than NATO ones.

      It does not make that much sense to have a “North ATLANTIC organisation(NATO) campaigning in Central Asia now does it?

      The difference may be cosmetic, in that they would all be NATO troops but not representative troops from ALL the nation states.

      SHAPE/NATO is still very much in command of
      any EU troop campaign.

      The acronyms above ISAF/EUPROFOR may be wildly inacccurate. I am not a military man, but concerned with Foreign Affairs, and the formation of new international governments worldwide.

  5. MilesJSD
    11/12/2011 at 3:59 am

    “We are not ready to cede democratic control to leadership outside these islands”

    “We” do not have “democratic control” within these islands, either; nor exemplary Leaderships, in both Workplace and Lifeplace.

    Regardless of all the democratic-labels bandied about and strategically-sited throughout the Constitution, Legislation and Correct Media & Education Sectors Language, Britain remains in practical-effect merely a Three-Party State Monarchical Oligarchy.
    “Mutual trust and understanding are absent”:
    dead right they are !

  6. maude elwes
    11/12/2011 at 6:04 pm

    With all this discussion by the various blogs I have read since the PM decided to leave the negotions in Europe and of Europe itseld, is the dire consequece of not having unbiased press and media sources here in the UK.

    After reading so much anti EU articles I decided to look up who owned what and why. Well the big controller and the most anti European of them all, is of course, News International. Now that corporation spreads its wings very far and wide in the media world.

    We must therefore ask why is NI so anti Europe? What is in it for him and his cronies. Well, you all know he is a born Austrailian, but, he took on American nationality.

    His spread is world wide and his main aim is keeping all his money and not being subject to taxes like the rest of us.

    The public of this country are therefore fed a diatribe daily of what NI wants for the people. And so his papers and his TV news channel and all the other outlets for his desires have more or less a monopoly on our thoughts as a result.

    So, who runs his biggest selling newspaper in the UK. The Daily Mail. Of course, that hereditary member of the House of Lords, one ‘Viscount Rothermere.’ And guess what? This Viscount in a non domecile, untaxable phantom of British life who has an absolute open door method to indoctrinate the British public with the notion to keep him in the big money and influence sector. All this without paying a penny in UK tax. Unbelievable isn’t it?,_4th_Viscount_Rothermere

    Do you feel he may be threatened by the EU’s decision to stop the non dom tax evasion lark? And that that may have a bearing on his thinking and create trepidation at the thought of not only being unable to skid out of his duty to the people of this country with his tax situation, but, also as a hereditary Peer, will fear his status being removed from his present birthright? Do you feel this could light a fire of anti Europe in his belly? Just as it has in the UKIP leader, a one time Conservative, Lord Pearson.

    These very privileged men have it all tied up so that they can remain closeted from either election or account, as they lead this country and its people out of a ‘threatening’ to them, Europe.

    Yet, with the humour of the comedy club, they claim that European leaders are unelected and unaccountable and cannot balance a budget. What a laugh coming from this section of the Parliament club. Also unelected, and of a club who brazenly thieves from the tax payer without punishment.

    More on this later, when we can speak of exposing their pension Ponzi’s and fiddling of tax payers funds to the tune of a Maharaja’s fortune. All kept very quiet indeed.

    The point here is, those who want us out of Europe are not doing it for the benefit of the people. But for the benefit of themselves. And once again, we will be paying for it.

    But it isn’t going to be as easy as they think. First and foremost there is the Internet, so the censorship they have had by owning the one source of discussion on these matters, the press and the media, is no longer in their sole hands.

    Our ruling chamber in that upper House fear that whilst we remain in Europe, they will no longer be able to rule as their birthright. So, out it must go. Which suits the Tories no end, as most of them are in some way connected to those in that big red room.

    • Lord Norton
      Lord Norton
      11/12/2011 at 7:17 pm

      maude elwes: Lord Rothermere is not a member of the House of Lords.

      • maude elwes
        12/12/2011 at 3:13 pm

        @Lord Norton:

        This snippet here tells us that all members of the House of Lords can no longer slide and hide from their tax liabilities as non doms. I therefore have to take it that no member of the Lords has this status.

        However, isn’t that a llittle bit naive on the side of the State, or, Government, as many of these ‘non doms’ manage to transfer their funds to relatives and whoever, as in companies abroad, in order to circumvent the requirements in the tax department here?

        Similar to Phillip Green, for example?

        • Lord Blagger
          12/12/2011 at 4:57 pm

          Great idea. I don’t know why the government hasn’t thought about taxing foreign companies.

          It could for example, put a large tax bill the way of Mercedes. After all they profited from the Euro crisis by recklessly selling cars to Greek peasants, who couldn’t pay back the loans to buy them, triggering a banking crisis.

          Yep, lets get the UK to tax Mercedes. I can’t see what the problem is, can you?

          • maude elwes
            12/12/2011 at 5:39 pm


            Okay, so you knew that wasn’t what I meant and took advantage of my poor writing ability to chastise me. Well done you!

            However, it doesn’t change the fact that those who have the cash can easily find their way around this little rouse. Accountants are exceptionally good at following the gist of government paths to obvious avoidance. Which I am sure you are well aquainted with.

        • Lord Blagger
          13/12/2011 at 12:19 pm

          Well, why should Phillip Green’s wife pay tax in the UK if she doesn’t live here?

          Why should Mercedes pay tax in the UK if it isn’t in business here?

          Should we tax companies on world wide profits if there operate here?

          Will the UK accept that if we do that, then other countries will do likewise to UK companies?

          You need to explain the consequences, and the method by which you get what you want.

          The real problem is that tax in the UK is too high. That results in companies moving to other jurisdictions with lower tax rates. It also results in individuals doing the same. Under EU law, it is illegal for the UK to prevent people from moving their capital to other countries, just as it is illegal to stop EU nationals from coming to the UK and working.

          Why not get 20% of a lot of money, rather than 50% of very little?

          • maude elwes
            14/12/2011 at 12:04 pm


            I do so enjoy your take on matters financial it’s so narrow in concept. So British. LOL

            In short, that my dear LB is Globalization. Companies want to be able to set themselves up, world wide, without having to pay taxes anywhere.

            And Monaco, Phil Green, has no income tax. Which is why non doms love it so. And why Phil put all his assets in his wife’s name.

            If we are abroad and the taxes of that country require us to pay it, then yes, we must pay. And they must pay here. That way the world will benenfit. And we can leave off paying those ridiculous foreign aid bills.

            Americans have to pay taxes to the US government when they live and work here, as well as pay UK tax. And that’s the way it should be to all citizens and companies alike.

            If you don’t want to pay taxes, get out of the country.

            Look at what happened to Greece as a result of the non tax paying grudgers. If that is what you want for the UK, well sorry for you. The party is over! Get used to it.

  7. 12/12/2011 at 3:22 am

    It’s hugely ironic that as Russia becomes more liberal and allows protests that even a decade ago would have been unthinkable, Britain’s going in the other direction. Protests of all kinds are going to be banned during the period of the Olympics. Honestly, the UK gets more like old-school Russia every day.

  8. Senex
    12/12/2011 at 2:42 pm

    The DP made a statement on the Andrew Marr show (11/12/11) to the effect that Britain needs the approval of the United States before we can accede to further EU integration if Britain is to be taken seriously on the world stage.

    The European Council has good reason to view the financial crisis as one of Anglo Saxon making. That contagious and reckless risk taking has not served a greater European good. London is square in the Commissions sites for reform but not at the expense of European bourses. They will need our cooperation on reform.

    A lot of what you say is a paraphrase of what General De Gaulle said in his Press conference at the Elysée (November 27, 1967)…

    “For Europe to be able to counterbalance the immense power of the United States, it is necessary not at all to weaken, but to the contrary to strengthen the Community’s ties and rules…Certainly, those who, like me, have proved by their acts the exceptional esteem, attachment and respect that they hold for Britain, firmly desire to see her one day decide on and accomplish the immense effort that would transform her.”

    You say in your opening paragraph “Like many British”. You could have said ‘Like many Europeans’ but you didn’t. It was De Gaulle’s view that eastern bloc countries had more in common with the six than Britain did simply because they felt European, more civilised.

    This civilised behaviour is how the EU now moves forward. It contrasts with our pseudo federation the United Kingdom with its centre based at Westminster. There is nothing civilised about how we arrived at where we are now. Give the members of the European Council a chance to progress in a civilised way to demonstrate that Europe can move forward without the violent history that have shaped our national character.

    Ref: CVCE: Press conference, General de Gaulle, Elysée (27 November 1967)

    • maude elwes
      14/12/2011 at 12:38 pm


      I bow to your superiority in wordsmanship. This was a truly good read. We should have you as leader.

      I loved it.

  9. Gareth Howell
    13/12/2011 at 8:54 am

    The European Council has good reason to view the financial crisis as one of Anglo Saxon making…. That contagious and reckless risk taking has not served a greater European good.
    Moe to the point of City of London origin which vies with Chicago in the leveraged market which makes all financial crises so much worse or so much better booms.

    If there is any one thing that this coming recession should allow government to do and that is exercise more effective control over the London commodities and futures market, which is the commodity of money.

    The excuses for not doing it will be that all the business will be lost to Chicago if they do.

    In deed the crisis in European currencies is being fuelled by Currency futures dealers, who make huge capital from it.

    I add a note that it is the commission agents who make the money in the long run; the illusion that the so called dealers/traders do so is… a sophisticated illusion, no different from the bookie at the race course.

    The Eurocurrency is being determined by the likes of “Honest Fred” and “Genuine Gary” the bookmakers.

    The one thing he avoids on his own behalf is “RISK”.

  10. Frank W. Summers III
    14/12/2011 at 6:34 pm

    Baroness Murphy,

    The title of your post and its subject reminds me of all that has happened since my country’s President went with his French speaking wife to Europe and gave his famous “I am a Jelly Donut” speech in the language of his German audience. Indeed the topic of London’s financial prowess as being bang on, or perhaps the right bangers to serve as Europe find that as for finance the Belgian waffles is a hearty breakfast on the menu as it deals with a financial culture formed in large part in the heyday of the British Empire. Europe is largely setting a table with older Westphalian dishes and a good number of elements from the founding of the United States. To secure a new Europe for a new age is much thefinancial goal and that was not the Imperial goal. The truth is that the United States has subsidized a Pax Americana which succeeded an equally imperfect Pax Britanica. This has been a regime without the two massive world wars of the British peace but with rather more regional and social upheaval and violence.

    Europe has secured the perfect souffle in its quiet rise as it has kept all its UN seats and most of its varied treaty rights while emerging evermore as an integrated superpower. As this transition to a super-polity continues there will be room for weaker member states who will inevitably wish to join and sieze the chance for a seat at the banqueting table even if below the salt.

    Whether or not America and Russia can reach a new START or even a SALT treaty the role of NATO in Europe seems to make most Americans content with their bill as brought out de rigeur. However, eventually nobody will be content here, there, in Russia or in China with relations and a seating chart largely set up to reflect the conditions of 1948. I hope for an America that can deal strongly and fairly with Europe but it is useless to pretend Europe is not strong just because of this crisis. It is more honest to say one is not sure what kind and type of strength it is developing. It will grow until a new balance sets its limits. That could be pleasant and tasty resolution or else a course which turns the stomachs of all those who must eat it.

  11. Lord Blagger
    15/12/2011 at 3:43 pm

    Unravelling already.

    Czech prime minister say “vypadnout” to the EU
    Hungarian PM says “kopj le” to the EU

    All over tax harmonisation plans. ie. The rich and hard working bail out the feckless.

    • Frank W. Summers III
      15/12/2011 at 7:49 pm

      Although your post is not indented it seems you may be responding to me. I sometimes have had such difficulties. I think what you mention is indeed important and significant but I do not agree it is a convincing sign of unraveling. Perhaps the start of a new redefinition or a pressure for reform. Also, one might ask how many institutions are really feckful? “Hard working” I will grant applies to more people..

  12. Gareth Howell
    16/12/2011 at 9:33 am

    In principle we will need to move towards fiscal and political coherence sooner rather than later

    It is only a capitalist need. Local traders do not ‘need’ the Euro. It does not matter either way. If the Euro is set at a certain rate and Cornwall is poor, then prices will be cheaper in Cornwall. Prices may be 3x as high for veggies in Belgravia but the Euro would be exactly the same one as used in Cornwall, or Corsica.

    The Euro is about transactions between the different states of the Union.

    Not joining it, is partly about the gambling thereupon.

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