The EU debate

Cggvz1uXEAAplyGThis evening I chaired a debate, organised by the Centre for Opposition Studies, on Westminster v Brussels? British opposition to the EU, with Graham Brady MP arguing the case for British exit from the EU and Sir Vince Cable arguing the case for the UK to remain a member of the EU.

As I explained in opening, I was chairing because I am on the Centre’s advisory committee and because I am neutral in terms of the present debate.  I drew attention to a recent analysis which suggested that each side in the debate was appealing to its core vote and not really making a case that appealed to those who were undecided.   I invited both speakers to make a positive case.

Graham Brady argued that there was no status quo option and that the EU was essentially an inward-looking institution, with fiscal integration being core to its future, even if that was not something desired by all member states.  He argued exit would offer an opportunity to reinvigorate our democracy.  Vince Cable challenged the argument that we could negotiate favourable trade terms with other member states.  Even if we negotiated good terms with Germany, France and others may take a very different view.  He made the case for access to the EU as a single unit.  Industries had set up in the UK because of the access to that market.

At the end, Graham Brady asked me if I was still neutral.  I had to say that I was. Some people haven’t made up their minds because they haven’t listened to the arguments.  My problem is that when I hear one of the arguments advanced by one side, I can put the counter-argument of the other.  The problem at the moment is that each side tends too often to speak in headline or sound bite terms, often adopting a lemon meringue approach: looks good on the outside, but when you bite it there is not much there.

About Lord Norton

Professor of Government at Hull University, and Member of the House of Lords
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17 Responses to The EU debate

  1. Tony Sands says:

    I have always been committed to the ideal of the European Union despite its financial costs and many imperfections. John Major’s very straightforward arguments are the clinchers for me. Pointing to the example of Norway, he doubts that Brexit would result in enhanced sovereignty for our national Parliament. He also makes the point that in order to trade with the EU, Britain would have to conform to European standards and directives so why remove ourselves from the possibility of influencing those rules and directives.
    Having listened to Michael Gove on Radio 4, however I felt his arguments had validity. For me the real point is that an issue of such importance should be decided by our politicians in Parliament. The issue is far too complex for the public to make an informed judgement. Referenda in short are an extremely bad way to decide issues of such magnitude. As in the case of Scotland, how long are the decisions arrived at by referenda actually binding? 1975 wasn’t that long ago either!

  2. Dave H says:

    I’m on the Leave side of things. To me, deals have to be done with the EU as a whole – you can’t just strike a favourable trade deal with Germany because (a) as an EU member they’re not allowed to make such deals on their own and (b) if you could, you set up a one-man shop in Germany somewhere that imports your stuff and is then free to trade it through the rest of the EU.

    I also look at the Remain campaign argument that the EU would refuse to negotiate a reasonable deal. If they are that nasty and vindictive, would we want to be a part of such a group even if it cost us money to leave? If they’re not that nasty then they would negotiate a sensible and reasonable deal and all the fear tactics are just hot air.

    As for 1975, that was my father’s generation, I was too young to vote. He has also said that if he knew then what he knows now, he would have voted to leave because what we have now is not what he voted for.

  3. maude elwes says:

    There is so much more to this than meets the eye. I was a rabid pro European and dearly wish I still could be. However, although the economics of it are an issue, to me the most important matter of all is the lack of democracy. If the message is we are impotent, without any power to change the doctrine, which is currently the situation, then those at the table have no fear of accountability.

    I could give a sack full of reasons to vote out politically, but, none of those matter if we do not have the ability to call ‘no confidence’ and be rid of the crew leading us down a path of incredulity. And the set up, as it is now, excludes a discontent voice. Either by covering what is being said by ruling unlawful, with closure of freedom of expression, as in the case of the German comedian.

    Which brings me to a very important point. My understanding is, via the EU forum.

    ‘Germany has, globally compared, not even a valid Constitution, simply a multiple, x sixty, illegally amended ‘Basic Law’ agreed on, not by a plebiscite, but copied, pasted and co-signed by three winning Allies in 1949!

    Germany could be considered, theoretically, not even a sovereign country, yet, still occupied by the US and all treaties, signed so far by government, declared illegal and not binding! Surprised? Maybe someone needs to test that in the ECJ.’

    What is written above is why Obama and his crew are in a panic at the idea of the British voting to leave the EU. They are in this panic to the extent they have sent their ‘unelected by us in the UK’ front man, with the nerve to slip into Britain on the Queens birthday, to tell us all we must ‘not’ vote to leave. As well as their unasked for advice, they have added, through a spokesman, not too well veiled threats should we decide to out. As the deal over Germany was done with the UK in tow.

    Should we vote out, it will weaken, not only strategically the US political power over us, it will weaken the EU and US power generally, as other EU nations will be more likely to free themselves of their control over them with NATO. Also it will free us of their collusion with a creeping and threatening Turkey.

    You have to feel, we Brits, have at our fingertips, the ability to free ourselves of the overwhelming oppression we have been living with, under the globalisation policy. The one that is bending our minds to accept a ‘slave planet notion’ by being told it is in all our financial interests to do so. And, as the financial farce has been shown to lead us to nothing but all consuming debt to date, only madness would impel a nation to vote for it to continue.

    This is my primary motive for voting ‘out.’

  4. tizres says:

    I will vote out but only if it could be shown that the EU would self-implode soon after the UK exit.

  5. Jonathan says:

    If I had any doubt how I would vote, I have only to see the photo of the group of “Brexit” ministers, including Gove, Duncan Smith, Grayling and Whittingdale, and my doubts evaporate. And that’s before I even remember they are on the same side as Farage!

  6. maude elwes says:

    Here is a video taken from youtube that gives a view few of us hear. You have to listen to all if you want to be fully aware.

    And here is the view of a somewhat intelligent writer.

    PETER HITCHENS: America isn’t our special friend. It ruined our Navy, Empire and future

    By Peter Hitchens for The Mail on Sunday

    Published: 01:43, 24 April 2016 | Updated: 07:14, 24 April 2016


    Now will we grasp that the United States is not our friend, but a foreign country whose interests are often different from ours?

    President Obama’s blatant intervention in our internal affairs is not a sudden breach of a soppy ‘special relationship’. The USA’s only real special relationship is with Saudi Arabia, a 70-year-old hard pact of oil, money and power, welded together with such cynicism it ought to make us gasp.

    Barack Obama’s open desire for us to stay inside the EU is by no means the first or worst example of White House meddling here in these islands. Bill Clinton forced us to cave in to the Provisional IRA in 1998 and his successor, George W. Bush, continued the policy by making us do Sinn Fein’s bidding afterwards.

    Washington came close to scuppering our recapture of the F alklands in 1982. And with the current state of our Armed Forces, which can nowadays do nothing without American support, I often wonder how the White House and the Pentagon would behave if Argentina once again seized Port Stanley.
    President Obama’s blatant intervention in our internal affairs is not a sudden breach of a soppy ‘special relationship’. The USA’s only real special relationship is with Saudi Arabia, a 70-year-old hard pact of oil, money and power, welded together with such cynicism it ought to make us gasp

    President Obama’s blatant intervention in our internal affairs is not a sudden breach of a soppy ‘special relationship’. The USA’s only real special relationship is with Saudi Arabia, a 70-year-old hard pact of oil, money and power, welded together with such cynicism it ought to make us gasp

    If anyone thinks Hillary Clinton is a great friend of Britain, they’re in for a big surprise.

    But surely the Americans fought with us shoulder to shoulder against the Kaiser and Hitler? Not exactly. The USA (quite rightly) fought for its own interest in both great wars, not for us.

    When we ran out of money after the First World War, Washington seized the chance to force us to limit our Navy, and so began to overtake us as the world’s major naval power. We had feared Germany would do this. It is one of the great ironies of history that it was the USA that ended British sea power.

    In the blackest months of the Second World War, just after the fall of France, the US Congress demanded almost every penny we owned before it would authorise the famous Lend- Lease programme.

    Secret convoys of Royal Navy warships carried our reserves of gold bullion (estimated to have been worth £26 billion in today’s values) across the Atlantic – mostly never to return. Billions in negotiable securities went the same way, and British assets in the USA were sold off at absurdly low prices.


    PETER HITCHENS: I’ve discovered who’s secretly controlling…
    Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher waves to members of the media on returning to No. 10 Downing Street from Buckingham Palace after a visit with Queen Elizabeth II. Christie’s is set to sell personal possessions of late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, including papers, mementoes, clothes _ and her iconic handbags. The auctioneer said Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015 that 150 lots will go under the hammer Dec. 15 in London, with another 200 sold by online auction. The suit worn in this photo will be included in the auction. (AP Photo/Dennis Redman, File) PETER HITCHENS: Privatisation! Free trade! Shares for all!…

    Share this article

    I don’t blame the Americans for this. In 1934, Britain had defaulted on her giant First World War debt to the USA. This is now worth up to £225 billion in today’s money, depending on how you calculate inflation.

    We still haven’t paid it off, and never will, though it’s not considered polite to discuss it and it’s one of those facts so grotesque that most people refuse to believe it when first told of it.

    During the Hitler war, the USA gave us enough aid to stay in the fight, but not enough to recover our former economic strength. The eventual peace was made on American terms, and Soviet terms, with us as onlookers. And after the war, Marshall Aid came with strings – open up the British Empire to outside trade, and then begin to dismantle it.

    Not wanting to get embroiled in any more European wars, the USA also put a lot of effort into creating a permanently united Europe. Documents came to light in the 1990s, probably by accident, showing detailed CIA involvement in the European Movement.

    I regard America’s behaviour as perfectly reasonable. It’s the sort of thing we used to do when we were top nation, and had more sense than to squander our wealth on idealistic foreign wars.

    I like America and Americans, lived there happily for two fascinating years, and wish them well. But I never forget that the USA is another country, not a friend or even a cousin. Nor should you.

  7. maude elwes says:

    @ Lord Norton:

    Somehow my copy and paste went wrong in the Hitchen’s comments. I don’t know how it happened and now I cannot remove the old writings that came from nowhere. I do apologise.

    In my view, it doesn’t make reading what I meant to stand alone any less informative though.

  8. maude elwes says:

    And now the awaited movie that gives a real view of this racket.

  9. maude elwes says:

    Shock, horror. Today I received my leaflet from ‘The Electoral Commission’ remain outfit. And to my utter disgust I read under how do you vote?


    1. At your polling station in person on 23 June 2016:


    If this isn’t rigging, along with many other discrepancies, I don’t know what is. What is needed at the end of polling is every single station must have armed police to guard the boxes carrying the votes and they must remain with same boxes until the count has been declared.

    If you turn up without a polling card how can that be either legal or safe in the knowledge your vote is secret. This referendum stinks to high heaven and there has to be some kind of safeguard for us all.

    • Dave H says:

      That is actually standard wording for elections. You have always pretty much been able to turn up and vote without any proof of who you are. For most people it will be in the same place as they voted in 2015 and for the local elections at the start of May. Far more concerning is the procedure for postal voting. That is full of easy-to-exploit holes.

      Why do you want armed police? We probably don’t have that many armed police available in the country.

      • maud elwes says:

        @ Dave H

        You may well be right, but I don’t remember seeing it in any info sent to me before. In fact it sounds like encouragement to cheat.

        However, that aside, our country has changed out of all proportion to how it was before the Blair creature has his three wins. Our legislation has been changed to unrecognisable in so many aspects of our expectations.

        I am aware that in many areas around the UK other people names are used to vote for whomever they have in mind. I also believe quite a few MP’s are there in our Commons as a result. And, it is said more than a few do it in many parts of the country. Endless postal votes also are suspect as you mention. This is blatant vote rigging and should be investigated relentlessly for fraud. And, I believe, this also is a set up from above. Those who run it are nonchalant and have no interest in making it foolproof as the outcomes suit them. Both Blue and Red. So, unless the electorate rises up and demands ID before the vote in all stations, as well as boxes followed with each vote within those boxes guarded with their life, third world style. Unless we do this, we cannot be sure the answer given is what the UK truly put their crosses to. Our country has become a Zimbabwe. Which is, no doubt, where they were taught how to do it in the first place.

    • tizres says:

      More to the point, what is going on with the Electoral Commission? I cannot recall receiving any other literature emanating from them which advertises such thoroughly debunked “information” from at least one of the campaigns, hiding behind lines such as “This information is not from the Electoral Commission”.

      This, and their views on the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013, an Act passed by Parliamentary Members, is causing me concern on their independence.

  10. maude elwes says:

    Once again I found this on the Debating Europe website. It was given by someone commenting. It alleges that Merkel and von Rumpuy were given awards by this group for their promotion of its objectives. Could that be right? If so, to remain in Europe would be a catastrophe for any country in it.

    Another reason for getting shot of it as soon as possible is, we have no idea or guarantee where those who are hidden waiting in the background will be taking us. This plan I put here is essentially wanting it to be complete by 2050. They are unelected, only appointed as are the Lords, so they appoint anyone they feel will lead them to their goal, and we would not have a hope in hell of stopping it happening. It will only make them more determined to move as fast as they can. The IN group are without a brain. And still there is more to be exposed. Far more than we presently have any grasp on.

  11. maude elwes says:

    Here is an example of what ‘Remain’ will be all about. More laws and control we as British citizens will have no control over.And this is the tip of the iceberg.

    If Blair and Major, one a war criminal and the other a dealer in arms through his shares portfolio, are uniting to beg us to stay in, then you have to know it’s a club for odious thieves.

    THIS IS WHAT YOU WILL BE LEAVING. They do not tell you this in MSM

    On May 31, the European Union, in partnership with Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft, unveiled a “code of conduct” to combat the spread of “illegal hate speech” online in Europe. Critics say the initiative amounts to an assault on free speech in Europe because the EU’s definition of “hate speech” and “incitement to violence” is so vague that it could include virtually anything deemed politically incorrect by European authorities, including criticism of mass migration, Islam or even the European Union itself.

    On May 24, the unelected president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker,vowed to use sanctions to isolate far-right or populist governments that are swept into office on the wave of popular anger against migration. Under powers granted to the European Commission in 2014, Juncker can trigger a “rule of law alert” for countries that depart from “the common constitutional traditions of all member states.” Rather than accepting the will of the people at the voting booth, Juncker can impose sanctions to address “systemic deficiencies” in EU member states.

    On May 4, Juncker warned that EU countries that failed to “show solidarity” by refusing take in migrants would face a fine of €250,000 ($285,000) per migrant.

    On April 20, the European Political Strategy Centre, an in-house EU think tank that reports directly to Juncker, proposed that the European Union establish its own central intelligence agency, which would answer only to unelected bureaucrats. According to the plan, the 28 EU member states would have a “legally binding duty to share information.”

    From Gatestone Institute 8224. Look it up.


    Does this make you feel good?

  12. maude elwes says:

    Again, I add this post to enable any citizen who reads and is interested in the real politic. It is a book by a once French MEP who has decided to spill the beans on the EU and politics in general. Find the English version. It is a great read and is filled with the kind of information every man and woman should be aware of.

    ‘Le Moment est venu de dire ce que j’ai vu (ESSAIS DOC.) (French Edition) Kindle Edition’

    Happy reading.

    • maude elwes says:

      I put up the wrong link. I do apologise for that. Here is the real thing. It is a book sold by Amazon Books. However, their version is in French. I am not sure if there is an English publication. However, I have added a bad translation paragraph which gives the gist of the contents aim.

      Philippe de Villiers, “le moment est venu de dire ce que j’ai vu”

      J ai été un homme politique. Je ne le suis plus. Ma parole est libre. Je suis entré en politique par effraction. Et j en suis sorti avec le dégoût.
      Le désastre ne peut plus être maquillé. Partout monte, chez les Français, le sentiment de dépossession. Nous sommes entrés dans le temps où l imposture n a plus ni ressource ni réserve. La classe politique va connaître le chaos. Il n y a plus ni précaution à prendre ni personne à ménager. Il faut que les Français sachent. En conscience, j ai jugé que le moment était venu de dire ce que j ai vu. »

      I ve been a politician. I’m not anymore. My speech is free. I got into politics by a break. And I came out with disgust.The disaster can not be made up. Everywhere, among the French, there is a sense of dispossession. We have entered the time when the imposture No longer any resource or reserve. The political class will experience chaos. The overall precautions spare no one. We need the French people to know. In conscience, I have decided that the time had come to say what I saw. “

  13. Tony Sands says:

    Apart from the very entertaining caption competitions of course, in which I have a ‘mild’ interest, the great pleasure I have in reading this blog is that its aims appear to be to inform about the work Lord Norton does on behalf of the public and educate by summarising complex issues in a more accessible way rather than engaging in polemics.
    As such I’d like to ask some questions about the referendum: Is there any precedent for the Queen to have voted in a referendum? I expect the answer to be no but is there any constitutional reason reason why our Head of State should not vote in the forthcoming referendum? Since peers can vote in the forthcoming referendum, I just wondered if Her Majesty will get a polling card, along with Prince Philip and their heirs and choose not to participate.
    Also since House of Lords is no longer composed of hereditary peers, and members have
    the right to vote on 23rd June, why shouldn’t peers vote in elections for the House of Commons? What’s your own view on this?

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