Will the new Hadrian’s Wall be a steel immigration barrier?


The Scottish Referendum for independence

On the eve of the Scottish referendum, which, I have to confess, has driven me mad because of the childish behaviour exhibited by both sides, it seems right to explore what might go wrong if Scotland does take the brave step to go it alone – well almost alone because they are still insisting that they are intend to use the pound as currency.

EU membership – renegotiate or re-apply?

The biggest stumbling block must be Scotland’s EU membership. First Minister, Alex Salmond, continues in the belief that Scotland will be able to retain existing membership of the EU by negotiating ‘tweaks’ to current treaties to, in effect, step sideways and remain in the EU once independent. Scotland would also keep the pound and wouldn’t enter into the Schengen Agreement. It seems highly unlikely that the member countries are going to allow this, although the ‘Yes’  camp have justified their position by saying …

“There is no way that the EU won’t want to keep oil-rich, fishing-rich, renewable energy-rich Scotland. And we will keep the pound, because joining the euro is entirely voluntary – as the example of Sweden shows. We have no intention of joining the euro, and don’t even qualify for membership even if we did.”

In the last couple of days there has been much debate among high-level politicians in Europe about Scotland’s position and it should be remembered that EU membership must be unanimously agreed by the very politicians who are now voicing doubts about Mr. Salmond’s claims.

Íñigo Méndez de Vigo is a Spanish politician and is also Spain’s Minister for European Affairs. This week he said: “It is crystal clear that any partner [of a] member-state that leaves the member state is out of the European Union. If they want to apply again, they would have to follow the procedure of article 49 of the treaties” noting that there were “more ifs than a poem by Kipling” as to the possibility and the terms on which Scotland would gain entry. Because of the need for unanimity amongst the member states he concluded that “it is a process that takes more or less five years”.

Sterlingisation – will the new state really abandon its debt to keep the pound?

Salmond appears to be under the illusion that independence will mean that he can almost do as he pleases. This is evidenced by his warning that an independent Scotland, failing an agreement with the remainder of the UK about currency sharing, can simply keep using the pound and walk away from their share of the UK national debt.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) said in a damning report that action of this kind would see Scotland isolated from EU and international markets and would bring about “unprecedented austerity”. It noted that such a serious default on debt would mean that rating agencies would mark down Scotland’s current ‘Triple-A’ rating relegating it to below investment grade. The end result of this would mean that the newly independent Scottish government would be unable to raise new funds for up to a decade, according to the NIESR.

Mr Salmond’s explanation that Scotland could not be forced to use the Euro because it would not meet the economic conditions seems not to hold water. Mr Mendez de Vigo said: “There is an aim of all member states to share a common currency.” Sweden joined the European Union in 1995 and its accession treaty was signed in 1994. In the EU following the Euro crisis, it is highly unlikely that Scotland will be allowed to follow Sweden’s example. It would have to work towards ERM II, and this in itself would cause enormous difficulties to the Scottish economy.

The Scot’s Schengen problem

Finally, what of the Schengen agreement? Gianni Pitella, president of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, warned the newly created state of Scotland wouldn’t enjoy the UK’s existing rights to the UK’s opt-outs when it negotiates to join the EU. He said: “An independent Scotland would have no automatic right to the various special treatments that the UK has been granted over the last few decades, from the budget rebate to having no obligation to join the euro or participate in the Schengen area of travel without frontier controls. No new member has been accorded such special treatment.”

From this statement it would seem clear that the Scottish state would have to sign up to Schengen and this could be a really serious matter for England and Wales as, should Scotland be in the Schengen Area, it could seriously weaken the ability of England and Wales to enforce current immigration. We could end up with a frontier barrier like the one erected along the land border between Morocco and Ceuta as the Calais migrant camp moves to Gretna Green!

Shetland’s oil for Shetland?

A further problem will be Islands such as the Shetlands. There has been more than a murmur of dissatisfaction from the leading voices of the 22,000 islanders, with many saying that the Shetlands should follow the Scottish mainland and claim its own independence following a successful ‘Yes’ campaign.

Shetland, with its vast oil reserves, may consider taking steps to become a self-governing territory, similar to the Isle of Man, in preference to remaining within an independent Scotland after a yes vote, the Scotland secretary, Alistair Carmichael, has said.

In an interview with the Guardian, Carmichael said if Shetland were to vote strongly against independence but the Scottish national vote was narrowly in favour, then a “conversation about Shetland’s position and the options that might be open to it” would begin.

Tactical errors of the ‘Yes’ Campaign

It seems sad that Mr. Salmond has set about the referendum without thin king much of this through more carefully. There is considerable concern in Scotland regarding Mr. Salmond’s integrity. Fiona Scott, whose father John Ferguson taught Mr Salmond mathematics at Linlithgow Academy, West Lothian wrote in a newspaper that  “Mr Salmond has succeeded in creating divisions across Scotland that were not there before and that will still exist after the referendum, no matter which way the vote goes. Stories of intimidation, violence and vandalism are rife. Freedom of speech is under threat. Relationships between neighbours are now threatened if you indicate which way you are voting.”

Mr. Salmond has an uphill battle, whether he wins or loses the referendum that he was so keen to see take place.

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Pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk embarrass themselves by humiliating Ukrainian POWs


mob-rule-in-Donetsk

Ukrainians celebrated the national independence day today, which marks the day of their freedom from the former USSR. In Kyiv the with parade was respectful and dignified, but pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk held a parade that surely shows the sort of people that control Donetsk these days as they paraded and mocked captured servicemen through the streets in front of thousands of people jeering them whilst throwing anything at them that came to hand.

The parade was led by around fifty soldiers: prisoners of war who simply looked down as they walked, clearly in a very dirty state, their heads shaved and many of whom were clearly injured. and unkempt. 

They were jeered and shouted at and all manner of items were thrown at them, including shoes, eggs, bags of flour, dog excrement, empty water bottles and soiled nappies. As they were paraded through central Donetsk with their hands behind their backs, Tchaikovsky’s “Slavonic March,” was played throughout the streets. This music is a familiar and very patriotic piece to Russians..

prisoners-paraded-through-streets-Donetsk

To add to the humiliation, two tank trucks followed the prisoners-of-war, spraying soapy water onto the street as if to say that the street needed cleaning as the captives passed through the city. 

Those watching, men, women and children, screamed “Fascists!”,“Perverts!” and “Hang them from a tree!”  One woman told a TV crew “They are attacking our city. They are fascists. I am in favor of this parade.” A rebel soldier close to the parade, said that the parade proved how well the captives were treated “We keep them on cots and feed them three times a day,” he said.

This spectacle was organised to contrast with the traditional military Independence Day parade in Kiev, the national capital, where soldiers from the national army marched through the streets of the city, feted by cheering crowds.

cloud-of-flour-thrown-at-pows

The Geneva Conventions’ rules concerning POWs prohibit humiliation or parading prisoners publicly. 

The commander of the rebel militia made a public announcement after the parade had passed through the streets.  “Kiev said that on the 24th, on the Independence Day of Ukraine, they would have a parade. Indeed, they did march in Donetsk, although it wasn’t a parade,” top rebel commanderAlexander Zakharchenko said. “Soldiers of the armed forces of Kiev walked along the main streets of Donetsk. What Poroshenko planned has taken place.”

BBC map

Ukraine’s defence ministry voiced a strong protest about humiliation of these soldiers, saying. “The organisers of this disgusting event cannot be considered human,” a spokesman told Interfax-Ukraine news agency. “Nothing is holy” for them, he added.

prisoner-of-war-violation

You might imagine that shooting down the Malaysian Airlines plane would have embarrassed the pro-Russians into a more civilised way of conducting themselves, but it hasn’t. They seem to be completely shameless.

 

 

 

While the world is in turmoil over Iraq, Russia invades eastern Ukraine


A Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Ukraine, behind a police escort, drives along a road in the city of Voronezh

Moscow has directed its military to move artillery units manned by Russian personnel into Ukrainian territory while the world has been distracted by the murder of James Foley, the US photojournalist in Syria. It is believed that this weaponry has already been used to fire at Ukrainian forces, NATO officials said on Friday.

The incursion amounts to a significant escalation of the Kremlin’s military involvement in eastern Ukraine, which preceded the illegal entry of a convoy of Russian lorries, ostensibly carrying humanitarian aid, crossing the border into Ukrainian territory without Kiev’s permission, thus violating Ukraine’s sovereignty.

The EU and the US have been accusing Putin of supporting the separatist forces in eastern Ukraine since the rebellion started in March of this year, but the NATO countries have not had hard evidence that Russian soldiers were fighting in Ukrainian territory.

However, since mid-August NATO has received several reports detailing the direct involvement of Russian forces, said Oana Lungescu, a NATO spokesperson.“including Russian airborne, air defense and special operations forces in Eastern Ukraine, Russian artillery support — both cross-border and from within Ukraine — is being employed against the Ukrainian armed forces,” she added.

PR stunt to cover the Russian military incursion into Eastern Ukraine

PR stunt to cover the Russian military incursion into Eastern Ukraine

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s secretary general, criticized the Russian incursion in a statement issued in Brussels on Friday. His statement said

“I condemn the entry of a Russian so-called humanitarian convoy into Ukrainian territory without the consent of the Ukrainian authorities and without any involvement of the International Committee of the Red Cross,”

“These developments are even more worrying as they coincide with a major escalation in Russian military involvement in Eastern Ukraine since mid-August, including the use of Russian forces,” the statement continued, adding: “We have also seen transfers of large quantities of advanced weapons, including tanks, armored personnel carriers and artillery to separatist groups in Eastern Ukraine. Moreover, NATO is observing an alarming buildup of Russian ground and air forces in the vicinity of Ukraine.”

The US announced its deep concern after the convoy entered Ukraine in violation of its sovereignty and urged Moscow to withdraw all its personnel and military hardware immediately. The Pentagon issued the following statement on Friday:

“This is a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Russia must remove its vehicles and its personnel from the territory of Ukraine immediately. Failure to do so will result in additional costs and isolation.”

The most fitting memorial to those killed in WW1


 

candle_in_window

 

In September 1946, almost a year after World War 2  ended, Winston Churchill delivered an important address at the University of Zurich. The speech is one that is known by many historians and EU bureaucrats, but is not one that is remembered by the British public: his call for a United States of Europe.

This Victorian-born statesman, whose political career spanned all of the decades of the twentieth century up to that point, lamented that Europe, a strong and capable continent with fine prospects was riven with division and continual conflict. His was a bold step, and one that would even surprise people to this day, that know nothing of his proposal to release Europe from interminable war and the terrible price that inflicted on its people. In Zurich he said:

Quotation marks
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance … there would be no limit to the happiness, the prosperity, and the glory which its 300,000,000 or 400,000,000 people would enjoy.
 
 

Churchill’s seemingly imprecise quantification of Europe’s population was actually his way of hinting that the east and west of Europe might well one day be unified, something that we have largely seen in modern day Europe. The extra 100,000,000 was the people of the Soviet satellite states. He continued:

 

Quotation marks

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The first step in the recreation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany … There can be no revival of Europe without a spiritually great France and a spiritually great Germany.

 

Churchill’s weakness, however, was his inability to recognise that Britain’s empire would almost vanish by the end of the second half of the century. He said in his speech that while Britain would be supportive of the ‘United States of Europe’, it would not be part of it, as its future lay in its colonies and commonwealth.

It seems incredible to think that Churchill was the founding father of the EU, even more so now that the UK is part of it. Yet there is one detail that we should remember, as it was the very reason why Churchill proposed the creation of the EU in the first place: we have had no wars in the EU since its inception. There can be no better commemoration of the WW1 dead than that.

 

 

 

Could this be the nascent potential for a democratic EU commission?


democracy

The race in the European elections has seen a paradigm shift for the future of the elections, with the two front runners warning the current President of the EU, Herman Von Rompuy. that simply appointing a President by diplomatic nomination was ‘dead in the water’. Van Rompuy recently attempted to dismiss the efforts of the main parties to submit a candidate for the European elections in a bid to win the top seat at the Commission.

President Van Rompuy’s statements this weekend elecited scathing comments from Martin Schulz and Jean-Claude Juncker, both of whom rounded on the incumbent President, saying that the days of avoiding voter choice were over because the next President of the EU Commission will need a firm majority in the next Parliamentary council. Van Rompuy had commented that “The difference between the Parliament and those who really decide is very clear to citizens.”

Juncker, previously the Luxembourg Prime Minister, who is campaigning for the centre-right European People’s Party, told Süddeutsche Zeitung. “the democratic toothpaste is out of the tube with the election of a lead candidate. The old days, when a Commission president was elected by diplomats in backrooms, are finally over,”

Article 17.7, TEU of the Lisbon Treaty was instrumental in bringing about this small, but significant step towards a more robust democracy, and although the next President of the European Union will be nominated by EU leaders, the candidates will have to submit themselves to the European Parliament for an election by their peers.

The Presidential candidate for the Socialists and Democrats, Martin Schulz, told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. that Mr Van Rompuy’s position reflected his “own opinion, based on his interpretation, to fit his job description. Many in the European Council see this issue differently. Most importantly, the European voters see this differently.”

The five candidates for the job are:

  • Guy Verhofstadt:                    Belgian liberal (ALDE)
  • José Bové and Ska Keller:     Franco-German Green Party joint-candidacy
  • Alexis Tsipras:                         Greek Leftist (GUE-NGL)
  • Martin Schulz:                         German Socialists and Democrats
  • Jean-Claude Juncker:            Luxembourg centre-right European People’s Party

All are currently touring EU member states, supporting national parties in their bid to get voters to the polls on 22-25 May.

“Mr Schulz and I are touring the whole of Europe, to make clear the stakes of the elections,” Juncker said “Every citizen can co-decide the direction of Europe for the next five years.”

There is an informal agreement among the parties that the one that wins the most seats can put forward its candidate for the EU Executive.

The latest opinion polls put Juncker’s EPP in the lead with 222 seats and the socialists with 209 seats. The liberal ALDE party is credited with around 60 seats, the far-left GUE-NGL around 50 seats and the Greens and Conservatives with about 40 seats each.

 

Crime and Crimea


A blood-spattered Putin

Casual observance of the news from Crimea is enough to evidence troubling signs of nationalism and thuggery aimed at yielding the peninsula to Russian control. For the second day running masked, hooded pro-Russian militia have prevented European monitors  from entering Crimea. Armed pro-Russian thugs in military-style combat fatigues have consistently repelled the monitors and stopped photo-journalists from taking photos or video footage. The capacity of a uniformed militia to intimidate has a troubling history in Europe.

Evidence of pro-Russian methods of sunjugating Ukrainians

Evidence of pro-Russian methods of sunjugating Ukrainians

Over forty military and civilian monitors from the Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe tried to enter Crimea, but left after several hours of negotiation, saying they would return to the Ukrainian town of Kherson to plan the way forward in terms of monitoring the control being exerted by the newly constituted Crimean parliament. The observers are seeking to conduct a monitoring mission with a strong emphasis on ensuring that the human rights of the various ethnic groups in Crimea are being respected. Sadly, the prima facie evidence indicates that the pro-Russian militia are using strong-arm tactics, including using whips, to scare anyone but Russian ethnics from making any public statement about their opinion of the future sovereignty of Crimea.

How Russian ethnics are able to show themselves in Crimea

The rights of Russian ethnics in Crimea, though, are respected

“We are just trying to go through here as guests of the Ukrainian government under an OSCE mandate,” an observer told Agence France-Presse. “We’re going to try and negotiate with these people here.” The last two days have shown that there is little hope of any independent evaluation of the mood of the people in Crimea and the Russian government has spent that time redoubling its military presence there.

Unidentified troop movements in Balaclava

Unidentifiable troop build-up in Balaclava. No insignia is evident.

Here is some anecdotal evidence of harassment and intimidation by pro-Russian militia from Amnesty International:

“On 5 March 2014, a group of about 40 women staged a peaceful protest in front of the Ukrainian Naval headquarter in Simferopol. They were holding handwritten placards calling for peace and denouncing Russia’s military intervention in Crimea. Within minutes, they were confronted by some 100 aggressive men who identified themselves as the Crimean Self Defence League and grabbed and tore to pieces their placards, and forced them to leave.”

“On 5 March, a group of human rights monitors from EuroMaydan-SOS travelling from Simferopol to Evpatoriya tried to follow a column of around 20 military vehicles that had no number plates and no markings that would indicate which forces they belonged to. Their car was stopped, and all those inside ordered to get out at gunpoint. The military personnel ordered the activists to stop following them and go back. They refused to explain who they were and what they were doing in Crimea. When the activists insisted on their right to travel freely in Ukraine and refused to drive away, the men punctured the tires of their car and left.”

Journalists stopped and searched in Crimea

Journalists stopped and searched in Crimea

“A journalist from the media outlet “Topics of the Week – Crimea” told Amnesty International how he was attacked by a group of men identifying themselves as the Crimean Defence League when he tried to film the demonstration by the group of women in Simferopol on 5 March. The men pushed him into the road and told him to go away or they would beat him. The Crimean police officers who were standing about 30 metres away did not react to the incident. A journalist from Kerch.fm was attacked at 1pm on 6 March when she and a colleague visited the border ferry crossing which they heard had been occupied by Russian forces. She was threatened by men wearing Russian Cossack uniforms and men from the Crimean Self Defence League who told her “Switch off your camera or we will kill you.”

Some of the journalists in Ukraine assaulted in the last month for doing their jobs.

Some of the journalists in Ukraine assaulted in the last month for doing their jobs.

 

What appears almost certain is that Russia will engineer support through a referendum to annex Crimea, whether that act is legal or not, whether that act is in the interests of the Ukrainians or not, or even without any attempt to protect the minority Ukrainian and Tatars that live in Crimea. The West must act swiftly with ever-increasing sanctions against those who are responsible for this situation. Exclusion from the EU, visa withdrawals and freezing traceable assets in the EU of identifiable targets would be a start while supporting the new Ukrainian government. Democracy comes at a price, and the cost of ignoring that is the brown shirt tactics you see above, dressed up as ‘nationalism’; you and I may call it repressive thuggery.

The flea is wagging the tail that’s wagging the dog …


20yr-Euro-Parliament-turnout-79-09You have probably heard of the expression ‘the tail wagging the dog’ but the current spasm that has gripped the Tory party is more like ‘the flea is wagging the tail that’s wagging the dog’. 

There are a number of opinion polls that show little support for a UK withdrawal from the EU. Certainly those that are interested in seeing Britain leave would likely have voted for UKIP in the mid-term elections, as there would have been no safer way of making your voice heard on this subject.

As with any poll, my logic over who might vote UKIP by way of protest must equally carry a margin of error, however, I would argue that the margin would be no more than 10% as most anti-Europe voters of whatever political persuasion would certainly make the ballot journey UKIP in the mid-term elections.

UKIP survives on low poll turnouts and the recent election saw a turnout of just 31%. To give you some idea of how accurate my analysis could be, UKIPs major success in its entire 20 year history has been the European elections that have seen it gain 13 of the 73 UK seats in the European Parliament. Thirteen MEPs may seem impressive, but this has been achieved on the back of proportional representation with extremely low voter turnouts over the 20 year period, as the graph above left demonstrates. Parties such as UKIP and the Green party fare reasonably well in this electoral environment.

Who can we blame? Well, strangely, Tony Blair. It was he that started the ‘Third Way’, the strategy of taking the centre political ground to woo both left and right. Consensus and not conviction politics. Cameron has followed along the same path, much to the annoyance of the hard right (the righties?). Now, fearful of the UKIP threat, the marginal and some not-so-marginal Conservative backbenches are panicking and are almost in open revolt. The upper echelons of Cameron’s cadre are ‘supremely relaxed’ whilst giving every indication that in fact they are not. UKIP’s Nigel Farage surfaces occasionally in the media, with pint in his hand, comparing Cameron’s lot to that of John Major when he was under siege in the early 90s, thus wagging the tail that wags the dog a little bit more.

In contrast, Labour are quite content to explain that they are not supporting a referendum because to do so in the midst of a recession would invite a mass exodus of businesses and jobs over the next four years in the run up to the referendum, causing disastrous uncertainty.  Ah, how the tables turn!