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Thursday, April 03, 2014

Rutte shows Clegg how its done on EU reform

It's good to hear a Dutch speaking liberal party leader forcefully expressing the case for EU reform. Sadly, as we noted earlier, it certainly wasn't Nick Clegg.  

In fact it was the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who once again today reaffirmed his credentials as a key proponent of EU reform with a speech to the FDP in Berlin.

As we have also noted before, the Netherlands (both the country and its government) is becoming a bit of a breeding and testing ground for ideas on EU reform. In his speech Rutte said:
"A lot of people in Europe are angry at the EU. Angry at those who sat at the controls in Brussels during recent years. Our common project of peace becomes, if we don't recognise this on time, a project of discontent."

"We won't restore the future and the belief in a functioning Europe with European elections or with European ‘spitzenkandidaten’. The ball is now in the court of national parliaments. Their legitimacy is greater than that of the European Parliament. So they should deal at an earlier stage and also more intensely with decision making in and from Brussels"

"European where necessary, national where possible. Tasks such as healthcare, education and taxation really are things which are for the Netherlands to decide, I think."

"That's why the European Commission should be given four core tasks: to strengthen the single market, to stimulate international trade, to more strictly apply agreements made and to only regulate in Brussels what really must be dealt with at the European level."

"All too often agreements regarding the budget or the democratic rule of law haven't been respected...Europe is more and more being associated with an anonymous, formal and impersonal layer of government where national sovereignty is being replaced by normative rules ‘from Brussels’".
Lots of overlap (at least in tone) with what Chancellor George Osborne and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble laid out in the FT last week.

There was however one of Rutte's comments lacked credibility:
"Unemployment is the biggest problem of our time. I see it in my circle of friends.  You probably do too..."
Admittedly we’re not familiar with the Dutch Prime Minister's circle of friends but we find it hard to believe many of them are struggling for work...Nevertheless, Clegg could learn a thing or two.


jon livesey said...

It's often been noted that while threatening the UK with "exclusion", the EU makes more and more free trade agreements with nations that are outside the EU altogether.

The reason for this is that the Single Market itself is being overtaken by events and is becoming more and more superfluous.

When the original common Market was created, we lived in a mercantilist World in which international trade was badly hampered by protectionist regulation. So free trade in Europe was a genuine advancement.

But an awful lot has changed since then, importantly the realisation that free trade promotes economic growth overall.

Look at World trade overall, and the EU no longer looks like an island of free trade in a protectionist World. Instead, it looks like an anomaly; a free trade area in an increasingly free trade World economy.

The multiplication of free trade agreements shows that the "border" drawn around the EU Single Market is pretty meaningless.

It's tempting to treat the Single Market as some kind of ideal, but is it really any more ideal than all countries pursuing free trade under the auspices of the WTO?

Denis Cooper said...

"The ball is now in the court of national parliaments. Their legitimacy is greater than that of the European Parliament. So they should deal at an earlier stage and also more intensely with decision making in and from Brussels"

Each national parliament only has national legitimacy; the UK Parliament has no legitimacy to determine anything in the Netherlands, and nor does the Dutch parliament have any legitimacy to determine anything in the UK.

If the two peoples had decided to unify their countries and have a single unified parliament then that would be a different matter, but they haven't.

So any measure which is imposed upon the UK Parliament against its will lacks democratic legitimacy in the UK, and it cannot gain any democratic legitimacy in the UK because it is supported by the Dutch parliament; that is true whether it is a matter of one system of transnational majority voting in the EU Council of Ministers, or another system of transnational majority voting in the EU parliament, or an alternative system of transnational majority voting through the nonsense of "yellow cards" or "red cards" or "purple cards with green spots".

In the 1975 referendum on whether to stay in the EEC we were promised that our sovereign national Parliament and government would always have the power to veto any proposal, irrespective of the views of the national autthorities in other countries, no question of having to assemble any kind of transnational majority or blocking minority, and nothing less than that will do.

"The ball is now in the court of national parliaments" - well, the European Scrutiny Committee of our House of Commons has already played that ball, back in November 2013:


and it said that we should have all our vetoes back for proposed new EU laws and moreover the right of our sovereign Parliament to disapply EU laws already in place should be recognised.

Rollo said...

What an embarrassment Clegg is. No wonder Rutte is grimacing at his touch.

Anonymous said...

Clegg doesn't want reform so he couldn't possibly express a case for reform, intact he would most likely lose his pension from his time working there if he did anything but agree with its aims.

The "reform" that Rutte wants falls at the first hurdle, he wants to give the unelected commission more power, despite his acknowledgement that the people are angry at the way our lives are being run by a democratically deficient committee. I think Rutte's comments about unemployment rate about the same in reality as Call me Dave's claim that we are all in it together.

Chris Williams said...

Perhaps the British should now consider what attitude they would have if it were to be France threatening and demanding in the way Britain is now. Would there be a certain satisfaction - and indeed, pleasure at the idea of a separation, which would surely weaken France in the long run?
On a more practical level, would our politicians and businessmen be looking at how we could take advantage of the possible exit?
I believe we are at that tipping point for many companies particularly in the financial services area, who would only be protecting their shareholders by at least considering a move of much of their operations to a known EU center, rather than risk the ongoing uncertainty of being in London.
The 'last chance' of Clegg to represent the pro-Europeans appears to have gone. Unless there is some rapid move by the Labour party to tie themselves to EU membership as a solid commitment (which seems unlikely and the current leadership of the party does not generate much confidence about their 'commitment' honesty anyway), we are without a voice.
So, let Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam start on the persuasion route to become the new 'City' for Europe.

Anonymous said...


No sane financial services (FS)company is going to base themselves in any part of the MananaZone - even Germany.

Complex hire and fire laws, prohibitive social and employment taxes (that effectively often double the salary paid), ridiculous laws and regulation and the breaking of market convention (when it comes to breaking banks etc).

Investors distrust the EU and the MananaZone so why would you base yourself there if you were a FS company?!

Free trade = Yes
Sovereignty = No way, Jose.


Denis Cooper said...

Chris Williams -

"Perhaps the British should now consider what attitude they would have if it were to be France threatening and demanding in the way Britain is now."

Perhaps the British should also consider what attitude they should take when the French government sets up a project to deliberately undermine the City of London.


"One very senior French financier now based in London once came to me and asked why the British couldn't see what was happening – it was called Project Spartacus, and it was an attempt, co-ordinated across French government departments, to do down London and make Paris the financial capital of Europe. Because he was French, he spoke about it openly with French officials and ministers, but he said they never speak about it in public because the didn't want to arouse the British - although President Sarkozy occasionally let slip his ambitions."

Nice friends we've got there, maybe we should set up a project to destroy their wine industry and see how they like that.

jon livesey said...

"So, let Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam start on the persuasion route to become the new 'City' for Europe."

There is an impressive lack of historical knowledge in this remark. Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam were not exactly founded the day before yesterday.

Amsterdam used to be the financial centre of Europe, but lost that role to London at the end of the eighteenth century. Now it's a financial backwater because it has no economic hinterland to make it relevant

Paris and Frankfurt boasted of the ways they were going to take business from London from the middle of the Nineteenth century onwards, but it never happened. The financial trade has moved more and more to London because London is politically transparent. The UK Government doesn't let politics meddle with investors' money in the way Paris and Frankfurt always did.

Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam can decide precisely nothing. The decisions are taken by investors, and we have seen the way investors have made London the World's main financial centre.

Edward Spalton said...

According to an informant, now aged 90, who is a survivor of the Foreign Office of 1950 and was secretary of the tripartite (USA/France/UK) conference which approved the variation of the German occupation statutes, permitting the setting up of the Coal and Steel Community, there were secret clauses in the treaty of which British Intelligence were aware. These provided that France would subsidise German heavy industry when in competition with Britain and vice versa - the aim being to "pastoralise" the British economy and destroy its defence capability.

So it is not new that European treaties are covert weapons, aimed at Britain.

My informant was so disgusted with the business that he resigned from the FO, rejoined his regiment and went to fight in Korea instead.

I would be more specific but he is writing his memoirs.