I’ve registered a whole bunch of Twitter accounts over the years for a variety of purposes. Recently two of these accounts were suspended by Twitter, and the process of what (didn’t) happen as a result requires a little bit more analysis. Both were suspended in late March 2015, and I contacted Twitter to appeal the suspensions shortly thereafter.
Cameron’s “proper choice” in the EU referendum ought to mean there’s a third option on the ballot paper
So Cameron is in Riga, trying to charm fellow EU leaders that
British exceptionalism a reformed EU is possible. News about it here. But one phrase particularly struck me from Cameron’s words – we’re going to give the people a “proper choice” he says.
The choice Cameron proposes is his negotiated, amended, weakened relationship between the UK and the EU, or Britain should leave altogether. This is no “proper choice” for people like me who, at the very least, would prefer no watering down of the UK’s relationship with the European Union, let alone no option for those who would actually advocate further integration between the UK and the EU (a point made by PolitiCrumb and Ralf Grahn on Twitter). There are rumblings from some on the left – the GMB Trade Union for example – that may switch to advocate a No vote if Cameron’s renegotiations are too harsh on workers’ rights (see this in the Indy about the different pro and anti camps).
So then, here is an idea for a “proper choice” in the referendum. Put two questions on the ballot paper – same style as was used in 1997 to establish the Scottish Parliament. Here’s some suggested wording:
Q1: Do you want the United Kingdom to remain a Member State of the European Union?
[ ] YES [ ] NO
Q2: Do you support the renegotiated settlement proposed by HM Government?
[ ] YES [ ] NO
A No to Q2 would simply leave Britain’s relationship with the EU as it is. Now I am aware that a renegotiated settlement is probably likely to be more popular (the “in but grumpy” option as Edmund Edgar rightly calls it), but at least a two-question referendum would allow a voter to separate EU membership (or not) from the way that Cameron plans to taint things with his assault on freedom of movement.
So the Labour Party has another leadership election. Unlike in 2010, when I was still a Labour Party member and heavily involved in the process*, this time I have no vote (having quit Labour to join the German Grüne as I now live in Berlin). However that doesn’t mean I have no interest in the process, or who may win – not least because with an EU referendum on the horizon in the UK, my EU citizenship rights could be in jeopardy due to what happens in the UK.
What then, I wonder, should the leadership hopefuls, say about Labour’s position on the European Union? Here is a kind of annotated speech one of them could give.
The construction vehicles pictured above are a JCB 3CX (on the left), manufactured in Rocester, UK, and two Volvo Construction Equipment machines (on the right), a , both manufactured in Arvika, Sweden.
My point of course – in light of comments yesterday by Chief Executive of JCB, Graeme MacDonald – is that in the future the Arvika Volvo plant might be still in the European Union, and JCB’s Rocester plant would not.
MacDonald confirmed that EU countries are an important export market for JCB, but said this:
What is needed is a lot less red tape and bureaucracy. Some of it is costly for us and quite frankly ridiculous. Whether that means renegotiating or exiting, I don’t think it can carry on as it is. It’s a burden on our business and it’s easier selling to North America than to Europe sometimes.
Now let’s think of the machines pictured above. Everything from the emissions standards from the engines, to the chemicals that are (or are not) allowed in the paint on the machines, through to the coolants permitted in the machines’ radiators is determined by EU law within the EU. If the UK were to leave the European Union that would make no difference whatsoever to any of these standards, and JCB – if it wanted to export to the European Union – would have to respect every single one of those standards anyway.
(note: this is a counterfactual – just in case you’re reading it after October 2015!)
It is Wednesday 21st November 2015, and David Cameron has called a press conference at Downing Street. With his face going rather puce, the anger showing in the edge to his voice, he delivers the news that pro-EU campaigners in the UK had feared: that he has changed his mind and switched to the NO side in Britain’s in-or-out of the EU referendum.
The final straw had been the European Council of 15th/16th October 2015 in Brussels. Cameron had announced the referendum would take place in September 2016 just a few weeks after his May 7th election victory, yet he had then prevaricated when it came to making concrete demands about the UK’s renegotiation of its EU membership since the 25th/26th June 2015 European Council, and at the October summit overplayed his hand. A demand for fundamental changes to EU freedom of movement had been rejected by the other 27 Heads of State and Government, and Cameron stormed out of negotiations at 1am and had refused to speak to the press. Sources close to the UK Permanent Representation (UKRep) had told the Financial Times that Cameron had been briefed on what the other Member States would accept, but had persevered regardless.
European Council President Donald Tusk, looking tetchy and strained, had told the cameras lined up in Brussels that negotiations had been “difficult” but had refused to be drawn on what should happen. Merkel, Hollande and Renzi in their separate press conferences gave very similar messages. No country should be allowed to blackmail the rest of the EU they said.
The FTSE opened 200 points lower on Monday 19th October, and in the hours before Cameron’s announcement hit its lowest point in five years.
(end of counterfactual)
I gave a speech about EU online communications at Danmarks Medie- og Journalisthøjskole in Aarhus last year, and yesterday John Frølich – one of the professors there – e-mailed me to ask if I could suggest 20 to 30 EU Twitter accounts that his students ought to follow. So rather than just e-mail back some names, I have made a Twitter list of the 30 accounts, and I explain my rationale for including each of them here.
My emphasis here is on friendly and engaging people – the sorts of Twitter users who, if you ask them a question, they will reply, and people who do not use Twitter just to try to show how important they are. The list could easily have been twice as long, so apologies to those who did not make it. I have also included only personal accounts, and tried to achieve some sort of institutional balance.
So who are the 30?
David Cameron’s victory in the UK election presents me with a personal problem: he promises to hold an in-or-out of the EU referendum. If the UK leaves the EU I have a major headache – I live in Germany and I need freedom of movement within the EU more than I need anything else that a British passport currently confers me. What movement rights Brits would still have if the UK left cannot yet be known, but for sure it will not become easier. I will qualify for a German passport in 2019 – I will apply for that passport the very first day I am eligible for it. By my reckoning if Britain’s referendum is in 2017 then it will take 2 years to negotiate exit, so by 2019 I should be OK.
The prospect of the UK holding an in-or-out of the EU referendum fills me with dread, but debate of the merits of holding this vote, and how each side might frame its messages are topics for blog entries in future. What voting no would mean is outlined in this blog entry; the comments there are also worth a look.
The point of this blog entry is to look at what the parameters for the referendum are, and what decisions about these might mean for the UK and the rest of the EU.
David Cameron re-iterated his determination to hold the referendum in his victory speech, and Cameron has repeatedly stated he wishes to “re-negotiate” Britain’s relationship with the European Union. Continue Reading