Conference of Presidents

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In the European parliament, we have more presidents that you could shake an order paper at.  We also have regular meetings of the portentously-named “Conference of Presidents” which is (as it were) the Steering Committee of the parliament, and is attended by the Presidents of each political group, accompanied by their respective group Secretaries General and various hangers-on.

In February, the meeting took place on Feb 16th, and because David Cameron was on his last ditch tour of Europe seeking to drum up support for his EU deal, he was invited to attend to set out his ideas.  He accepted.  Then he declined, citing time pressures.  But although he hadn’t time to attend the CoP, he did seem to have time for a series of bilateral meetings with leading MEPs.  Of course his real reason for ducking the meeting was that he realised that Nigel Farage, as President of the EFDD Group, would be there, and he was terrified of facing him.  As Cameron had ducked out, Nigel decided he had other priorities and invited me to deputise.

There was criticism of Cameron on all sides, for ducking the meeting.  His action was seen as a great discourtesy to the institution.

We also got a couple of gems from Parliament President Martin Schulz.  “The UK is one of the leading economic powers of the world”.  Well spotted, Martin.  “The parliament can give no prior guarantee (that it will rubber-stamp Cameron’s deal after the referendum), but it will work constructively on the package”.  In other words, the British public will be invited to endorse a deal, which (if they vote to stay) can be unpicked by the parliament, led by a President who also opined that “The Red card system is not a good idea”.

The Tories are well aware of the threat to Cameron’s deal represented by the power of the European parliament to unpick it after the referendum.  So their man proposed an indicative vote in the parliament, ahead of the referendum, endorsing the package, to give British voters confidence that in the event of a “Remain” vote, the deal will survive.  But this raises all sorts of constitutional issues – and also the possibility that MEPs might support the indicative vote (to stop Brexit) but pick it apart later (to punish the Brits for making trouble).

A comment from a portly and prominent German MEP is worth reporting: “Ever closer union is not a legal obligation”.  Translated into English, this appears to mean that removing those words will make not a scrap of difference.

The meeting went on to debate the migration crisis, and if I may I’ll quote my intervention:  “Mr. President, I’m no great supporter of Turkey, but you’d need a heart of stone not to sympathise with their current dilemma.  We’re telling them that they should admit refugees across the Syrian border to the east, but that they should not allow those refugees to leave from the west coast to cross the Aegean Sea and go to Europe.  We’re telling the Turks that we’ll give them €3 bn to help with their migrant problem, but we haven’t given it to them, and we don’t have it available.

 “Mr. Schulz, you said that Germany can’t solve the refugee crisis by itself.  But many might say that it created it by itself.  Angela Merkel declared open season for refugees, and was then surprised when a million turned up.  I’d like to know how long it will be before Germany gives those million migrants European passports.

 “Currently the UK is accepting around 600,000 immigrants a year, and I have to tell you that it would be politically impossible to accept tens of thousands more as part of any EU redistribution plan”.

 

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8 Responses to Conference of Presidents

  1. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Is the 600,000 UK figure right Roger? Or did they all just walk past me while I blinked.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      oops forgot…300k returned? So says the UK Govt

    • Colin — That’s the gross figure. Net around 330,000, if my memory serves.

      • davidbuckingham says:

        Colin in the end the issue is not a matter of numbers – it’s about sovereignty and control.
        In my perfect world universal freedom of travel would exist. It’s hardly mentioned that an immigrant creates demand for goods and services as well as providing labour and brainpower. The problem is in benefit provision (as it also is within the country amongst the so-called indigenous – ask any hard-working lower paid taxpayer). It has been our leader’s disingenuous campaign against automatic benefits that is shrivelling to nothing. As far as control is concerned the issue is security, especially now – safeguards which should apply to indigenous Brits as well – especially those who leave in sympathy with ISIS and who should be banned from return.

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        The benefits thing bothers me. We got child allowance for our kids and I think that went to their mother? So when I took her and the kids to RAF Germany we still got child allowance..somewhere after that it fizzled out because we became non resident for tax purposes elsewhere. I didn’t need it having got a job with good pay and which the military did not provide…till Mrs Thatcher arrived (too late for me)

        So I am very surprised that a man working in UK who has kids in a different country has our level child benefit paid to those kids. Thats the responsibility of the origin country surely… where the dependants reside?

        I know we should be generous etc…but?

  2. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Leadsom “Post Script: Since sending this letter I have had a reply from the Minister, in which she insists that the press reports I quote are “a total distortion”. I am grateful for her reply, and glad of her assurance on this point. However I do not so far have any reply or reassurance on the issue of the extra costs associated with wind power — which are all too often forgotten”.

    They have bag carriers that could respond fully with valid references. But, can’t imagine any of them wanting to be helpful/truthful on this subject. Better to walk over our heads and not get tangled in the weeds.

  3. ian wragg says:

    I wonder how many “refugees” CMD has promised to take as part of his non negotiation.
    Perhaps he has given up the rest of our rebate in exchange for no concessions from the EU.

  4. davidbuckingham says:

    and another thing… it’d be really neat to have a whole new Orwellian concept to cover blatantly empty promises that are unashamedly transparent in their self-contradiction and openly rely on spin for effect – a chamberloonism?

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