The Dutch strike a blow for freedom and democracy!
Yesterday the Dutch voted in a referendum nominally about the EU/Ukraine trade deal, but widely seen in Holland and in Brussels as a verdict on the European Project as a whole. They voted NO by a substantial margin – around 61 to 38 (rounding errors?). This was comparable to the Dutch vote against the EU Constitution in 2005 – though that Constitution came back re-branded as the Lisbon Treaty.
This is a particular embarrassment for Dutch PM Mark Rutte, as Holland currently holds the rotating EU Presidency. He is expected to recognise the result of this referendum, although it has only advisory status, but it is not yet quite clear what he will do.
Joram van Klaveren, a Dutch MP from the VoorNederland party (“For the Netherlands”), which is associated with our ADDE/IDDE alliance, said “We now need to dismantle the EU”. Geert Wilders, the firebrand populist, said (perhaps optimistically) “This is the beginning of the end of the EU”. Nigel Farage had earlier said “Let’s celebrate the outbreak of democracy in this country, and hope that it spreads like a rash across Europe”.
The name of our parliamentary group, EFDD, includes the phrase “Direct Democracy” (very dear to our Italian Five Star colleagues), and this result shows direct democracy in action. It was driven by a grass-roots campaign group called GeenPeil, making very effective use of social media, and by-passing the establishment. It dramatises the divide between the politicians and the people on the EU question.
The Guardian has egg on its face: As the polls opened yesterday, the Guardian confidently predicted that the Dutch Referendum would fail to meet the 30% turnout threshold – although it’s not clear what they based this on. In fact, the latest turnout figure I’ve seen is 32.2%, comfortably ahead of the threshold.
A dilemma for tactical voters: The combination of a referendum and a turnout threshold creates a dilemma for many voters. Suppose a voter thinks that her side will probably lose. Does she (A) Vote anyway, hoping her side might win? Or (B) go for a tactical abstention, hoping turnout fails to meet the threshold? There may have been some tactical abstention by YES voters yesterday, which would have flattered the NO majority, but depressed turnout. Nonetheless it was a decisive win for the forces of democracy. And coming just eleven weeks before the UK Referendum, it must strengthen our Leave campaign.
Cameron to spend £9 million on pro-EU propaganda
Most of today’s papers headline the £9 million of taxpayers’ money that David Cameron proposes to spend on sending a pro-EU leaflet to 27 million homes. The “i”: Taxpayers fund £9 million leaflet”; Metro: “£9 million of taxpayers’ cash on the EU”; Telegraph “Taxpayers to fund anti-Brexit leaflet”; Times: “Cameron to target 27 million homes with pro-EU post”.
The move has caused outrage amongst Leave campaigners. Boris Johnson said it was “crazy to spend £9.3 million on scaring people”. Nigel Farage said it confirmed his view that the Referendum would be “defined by the battle of the people against the political élite”. Robert Oxley of Vote Leave described the project as “trying to buy votes”.
Send it back: There are already calls on social media for recipients of this government leaflet to send it back by post to the Prime Minister at Ten Downing Street. That is what I intend to do.
Cameron’s agony continues
The Guardian reports that “Cameron questions (regarding off-shore investments) are intensifying”. The Mirror majors on Panama. In a very damaging story the FT reports that “A move by David Cameron to water down the effect of EU transparency rules on trusts despite warnings it could create a loophole for tax dodgers has been defended by Downing Street”, under the headline “Cameron’s personal EU intervention on trusts created potential tax loopholes”. Another day for the Prime Minister to choke on his Weetabix.
“Troops will pay in blood”
Not an EU issue, but a striking and sanguinary headline as the new paper New Day highlights concerns about women in front-line military roles. The Express also covers the story, quoting an army officer saying that the proposal to put women in the front line is “a social experiment for which troops will pay in blood”. That should cause some heated debate in feminist circles.
The Empire strikes back
While on the subject of the Dutch referendum, the Telegraph runs a story that the European parliament is investigating an advertisement financed with European funds through the IDDE , the think-tank associated with the EFDD Group in the European parliament, with which the UKIP delegation is affiliated. I suspect this is the pro-EU side clutching at straws. The due diligence procedures we have in place to ensure that all such spending is totally legitimate is thorough to the point of heavy-handed. Often that’s a frustration, but when questions like this are raised, it’s reassuring.
Brexit and the NHS
“Immigration…is pushing GPs to saturation point”: The Telegraph headlines “Immigration and older population pushing GPs to saturation point”.
The NHS has become embroiled in the EU Referendum, with each side accusing the other of using a cherished but flawed institution as a “political football”. The Remain side appears to be making two points:
- In their view, Brexit will damage the economy, and this will put funding pressure on all public services, including the NHS. But of course on our side we believe that in the medium term, Brexit will free up more public funds for worthy causes like health.
- They also drop dark hints that Brexit will be a negative factor for foreign health service staff – or even require them to leave. This is such arrant and evident nonsense that I don’t propose to dignify it with a rebuttal.
On our side, we believe that uncontrolled mass immigration, plus health tourism, are (as the Telegraph says) putting unsustainable pressure on the NHS – and on social infrastructure and social cohesion generally. I think that on the whole the Leave side is getting the better of this argument. The Telegraph also blames an older population. But immigrants also age, just like the indigenous population.
Mosques downplay Islamist fanatic’s tour
Yesterday I reported that the UK’s largest Islamic sect, the Deobandi , appeared to have facilitated mosque visits by Masood Azhar, who reportedly preached an extreme version of Islam in schools, glorifying and sanctioning violence and urging youngsters to join terrorist groups. Leaders of the sect responded by saying it was “guilt by association“, and compared it to British Foreign Secretaries meeting Sadaam Hussein and Gaddafi. This is a bizarre excuse. It is one thing to meet formally with those who don’t share Western values: it is quite another to arrange for them to visit schools and poison young minds.
It is critically important that prominent Muslim organisations reject and eschew the fanatics. If they fail to do so, it feeds suspicions that the extremists enjoy a degree of sympathy in the wider Muslim community.
Brussels Bomber had worked in the European parliament
The Evening Standard reports that one of the bombers who created the atrocity at Zaventum airport on March 22nd had previously worked in the European parliament in Brussels as a cleaner. Admittedly it was six years ago when he had no criminal record, but it is nonetheless a chilling thought.
Frontex admits defeat
Yesterday I reported on the admissions by Frontex, the EU “border force” (if the term isn’t ironic) that nearly two million illegal migrants had reached the EU in the last year, and that authorities had no way of keeping track of them after arrival. They also admitted that terrorists were using migration flows to cover their movements. One other point that needs to be stressed: Frontex admitted that criminal gangs are able to smuggle weapons and drugs across EU borders. Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania have an unenviable reputation as entrepôts for weapons, drugs, money and people smuggling – and even trading in human organs. So our phrase “Free movement for terrorists and Kalashnikovs” may be a glib slogan, but it has some substance.
Day two of the deportations: zero
On Day One they managed to send back just 202 migrants from the Greek Islands to Turkey. But on Day Two, the count was zero. The problem, predictably, was inadequate resource to hear asylum claims – which is a precondition for deportation. Of course nearly all migrants will seek to delay deportation – and may well be happy to try to snarl up the system. Meantime protests from human rights groups and from local residents in Turkey continue. This may well take longer than the EU hoped. Indeed, one has to ask whether the rate of returns will ever exceed the number of new migrants arriving by one route or another. Not that there would be any net reduction in numbers in the EU, since the bizarre deal involves a one-for-one swap.
Sign the Petition
There’s a Petition to parliament calling for a ban on President Obama speaking on Brexit on his visit to London. So far it has 30k+ signatures. We need to get to 100k. Please sign: