Monday, May 23

Of Cost and Constitution

Not since this time last year has the issue of the UK's membership of the European Union been so prominently in the news.

As expected the issue was well buried by all three of the 'old' parties during the general election and not even the most seasoned of political commentators concentrated on the true government of out land in Brussels.

Currently the UK's payment rebate - not an insignificant 3.8 billion a year - is now under threat from the EU and the 'European' Constitution which is shortly to be voted on in French and the Netherlands is impacting on the UK news systems.

Payments to the EU

Lets be clear on how much the payments are from the UK tax payer to the EU. I stress payments, that's what HM Treasury pays to the EU coffers not the total massive cost of compliance to the EU which businesses and the public also have to pay out for daily.
The latest payment figures that can be accurately quoted are from the government's own sources.

The Treasury paid £ 13.1 billion in 2003 ('The Pink Book' 2004, Table 9.2) That is the equivalent to £ 252.33 million per week which was an increase of 11per cent on 2002.

Payments back from Brussels were £ 8.3 billion which was an increase of 9 per cent, the UK net. contribution increased by 15 per cent in 2003 to hit £ 4.811 billion. equivalent to £ 92.52 million per week.

Let us be clear, the net payments to the EU in 2003 were £ 4.8 billion, if the UK's rebate is cancelled the net figure will be at least £ 3.8 billion more. All these figures are from 2003. The contributions are increasing year upon year in order to fund the expanding EU project. In 2003 when there were only 15 member states the UK's contribution will have risen in 2004 and again in 2005 to accommodate the needs of the 10 new members.

The EU Constitution and referendum.

'The Treaty Establishing a Constitution For Europe' is not like any other previous EU Treaty.It is the blue print not of a Supranational Europe, nor even of a Federal States of Europe but of a Centralised State of Europe. The constitution is key to the centralising political process of the EU which is the fundamental reason why it should be rejected.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary has warned that a rejection in France's referendum on the EU constitution this Sunday would present "a problem for Britain".

The foreign secretary's comments come amid fears that the forthcoming British presidency of the EU will be derailed by the need to address the wrecking of the constitution by No votes from the Dutch and French people.

Straw's remarks reflect a near unanimous belief within the government that Britain will be unable to go ahead with its own referendum next year in the absence of a Yes vote.

Downing Street has actually confirmed that the referendum might be shelved.

Tony Blair's official spokesman said: "It is a statement of the obvious that the results in France and the Netherlands will influence the context in which other countries debate the matter."

An ICM poll for the Vote No campaign, meanwhile, suggests the public is nearly two to one against the constitution: 54 per cent to 30. Specifically in Scotland a survey for the newspaper Scotland on Sunday by You Gov recently found that 40 per cent of Scots opposed the constitution with 34 per cent for, 19 per sent undecided and 7 per cent admitting they will not vote.

Two salient point however will remain, even if there is no referendum in this country.
Firstly, how much of the centralisation plans contained in the Constitutional Treaty will be implemented via the UK 's 'back door' and what is plan B from our EU masters ?

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