Thursday, September 27

Best Left to Politicians ?

By Peter Troy

What do the the following business pressure groups have in common: The Federation of Small Businesses, Confederation of British Industry, British Chambers of Commerce, Forum of Private Business and the Institute of Directors?
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The answer is that none of those business organisations have made any clear statement on the specific issue of a referendum on the so called ‘Reform Treaty’ which is, in all but name, a new constitution for the EU and thus also for the UK.

Why are the representatives of the nation’s business community curiously reticent on this vital issue when on the other hand the trade Union movement has been very vocal? The answer, in part, is buried in the key issue, that of the opt-out (or otherwise) negotiated by Tony Blair of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, this being an annex to the treaty.

At the recent TUC Congress Union leaders took the issue head on. The Prison Officers Association, RMT, and GMB, dealt a sharp rebuff to Gordon Brown. Although they stopped short of also pledging to campaign to any future "no" vote, it was made clear that, if the government does not change its position on the Charter opt-out, they will in fact join a "no" campaign.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights is also matter of some concern to both the representatives of the corporate business world the CBI as well as the FSB, the largest organisation representing the nations 3 million small businesses; both organisations are concerned as to whether the opt-out that Tony Blair claimed to have secured is in fact enforceable in law.

The FSB goes as far as to comment that: ''It would be a huge step backwards for us to sign up to this treaty if it meant surrendering our hard-won economic advantage over our neighbours in Europe.'' Though the FSB specifically added that: ''Our 210,000 members do not see the internal workings of the EU as being a priority for action''. Well that is probably true since FSB branch delegates, on behalf of their members, have twice voted to persuade the government to leave the EU at the Federation’s annual conferences (in 1995 and 2001).

The drivers of the Trade Unions position, however, are angered at the opt-out for British workers from the EU Charter. This, they claim, will give their counterparts in the other 26 member states increased rights to take industrial action – in particular, the right to strike. The GMB in particular says its members are "bitterly disappointed" that the charter will not apply to British workers. It states that the government needs to show that it is committed to "Europe's social dimension as this is necessary for British trade unions' support for the future development of Europe. Needless to say, the Trade Unions position is somewhat at odds with other pro-referendum campaigners who oppose the treaty in principle. The unions, it seems, will be campaigning on a platform of "more Europe", rejecting the treaty because it does not increase the EU's powers sufficiently.

The business organisations are clearly united in the view that if the Charter opt- outs do apply then their position is best summed up in the words of Adam Powell, Press Officer at The Confederation of British Industry (CBI). ''The Reform Treaty is a political issue that in our view is best left to Politicians.'' A comment that one would expect from the corporate world (but not the small business community) whose vast resources is able to effectively influence the EU project.
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The business organisations are less than keen to confront the issues that arise from the UKs continued membership of the EU, prefering to lobby from the 'inside'. This results in the organisations becoming a part of the culture of the EU in all its complex forms. A situation that has led this author to comment in the past that at least one organistaion (in my view) has become ''a part of the problem rather than the solution''.
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In the meantime it is gradually emerging in the nation’s newspapers that if the ‘Reform’ Treaty (or the Lisbon treaty) as it is will soon be known will in my view for worse have far reaching consequences on the UK Economy, our legal system and not least how we are governed. The contents of this treaty will effect all businesses whether large or small, Trade Unions and for that matter the huge numbers of public sector employees; the issues are far too important to be left to our politicians to decide.

So there we have it; the debate is now raging from all angles, an important fundamental issue which affects all segments of our country and yet our Prime Minister is stubbornly refusing to keep his promise of a referendum.

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The above piece was published by The Journal in the 'In my view' column yesterday.

5 comments:

Sarah Hopperty said...

From 29th August to 21st September the EU has passed ONE HUNDRED AND ONE laws that will impact on the UK!

valkeira Jordon said...

its that the exact figure Sarah Hopperty?? and how do you know this? do you work for the EU?

Sarah Hopperty said...

Well Valkeria I read The Bruge Group web site - as indeed you should do. It is liked to this Blog.

I am very impressed that our Editor wears a tie whilst blogging!

Peter Troy said...

But of course Sarah - I am British!

valkeira Jordon said...

Thank you Sarah for the link to the Bruge Group web site, I will look at this..

But, no! I would think that the wearing of a Tie (while trying to inform the public of what is going on), would restrict the flow of blood to the brain. So, No! I am not impressed, its just image in my opinion. But then again, the very word "opinion" means: Not necessarily based on fact or knowledge