Tom Arms’ World Review

Gaza War

Sometimes the most shocking statements are the most obvious. Especially when they are spoken by those encumbered with having to be the most diplomatic.

This week President Joe Biden publicly stated what everyone knows but he has been reluctant to confirm: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dragging out the Gaza War as a way to stay in office.

He might have also added that the war is keeping Netanyahu out of prison as he has been indicted on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. As long as he is prime minister he cannot be tried.

The latest Israeli opinion polls indicate that if an election were held in Israel today Netanyahu’s Likud-led coalition would win 46 seats compared to the opposition parties’ 68 seats. But, at the same time, polls show strong support for the war and its goal of eliminating Hamas. If Netanyahu achieves the total destruction of the enemy then the voters might just forgive him for creating the conditions that allowed the 7 October attack to happen.

Biden’s comments came in an interview with Time magazine and only a few days before he announced another plan to end the Gaza War. This one is in three phases.

Phase one would last six weeks and include a total ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. Some hostages would be released. Hundreds of Palestinians would be released from Israeli prisons and there would be an immediate and massive influx of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Under phase two the remaining hostages, including soldiers and the remains of any dead hostages would be released and the IDF would complete its withdrawal from Gaza. Phase three would involve reconstruction which would last three to five years. The two-state solution is not mentioned in this latest plan.

Despite the fact that President Biden has made it clear that there would be no future role for Hamas, the terrorist organisation has said that they view the plan “positively.”  Biden claimed that his phased proposal had been endorsed by the Israeli government, but then a spokesperson said: “Israel has not changed its conditions to reach a permanent ceasefire. That will only happen after our objectives are met including destroying Hamas’s military and governing capabilities.” He added that that is estimated to take seven months.

Meanwhile, a new front is opening on the border with Lebanon. Actually, it is an old front, but the fighting between Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel is worsening. Hezbollah is now using explosive drones which are more difficult for Israel’s iron dome to stop and can reach further south. Israel, for its part, is levelling the southern Lebanese city of Sidon. Within the Israeli cabinet there is talk of creating an Israeli-occupied “security zone” in southern Lebanon, similar to the one Israel maintained until 2000.

The US has responded to the Lebanon threat with another three-part plan. First part is a ceasefire to allow residents on both sides of the border to return to their homes. Phase two is US economic assistance for financially-strapped Lebanon and the final phase calls for a newly demarcated border to improve security.

The problem is that the negotiations are with the Lebanese government while the power is with Iran-backed Hezbollah. They are unlikely to accept any ceasefire until a truce is agreed and implemented in Gaza. And, as President Biden acknowledged, that truce is against the political interests of Bibi Netanyahu.

European Parliament

Europe’s far-right is expected to sweep the board in this weekend’s elections to the European Parliament. This could mean problems ahead as a centre-left council and commission clash with a right-wing parliament.

This didn’t use to be a problem. It used to be that the European Parliament was a talk shop with limited oversight powers. The real power lay with the member states through the European Council which in turn effectively appointed the President of the European Commission and the 27 commissioners.

But over the years, increasing pressure has meant that more and more power is vested in the directly elected parliament rather than the indirectly elected council. Parliament has progressed from an advisory body to a co-decision maker.

Its largest influence is financial. The European Parliament is involved in the budgetary process at every stage, including approval, implementation and monitoring. A right-wing parliament is expected to clash with the commission on its in climate change budget.

Parliament also has to agree to the accession of any new members which could create problems for Ukraine, Georgia and some of the Balkan states. It has the right to scrutinise foreign and security policy and some of the expected intake of far-right MEPs have doubts about EU support for Ukraine and the isolation of Russia.

The European Commission is the EU equivalent of a cabinet and the parliament can convene inquiries to ask any embarrassing questions that it may feel like posing.

But the biggest problem could come over the election of a new commission president and the commissioners. The president is nominated by the council and elected by the parliament. The current president is Ursula von der Leyen. She is generally regarded as having done a good job during her first five-year term and wants a second crack at the whip.

The problem is that Ms Von der Leyen is a centre-right politician from Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU). In fact, most of the commission presidents have been pro-EU politicians chosen from Europe’s political centre. Europe’s far-right nationalists may oppose Ms Von der Leyen’s election. And if she squeezes past the likes of Spain’s Vox and France’s National Rally her choices for commissioners may run into difficulty.

The possibility of a clash seems almost inevitable if the far-right does as well as expected. It will be the first time that the Euro-sceptic nationalists will have power in an institution they instinctively dislike and distrust.

Taiwan

The Taiwanese recently voted into office an anti-Beijing president and a pro-Beijing (or at least Beijing-leaning) parliament. Those voters who want a more de facto independence from Mainland China are beginning to regret the parliament for which they voted.

The new president is Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). But parliament is dominated by the Kuomintang (KMT). In one of those difficult to understand ironies of history, the KMT was the party that lost the Chinese Civil War to the communists and is now the party seeking closer ties with the old enemy.

The KMT and its parliamentary partners the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) have used their majority in the legislative Yuan to pass constitutional amendments that give the Taiwanese parliament substantial new oversight and investigative powers. The Yuan can, for instance, now demand documents from any source on any issue. Failure to comply can result in a fine or prison sentence.

The anti-Beijing lobby has taken to the streets of Taipei to protest against the new laws. They fear that the KMT will use its new powers to gather secret information and leak it to the government in Beijing. Some members of the DPP have accused the Chinese Communists of being behind the legislation and say that it could be used against them in much the same way pro-Beijing laws have been used against dissidents in Hong Kong.

The KMT counter that they are just trying to make the government more accountable. They point out that the procedures they are introducing have been used in America for decades. The DPP argues: That is America. This is Taiwan.

 

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopaedia of the Cold War” and “America Made in Britain". To subscribe to his email alerts on world affairs click here.

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50 Comments

  • Steve Trevethan 9th Jun '24 - 3:11pm

    In view of Mr Biden’s comment cited above, might our party press for the cessation of the export of arms to Israel?

  • Peter Martin 9th Jun '24 - 7:37pm

    It used to be that the European Parliament was a talk shop with limited oversight powers.

    This is the argument of those of us who are sceptical of the EU and its democratic credentials. Maybe there’s been a slight shift but, if there has, there doesn’t seem to have been obvious change in the EU constitution to cause it. I suspect its little more than a desire to give the impression that the EU Parliament has more power than it actually has.

    The real power lay with the member states through the European Council which in turn effectively appointed the President of the European Commission and the 27 commissioners.

    Maybe it still does? We’ll see about that when the clash inevitably happens.

    It’s quite depressing that popular discontent about the EU has led to a right wing surge. There’s no shortage of reasons why the left could have championed anti EU sentiments. I’m not usually at a loss for explanations but I am on this. The EU is nothing if not a bastion of managed capitalism, and not very well managed at that, yet the EU left with perhaps some notable exceptions, sits on it hands and says nothing.

  • Peter Martin 9th Jun '24 - 7:57pm

    @ Steve,

    ” …..might our party press for the cessation of the export of arms to Israel?”

    It might but it probably won’t! Certainly not this side of the election.

    This would make Lib Dems look far too left wing. The tactic of both Labour and Lib Dems is to ignore the left and concentrate on the discontented Tory vote.

  • Martin Gray 9th Jun '24 - 9:18pm

    The liberal left has become a shill for a failed EU establishment…

  • @Peter Martin – The European Parliament has equal co-decision power with the Council of Ministers in all areas – except joint foreign policy (as the member states still operate by unanimous decisions and on an intergovernmental basis).

  • @Peter Martin
    We already have called for a cessation of arms exports as well as a ban on all imports from west bank settlements and immediate recognition of Palestine.

    Im not sure how this could possibly be causing electoral problems for us given that Tory voters aren’t noticeably motivated by support for Israel and the ones likely to switch to us probably have at least a little sympathy for Palestine or at worst don’t care either way.
    Maybe it will cost us a bit of support in north London but we aren’t targeting any seats up there.
    Meanwhile to the extent that there are Muslim communities in any of our target seats our Palestine policy should be an big asset if we are willing to tell them about it.

  • Peter Martin 10th Jun '24 - 8:50am

    @ David LG,

    You’re right that Ed Davey has expressed support for such policies. I’d previously only been aware of Leyla Moran’s views. I like to think that I’m reasonably well aware politically, so if I hadn’t caught on I’m just wondering how many others also hadn’t. We’ll have to see just what goes into the manifesto. Hardly anyone will read that anyway so if you do want people to be aware of your policies you might want to make more of them. Maybe actually include them in a party broadcast?

    Incidentally the recent supposed shift in Labour’s policy can only be intended as a sop to the left and Muslim opinion. Given that there is little prospect of any peace agreement, does it really make any difference if Palestine is recognised the day before after a peace treaty is signed or the day after?

  • Peter Martin 10th Jun '24 - 8:59am

    @ David LG,

    “The European Parliament has equal co-decision power with the Council of Ministers in all areas…..”

    I don’t see how it can be exactly equal.

    What happens when one decision clashes with the other? It would be like having two referees at a football match. One giving a penalty and the other waving play on 🙂

  • Alex Macfie 10th Jun '24 - 9:25am

    Sad that so soon after the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, an EU-wide election could lead to the election of many people who at heart would have preferred it if the other side had won the War.

  • Alex Macfie. Interesting that calls for the reduction in the voting age to 16 which were prompted by the idea that the majority of young people were more likely to hold left wing views has resulted in the right wing Austrian People’s Party becoming the largest party in the elections for the European Parliament. The AfD is now the second party in Germany in these elections. Just as well they did not reduce their voting age to 16. In France the advance of the hard right continues apace, apparently fueled by young right wing voters. We must hope France does not reduce the voting age but they might if the hard right gains more ground and the centre right seeks support.

  • Peter Martin 10th Jun '24 - 11:10am

    ” The AfD is now the second party in Germany in these elections. Just as well they did not reduce their voting age to 16″

    Actually they did. But just for EU elections.

    We really should stop thinking in terms of whether we think any political grouping will lose or gain by changing the voting age. These factors can easily change in any case. We should be deciding on the basis of principle as far as we can and on what may be considered to be a reasonable sensible age of majority. 18 is perfectly fine IMO.

  • Peter Martin 10th Jun '24 - 11:25am

    @Alex

    “…..lead to the election of many people who at heart would have preferred it if the other side had won the War.”

    I don’t believe these kind of comments are particularly helpful. They also show a lack of understanding of the views held by “many people”.

    I’m sure we all have or had members of our family, who can be said to hold, or have held, somewhat reactionary political views. Many who lived through WW2 and even served in the armed forces at the time have or had political views which wouldn’t go down too well in today’s LibDem circles.

    Yet I don’t think we can accuse them of being unhappy about the outcome of the war. They don’t really deserve that even if they might have supported Brexit 🙂

  • Daniel Walker 10th Jun '24 - 11:37am

    @Peter Martin “What happens when one decision clashes with the other? It would be like having two referees at a football match. One giving a penalty and the other waving play on 🙂

    The motion does not pass, then, Peter. There’s no equivalent to the 1911 Parliament Act allowing one body an override. See “The ordinary legislative procedure”, here:

    https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/council-eu/decision-making/ordinary-legislative-procedure

    I realise your comment was lighthearted, but they are, in fact, exactly equal under this procedure (both bodies effectively have a veto)

  • Alex Macfie 10th Jun '24 - 1:55pm

    @Peter Martin: I was referring to the elected politicians, not the voters who voted for them. I think it’s reasonable to say that most activists in parties like AfD, National Rally, Vox &c think the wrong side won WWII, and such parties have done well electorally by disguising their neo-nazi roots. It’s not necessarily why people are voting for them. We have to understand the reasons people do vote for the far right, but do so without compromising our absolute opposition to far-right parties and politicians and their agenda.

    BTW Ed has called for a cessation on arms to Israel.

  • Alex Macfie 10th Jun '24 - 1:56pm

    I agree we should not rig electoral law by trying to disenfranchise people we think might vote some way we don’t like, because they can easily change. Just because many young people now are voting for right-wing populists, doesn’t mean future generations of young people will do so. Most likely they do so because of discontent with the political establishment, and in particular they may see European Parliamentary elections as an opportunity to cast a protest vote (just like they used to in the UK). And the far right is not above appropriating liberal causes for their own ends. Depressingly, in the last French presidential election, many gay people said they were voting for Le Pen because she was the most pro-gay candidate. This, of course, is utter nonsense. It’s based on the idea that the political mainstream is soft on “radical” (read: reactionary) Islamists who tend to be homophobic, and the far right are (supposedly) the only ones willing to challenge Islamism. It’s grossly hypocritical because the far right is violently homophobic as well, and in general the far right and radical Islamism are two sides of the same coin. The challenge for democratic opponents of the far right is to counter the propaganda and expose the wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  • nvelope2003 10th Jun '24 - 2:12pm

    Peter Martin. You have rather made my point then. Almost all countries have 18 as the normal age for voting. Austria lowered the voting age to 16 in 2007. Candidates for Austrian President must be 35.
    I should have said the Austrian Freedom Party. It has had a stronger position than similar parties for some years and was in the Government some times.

  • Martin Gray 10th Jun '24 - 2:21pm

    @Alex Macfie…
    “The term ‘far-right’ has been stripped of any serious meaning. Today it means pretty much anything to the right of the liberal-centrist establishment consensus. Just bear that in mind when listening to media reports of the EU elections”…..Paul Embery …. Labour party member & FBU union member …Very true.

  • Alex Macfie 10th Jun '24 - 2:32pm

    @Martin Gray: this “liberal-centrist establishment consensus” being support for democracy and the rule of law. So by that definition, the far right means anyone who opposes democracy and the rule of law from a right-wing perspective.

  • Peter Martin 10th Jun '24 - 3:17pm

    @ David LG @ Alex,

    ” Ed has called for a cessation on arms to Israel.”

    “We already have called for a cessation of arms exports as well as a ban on all imports from west bank settlements and immediate recognition of Palestine.”

    I’ve just had a look at the new Lib Dem manifesto. I can see that it includes a commitment to recognising the state of Palestine, which is good.

    However, I can’t see anything about stopping arms sales to Israel or imports from West Bank settlements.

    Have I missed these? If you’re serious about ensuring everyone knows what is supposed to be party policy it’s got to go into the manifesto. Even if they aren’t read directly by many voters they’ll get picked up by others in the media and reported indirectly.

    What about a Guaranteed Basic Income? I can’t see any mention of that.

  • @Peter Martin – “I don’t see how it can be exactly equal.”

    If the two bodies (ie the Parliament and the Council of Ministers) don’t agree, there is a joint conciliation negotiation phase to try and reach a compromise formula that both sides can get behind.

    If both sides can’t reach a conciliatory agreement, the proposed legislation fails to become law.

    That, to my mind, is reasonable since if there is no democratic mandate in both chambers, the proposed legislation should not become law.

  • Martin Gray 10th Jun '24 - 6:33pm

    Paul , Alex , Et al….
    Can anyone explain to me why the turnouts in many countries in regards to the EU elections are so poor, & historically so..
    Does that not concern the federalists that contribute to this site ..

  • Alex Macfie 10th Jun '24 - 7:35pm

    Local elections also tend to have poor turnouts. Does that mean local government is pointless and should be abolished (and everything should be controlled centrally from Whitehall)? Any election with low turnout is cause for concern for anyone who supports democratic participation, although at the end of the day if voters can’t be bothered to go to the polls that’s their lookout.

  • Martin Gray 10th Jun '24 - 8:03pm

    You’re right Alex …To many the EU is/was an irrelevance, & has been been for a considerable time . The only time the British public engaged fully – was when given a chance to leave …

  • Alex Macfie 10th Jun '24 - 8:12pm

    @Martin Gray: Your missing my point. Again, by your argument, local government is an “irrelevance” and therefore should be abolished and replaced by diktat from Whitehall.

  • Peter Martin 10th Jun '24 - 9:07pm

    @ Martin @Alex

    I don’t think we can assume that an abstention can be always equated with apathy. From conversations I’ve had, the most common reason for not voting is a feeling that it doesn’t make any difference. The “they are all the same” argument. That’s not quite the same as saying “I just can’t be bothered”.

    Probably this argument is more valid in local elections which would explain the lower turn out.

    There is also those who have a principled objection. I’ve never voted in a EU/EEC election because I’ve never seen the need for an EU parliament. The old EEC was an organisation in which I would have voted to remain, but even so the Parliament was a just a talking shop that wasn’t at all necessary. IMO.

    Another reason for not voting might be a lack of knowledge about the candidates. I probably should have abstained just recently when I was asked to vote for a police commissioner. I really didn’t know anything about the candidates except their party label. I doubt that was good indication of who was best suited to the job.

  • @Martin – Whether you vote or not is up to individual voters. As has been pointed out, lots of people don’t vote in local Elections (a majority I believe) or even in general elections. That though doesn’t mean that voting in the elections is unimportant or give us a reason to claim we could or should abolish voting in local or even general elections.

    In the case of the EU, I believe that a lot of it is due to the nature of what the EU bodies deal with, namely issues such as water (and sewage!) quality, air pollution, food standards, medicine regulation etc. Those aren’t the stuff of riveting political debates even if they are important – and that does impact voter engagement and hence turn out.

    The general public typically don’t care about very important stuff like the water or sewage systems when they are working perfectly (or even what standards they have to adhere too). It is only when they break – or the previous standards are abandoned as we have seen since Brexit – that the public notice them and start to get worked up about them.

    That can and does effect turn out and it should be pointed out it’s not an uniquely EU issue since the turnout in the US midterm elections has typically been significantly lower than it is in the US Presidential elections.

  • Martin Gray 11th Jun '24 - 4:26am

    @Paul….I understand that Paul . Some turnouts in quite a few EU countries are very poor – low 20’s being the norm . The UK held one of the lowest turnouts with 26% – the lowest in recent times being Slovakia with 15&16 %…For an institution heralded by progressive liberals its obvious that that’s not shared by a considerable number of Europeans – the UK was certainly not alone in that..Anyway the route back looks a near impossible one with article 49 requiring a commitment to Schengen and the Euro, a tough sell on the doorstep no doubt..

  • Peter Martin 11th Jun '24 - 11:03am

    @ Martin,

    To be fair Article 49 doesn’t mention Schengen by name. The worrying part however is:

    “….the ability to take on and implement effectively the obligations of membership, including the aims of political, economic and monetary union.”

    I doubt if many former Remainers actually want “political, economic and monetary union” with the EU.

    What we, former Leavers and Remainers alike, do want is a sensible trading relationship with the EU. They need us as much as we need them. We probably still are their best customer. We don’t need to use euros, have MEPs, or be told how to run our railways to trade with each other.

    https://eur-lex.europa.eu/EN/legal-content/summary/treaty-on-european-union-joining-the-eu.html

  • Tom, it is unwise and almost always incorrect to use the terms ‘sweep the board’ in respect of elections held under PR. Whilst it is true that the far right have done better than 5 years ago, they are still a smallish minority in respect of seats won. Their gains were only in some EU countries and in others they did not do well. Of course we must always seek to expose their false and simplistic prospectus, but it does not help to be bigging them up as too many are doing.

  • Alex Macfie 11th Jun '24 - 7:08pm

    The alleged requirement to join either the Schengen area or the Euro is unlikely to be a stumbling block in any application to rejoin the EU. The EU is notoriously pragmatic and can easily fudge it, as it has done for other countries that don’t want to join one or the other by not imposing a deadline for joining.
    No, the real reason the UK isn’t going to be able to rejoin any time soon (which is why even the Lib Dems aren’t talking about it very much) is the issue of trust — that the UK won’t flounce out again. The EU will want to see a sustained majority in favour of membership (52:48 for rejoin in a referendum probably won’t cut it).

  • Alex Macfie 11th Jun '24 - 7:15pm

    On beating the far right, a recent Lib Dem podcast cited the example of Burnley in the 2000s. In short, the BNP came close to winning control of the Council in Burnley, and it was the Lib Dems that beat them back. We achieved this by understanding that many of the reasons people were voting BNP had nothing to do with the BNP’s usual talking points, but rather a protest vote against being taken for granted by Labour which had long run the Council as a fiefdom. So we came in essentially as an alternative to Labour but without the BNP’s toxic ideology or people. That’s how you defeat the far right, not by trying to imitate it or repeating far-right narratives as @Martin Gray insists on doing.

  • Mick Taylor 11th Jun '24 - 7:51pm

    @AlexMcFie. Quite right about Burnley. I helped in the by-election that started the turn around from the BNP. We tackled the issues raised by the BNP head on and told people the LibDem alternative. We didn’t pander to the BNP. Of course the literature was produced by the late great Tony Greaves. Gordon Birtwistle, candidate this time and MP from 2010-2015 is great at conversion canvassing of would be BNP voters.

  • Martin Gray 11th Jun '24 - 8:47pm

    @Alex…Where did I say abolish the EU …?
    The EU is doing a good job itself in alienating millions of voters . Yet again you’ve failed to understand Paul Embery’s point, & have reverted back to the default position that any other argument is somehow extreme … Straight out the campus politics playbook.
    Rejoining would need all the main political parties to agree & a sustained majority in the UK – something that won’t happen in the foreseeable & may never will ..
    The rise of populist parties across Europe is down to the failure of progressive liberals …

  • Alex Macfie 11th Jun '24 - 9:36pm

    @Martin Gray: As noted by @Mick Taylor, the rise of populist right-wing parties is not “across Europe”, it’s in *some* European countries (while in some, notably Poland, they’ve fallen back). I agree with Mick we shouldn’t be bigging them up.

    And why should their rise be a “failure of progressive liberals”? You clearly aren’t paying attention, the point I was making was that often people vote for populist parties for reasons that are nothing to do with ideology. Voters may be tired of establishment politicians, but who said the establishment politicians are particularly “liberal” or “progressive”? Often they are not. And when you dig down a bit, you find that the ideology isn’t actually what voters are rising up against. It seems to be that you are the one playing “campus politics” by coming up with simpistic explanations and solutions to complex problems.

  • @Alex: What far-right narratives do you think @Martin Gray been repeating? I haven’t noticed any in his posts.

  • @Simon R: Comments like these are populist right-wing tropes:

    “The liberal left has become a shill for a failed EU establishment…”

    The rise of populist parties across Europe is down to the failure of progressive liberals

    Being in favour of the EU does not mean uncritical support for everything that every EU institution does. And not all of the political establishment in the EU is particularly liberal.

    Also @Martin Gray

    Where did I say abolish the EU …?

    Your comments on turnout were directly linking turnout in EP elections with support for the EU. Actually it’s got very little to do with that. The European Parliament is not about whether one supports the EU or not, as whether one is pro or anti-EU is primarily a domestic issue. The European Parliament votes on the actual laws by which the EU is governed. These are often contentious and along ideological lines, in the same way as domestic legislatures are. Whether or not voters see it as relevant to their lives, it is, in the same way as other second-order elections such as local elections are.

  • Whatever the reason for the move to the right in some states maybe the British have seen where this leads and will reverse the trend here. One can but hope.

  • Peter Martin 13th Jun '24 - 1:06pm

    “Being in favour of the EU does not mean uncritical support for everything that every EU institution does.”

    In theory, yes. In practice, we seldom, if ever, see any criticism of the EU from its supporters.

    Maybe I just missed it? If so can anyone point to some examples?

  • Chris Moore 13th Jun '24 - 2:16pm

    Given the avalanche of unending and captious criticism of the EU from the pro-Brexiteer nationalist establishment prior to Brexit, it’s scarcely surprising that Remainers didn’t add to the frequently absurd and misplaced accusations.

    Like all political institutions, the EU has multiple flaws. Yet the UK was better off in than out. We will gradually move closer to our allies in the EU.

    Whether we will rejoin in the long run is currently a moot point and would require yet more awareness that the reality of Brexit is nowhere near the fantasies of Brexiteers: Brexit to end mass immigration. Please, what a sick joke!

  • David Allen 13th Jun '24 - 3:45pm

    Peter Martin,

    “In practice, we seldom, if ever, see any criticism of the EU from its supporters.”

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. When the Tories make a political broadcast, they don’t often say nice things about Starmer. When Labour make a PPB, they don’t often say nice things about Sunak. When EU supporters campaign to rejoin, somehow they usually can’t find room to complain about the EU’s various flaws and impetfections. Are you surprised about any of these campaigning strategies? Oh and by the way, can you point me towards anything a Brexiteer has ever said in support of the EU?

  • “Given the avalanche of unending and captious criticism of the EU from the pro-Brexiteer nationalist establishment prior to Brexit, it’s scarcely surprising that Remainers didn’t add to the frequently absurd and misplaced accusations.”

    Funny you should say that, because I’m one of those sad people who reads the btl comments in The Guardian, and I have been quite amazed over the last few days reading comments by ardent pro-Europeans who have been saying that these EU election results don’t matter because the EU Parliament has no real power… the very same people who where denying precisely this when it was stated by Brexiters a couple of years ago.

    Either the arguments are true, or else they ain’t. There really does appear to be a desire to use arguments purely as rhetorical cover for ones own aims… a bit like the modern usage of human rights legislation really.

    And then people wonder why the public are cynical of politicians.

  • Alex Macfie 13th Jun '24 - 7:27pm

    @Adam: I rarely read BtL comments in newspaper articles as they tend not to be representative of public opinion. All I can say is that such opinions as you have identified about the power of the European Parliament are not mine. The EP is a powerful chamber, as already stated having co-decision power over all EU legislation. so the EP election results do matter. Therefore it is cause for concern that the far right (undoubtedly including many people who think the wrong side won WWII) looks like increasing its representatation; however, it is unhelpful to exaggerate their strength right-wing populist MEPs will still be a relatively small group, and control is likely to remain mostly with the 3 main centrist blocs.

  • Peter Martin 13th Jun '24 - 8:54pm

    @ Chris, Adam and David,

    So can we all agree (except perhaps Alex ) that being in favour of the EU does require uncritical support?

    This is a big problem for those of us on the left who expect socialists to
    be critical of the worst aspects of capitalism. This was never an issue until the ‘soft left’ started to become enamoured with the EU. The capitalists who run the EU started to get a free pass to do whatever they liked.

    The way was then open for the far right to make the most of EU “socialist’s” lack of inclination to do what they used to do willingly and without so much as a second thought. The EU somehow has managed to anaesthetise an entire political movement.

  • Alex Macfie 13th Jun '24 - 9:47pm

    @Peter Martin: No-one was saying that at all, except maybe @Adam who is relying on BtL comments on news articles which cannot be taken as representative of anything. What Chris and David were saying is that context matters.

  • Mick Taylor 14th Jun '24 - 8:31am

    @PeterMartin. Uncritical support of the EU??? Not at all. Liberals all over the EU are very critical of the EU and want to make a lot of changes. I’m sure they’re not alone.
    Of course, you may not like the direction they want to take the EU, but that’s another matter.

  • Peter Martin 14th Jun '24 - 1:51pm

    @ Mick Taylor,

    “Liberals all over the EU are very critical of the EU and want to make a lot of changes.”

    Such as?

    I suspect you might mean changes for more EU. In which case they aren’t really being critical.

    The introduction of the Maastricht and Lisbon Treaties were the two significant changes to the EEC/EU and which possibly marked the transition between them. However it can’t be said that those who were pushing to make them were in any way critics.

  • Mick Taylor 14th Jun '24 - 2:05pm

    @PeterMartin. Well, transnational constituencies to elect at least some MEPs. Many more decisions made by qualified majority. More decisions taken at an EU level, but in principle decisions taken at the most local level possible.In short, more EU, not less with maximum devolution.
    Not at all convinced that other parties take similar views and I’m confident you don’t. And however you cut it, uncritical support implies never questioning, never disagreeing and that’s not what Liberals do.

  • Peter Martin 14th Jun '24 - 3:56pm

    @ Mick Taylor,

    You could be right. I’ve always said that the EU is stuck in a between and betwixt state and either needs to move back to a looser structure which has worked resonably well in the past; or it needs to move forward to be a full United States of Europe.

    I don’t think there’s any chance of it doing either. So it will be condemned to failure in the longer term. It would be better if the process were quick but it my guess is that it will be slow and painful. Gradually the far right will take over an unworkable structure.

    So for this reason, I’m out!

  • Chris Moore 14th Jun '24 - 4:06pm

    “So we can all agree ……that being in favour of the EU requires uncritical support.”

    Total nonsense, Peter, read what I said again. Being in favour of the EU requires no such thing.

    Much poor legislation has come out of Brussels. But that’s not a good reason to withdraw from the EU.

    @Adam: the advance of the far right in various countries in Europe is of huge concern. That includes at a European parliamentary level.

    Blt comments anywhere can’t be taken as indicative of general opinion!!

    In the run up to Brexit, much twaddle was peddled by the nationalist establishment: MPs newspapers, rich donors etc. Absurd promises were made about how wonderful everything would be post-Brexit.

    Given the many Leave voters in my extended family, I can confirm that most weren’t listening before the Referendum to comment based in reality. Many now have buyers’ remorse, particularly regarding false Brexit promises about immigration.

  • Alex Macfie 14th Jun '24 - 4:24pm

    Uncritical support for whatever the EU does isn’t even possible because the different institutions often disagree on policy! And EU policy extends beyond policy *about* the EU; far more important is policy on issues over which the EU has competence, i.e. the specific laws that member countries have to implement in their domestic law. Many years ago I lobbied MEPs over a particular policy proposal which I didn’t want to see happening, which was to extend patent protection to software (the nature of software development means that patenting is inappropriate and copyright is far more sensible). We succeeded in that particular fight, but the EU is still passing a lot of troubling law in other areas of IP (I don’t trust the UK on its own to be any better BTW). EU institutions are responsive to public opinion; it’s likely that public pressure over the TTIP trade agreement led to a change in how the EU approaches trade agreements in general, especially Investor-State Dispute Settlement. The EU is powerful enough to be able to resist attempts to allow foreign corporations to sue governments in packed secretive “courts”; it’s doubtful that the UK could do so on its own.

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