I'm an EU Law Expert – Fiscal Union was not my idea

A eurosceptic friend, John Hopkinson, writes on his blog about how conveniently people now support fiscal union for the eurozone and argue who thought of it first.

I  have been arguing the opposite for nearly ten years, including in my submission to the Richards Commission.

As someone who supports UK entry to the euro, but only when our interest rates have been stable for a significant period of time at the same rate of the eurozone, and the exchange rate, which would also need to be stable, would result in the value of wages and goods in the UK being the same as the EU, in order to avoid high inflation.

In my view, as a dual Master of Economics and a Master of EU Law those calling for fiscal union don’t know what they are talking about.

If the political elite lack the ability to converge their economies using a single interest rate, how can they be expected to with a single tax regime across the eurozone?

The only way for the eurozone countries economies to converge is for each region of each member state to converge its economies by varying income and business taxes (e.g. business rates, corporation tax), and use the single interest rate as a baseline to set them.

The channel tunnel could not have been built if the French engineers were drilling in a different direction to the British ones. Equally the eurozone won’t be stable if the economies aren’t converged heading in the same direction.

Is Nick Robinson biased against Labour?

In an almost thuggish way, Tom Watson said that Nick Robinson didn’t report the phone hacking scandal enough because he was ‘favouring the Conservatives’ to put it more delicately.

I know how he feels. It annoyed me that Ed Miliband was getting the headlines on the hacking scandal over true experts like myself who have published research on ‘data misuse’ laws. I made the BBC clear of this dissatisfaction when they basically ignored my expertise.

But let us look at the news articles since 1995 on claims of bias against Nick Robinson as evidence.

March 1995 – Claims of bias were made against Nick Robinson by Labour when he sent a memo, as they saw it, trying to cover up the preferential treatment where the BBC Panorama programme, which Robinson was deputy editor of, interviewed John Major as Prime Minister, but did not offer the same prominence to the other leaders.

August 1995 – The London Evening Standard publishes a story, titled, ‘Labour sees red over new BBC reporter’, which highlights the fact that since March 1995 the party felt that Nick Robinson’s presentation of facts on Panorama were biased in favour of the Tories.

March 2003 – In the Times Nick Robinson, who is currently the ITV political editor, notes in an article there might be a problem with Labour’s perception of him. Highlighting the times that Peter Mandelson would be complaining to the Director General of the BBC about his apparent bias.

May 2003 – For the first time on record ‘anti-Tory bias’ and ‘Nick Robinson’ come together. This time in it is in The Times, with him commenting on the pressure being on Greg Dyke at the BBC and not himself, as Robinson is still working for ITV.

This all builds up to a shock confession:

October 2003 – The Independent runs an article, ‘I do not regret my Tory past, Nick Robinson, ITV’s News’s Political Editor’ which shows that Robinson was once significantly involved with the Conservative movement. The article says he has received claims of bias from both sides, which I might expect having spoken with the editor of my local paper who received the same, but unless the Conservatives have a different word for ‘bias’ I see little evidence of this in my brief search!

I will not look further into the articles, as I became politically active around 2002 in the Labour Party, even speaking to Nick on the Radio 5 Live about how a speech by Tony Blair hit a cord with me, just before he went to ITV I think – On Radio 5 Live he and Brian Hayes were my favourite presenters of that era. On his move to ITV I did start to think he was biased against the Labour Government, but then I would expect no different, as the ITV News programmes that he was reporting for have always seemed to me to be the Tabloid Newspaper of Evening TV, changing the tone of the programme to try to capture the public mood regardless of accuracy.

As I am now a Professional, it is this revelation in October 2003 that strikes me the most salient, even above all the past claims of bias. It is unethical for any professional to take up any form of employment where there can be a ‘perception of bias’, whether they are a former government minister taking up a position in a publicly funded body in the same area afterwards, or a sports official who is refereeing a match where a first-line relative is of the same nationality as one of the competitors.

So, in essence, however much I like him, as someone who famously got insulted for holding an apparently undesirable physical characteristic, by George W Bush of all people, I think he should seriously consider his position.

Even if he is perfectly capable of, on most days, creating a perception of impartiality in line with BBC guidance, is it worth the constant claims of bias against him, and this the questioning of his professionalism, to be in an environment where he can be easily perceived to be biased?

Concluding the issue on the assumption of ‘good faith’ on the part of Robinson, I would say that the reason this perceived bias is so persistent is that Nick is likely to draw on the same social networks that took him into the Conservative Party in the first place, so therefore he is more likely to represent a ‘Tory perspective’ than a Labour one.

So I’d like the BBC and other media outlets to take steps to ensure that it is not the same people from the Old Boys’ Networks that get represented in the media, but many others who have expertise but might not normally make it into public life. If they were to do this then the perceptions of bias, whether ‘left-wing’, ‘liberal’, ‘all-White’, or whatever, would start to disappear.






Policy on cannabis and other recreational drugs

My position on the manufacture and supply of cannabis and other unregulated ‘street drugs’ is now pretty simple. If we are going to allow them to be lawfully used, then regulation and not decriminalisation is the only course of action I’m willing to support.

Decriminalisation of cannabis is, in my opinion, a charter for legalising organised crime, including forced prostitution, organised paedophilia, human trafficking, etc.

Regulation would be the only realistic option, as the manufacture and distribution could be ensured to be made up of lawful activity only and could have the benefit of driving the organised criminals out of the market.

Cannabis, whether the cannabis lobby like it or not, is a potentially dangerous drug. Long-term misuse can result in psychosis – in my view this is because misuse can result in the brain no longer being able to self-regulate dopamine and serotonin levels. But this is why it should be legalised and regulated. I would do it as follows:

  • Apply the same taxation procedures as for cigarettes;
  • Have similar rules on consumption levels as for alcohol; and
  • Have the same point-of-sale advice and restrictions on purchase quantities as paracetamol.

A low dose of cannabis could be safe for recreational use, where as too high a dose could lead to long-term problems, like chronic mental health issues. Same as with alcohol, and in the case of cigarettes the long -term effects can be fatal, often unlike cannabis.

Even so, my fourth way question is – why legalise a millennia old drug like cannabis, which has these well documented risks from long-term use and abuse, when there is potential profit to be made by the pharmaceuticals designing and patenting new and safe recreational drugs? This could drive up innovation in the economy, and mean that the checks and balances in place for medical drugs could be in place for recreational drugs. Pharmaceuticals are unlike to want to develop medicines based on cannabis as they are unlikely to be patentable, meaning they won’t get their money back. So unless the government start letting health mutuals get cheaper licences for proven uses, so old out of patent drugs will be failed to be used for new affordable purposes.

So my policy on recreational drugs is that their design, manufacture and distribution should regulated and they should only be available for sale if they pass what I call the ‘safe sex pill test’. That is, if the risks to the person using them are easily as understandable as the contraceptive pill, and pose no more harm to them than that potentially can do at a safe dose, then it should be available in licenced premises  for recreational use. If the risks of misuse are so high, as with cannabis, then that is more reason to legalise and regulate it and not less!


Are Women's rights of higher importance than children and others?

It is not very often these days that reading a news article can fill me so quickly with rage, but this one on the Conservative Party website:

The Tories are basically saying:

The anger I felt, as a male victim of both childhood sex abuse and domestic violence was nothing that even the ancient God Thor would ever have experienced. Fortunately, as I went to an independent private specialist school under the last Conservative Government, I have learned how to channel these for creativity and to campaign for social justice, and I set out my solution below.

Within days of coming to power Theresa May scrapped the whole of the Vetting and Barring Service (VBS), seemingly only because it was unpopular because the last Government went too far in changing the definition of who needed to be checked.

The previous definition of who needed to be checked – ‘Anyone with substantial, unsupervised access to children or vulnerable adults’ – was fine. But Ms May appeared rather than getting an immediate grip on the situation and seeing the wood for the trees, threw out the baby with the bathwater!

The VBS that the last Government proposed was intended to make it much easier for not-for-profit organisations like mine to find out whether someone was allowed to work for us based on their criminal history.

This would not only make it easier for us administratively, but protect the privacy of suitable candidates also.

It aimed to bring all records together, including the sexual offences register, so finding out whether someone can work with children or vulnerable adults would be as simple as ringing up HMRC or using Government Gateway to see if someone is registered with the Construction Industry Scheme and what their tax treatment is. I have had direct commercial experience of both the CIS and CRB services, and would say the CIS is the model to follow.

If Ms May had any common sense then she would realise the VBS could be used for her sexist plan, but also be equally open to all persons and organisations who are making a decision about whether to recruit someone or otherwise engage in a relationship with them, regardless of their sex, simply by changing the definition of ‘vulnerable adult’ to include those who think they are at risk of domestic abuse.

As a Chartered IT Professional Fellow, it is my golden rule that one should never introduce a new IT system where an existing one can be upgraded for the same purpose. So Ms May might want to look at whether the Construction Industry Scheme, which uses NI Numbers, Company Numbers, and UTRs as identifiers could be extended to cost effectively allow the Government Gateway to be used for the VBS like it is for the CIS.

Ms May might want to look at this option in the forthcoming Protection of Freedoms Bill.

Why fiscal union won’t work in the Eurozone

Every man and his dog old premier are now patting the Eurozone leaders on the back for coming up with the idea of ‘fiscal union’ for the Eurozone. This was something that was opposed under both Thatcher and Blair, even with strong pressure from the rest of the EU.

Having fiscal union makes no sense at all. Fiscal union basically means that all the ways in which the government can influence demand and inflation, such as taxes, interest rates, money supply, are the same across the whole of the EU.

The reason we are in the crisis we are in is because countries like Greece, not only being economically unstable, suffered high inflation when joining the Eurozone, and the single interest rate meant it’s economy was growing and contracting at a different rate to the rest of the Eurozone due to lack of ability of its government to influence money supply because it couldn’t keep to the ‘growth and stability pact’.

I think that the single interest rate is however important – it sets a ‘base-line’ for which all the EU counties and their inter-country regions can work towards in order to converge their local economies with the rest of the EU over the long-term.

I believe, as I have for nearly 10 years that fiscal policy needs to be set at a regional level and not a national one, so certainly not at a supranational EU-wide level.

One just needs to look at the UK to see why this should be the case. Because fiscal policy in the UK is based around what is good for the South East of England, then this is making it difficult for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to grow their economies. If however the economies of these countries were run on the basis that their local tax policies were for the purpose of adjusting taxes to take account of the single interest rate, then there would be greater economic convergence over a longer period which would bring economic benefits to the regions in terms of equal prosperity in terms of wages, lifestyles and goods prices.

A policy moving towards harmonisation of fiscal policy for the whole of the Eurozone without first achieving economic convergence will only make problems worse. This is because a single fiscal policy could only ever work if each part of the Eurozone economy was fully converged. As we know the economies in Greece, Germany, France and Italy are so different that centralising fiscal union rather than decentralising it further will only make matters worse.

Don't blame Brussels

Mr Edmunds of Pontnewydd questions why the political elite take things on history literally and he offensively claims that this means they have Asperger’s syndrome (Letters, Nov 5).

I’m sure if they took things literally from history, then instead of free healthy school meals, children from low income backgrounds would be eating cake, and they would probably, like in 1 Corinthians 13, put their childish ways behind them and read their order papers instead of waving them in the air!

Far from having Asperger’s syndrome as he claims, the political elite lack the genius people with this form of high functioning autism like myself have, meaning they do not have the capacity to look further than their nose (Sorry Mr Edmunds, I am allowed to use an idiom even if I’m autistic, aren’t I?) I have a Masters in European Union Law – and as the people I bored for hours will tell you, the most fascinating part of this course to me was learning about “proportionality”, which means laws must be interpreted on the basis of what they were intended to achieve, not literally, and not used for any purpose beyond what they were intended for.

I suspect, if like the French, the British politicians were to use “proportionality” when transposing EU directives, then as the French would say, they could “literally rip the heart out” of EU law. Instead of using Europe to further the dominance of the cartel of parties (ie Conservatives and Labour) by them misleading the public so one of them is always in power, then they would no longer be able to blame Brussels, when the fault truly lies with them.

Twitter tutorial aims to bring trolls in from the cold

A local internet expert will hold an interactive tutorial on Twitter focusing on the online art of trolling.

Trolling can be defined as posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response.

Generally viewed in negative terms, Councillor Jonathan Bishop aims to lift the lid on how trolling can be used in a non-offensive way while having fun online.

His Trolling Academy tutorial, which runs during Get Safe Online Week, also aims to help people gain qualifications that can count towards entry to higher education.

Coun Bishop, a town councillor for Treforest, will launch the Twitter tutorial tonight (Thursday, November 10), at 6.30pm, showcasing how one can ‘troll’ politicians online to see if they believe what they say they do.

People can find out more about the Trolling Academy at (www.trollingacademy.org) and follow the Twitter account at www.twitter.com/TrollingAcademy to join in the tutorial.

Sell Disney the royals

I recently proposed a new type of settlement where each of the four nations of Britain could be independently constituted as nation states yet members of a “British Isles customs union”, or BICU (Letters, October 22).

Rather than each nation have its own overpaid head of state or, worse still, keep the outdated monarchy, our head of state could be based on a “rotating presidency”.

The president’s primary role would be to chair the Council of Ministers and work to cut down the costly duplication of legislation so instead of four laws on say banning smoking or regulating marriage, there would be one law with different provisions for each nation. It could be chaired by Carwyn Jones one year, Alex Salmond the next, etc.

This “constitutional presidency” would mean we could ditch the “constitutional monarch”. Mickey Mouse is not the Governor of Florida is he? Yet he is their top tourist attraction bringing millions into the economy each year. So why do we still have one of our top tourist attractions – The Royal Family – as head of state? Disney Pixar is the most profitable company in the world, trading in fantasy around “princesses” and “princes” – why don’t we sell them the Royal Family, so they can run them 100% as a tourist attraction for taxable profit? The “Queen” could still open the Welsh legislature, but in a ceremonial way, little different to the ways some towns still employ town criers, who operate more for cultural reasons than any practical constitutional role.

Response to John Rentoul – Who will say we're better off out of Europe?

I read an article by John Rentoul in The Independent. With all due respect to him, he doesn’t know what he is talking about. Here is a refutation for his post.

The Constitutional Treaty (CT) did not become the Lisbon Treaty (TFEU). While core things were taken from the CT, such as a permanent chair of the Council, the TFEU is a totally different beast. It is virtually identical to the Nice Treaty, more so than the CT.

If you were an expert like myself you would tell the public that the ‘renegotiating terms with Europe’ is subterfuge like the nonsense of a ‘missing link’ in evolution. In the last 30 the EU Treaty has been renegotiated 7 times – only twice by Conservative Governments – the Single European Act and Maastricht Treaty (TEU); both considered the biggest transfer of powers by experts. The SEA created the ‘Internal Market’ for the EEC so it was easier to make laws that harmonise laws in each country, and the TEU turned the EEC into the EC and EU, which made it easy for the single European Union to happen under Brown with the TFEU.

The Lisbon Treaty (TFEU), in particular Title III means that there is no reason why any UK Government has to accept for the UK a law that everyone else in the EU wants – With enhanced co-operation they can go it along – as they did with the EU Patent, which France and Italy didn’t take part in.

So any anti-EU rhetoric from the EU Government is just that. They  can’t legitimately blame the EU for laws they secretly voted for in the Council of Ministers!

The misuse of The Big Issue by Opportunist Economic Migrants

There are a lot of anti-immigration stories in the Daily Mail, popularising the view of people on the right of the Conservative Party over the more progressive ones like Ken Clarke.

It is is my view that EU Law should change so that EU Citizens have their social aid entitlements paid by the Member State of which they are a national and not the one in which they reside.

I strongly feel that so long as I keep paying my Class 2 National Insurance that I should be able to move to Belgium and keep the support I need, such as Disability Living Allowance (or Personal Independent Payment as appropriate) and the Access to Work funding I have to give me a support worker to overcome my disabilities as well as subside ‘Bupa International’ so I can get the help I currently get from the NHSand Social Services.

If the UK Government think it is wrong that EU nationals claim benefits here, do they think it not wrong the Belgian authorities would have to pay for my welfare while I’m there? – Assuming I pass the same degrading assessments I have had to in the UK!

Let me give you a reason why the Immigration Minister, Damien Green, whom I perceive as biased and therefore who I perceive as unprofessional and therefore who I perceive as a bigot, might what to change the system.

I bought a copy of the Big Issue several minutes ago in Cardiff Queen Street. It was sold by someone called Alex (Seller number 254). On probing him with questions, he said he had moved to the UK from Hungary to live with a friend who worked in a hotel and to sell the Big Issue afterwards when his friend stopped supporting him. This resembled a recurring story in the Daily Mail which I felt discomforting to see in reality.

I am generally pro-economic immigration. In fact I am receiving advice from my local university to give a student from Uganda studying there work experience in journal paper writing, which will not only help him in his career, but me in mine also.

As a Master of Economic and Social Science, I share the more vernacularly presented concerns of the UK public that the opportunity costs of allowing people from elsewhere in the EU to sell the Big Issue, means there is a homeless person that is a UK National going without help.

As a Master of Laws in EU Law, the UK Government may wish to note that EU Directives are directed at Member States and their organs of the state and have direct effect on them, but there is nothing stopping the UK Government extending the provisions of a Directive to give UK businesses more rights and less red tape. The only considering is that if this falls within Article 34 (i.e. discriminates against other EU Nationals or Undertakings), that it is also covered by the ‘rule of reason’.

Such a provision could include making sure that the consumer interest is protected, so they have enough information about who they are buying Big Issues from or other services under the Services Directive, so that it supports their belief-system about who they want to buy from, which is protected by the Equality Act 2010 that implements and extends EU Directives on equality. This may mean the Big Issue will decide to only offer those persons for which there is a market demand to sell the Big Issue based on consumer preferences and supply and demand figures of the most successful sellers so that the scheme gets its maximum benefit for homeless people.