Monthly Archives: October 2011

As Europe resolves its future, Britain returns to its past

Yesterday, as heads of the seventeen eurozone nations met to grind out a resolution to the ongoing crisis plaguing European markets, the commencement of the Commonwealth Summit served to underline the UK’s position as all too willing political outsiders.

In fact, this week the UK has once again proven to be the awkward partner of Europe, completely out of touch with its counterparts and almost guilty of displaying an ‘I told you so’ attitude towards the tumultuous plight of the eurozone, puzzlingly nonchalant towards the interconnectedness of European economies, including its own.

Jose Manuel Barrosso emerging from the eurozone talks in Brussels

Not happy with missing out on the vital talks, earlier in the week, the Commons held a debate on Britain’s future membership of the EU. In principle, considering the public’s general attitude towards EU membership coupled with the negative attitudes held across the political spectrum by mainstream MPs and backbenchers alike, this is a wholly plausible debate. However, the timing seemed so ill-advised and genuinely unhelpful to the rest of Europe it defied belief.

Then comes the Commonwealth Summit in Chogm, Perth. Despite the wishes of those who look wistfully back to the days of colonial Britain, the Commonwealth, while undoubtedly an important historical tie, is not the way for the UK to thrust itself into political significance and certainly not the answer to the current economic crisis engulfing the nation. Unlike the ‘glorious’ past, the EU are now the UK’s predominant trading partners and the fact that our Prime Minister was in Perth debating changes to the monarchy rather than being involved in discussions vital to the future of that organisation’s economic wellbeing is frankly embarrassing.

Now, regardless of the debate over the continued existence of the monarchy, the decision to finally make amendments to the laws of succession is a welcome one. In our times, it’s odd that men should still succeed to the throne in favour of their older sisters. But this is so miniscule an issue at this time, that it’s just plain bizarre that Britain, a country that regards itself so focal to the international political and economic system, has spent such an important week on the sidelines of Europe, a main centre of power, choosing to instead focus on re-evaluating its position as an EU member before switching its attention to the Commonwealth.

Queen Elizabeth II's coronation.

Arguably, the root source of the eurosceptism that blights the British discourse on the EU is founded on a superiority complex dating back to our nation’s colonial past. Since the end of WWII this has not been the case, but yet critics and the public hark on convinced that this relatively small isle is still the powerful nation it once was. A nation’s pride so damaged by its own fall that instead of accepting its position within the world order, consecutive governments have moved us along in blissful ignorance of our re-orientation. Unlike the Commonwealth, Europe is the real opportunity to prove significant in the 21st century and once again the UK has proven to be a step out of sync. It remains to be seen whether this will come back to haunt us in the coming years, as the pound looks increasingly weak and the eurozone perhaps grows once more.

Kenneth Way.

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Canon Giles Fraser resigns: A victim of his own morality?

Today, amid fears that the church would work alongside the Corporation of London to forcibly remove protestors from the Occupy London Stock Exchange site (OLSX), Reverend Giles Fraser resigned from his position as Canon of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Speaking in The Guardian, the ex-Canon said, “I cannot support using violence to ask people to clear off the land. It is not about my sympathies or what I believe about the camp. I support the right to protest and in a perfect world we could have negotiated. But our legal advice was that this would have implied consent.”

Ex-Canon Giles Fraser outside the OLSX site.

Despite backing his peers in asking for protestors to leave the site, Fraser’s belief in the right to protest coupled with his refreshing talk of conscience seems almost alien in this political climate. Here is a man acting according to his own code, absent of the trappings of careerism or financial gain. In fact, it speaks volumes that in contrast to Fraser’s actions, a main concern of St Paul’s bigwigs during the protest has been the loss of up to £20,000 a day since the occupation began last week.

To counter any cynics less enamoured by Fraser, he can hardly be labelled an opportunistic headline grabber. The reverend has based his career on decency. Ordained in 1993, Fraser was a founder of Inclusive Church, a group campaigning for the full recognition of gay lifestyles. As well as this, as the rest of the church fretted over the gay issue, in 2008 Fraser welcomed the world’s first openly gay Anglican Bishop, the Right Reverend Gene Robinson, to preach in his church. Unfortunately, void of Fraser’s decency, the church banned the reverend from attending a special church conference on the issue.

Putting his credentials to one side, there is a poignant irony about the resignation of Giles Fraser. With the clear PR crisis facing the modern day church in Britain, people like Giles Fraser offer the church a real opportunity to break itself from the negative perceptions so commonly spouted from the mouths of non-believers. In many ways, the true tragedy of this situation is that Giles Fraser has been forced to stand down as a result of a conflict between his personal beliefs and his role in the church. As a result of a protest against the moral bankruptcy of the banks, an honest man has somewhat inevitably become a victim.

Support the Facebook campaign to save Giles Fraser.

Ex-Canon Giles Fraser speaking on BBC News.

Kenneth Way.

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Rebels with a cause: Cameron faces party friction as EU sceptics resurface

Despite imposing a three line whip on yesterday’s vote on a possible EU referendum, 81 Tory MPs rebelled against David Cameron, in what was the biggest rebellion to face his premiership so far.

In fact, according to claims made by Conservative Party insiders earlier this week, as many as two thirds of Conservative MPs are in favour of renegotiating the UK’s member status within the EU. Whilst commentators and observers have debated the decision to order a three line whip on the vote, there is little doubt that the vote has inflicted considerable damage on Cameron’s relations with Tory backbenchers amidst what the BBC’s Ed Stourton says is the most “Eurosceptic Conservative Party in history.”

While, the motion was widely expected to be defeated, with both Labour and Lib Dem MPs voting against, an ICM/Guardian poll has shown that 70% of voters were in favour of a vote over Britain’s EU membership: 49% said they would favour a withdrawal, whilst 40% said they would prefer to remain. Such figures suggest a complete turnaround in British opinion vis-a-vis the EU – a similar ICM poll conducted in 2001 indicated that only 19% were said to be in favour of an EU withdrawal, in comparison to the 68% of respondents who felt that Britain should retain EU membership.

The repatriation of “sovereign powers” from Brussels to London has long been desired by many within the ranks of the Conservative government – exemplified by Teresa May’s view of axing European Convention for Human Rights – but in spite of this the proposals backing an outright withdrawal have been described by prominent Eurosceptic and foreign secretary William Hague, as being potentially damaging to the UK’s economic recovery, and simply the “wrong question to ask at a wrong time.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP challenging David Cameron on the EU.

roughsociety’s final word
In a country where 83% have admitted to having little or no knowledge about the EU’s institutions or inner workings, friction over EU membership is not a new phenomenon. In the British political landscape immigration, crime, the outsourcing of “British jobs”, Thatcher’s rebate – have all fallen under the ongoing question of the extent of Brussels’ jurisdiction. Regardless of this, it’s the Eurozone conundrum that has brought about a vehement backbench rebellion. As Hague rightly notes, Britain disembarking the EU ship is out of the question; not only for the sake of the UK economy, but also perhaps in the interest of remaining in the world’s largest trading bloc. That said, a referendum over the transfer of powers from Brussels to London (all the while retaining membership) could prove one of Cameron’s best hands in fending of rebellion, and one that would be more in line with government policy.

Sanders Arampamoorthy.

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‘Eureca project’ to solve Eurozone crisis?

Earlier this week, German consultancy group Roland Berger unveiled its strategy for combating the troublesome Eurozone crisis.

Presented as a ‘viable and credible’ alternative, Eureca inspires itself from the Trust Agency (Treuhandanstalt) that set about restructuring the obsolete East German economy in the immediate aftermath of German unification in 1990 – and consequently leading to the privatisation of 8,500 industrial and business assets in Eastern Germany alone. Yet akin to the Treuhand’s controversial legacy, Le Monde correspondant Charlotte Chabas questions the controversial impact of such an ‘aaudacious’ plan, notably on the issue of safeguarding Greece’s sovereignty.

It says it all itself.

The plan

‘Eureca’ would initially consist of transferring Greece’s public assets (estimated to total €125 billion) – from state property, telecommunications, banks, to ports, airports and highways – within a European holding firm financed by EU member states, who would then proceed in retaining or the outright selling off of such resources.

From here, the generated funding from such sales would, in principle, enable the Greek state to reimburse its lenders and theoretically reduce its current debt/GDP ratio of 145%, to 60% by 2025. Roland Berger highlight that this would not only drastically cut interest rates on loans, but also re-inject money into the Greek state through investment and the creation of an estimated 250,000 jobs.

Should things go to plan, this would result in Greece coming within European stability pact guidelines (concerning public debt) by 2025, and reducing aggressively market speculations on Greek, Italian, Irish or Spanish defaults – thus not only permitting the reintroduction of economic growth in Greece, but also safeguarding the stability of the Eurozone.

Whilst members of the ‘Troika’ (IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission) have formally ruled out all talks of mass ‘transfers’ of Greece’s public structures, La Tribune financial expert François Roche argues that it is ‘very likely’ that such ‘plans’ were concocted within Angela Merkel’s entourage and with the European Commission’s expert approval.


roughsociety’s final word

In the face of nervous European markets and a stagnating Eurozone – whilst not forgetting Germany’s cynicism over its role in the current bail outs – it seems that Europe is left with a decision; whether to expel Greece from the Eurozone and see it implode, or continue with its costly and unaffordable bailouts. Furthermore, it would be all too easy to forget that much uncertainty looms over the cases of Italy and Spain. Whilst ‘Eureca’ may well become an unprecedented reality, it is one that the Troika will feel as being a case of selling the furniture in order to save the house.

Sanders Arampamoorthy.

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