Could an ‘Outist’ big beast lead the Conservative party?

Conservative Big beasts

Conservative MPs minds are invarably turn to Regicide and Europe

9 February 2015

Spring is around the corner, an election is in the air and the minds of Tory MPs are invariably turning to one thought – Regicide.

Lord Kilmuir once believed “loyalty is the secret weapon of the Conservative party,” unfortunately it has been left rusting in a warehouse alongside other army surplus equipment unloved and unrewarded in modern politics, by contrast the Conservatives’ other secret weapon – the ability to ruthlessly dispatch a defeated leader – is in full battle order.

That is not to say Tory MPs are not capable of concurrent activity, while earnestly and sincerely wishing David Cameron wins the election they can also think about what will happen if he does not. And when they do, and thoughts drift to other potential leaders, a pavlovian reaction occurs, they start saying out loud “what does Bloggins think about Europe.”

Well Bloggins is also interested in Europe, and is also keen to let MPs know what he/she thinks before time. A significant minority of Conservative MPs will be looking to back an MP who explicitly says they will campaign to leave the EU and under the Conservative leadership rules MPs will select the two candidates that go forward to a poll of Conservative members – the majority of whom support leaving the EU. Europe could once again decide who leads the Conservative party.

We have looked before at the ‘Big Beasts’ and their views, there are some new runners and riders in the imponderable leadership race and some candidates view have ‘developed’ in recent months – here they are the current Big beasts in the order they appeared in Conservative Home’s poll of potential leadership candidates:

1. Boris Johnson
2. Theresa May
3. Sajid Javid
4. Liam Fox 
5. George Osborne
6. Owen Paterson
7. David Davis
8. Michael Gove
9. Philip Hammond
10. Chris Grayling

“Outists” or “potential outists”

Out of these potential leaders of the Conservative party six have either supported Brexit, or have come close, (Liam Fox, Owen Paterson, David Davis, Michael Gove, Philip Hammond and Chris Grayling). One, Cabinet Member Sajid Javid, recently stirred speculation that he was entering the race by stating exit “is not something anyone should be frightened of” and another front runner Boris Johnson has also joined the club by letting it be known he thinks Brexit “wouldn’t be disastrous.”

That leaves Theresa May as one of the most senior potential ‘Big Beast’ candidates in the ring not to make a major intervention on Europe. Although May has pledged to renegotiate the European Court’s power over Crime and Policing, she has showed little enthusiasm for making it happen, indeed she went along with taking the UK into a new EU crime and policing system. That leaves May as the potential candidate for the Conservative pro-EU group and the most likely Pro-EU potential finalist in any leadership race. However, it seems unlikely the Conservative membership will vote for a leader seen as having handed away powers to the EU if they were given another, more Eurosceptical, choice.

That leads to another potential finalist, George Osborne. The Chancellor has made his own European interventions once telling Die Welt “I very much hope that Britain remains a member of the EU. But in order that we can remain in the European Union, the EU must change” and then setting out his case for EU reform in a speech to Open Europe’s EU reform conference in January 2014. But as radical as these sounded at the time they now places him on the moderate wing of the Conservative party.

If Osborne were to become a finalist alongside May we could see a “Better Off In” duo being presented to Conservative party members. All other potential combinations would lead to Conservative party members being given at least one “Outist” choice and therefore a significant chance of the Conservative party as the official opposition arguing for an EU exit.


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How much EU law does Norway have to adopt? 9%? or 75%?

EU EEA Norway Switzerland Regulation Trade Agrement

How much law does Norway have to adopt?

Norway is not in the EU but is within the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA, is an agreement between the EFTA states (minus Switzerland) and the EU, giving Norway access to the Single Market. The EEA however differs from most free trade agreements in that it is a ‘living agreement’ into which new EU laws can be inserted as they are made. Norway therefore adopts EU law in many areas (including in areas the UK is not involved in, such as Schengen). However, Norway does not have to adopt EU laws relating to the CAP, CFP and external trade agreements, making the EEA in the eyes of many Norwegians preferable to joining the EU.

In Norway, which has voted not to join the EU, there remains a smouldering IN/Out debate. When it comes to estimating the influence of EU law the ‘lets remain OUT’ campaigners argue that the EEA forces them to enact only 9% of EU legislative acts – thus leaving Norway largely free to pursue its own policies. The Norwegian ‘IN’ campaigners by contrast argue the figure is closer to 75%, making their point that as Norway already has to adopt most of the law they may as well join to gain more influence on how they are made. Naturally, those in the UK who advocate leaving the EU and joining an EEA-type agreement are keen to highlight the 9% figure to argue the UK ‘could be like Norway’, – escaping a large proportion of the laws while retaining access to the Single Market.

How is it possible to argue it is both 9% and 75%?

Firstly, the 9% figure: This comes from the Norwegian No campaign and is based on a study by Morten Harper that, based on a Eur-Lex search, compared all EU Directives, Regulations and legislative acts (a depressing 52,183 from 2000-2013) with the number enacted in the EEA agreement – 4,724. Making the proportion of EU legislative enacted in Norway 9.05%.

The 75% figure comes from a study commissioned by the Norwegian Government into the impact of the EEA “Outside and Inside”. This study, rather than counting the number of EU laws, tried to estimate the effect of the laws in Norway. It concluded “approximately three quarters of substantive EU law and policy” in the EEA comes from the EU. [This study is of EU laws enacted, not the proportion of Norwegian laws that come from the EU]

There is no full-proof way of estimating the proportion of EU law enacted. Counting one for one is one method, but that leads to the problem that one ‘Working Time Directive’ is valued at the same impact as one regulation on, say, blue cheese. Another is subjective, assigning importance to different laws as with the case in the Norwegian Government’s study. And then there are various ways in between.

There are also a range of caveats here. First, many EU measures are temporary and therefore don’t make it into EEA legislation. This is however likely to be an underestimate as pointed out on the EUreferendum blog counting those in force, rather than enacted gets you to 17%. The external trade policy also give rise to a disproportional number of rules as every tariff line is an effective EU measure.

There are a number of interesting things about this debate in Norway – one being that it mirrors the debate in the UK, but with the roles reversed: the “Remain Out” camp wants to talk down the share of national laws coming from the EU, whereas the “In” side wants to talk it up. Nick Clegg, earlier this year claimed that only 7% of all law in the UK came from the EU, by selecting only UK Acts of Parliament rather than the much higher proportion of all UK legislation (though Clegg once claimed it was 50% to argue a different point). The truth is that if the UK joined the EEA, it would have to enact less EU regulation than at present, how much less is definitely open for discussion.

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EU Referendum

What effect do the different potential UK election outcomes have on the chances of an EU referendum.

 Conservatives UK referendumThe May UK election will be one of the most uncertain in modern history. All options are on the table from majority Labour or Conservative governments to any combination of smaller parties in between. Here are some of the more or less likely outcomes and a suggestion as to whether they would pass an EU referendum ranging from 96% to 10%!


Probability of referendum
Conservative majority 95% Parliament act used in Lords if Salisbury convention ignored. 1-2 Conservative MPs would vote against.
Conservative / Lib Dem Coalition 90% It would be a deal breaker for Conservative support, if it failed it may lead to fresh elections.
Minority Conservative Government 60%-80% Depending on the arithmetic, the DUP would support, some Labour MPs would support, SNP could however demand a Scottish threshold in return for support
Labour minority 15% A referendum would only happen if a Conservative back bench Bill made it through with the help of Labour and Lib Dem rebels
Labour Lib Dem Coalition 10% Both parties would seek to avoid a referendum unless other states demand treaty change.
Labour Majority 10% Labour would seek to avoid a referendum and the Lib Dems would not back a Conservative private members Bill
Conservative / DUP / UKIP Coalition 96% DUP and UKIP would back a referendum
Labour / SNP / Lib Dem Coalition 10% probability of a pseudo referendum A referendum with a separate qualification for Scotland could be a remote possibility.
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What has the Home Office got to hide on EU Crime and Policing reform?

When the UK signed the Lisbon treaty Theresa-Mayit signed up to the juristiction of the European Court of Justice over EU Crime and Policing, subject to a block opt-out. The problem being once activated (as it was) the UK could then either opt back in under the Court or stay outside al together and lose potentialy useful measures.

I have long argued that the UK should have taken the oportunity to negotiate a new deal to stay in the measures without the Court – the terms hat had worked previously. But did the Home Office attempt to do this?

Well my attempts to ask the Home Office under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose whether they tried to renegociate or not have been met with an infuriating  “we remain unable to confirm or deny at this time whether we hold any information relevant to your request.”

So which one is it? Did the Home Office try a renegotiation and fail or not attempt a renegotiation at all? This is of more than academic interest as, if you believe the Home Secretary, the juristiction of the Court remains a conservative aim in any eventual EU renegotiation. So did they attempt to discuss this with their EU counterparts before opting back in? I suspect I know the answer but will we find out.

Click here for the full FOI HO reply

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UK to contribute €1.6 billion to EIB capital increase

UK to contribute €1.6 billion to EIB capital increase
Open Europe’s Christopher Howarth is quoted in the Times, Telegraph and Mail as saying, “This feels an awful lot like spending for the sake of spending without doing anything to solve the eurozone crisis. We fear this won’t be good use of taxpayers’ cash.”
Mail Telegraph Times Howarth 28 Jun 2012

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UK exports to rest of the world exceed those to EU for first time since 1970s

UK exports to rest of the world exceed those to EU for first time since 1970s
Following the news that  the UK is exporting more to the rest of the world than to the EU for the first time since the 1970s, Open Europe’s Christopher Howarth is quoted in the Express and Telegraph as saying that “It is good news that British business is taking advantage of opportunities in the fast-growing emerging countries outside the EU. However, the EU remains an important market for the UK. Therefore as well as looking to new opportunities we still need to focus on reforming the EU and ­reducing its costs.”
Express Telegraph Howarth 19 Jul 2012

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What could independence mean for Scotland’s future in the EU?

What could independence mean for Scotland’s future in the EU?
In an interview with Spanish daily La Razón, Open Europe’s Senior Analyst Christopher Howarth discusses the potential implications of Scotland’s independence for its future membership of the EU.
La Razón: Howarth
 11 October 2012

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