Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Archive for January 8th, 2013

Cameron’s EU Strategy

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 8th January, 2013

A stringent and well-justified criticism of UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s dangerous strategy in relation to the EU, by Petros Fassoulas of the European Movement UK:

EM euroblog

Cameron’s EU strategy lies where arrogance meets absurdity.
David CasmeronSeldom does a Prime Minister display such lack of diplomatic common sense as David Cameron does when it comes to his EU policy. From lecturing in a patronising fashion from the side-lines to exercising an ineffective and unnecessary veto, Mr Cameron has managed to alienate and baffle in equal measure his European partners. But this time he has gone as far as to exclaim that he is “entitled” to threaten fellow EU Member States while they are engaging in a process of reform of the EU and the Eurozone. It beggars belief why he has chosen to employ such arrogant behaviour, at the very moment when Germany’s Finance Minister warned that the UK cannot blackmail its EU partners. The irony is that Mr Cameron has repeatedly stated that the wellbeing of the Eurozone is in the UK’s interest. He professes that the Eurozone needs to reform if it is to ensure its wellbeing. But in the same breath he says that he is prepared to block those reform efforts. There is something schizophrenic about his approach to EU policy-making.
So, he is adamant that the UK’s contribution to this process of reform will be limited to using it as an opportunity to “take back powers from Brussels” and create a new relationship with the EU, using a veto if necessary. He has based his approach to EU membership on that attempt and he then plans to put its outcome to the British people for a vote.  But this strategy is doomed to fail, as previously argued. There is very little chance that the UK’s EU partners will allow it to abandon its Treaty commitments while affording it all the privileges of Single Market membership. The Single Market Act (and all the implementing regulations and directives) is a complicated set of rules, which ensure a level playing field for all participating states. Trying to unpick those agreements means the unravelling of the Single Market itself. What is to stop other Member States from asking exemptions from areas they consider cumbersome, areas dear to the UK? It’s like opening Pandora’s Box, which will undo the Single Market and cancel the many benefits it affords its members.
Employing threats while the EU is dealing with issues of an existential nature limits even further the chances of winning allies and achieving his objectives.
UK EUSo, the Prime Minister will return empty-handed after having failed to “repatriate” powers and change the UK’s terms of EU membership. Even if other members states feel sorry for him and give him some token powers back they will never be enough to satisfy all those Europhobes in his party, UKIP and the tabloid press who he has been trying to appease with fantastical notions of “power repatriation”. He will then have to put to a vote that failed outcome and be forced to campaign against EU membership, since he has repeatedly stated that, even though he believes that the UK should remain in the EU, the status quo is not acceptable. Here lies the absurdity in his strategy. His failure will be complete.
Instead the PM should be joining other EU leaders in their efforts to improve the way the EU functions, deepen and widen the Single Market and improve those EU policies that need amending. A winning strategy is made up of constructive engagement, building alliances, providing a vision for the EU and participating in efforts to make that vision a reality. Threats, blackmail and the pursuit of self-interest belong to an area of national conflict, an era the EU replaced long ago with supranational co-operation and consensus building. Mr Cameron should read his history books before making his much awaited speech.
Petros Fassoulas, European Movement UK


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Growing Old Disgracefully

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 8th January, 2013

Outsider IIBrian SewellThe Evening Standard’s freelance art critic, Brian Sewell, has established himself as something of a national treasure, even if some of his colleagues in the art world have a tendency to kick him in the shins. He is often acerbic, indeed can be curmudgeonly, and is widely believed to be fonder of dogs than of humans. That not withstanding, he has had an eclectic cricle of professional acquaintances and friends; though I have  never met him, I used to hear about him from his close pal the Kensington Liberal, Colin Darracott, before the latter moved down to Bath. I have entered Sewell’s world backwards, so to speak, by reading the second volume of his memoirs, Outsider II*, before acquiring the first, so have savoured the flavours of an octogenarian looking back on the second part of his life, when his work as an art dealer and expert consultant was largely replaced by his activities as a critic — an ucompomising one, which is why his long essays in the Standard are often such fun, as well as informative. I don’t always agree with his critical judgments, but then why should I necessarily? What he has to say about painters is always worthwhile reading, and in this book one has the added delights of artistic gossip, from his appropriately surreal encounters with Salvador Dali in Spain to his loyal friendship with Anthony Blunt in London and his love-hate relationship with his live-in mother in her final decrepitude. As those who have read extracts of either volume of his memoirs will already know there is plenty of graphic descripion of casual homosexual encounters, from the old guards barracks at Hyde Park to the village boys of Turkey. But if Sewell, like Oscar Wilde, had his feet firmly in gutter he also has his eyes on the stars.

Quartet, £25

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