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Is it time to scrap the CAP?


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Is it time to scrap the CAP?

The British government plans a referendum in four years on whether the UK should remain in the European Union. The country is deeply divided with recent polls indicating a thin majority of voters favouring an EU exit.

Joining us to take your questions is Daniel Hannan, a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament.

Chris Burns:

“Welcome to the show Mr Hannan.”

Daniel Hannan:

“Thank you.”

Chris Burns:

“We’ve got a whole string of questions so let’s get right to them starting with a gentleman from Belgium.”

Question from Lionel, Belgium:

“Hello my name is Lionel, I am Belgian. My question to Mr Hannan: if you are a eurosceptic, then why are you a deputy at the European Parliament?”

Chris Burns:

“Mr Hannan, why would you want to bite the hand that feeds you?”

Daniel Hannan:

“Yes, I’m often asked that, and very often, not as politely as that. It’s more along the lines of “What are you doing here when you don’t even believe blablabla…’. There are two answer to that: first of all, it’s supposed to be a representative assembly, and I’m surprised by how many euro-federalists, who believe in it being a parliament for the whole continent, then turn out to have a problem when it is, in fact, representative. I don’t pretend for a moment that my views are shared by everyone in my south-east of England constituency. They may not even be shared by most of the people in my south-east of England constituency – we’ll find that out after the election – but they are certainly shared by some people. And it’s an odd, and I think slightly disquieting argument, that says you should only be allowed to take your place in a democratic legislature if you think in a particular way.”

Chris Burns:

“Mr Hannan, we have another question now from a woman from Spain, who seems to think she hears a lot from Britons suggesting they know it all. Let’s see what she has to say.”

Question from Carmen, Spain:

“Hello, my name is Carmen, I’m Spanish. My question is: why are the British giving the rest of Europe lessons on the economy and morality?”

Chris Burns

“Daniel, do you know it all?”

Daniel Hannan:

“Part of the problem in the whole European project is that different countries with different visions of how the society and the economy should work have reached compromises that satisfy nobody. And that’s why I would be much happier with a situation where Britain lived under its own laws and made no attempt to advise any neighbouring country on how they should run their affairs.”

Chris Burns:

“What about making compromises to be part of a larger whole and a more powerful whole?”

Daniel Hannan:

“Well this is, as I understand, what your question was complaining about, it was precisely that. What you’ve just said is what she calls preaching. I would be much happier if each country made its own decisions, in its own essentially domestic matters. It would be a more democratic and a more satisfactory resolution for all countries if they restricted European cooperation to issues of a genuinely cross-border nature, and then in their domestic policies, they all did their own thing. But precisely because I don’t want to preach, it’s not for me to tell Belgium and Spain and Germany that they should do that. If they want to pool their sovereignty, good luck! They will be able to rely on our good will, on our open markets, on our military alliance, but we would rather not compromise our democracy or bargain with our independence, we would rather be a good neighbour than a bad tenant.”

Chris Burns:

“Ok, Daniel, a bit of a segway to our next question. This from a gentleman in Spain, a question of influence: how much influence could the UK have in the European Union either in or out?”

Question from Adam, Spain:

“My name is Adam, I am Spanish. My question is: The British believe their City is losing power within the EU. If you leave the EU, considered to be the most powerful economy in the world, will you not lose even more influence?”

Chris Burns:

“Daniel what do you think?”

Daniel Hannan:

“You know, this idea that you have to be part of a very large bloc to be prosperous, if that were true, China would be wealthier than Hong Kong, and Indonesia would be wealthier than Singapore. The way you succeed in the world is by getting your tax and regulatory regime right, not by being part of an especially large bloc. And, just to be absolutely clear about this, no one in the UK is suggesting that we shouldn’t buy and sell and trade with our friends and allies on the continent. I’ve not heard that argument from anyone. In fact, on either side of the Channel, the people who are most keen on a Europe exit in the place where I work, in the European parliament, even they are all in favour of our participation on some kind of Swiss type basis.”

Chris Burns:

“But how much would that door be open to British workers if the UK were not in the EU? That is our next question from a woman from France, let’s listen to what she has to say.”

Question from Isabelle, France:

“My name is Isabelle, I am French, and I wanted to know: what’s going to become of the hundreds of thousands of Britons living and working in Europe if Great Britain leaves the European Union?”

Chris Burns:

“So how much are you worried that the door might slam shut on all the Brits working on the continent?”

Daniel Hannan:

“Well, I can remember quite a lot of Brits living and working on the continent before the common market existed. There were hundreds of thousands of British people in Spain before Spain joined the EU in 1986, and you can reach bilateral agreements on these issues without needing to be EU members. One of the big fallacies in this argument is that those who are against Brussels running things are therefore against international cooperation. We’re not, we want the closest possible relations between different countries, but that should be contracted on the basis of intergovernmental, democratic accord between friendly countries.”

Chris Burns:

“I’ve got a Belgian woman who has a question about how you see the European Union.”

Question from Julie, Belgium:

“Hello Mr Hannan, my name is Julie, I am Belgian, and I would like to know why you say that Europe is not democratic or progressive but elitist?”

Chris Burns:

“Is that what you think? That Europe is not democratic?”

Daniel Hannan:

“Well, there is an old joke in Brussels, to the effect that if the EU were a country applying to join itself, it would be turned down because it wasn’t democratic enough. It is an extraordinary situation, and it doesn’t become any more acceptable just because we’re accustomed to it with the passage of time, that legislative and executive power should be concentrated in the hands of 27 commissioners who are invulnerable to public opinion.”

Chris Burns:

“But that’s evolving, that is the executive side, but there is also the legislative side which is gaining power, as we see, through the Lisbon Treaty and so forth.”

Daniel Hannan:

“Well, here you come to a fundamental problem with how you conceive democracy, because democracy is not just a periodic right to mark a cross on a ballot paper every five years. Democracy also depends on a relationship between government and governed, an affinity, a common allegiance between the people who pass the laws and the people who are expected to obey the laws. Now, that happens within a nation state, that happens in Portugal, in Sweden, in Japan, in Canada. Very few people feel European in the same sense that somebody feels Japanese or Canadian. And the problem, if you try and create the institutions of statehood without a sustaining sense of nationhood is that you end up with a government that is alienated from the people, that has no sense of public legitimacy. And we’re about to see, apparently, the spectacle of MEPs voting on the budget in secrecy because they don’t dare own publicly what they are prepared to do in private. That is, I’m afraid, no democracy. A democracy requires the demos, a unit with which we identify when we use the word “we”, and if you take the “demos” out of democracy, you’re left only with the “cratos”, the power of a system that has to compel by law what it can’t ask in the name of patriotism.”

Chris Burns:

“We’re running out of time, I’d love to debate on this for another half an hour, but I have one last question I’d like to fit in if possible. Cedric in Belgium, with a hot button issue: immigration. Let’s hear what he says.”

Question from Cédric, Belgium:

“Mr Hannan, hello, I am Cédric, I am Belgian and I have a question for you: what do you think of England’s immigration policy vis-à-vis Eastern European countries?”

Chris Burns:

“Daniel, what do you think?”

Daniel Hannan:

“I was a supporter of allowing inward migration from the rest of the EU. I’m a believer in free movement of labour. I think there are concerns about abuse of benefits, which are common to a number of Western European countries, are in no sense limited to the United Kingdom. But those things can be addressed by a clarification on what social entitlements you are allowed to access when you arrive and how long you have to have been paying into the system before you can start claiming. I wouldn’t challenge the fundamental basis of free movement of labour, I think it’s a good thing, and by the way, I wouldn’t accept that it’s anti-European to be critical of these things, I consider myself very European, I speak French, I speak Spanish, I’ve lived and worked all over the continent. What I want is what I think was Europe’s greatest contribution to the happiness of mankind, which is the evolution of parliamentary government and freedom under the rule of law. My quarrel with the EU is that it’s turned its back on those things.”

Chris Burns:

“Daniel Hannan, thank you very much for joining us on the programme. That’s all for now on I Talk, until next time, I’m Chris Burns, thanks for watching.”

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