SAINT OR SINNER?'
Some journalists have been speculating whether new PM Gordon Brown is a 'Eurosceptic'. But what does the Chancellor really believe in? This article tries to look beyond the media hype and some untraceable 'briefings'.... media reportage is given 'as found'.
ON COURSE FOR THE EURO
µBritain has (so far) escaped joining the Euro, with the credit going to Brown.
In the 1980s2, he was certainly pro-EU and supported the dry run, the ERM.
Although the debacle of 1992 made him cautious, in government, he claimed that he'd be one of the leaders of the pro-Euro campaign in a referendum!3
His 'desire' and track record have been of moulding our economy into shape for joining the Euro.1 Over the past 3 years, the Pound's value has been pegged closely around €1.47.4 It's almost as if the Pound is being treated as a denomination of the Euro.
Brown also lost the UK £2Bn in the botched sale of our gold reserves - with the proceeds effectively being used to prop up the ailing Euro. At the same time, local authorities were also pressurised to prepare for the Euro.
µWhat of his 'objections in principle' to both the Euro and EU Constitution? His outburst seemed to be a more of a reaction against being excluded from Labour's governing body, the NEC.5,6
Months later,7 he supported adapting Government policy to allow a referendum on the Constitution, so long as it had his 'red lines' to avoid the EU setting tax rates. The Wall Street Journal reported his doubts on tax harmonisation.8
Ironically, in 19989, Brown and ten other 'Social Democrat' EU Finance Ministers agreed on 'The New European Way' - a policy document claiming different national tax systems created a "distortion of competition".
HARM(ONIS)ING OUR ECONOMY
"the spectre of big tax rises to smooth Britain's path into the Euro".10
Taxes duly rocketed towards continental European levels; while ironically, our neighbours reduced theirs towards our rates.
Brown11 however objected to savings tax harmonising measures that would have hit the City 'Eurobond' market.
He also 'Europeanised' the way10 that inflation figures are calculated.
µHis attack on UK pension funds destabilised an area where Britain was seen as well ahead of Europe. He also collapsed North Sea Oil production through doubling charges21, and caused alarm by looking at how to push home buyers onto 25 year fixed rate 'continental' mortgages.12
The Business's editorial on Brown's competence and trustworthiness is damning; claiming interference with all areas of the economy; 'constantly manipulates rules... uses creative accounting' to cover its real state'. 21
µIronically for someone who has intervened in our economy so much, Brown is notorious in Brussels for lecturing on the benefits of free-market economic policy, and of leaving EU meetings early through frustration.1
Brown wants 'a new sense of national identity'11 - 'Britishness' redefined as being 'pro-European'.13
µBrown's objection is not to 'pooling sovereignty' (sic) - he supports that in EU trade talks. He wants economic integration through a total EU 'single market'. He spun the propaganda line '3 million jobs depend on Europe' on the BBC radio programme, 'Today'. 14
Rather, he sees the EU as being an out-of-date trade bloc that needs more 'globalisation'15 (Ditto the CAP).
He recalls a President Kennedy quote that 'independence is over', 'the age of interdependence has begun...'.16
He feels an 'EU' approach is essential to economic reform, and to combat terrorism, global warming, poverty11 (echoes of 'EU Presidents' Barroso and Merkel, and even Cameron!).
µAn interesting website17 attributes to the late Peter Shore MP:
Both [Blair and Brown] are genuine Europhiles, eager to carry forward the whole process of European integration in foreign and defence as well as in domestic policies, keen to bury the pound in the single currency, seeing Britain's future as above all centred in the EU... Both men want, if not a Federal Europe, then something very close to it indeed.
Brown worked closely with Blair on negotiations for a new 'Constitutional' treaty that could be slipped through without the trouble of a referendum.18 So much for 'listening to the British people' in his acceptance speech 24
The flimsy excuse was that it wasn't the rejected European Constitution - whereas continental politicians openly admitted that it was substantially the Constitution, or at least the important 99% of it.
Polly Toynbee believes that Brown and Blair's political differences are 'wafer thin'.19
Like Blair, Brown feels you can 'stand for Britain and advance British national interests as part of the EU ...Britain can 'lead the next stage of European development'.20
Brown believes German leader Angela Merkel shares common ground on many EU issues.11
Brown caved in over VAT on church repairs and on the UK's increased EU budget contributions proposed during Britain's EU presidency in 2005.1
µFormer Labour MEP Brendan Donnelly (now of the Federal Union think tank) believes that Brown and his advisers try to keep in with 'the Eurosceptic press' to maintain a reputation as a protector of British interests.22
Brown's ally Ed Balls (MP and chair of the Fabian Society) visited Brussels in July. He assured Commission officials that Brown was really quite pro-EU, and that he saw its failure to reform was being due to being over-reliant on seconded national civil servants. The latter were open to political pressure from home to stand up for their own national interests!23
µLabour Movement for Europe's Chris Bryant MP warned that those seeing Brown as a 'Eurosceptic ' were in for a rude awakening! 25 Those with a good memory will recall that Brown was actually a leading member of the now-quiet 'Britain In Europe' campaign.
1 Democracy Movement bulletin, 4/07; Financial Times, 21.3.07
2 European policy under Gordon Brown..., International Affairs, O'Donnell & Whitman, Chatham House, 2007. ref:83_2253-272.
3 BBC Online, 27.2.03
5 Observer 9.11.03
6 Bill Jamieson, Scotsman, 7.11.03
7 Sun, 15.4.04
8 Autumn 2003; see www.newalliance.org.uk/brownose.htm
9 see also Telegraph, 22.10.97
10 The Sunday Times, 15.6.03
11 Reuters, 11.3.07
12 Express, 18.11.03
13 Guardian, 2.12.04
14 8.12.04; in a Jan 2005 report -www.bbcgovernorsarchive.co.uk/docs/reviews/independentpanelreport.pdf
15 British Council speech, 7.7.04
16 Fabian Society interview, 13.1.07
17 www.europeansinglecurrency.com/ british_dimension.htm - quotes pamphlet - The Euro. Fighting Against Federalism. by The Right Hon. Lord Peter Shore of Stepney PC. published by the Labour Euro Safeguards Campaign.
18, 19 Guardian 24.4.07 and 12.1.05
20 Fabian Society conference, 14.1.07
21 The Business 14.12.06, N Sea Oil supply charges raised from 10% to 20%
23 David Rennie, Telegraph, 17.7.06
25 Parliament's 'The House' magazine, June 2003.