The Bruges Group spearheads the intellectual battle against the notion of "ever-closer Union" in Europe and, above all, against British involvement in a single European state.

World affairs and British policy towards the EU

Luke Johnson and Dr Irwin Stelzer

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Click here to listen online to Dr Irwin Stelzer and Luke Johnson, the Chairman of Channel 4




Introduction

We have two speakers this evening. The first speaker will be Dr Irwin Stelzer, who is the US economic and political columnist for the Sunday Times and the New York Post and an honorary fellow of the Centre for Social and Legal Studies at Wolfson College, Oxford. He has written and lectured widely on economic and policy developments in the United States and Britain, on the factors that affect and impede economic growth, and on the consequences of the European Union. Dr Stelzerís book, The United States and the United Europe and the United Kingdom: Three Characters in Search of a Policy will be available in the blue room, where wine and refreshments will be served after this meeting.

Luke Johnson, our second speaker, owns and directs a number of companies which include the Signature restaurant chain, and he is the Chairman of Channel Four. He writes a regular column in the pages of the Sunday Telegraph. Mr Johnson wrote the foreword for the acclaimed TaxPayersí Alliance publication, The Bumper Book of Government Waste.

Irwin Stelzer

I approach this subject with some trepidation, for two reasons. First, when I spoke here some years ago I seem to have aroused the ire of some of your members by suggesting that the next morningís papers would not report the demise of the Euro, for which they had been fondly hoping, and I suggested politics would trump economics at least for a while, which it has. Second, I want to say a few kind words about the European Commission and persuade you that at least one of its agencies is adopting polices that real Conservatives should cast a favourable eye over. But first of all, let me declare an interest. I have commercial clients on all sides of these issues.

Jacques Chirac and the French hate it. The Germans canít decide about it and the Spanish once liked it a lot but are now standoffish; the Italians have too many other things to think about. Gordon Brown is a longtime lover and the European Commissioner for Competition is a big fan. What I am referring to are the varied attitudes to the American model and towards the competitive core of the American model. As you all know, that model produced steady growth, low unemployment, stable prices: and thatís no small achievement in the world that weíre in, which is changing with such rapidity and in so many directions at the same time. One reason that we find ourselves in that fortunate position is that productivity has risen at a record pace and I would like to argue tonight that that is in part because the United States has a very favoured policy over cartelization and free trade over protectionism and competition over regulation. In other words, we in America embrace what Josef Schumpeter called Ďthe perennial gale of creative destructioní, whereas in France, students and workers dream of secure and long-term employment. We say in America if you havenít gone broke by the time youíre thirty-five, you havenít taken enough chances. People also change their jobs with astonishing frequency.

The difference is no accident. It reflects the performance difference between a competitive and a cloistered economy. We do not make (with few exceptions) any effort to preserve businesses from extinction; whereas the continental European model relies heavily on preserving businesses from extinction, either by going out of business or by being taken over. You recall the furore when it was thought that a key strategic French industry, the yogurt makers, might be taken over by an American company. We donít really have that. We strayed a little bit in the case of ports but we have now come back from the brink of protectionism, and the new law thatís being passed will be quite anodyne. We let businesses die. We have a long tradition of opposing what Teddy Roosevelt called Ďthe malefactors of great wealthí, which is different from the generally well-behaving businesses that so offend the Leader of the Opposition. These are more cartels than anything else.

What I would commend to you to think about is that the European Commission has come down very hard on the side of preventing dominant firms from barring entry to newcomers. It has fined Microsoft a lot of money and has ordered it to open up its monopoly systems so that competitors can compete. On their side and pretty much alone is Gordon Brown, who has not endeared himself to many of you because of his fiscal polices, nevertheless in the micro sphere has fathered a very vigorous competition policy, and seen to the appointment of very talented people to run the enforcement agencies.

If you have competition, markets set prices, markets allocate resources: if you have monopoly, they have to be regulated. We canít tolerate monopolies in a democratic society: at least not for long. So when you have monopoly power, when you have a dominant firm able to keep out newcomers, able to set prices and profit margins and so on, you get regulation; and regulation is a very poor substitute for competition. You have ministers sitting around trying to guess what markets would have produced. And thatís not a good thing. They are also trying to guess how they can expand their staff, which is also not a good thing. So I would ask you not to stifle your opposition to all things that come out of the European Commission, when you consider the competition polices that the Commission is adopting.

This relates primarily to two fields that you should think about. Every time the Commission interferes in a merger, whether itís an American company acquiring another American company that does business here and so on, there is a huge uproar in the press about interfering with businessmen. If they stop it for the reasons stated, namely to prevent monopoly power, thatís very much on your side Ė partly as consumers, and partly because you donít want regulation. Similarly, when the Competition Commission there or here decides to say to a company Ďyou won this game fair and square, youíve 90% of this market and we donít begrudge that to you if you won it being efficient and tough-minded and everything else that is virtuous in a capitalist societyí, but you canít then tie some product to it (think Netscape), so that others canít compete Ė and thatís a very dangerous situation that we see in the software business, where people know that if Microsoft includes it in its suite of offerings then no competitor will have a fair chance of getting any business. So again when you see Bill Gates come screaming into town about interferences in his business plans remember this. There is something very confusing about Bill Gates: he looks harmless. He doesnít look like J.P. Morgan looked with a huge belly, a big white vest and a gold chain when he appeared before congressional committees: but donít let that fool you. The business practices of Microsoft have been found to be terribly anti-competitive. And we have the same problem with lots of other companies. Hate the European project all you want, but remember there is at least one good thing coming out of Europe and thatís the competition policy of the European Commission.

I will now comment on the efforts of the masters of the European project to override the votersí decisions and revive the EU constitution. We did a wonderful pamphlet describing it at The Sun. Everybody knows that the document is an absolute disaster. I thought it was rather amusing that Giscard d' Estaing pointed out that France had not rejected the constitution as 45% of the people had voted for it.

Itís worth pointing out the dangers that I see if this project remains alive. Last week Peter Mandelson came back to Britain from a sort of quasi-exile in Brussels where he still is employable, apparently, and told the Labour Party that Britainís problems can only be solved by increased reliance on international institutions. You have to have a special focus to conclude that that is the case. This from a man who has seen Britain surrender its own ability to create a free trade policy, surrendering it to the protectionists at the EU, which has undermined its sovereignty and its credibility around the world. The President appointed me to advise the US trade representative in America, and frankly we donít really care what you think at the Doha round. We care what the EU thinks at the Doha Round. You may think that you can affect what they do there, but you shipped in the wrong man to stand up for the French: frankly youíre not a player anymore in that game and I think that is a very bad thing.

What worries me as an American is that the EU is proceeding to put in place an ambassadorial core and network that will have its own foreign policy. We ran pictures in Washington of some of the residences around the world that EU core ambassadors are taking for themselves. And they really are quite nice; it must be a very nice job. Power without responsibility, a lovely residence, you get to go to all the good cocktail parties and itís terrific. But the fact of the matter is that this is a construct that is aimed at balancing / thwarting American power. And if you believe as I do that American power is more likely historically to be benign than say Germany, for example, I think you have to believe that this is not a good development. America does worry about the fact that your prime minister has signed up to a European Army: the annex to the Nice Treaty. This is the rapid deployment force. Since it canít be used without agreement of all nations involved, it canít be rapid; since it has no air force, it canít be deployed; and it has such a tiny budget that it is not a force. Nevertheless you have it, and it is planning to divert to itself NATO assets. Well I have to tell you that the willingness of America to have its assets diverted to a force designed to be a counterforce to itself is not likely to happen short of a major victory of some lunatic democrat in the next century.

I know Mr. Rumsfeld is certainly not as popular as he once was. The fact of the matter is when they threatened to arrest him if he showed up in Belgium, he said; ĎFine weíll move NATOí. So they changed the law. America is just not going to have that diversion of its assets to this force. Please understand I'm not an American that believes that Britain owes us a debt for saving it in World War II. I rather think that we dithered while you say doeth. Frankly thatís been my opinion for a long time and we treated you rather badly after the war in financial terms when you were in some difficulty and the communists then running the state department wielded a very harsh bargain from Lord Keynes when he went over. Bob Skidelsky tells a much better story than I have.

I am not of the school that thinks you guys owe us something. The French owe us something. If Britain feels like trading in its special relationship with the US for further involvement with the European project then thatís Britainís right to do so. I donít think thatís in Britainís interest but thatís not for me to decide. I know itís not in Americaís interest. I know that the special relationship has been one of the great cornerstones of maintaining democracy around the world. The good news is that I have reason to believe that Tony Blair did not read the Nice Treaty before he signed it. And the parts he read did not include the annex that was stuck on after he left Nice, so that in my mind would suggest that when there is mature consideration by the British people it may come out differently.

In conclusion, my reason for this is my belief that politics is once again alive and well in Britain. After almost a decade in which you were essentially a one-party state, the Tories seem to be in a position to mount a serious challenge Ė although I am not sure that I should use the word Ďseriousí in connection with that.

Ordinarily I would be inclined to be very sceptical about a party committed to Ďpolicy liteí, to eliminating chocolate oranges, or in favour of gender quotas for parliamentary candidates, calling for increased regulation of business (thinly disguised as corporate responsibility) and proposing most of all to maximise happiness. And replacing GDP with GWB, which I understand is general wellbeing, which has one advantage Ė it canít be measured. But more worrying is the pledge to hand over any increase in national income to the state, which canít spend what it has now in an efficient manner. I queried one of the proponents of this little plan. And he said we donít mean half in the sense of 50%.

Such a retreat from principle, combined with fiascos in the Labour government, at least has a virtue. They are making British politics competitive again by being sufficiently attractive to a sufficient number of people to get the Tory party a hearing, I think thatís a rather substantial achievement, especially when the alternative with which youíll be faced is a Brown government, which would best be described by Ronald Reagan: The governmentís view of the economy could best be summed up in a few short phrases: Ďif it moves tax it, if it keeps moving regulate it, and if it stops moving subsidise it.í

Opposition to the European project should remain high on your agenda, but be discriminating about which aspects of the European project that you oppose. I think that opposition should not blind us to the interesting development that we finally have a European Commissioner devoted to free markets and competition. I think the onward march of the European project has not stopped. They are pausing to refresh themselves and will move forward. I think that their march threatens the special relationship, and you have to decide whether thatís important to Britain. I know it has its weaknesses. I know Malcolm Rifkind argues that the special relationship is one way. From the American point of view, we value it. We value the special relationship and we value its support that we have received from Britain, in great pain on your part in Iraq. I think the good news is that the strains that we all predicated on the euro are now becoming visible. Italy desperately needs a devaluation and canít get it. That one-size-fits-all interest rates are constraining some and causing inflation in other places is inevitable and the central bank seems determined to find some policy that will eliminate economic growth in Europe once and for all.

So I think that perhaps when passions have cooled, it might be all right to toast Gordon Brown for supporting a competitive policy and for saving sterling from extinction, but Iím not so sure that I would want to turn over the reins of government to him.

Chairman
I wonder if I could say a word in defence of Mr Giscard díEstaing. ĎThe British will not approve the constitutional treaty, we know it,í he said. ĎI think that for Great Britain we need to find a special arrangement resembling that which applies to the Euro.í He hoped the UK would remain in the EU even if it did not adopt the revised constitution. That seems to me to be a man who has some sensible thoughts.

Luke Johnson

I am not a professional politician or speech giver. I am a businessman. Iíve worked for myself for 15 years in a variety of industries and itís really through my career in commerce that I have developed a healthy scepticism about the EU. Iíve also recently become Chairman of Channel Four. In that role I've decided to remain unaligned in party politics, but the one area that I have remained outspoken on is the EU, as I believe that it is a profound threat to our sovereignty, and even, perhaps, our way of life.

Firstly, a word on semantics. I always try to be careful to be specific and never let the EU lobby use such phrases as ĎEuro-scepticsí when they mean ĎEU scepticsí: itís one of the tricks that EU advocates use to promote their cause because they imply that all those who are opposed to the EU are opposed to the whole of Europe, and that they are, in effect, xenophobes. I am sure that the vast majority of the sceptical commentators on EU affairs, like their neighbours, enjoy visiting countries across Europe; they might even live in a foreign country. If anything, those opposed to the EU appreciate the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of Europe, the different countries, more than the bureaucrats in Brussels. Itís the EU more than any single body that tries to promote uniformity right across Europe and destroy all the cultural and linguistic differences that make it such a fantastic and interesting continent. I think that it is essential always to win the argument from the beginning: that essentially one can, and should, love Europe; but itís legitimate to hate the EU. Because the EU is not Europe and it will never be.

So what is the EU? In my opinion, it seems to be a huge engine to stifle democracy. Over the decades, the political classes across Europe have promoted an organisation which takes power and freedom away from citizens and concentrates it among civil servants, politicians, judges and others almost no-one knows, who operate in cities even hundreds or thousands of miles away in an almost entirely unaccountable way. Who among the public actually votes for their MEP? Who knows their MEPís constituencies, name and party, voting record or anything about them? These politicians ferry back and forth to Strasbourg and Luxembourg on their lavish expense accounts and produce legislation that affects our lives and yet most ordinary voters on the street have no idea who they are or what they do. They are supremely distant figures, obscure and yet dangerously powerful. Public figures supposedly serving in public office, yet unknown to the vast majority of the public, and they cost us 2.4 million pounds each. The best democracy in my opinion is always the most local; by contrast the EU style of central government is the opposite: a mad ideal which I think is helping to destroy our generationís faith in politics. Apathy and despair at having any influence over the system or the law is driving millions away from the polling booth.

The EU, I think, is a direct cause of this malaise: it concentrates power amongst an out-of-touch elite who find the grubby business of actually getting elected in honest elections all too tedious. So as a consequence they have managed to organise things within an almost Alice in Wonderland type of world where the institutions in which they are involved bear no relevance to real peopleís lives Ė except in an entirely pernicious way. They expropriate hundreds of millions of pounds a year to fund their chauffer-driven lifestyles, overseeing new committees and regulations while failing to file their own accounts or have them signed off for the last eleven years. Any less influential body or business would have been shut down by now for such negligence and incompetence. Despite the many whistleblowers reporting on the endemic abuse within the EU, senior administrators are desperate to preserve the system at all costs. Almost by design, the EU shuns transparency and openness, making itself and the parasites who live off it profoundly anti-democratic.

It always seems to me that people do tend to take better care of their own possessions than other peopleís. Just look at how carelessly employees drive their company cars, compared to ones that they have had to pay for with their own money. The state uses tax, or as some sceptics call it, legalised theft, to fund its activities. The EU is one grand step further removed from national tax. So the connection becomes very distant indeed. The 25,000 staff of the EU occupy what I think is a parallel universe to the entrepreneur; they drain value from the economies of Europe and act as a terrible burden on the wealth-generators who actually create jobs and increase our standard of living. Yet in the EU they claim that one of their prime objectives is to reduce unemployment and improve opportunities. It would be laughable if it wasnít such a serious matter.

Easily the single best way to promote jobs across the EU would be to scrap the vast majority of unnecessary and oppressive rules which inhibit enterprise which the EU promotes. EU-inspired red tape is helping to suffocate business and drive jobs offshore to low cost countries like China and India. Pointless EU directives and regulations concerning everything from chemicals to water to forestry, to medicines, to fishing to farming to employment to health and safety act as a cost and a disincentive to investment. A Dutch study showed these restrictions and the accompanying paperwork have cost them fully 2% of their national GDP. Extrapolating that figure to our own economy would suggest a burden of over 20 billion Euros a year and this particularly affects small businesses which generate most new jobs and innovation. Large companies can always better afford the red tape; but just ask any entrepreneur their view of the mountains of mindless legislation generated by the EU and I suspect their reply will be short and to the point.

I first received my real lesson in the decay and wickedness of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) when I was chairman of Pizza Express some years ago. I went on a buying trip to Italy to purchase tomatoes, wine and olive oil and the like from producers. We visited a major supplier who lived in very grand style with very many servants in a splendid palazzo growing tomatoes. His family were obviously spectacularly wealthy. During a magnificent lunch he explained in great delight in how his entire business prospered through subsidies that he had Ďfiddledí from the Ďfools at CAPí, as he called them. He had a major business, built up on distorting incentives paid for by the hard-pressed European taxpayer, who still ends up paying far more for food than the world price. Suddenly I saw, in a very clear practical and personal light, where much of the EUís 70 billion a year budget was going: fraud and waste. Moreover, the CAP is a terrible engine for unfair trade and environmental destruction. Its 30 billion annual pounds and subsidies lead to over- production and dumping, depriving third world farmers of a fair opportunity to develop.

Particular vested farming interests have successfully pushed a selfish and backward agenda for the EU for many years and have cost the UK consumer billions in higher taxes and the cost of food. The EU is riven with such corrupt lobbying. EU enthusiasts will argue that millions of jobs depend on our membership. This I think is a straight lie, like so much of the EU propaganda. We were told that Britainís economy would collapse if we didnít join the Euro, but weíve actually outperformed the Euro zone economies since it was created. Overall only around 10% of Britainís total GDP and jobs support our trade with EU states. A number of studies have shown that leaving the EU would be neutral overall for jobs and trade. EU nations enjoy massive trade surplus with Britain. So actually EU members need us in many ways more than we need them. However many other countries like Switzerland and Mexico have free trade agreements with the EU and certain countries that have stayed out of the EU like Norway and Switzerland actually enjoy a higher standard of living than EU nations.

Ultimately, in my opinion, I think the EU is unreformable and that those who think we can improve it are, Iím afraid, dreamers. I think we should move to withdraw rather than integrate further, which is the inevitable trend of the EU. Just like a latter-day Soviet Union, I think the EU is capable of destroying our individual culture and prosperity, capable of trampling on our industry and undermining our future if we allow it to. There are many in this country who tend to have a fatalistic view towards the inevitability of the EU as a federal super state. They see the steady loss of Britainís independence and sovereignty and are ready to give up. I strongly believe we can avoid such a gruesome fate. We can exit the EU but remain as either members of the European economic area or the European Free Association and enjoy the benefits of the single market without the crushing costs and regulations of EU membership. Only very radical reform of the EU can possibly make the club worth being a member of. There is a desperate need for such a looser structure with true transparency and accountability and institutions that are geared toward economic liberalism. Sadly I do not believe that there is the will to carry through the necessary changes within the EU. I think if we were to hold a referendum now on whether to withdraw from the EU then I think as a nation we would vote to withdraw and that would be an example of true democracy in action. Here's hoping that some amongst our politicians have the courage to ask our people some day soon.

Questions and Answers


Question
Could you possibly sketch out a roadmap to withdrawal from the EU?

Luke Johnson
As a businessman I would say: just do it. I canít believe that it is impossible if the will of the British people is unsupportive. We should just pass the necessary laws to do so and dismantle the legal and political infrastructure that we have taken on over the decades and revert to a true level of independence such as that enjoyed by Norway and Switzerland and so forth.

Irwin Stelzer
We know a lot about the economic consequences, and they are someway between trivial and positive. What we have got wrong about withdrawal: I donít think that the thing that is going to trigger any real support for that is anything that an economist can write about. It is too obscure to say, Ďwe have this tariff on computers and that would go awayí and so on. I think that something that would trigger this sentiment is something like the Human Rights Act; that will get peopleís attention as to the nature of the sovereignty that has been suspended. Economists should put these things together Ė thatís what they do Ė but like Luke Johnson says, politicians should just do it. My feeling is that the trigger will be something like a move of authority over football to Brussels, defining crimes, immigration or one of the social issues. These are far more likely than anything we can tell you about cost and benefit. Once that happens I think people will know how to write the required legislation. As an outside observer like me, I think it is absolutely astonishing as to what the British people have been able to tolerate so far.

Question
Do the two speakers agree that the taxation system in this country is a mess? It is, first of all, too high and is destroying business enterprise initiative. The costs of administration and fraud are causing a ludicrous drain on the economy. How could anybody possibly reconcile fixing the taxation issue with staying in the European Union, which is heading off in precisely the opposite direction?

Luke Johnson
Iím no expert on tax. However, all Iíve ever read suggests that the flat-tax is working well in places like Estonia and Latvia and other new entrants to the EU. The US also has this problem. I think that the cost of administration and of getting it wrong is immoral and it is a wicked waste of societiesí time and resources to expend so much energy in trying to behave in a legal way. The more you tax, the more you disincentivise people to work. There must be a better system. The EU has some very profound problems with tax as some of the EU lobbyist nations like Ireland have adopted a very low tax policy to encourage investment and Iím sure they are going to resist violently the harmonization of tax that some of the great EU cheerleaders are promoting. I say bring on the great EU conflict and fragment the damn thing. I think tax is one of the big issues that they have to reconcile the more forward-thinking nations with Old Europe.

Irwin Stelzer
Separate too high from complex. My view is that the UK government is taking 43% of GDP and you just canít remain competitive economically with that. I think it would be virtually impossible to have an absolutely neutral, social-engineering free tax code and to get that done. Can it be made less complex? Yes. Completely like Estonia? I donít think so. I think the real saving grace will be international tax competition. In the end, the thing that will force down tax rates will be loss of business and investment to low tax regimes. It wonít come internally unless there is an external pressure to do it. In the US we had Mr Forbes, who has been dissipating his family fortune to talk about flat-taxes; consequently they had to sell their collection of Fabergť eggs. I wouldnít hope for that. If it were me, I would tie a limit on the portion of GDP that a government is allowed to collect. I have more hope for lower taxes than less complex taxes.

Question
Based on what is happening now in Italy, is the EU's current course unsustainable and likely to result in a crash?

Irwin Stelzer
Unfortunately for Italy, its economy is skewed towards goods that are the most tradable with Asia: shoes, apparel, etc. It is the most subject to international competition from low wage countries. It can do one of two things: it can devalue, but the EU wonít allow that Ė or it can adjust by letting all those non-competitive businesses to go out of business and have a transition to things that the UK does. That is, either non-tradable goods or non-competitive. It probably doesnít have the political will to take the second option. Economists are very good at telling countries where to go but not on how to get there. They would have a long, difficult haul. Berlusconi came in willing to do that compared with the socialist that has now been elected, but he could get anywhere. It is a pipe dream to think that the political elites in Europe will allow the EU to implode. They are willing to have high degrees of suffering in order to maintain this dream because it has nothing to do with economics. You talk to Tony Blair; he will tell you it is a political project. So the notion that there will be economic pain that will cause the Euro to come unstuck is far fetched. Taking France, for example, it has persistent rate of 10% unemployment. When you talk to Giscard díEstaing about it, he says we would rather have our system with large transfer payments to the unemployed than have your system where the law of the jungle applies. I think that the ability of the elite to watch pain inflicted on other people by this project is really a lot larger than we think, which is why I think Britainís solution is not to wait until it implodes. And Blair did you a great turn by expanding to other members, because it makes it workable and dilutes the power of France and Germany quite considerably. Waiting for it to implode reduces the incentive to exit. And I donít think the implosion is likely. Maybe Italy will have this huge upheaval, but not with this government Ė maybe with the next government.

Question
Back in the Sixties a book was published: Can the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984? Given that this European Union resembles a privatised Soviet Union, can the EU survive until 2014?

Irwin Stelzer
The Soviet Union was pervasive: that is not an apt analogy. The EU has enough green shoots of private enterprise in it. There are some very successful French and German international companies; the eastern Europeans are proving to be pretty successful in running businesses; even the Chinese have a bigger private sector than the Soviet Union did. Is the EU so inefficient that it will collapse like the Soviet Union did? I think not.

Luke Johnson
I agree, in that the political elite of the French, in its heart of hearts, is buying into slow decline, rather than vigour and dynamism. Iíve seen unemployed people in France and had businesses in France. Itís a complete nightmare to have employees. Thatís why French firms donít like taking on staff. French workers are loyal, hard workers but itís just the system. The add-on when you hire someone in France is almost sixty percent of what you pay them. So net, they tend to enjoy a lower standard of living and itís under pressure that is only going to get worse Ė but it will be slow and painful rather than sudden and violent. The reason why I think Italy might be more of a flashpoint is that they are under much more extreme pressure than any of the other major economies. Itís got a history of instability. The tipping point will come dramatically earlier from there rather than from Greece, Germany or France.

Question
Nobody has yet talked about using the law. We know about the corruption at the EU. Why is nobody talking to lawyers to find a trigger, because I think that if it became open public knowledge just how corrupt the EU is and what a waste of resources it is, it may be the adequate trigger to get the referendum?

Irwin Stelzer
Iím not sure about that. Itís not about finding lawyers, itís about finding judges that will listen to those lawyers Ė and thatís not an easy thing to do. Again itís the passivity that I find so astonishing. Everyone reads the paper and watches the television Ė the reports on the corruption are there all the time. This sense of hopelessness has to be dispelled first. We must question how do we get out, specifically, and then use economic studies on how getting out might increase GDP per capita. But getting out is not a policy: itís an objective. Getting out of the EU sounds so extreme, but if you say weíve got to do these six things and then the consequence will be X: then you are starting to get practical. Tax reform is great, but people donít know how to reform the system or get there.

Luke Johnson
Iím no lawyer, so I have no idea how one would attack the corruption in the EU. The thing I find astonishing is that an awful lot of the sort of people who are high-minded or publicly minded become corroded by the trinkets. Be they legislators or civil servants. They all start to be excited by the rewards, be it power, or be it lifestyle. I think the EU has been a fantastic engine for many of the political elite that comes within its orbit. It draws them in and the Mandelsons, Blairs and others all succumb to its charm and they see a way of life of influence and so forth and suddenly reason and a sense of independence go out of the window. Because isnít it much grander to be in charge of so many more hundreds of millions of people rather than just influencing a mere old sixty million people Ė so they become corrupted.

Question
Compared to the experience of the USA, how can we in Britain get a fair hearing or debate in Europe when everyone in the media, in particular television, has a socialist bias toward the EU?

Irwin Stelzer
In America, we have competing biases. Here we have your major broadcaster thinking it isnít. Once you think that youíre not biased you get self-righteous. In America talk radio was the Conservativesí answer to the liberal control of the media and broadcast networks like the New York Times and the Washington Post. Here you donít have much of that. You guys all think that the regulator should make everybody fair. Well, to hell with fair. What you want is diverse. I donít know how you get around the BBC problem. Iíve seen them in political action; Iíve seen them up close. They are formidable when it comes to preserving everything except their audience.

Luke Johnson
Believe me that there are voices within Channel 4, that there are bounds not within individual programmes but within the schedule. I would violently disagree with you that Channel 4 is leftwing. We have a very small audience relatively, compared to the vast BBC empire; so we donít cater to the same audience share that they do. There is a diversity of voices in 4 and thatís the whole point of it.

Question
Would the speakers agree that in Europe the multinationals have more chance of disciplining the EU by removing their industries to the low tax economies in the near future?

Irwin Stelzer
Certainly the German multinationals are investing in the East, but taxation is not the only determinant in investing in location. There is the stability of the regime, there is the rule of law, there is regulation and all sorts of things and because of the decline in transportation costs and because of the declining importance of national boundaries, people are proving quite mobile. In the UK you have 350,000 Polish plumbers here. I think businesses will move but they are not all going to go to Estonia. Markets matter and proximity to markets matter. There will be pressures in those directions and capital is in a sense more mobile than labour, but not much more, as you would think these days. One of your problems in this country is that how mobile labour has been except within Britain. Within Britain there is an enormous amount of immobility of the workforce, especially between North and South, but that is because the housing market is so screwed up.

Luke Johnson
Having spent some time in China and India in recent years I have to say that, in my opinion, the biggest challenge facing the West is certainly not the great clash of civilisations vis-ŗ-vis Islam and the West. Itís dealing with the entry of two billion plus people, consumers and producers, into the capitalist markets, and I think this is the issue that is hitting Italy so very dramatically. Itís something that through the decade of its existence, the major countries in the EU, such as France and Germany, have never had to deal with before and this is a very dramatic challenge that the traditional voices, polices and administrations of the EU are utterly ungeared to cope with. Business can and will move across the globe Ė but itís not as if people in Europe will relocate to India. If the EU does not reform and fall apart and dissipate and therefore allow the sorts of liberal polices that exist in America, then the peoples of the EU can look forward to a steady decline in their standard of living. Generally, over the centuries, people have not tolerated that for that long but I, like you, am astounded at the passivity of the peoples as regards the European project. I think weíre almost worse in this country than others, because at least in France, for example, they have their fanatically powerful farming lobby. I fail to understand who it really is in this country that really supports the EU. I have never seen them as a force.

Irwin Stelzer
It was the inability, I think, to counter the notion that if you oppose the EU then you are a little Englander. Itís really interesting; the pressure you describe is enormous and when you look at the inability of the EU to respond in any meaningful way and then you think about Britain: Gordon Brown gives endless speeches about the competition that we have gear up to in the 21st century; all the Chinese are going to be engineers and so on. What is his solution to that? Itís a typical EU solution, Ďwell theyíre forging ahead in design, so weíll set up a governmental design centreí: just picture the creativity that will emerge from that centre. One of the problems is that everybody thinks in terms of some governmental response to an issue. Thatís why I really think that whatís really needed is a huge cultural change. You have parents unwilling to take on debt to send their children to university. Thatís an investment, not an expense. If you buy a house it interrupts your cash flow; if you go to university it should also interrupt your cash flow: itís as important. The government has to have some sort of programme for that. Itís that basic first reaction: Ďletís see what the government will doí, that is really the killer. I think itís going to take a while. When the NHS collapses Ė and itís heading towards it Ė and people have to look to themselves, on more than a lot of issues, then you will see this passivity go away because youíll have no choice.


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Saturday, 22nd November 2014
Restoring Self-Government to Britain

Monday, 29th September 2014
UKIP and the Future of the Conservative Party
James Delingpole 
Charles Moore 
The Hon. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP 

Bruges Group and Bloomberg meeting
The EUís attack on Britainís most successful industry
Lars Seier Christensen 
Professor Tim Congdon 
Dr Gerard Lyons 

Monday, 2nd June 2014
British Politics After the European Elections
Kate Hoey MP 
Cllr Diane James MEP 
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 

Wednesday, 23rd April 2014
How the EUís Climate Alarmism is Costing You Money
Christopher Chope OBE MP 
Roger Helmer MEP 
Graham Stringer MP 

Thursday, 6th March 2014
Europe, UKIP and the 2015 Election and Britainís Place in a Changing World
The Hon. Bernard Jenkin MP 
Ruth Lea 
John Mills 
Lord Willoughby de Broke 

Wednesday, 12th February 2014 - 6.45pm for 7pm
The EU: A Crisis of Democracy and the Economy
Lars Seier Christensen 
The Rt Hon. Lord Lamont of Lerwick 
Professor David Myddelton 

How Britain can withdraw from the EU
Which Way Out?

Manchester Meeting
Conservatives and UKIP: enemies or allies?
Bill Cash MP 
Nigel Farage MEP 
Peter Oborne 

Tuesday, 23rd July 2013
Baroness Thatcher Tribute Evening
Dr Robin Harris 
The Rt. Hon Lord Tebbit of Chingford, CH, PC 

Wednesday, 12th June 2013
Germany and the euro - with Professor Bernd Lucke
Professor Bernd Lucke 

St Georgeís Day Meeting
Immigration: Can we control it?
Gerard Batten MEP 
Sir Andrew Green KCMG 
Philip Hollobone MP 

Wednesday, 27th February 2013
The EU, the British Economy and the City of London
Roger Bootle 
Professor Tim Congdon 
Terry Smith 

Tuesday, 12th February 2013
From Here to the Referendum
Peter Bone MP 
Sir Richard Shepherd MP 

Tuesday, 27th November 2012
Europe: The Shattering of Illusions
President Václav Klaus 

Celebrating with the Maastricht Rebels
Dinner celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Maastricht Rebellion
Bill Cash MP 
Barry Legg 
Mark Pritchard MP 

Rejecting the EU ís Red Tape Area
International Conference: Saying No to the Single Market

Bruges Group Conservative Party Fringe Meeting
How Britain Can Exit The EU
Professor Tim Congdon 
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 
Gisela Stuart MP 

Tuesday, 10th July 2012
Britain, the EU and the USA
Charles Moore 
John O'Sullivan CBE 

Tuesday, 15th May 2012
Freedom from the EU
Hjörtur J Guðmundsson 
Roger Helmer MEP 
Mark Pritchard MP 

Thursday, 3rd May 2012
President Václav Klaus addresses the Bruges Group
President Václav Klaus 

Wednesday, 11th April 2012
Shackled to the failing EU
Ruth Lea 
The Hon. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP 

Wednesday, 1st February 2012
The Political Class and their support for the EU
Dr Robin Harris 
Simon Heffer 

(please ignore)
Test:event

International Conference
After the euro

Renegotiation or Withdrawal
Euroscepticism or Secession?
David Campbell Bannerman MEP 
Peter Hitchens 

Conservative Party Conference Fringe Meeting
Europe: Time for Action
Mr Timo Soini 
Dr David Starkey 

Monday, 18th July 2011
Excessive Governance and the Suffocation of Britain
Professor Kenneth Minogue 

Wednesday, 22nd June 2011
The EU and the Undermining of Democracy
Zac Goldsmith MP 
Kate Hoey MP 
David Nuttall MP 

Tuesday, 31st May 2011
Britain Beyond the EU
Kelvin Hopkins MP 
Derek Scott 

Thursday, 24th March 2011
Parliament, the EU and National Sovereignty
Bill Cash MP 
Peter Oborne 

Saturday, 6th November 2010
Exit Strategy

Tuesday, 19th October 2010
A meeting with Lord Tebbit & Richard Shepherd MP
Sir Richard Shepherd MP 
The Rt. Hon Lord Tebbit of Chingford, CH, PC 

Monday, 4th October 2010
Why the election pledges must be honoured
Roger Helmer MEP 
Melanie Phillips 

Monday, 20th September 2010
The EUís latest financial threat
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 
Gabriel Stein 

Wednesday, 14th July 2010
Is the eurozone breaking up?
Douglas Carswell MP 
Professor Tim Congdon 

Thursday, 25th February 2010
Demanding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty
Nigel Dodds MP 
Stuart Wheeler 

Thursday, 14th January 2010
New Year's Reception
The Rt Hon. Baroness Thatcher LG, OM, FRS 

Saturday, 21st November 2009
2009 Conference

Monday, 26th October 2009
The City Under Threat & Britain and the EU: The Crunch
Professor Tim Congdon 
Daniel Hannan MEP 

Monday, 5th October 2009
Are the political parties failing the voters of Britain?
Simon Heffer 
Peter Hitchens 
Barry Legg 

Wednesday, 17th June 2009
euro Vice
Dr Anthony Coughlan 
Edward Leigh MP 

Wednesday, 20th May 2009
Immigration and the European Union
Sir Andrew Green KCMG 
Sir Richard Shepherd MP 

Thursday, 30th April 2009
The EU and what the Conservatives should be doing about it
Fraser Nelson 
Stuart Wheeler 

Wednesday, 18th March 2009
Quantitative Easing, the Credit Crunch and the EU
Professor Tim Congdon 
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 

Tuesday, 24th February 2009
The Destruction of Parliamentary Democracy
Martin Howe QC 
Rt Hon. Peter Lilley MP 

Saturday, 22nd November 2008
Bruges Group Conference: How EU and Government Waste is Costing You Money

Norman Tebbit and the Czech President Speak Out Against EU Centralisation
Dinner in the Presence of Baroness Thatcher
President Václav Klaus 
The Rt. Hon Lord Tebbit of Chingford, CH, PC 
The Rt Hon. Baroness Thatcher LG, OM, FRS 

Monday, 20th October
The Political Economy, the Financial Crisis and Anglo-American Strategy
Andrew Roberts 
Dr Irwin Stelzer 

Monday, 29th September
Will a Conservative Government Deliver on Europe?
Nigel Farage MEP 
Simon Heffer 

Thursday, 17th July
Europe, America and Democracy
John O'Sullivan CBE 

Wednesday, 18th June
Waterloo Day Meeting
Gerald Frost 
Lord Willoughby de Broke 

Thursday, 15th May
Repealing the Lisbon Treaty and Independence from the EU
Douglas Carswell MP 
Frederick Forsyth 

Wednesday, 27th February
Campaigning against the Lisbon Treaty
Bill Cash MP 
John Hayes MP 
Lord Pearson 

Saturday, 17th November 2007
2007 Conference
Gerard Batten MEP 
Christopher Booker 
Bernard Connolly 
Dr Anthony Coughlan 
Marc Glendening 
Roger Helmer MEP 
Martin Howe QC 
Ruth Lea 
Cllr Steve Radford 
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 

Thursday, 25th October 2007
The EU's Threat to the City of London
Professor Tim Congdon 
Professor Kenneth Minogue 

Demanding a vote on Europe
Conservative Party Fringe Meeting 2007
Syed Kamall MEP 
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 

Let the people decide
Rally for a Referendum
Nigel Farage MEP 
Daniel Hannan MEP 

The European Union's environmental agenda and the EU's endemic corruption
EU corruption and EU environmental policy
Chris Heaton-Harris MEP 
Julian Morris 

The EU's plans and its impact on trade liberalisation
The EU moving forward, but holding the world back
The Rt Hon. David Heathcoat-Amory MP 
Dr Brian Hindley 

Believing in Britain
Tercentenary Dinner with Lord Tebbit and Andrew Roberts

A brighter future
Bruges Group Conference
Christopher Booker 
Barry Legg 
 John Midgley   

The EU: Options for Britain
Conservative Party Fringe Meeting with Douglas Carswell MP and Christopher Booker
Christopher Booker 

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900
Andrew Roberts addresses the Bruges Group
Andrew Roberts 

No clash with a world cup game
Frederick Forsyth addressed the Group
Frederick Forsyth 

World affairs and British policy towards the EU
Luke Johnson and Dr Irwin Stelzer

Standard bearers of democracy and the nation-state speak out
Christopher Booker and Lord Tebbit address the Bruges Group
Christopher Booker 

Ignoring the French Non and the Dutch Nee the EU takes more powers
Conference: Integration marching on
Christopher Booker 
Ruth Lea 
Professor Kenneth Minogue 

Visions for the future
Fringe Meeting: The Conservative Party, Where Next?
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 

A businessman's view
Simon Wolfson, CEO of Next plc, addresses the Group
Simon Wolfson 

Integration thwarted?
Where does Europe go now?

Defending democracy
The EU Constitution: Why Britain Should say No

The European Union: In or Out?
International Conference

Moving towards New Europe
European Problems and Their Non-Solutions
President Václav Klaus 

Which side of the fence?
Conservative Party Fringe Meeting
The Rt Hon. David Heathcoat-Amory MP 
The Rt Hon. Lord Lamont of Lerwick 

Immigration and the EU Constitution
Tuesday, 13th July 2004
Sir Andrew Green KCMG 

The EU Constitution - a threat to freedom
Wednesday, 9th June 2004
Professor Roland Vaubel 

The suggestion that EU Constitution was just "tidying up" is a silly phrase best forgotten
Wednesday, 19th May 2004
Gisela Stuart MP 

The European Union - an Unionist/Ulster perspective and Tax harmonisation and EU Competition policy
Wednesday, 5th May 2004
Jeffrey Donaldson MP 
Carl Mortishead 

Bruges Group events
15th Anniversary Meeting
Professor Kenneth Minogue 

Free and global future or an EU Province?
The EU Constitution and the UK's Role in Europe and the World: International Conference 2003
Lord Blackwell 
Christopher Booker 
Hynek Fajmon MP 
Ruth Lea 
Barry Legg 

The EU CONstitution
Conservative Party Fringe Meeting

Bruges Group events
Tuesday 8th July 2003

Bruges Group events
Wednesday 11th June 2003
The Rt Hon. Oliver Letwin MP 
Professor Patrick Minford CBE 

Bruges Group events
Wednesday 14th May 2003

Bruges Group events
14th Anniversary Meeting
The Rt Hon. David Heathcoat-Amory MP 
The Rt Hon. Lord Lamont of Lerwick 

Bruges Group International Conference
What future the EU?
Lindsay Jenkins 

Bruges Group International Conference
Alternatives to the EU
Dr Anthony Coughlan 
Professor Christie Davies 
Margit Gennser 
Roger Helmer MEP 
Dr Brian Hindley 
Dr John Hulsman 
HE the Rt Hon. Don McKinnon 
Professor Ivar Raig 
Dr Helen Szamuely