Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The Lions Came Off Worse!

UKIP MEP candidate and Oxfordshire resident, Philip Vander Elst, went into the lions' den when he took part in an "Any Questions" on the EU meeting organised by the European Movement on the evening of 20th February. Since the late 1940s the European Movement has been at the forefront of the move to bring about European integration—in the 1950s and 1960s it put forward the arguments for joining the then Common Market, and it ran a major campaign in the early 1970s, both among the general public and in parliament, to win the battle for entry. During the 1975 referendum on membership, the European Movement played a central role in the YES campaign.

The meeting took place at the Maison Francaise in Oxford with a panel consisting of five MEP candidates for the upcoming European elections in June, the other 4 candidate being Richard Ashworth MEP (Conservative), Catherine Bearder (Lib Dem), Dr Derek Wall (Green Party), and Janet Sully (Labour Party). Apart from the Conservative candidate, Richard Ashworth, who did have some criticisms of the present workings of the EU, all the other candidates expressed virtually complete support for the EU and displayed little awareness of its anti-democratic nature.

Ashworth, however, brushed aside Vander Elst’s claim that the EU is costing us around £55 billion a year, arguing that this showed an ignorance of the workings of the Common Agricultural Policy. Ashworth's attitude, however, showed his own ignorance about the cost of the EU Common Fisheries Policy and the enormous cost to business of EU regulation, not to mention the UK’s net contribution to the EU budget. He was criticised from the floor by UKIP member, Rachel Tingle, who referred to the work done in this area, not just by UKIP MEP Gerard Batten in his recent study for the Bruges Group, but also by Ian Milne in a study for Civitas, and in a study by Professor Patrick Minford published by the Institute of Economic Affairs.

Unlike the other MEP candidates, Philip Vander Elst backed up all he had to say with reference to facts and figures. It is perhaps a measure of the threat his arguments posed to the European Movement’s agenda that the chairman of the meeting, Lord Hurd (previously Foreign Secretary and Conservative MP for Witney) constantly felt the need to intervene to argue against him. Vander Elst may have felt he was in the lions’ den, but the lions came off worse!


Bob Feal-martinez said...

What a shame the wider public doesn't get to see this type of debate.