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back to article Has Europe cut the UK adrift on data protection?

In 1805, William Pitt the Younger, on hearing of Napoleon's victory at the Battle of Austerlitz, is reported to have said: "Roll up that map (of Europe) – it will not be wanted these 10 years". Well I have attended two meetings which suggest that the European Union has already rolled up its Data Protection Map of Europe so it …

Anonymous Coward

The human rights convention isn't an EU thing, though. The UK was a signatory of the convention; the EU put out a directive implementing one legal definition of the convention, but as a signatory the UK was required to implement the human rights convention into law regardless. Letting the EU do the heavy lifting in terms of legislative drafting was a pragmatic choice given our position at the time.

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Coat

Alphabet Potage

Quite right. The European Convention on Human Rights is not an EU thing. Likewise the European Economic Area (EEA) is not either.

To be honest I get very confused by the different European bodies. The following link may help somewhat:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Supranational_European_Bodies-en.svg

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Quite true

But that doesn't stop the morons in the Tory party from wanting to renounce it.

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Re: Quite true

They want to repeal the human rights directive, not the treaty.

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Re: Quite true

There's no such thing as a 'human rights directive'...

European Convention on Human Rights (shortened to ECHR). The ECHR is a Council of Europe treaty, including all EU countries, but also Russia, Turkey etc. (41 countries are signatories, as well as the EU itself additionally).

The European Court of Human Rights (which is in Strasbourg), rules on breaches of this treaty, which is why you have cases like "R v Russia" and "Z v United Kingdom". Churchill was a fan.

The Human Rights Act [of [UK] Parliament], gives effect to this treaty in the UK.

Withdrawing from the ECHR would be a bit like the USA withdrawing from its Constitution. Crazy.

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Re: Quite true

"Withdrawing from the ECHR would be a bit like the USA withdrawing from its Constitution. Crazy."

PATRIOT act.

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Re: Quite true

Lets just say I meant act rather than directive.

The comparison with the US constitution isn't particularly apt. Their constitution outlines a list of very strict, tightly defined negative rights without any exceptions or special cases and was aimed squarely at telling the government what it wasn't allowed to touch. The ECHR delves into far different territory (and also spends a lot of time inserting caveats and exceptions to its various rights, but lets ignore that for the purpose of this argument), framing so-called positive rights - rights that require some sort of social interference - and also spends a fair amount of time telling people what they aren't allowed to do. It assumed rights extend from the state, whereas the US constitution assumes that the state only protects what already exists.

The point is, regardless of all that, the treaty isn't the target. The act is. It was badly framed, badly implemented and is generally a bit shite.

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Democracy

Looks like yet more evidence of how undemocratic and tyrannical the EU is. Can we imagine stripping Scottish MPs of their voting rights and disallowing them from joining parliamentary committees because Scotland is going to have a referendum on UK membership? Although it's even worse than that, as there is still no EU membership referendum: can we imagine stripping Scottish MPs of their voting rights for the last thirty-odd years simply because Scots nationalism existed and was quite popular? To ask the question is to ridicule it.

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Re: Democracy

"Looks like yet more evidence of how undemocratic and tyrannical the EU is"

What part of democracy do you not understand? We are in a minority of one: in a democracy, that means we lose.

Further, we're threatening to leave and our government is doing everything it can to engineer that exit, so from a purely pragmatic point of view: why waste time on us? Particularly when we're esssentially just another lobbyist for business interests with zero concern for our citizens' interests?

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Re: Democracy

We haven't actually left the EU yet and there is no mandate or legislation for us to do so. Who's to say we won't be in the EU in ten, twenty maybe one hundred years time? To preclude the UK from policy is undemocratic regardless on our stance on data protection etc.

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Re: Democracy

Except that no one is stripping UK of their voting rights. The British input during a Working Party on data protection did not make it into the final documents? Boo-hoo! Guess what, no single nation's opinion has enough weight to change EU policy when that one nation's opinion is contrary to everyone else's. That IS democracy. If it really was that, this time, nobody cared what UK had to say on data protection, perhaps one should look for the reasons no further than the "A slice of data protection history" passage from this very article, or the article titled "British Lords: Euro 'right to be forgotten' ruling 'unreasonable and unworkable'", currently on the front page. In short, if there is a nation that has historically been privileged in the EU, in terms that their opinion has often been accepted even when it was contrary to the majority and that a blind eye has been turned when it says "We don't like this global EU policy, so we decide that it applies to everyone except us.", that is the UK. Yet no other nation is so ready to cry "Foul!" and complain that "the tyrannical EU" (the adjective "fascist" is also often used) is trampling over their rights.

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Re: Democracy

> What part of democracy do you not understand? We are in a minority of one: in a democracy, that means we lose.

Looks like I understand it a bit better than you. Democracy is the system whereby we choose our representatives and leaders. Once we have done so, they are supposed to discuss things. The whole point of committees is that they look into things and gather lots of information, not that they just count how many members they have and have the biggest faction make a decision.

Meanwhile, here's what the actual article says (maybe you should read it):

At the Information Commissioner’s press conference to launch his latest Annual Report (15 July), he reported that in the Working Party 29, it was difficult to get the British pragmatic view across – irrespective of the arguments. This was not because the UK was speaking in runes and riddles, it was down to the presumption that the UK could easily leave the European Union and therefore what it had to say carried little weight.

The claim is absolutely not that the UK is being outvoted because it's in a minority; the claim is that the views of the UK's representatives are being wholly ignored not on their merit but simply because the UK's population are not sufficiently pro-EU. Again, can we imagine doing that to Scots MPs? No, because to do so would be appalling and undemocratic. Hey, even Sinn Fein have elected MPs, who may appear and vote in the House if they wish (that they choose not to is another matter). They're in a tiny minority, yet Parliament, quite rightly, takes their views into account.

> our government is doing everything it can to engineer that exit

If that were true, UKIP's last election performance would have been mediocre at best.

> so from a purely pragmatic point of view: why waste time on us?

Pragmatism? Well, from a purely pragmatic point of view, why bother with all that tiresome voting at all? It's expensive and inefficient. Everyone knows the most effective way to run a country is to have one guy at the top who makes all the decisions.

Honestly, it's almost as if we have democracy and freedom for principled reasons, not pragmatic ones.

> Particularly when we're esssentially just another lobbyist for business interests with zero concern for our citizens' interests?

What, you mean to a greater extent than other EU members? Are you on crack?

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Re: Democracy

> Except that no one is stripping UK of their voting rights.

And I didn't claim they were. I was making a comparison. Since the EU's decisions are not made by voting (the EU "Parliament" exists in a merely advisory role to the unelected EC), I thought it was a reasonable analogy: voting is the way British MPs affect legislation, and wrangling in working groups and committees is the way representatives to the EU affect legislation.

> Guess what, no single nation's opinion has enough weight to change EU policy when that one nation's opinion is contrary to everyone else's.

That will come as news to the nations who want EU economic policy to favour their collapsing economies more than Germany's.

However, that's not what the article said. See my other comment above: the UK is not being ignored because of the substance of its arguments but because it might at some point in the future leave the EU.

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Re: Democracy

if there is a nation that has historically been privileged in the EU, in terms that their opinion has often been accepted even when it was contrary to the majority and that a blind eye has been turned when it says "We don't like this global EU policy, so we decide that it applies to everyone except us.", that is the UK.

Hardly.

The two most Eurosceptic nations, the UK and Denmark, have historically a far better record on implementing EU directives tham the so-called europhile nations. The UK may well complain about directives it doesn't like, but in general it will implement them, under protest.

Contrast that with France, for example, where every new EU directive is greeted with welcome open arms in public, and then the unpopular ones are either quietly ignored, or implemented on some way that pays lip service to the title, and little else. Since the EU needs France more than it needs the UK, it says nothing.

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Re: Democracy

What part of democracy do you not understand? We are in a minority of one: in a democracy, that means we lose

That's not democracy, that's "Majority rule", and is never a successful approach. Look at N. Ireland from 1920-1970 for the most obvious example.There are plenty of others.

Democracy means rule by the people, which requires agreement, not totalitarianism by the 50.1%

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Re: Democracy

Well that is Democracy by majority vote. AKA "The tyranny of the majority".

Democracy by consensus-seeking is another form of democracy.

Edit: Oh, I see Mr O'Sophicall made much the same point. Good :-)

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Re: Democracy

"In short, if there is a nation that has historically been privileged in the EU, in terms that their opinion has often been accepted even when it was contrary to the majority and that a blind eye has been turned when it says "We don't like this global EU policy, so we decide that it applies to everyone except us.", that is the UK."

It's probably worth noting though that this in part to our attitude towards rules and regulations - i.e. we have clear, specific laws (though that's gone under a bus these past 15 years), but what we have we follow to the letter.

As opposed to the European example of pass some vague and broad-reaching laws in spirit, follow them in a manner that makes sense and if the Police disagree then a court can interpret...

Simple example, if a British farmer doesn't dot his i's and cross the t's on his DEFRA paperwork he'll get run into the ground by the bureaucrats. Mislay a movement form? Nice knowing you.

Compare that to France where no farmer worries too much about the paperwork and the ministry doesn't press them on it either.

As a result, we've always tried to be a lot more picky and specific. If there's an implementation date and you miss it, the French will come up with another date. If we miss it we're into fines, performance clauses, etc because we've done it as written. Culture clash and two fundamentally different ways of writing rules and laws. We stupidly end up trying to enforce broad directives to the letter, they get pissed off with us trying to be picky and specific because they rarely have any intention of actually implementing them anyway, just taking them as guidelines to inform their own policies.

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Re: Democracy

@Squander Two: Ah, sorry, I didn't quite understand how your analogy worked. So, you were comparing the situation where none of the rights of the UK delegation were removed with a hypothetical situation where Scottish MPs would have their voting rights removed? Well, in that comparison, the latter sounds really bad, the former not so much.

I'd like to make a distinction between the (objective) facts and an unnamed person's subjective opinions and impressions. The facts are that there was a Working Party, that the delegates from most of the EU came with certain ideas, that the delegates from the UK came with different ideas, that everyone was allowed to speak and no vote was left uncounted and that the ideas of the majority were adopted. Everything else are one unnamed person's personal (subjective) impressions, opinions and speculations.

Their trail of thoughts is, apparently, that the fact that the British input didn't make the final cut can only be explained by it being ignored, "irrespectively of the arguments" (which assumes, obviously, that those arguments were valid). Then, trying to explain such behaviour of the other delegations, another leap is made that it was because the UK's soon departure from the EU was a sure thing, and that that was already clear to everyone else in the EU.

I don't think that that makes too much sense. As no one denies, the British delegation participated in the Working Party and, regardless of whether their suggestions were later ignored or not, they were heard, just like everyone else's. If Britain had brought to that WP something that was good for Europe (and not maybe just the UK), do you really think that it would have been ignored simply for the "fact" that it was leaving? I think not. My opinion is that the rest would think "Hey, UK sometimes has good ideas. It's too bad it's leaving." To make an analogy myself, if you knew that your business partner was going to leave your venture, but he came to you with a proposal that was going to make your company money, and would continue to make you money even after he left, would you ignore what he told you simply because he was leaving? That doesn't make any sense. That's how angry couples might think, not the majority of people in charge of pan-European policies. Having already heard them, had the British ideas been good for Europe, Europe would have taken them. It's that simple.

My conclusion is that the entire story is a bit of Euro-sceptic propaganda, carrying two messages: first that EU is ostracizing, ignoring the UK (being bad to the UK) and second that the UK's departure from the EU is a sure thing and everyone already knows.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Democracy

"Why waste time on us?"

Because we are still there and because we are paying our f**king money to be there. So these officials should take their collective heads out of their collective arses and start doing their job properly.

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Re: Democracy

N.I. no longer has a Democratic Government. It's a fraud to keep IRA happy.

It's an example of a place where Democracy doesn't work. The same is true of some other countries. e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Sudan, marginal in Turkey and Pakistan (That's why the Military keep taking over to protect people).

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Re: Democracy

> N.I. no longer has a Democratic Government.

What ill-informed bollocks.

NI has a democratic government in which the democracy is constrained by certain constitutional limits that arose as a result of horse-trading by democratically elected representatives with the aim of guaranteeing safeguards from the tyranny of the majority. Much like, say, every democratic state on the planet. I may not like all those constitutional limits, and I certainly may not like the idea of making a murderer Minister for Education, but it is still democratic.

> It's an example of a place where Democracy doesn't work.

No, it's an example of a place where a majority exercised tyranny and have been prevented from doing so again.

In this place where democracy can't work, the people chucked out a party leader from his supposedly safe seat and my own MP, Lady Hermon, quite rightly left her party and thrashed them in the subsequent election as an independent.

Even if you were right, the problems Northern Ireland faced were basically the ridiculously long-drawn-out tail-end of the English Civil War. If problems caused by that war make an area unsuitable for democracy, that area would be the entirety of the British Isles.

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Re: Democracy

> So, you were comparing the situation where none of the rights of the UK delegation were removed with a hypothetical situation where Scottish MPs would have their voting rights removed?

I was comparing a situation in which the ability of the British representatives to influence legislation was removed to a hypothetical situation in which the ability of Scottish representatives to influence legislation would be removed.

> I'd like to make a distinction between the (objective) facts and an unnamed person's subjective opinions and impressions. ... Everything else are one unnamed person's personal (subjective) impressions, opinions and speculations.

That's interesting, because I was just reacting to what was in the article. You want to make confident assertions that you know what's really going on and that you, who weren't there, have more insight into the proceedings than someone who was -- and that this is you rejecting impressions, opinions, and speculations.

> Their trail of thoughts is, apparently...

Wow. You're even, in your stand against subjective opinion and speculation, telling us what someone else's train of thought was. Impressive.

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Re: Democracy

Try sitting on a committee, constantly disagreeing with points that everybody else agrees with, and threatening that soon you might leave altogether. See how much notice anybody takes of your views.

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Re: Democracy

@Squander Two: Whatever formulation you choose, it boils down to one thing, you drew a parallel between being outvoted and being denied the power to vote. Those are two fundamentally different things and the analogy is an offense to everyone that has ever truly been oppressed and unrepresented.

Do I know how the proceedings went? At least in part, I do, and it's from the article. If the Reg's source claims that the UK input was ignored, despite the arguments, what follows is that the British delegation was able to present their view and the arguments behind it. Furthermore, had the British representatives been disallowed to participate in the work of the WP in the same way as everyone else, then THAT would have been the story, and a huge scandal. No scandal - then procedurally everything was fine.

I can follow the person's trail of thoughts not because I am psychic, but because it is laid down in the article. Also, of course that, in my post, I expressed certain conclusions and opinions of my own and of course that El Reg's source expressed his. If we are to turn to philosophy and the question of whether we can truly ever know something, arguably, expressing opinions is all that we can ever do, so that is not a sin in itself. I merely wanted to separate the bits in his account that could be considered facts, from those that were his subjective observations, impressions, deductions and speculations, so that I could assess which parts stand to logical scrutiny and which do not.

The Reg's source expressed the opinion that the British input was outright ignored, even when well supported by arguments and that it was due to everyone "knowing" that UK will be gone from the EU very soon. I ascribed to him no more than that, so, really, no psychic work was done by me. I do however find it illogical, for the reasons mentioned in my previous posts. In short, though, according to Reg's source, UK is about to leave the EU; despite that, UK is still diligently participating in EU activities, even though it practically has no interest in them, whereas, on the other hand, the rest of the Union is ignoring British efforts even when the Brits come and serve them good pan-European data protection policy on a silver platter. Yes, it makes perfect sense.

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Re: Democracy

"Looks like yet more evidence of how undemocratic and tyrannical the EU is"

Um... I disagree

Let's put it in a musical way:

If 28 people form a choir, and 27 of 'em are singing Thomas Dolby's "Dissidents", yet one of them loudly yells George Michael's "Shoot the Dog", it's not really undemocratic to ask him to shut up or go sing together with someone else. Tyrannical .. maybe.. not in this case though. Blanket surveillance makes things a LOT easier for potential future tyrants to look into your internet case file for the last 40 years.

I especially LOL-ed at the cartoon on page 4 of the report that Amberhawk Training referred us to (much more funny than the cartoon on page 23, although that brought to memory that particular George Michael song -- see if you can still get it on Youtube in the UK).

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Re: Democracy

OK your response was much more sane than mine .. I humbly stand corrected. Thanks!

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Re: Democracy

"It's probably worth noting though that this in part to our attitude towards rules and regulations - i.e. we have clear, specific laws (though that's gone under a bus these past 15 years), but what we have we follow to the letter."

Ahem, cycling on pavements is actually illegal...so that's the one under the bus?

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Re: Democracy

> Try sitting on a committee, constantly disagreeing with points that everybody else agrees with, and threatening that soon you might leave altogether. See how much notice anybody takes of your views.

Two things. Firstly, you're claiming that British representatives to EU committees keep threatening to leave? But that is not the case. What is happening, rather, is that the UK as a whole -- certainly not the British Government -- is perceived to be threatening to leave, which means that what is being punished here is not some unsavoury debating tactic in committee but the fact that the populace aren't sufficiently pro-EU, the fact that the populace are actually discussing the option of leaving. It is sad that anyone might need it explained to them how bad that is, in a supposed democracy. Again, is this what the UK does to Scotland? No -- in fact, we have been doing the opposite.

Secondly, are you even reading what you write?

> constantly disagreeing with points that everybody else agrees with

God, yeah, how appalling that such a thing might happen in a democracy. You're right: democratic bodies should be composed entirely of people agreeing with each other at all times. Disagreement is so crass. We should get rid of that tiresome "Opposition" we have in Parliament, too. Did you know, they keep disagreeing with the Government! The nerve!

This isn't some ad-hoc committee for managing the sixth-form common room we're talking about, where everyone can ignore James 'cause he's such a wanker and frankly it doesn't matter. It's supposed to be part of a democracy. The other members aren't supposed to decide whether to listen to each other based on how much they like each other or whether they're annoyed at each other's opinions. They are supposed to incorporate everyone's views because each member is representing the views of an elected government of the people.

This unfortunate idea has taken hold in recent years that concensus is a good thing in government. As Tony Benn pointed out, every time two opposing political sides agree to agree with each other, what they are actually doing is taking choice away from the electorate.

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Re: Democracy

> Whatever formulation you choose, it boils down to one thing, you drew a parallel between being outvoted and being denied the power to vote. Those are two fundamentally different things and the analogy is an offense to everyone that has ever truly been oppressed and unrepresented.

No, because, as I already explained, it is not the job of committees to vote. Their job is to discuss and negotiate.

> the Reg's source

You mean, the Information Commissioner? Why are you trying to make it sound like this is some dodgy information from a mysterious figure? Like, you keep saying that he's "unnamed". Oo, how shady. Except, of course, that it is simply established tradition that senior civil servants are not named, not to keep their identities secret, but because, unlike politicians, it is their job that matters, not them. His name's Christopher Graham, apparently. Does knowing that make his report more credible?

So the Reg's source is the official report published by a senior figure an important part of whose job is to publish such reports. And I don't know whether you know any diplomats, but they generally take these things pretty seriously, and what they report is what has been happening in negotiations, not how they feel about things.

Viviane Reding, the Commissioner responsible for the Regulation, was reported in the German press saying that discussions with Britain and Ireland were "not important"

That's an unelected Commissioner refusing to discuss legislation with elected governments prior to overruling them. I hardly think pointing that out is an offence to anyone who has ever been unrepresented.

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Little Englander syndrome

Sadly, many have no clue that Britain is now just a small island off Europe which becomes less relevant as each year goes by. Leaving the EU will not bring back the glory years, it will simply mean the UK has to follow EU/US rules without having any input into the decisions.

The EU isnt perfect but its better to be inside the tent as they say.

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Re: Little Englander syndrome

We have no real input anyway, so why not make that explicit? And in fact many so-called EU regulations are handed down from the UN or other international bodies where the UK's influence will be equal to any other country.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Little Englander syndrome

Finally someone who gets it...

The amount of people who think leaving the EU will magically solve our problems is staggering. Here we are in an ever increasingly connected world that gets smaller and smaller by the day. Travelling and connecting to places that were a pipe dream forty years ago are now easily achievable and greater integration makes sense because of that.

Then you have the likes of UKIP who think that leaving the EU will make this country prosper because we will be able to set our own laws.... However we don't make anything and the vast majority of our biggest employers are owned by European or foreign countries so retreating from Europe and pulling up the drawbridge is just shooting ourselves in the foot. We will be stiffed on trade deals with European nations and they will just mess us around if we leave.

People say the EU is expensive and we get nothing in return, but certainly out side of London there are a lot of major projects that couldn't have happened without EU financing that our own British Government wouldn't put their hands in their pockets for things like city regeneration and transport infrastructure that our own Government deems not important because it doesn't serve London

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Re: Little Englander syndrome

Inside the tent or on a train heading for a broken bridge? Analogies do not truth make.

I'm not sure why the author thinks the UK would leave the EEA. For a sceptic, that would be the very best place - all the trade benefits and none of the political malarky.

The EU is a bit of swings and roundabouts. Some decisions are so much better than the corresponding ones made in Westminster. Unfortunately, democracy doesn't scale well. It can be logistically achieved, but its purpose, the goal of self-determination, is lost.

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Re: Little Englander syndrome

Why does it always have to be one extreme or the other in these debates? Those who seem to think leaving the EU will make Britain again a world power are certainly fools, but why do those who argue against them always end up as ridiculously exaggerated in the opposite direction?

Is France just the irrelevant bit on the west of the continent? Germany the middle area that no one cares about? Why then do those who most accuse others of clinging to an imperial heritage, themselves appear to dismiss modern Britain so completely. I think you're as much a prisoner of our past as the most stereotypical Little Englander. If we aren't an Empire, we are nothing?

Britain is a large European nation, and will continue to be so no matter what. We are a mid-sized country on a global scale, gradually declining in relative importance as the world develops, just like the rest of Europe both individually and collectively. And we will continue to be so no matter what.

All else is hyperbole.

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Re: Little Englander syndrome

> Here we are in an ever increasingly connected world that gets smaller and smaller by the day. Travelling and connecting to places that were a pipe dream forty years ago are now easily achievable and greater integration makes sense because of that.

So of course you believe that the USA, Canada, and Mexico should be amalgamated into a single nation-state. And that China should merge with Mongolia. And that the USSR should be reformed. And that Scotland should not be allowed to leave the UK. Come to that, we should probably take back Ireland.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Little Englander syndrome

So of course you believe that the USA, Canada, and Mexico should be amalgamated into a single nation-state. And that China should merge with Mongolia. And that the USSR should be reformed. And that Scotland should not be allowed to leave the UK. Come to that, we should probably take back Ireland.

No I am not saying that at all. As SiempreTuna pointed out the world is slowly dividing into increasingly large and powerful trading groups. USA, Canada and Mexico are all covered by the North American Free Trade agreement and America, China and Russia are big enough countries to hold enough sway on their own. As you can see with this Ukraine farce it has all came about because Europe is trying to make a grab to make closer ties with former Soviet countries with the eventual end game of adding them into the European fold, which Putin is determined to stop, because he wants them to be integrated into a Russian Union.

It would be foolish not to be in one of those trading blocks and if we were the first country to leave the EU they'd no doubt make an example of us and then suddenly doing business with them would be a lot harder. This recession would be a drop in the ocean compared to the effect leaving would have especially if major businesses start leaving.

British Stubbornness is a trait of this fair isle, but we need to put that to one side and accept the empire is dead and we are becoming increasingly irrelevant and being a key player and driver of Europe is one way we can stay relevant.

Instead it'll be an even bigger increase and reliance on food banks and we will have to send George Osborne back to China with his begging bowl

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Re: Little Englander syndrome

if we were the first country to leave the EU they'd no doubt make an example of us and then suddenly doing business with them would be a lot harder.

That's the real problem. What the UK really wants is a return to a common market, a trading organization which doesn't try and impose centralized political and fiscal control. Leaving the EU entirely won't recreate that past situation.

Remaining in the EEA would be a good position, but the one thing that the EU cannot tolerate is a country leaving the EU and being successful outside it. If the UK were to leave, Juncker and co. will try every illegal dirty trick they can to make sure that the UK economy fails. The only way to successfully leave will be to find friends aong the other non-federalist states who, even if not yet ready to leave themselves, will be willing to stand up to the dirty tricks brigade. Few if any of the likely friendly countries will take that risk in the current climate.

Perhaps when the Euro finally fails, or when eurosceptic mood hardens elsewhere, something will happen. Right now, being the first to leave the EU, on its own, would be dangerous for the UK, no matter how satisfying it would be.

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Thumb Up

Re: Little Englander syndrome

Spot on.

If every UK government that's followed Heath had put Britain's interests ahead of America's and made a determined effort to put paid to the dream that we're still a superpower, we would be well and truly in the Big Three in Europe, and Westminster would have a lot of clout right across the continent.

As it is, there's a lot of suspicion across Europre that Downing Street is just the kennel for America's pet poodle. Blair's involvement in the Iraq Crusade did nothing to dispel that impression.

Seems to me there are three possible scenarios in the next few years:

1. The referendum gets a nice big No vote and try seriously to mend fences with Brussels. Fat chance.

2. The referendum gets a nice big Yes vote, Britain flounces out of the EU and finds itself at the mercy of American corporate interests. It then finds out too late that it hasn't got the economic muscle of the EU to back it up when the trade disputes start.

3. The referendum gets a No vote, Britain continues as it is and becomes increasingly sidelined and ignored, regarded by the other 27 EU members as being neither use nor ornament.

On a personal (and admittedly selfish) level, I'm starting to hope that Scotland votes Yes in September, and can follow through on its promise to stay in the EU, as I was born there and will be back over the border like a shot the day a referendum on EU membership votes to leave. Britain without the EU will either become a third-world basket case, a fascist dictatorship to rival North Korea or the 51st State of the US, all while the middle-class inhabitants of leafy Surrey suburbs grumble about what the Daily Mail's saying about influxes of foreigners depressing house prices.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Little Englander syndrome

Sadly, many apparently still awash with some form of self loathing constantly see Britain as just a small and irrelevant island off the coast of Europe. The reality, we are actually a very large and rather well populated island, with a very large economy, a significant armed force, a rich and varied demographic, good educational standards, a highly trained workforce and a willingness to embrace change and new ideas.

The fact that a bunch of other nations when they add their numbers together has moar does not mean much and their tent, though I'm sure large, may still smell.

"it will simply mean the UK has to follow EU/US rules without having any input into the decisions"

If the article is correct, and I'm not saying it is Chatham house rules or no, then the indication is we don't have much input now.

What's the next country after us? You know the one who despite being in has a sense of not always going with the flow, of wanting things to be different, who doesn't like the direction being taken? I can't imagine they'd be happy if we go, all those good little European drones pointing their way instead and telling them to behave.

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Re: Little Englander syndrome

"The reality, we are actually a very large and rather well populated island, with a very large economy, a significant armed force, a rich and varied demographic, good educational standards, a highly trained workforce and a willingness to embrace change and new ideas."

the reality:

large and well populated... You mean greater london and it's satellites?

a very large economy ... which is why there's tons of british working in mainland europe, because there's f*ckall to be had at home.

a significant armed force .... funny you felt the need to include that...

a rich and varied demographic .... which is rampant with racism and discrimination, despite the blanket of political correctness.

good educational standards ... could have fooled me there.

a highly trained workforce.... of which the fraction that actually can and will do anything productive tends to look for work on mainland europe. What's left is B-Ark material..

a willingness to embrace change and new ideas... If there's one country famous for it's hidebound conservatism it's the bloody UK....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: On a personal note

Should Scotland get "independence", then the EU would have to have all nations voting to admit it. With some other nations fighting independence sentiments in their own country admitting Scotland would be a swift no chance. You'd be out for good boy.

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Re: Little Englander syndrome

> if we were the first country to leave the EU they'd no doubt make an example of us

You're making my point for me. Does anyone think that's what the English will do to Scotland after they vote Yes? Punish them for it? Refuse to trade with them in the hope that their economy will suffer? Of course not.

If that really is what the EU are like, that is a reason to leave, not to stay.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Little Englander syndrome

You've got to love unionists who either paint those in favour of Scottish independence as isolationist and small-minded or scaremonger as to whether an independent Scotland will have to "rejoin" the EU.

Yeah, that'd be the same union whose governing party is pandering to potential UKIP supporters in the Tories' South East England heartland (*) for party political reasons, and holding a vote that could well end up taking us- as part of the UK- out of the EU anyway.

The pro-unionist David Tennant said "Why do we want to become smaller? Surely we want to expand and look outward?"

Yes, David. That's *exactly* why I don't want to remain attached to an increasingly right-wing Little England as it attempts to detach the UK from the rest of Europe (successfully or otherwise), all the time growing more politically divergent from Scotland (as it has been for the past generation).

The current status quo isn't an option here; things are moving regardless, it's just a question of which fork in the road you want to take, and I'm not interested in the one that leads to Tunbridge Wells.

(*) Yes, I'm aware that UKIP won a Scottish seat at the recent European elections. Fact remains that overall they got a tenth of the vote here compared to around a third in England.

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Re: Little Englander syndrome

@Anonymous Coward - I could spend time going through all your bollocks but that day is not long enough, but just to put you straight on a couple of things..

1) "People say the EU is expensive and we get nothing in return, but certainly out side of London there are a lot of major projects that couldn't have happened without EU financing "

As we put in more money than we take out, we are essential using our own money , minus the EU's administration to pay for our own work!

2) We actual do make a hell of a lot in this country, the fact that you think we don't is becuase you spend to much of your time, with your head stuck in the guardian sipping your choco loco , low fat latte and lapping up all this guff about how we are barely weak , diminished and need protecting oh woe us., while waiting for your cheap eastern European nanny to bring back tarquin from nursery!

The UK has one of the biggest Markets in the world in terms of spending power and if you think for one instance , that everyone will not want to start selling here becuase were not in the EU then you are a complete and utter moron, an if they are so stupid enough to do so, then you can be damn sure someone in this country will set up a company toot sweet to replace them!

Just remember apart from the EU the others 180 countries are on their own and prefer it that way!

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Re: On a personal note

"Should Scotland get "independence", ..."

...then the logical approach for everyone to take in the ensuing negotiations is for RUK to leave the UK, taking the nuclear weapons with them. That leaves the part of the UK north of the border still in the EU, still in NATO, but nuke free and the seccessionists in the south free of the EU but with a boatload of nukes to grease their NATO application.

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Re: Little Englander syndrome

I very much doubt you will either the first or last Scots émigré to return here after a Yes vote. As a Scot who left aged 6 for New Zealand and came back as an educated adult just in time to vote for the first Scottish parliament in 300 years I would welcome you hame.

The place will boom after March 2016. With a land registry at long bloody last the landowners will finally be able to be taxed and land reform will not be stifled by not knowing who owns what. If you recall The McLeod of McLeod tried to sell the Cuillin Mountains on Skye (his castle roof leaked you see) but it turned out after court cases and much trawling of mouldering documents that he didn't own it. Not even the aristocracy can look up a registry to see what they do and do not own.

That's just one benefit. I was chewing the fat with a neighbour on the issue (yes really) the other day. You would not believe how switched on to political issues the Scottish electorate is these days. Outsiders who have only recently engaged with the referendum are so far behind the knowledge curve it is no longer worth the time or effort to bring them up to speed with only 5 weeks to go.

I will vote Yes with you, and a lot of others, in mind. You won't recognise the place, in a good way. The Scottish people have learned how to hope.

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Losing Data Protection rights will be the least of our troubles if we leave the EU.

The world is dividing into increasingly large and powerful trading groups - next year, the EU and NAFTA will effectively join to create the largest and most powerful trading group (ironically, the EU's lead negotiators in crafting the deal have been we Brits). Leaving this new grouping will leave us out in the cold, economically and diplomatically.

The idea that we will be gifted favourable trading terms on exit from the EU is nonsense: why would EU leaders, who want to discourage other countries from leaving the EU, go out of their way to make life easy for the first high profile country to leave? Where's the benefit for them? They hold all the power in any future relationship: between them, the US and EU account for around 70% of our international trade. We account for a tiny percentage of theirs. Clearly, they matter way more to us than we do to them.

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>lead negotiators in crafting the deal have been we Brits

For a parliament that's allegedly increasingly concerned at the foreign threat to its power and influence, it's depressing to read how little they apparently know or care about the work of their compatriots in this area - see the first couple of paragraphs here:

http://britishinfluence.org/point-view-ttip-global-economic-game-changer-british-business/

It seems like MPs want influence but aren't prepared to put in the effort to use it. Hardly surprising that Britain seems to see its role in Europe in similar terms.

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Anonymous Coward

Why provide _decent_ trading deal?

Because many German companies are largely dependent on the UK market. It's not like the buying power of the UK is insignificant dear

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Re: Why provide _decent_ trading deal?

You might find that BMW and Audi are still capable of economic survival without the UK market.

For example, from 1.5 million Audi's sold in 2013, only 123,622 made it into the UK [1]. On top of that, BMW for example are currently employing around 18.000 UK Jobs + sub-supplier [2], which would be at stake if the independent UK would try to ... erm ... do something against it?

Not saying the UK is an insignificant market, but they certainly bring a lot less weight to the table. And keep in mind, they are not negotiating with Germany directly, but the entire EU market.

[1] https://www.audi.co.uk/about-audi/latest-news/audi-reflects-on-another-record-sales-year.html

[2] http://www.bmw.co.uk/en_GB/footer/publications-links/aboutus.html

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