7th April 2014: Today at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on whether the European Parliament's vote on the removal of MEPs' immunities should be public or kept anonymous.
"The vote in the Legal Affairs Committee follows a debate at which arguments and evidence are considered. However, when the vote takes place in the plenary, there is a vote but no preceding debate, so no evidence or arguments are heard. Either the committee should decide, without the plenary having to affirm that decision or there ought to be a debate in the plenary, before the vote is taken.
"To have a vote without a debate is almost enticing members to take the decision on the basis of pre-judgements".
7th April 2014: Today at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons intended to make the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the European Economic and Social Committee . . . however the debate didn't take place.
Andrew would have said:
"A body that claims to represent economic and occupational interests in an assembly could have all sorts of interesting labels attached to it. Syndicalist would be one of the more politically acceptable ones. Another might create the danger of shock and awe. F-words are always to be avoided in polite company.
"However, leaving the ad hominem abuse aside for the moment, does it perform a useful function? Does it provide value for money?
"It is essentially an intermediary between the institutions of the EU and interests that were already organised and articulate. There is always a danger that intermediaries will not pass on advice, claims and requests, accurately.
"There is also a danger that pleas from interests that were not approved of might be qualified or changed."
7th April 2014: Today at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons had intended to make the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the Committee of the Regions . . . however the debate was not allowed to take place.
Andrew would have said:
"We are used to power - or competences as you would call them - being transferred to the European Union.
"In some cases, the power at EU level is really wanted for exercise there. In others, there is a suspicion that the motivation is not so much to empower the EU as to weaken the nation state.
"The principles of subsidiarity and proximity are often seen as Pro-Nation State principles and sometimes rightly so. However, they can also be used to weaken the nation state from below by encouraging the retention or return of powers to a sub-national level.
"Encouragement of regional devolution that might so easily lead to independence could be seen as an attack on the Nation State from a different direction."
7th April 2014: Today at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate, held in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) about whether the Co-ordinators* were right or wrong to disallow two debates that had been tentatively placed on the agenda. The disallowed debates would have been on proposals from Philip Claeys (Vlaams Belang) and Marine le Pen (FN) for the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee to be abolished.
"The President seemed to say that the debates could not take place because the abolition of these institutions would require treaty change. However, we had a debate on the Rangel Report which asked us to consider whether we wanted to have a Presidential system involving direct election of the President of the Commission (and treaty change) or a Prime Ministerial system that would not require treaty change.
Mr Duff, an English Liberal Democrat, said that it would be inappropriate to have a debate in AFCO on these matters and said that any such debate should take place in a convention. He began by seeming to suggest that only debates about proposals involving treaty changes in a federal direction would be justified."
"Is Mr Duff suggesting that debates could be held if they led in a federal direction but not if they led in an anti-federal direction?"
Mr Duff said that he was only teasing when he said that. However, it is not always possible to detect subtle ironies in Mr Duff's deliveries.
Indeed the meeting had a very poor attendance, because most members thought that campaigning for the forthcoming elections was more important than doing what they were paid for.
* The Co-ordinators are the leaders of the different political groups. However, it appears that at this Co-ordinators' meeting there were no representatives from the Socialists and Democrats, the European Conservatives and Reformists, Confederation of European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) and the Greens. A representative for the EFD was present for only the first few minutes. It seems that the meeting comprised mainly PPE (European People's Party); ALDE (Liberals) and Europe for Freedom and Democracy (for a little while). It is not really acceptable to take such an important decision to be taken at such a depleted co-ordinators' meeting.
19th March 2014: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) following presentations by Professor Weiler (of the European University Institute) and Mr Janis Emmanouilidis (of the European Policy Centre).
"Professor Weiler said that in all democracies voters had two choices to make: who will govern us; and how we shall be governed.
"Voters might want a third choice but to make it their first choice and instead of the other two. Voters might want to decide whether they want to be governed at all by the institutions on offer.
"The wish to make that choice might explain why turn-out has fallen despite the power of the EU as a whole and the power of the European Parliament having increased. Low turn-out could be read as a vote against being governed more and more by the EU - whether by the Parliament or by other institutions.
"We have been told that the 2014 European elections will provide the voters with a choice between alternative candidates for the Presidency of the Commission. This is undoubtedly a clever idea, originating from Professor Maduro, and based on the existence of permitted and approved-of European Political Parties.
"However, there are two problems:
"One is that there is no European electorate with a collective voting identity - no demos. There is a European cultural and over-lapping ancestral identity but that is not the same thing.
"The second problem is that the preparatory work has not been done and I would say the same thing, even if I were an enthusiast for the Project. I asked a group of retired professional people on a non-political occasion what they knew about European Political Parties. They knew nothing. I asked them what they knew about voters having the choice between different candidates for the Presidency of the Commission in the May elections. They looked at me even more blankly.
"They did know what the Commission was and who was its current President. There are many people in the UK who would not know that.
"My daughter reports that more than just one or two people, who when told that her father was a Member of the European Parliament have asked: 'What is that?'
"To sum up: will it be possible to translate the votes in the European elections into votes for one candidate for the Presidency who is considered to have received a plurality, if not a majority, of the vote? Voters for national parties will have to be discounted.
"Yes, but it will have been a vote that the voters will not know they have exercised. It will be a vote as though it was being cast in the dark, without knowing the wording on the ballot paper.
"Indeed, it will be like voting in the European Parliament when all of the votes have been changed in the middle of the night. In President Schulz's words when the Vice President, Mr Papastamkos collapsed, 'people will not know what they are voting for'."
18th March 2014: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the vote that would follow on a new regulation for the registration and funding of European Political Parties.
"It is still undeniable that freedom of assembly, i.e. the registration and funding of political parties, will be dependent on their political programmes being approved of or disapproved of by the Political Class. It makes no difference whether the decision is taken by politicians directly or by an official or agency taking decisions on the basis of criteria laid down by the Political Class.
"Some of the so-called European values are indeed self-evidently right such as freedom of expression or freedom of association but these are routinely disregarded, not least in this regulation. Others, like non-discrimination, at least in its interpretation and scope, might be much more subjective.
"We have already seen how this procedure of registration and de-registration will be implemented. It can be seen from the first attempt to deregister groupings. That attempt was made without any reference to the grounds on which de-registration should take place. That is like calling for somebody to be arrested without specifying the charge."
18th March 2013: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) following a presentation from David Liddington, Minister of State for Europe in the British Government.
"As is well known, most of the modifications of the UK's relationship with the EU that you seek would require treaty changes and treaty changes can take place only by unanimous vote of all twenty-eight members. Have you any reason to believe that all of the other twenty-seven members are likely to give that consent?
"The answer is that this is just a wheeze to prevent the Establishment Safety Valve Party from taking your votes.
"However, don't worry, its role is just to occupy a space temporarily. It will disappear just as soon as it is no longer needed."
17th March 2014: Today at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the Inter-institutional Agreement on the Transparency Register (register of lobbying groups that will be compulsory).
"Would bodies that invite people (MEPs) to their meetings, in order that they might be influenced, without stepping through the doors of the European Parliament, be counted as lobbyists to be registered?
"Would, for example, the Bilderberg Group be included?
"We know that Herman van Rompuy was invited and attended and we know that President Barroso was invited and attended. I do not know if any members of the European Parliament have been invited and have attended. I shall say, for the record, that I have not but then it's not likely that I would be!
"Well, that was a conversation stopper; wasn't it?"
17th March 2014: Today at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the relationship between the European Parliament and national parliaments.
"Mr Chairman* you said that it was the role of national parliaments to the make the European Parliament and European integration more popular.
"I had naively thought that national parliaments received their mandates from their electorates and not from the European Parliament and its committees."
11th March 2014: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Andrew Brons made the following contribution, to a debate held in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the Casini Report on relations between the European Parliament and national parliaments.
"It might be tempting for those, like me, who are anything but enthusiastic about the EU to abstain from these votes or absent oneself from a debate such as this.
"However, I am a pragmatist and I understand my mandate well enough to know that my 2009 voters would prefer to see a less-integrated EU than a more integrated one.
"They would prefer to have more powers retained by member states than fewer powers retained - more subsidiarity rather than less subsidiarity.
"They would prefer the role and status of national parliaments not to be eclipsed by the European Parliament.
"They would prefer to see less centralised economic governance than more.
"They would prefer a pragmatic and incremental approach rather than an absolutist zero-sum approach.