Call For EU Leaders to Curb Spending

South Wales Evening Post

NEATH MP Peter Hain has defended his role in pressing the UK Government to seek a cut in Brussels spending.

It comes after the Prime Minister suffered a humiliating defeat when Labour MPs and 53 Eurosceptic Conservatives joined forces to vote down a freeze in the European Union (EU) budget.

Although the vote was not binding, the House of Commons instead demanded he pursue a cut when he meets Euro leaders

Read more in the Evening Post.


Pro Europe pro EU Budget squeeze

To be pro-European does not mean enabling the EU to escape spending cuts imposed by every member state on almost every public service.

In truth Europe would be more popular with its citizens if it showed more willingness to tighten its belt just as they are having to do. Europe’s leaders cannot retain confidence by preaching austerity for everybody else except themselves.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg simply do not get it. They seem to think the elites can be protected from their cuts while everyone else suffers.

So I voted last night to curb Brussels budget as a pro-European who believes this is in the interests of both Europe and Britain.

Western policy on Syria is failing on a monumental scale

The only way forward for Syria is to broker a political settlement, in consultation with Russia and Iran.

Peter Hain The Guardian 22/10/12

Russia and Iran have been culpable, there has been a catastrophic failure of diplomacy by the west and its allies. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s call for a ceasefire and an arms embargo is a welcome challenge to the west’s floundering policy. Britain, France and the US, as well as their allies, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, need to recognise that neither side is going to win the civil war engulfing Syria. Nor will the Turkey’s call for western military intervention to halt the humanitarian disaster resolve the crisis. A political solution has to be the priority.

The Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad, is reported to be willing to consider the proposal by the UN-Arab League envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, for a ceasefire for the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday on 26 October. The western powers and the Arab arms suppliers should urge their friends in the opposition to declare they will reciprocate if Assad makes good on his tentative promise.

Western demands for regime change were never going to work because this isn’t simply a conflict between a savage regime and the Syrian people. Assad and the ruling Shia-aligned Alawite minority form a tenth of the population and fear being oppressed by the Sunni majority. Christians and other minorities are similarly nervous. Together, those behind Assad constitute nearly a third of Syrians.

The war has also become a wider proxy for Sunni versus Shia, and Saudi Arabia versus Iran. There is also bitter suspicion at the west’s real intentions from Russia and China and their allies. They insist that they never authorised UN backing for military force to depose Muammar Gaddafi last year, and refuse to be “tricked” again. The Iraq invasion also poisons trust of the west. Libya today – its people at the mercy of warring militias and jihadist opportunists, the US ambassador assassinated – is hardly a good advertisement for repeating that regime-change recipe in more complex Syria.

David Cameron’s recent high-minded rhetoric at the UN general assembly ignored the presence of al-Qaida fighters among the west’s favoured rebels.Assad and the minorities and other popular forces that support him fear becoming victims of genocide, so will fight on. If the Syrian regime was somehow toppled without a settlement being in place, the country would descend into even greater chaos.

Russia is determined not to allow that anarchy, mainly because Syria provides its only Mediterranean port in the region. Iran also has key interests, malevolent or otherwise. Syrian refugees have already flooded into Turkey and Lebanon, the latter destabilised, with its police chief assassinated, and now plunged into a political crisis.

The only way forward is to broker a political settlement, with Russia using its leverage to ensure that Assad negotiates seriously. Without pandering to Vladimir Putin’s ruthless rigidity, engagement with Russia is critical – as is consultation with Iran. Otherwise a settlement will not happen.The guidelines for a political transition approved by the five permanent members of the UN security council at the Geneva conference in June still provides the best road map – but only if the US, the UK, Saudi Arabia and their allies drop their current stance and help to implement it.

However unpalatable, Assad may have to be granted immunity in order to get him to sign up and stop his barbarity. All state employees, including those in the armed forces, must be allowed to keep their posts, to avoid a repeat of the chaos caused by America’s de-Ba’athification in Iraq. A Yemen-type process may even figure. There, a hated president did not resign but did not stand for re-election. A coalition government of national unity could then prepare for Syrian elections, due in 2014.

The current British-American policy is failing on a monumental scale. Unless there is a radical change, all the hand-wringing and condemnation is either empty or hypocritical – or both.

EU Council

Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Is the Prime Minister concerned that on Europe and the referendum he sounds more like John Major by the day?

The Prime Minister: What matters is doing the right thing. I think that there are two positions that do not make sense. First, unless you actually want to leave the European Union now, and some people do, an in/out referendum now is not the right answer. But ruling out, for ever and a day, any form of getting the consent of the British people for what I would call a fresh deal and a fresh settlement in Europe also does not make sense. This is a question that all party leaders are going to have to answer. We are providing the answer—the right hon. Gentleman’s party leadership will have to do the same thing.


Mr Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab): Can the Prime Minister explain how Britain will retain its influence in the G20 given that his Government are isolating themselves from the main power brokers in the European Union? As Russia and China follow America in becoming superpowers, and as Russia flexes its muscles and India rises too, surely we should be right at the centre of the EU so that we are listened to more, instead of being followers on the margins of the EU?

The Prime Minister: If by that the right hon. Gentleman means, “Should we join the euro and just go along with everything that is suggested?”— [Interruption.] Well, that is what would follow, and I do not accept that for a moment. Britain can play a strong role in the EU, but where there are things we do not want to join, such as the Schengen no-borders agreement and the single currency, Britain should stay outside them.

In terms of our relations with the rest of the world, the Government have done a huge amount to increase our relations with China and India, as trade flows in the last few years show: in the last two years, exports to China up 72%, exports to India up 93% and exports to Russia up 109%. We are making a difference where it counts.