Sunday, June 14, 2009

Much ado about little.

I sometimes find it difficult to understand why the most innocent remarks by some politicians can be reported by the media as carrying some great significance. Today's comments by Kenneth Clarke about the UK's relationship with the European Union are an example. Seemed to me he was just stating the obvious. Yet we have other party's spokesmen working themselves up into a fine pseudo-lather, claiming that he has let some 'cat out of the bag'. But hearing David Miliband accusing the Conservatives of 'flip flopping' led me to assume it was his attempt at self deprecating humour!

Over the period leading up to last week's election to the European Parliament, one of the main issues was David Cameron's commitment to hold a referendum on whether the UK should agree to sign the Lisbon Treaty. Straightforward enough. We promised that a referendum would be arranged before signing up to the new constitutional treaty before the last general election, as did Labour and the Liberal Democrats. We stand by our promise, which they don't. But what happens if Gordon Brown does not hold a General Election until after the Lisbon treaty has been signed by all 27 EU countries, and it has become a part of EU law? What would a Conservative Government do then? Never see the sense in answering these 'what if' questions. What I've understood though is that a Conservative Government would 'not let matters rest there'. What this means precisely would form part of our manifesto - if we have not had the election that the nation wants. Kenneth Clarke was reflecting on what this might be.

There are demands from several quarters that Cameron/Hague should promise now that a referendum would be held even if the Lisbon Treaty had been signed. I imagine there would be some significant issues of legality involved in the UK withdrawing from a treaty which we had just signed up to - and anyway, it would be a bit dumb to weaken the pressure on Gordon Brown to call that election now. What every Euro-sceptic in the UK should be demanding is a general election before the Irish vote in their referendum. That's the best way to secure the vote that we want.


Peter Black said...

Just for the sake of accuracy Glyn the manifesto promises at the last election did not refer to the Lisbon Treaty (as it did not then exist) but to the constitution which I would argue is a different beast altogether. It is not therefore as clear cut as you suggest.

Glyn Davies said...

Peter - I should have made that clear. The Prime Minister makes the same case when he defends his position not to hold a referendum. The issue is whether the differences between the Lisbon Treaty and the previous 'constututional treaty' amount to sufficient change to forgive the reneging on the promise - and there we will have to differ.

Anonymous said...

I have read both the Constitution and the Lisbon Treaty - was very long and tiresome, but also sickening. Glyn is right, the vast majority is the same or of equal constitutional impact. We need a referendum on it. I personally see no reason why we cannot withdraw from a treaty having signed it - any treaty - as we should be a sovereign nation and can undo any treaty we sign. Personally, I would advocate complete withdrawal from EU and renegotiate a free trade agreement.

"US Correspondent" said...

A total aside, but Glyn you were impressed when this 'hit the press' last time, I think you put it thus: "Christopher Wood goes big-time". It was you who referred to me thus: "US Correspondent".

Anways, yesterday I accepted an invite from the British Embassy to attend an event at a very posh house in posh North West (NW) Washington, DC in celebration of Wales at the Smithsonian Folk-Life Festival on the National Mall, in downtown DC.

Rhodri Morgan, First Minister, will be there, he will be giving another speech. I will report back the content of the speech - if he sticks to promoting Wales and Wales culture it will be a good speech and I will say so. If he again slips into Obama-love-fest mode then I will point that out. It is my sincere hope that the First Minister will stick to promoting Wales and Welsh culture and not slip into political speech which is bound to offend 40% of all Americans present (from memory, I think about 47% voted against Obama in the November elections of 2008).

As another aside, the upcoming event represents another opportunity (3rd since March 2009)for the First Minister to speak to me about how Welsh businesses can benefit from a fundamental rethink within WAG ranks with regard to protecting Welsh IP. Without IP there is very little R&D done in Wales, and that is the story of Wales this past decade on his watch.

I would love to be a source of professional level input on this score, and incidentally, if I did become so involved, the First Minister won't hear any more 'glip' from me.

Just to point out why I think the FM should talk to me: I will be the only Welsh person at the meeting who is authorized to practice directly before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

There’s a Welsh business delegation coming to Washington, DC later this month. I can impart at, e.g., at one of their business breakfast meetings, information of critical value to Welsh small businesses. To this end, I have been on the phone this morning with the CEO of International Business Wales (IBW) and one of their contractors based in Canada. Incidentally, the CEO of IBW is based in the wonderful NYC Chrysler Building, an Art Deco skyscraper located in one of the most upscale parts of NYC, Manhattan. He wanted to know how I got his cell phone number! Whatever, I hope IBW use my services (free of charge) at either breakfast, lunch of supper events later this month.

I am not aiming to sell myself or my law firm (I actually don’t need the business) - instead, I want to impart vital strategic IP knowledge on Welsh businesses, particularly the small entities (less than 500 employees) who are operating on tight budgets but have a lot of technology which they have developed but can't (in their eyes) afford massive patent protection. I can open their eyes to what they can get out of the US patent filing system, at much cheaper cost than seeking European-wide patent protection (one filing in the USA speaks to all 50 states of the United States, one set of maintenance fees, the role of continuation practice as insulation against would-be patent infringers, small entity price break under the US patent filing system, 12 month grace period wherein a Welsh company can offer for sale or publicize their invention without filing a patent and still file for patent protection under US patent law up to 12 months after the offer for sale or publication of their invention, etc. etc. Oh, and Welsh companies can file directly in the USA - something that few Welsh companies know.

Anonymous said...

There are some people Chris in the Boonies (that is middle America) that regard Washington DC with suspicion and doubt that it is indeed American. There are those who believe the current administation with its spending is in violation of the 10th Amendment

“ The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Which brings me to my point. Surely IP is reserved to the UK government so what is the point of talking about it to Rhodri Morgan, it aint part of his area of responsibility. However I could be wrong.

Anyhow that Smithsonian is really overrated the USA is a big place.

"US Correspondent" said...

Morgan> How does the Chrysler Building in one of poshest parts of NYC grab you vis-a-viz 'The Smithsonian'?

I just had a call from a "Chris Williams" from his landline in his Manhattan office in the Art Decor Chrysler Building - I believe he works for "International Business Wales". I just returned his call to be told he is heading for the airport to catch a flight. I’m about to ring him on his cell phone!

So, while parts of Wales are poorer than parts of the former Soviet Block - we have Welsh Labour organizing offices in the poshest part of NYC, the Labourite Kinnocks on a 'gravy train" so long it is hard to see the end of it ... see my letter in today’s Echo on this point.

Wales is Burning alive - look at the comments by Wales's YWCA this morning in their truthful, but highly disturbing letter in today’s Western Mail (Wales's National Newspaper), here’s an extract: - "Sir, The OECD report clearly sets out the horrific effects of poverty in Wales. (The) YWCA has, for over 150 years, worked with young women from deprived areas so this report just confirms what our practical experience repeatedly shows us … Our work, and the work of other organizations, shows that those brought up in poverty find it difficult to break out of it and so need focused support, information and guidance. Young women are particularly affected by unemployment, low pay and poverty …”

It's ABOUT JOBS for Welsh people. The YWCA is touching on the cost of poor job prospects to Welsh people, how grinding poverty traps them. I am aghast that after 10 years that the WAG has not solved the problem.

I know what it is like to be living on grinding low moral huge council house estates - both in Wales and in London. It’s very hard for kids to get out of the loop.

"US Correspondent" said...

Morgan Hen> As you know, I lived the first five years after I moved to the USA (partly for work) in the Midwest! I moved to the Washington area because it offered good work opportunities and yes, it is a great town and yes, the Smithsonian for me was a great attraction – I have spent many hours there. But then again I almost lived my weekends in the Science Museum in London (my Welsh father, from a village near Port Talbot) moved us through a council house exchange to London in search of work, I tubed into central London to ‘visit’ the Science Museum or the Planetarium, but that cost money to get in, so I mostly went to the Science Museum which at that time was free).

As to your legal questions - don't forget the enumerated 'spending power' found in the US Constitution. The Feds essentially get the States to do their bidding through the enumerated ‘spending power’. Anyway, if Congress so legislates, then the new laws supersede State law – see the “supremacy clause” in the U.S. Constitution.

Anways/MilliwaysWAG has a certain amount of spending power, it has billions of pounds of European money in a lock box that it can spend on projects for improving the Welsh economy - I happen to think a good project would be encouraging little innovators to patent and develop (or sell) their inventions. Then there is the issue of world class Welsh universities failing to generate IP – former third world universities are doing far better, and foreign universities no bigger than Wales’s largest university that has orders of magnitude more intellectual property – just a few months ago one of them came up with a faster way to recharge lithium ion batteries, a technology which is going to earn that university and the inventors a small fortune and generate loads of jobs.

Glyn Davies said...

Roman - Most people who tell me that they have looked at the two treaties in any depth decide that there is minimal difference between them. The Government has broken its promise to the British people because it knew that a referendum would come up with a NO vote.