Previous events 2015
Friday December 4th
We had a change of venue for our popular annual dinner. This year it took place at the Royal Overseas League in Princess Street, Edinburgh. The food and extra space provided was very much enjoyed although it meant that this year we could no longer have the Christmas music beforehand.
The speaker was Professor Andrew (Drew) Scott of Edinburgh University where he is Co-Director of the Europa Institute and Professor of European Union Studies: Dean International (Europe). He also kindly agreed to take some questions after his talk which turned out to be both very enjoyable and informative with lots of input from the diners.
You can find an edited version of his talk on our Blog.
AGM and meeting
Wednesday 4th November 2015
The evening began with the AGM. It was well-attended with more than our usual number. The previous minutes and treasurer's report were all passed.
There followed a few refreshments and a discussion meeting.
Meeting and discussion
General meeting for members
Our recent meeting proved both lively and informative and gave us quite a lot to think about.
The meeting started with a brief explanation of the chairman's personal views regarding the timing of the referendum. It is unlikely that referendum will take place in 2017 in order to avoid a clash with German and French elections but the exact timetable will depend, in part, on the result of negotiations and until these are complete there is something of a phoney war as neither the Government nor the Conservative Party can begin campaigning. The best estimate for the date of the referendum is September/October 2016.
Rising activity levels make it imperative for EMiS to supplement its voluntary resources with professional expertise. Therefore, an initial 3-month contract has been placed with Orbit Communications for help with fundraising and raising our profile. We have already seen the benefit of this. Our following on Twitter and Facebook has increased dramatically with an increase in sign-ups to join our mailing list or become paid-up members coming from our website. We are certainly becoming well-known.
You may have noticed the increase in the numbers of letters from us that are being printed in the press. This is also thanks to Orbit. They have also sent an email to their large mailing list on our behalf.
At UK level, political parties campaigning for “Yes” now are Labour, Libdems and Greens. Labour will not enter a “Yes” campaign with the Conservatives as they were badly bitten in the Scottish referendum. There is, therefore, unlikely to be an overarching political party “Yes” campaign. The TUC will campaign separately as they will not agree with the renegotiation points.
It was observed that it is legitimate to question the motives of all press barons as they are all non-domicile. The Barclays Brothers position was influenced by failure to establish a European publication.
There was also talk on how we could form alliances.
Concern was raised about the franchise for the referendum. One participant contrasted the ability of EU citizens living in the UK to vote on such details as how their bins are collected but are to be denied a say on whether they are to become “foreigners” in the UK.
Concern was expressed about the rise of xenophobia mainly on the right but also to some extent on the left.
Another participant lamented Cameron’s track record and approach of alienating potential allies.
We are planning a repeat of this meeting in Glasgow for the early autumn.
Europe Pub Quiz
Because of the elections this year, we had to postpone our annual pub quiz from 9th May to 29th May. This event is organised by the European Parliament Office in Edinburgh and we provide some of the prizes and the trophy.
It was a fun enjoyable evening and everyone there enjoyed both free food and drink as well as the actual quiz. Well done to the appropriately named winning team "EU-phoria".
Friday May 8th, 11:00 - 15:00
Castle Street, Edinburgh
This year, as Europe Day fell on a Saturday we celebrated it a day early. Over 10 member states are represented and we will be joined by such bodies as the Prince's Trust, RSPB, The Scottish European Education Trust and Young Scot, etc.
On stage there was music and dance acts provided by Latvia, Poland, Romania, the Prince's Trust and Scottish Opera.
Volunteers helping on the stall
A big "thank-you" to all those people who turned up to help at the stall at the Europe Day celebrations on May 8th. It was nice to meet some of our recent members as well as the students from the European Society at Edinburgh University. We were lucky to have sunny weather in the morning but the day quickly got colder with a strong wind. We had several people come to visit us on our stall, including a few euro-sceptics. Whether we persuaded them to change their minds is another matter.
English-Speaking Union Mace Debates
Many of you are aware that we have sponsored the first round of the ESU Schools MACE Junior Debating Competition. We have so far attended the following and written a brief report. The motion was,
"This house believes that an ever closer union offers the best future for the citizens of Europe".
Dundee High School Debate.
The debates were notable for the absence of much serious Euroscepticism. One of the opposition teams took the words of the motion literally ("this house believes that an ever closer union is in the best interests of the citizens of Europe") saying they thought the EU was fine as it is and they didn't see the need for any change.
During the debate among the small audience the point was made that an "ever closer union" does really imply a federal union at some stage. The winners were Dundee High School and Morrison's Academy.
George Watsons College.
Despite a tiny audience the teams produced some spirited orations nonetheless. Only one team seriously tackled the central points of the motion, addressing both the question of ‘ever closer union’ and the reference to ‘citizens of Europe’. The others succumbed to the temptations of looking only at UK-related issues, and (for those opposing) regarding the motion as a question of ‘in or out’.
Members of both opposing teams made a point of saying loudly after the debate that they were personally very pro-Europe, with one team even apologising to me for any offence they might have caused! Clearly they had a harder row to hoe than those speaking for the motion – but that’s the peril of competitive debating!
After a closely fought contest, teams from George Heriot’s and George Watson’s went through to the next round.
Britain in the EU after the General Election
Wednesday 4th March, 19:00 - 20:30
Those of our members and guests who were able to join us for the debate on 4th March were both entertained and informed by the panel. The breadth of experience covered politics with Christina Mckelvie, business, with Hugh Aitken and academia with Professor Michael Keating with the European viewpoint being clearly provided by Hans Blomeier of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.
The debate on Britain's future in the European Union is often framed by an inward looking and very narrow view of what Britain wants and might be satisfied with in pondering whether or not to remain a member. Politicians and citizens ignore at their peril the other members of the Union, who all have their hopes and plans for the future and often see the Union and their fellow members in a different light from us. We, individuals and countries, are coloured by our recent histories. The recent history of much of Europe is different from that of Britain, often more traumatic and with more recent experience of the fear of fascism and communism than here in Britain. Greece was a military dictatorship into the 1970's, Spain a fascist dictatorship and Germany split into two competing halves until 1989. Clearly the role of the EU as a means of promoting peace amongst its members is much more important to the citizens of mainland Europe than it is to the citizens of the UK.
From the debate on Wednesday I think we took away the understanding that Britain's place in the EU is not simply a question of whether we, as country, wish to stay in or not. There is also a view throughout Europe as to whether Britain is, or can ever be, a suitable and willing participant in the EU journey. The view from our continental EU partners is that whilst Britain should ideally remain a willing member of the EU, this cannot happen "at any price" and if Britain believes it's future lies outside the EU, then so be it.
What I believe a number of us may have learned for the first time is the informed view given by our German and French partners, Consul General Verena Gräfin von Roedern and Consul General Pierre-Alain Coffinier, that in the event that Britain was to leave the EU, there would be no compromises on the economic front as far as access to the common market is concerned. Out would mean out. The UK would be left with all the repercussions that would follow. This is surely logical and correct but as yet barely understood in Britain.
As with the Scottish Referendum, there is an absolute requirement on those who wish to leave to set out now, in great detail, what rules and international agreements Britain would sign up to immediately (and it would have to be immediate) to enable international trade to continue. Those who claim to want to set Britain free from the EU have to set out the alternative to the citizens of Britain and that alternative has to be believable. At the moment we have nothing other than specious assurances. I do not believe them and nor, I think, do the majority of Britain's citizens.
As for the campaign ahead to promote the benefits of EU membership to the citizens of the UK, it was pointed out that there is no clear one person to lead this campaign, whereas Nigel Farage is certainly the leader for a "No" campaign. This is a great weakness. The messages we send out need to be positive and not reactive against negative criticisms which means we are already starting out from a negative stand-point.
There are also lessons to be learnt from the Scottish Referendum. Despite the result, the matter is not over. And s hould the citizens vote to remain in the EU, the matter will still fester on, although an exit will be permanent.
For those of you who are interested, we have posted some photos on our Facebook page .
We are very grateful to Edinburgh University European Union Society for their help in putting on this discussion. Our thanks also go to the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and to all the members of the panel: John Aitken, Hans-Hartwig Blomeier, Christina McKelvie, whose birthday it was, hence the birthday present, and Michael Keating, not to mention John Edward who so ably chaired the discussion.