On 18 October 2011 IMIF delegates met at the offices of Watson, Farley & Williams to listen to guest speaker Bill Cash MP, once described as the House of Commons greatest eurosceptic MP, talking on “The role of the European Union in the UK”.
Not the most maritime of subjects one would have thought to be discussed at a luncheon of the International Maritime Industries Forum (IMIF), but as IMIF Chairman Jim Davis pointed out the EU seemed to think that it can challenge all the work already painstakingly negotiated by the IMO and apparently do it better. As it transpired, the great eurosceptic Bill Cash declared that he was not against the European Union per se – he wants it to succeed and feels that the UK will benefit from membership – however the present structure and lack of transparency was not at all acceptable.
Some politicians treat the EU struggles as a game – but it is not a game – it is war, said Bill Cash. Too many of the City of London’s powers were being transferred to the EU. He had voted for the formation of the Common Market in 1975 but this determination by the EU for ‘fiscal’ union will most certainly fail. As for bail-outs – they will extend the problem not solve it. The EU needs a good dose of realism on that, he added. He was very critical of the decisions taken behind closed doors. They even have a phrase ‘avant-projet’ for meetings held first to discuss how to ensure the required outcome of certain decisions. The red tape was unbelievable – it strangles any incentive for production and if a country can’t make a profit then small businesses, the life-blood of the economy, don’t have the oxygen they need to survive.
He was concerned with the UK trade imbalance – in 2009 £14bn against the UK and in 2010 a staggering £53bn against the UK. Various maritime luminaries present recounted their own experiences. One was notably confident – London is an international maritime centre and will find an international solution to the problem, he said. Remember, said Bill Cash, EU Directives ensure that we are not being guided by policy now – it is ‘law’! Others were not so happy. One recalled that he used to make good commercial deals once but they are now so wrapped up in regulations galore and costly bureaucracy as to be unworkable. Bill Cash mentioned that he had been on the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee for 26 years but that he had very recently been elected ‘Chairman’.
“Now we will see that the EU has ‘proper’ scrutiny, ” he said to the delegates with a meaningful smile.