How Does Europe Impact British Wildlife?

It seems that whenever Europe imposes a law or regulation which is to be adhered to by the member states, there is a wide range of interpretation as to exactly how it should be applied and imposed, British wildlife and conservation issues are no exception. You only need take a look at how the anti smoking laws have been applied to see a significant difference in how each country applies them, in the UK we have an outright ban, in other countries they seem to ignore it completely, and I’ve heard (although not experienced) of others which have a collection pot in the bar, smokers put in a Euro or 2 if they want to smoke and that money is used for paying off the fines.

Wildlife law and legislation is no different. Europe imposes a number of regulations to be applied across European states which are in place to protect specific species, however due to differing geological and weather factors, these laws have some degree of flexibility and are therefore imposed by each country within their own legal systems, there are a set of regulations which apply in the UK, it’s these which impact how our conservation laws are imposed.

One such Council Directive is regarding the conservation of natural habitats, it has the rather catch name Directive 92/43/EEC you can read about it here, in short it is designed to protect habitats around Europe and ensures that member states maintain and protect conservation projectslocal habitats and species which live within them, have dedicated areas which are fully protected, put measures in place to ensure conservation areas are maintained for the appropriate indigenous species, in some cases surveillance must also be undertaken to monitor and protect at risk species. Each member state must also report back to confirm exactly what has been done every six years.

All this is ultimately good news for Britain’s protected and endangered species and supporting industries and charities. There is huge interest in wildlife conservation in the UK at present with a range of equipment available for all manner of activities, from bat detectors for the monitoring of populations, badger gates and fencing to allow them free passage through rabbit fencing and various artificial habitats for all manner of creatures from the Dormouse and wild birds to hedgehogs, as can be seen here. I’ve even seen a recent television advert encouraging children to get involved in conservation and add hedgehog hibernation areas, bee hotels and all manner of ways to attract wildlife into bat detectorsurban areas.

This combined with the recent news stories about the decline of both honey bees and our 250 species of solitary bees due to habitat destruction and the use of pesticides has also helped to drum up the public’s interest in protecting our wildlife and encouraged an upsurge in the number of beekeepers across the UK, both in the countryside and urban areas.

It seems that Europe is making some wise decisions regarding wildlife protection and has even put a temporary ban on the use of certain pesticides while further testing is done regarding their impact on the environment, it also seems that the UK is putting these new regulations to good use and applying them in a way which should help to protect our endangered and indigenous species into the future.

Restricted Access ?

There is a meeting of the UN happening right now in Dubai (why there I do not know) where there is a push for full global government control of the internet. If this is approved, not only could people find their access is restricted and monitored, but in turn this could also slow things down for the average user, quite considerably.

The internet has grown massively over the last 20 years, much of it through the use of the general public and open source software (did you know that the vast majority of internet servers operate on Linux, an open source operating system?). However, governments from the likes of China, Russia and the UEA are trying to reign in the unweildly beast that is the internet and bring it under government control. This has the potential to create a loss of privacy on a massive scale and increased censorship. While I appreciate that there are certain things which appear online which should not be allowed, I do not believe that a global censorship campaign is the right way to go about it.

At present the ITR (International Telecommunications Regulations) are the rules which govern internet use and are essentially open and promote the free sharing of information, however the meeting of the ITU (the body which make the rules, is being pushed hard from certain countries to tighten up and give governments more control.

This story is being covered in detail by various media, the global blogging community of course, have plenty to say about it, as do the national and international press.

The outcome should be apparent very soon, although the outcome remains to be seen, as does the length of time it will take to implement any changes.

UK Law and Assisted Suicide

Assisted suicide is a contentious issue in the UK.  Under the UK law, the 1961 Suicide Act, it is an offense to “aid, abet, counsel or procure the suicide of another.”  Interpretation of the law is another matter entirely however and this is where things become much more complicated.

Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: What do they mean?


Euthanasia has several different types under interpretation.  From a layman’s standpoint, euthanasia means a “mercy killing” or “to put someone out of their misery” when a person is suffering from a terminal illness and usually in considerable pain.  It is illegal in the UK.

Voluntary euthanasia is the term that means to end someone’s life with their permission, under the health condition as described above.

Involuntary euthanasia is the term that means that the sufferer is usually physically unable to end their own life and is unable to make the decision to do so.  Therefore, strictly speaking consent is not directly been given, but in such cases often the family are well aware of the prior agreement to the action by the sufferer from a time when they were able to still communicate their wishes.

Assisted Suicide

Assisted suicide is a category of euthanasia.  It means that someone has been assisted in committing suicide by being provided with one way or several ways to carry out the action.  This can be by providing apparatus or drugs or arranging transportation out of the UK in order to carry out the plan to commit suicide.

The Legal Position

From a legal standpoint, assisted suicide is illegal under the Suicide Act and punishable by up to 14 years’ imprisonment.  However, only the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) from the CPS can determine whether to issue proceedings against the person or persons who assisted an enacted suicide.  To do so, the DPP can only proceed if they believe it is in the public interest to do so.  Therefore, whilst assisted suicide is illegal in the UK, not everyone who has assisted in a suicide has been prosecuted.

Director of Public Prosecutions Change of Policy

solicitorsOn February 24 2010, the DPP detailed the change in policy when dealing with the matter of assisted suicides.  There are now 16 proposed public-interest factors that are to be considered on cases revolving around an assisted suicide.  An earlier draft of the DPP paper detailed only eight.

The current thinking on the idea of a new law specifically related to assisted suicide is that it would be somewhat redundant and unlikely to pass as a law.  The view of the DPP is therefore the policy of the government.  This is an unusual and highly controversial situation, where the laws are not being passed by parliament but instead decisions are being made whether to pursue prosecutions based on the DPP’s own guidelines.

The major new development is the recent issue of whether someone is breaking the law if they help a terminally ill sufferer to travel to another country where assisted suicide is legal, and help them to die outside of the UK.  The clarification from the DPP suggests that someone is more likely to be prosecuted than they were before, following the issuance of the new DPP guidance, but it is far than one hundred percent clear.  Possibly because each case is unique and legislating or even making absolute policies for assisted suicide cases is simply too restrictive.

If you need legal advice on specific subjects just click here to find one specialising in the correct area of law, for example if you live in Wiltshire search for a Swindon solicitor, or Cheltenham solicitor, likewise if you are in Oxfordshire an Oxford solicitor would be best.

Yes, Europe SHOULD excite our young

EUROPE is a generational issue. Older people may struggle to think of themselves as European, even those who don’t still think they are stuck in the last war, but under-25s have grown up in a quite different world.

To them, travelling to and throughout Europe is perfectly natural. So is eating continental food and, particularly, meeting young people from other European nations. They have been taught in litres, metres and kilos.

So, in theory, there should not be the same antagonism to the EU as there is among much of their parents’ generation – and, even more so, their grandparents’.

Yet, despite all that, there is still an underlying lack of acceptance of “Europe”. There is a disconnect between their experience and lifestyle, and their view of the EU.

This has been lucidly set out in an insightful article by Tom Wylie, former chief executive of the National Youth Agency, in the magazine Children & Young People Now. It is headlined: “Europe should excite our young.”

He cites three reasons for young people’s attitude to Europe. First, the failure to properly teach them the continent’s history. Schools focus on the causes of the First World War and the rise and fall of Hitler, he says, without dealing with the broader history of Germany in the 20th century, “never mind that of Europe as a whole.”

Secondly, Mr Wylie thinks young people may consider travelling to Europe lacks the romance it held for previous generations. And, thirdly, that European political institutions appear particularly dull and complicated, while the British media fosters hostility to them.

Tom Wylie believes that Peter Mandelson, himself once chair of the British Youth Council, should encourage this country’s young people to engage in today’s European youth structures.

He concludes: “It is imperative to begin to repair the lack of engagement in the wider Europe, by and for all our young people.”

This important article deserves a wider audience. If we cannot interest and involve even our young people in Europe, there is not much hope for this nation’s future.

The omens of the Lindsey protests

THERE can be no more eloquent harbinger of the price which will be paid in this recession for the failure of the British political establishment to properly advocate our membership of the European Union than the crisis over “British jobs for British workers”.

The trouble with playing to the nationalist gallery (Gordon Brown) is that it ends up believing you and acting upon that belief.   The trouble with acquiescing with anti-Europeanism (Ken Clarke) is that it sets the agenda.

No country has gained more from the mobility of labour within the European Union than Britain.   It has been critical to the international reach, particularly of our service industries, in the City and elsewhere.  Those who are now hoping that we will see an export revival from the dramatically devalued pound (in itself a sort of tariff) are the very same who are risking retaliation from our major continental markets, which must be the inevitable consequence of letting the anti-European protectionist genie out of the bottle.

The picture of hypocrisy is almost too perfectly completed by the fact that the protest strikes coincided with Wen Jiabao’s visit to London to hear Gordon Brown’s pleas that China’s surpluses should be used to assist the revival of the Western economy and that the multilateral trading order should be preserved.

If those very many British workers who are now, rightly, fearful for their jobs are looking for targets, they are not the Italians and Portuguese, their partners in the largest legal single market in the world, but the Chinese, with whom they have no justiciable level playing field at all.

Of course, Brown’s Davos mantra that we should be striving to keep free trade open everywhere is theoretically correct.  The protectionism, which is already widespread through national bailouts and competitive devaluations, will unquestionably dramatically reduce global growth.  But it was also the imbalances of this global free trade between the West and the East and the unsound monetary policy which it encouraged: relying on cheap Chinamen and Indians to keep down inflation instead of addressing directly our runaway asset bubbles, which got us into the present mess in the first place.

Our priority now must be to remove these imbalances by promoting, as far as possible, free trade within the West, while moving to a more managed trade with the East.  We have to rebuild our competitive capability whilst they have to be encouraged to do more trade within their economies and with each other.

This is best achieved by a return to the fixed exchange rate principles of Bretton Woods, with Britain joining the Eurozone, a tight relationship negotiated between the Euro and the Dollar, and a managed emergence of both the Renminbi and the Rupee, along with the Yen, into some form of eventual Asian currency union.  Only then can faith in fiat money be secured and a long term sustainable equilibrium growth of trade flows be assured.

Such a switch of doctrine from free-floating to managed exchange rates lies behind Trade Secretary Geithner’s much criticised assertion that the Chinese should revalue their currency.  Unfortunately, however, for all the fresh thinking which Obama has brought to Washington, it seems likely that the United States is resolved to follow a protectionist path on its own, rather than wishing to work with the European Union.

A fortress America will inevitably bring into being a fortress Europe and could also, through the collapse of the Dollar peg of many Asian currencies, lead to a fragmentation of Eastern markets too.

The collapse of multilateral globalisation will be felt here in Britain more than in any other advanced nation.  It will constitute the defeat of our whole macroeconomic strategy of this country over at least the past three decades.  We will be forced to choose whether we should be inside the American block, (as John Redwood and his like in the Conservative Party would advocate) or whether we go with Europe.

There are indications that the new American administration wishes us strongly to be with the Europeans.  But on the basis of the rhetoric which has already been generated over some one hundred Italians and Portuguese in Lincolnshire, the omens for the easy resolution of this issue are not good.

Is Britain again the sick man of Europe?

Thirty years ago Britain was known as the sick man of Europe. Dragged down by a decaying infrastructure, rampant union power, ineffective and weak government, and uncontrolled inflation, we found ourselves sliding down almost every international league table.

The years since then have seen a real change in the nation’s fortunes, thanks to Margaret Thatcher’s reforms and the good fortune that shone on the economy under New Labour. But now the question is beginning to be asked abroad: Is Britain again the sick man of Europe? And, if so, what can be done to cure her?

Despite the protestations of Gordon Brown, the general opinion in other financial markets is that the UK is worse placed than almost any other country to weather the storms of the recession. To a great extent, this is due to the growing weakness of sterling and the threat this will pose to raising money on foreign markets to pay for the government’s rapidly increasing debt.

As the Wall Street Journal – a Murdoch newspaper – has just put it “with the rapid fall of sterling, servicing British debt denominated in foreign currencies is becoming increasingly costly…A veritable sterling crisis would anly aggravate the banking problems.”

It concludes: “There is safety in numbers. As a global reserve currency, the euro enjoys advantages the relatively small sterling zone lacks. In this global financial crisis, investors increasingly will seek relative security in the dollar and euro zones.”

Yet despite a few lone voices in the British media – such as Jeremy Seabrook in The Guardian, who believes that the insistence on clinging to the pound may represent “the final attachment of Britain to a world that has vanished” – there is virtually no debate on joining the euro.

This is an abject failure of leadership on an unprecedented scale and could do unimaginable damage to the future fortunes of the country. Even when David Cameron warns that we may be forced to return with the begging bowl to the International Monetary Fund, he does not consider that one of the conditions it might impose is to apply for membership of the euro.

At least Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, has now come out of his shelter and is suggesting that we should be “keeping an open mind about whether Britain would be better off in the long run as a member of the single currency.”

Our political leaders need to consider the simple fact that last week sterling dropped to a 23-year-low against the dollar and a record low against the yen. It has fallen against the euro by 27 per cent in a year, almost twice the drop in Harold Wilson’s infamous devaluation of 1967.

And still the Prime Minister, his Chancellor and the Leader of the Opposition refuse to even consider that euro entry might be part of the solution.

Will Chancellor Clarke take Britain into the Euro?

THE return of Kenneth Clarke to the Conservative frontbench has inevitably led to huge speculation about his positive European views.

The BBC’s European Editor, Mark Mardell, has posted five questions he would like to ask the new Shadow Business Secretary. But even if he gets the chance, Mr Clarke won’t be able to give meaningful answers – despite his reputation for straight-talking, it would be a bit much to rock the boat so early in his political renaissance.

No one should doubt, though, that his views on the EU and Britain’s membership of the Euro have not changed. And, at this stage of his illustrious career, he hasn’t returned to the Tory front bench to play a bit part to the anti-Europeans.

Although he will be almost 70 at the time of the next election, Ken Clarke may yet be the Chancellor of the Exchequer who takes the UK into the Euro.

If David Cameron comes to power in 2010, he will inherit the worst economic conditions imaginable – in fact, they could be so terrible they are unimaginable at the moment.

The obvious ministerial role for Mr Clarke then would be as Chancellor, where he might be able to instil some confidence at home and, more importantly, abroad.

He would also be in the position – denied to George Osborne and the pretender to the keys of the Treasury, William Hague – to do what they have both insisted they would never do and take Britain into the Euro.

Following E4U’s publication of “Ten Years of the Euro – New Perspectives For Britain”, the case has been growing for considering how membership of the eurozone could be the only way to bring financial stability to this country.

Will Hutton in The Observer has raised the spectre of bankruptcy for Britain if foreign billions are not forthcoming to service the massive debt incurred by the government to bail out the banks.

The antis, encouraged by the BBC, are attempting to divert attention from this crisis by claiming that the eurozone is about to lose at least one country, leading to its collapse, a flight of fancy demolished by Wolfgang Munchau in the FT.

We are in totally uncharted realms and anyone who denies that should take a look at the unprecedented one-day plunge in the price of RBS shares. If the 25 per cent drop in Barclays’ share price was incredible, how can a 70 per cent fall be described?

Those arguing against entry to the Euro are playing politics with the lives of the British people. What makes Ken Clarke so popular a politician is that he won’t do that. He does what he believes is right for the country.