What’s the rush with gay marriage

IN the 12 years I’ve been an MEP I have received a lorry load of communication from constituents, asking me to support this and oppose that.

But not one calling for me to support, or indeed oppose, gay marriage.

Why is gay marriage suddenly in the spotlight?

It was in no manifesto. It may be vital to a minority of people, but not to the wider public.

A recent ICM poll reveals that 14 per cent of people thought that the Government should prioritise the issue but 78 per cent felt that it has more important matters to address.

It’s puzzling. Why on earth is David Cameron pushing this so hard? Why has a consultation been launched on the issue?

It is evident that the Government has already made up its mind. As it says: “This consultation is about how the ban can be lifted on same-sex couples having a marriage through a civil ceremony.”

Not making the change is not an option, apparently. Why is he opening a new front in his war against his traditional support?

I bumped into the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell a few days ago. “Why now?” I asked. Smiling, he told me that it was because he had a case going to the European Court of Human Rights. Of course, stupid me, why didn’t I think of that? There just had to be a European angle.

I went off and found it, on Peter’s EqualLove website. My legal advice on his case was this. “The case is well-argued and, knowing the politicisation of the ECHR and its general drift, it is almost definitely going to win.”

Whatever one’s view of the issue, the case they make is well constructed. They have put together a team of complainants to the ECHR, some straight, some gay.

They highlight the difference between banning marriage for gays and civil partnerships for straight couples despite them being to all intents and purposes equal in law.

It has been with the court since last year. The fact that Cameron has suddenly taken up this cause, which has not really been on the horizon at all, suggests that the case is heading towards an imminent hearing and his legal advice is the same as mine.

The last thing he needs at the moment is to have the European courts declare our law discriminatory again and demand it be changed.

It would show him weak and ineffectual.

It would then appear that he was only espousing gay marriage because the court has said so. The Tatchell express has been spotted coming down the tracks and Cameron has decided to get out of its way.

That he is jumping into the path of another train composed of his own core support means nothing to him.

The chief whip is saying that there will be a free vote on this. Maybe so, there was one on prisoner votes after all, but it is meaningless.

For in exactly the same way it doesn’t matter what our politicians say and do, when the European Court rules, we must obey.

In this world where we are governed by the ECHR, one has to ask, is nothing sacred?

Control immigration? You’ll have to leave the EU

The European Union is a political union with total free movement of goods, services and labour; that is a fact.

We were told to support entry to the EEC for reasons of trade with little or no mention of the free movement of people. None of this mattered so much when the EU consisted of countries like The Netherlands, France and Germany who have comparable standards of living.

But in 2004, all that changed with the enlargement of the EU to include most of Eastern Europe. All of a sudden anyone from Poland, Lithuania or Slovakia could come to live and work in this country.

The enlargement of the EU was supported by Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservative Party who continue to avoid the elephant in the room whenever immigration is discussed. That elephant is simple: as long as we are in the EU we can have no control over who comes to live, work and settle in the UK.

The latest report on immigration trends brings into the open this fallacy that the coalition are going to control net flows into this country. Despite the Conservative election pledge of reducing net immigration ‘from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands’ they have been advised to control expectations rather than the figures.

Whenever there is a debate, all the political establishment talk about is the non-EU figures over which we still have some control.

The initial estimate of 13000 people a year coming to the UK from Eastern Europe was in fact based on a German study and jumped on by the government as a way of protecting their decision. It was clearly never going to be the case given the generous welfare state we have in this country and our language being our greatest export.

For where else were young, English speaking workers going to come but a country which offered them a free health service, decent wages and housing? Not to mention the child benefits which can be sent to their country of origin regardless of where those children actually live. Immediately after the accession of these countries the numbers coming to the UK from Eastern Europe were approaching 200,000 a year and a study of those living in Britain shows 750,000 people were born in these countries, including half a million from Poland alone.

Since then, instead of learning from this, we’ve had two even poorer countries join; Romania and Bulgaria.

And still it goes on, with the coalition and opposition parties supporting Turkish entry to the EU which will allow over 70 million Turks the same rights under EU law as anyone from Britain. Hungary is offering millions of ethnic Hungarians living outside its borders EU passports which could result in about 500,000 moving to the UK. There are also one million Moldavians who have been given Romanian EU passports allowing them free movement across the entire EU despite their country not being a member. Why should Romanian and Hungarian politicians decide who can come to the UK but MPs in Westminster can’t? Damian Green, immigration minister, is not being honest when he says the government will impose controls on all immigration routes into the UK.

So what have the results of this mass migration been? Well, in simple economic terms it means a dramatic rise in the supply of labour which, without the resulting increase in the number of jobs, leads to a fall in wages and employment. And a rise in unemployment not only means a rise in our benefits bill but less money being invested in new businesses to create more jobs and in essential public services such as defence and policing.

With the failing Euro and the British economy out performing many countries in the eurozone we will continue to see the trend of the last few years: non-EU migration falling and EU migration rising. The immigration that we have absolutely no control over is the very area we need to control and yet our government seem unwilling to even discuss it.

The opportunities our wealthy political classes talk about may be true if you would like a cheaper au pair or chauffeur. But it is not the case for the majority of us.

This conspiracy of silence about the true nature of immigration; the effects of the full entitlement to the NHS, schools and housing for anyone in the EU is beginning to be chipped into by those who do want a debate.

When Julie Spence OBE, the former Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Police, spoke out about the impact on the police force of Eastern European migration the Home Office blamed her for picking these people out, even though her statements were based on facts. And yet in homes and pubs up and down the country, the men and women of this country have been saying that something is not right, that they are not happy with the current situation.

In 2007 a poll conducted by ComRes found that 80 per cent of people would vote to leave the EU if it meant they could control immigration.

If you want the British people to decide who comes to live, work and settle in this country then the choice is clear; we must leave the EU.