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Your interview: Daniel Hannan, Conservative MEP
5:00am Saturday 1st February 2014 in News
Jim Staines, Moulsecoomb: How is the EU relevant to the people of Sussex?
Daniel Hannan (DH): It impacts on almost everything. Very few government departments completely control their own affairs without some interference from Brussels. It ranges from a mild influence to a complete control for example with fishing policy. Everybody pays tax and VAT which is a huge component going to EU. It depends how you measure it but on a lot of measures at least half of laws come from Brussels.
I look forward to the day when my job is abolished, when there’s no such thing as a UK MEP. In the meantime I see it as my job to stop the harmful directives of the EU and arguing spacing against consequences. I try and direct torch beam on murky ways Brussels does business.
The first thing I did when I was elected was write about expenses and allowances and some people still won’t talk to me as a result.
I spent years campaigning for reform of an outrageous system where you could be reimbursed for a first-class flight even if you took a Ryanair flight. You could trouser £1,000 per week for free as a result. I moved an amendment calling for reimbursement of the costs, which was voted down 10/1, then the next year 8/1 and on and on until last year when they finally abolished it.
The EU doesn’t attract bad people. The difference between the European and national government is it’s that much more remote, and further from scrutiny.
All 9 of me, from Argus website: If you’re such a Eurosceptic than why are you on the EU gravy train?
DH: If the EU bothers you please vote to leave. No one will be happier than me. In the meantime this is supposed to be a representative assembly. The implication is that you shouldn’t be here unless you support less European integration. I don’t pretend my views are shared by all South East residents but they are certainly shared by some.
Anthony Grieves, Hove: What is localism?
DH: I want decisions to be taken as locally as possible to the people they affect. The beauty is that way you have pluralism and best practice spreading to neighbouring areas.
Local government is more efficient, less wasteful and less bureaucratic. It’s to do with the proximity and human nature when ministers are representing some 600 million people.
The wealthiest people in the plant almost always live in micro states, such as Liechtenstein and the United Arab Emirates, because there’s less waste and bureaucracy. The one exception to that rule is the US, but that’s because it is administered like a confederation of states.
We’re used to that in the UK, with incredibly strong county and borough authorities, and until 100 years ago things like welfare were primarily a local responsibility. Now we have the weakest form of local government in Europe and are among the most centralised.
If you devolve genuine meaningful power for things like tax, education, social security, policing, I think we would be more democratic but also better run and less expensive to administer.
No central government wants to devolve power. To the credit of this administration they have done something, though they have not gone as far as I would have liked. One good reform is allowing people to elect police commissioners. Power to deal with crime is an issue for everyone. It’s up to us to use that mechanism.
Ellie Lescott, Brighton: What do you make of the situation in Brighton and Hove with the council tax referendum?
DH: It’s safe to say I won’t be voting Green in the next election but on a personal level I am friendly with people in the party.
I’m against raising council tax but I’m hugely in favour of having a referendum.
I’d like to see them become much more wide-ranging, not just on things like the overall level of spending, but on what these things should be spent on, i.e. rubbish collection etc.
One area I could see a democratic mechanism working would be planning.
I would like to people put together alternative plans about where would prefer to see houses built.
In the US developers who want to build a power plant for example say to the community “How much can we pay you to put this in your county?”
They put it in the authority area with the lowest bid, and it’s a way of communities putting a price on things and allows them to feel like they’re not being taken for granted.
It really angers people when they feel like they have been taken for granted.
When they are part of the process very often people resend with a measure of responsibility. We’ve seen this idea coming forward during talks about fracking.
Hannah Holloway, Worthing: Is it true you are want to see a deal with UKIP?
DH: UKIP was set up to win a referendum to get out of the EU. If the big parties had adopted an in-out referendum then that would have been enough and UKIP could have dissolved.
But by the time the Conservatives got there it had taken on more momentum of its own.
To have two parties that want to deliver the same policy competing against each other on the same policy seems absurd. There’s need to sort of accommodation between the two parties which I think requires generosity on both sides.
Mike Lemon, Brighton: How much correspondence do you get and what is the strangest thing you’re asked about?
DH: Compared to the number of constituents I represent the correspondence I get is minuscule.
I think it’s because people don’t really feel European in the same way they feel English or British. When protests were going on in Balcombe I had more complaints about the protest than about fracking itself.
Every week I do get people making bizarre demands under the human rights act, because their hairdresser has overcharged them or something like that. People believe that everything is a violation of their human rights.
I’ve also been contacted by people that have property in Spain that were having bits of land confiscated. I had so many complaints that it made sense to go over to Valencia to try and deal with them all in one go rather than on an individual basis.
Shirley Avery, Hove: Were you surprised that estimates on EU immigration from Bulgaria and Romania were so way off the mark?
DH: We have no idea how many people have come over from Bulgaria and Romania, but I never thought there would be massive numbers.
Freedom of movement is fine, but it’s not the same thing as freedom to claim benefits, there’s a huge difference. You shouldn’t be able to draw from a pot other people have filled. Britain is quite unique in Europe in having a noncontributory benefits system where 60 million pay in and up to 600 million can take out. It’s simply not affordable.
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