It is a good enough piece, but we do wish he had read our Blog first, on the Eurocops – which would have added significantly to his understanding of the subject.
Nevertheless, Johnston does us a service, echoing a complaint aired may times on this Blog, to the effect that, while attention is focused elsewhere, EU integration goes marching on.
Thus, he points out that, while Parliament returns today to complete this year's legislative programme before next month's Queen's Speech, "much attention will focus on the fate of foxhunting, Tony Blair will be under renewed pressure over Iraq and there are other key measures - among them the Housing Bill and the Civil Contingencies Bill - to be concluded."
"You can be certain, however", he writes, "that a debate pencilled in for Thursday will attract little notice. The motion looks so innocuous that few may be aware of its implications. It is to 'take note of EU document relating to justice and home affairs work programme'."
And how accurately does he convey the reaction to such matters:
What a yawn. Yet another boring EU missive, full of impenetrable legalese and replete with apparently benign ambitions such as working towards the creation of an "area of freedom, justice and security" and the "mutual recognition" of laws in the interests of the "citizens of Europe". Who but a swivel-eyed Europhobe could be against that?Except that Philip Johnston is not a "swivel-eyed Europhobe" and he certainly is against it. As he rightly says:
…what the European Commission has in mind is not benign at all. It maintains that the "European judicial area" will respect the legal traditions and systems of member states. But this is simply not true when you actually read what is being proposed.And once again, the evidence is there for anyone who wishes to look at it, as Johnston points out:
Under the guise of co-operation, it seeks greater uniformity of law and criminal procedure - including minimum penalties and the end of life sentences - in the EU. In addition, the Commission wants to create a European Public Prosecutor, set up a European Corps of Border Guards, give more powers to Eurojust - a sort of centralised DPP - and allow the Dutch-based Europol agency to become an investigative police force, something we were told it would never
be when it was set up.
This is not an integrationist fantasy along the lines of those "myths" the Commission is always trying to debunk, such as straight-banana laws. The aims are clearly spelt out in two documents. One is the five-year programme for justice and home affairs, which MPs are debating on Thursday; the other is an even more far-reaching Green Paper entitled "Approximation, mutual recognition and enforcement of criminal sanctions".This is the tragedy of it all. This Blog does its best to draw attention to what is going on and now Johnston is in the same position, albeit with a wider readership. He writes words that could easily have appeared on this Blog:
These documents have been examined by MPs on the Commons European scrutiny committee, whose job is to cast a parliamentary eye over the deluge of directives and communications that pour out of the Eurocracy on a weekly basis. If you want to know where the power to change our lives really lies - with or without a constitution - take a look at the papers considered by the committee in its most recent report.And here is the rub. "Needless to say", Johnston writes, "the Government supports the continuation of the justice and home affairs programme for a further five years. It is less enamoured of the contents of the Green Paper, but insists it is just a 'discussion document' and there is, therefore, no need for anyone to get too hot under the collar."
They covered 16 subjects, including flood prevention, a simplified common market in fruit and vegetables, greenhouse gas emissions from car air-conditioning systems, mobile broadband services and the migration and integration of third-country nationals. This was just one report from the committee; so far this year, it has issued 30, each looking at a dozen or more EU-based laws or would-be directives.
These rarely get debated in the Commons chamber. The committee can make recommendations about changes it would like to see, but these do not have to be accepted. The real work goes on in the bowels of Brussels, in behind-the-scenes negotiations between officials.
Final decisions are made by the Council of Ministers; but because so much EU law is made by majority voting, it is easy for a country to get stuck with something it does not want or which proves to be unworkable or harmful.
Wait for it – where have we seen this before: "Yet what starts off as a discussion document in the EU often turns up a few years later as a fully fledged directive. If Britain gets drawn into negotiations, by the time they are concluded the harmonisation of judicial procedures will have been further advanced."
"The alternative," says Johnston, "is to kill it off now". Unanimity is still required for decisions on these matters and Parliament should state unequivocally that Britain has no intention of entering any talks about an area of policy that, as the scrutiny committee observes, "lies at the heart of member states' sovereignty".
The five-year programme comes up for agreement at the European Council in December. Tony Blair could veto it there and then; but don't hold your breath.
Aah… and where have you seen these words before: "don’t hold your breath". European integration marches on, with or without the constitution and maybe, one day, the nation will wake up. But don't hold your breath.