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No difference between us

Posted by Helen Thursday, January 27, 2005

The recent pronouncement on the part of the Commission about the Conservatives’ proposal for an immigration policy has been rather useful to those of us not over-enamoured with the project.

David Rennie asked in the Daily Telegraph:

“How did Britain end up binding its immigration policy to the European Union, so tightly that - to hear the European Commission talk - it is already too late for Michael Howard to throw the process into reverse, even if he is elected prime minister?”
Well, how, indeed. It all started in 1999 with the Tampere Summit at which various maters of justice and security were agreed to and the media paid not attention. When eurosceptics tried to raise the subject, their comments were dismissed and jeered at.

All of a sudden, it is turning out to be true. Just as the fact that the duly elected Chancellor of the Exchequer in a duly elected government with the largest majority in the House of Commons in modern history, had to go begging to the Commission in 1997 to be allowed to lower VAT on fuel, that is, too fulfil a manifesto obligation. His plea was refused. Nobody much noticed.

And has anyone noticed much the various agreements of Tampere II, that is the Hague Programme agreed to in the autumn of 2004? Well, no, not really. This document, too, concerns a far-reaching plan for various policing, justice and security matters, including the final transformation of Europol into an operational force. It is one of those ten-year plans that will go on unrolling, regardless of any election or referendum in Britain, any other member states or the European Union.

Even a directly elected Commission, for some reason a panacea proposed by some misguided individuals would not alter the fact that the governance of the EU is managerial not political, or that it is not a project that cares much about democracy or accountability.

Yes, we find it all rather frustrating. But there is another organization out there that is just as frustrated, and that is the Commission. They, too, would like to have the role of the European Union acknowledged in various ways and find themselves thwarted in this laudable exercise by national politicians. They cannot understand why this should be so.

The answer is very simple – politicians have elections to win, even if their real power is reduced with every month, every year, every European Council. They still like the trappings and kid themselves that maybe this is all a bad dream. Any minute now they will wake up and the whole European mess will simply melt away.

The Commission and its denizens, on the other hand, have no such problems. They do not stand for elections and do not consider that to be a good way of running anything. Accountability? Who needs it?

They do, however, believe fervently in the project and its essential goodness. Therefore, they want to publicize it. They want the people of Europe to know that the benign EU is looking after them and stopping the national politicians from making a muck of things. Hence the apparently crass intervention in British domestic politics over immigration.

In other words, they are like us – the opposites converge. We, eurosceptics, want to highlight the role of the European Union in domestic matters, and so does the European Union, particularly the Commission. It is the rather woolly-minded individuals in between that annoys us both.