Saturday, March 12, 2005

We have become more powerful VIII

"And for all of those that say, if you look at the last thirty years, we have lost power to Brussels, actually it isn't true. In the last, certainly in the last eight years, as we, the Labour government, have been more involved in Europe, so we have become more powerful and more prosperous, better able, literally to implement a patriotic case for the European Union."

Jack Straw
Foreign Secretary

BBC Today Programme, 9 February 2005


It flared up in early February when the government suddenly decided that it had got its sums wrong on the EU's emission trading scheme, and wanted our masters in Brussels to accept revised limits that would not be quite so damaging to British industry.

Unlikely as it looked, Britain seemed to be taking a robust line, with talk of challenging the EU commission in the European Court of Justice.

And so it has turned out to be, but not before the government has been forced into "a humiliating climbdown" – and that is the Europhile Independent talking.

None other than the environment secretary herself, the odious caravanner Margaret Beckett, announced yesterday that the UK would proceed on the basis of the lower carbon allowance that ministers had originally submitted, caving in to the commission after it had refused to permit an increase in the allocation.

And this is the lady who, back in July told an invited audience of environmental campaigners that voting "no" in the EU referendum would put the UK's and the EU's environmental achievements at risk.

Says The Independent, Beckett's current move represents a victory for Brussels, after the heavy-handed tactics used by her to force it to agree to more generous carbon allowances. However, the paper adds, commission officials sought to play down its pleasure at the government's U-turn for fear of appearing triumphalist.

The UK is still taking the commission to court in an effort to get the higher carbon allocation reinstated, but this is widely regarded as a "fig leaf" designed to protect the government from attacks by the CBI before the general election.

Like Dawn Primarolo, recently confronted with the ECJ's VAT decision on car milegae expenses this week, all that is now left for the EUnuchs to do is wring their hands, wail and express their "disappointment" at events, which is indeed what Defra is doing.

Yet again, it is good to see how much more powerful we have become since the Labour government became more involved in Europe.

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