This is not an academic issue. It strikes at the heart of that slimy, rotten, stinking excrescence which describes itself as the European Union. It is wrong, it is illegal, it is an abnegation of democracy and the height of arrogance, the very essence of hubris. It simply will not do.
Such is the European Union's space policy, the details of which are set out in the post below. Space policy is not currently a "competence" of the EU, and will not become so unless or until the EU constitution is ratified and comes into force, this being the legal instrument that authorises the Union to involve itself in this matter.
And the European Union, or so we are told, is nothing if it is not a treaty organisation, bound by the rule of law. Without a "legal base" specifically authorised by a treaty provision, it is acting outside the law. It has no authority whatsoever to deal with any matter not included in a treaty.
Here, not only does the EU have no treaty base, but the instrument on which it will rely has been rejected by two countries: France and Holland. Implicit in the referendum question, because space policy is an inherent part of the constitution, was the question: "can we set up a space policy?" And the answer was "no".
Yet here they are, heedless of the message of the people, entirely oblivious to the fact that their very acts are illegal, the commission ploughs ahead with constructing its policy, aimed for completion at the end of 2005, before the constitution was due to come into force, even had it been ratified.
Furthermore, we are not just talking about bits of paper and a few glossy brochures. In September 2004, research commissioner Philippe Busquin recommended increased EU funding on space research, to around €10 billion a year during the next Framework Programme (FP7), starting in 2007, the date to coincide with the projected adoption of the EU constitution, when space policy was supposed to become an EU competence.
That sum, in support of a policy which is not yet legal and which may well not become so, is considerably more than the UK rebate, over which so much political energy is currently being expended, and has been factored into the budget, part of which the UK will have to pay. Take away the space budget and there is no need to pursue the UK for its rebate – the commission would have cash in hand.
But that does not trouble the "colleagues". For all their fine talk, the law means nothing to them. Treaties mean nothing to them. The will of the people, expressed through referendums or otherwise, means nothing to them. They have an ambition and they have the power - that power is their law.
Yet, there is something which could stop them – one simple word. Margaret Thatcher famously used it three times in one go: "No! No! No!" The answer, you slimy, rotten, stinking excrescence which describes itself as the European Union, is No!