Friday, March 03, 2006

To the barricades

Tom Utley in today's Telegraph takes what some might think as a slightly odd line. He argues that New Labour, having rubber-stamped EU directive 2003/20/EC - requiring that most children up to the age of 10 (and shorter children of 11) must be strapped into special child seats or made to sit on booster cushions – is the reason that we must now get out of the European Union.

Far be it for me to disagree with him, one might still think this is a rather OTT reaction – after all, this is only one minor directive, hardly a cause over which to go to the barricades.

But, reading Utley's argument, you can quite see the sense in it. He uses the directive – and, in particular the way it comes to be part of our legal code – to illustrate the generally undemocratic way the EU works and how, through a series of petty restrictions, the EU is having a cumulative effect on our liberties.

I can hardly disagree with his general thesis. After all, my route to Euroscepticism came via the Poultry Meat Marketing Directive where, for the first time, I saw how EU law affected me personally. From there, I learned that others were similarly affected and drew the conclusion that the EU (or EEC as it was then) was not for me.

In that way, many of us become converts to the Eurosceptic cause – when one or other EU impost has impacted on us personally, which opens our eyes to the wider problem. And if Utley's route is via booster cushions, so be it.

Actually, the example he gives is one that has great resonance with my own personal circumstances. Utley cites a family holiday in the west of Ireland during his childhood when the family was joined by his father's secretary. He writes:

Our car at the time was a Fiat 500 - one of those tiny little Italian jobs, barely bigger than a bubble car. People never believe me when I tell them this, but I am almost sure that my memory serves me faithfully: all seven of us crammed into that baked-beans can of a car - three adults and four children, with luggage for a fortnight on the roof-rack - for the long drive from London to the Holyhead ferry and from Dublin to the west coast. I will not pretend that it was a safe or a comfortable way to travel, taking it in turns to sit on each other's knees in the front and the back. But somehow all seven of us survived, and a good time was had by all.
As a boy, I had similar experience as our very first family car was a Series I Land Rover (short wheelbase) which, predictably, we christened "Tilly". My mother, who had been taught to drive a Civil Defence Ambulance, then took us all over the place, to our great delight, and I recall upwards of 12 children (we once got 16 in it), myself included, tearing around the countryside in this vehicle.

The prized position was in the very back, sitting at the rear opening of the canvas tilt, where we could lean out and observe the countryside, or gesture to following motorists.

The like of those treasured experiences, and those of young Utley, are now to be denied to future generations. They will be illegal - courtesy of the EU. Perhaps that is a cause over which it is worth going to the barricades.

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