Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Turn your back for one moment …

… and they'll come out with another "daft" idea, this one suggesting that British naval bases should be handed over to Brussels.

The story comes from Justin Stares via Lloyds List, a usually reliable source, also copied out in The Daily Mail, which runs the item big.

The idea is that British (and other member states) naval bases around the world should be at the service of the European Union to protect shipping lanes. For Britain, that would include our bases in Gibraltar, Cyprus and the Falkland Islands, set up as part of an EU "forward presence" for securing vital trade routes.

Actually, this is something and nothing. It is in a report commissioned by the EU parliament's subcommittee on security and defence, written by two UK-based academics, James Rogers and Luis Simon. It suggests that these installations would provide a formidable asset for the geographical and functional expansion of "EU Grand Strategy".

Trade lanes can be secured only if the far-flung bases belonging to the two main European naval powers are put to common use, the report argues: "As the world moves towards a dynamic multipolar system and US relative maritime power declines as powers like China and India rise, there is a growing and compelling need for Europeans to take responsibility for the Sea Lines of Communication that link them to the farthest corners of the world, particularly those most vital to European trade and security."

Geoffrey Van Orden is on the case, dismissing the report as "among the most hubristic proposals the EU has yet produced in support of its defence policies." He says he has criticised the EU's military operations as mere exercises in sticking an EU badge on our soldiers' arms. Now they want to run up the EU flag on our ships and even our overseas territories."

And there the matter will rest – for the moment. It has no legislative status and is not even a formal EU proposal. But, in the history of the institution, the EU parliament is often used as a sounding board, testing the water, so to speak, to see whether an idea will fly.

It also points to the direction of travel, confirming the long-range intention to integrate the whole of the member states' defence capabilities, no matter how long it takes.

With the focus on G20 and the economic crisis, the idea will quickly disappear from public view, but it will not go away, any more than the idea floated by the commission that in future the EU should represent member states on institutions such as the IMF. This, Bruno Waterfield tells us, is the EU's price for an agreement at the G20 summit.

Nor will the idea, now well advanced, that there should be a stronger EU level telecommunications regulator. This has now been agreed by the EU parliament and member states, bringing into action in 2010 a new agency which will have the power to reverse decisions made by national telecommunications regulators in the EU – particularly on network access and pricing.

The Naval Base idea gets the attention because it is novel and outrageous. But it will be a long time in the future before it comes to pass. The IMF idea and the telecoms super-regulator are equally outrageous, but so technical and boring are they that they will be given little attention – even of they are also just as dangerous.

Thus, while we each focus on our own pre-occupations, the EU marches on unabated, watched by the likes of the invaluable Open Europe which each day brings us a fraction of the torrent.

It is difficult enough keeping track of what our puppet government is doing. With a supreme government over in Brussels, dipping its oar into virtually every aspect of our lives, it is impossible to pick up everything.

And that is another reason why we have to get out of the EU. The sheer scale of the operation and its interests defy any effective monitoring. Every time you turn your back, it comes out with another "daft" idea... and most of them get implemented.