Tuesday, January 25, 2005

So who are the masters now?

Proclaims the main front-page headline of The Daily Telegraph: "Brussels: We’ll halt Howard’s curb on migrants". How gratifying it is to have confirmed on the front page of the Telegraph today who is really in charge of this country.

The EU commission, we are told, has "threatened" to block Michael Howard’s "tough immigration controls" if the Tories win the election. This really brings home the realities of power in this our former independent nation state.

"Brussels" has declared that a raft of directives already signed commit the UK to conforming with EU policy and, in particular, prevent it from withdrawing from the 1951 United Nations Convention on refugees.

What is specially significant is the comment that, "Europe’s intervention in what has become a major issue in the election campaign took Westminster aback. MPs and officials were unaware of how much national sovereignty on immigration and asylum had been transferred to Brussels".

That is a staggering statement and it takes David Rennie in a page 9 "analysis" to explain what has happened. "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?", Rennie asks.

The chilling response to his own rhetorical question is: "…bit by bit, without great public controversy and with the full agreement of British officials led largely by David Blunkett".

That is the way the system works, right across the board… bit by bit. A steady stream of measures, each of them complex and obscure, building incrementally. The final destination is never declared openly and each measure is treated separately, until the project is complete, and the trap springs shut.

Apologists for the EU will claim that the member states have approved the measures, so this is not "Brussels" imposing the measures. It is simply "sovereign nation states co-operating together".

But what this demonstrates is that a group of officials and one minister can effectively work together to take over the agenda without the bulk of MPs or officials being aware of what is going on.

This, in part, has to be a reflection of the reluctance of the Conservative Party to confront the dreaded "E" word, which means that the issues have gone largely undiscussed. Now, to coin a phrase, chickens are coming home to roost.

But what is really going to set the political agenda on fire is that simple statement by Rennie: "…it is already too late for Michael Howard to throw the process into reverse, even if he is elected prime minister". The commission is making it very clear that it is now the master – the general election is an irrelevance.

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