Tuesday, 2 September 2003

A JOURNEY TO THE ROTTEN HEART OF EUROPE


I want to take you to the heart of Europe – the rotten heart, as Bernard Connolly has it. Come with me, as a 1960s prequel to a feature film might say, to sunny Strasbourg, the seat of the European Parliament.

How I do wish you were here. Glamorous though our jet-setting lives are supposed to be, I am always deeply dispirited as my colleagues and I, at vast cost, gather there every fourth week, supposedly in the service of democracy. Whilst there, I grow still more dispirited as I am asked to vote on literally hundreds upon hundreds of amendments to the directives and regulations which drive the EU “project”. Every last – and every least – one of these may drive a hardworking and honest man or woman out of business, may break up a family, may even cost someone his life.

Come with me; give me a hand, in performing the literally impossible task, which confronts me if I am to do my job responsibly. We start with a draft agenda, soon to be replaced with the final draft agenda. All too often the two bear little relation to one another, less still to the directives, which were discussed months ago in committee in Brussels.

Help my staff as they gather the reports on the draft directives, the draft regulations, the motions for resolution and all the other business, which it is our duty to debate and decide upon. There is a great deal of reading, and it is dismal stuff.

Such is the volume of material that, with the best will in the world, it would take a team far larger than we can muster to do each report justice. We strive to become expert at filleting the material. This is a risky business. If we make mistakes I would feel so sorry for those whom I may unwittingly have betrayed. I must trust you, therefore, to produce a summary, which is, at least in the broad sense accurate. Then, we move on to the next stage in the process. We attend a meeting of our political group to conclude negotiations – started the previous week – as to how much speaking time we will be allotted. The time available is allocated according to the size of the group. Since our group is the smallest, we generally get between 7-10 minutes per day, to be carved up amongst 16 MEPs. If we are very, very lucky, my colleague Nigel Farage and I may be allowed two speaking sessions, each of 90 seconds duration during the week.

And the timing is absolute. Run over that time by a few seconds and the gavel is knocking, the microphone is switched off. Interpretation ceases. I could be talking about the fate of British farmers, but you would see me talking into the void whilst the so-called “debate” moves on to another harried Member.

Eloquence and ardour count for nothing in the European Union. Burke, Canning and Pitt would have remained impotent there. No-one, so far as I can see, even listens to our submissions save the expert interpreters. And here we are talking about the fundamental freedoms of millions of people.

So we go through this charade, this parody of democratic process, and now come the votes. Now and only now does the chamber fill up, often to near capacity. MEP after MEP takes his or her numbered seat, placing their smart cards in their electronic voting machine terminals. Such devotion to duty is admirable, except that, should the members not be there, their daily allowance will be docked 50%. Should they not meet their other attendance target then their secretarial allowance will be halved also. In little more than an hour in that hemicycle, we may be required to cast 200 votes or more – one vote approximately every 20 seconds – each having a direct effect on the lives of hundreds, sometimes millions of people, led by a bored so-called president who sits at the front, for all the world like a weary teller in some huge bingo hall.

The larger groups sometimes have their version of tic-tac men, who engage in baroque theatricals, holding their arms aloft, thumbs up or down, to tell their members how to vote. At irregular intervals, there are roll call votes. These are cast electronically and the results displayed on a giant screen with an animated picture of a hand putting a slip into a ballot box. Seconds later, after the president has declared the vote closed, the result will flash up on the screen and it is on to the next vote. As soon as the voting is done the chamber empties faster than a cinema on fire. Remember: In this parliament there are no private members bills. Not a single measure originates in the parliament. Every directive and regulation is written by the commission, passes through this charade and becomes European Law.

That it should become law is preordained. Even if the assembly, struck by some aberration, decide to vote against, it would make no difference. The measure would then go through an additional procedure called “conciliation” where the vote can be overturned and the original reinstated.

A defining moment for me was having to vote on the 3rd reading of the EU’s Late Payment Directive. The 1st and 2nd readings had taken place before June 1999, when we were elected. It was a different Parliament voting on the directive, but that made no difference. Unlike in the British Parliament, EU measures do not fall with the dissolution of the EU Parliament. The machine grinds on regardless of its members, spewing out directives and regulations. This perhaps, above all, brought home to me the nature of my role in the Parliament. Individual MEPs are not an essential, or even an important, part of the project. We are interchangeable bit-part actors, spear carriers, participating in a mockery of parliamentary process. Oratory plays no part. Reason plays no part. Conviction plays no part.

Our votes cannot check a directive. We are there merely to furnish the illusion of democracy, providing a veneer to conceal what is a fundamentally undemocratic process. The cast may change, but the show always goes on, with the actors collecting their wages from the stage door and dashing off for a self-congratulatory drink after the show.

Naively, when my colleagues and I were elected, we thought that we were moving centre stage, to the heart of the whole project where we could acquire information as to what the EU was up to and inform our electorates who were otherwise starved of news from the front. Far from being at the centre of things, the European parliament is a cul-de-sac. Where information is concerned, we’re at the very bottom of the food chain, thrown the scraps once the Commission, the media and national politicians have gnawed all the meat from the bones. This is why so few journalists attend parliament or report its doings. Like us, they’ve learned that the power, and the action, lie elsewhere. I would like you to consider the constitutional system which I have described to you, but this time substituting the word “King” for the word “Commission”. The king drafts all laws, allows no debate and forces through laws when there is any objection.

Parliament is never dissolved. As Sir John Fortescue said, “That which pleaseth the prince hath the force of law”. We in Britain fought a bloody civil war and killed a monarch to be rid of such a system and to construct the delicate set of checks and balances which is the model for the world’s democratic parliaments. Now we have rendered our Parliament subject to an absolute monarch once more, and it is not even British.

For all the information we have gleaned from either Brussels or Strasbourg we are indebted to our expert research staff and what we have learned is deeply disturbing. Forget, for the moment , the headline issues of which we are all aware. Forget even the forthcoming Treaty of Nice, at which European integration is to be pushed still further without mandate of the British people. Forget the incredible shrinking euro, down 25% of its launch value against the dollar. Forget the arguments as to whether Britain should join the single currency – I say “arguments”, inverted commas! Come to think of it, I have never heard an argument for Britain joining the single currency, but anyhow, leave that aside.

What we are uncovering is much more important because it is insidious, covert and unseen and whatever is insidious, covert and unseen in the process of government is of its nature undemocratic. This is what we have come to know as “creeping integration”, the slow but relentless absorption of our institutions, customs and freedoms, ignored by the media and concealed from the public. For example, we looked into the government’s flagship policy of creating the Food Standards Agency. Whilst the leading members and beneficiaries of that toothless quango postured in front of the television cameras, behind the scenes – and with our government’s full knowledge – the EU Commission was preparing its own plans for the complete take-over of the UK’s food safety policy.

In January of this year, Commissioner Byrne announced his White Paper containing proposals for 87 new safety laws. Having prepared the ground in July he announced – and I quote – “the most radical shake-up for 25 years of the Community’s food hygiene rules”. Significantly, this “shake-up” takes the form of proposed Regulations which take effect the moment they are passed in Brussels, as opposed to a Directive, which must be passed into law by each member state before it takes place.

This is a tactic which is proving wearisome, yet amounts to nothing less than the deliberate deception of the electorate. The same trick was pulled with the Human Rights Act. What could possibly be wrong with the law enshrining the European Convention on Human Rights, to which we had signed up for fifty years? It was enacted within twenty four hours. Tony Blair stated that he had no objection to the European Charter of Human Rights, on the grounds that it contained no provisions which we did not have already. And anyhow he said, this was only a “showcase”, and not legally binding. This, it later turned out, was untrue, but by then the public had been lulled into accepting an iniquitous law which, in the name of “rights”, tramples on fundamental freedoms, and affords the European Commission the right to deny freedom of speech, movement and creed – and even the right to life – to those acting against the interest of the EU.

Unheralded by the media, in July of this year, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the UK – or, I should say, a person purporting to represent the UK – signed a legally binding agreement whereby our entire arms industry came under the control of the EU. A complete inventory of our military ordinance is now available to all member states. A common European list of military equipment is currently being compiled as a cornerstone in the development of a common defence policy. I recall that the British people voted for a Common Market. I have no recollection of our voting for a Common Defence Policy with Germany, France and in time, the countries of Eastern Europe. Procurement of military equipment is being determined on political, rather than operational, criteria. One such project is of course, the doomed and outdated “Eurofighter”.

This aircraft was given the up-to-speed, modern, cutting-edge name, “Eurofighter 2000″. Unfortunately, it was realised that it would not see service until 2005 at the earliest, by which time that name might not have quite the same immediacy. The 2000 was quietly dropped. Delays caused by technical difficulties, budgetary constraints and bureaucratic wrangles have increased costs, initially estimated at £20billion to nearer £60billion, with our contribution rising from £7billion to nearly £20billion. This over-run has created serious defence budget problems and is draining money from other, more pressing needs, so British armed forces are clamouring for equipment whilst the money hemorrhages unstoppably into “Eurofighter”.

What of the FBI-style Europol, the armed EU police force which, it is proposed, will control and put down civil unrest anywhere within the “Single Judicial Area”, and whose members will enjoy lifelong immunity from prosecution? What of them indeed? Their formation, training, arming and policies and those of the 60,000 strong rapid reaction force, are the subject of a draconian blanket secrecy law which was imposed by “written procedure” and so was not even subject to the parody of debate which I’ve described.

How many people are even aware that plans are already well advanced for establishing a European Police College, to train our senior police officers in policing in the European way. How many people are aware that the EU is also establishing a college for diplomats, preparatory to opening its own embassies? It already has its own civil service college, the European Institute for Public Administration. Whose mission is – and I quote – “to support the practical management of European integration”, to which end, it is linked with all the other institutes of public administration in the Union, including our own British Civil Service College, which trains all our senior civil servants.

Not content with suborning the independence of our civil servants, diplomats and police, rest assured that academia has not been ignored. In our universities, the EU controls at least 600 million pounds worth of research, employing some ten to fifteen thousand academics and now plans a “European Research Area” to bring the bulk of UK research under Commission control.

Predictably, influence is particularly strong in the areas of economics, political studies, European studies and modern languages. In these areas, 300 academics, including 86 professors, are on the EU payroll, running Jean Monnet courses at our universities. These have the stated purpose of teaching European integration. “Teaching” is not a word which can accurately be applied to a contentious policy. Teaching imparts true and verifiable knowledge. In the guise of teachers, these people are, more correctly, proselytising or, in blunt terms issuing propaganda. There are 101 Jean Monnet chairs in Great Britain, brainwashing some 250,000 students every year.

Creeping integration is everywhere we look. The most intimate details of our lives, from condoms and sanitary towels to buses and bridges, are being standardised by CEN, the European Committee for Standardisation, which imposes its Single European Standards on virtually every sphere of activity. Europhiles scoff at “straight banana” stories. Only last month, we received a petition from British organic farmers whose cucumbers failed to meet the exacting standards of curvature required by CEN. Regionalisation – another name for the well-known policy of “divide and rule” is already well underway, with regional assemblies imposing another tier of government on our over regulated people and undermining the supremacy of Parliament and the national identity of the British people.

What does all this amount to? It amounts to the simple fact that we are not only in Europe, but increasingly ruled by Europe, without our people ever having voted for the ceding of a single power or freedom. It amounts to the self-evident fact that, since this has happened without public mandate, then the very fact of being in the EU means that the highly sophisticated and covert movement towards integration will continue at ever increasing speed.

Our administrative structures, industrial, research and academic institutions, and our freedoms under entrenched common law, are being absorbed right under our noses – in the electorate’s case in ignorance, in the politicians’ case, in full knowledge and with their connivance. And we must ask ourselves this question: if the process of integration is above board and democratic, why must it be done by subterfuge rather than in the open light of day?

The Bible offers just one explanation, but it cannot be right, can it? “Men loved darkness rather than light” says John, “because their deeds were evil.” So William Hague wants to “draw a line in the sand”. So did King Canute. The tide just kept right on rolling in.

Jeffrey Titford

Jeffrey Titford ME,, Leader of the UK Independence Party, addressed the Bruges Group at Kings College London on 4 November 2000. This was published in the December 2000 issue of Sovereignty

Lines in the sand will not stop you being engulfed by the inexorable tide and lost forever in the misty deeps of the European Union.