|Tuesday, 29 April 2008||
It’s not the slyness that shocks; it’s the brazenness. Two months ago, an internal report revealed gross irregularities, even outright criminality, in MEPs’ staff allowances. Now, MEPs have voted to forbid publication of that report.
The sums involved are substantial: more than Â£160,000 a year. This moolah is not given directly to Euro-MPs; instead, each member nominates a paying agent to disburse it for him.
In theory, this agent should be a qualified accountant, who will assume responsibility for staff payroll issues. But in practice, there is nothing to stop you nominating your wife. Or a front company. Or a friend who will split the loot with you.
Has this been happening? We’ll never know now, but we can get a pretty good idea from the comments of the Euro-official in charge: “We want reform,” he said, “but we cannot make this report available to the public if we want people to vote in the European elections next year.”
Ponder that sentence and you will see that it encapsulates the entire philosophy of the European Union.
For five decades, Brussels has proceeded by stealth, quietly annexing new policies and then, often years later, regularising these annexations in treaties.
Arguments were conducted in corridors, never at election campaigns. People were kept in the dark about the extent to which their national parliaments were being filleted.
Only once did the EU abandon its secrecy: in 2004, the European Constitution was drafted in impeccably plain language – and was duly rejected by 55 per cent of French voters and 62 per cent of Dutch voters.
Immediately, Eurocrats went back to the tried-and-tested Monnet method: never reveal more than absolutely necessary; never let in the daylight; above all, never draw up your phalanxes and offer pitched battle. Instead, seize territory house by house, field by field. You’ve got to hand it to them: it has worked.
By Danial Hannan
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