Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Well done Ireland

Friday's result of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty brings warmth to the very soul of TheFatBigot.

I start from a simple premise, namely, that self-determination is the bedrock of a stable society.
Self-determination means: (i) the people being able to choose those who govern them, (ii) the people being able to change the government without recourse to the use of force and (iii) the government being able to change laws with a view to improving the lot of the people. Without (i) you can't have (ii), without (ii) (i) can only happen once, without (iii) both (i) and (ii) would be a complete waste of time and a failure of the changes made under point (iii) results in both (ii) and (i).

Self-determination breeds stability, encourages civilised discourse and provides an incentive for government to act in the interests of the people. In the United Kingdom we have a long and proud record of stability based, in no small measure, on the knowledge that even the most incompetent and stale government can be removed by popular vote after a short period of time. But changing the government is a futile exercise if the government itself is denuded of power.

Therein lies the problem I have with the so-called "European Project". I cannot state with unerring accuracy what the European Project is because those in charge of it never tell us of their "big picture". But I can say what the European Project has done to date and from that draw my own conclusion as to what the big picture must be. In doing so I adopt a simple but compelling principle, namely that you can tell what someone intends by looking at what he does. If someone holds a loaded shotgun to another's head and pulls the trigger I will conclude that he intended to cause that person's death. Death is the most likely consequence of the action and in the absence of a compelling alternative explanation it must be concluded that the intention behind the action was to kill.

It seems to be the case that some 80% of new laws introduced in the UK are the result of binding EU requirements. Every year there seem to be more and more EU Directives which must be made law in the UK because our obligation under existing treaties is to introduce them. They might be beneficial, they might be detrimental, they might be neutral, but we have no choice but to introduce them. Our government and Parliament are powerless to stop them. Self-determination has been curtailed to a huge degree.

As I understand it, ratification of the Lisbon Treaty would lead to yet further areas of decision-making being passed from Westminster to Brussels and Strasbourg. It is a prospect I find unacceptable.

Debate on this issue often gets side-lined into two irrelevant but highly emotive backwaters.

First, complaints are made about corruption and a snouts-in-the-trough culture which appear to prevail in the EU institutions. It is asserted that we should not be involved in something so corrupt. Reprehensible though such matters are they are symptom of the problem not the cause. Because the EU is answerable to no one it is perhaps inevitable that bad practices will arise and may become entrenched, but the problem comes from the lack of accountability. The absence of the essential elements of self-determination is the problem not the corruption itself.

Secondly, examples are given of beneficial laws which have been been made by the EU and it is argued that we would miss out on such provisions if the EU did not have prescriptive powers. That is a herring of the brightest scarlet. There is no reason at all why there should not be inter-governmental discussions on all sorts of areas of policy with a view to ideas being shared. Something which appears to a national government to be beneficial to its country can then be adopted and time will tell whether it is in fact a sound policy. The same policy might do great damage elsewhere because circumstances are different. The requirement for uniformity might result in that policy being adopted everywhere, in which case the second country would suffer, or rejected everywhere in which case the first country would miss out on a good opportunity for improvement. It is a lose-lose situation. Far better that ideas are discussed and each country chooses what it adopts and what it rejects.

But I want to concentrate on the central question, that of the EU's big picture because I fear that it is the abolition of self-determination for all 27 countries within its realm. This might seem like scare-mongering overstatement, but I would suggest that it is the inevitable consequence of taking more and more powers from national governments and giving them to the central EU bodies. If you prevent national governments from being able to make a radical change of course by leaving them with just a rump of residual powers you remove from the people the power to choose a change of course for their country.

Margaret Thatcher changed the course of the UK but could do so only because sufficient Conservative MPs were elected by the people of the country to form a Parliamentary majority. Some think her change of course was a good thing, some are indifferent, some think it was detrimental but all recognise it was legitimate because it was the result of a free election, a result of the right of self-determination. Had it been imposed from outside without a vote it would have had no legitimacy and the stability of the country would have been threatened.

Whether there will come a time when the EU's big picture will take all significant powers from national governments remains to be seen, but we would be a step closer if the Lisbon Treaty were adopted and a step further away from being able to reverse the change.

Those on the right see the European Project as a Marxist plot, those on the left see it as entrenching capitalism. Both see it as something which dilutes or removes the power of people to choose their own government and breaks the crucial bond between government and the people which is at the heart of self-determination.

Will we ever see EU Commissioners being forced into a corner by Jeremy Paxman, made to squirm by a Question Time audience or having to stand up and justify their decisions in a Parliamentary debate as our senior ministers are? I do not know, but I doubt it, and even if they were would such an experience affect their position? Would it put their career at risk? Would it make them have to think again and possibly make a u-turn in the face of overwhelmingly hostile public opinion? As things stand at the moment there would be no adverse consequences for them at all, they could just carry on regardless.

We abandon self-determination at our peril.

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