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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

On the reform treaty and a referendum (again)

The European Parliament last weekend

So, the deal’s been done – and it would be rather amiss of a blog focussing on European politics not to have another quick look, even though we’ve all known this was pretty much inevitable for months now. The only real wildcard was Poland – once they got placated, nothing was going to be allowed to get in the way. So now the only question is will the people of Europe (by which I mean us dear Brits) kick up enough of a fuss before the formal signing to throw a final spanner in the works of a treaty that’s been almost a decade in the making? (The reform treaty, after all, is designed to rectify the self same problems that 2001′s Treaty of Nice was originally supposed to solve…)

Matthew Parris gets it pretty much spot on on the whole issue of a UK referendum. He’s very good indeed on why suggesting a referendum in the first place was a fundamentally silly and unnecessary idea (like many of those from the government over the last decade, in fact), before going on:

“it’s my belief that though you can get some of the British angry about constitutional questions for some of the time, and a few of them angry for most of the time, you will never get many of them angry for much of the time. We are not hugely interested in constitutions. That’s why we don’t have one. We tend to drift away from arguments about abstract reasoning.”

A very vocal minority of EU-sceptics would have us believe that ordinary men and women on the street genuinely care about loss of sovereignty, or about being called “citizens” as well as “subjects”. Yet the vast majority simply don’t care.

What most people care about is how much money they’ve got in the bank, not strange arguments about whether decisions are best taken at a national or European level – because most people have just about as much connection to and understanding of what goes on in Westminster and Whitehall as they do the workings of the EU. (Plus, if you start getting het up about Brussels passing laws without sufficient scrutiny, sooner or later you’re going to have to face the fact that this happens in Westminster far more often than in Brussels. If you start arguing that the EU is too far removed from the people of Britain to take decisions for them, you’ll end up with people in Yorkshire or Cornwall asking why a bunch of people in London should have a say over their lives.)

As Parris notes, you ask people if they want a say, they’ll say yes whether they really care or know about an issue or not. That’s where the support for the referendum has come from. But now that the reform treaty is a done deal, the momentum will fade. If Gordon can last out to the formal signing next year, public interest will have drooped so significantly that everyone will instead be wondering what all the fuss was about. As Mark Mardell points out, Brown “calculates that while the Conservatives’ charge that he doesn’t trust the people may do some short-term damage, it’s unlikely to still be hurting him come the time for an election”.

And so the EU project continues its sluggish reform. Because despite the whoops and yells from the usual suspects, the reform treaty if anything reduces the EU’s ability to further integrate. Yes, qualified majority voting is extended in some areas, but so is the ability of the European Parliament – and national parliaments – to influence legislation, and – for the first time – it brings in ways for member states to actually leave the union. The proverbial six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Because, you see, that’s what happens when you try and get a compromise between 27 different interest groups on a document designed in committee – the end result is bland and uninspiring, with little of any real substance or radicalism about it. Which is precisely why opponents of the EU have had to shift the argument on to the referendum issue – a simpler, easier to understand issue on which everyone thinks they know what they’re talking about, and about which it’s a lot easier to get excited than a massively long legal text that hardly anyone really understands, and that’s deliberately so vague it can be interpreted in any number of ways.

(Apologies for the lack of posts here of late – they’ve all been going up at dliberation, where I’ve spent the last few days trying to do statistical analysis to work out the representativeness of the Tomorrow’s Europe poll, and increasingly coming to the opinion that the EU will never and probably should never be a democracy… On which more, no doubt, later…)

28 Comments

  1. You are deliberately missing the point.

    It is not about what the people think or if a referendum is silly and unnecessary.

    The point is that the Labour party made a manifesto promise to hold a referendum.

    The constitution and treaty are the same.

    Therefore the gov’t should stick to their manifesto promise.

    The public will not forget such deliberate mendaciousness

  2. Not deliberately in the slightest, because the point you think is significant I genuinely don’t. Breaking manifesto pledges is, after all, nothing new (remember university tuition fees?). My interest in the referendum issue is largely constitutional. Because to hold a referendum on the reform treaty undermines the sovereignty of parliament just as much as does giving the EU more powers. And no matter what the people of Britain may think, the people are not sovereign, parliament is.

    (Please note, as an irrelevant aside: I hold no brief for Labour, am not a member of the party, never have been, and have never voted for them in a general election. However, they are technically correct. They promised a referendum on the constitutional treaty, not the reform treaty. While the reform treaty may be largely the same (estimates of 90-95% seem fair to me, having read both), no one claims it is 100% the same, and in legal terms it is indeed significantly different. To most people it may seem like semantics, and that is entirely understandable, but there is a definite distinction which lets Labour off the hook on the election pledge issue.)

  3. Sickening elitist crap. You dismiss the people of this country as not caring, and being too stupid to understand, to excuse yourself and your fellow EU-cheerleaders from having to try and win the arguments.

  4. Not really, Mr Thompson. I’m merely pointing out that elections are rarely won or lost over issues other than the fundamentals. (It’s the economy, stupid, and all that). And that Westminster is just as undemocratic and just as illogical a place for political power to lie as is Brussels.

    The major point, however, is this: if people actually cared about things other than the basics of how well off they are, Labour would have been booted out at the last election over the Iraq war business. Pretty much everyone in the country thinks they were wrong over that – but not enough to prevent them returning to power.

    Same deal with the EU – if it was such a fundamentally important issue to the people of Britain, the Tories would have done a lot better at the 2001 general election when doing their whole europhobe thing, and would have lost the 1992 general election, just a couple of months after signing up to Maastricht. They didn’t. Nor has the EU played a significant part in swinging any general election. Because people don’t know or care enough about it.

  5. It’s good to see you’re showing your true colours. I suggest you change the name of your blog to “Let them eat cake.”

  6. I’m not sure quite what you mean, old boy. You think x is important, I think x is a fringe issue. The results of the last few elections tends to back up my take.

    I’m not arguing that the people should be denied a say, as you appear to think, but that representative democracy’s doing fine without vocal pressure groups being allowed to separate off their pet issues for special treatment.

  7. “I’m not arguing that the people should be denied a say”, but you are against the referendum we were promised.

    The key to understanding this apparent paradox is to realise it hinges on the phrase “I’m not arguing” – because as you explain above, there’s no point arguing with the dumb masses who don’t know or care enough, and you don’t think the EU should be democratic anyway (see above: “the EU will never and probably should never be a democracy”).

    You also say “representative democracy’s doing fine”, but elsewhere that “Westminster is just as undemocratic and just as illogical a place for political power to lie as is Brussels”.

    As I say, it’s very clear what you really think about the people and how we should be governed.

  8. OK, I’ll try to make it as explicit as possible, albeit in no particular order:

    1) Critics of the EU rightly point out the many problems the EU system has, while seemingly ignoring the fact that the self-same problems exist in Westminster – I find that somewhat bizarre (though that was merely an aside in this case, and irrelevant to the main point).

    2) If you accept representative democracy (which I do, despite its flaws), you accept that it is for parliament to decide – and in the UK it is parliament, not the people, that is sovereign (the people, despite what some may think, have NEVER been sovereign in the UK).

    3) If you don’t accept representative democracy, as is the case with anyone advocating a referendum, then why not? The case for direct democracy has not been made sufficiently strongly – especially as the British system works off precedent, and there is no precedent for a referendum in this kind of situation.

    4) In addition, if you advocate direct democracy on this issue, what precedents could that set? How many more referenda will have to be held on how many other issues, and what will that do to the power of parliament? A referendum is, potentially, just as dangerous in terms of Britain’s sovereignty (which, as noted, means the sovereignty of parliament) as transferring powers to the EU. It could, potentially, spark a fundamental change in the British political system unlike any seen since the growth of the power of parliament in the 17th/18th centuries.

    5) Manifesto pledges are not binding, despite what people may think. This one is open to dispute anyway, and, again, under the current system it is for parliament to decide – if the people care enough about the promise being broken, they can vote Labour out at the next election, as that’s how representative democracy works.

    6) I’m therefore against a referendum primarily because referenda have no place in the British constitution – the fact that one was promised is neither here nor there.

    7) In addition, referenda are never as clear-cut as their advocates may think (cf. the responses to the results of the 1975 referendum in the UK and the 2005 referenda in France and the Netherlands, where the meanings of the results have been repeatedly disputed by the losing sides).

    8) It is simply a fact that the reform treaty is too complex to understand – otherwise there wouldn’t be so many arguments about its significance. If even specialists in EU law can’t agree, it’s surely not elitist to say that the average man/woman in the street is going to have a tough time understanding it?

    - For the record, as France and the Netherlands held referenda on the old Constitution, I do think that they should also hold votes on the reform treaty, as it is indeed very similar – the decision not to is decidedly dodgy, and one with which I do not agree in the slightest. My objection to a referendum for the UK is, as noted above, purely because referenda have no place in the British constitution, not because of what the result may be.

  9. Taking the last point first, you will no doubt know what Giscard said about it, namely that the document was made complicated in order to prevent discussion. Contrary to what you say, there are not many arguments about its significance. There is the obvious truth, and there are those that refute this because they don’t want a referendum, fearing that they will lose.

    Manifesto pledges are contractual, and although you are right that the only way of punishing the betrayal is through the ballot box, usually years after the event, this doesn’t work when all major parties are run by people with the same pro-EU position. It is the job of the people to remind the political class of their obligations, which is what I and many others are doing by demanding a referendum.

    What you call representative democracy is neither representative nor particularly democratic as is seen in this case, merely a means to soothe ‘the many-headed monster’ into apathy.

    Your argument that “a referendum is, potentially, just as dangerous in terms of Britain’s sovereignty” is disingenuous, as I’m sure you’re against Britain as a sovereign nation state, and I’ll go looking for the quotes if you dispute it. You say above that power in Westminster is just as undemocratic and illogical as power in Brussels, which reveals the underlying attitude, namely Britain is not particularly democratic, so why complain when what little accountability there exists disappears on the Eurostar.

    Arguing about precedent and the British constitution are dodgy to say the least, when you consider that every key part of it was due to unprecedented events, such as Magna Carta, the Civil War and the Glorious Revolution. Besides, there have been referenda in the past.

    I guess you’re right that direct democracy could be a Pandora’s box, certainly from the point of view of the political class and the mandarins of Brussels it would be.

    In summary, I believe in the sovereignty of the people, which derives from the sovereignty of the individual. You say this is not the case, but for me it is a self-evident truth, and throughout history you find the struggle of this idea against tyranny. The battle can never be won forever, which is why freedom requires vigilance.

  10. Just a few points:

    “There is the obvious truth”
    - Would that be the obvious truth that the reform treaty for the first time provides procedures by which a member state can leave the EU? Or that the power of the European Parliament will be greatly increased? There’s nothing obvious at all about such a lengthy and complex document. If there were, there wouldn’t be so many arguments about it.

    “I’m sure you’re against Britain as a sovereign nation state”
    - You are right that I see no logical justification for sovereignty being held at a national level. But that’s irrelevant in this case, because I’m not the one saying that sovereignty is an issue, the people arguing against the reform treaty are. I’m merely suggesting that the referendum solution is just as damaging to sovereignty in the sense it has traditionally been understood in Britain as would be signing up to the new treaty – if not more so.

    “there have been referenda in the past.”
    - Yep – but none have been legally binding, and there haven’t been enough to count as precedents just yet. There have, however, been more in the last ten years than ever before – so they are dangerously close to becoming such regular events that they could be claimed to be part of the constitutional conventions of government. You’re obviously right that the constitution relies on precedents which, by their very nature, had no precedent when they were set. My worry is that referenda are potentially far too radical a shift in the British system of government to risk allowing them to gain a constitutional position.

    “I guess you’re right that direct democracy could be a Pandora’s box”
    - Indeed. Just look at the Swiss political system. Giving referenda a constitutional position would lead to the undermining of parliament and the power of the government. There is, obviously, a case to be made that such a move would be a good thing. But it’s not something to stumble into by accident – the potential consequences of a referendum are far, far wider-reaching than merely stopping one EU treaty, and should be carefully considered before several hundred years’ worth of political tradition is jettisoned over a mere short-term dispute. As opponents of the reform treaty so frequently claim to be defenders of Britain’s constitution and traditions, I’m always amazed that they’re so willing to do such damage to that self-same constitution in the process.

    “I believe in the sovereignty of the people”
    - Good for you, and I tend to agree. But the sovereignty of the people is not a concept ingrained in the working of the British constitution, nor has it ever been – it has always been couched in terms of the sovereignty of parliament. That’s the point. You may believe in the sovereignty of the individual, but constitutional law does not – why else do you think both Labour and the Conservatives have been so keen to gain opt-outs from the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which would have ingrained the concept of individual rights and liberties above and beyond the power of parliament for the first time in British history?

    And that – as I’ve argued before (I’ll dig out the link sometime if I remember) – is the major reason I’m in favour membership of international organisations like the EU and UN. For the first time, parliament’s power is restrained. For the first time, individuals within the UK have rights as individuals. Without such checks beyond the boundaries of the nation state, the British parliament can pass any laws it likes, and do what it likes to the people of Britain. But the current checks and balances are not enough, which is how habeas corpus can end up suspended and free speech banned around parliament. We need stronger checks against the abuse of parliamentary power, and – thanks to the nature of the British constitution – those checks cannot be provided within the confines of the nation state.

  11. Thank for disputing this with me. You obviously don’t have to take the time.

    Where to start?

    “For the first time, individuals within the UK have rights as individuals.”

    Utterly wrong. Magna Carta forced the king to accept such rights already existed. This took place before any parliament had met.

    “There’s nothing obvious at all about such a lengthy and complex document.”

    You’re talking about whether the document is good or not, and due to the decision to write it as incomprehensibly as possible, this may be open to debate. The obvious truth that I refer to is that it is 90% -99% the same as the constitution, acknowledged by a legion of European politicians. That being the case, the promise of the referendum still applies.

    “I’m in favour membership of international organisations like the EU and UN. For the first time, parliament’s power is restrained”

    Right, so you see the problem of unrestrained power residing in parliament? Agreed. The solution is to allow the people to restrain that power through democratic means, such as referenda, but instead you prefer to give the restraining power to unelected, unaccountable, foreign institutions. This is an illustration of the philosophical fault-line between us. I believe in more power to the people, you want more power to the elite.

  12. “Magna Carta forced the king to accept such rights already existed”
    - No, that’s just the myth of Magna Carta, created by the Parliamentarians in the 17th century to justify their revolt against the king, and later used by the American revolutionaries for the same purpose. Magna Carta was a temporary peace treaty between a king and his rebellious nobles, which granted a few rights to those nobles (but not the people as a whole, most of whom, as serfs in a feudal system, had no rights at all). The reason it was claimed that the rights had always existed was to circumvent the problem of precedent. (I’ve written extensively on the myth of Magna Carta here before – see here, for example.)

    “That being the case, the promise of the referendum still applies.”
    - 90-95% sounds about right. But it is now a mere amending treaty, not a constitution. The constitution replaced all prior EU treaties, whereas this one merely changes / adds to them. That 5% is hugely significant. We had a referendum (after the fact) in 1975. The constitution arguably replaced the treaty to which we signed up, and on which the 1975 referendum was taken, so an argument could have been made that there should have been another. The reform treaty merely amends – as have numerous other treaties in the interim, without referenda being held. The question of the Labour manifesto pledge is significant regarding the trustworthiness of the government if you think they’ve been dishonest, but the reform treaty is – in terms of legal structure and significance – significantly different, even if it does change much the same things as the old constitution.

    “instead you prefer to give the restraining power to unelected, unaccountable, foreign institutions”
    - Foreign / external influence is vital. The fact they are unelected/unaccountable is neither here nor there (though I would prefer greater democracy and accountability, that’s a reform to push for at a later date – the important thing is to set up the principle). Ideally, the rest of the member states of such organisations – be it the UN, NATO, the Council of Europe or the EU – will act as a sufficient check. With checks and balances residing purely at the national level, the descent to totalitarianism is much easier – all that needs to happen is for the people to get tricked into voting for something fascistic one time, and it’s too late (a government with a sufficient majority in parliament could, after all, perfectly legally abolish elections). But allow checks at the supranational level, you’d (in theory) need every single member state to turn totalitarian before such a move would be allowed without repercussions.

  13. “No, that’s just the myth of Magna Carta, created by the Parliamentarians in the 17th century to justify their revolt against the king”

    I suppose Sir Edward Coke was another myth created by the Parliamentarians? There were laws in this country prior to the first parliament, Alfred the Great’s Book of Dome for instance.

    “…But it is now a mere amending treaty…”

    Round the mulberry bush, once again. Perhaps you recall, the constitution was described as ‘merely a tidying up exercise’. The descriptions given to it now by the EU-cheerleaders are completely at variance with what was said before the French and Dutch votes.

    Seeing as you’ve already succumbed to Godwin’s Law, and now bring up fascism and totalitarianism – talk about brass neck! You are against the democratic will of the people (the irrational mob, in your view), you are in favour of the end of national sovereignty, you support the EU and don’t believe it can or should be democratic. Unaccountable bureaucracy will not protect individual freedom. If anyone is greasing the skids of fascism, it is you.

  14. *sigh*

    Just when I thought we were getting somewhere…

    As I’ve just explained in the other thread where this debate’s been going on, and in the link about the Magna Carta myth in my previous comment on this thread (where I briefly note the influence of Coke), the reason I favour the EU is – as I’ve been repeatedly saying over the last 3+ years on this blog – that the nature of the British constitution means that it cannot guarantee any rights, hence the need for a level above that of the nation state. In fact, you could argue – as I have – that democratic systems cannot guarantee rights, because the people may always be convinced to vote to suspend them.

    I am not against democracy, but I am in favour of limiting its ability to impact on certain (very, very limited) areas – because history has time and again shown that the people can easily be stirred up against certain groups. As I hold it to be self-evident that all people are created equal, I want to limit the ability of a vote to remove the rights of minorities, which is all too easy in a democracy without a binding, inviolable constitution. (And even that isn’t much of a protection – just ask the African Americans.)

  15. “the nature of the British constitution means that it cannot guarantee any rights, hence the need for a level above that of the nation state”

    Wrong. It means we should change the British constitution to ensure that it does guarantee our rights, not abolish it and hand the power to Brussels.

    Under your thinking, why on earth should this level above the nation state guarantee any rights? Who’s going to ensure that it does, when it’s not accountable to anyone?

    “history has time and again shown that the people can easily be stirred up against certain groups”

    History teaches us that freedom is very rare, and that oligarchy and tyranny are the norm, and that freedom when it is achieved will quickly slip away, if it is not defended. The threat of the tyranny of the mob is guarded against, as you say, by guaranteeing individual liberty as the US constitution does, but this is not enough in itself, as you say, because rights must be exercised and vigilantly protected.

    Why on earth you imagine the brotherhood of Brussels to do any of this is a mystery.

  16. “It means we should change the British constitution to ensure that it does guarantee our rights”
    - That’s be lovely, but I cannot see any way in which we can do this. If parliament passes an Act saying that we now have fundamental rights, there’s no way to prevent a subsequent parliament saying that the act was unconstitutional and overturning it. If parliament votes to give up the principle of the sovereignty of parliament, that in itself can be overturned by a subsequent parliament as unconstitutional. It’s impossible to guarantee.

    “why on earth should this level above the nation state guarantee any rights? Who’s going to ensure that it does, when it’s not accountable to anyone?”
    - Safety in numbers. There’s not much in practice that an organisation of several member states can really do to prevent one of its members failing to uphold certain rights (which is why we’ve had the occasional state booted out of the Council of Europe for human rights abuses), but the threat of sanctions alone is more of a deterrent than anything that can be put together at the level of the nation state can achieve.

    I’m fully aware that there’s no way of guaranteeing rights at an international level, any more than there is at the national level. For me, however, the likelihood of all 27 members of the EU simultaneously deciding to do away with basic rights is far more remote than the government of one single member state trying to do the same thing. That, for me, makes guarantees of rights at an EU level more secure than at the national level.

    As I say, safety in numbers.

  17. Your opinion boils down to nothing more than an irrational faith in the EU.

    If a fox threatens your chickens, I say strengthen the chicken coop and watch out for the fox. Your solution is to bring in a wolf to guard the chickens. Finally, you say, the fox can be kept in check. But what about the wolf? What if he gets hungry?

  18. Erm… No. To use your analogy, I’m suggesting putting additional rings of fencing around the chicken coop to keep the fox out (the whole safety in numbers thing). By focusing on trying to ingrain these rights at purely a national level, however, your method would really be to replace the existing chicken coop with one that’s exactly the same, but that you keep insisting is stronger in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

  19. I don’t think you quite understand the analogy the way I intended it. Perhaps, like those ink blot pictures, we can learn something of our different psychologies.

    For me, the chickens are our rights and freedoms, the fox is the British state, the wolf is the EU.

  20. Erm… Yes – understood entirely. Only in my take, the EU becomes the extra rings of fencing protecting our rights and freedoms (chickens) from the British state (fox).

    I’m not sure how you got confused there…

  21. As I’ve said, you suffer from an irrational faith in the EU. You’re capable of seeing the flaws in the British constitution, but suddenly your powers of reason desert you. I point out the lack of accountability, the secrecy, the negation of democracy, and all you say is “yeah, but this amp goes up to 11.”**

    Fine, you can worship the state if you choose, and imagine that the faceless bureaucrats that will govern you and write your laws want only good things and can never do bad, and you can discipline your mind that the constitution and the amending treaty are totally different, even though they’re 95% the same, and 2+ 2 = 5.

    Not me.
    **(reference to “This is Spinal Tap”)

  22. Erm, again, no. I reckon that the British system is deeply flawed, but have frequently acknowledged that the EU has serious problems as well – so frequently, in fact, that a number of first-time visitors to this blog have mistaken me for a eurosceptic.

    On the particular issue of the potential danger of totalitarianism and state repression of the individual, I think the EU has better checks and balances than the British system purely because it necessitates getting 27 governments on board rather than just one.

    As for the state, I’m pretty certain that I despise the state even more than you do. My support for the EU is purely because of its potential to undermine the power of the state(s) and promote the rights of the individual. (Note: potential, not necessarily the current reality – although it is the EU that wants to grant us all inalienable rights, rights that both Labour and the Conservatives have rejected…)

    When it comes to the reform treaty, I think it’s a bad document and would quite likely vote against it given the chance, but am against a British referendum for all the various reasons specific to the nature of the British constitution that I’ve spent so much of today laying out. Labour promising one was both idiotic and dangerous (but then again, it was Blair in charge at the time, and he’s one of the most idiotic and dangerous Prime Ministers we’ve ever had), but just because they promised one in their manifesto doesn’t mean that they have to deliver. After all, if we were to tally up all the various broken election pledges of the last decade, we’d be here all night…

    So, the really, really short version?

    My opposition to a referendum has nothing much to do with my take on the EU, everything to do with my take on the British constitution – which I both deeply respect and truly fear.

  23. Man, it’s time for you to make your mind up, and deal with the glaring inconsistencies in your position – you’ll feel better for it!

    You cannot simultaneously despise the state and support the “European Project” – it’s one or the other.

    “I think the EU has better checks and balances than the British system purely because it necessitates getting 27 governments on board rather than just one.”

    You talk as if the EU operates only through the periodic inter-governmental conferences, in other words, as if the Commission and the myriad directories that infest Brussels are not there all the time, pumping out reams of rules and regs for the minutiae of our lives. It is not an inter-governmental organisation, it is supranational, and always has been.

    If people mistake you for a eurosceptic, it’s probably because your rational mind can see the massive problems with the EU, but then you retreat into hopeful daydreams of the EU’s ‘potential’ . Give it up! It ain’t gonna happen. Stop waiting for the EU to save us all, and take responsibility in your own hands.

    As for the British constitution, your respect is misplaced. Freedom doesn’t come from dusty documents, but from individuals exercising their rights.

  24. “You cannot simultaneously despise the state and support the “European Project” – it’s one or the other”
    - only if you see the European Project as heading towards a state-like system. Which I don’t. As the EEC/EU has evolved, the difficulties of a superstate have become increasingly apparent, and calls for subsidiarity have continually increased. I see the end result of the EU not as a state, but as an umbrella organisation with multiple spheres of co-operation and co-ordination, working on only those areas where the international level makes sense for a point of organisation.

    “You talk as if the EU operates only through the periodic inter-governmental conferences”
    - No, I talk as though the Council of the European Union was the most influential of the three main EU institutions, which it is. The Council appoints the Commission, the Council works closely with the Commission in preparing legislation, and the Council gets final say on all legislation.

    “It is not an inter-governmental organisation, it is supranational”
    - No, it’s supranational on some levels, intergovernmental in most others – hence the national vetoes. (And despite the extension of qualified majority voting under the new treaty, vetoes will remain in most areas – add to this the various opt-outs on offer, the power of supranational compulsion is fairly restrained.)

    “then you retreat into hopeful daydreams of the EU’s ‘potential’ . Give it up! It ain’t gonna happen.”
    - I’d say precisely the same about your hopes to reform the British constitution to protect rights and liberties…

    “Freedom doesn’t come from dusty documents, but from individuals exercising their rights”
    - Very true. But you need enough individuals to exercise their rights to ensure that those rights are maintained. The last time enough people cared sufficiently to assert their (perceived) rights in Britain was nearly four centuries ago, and it ended in civil war. Some efforts to claim rights – like the Suffragettes – have succeeded. But most others – the Chartists spring to mind – have ended in a swift put down.

    But the current shift towards restricting rights and liberties – be it proposing ID cards, banning demonstrations within a mile of parliament, or suspending habeas corpus for terrorist suspects – has met with little more than small-scale protest that can be easily ignored, and that barely registers with the majority of the population. When even a march of 1 million people can be ignored by the government, and when opposition to ID cards only began to spread beyond civil liberties obsessives when it looked like they were going to cost a lot of money, what hope is there? By the time rights and liberties have been sufficiently eroded for a majority of the population to start to notice, it is too late.

  25. “calls for subsidiarity have continually increased”

    Sure. It’s called divide and rule. It means regional organisations standing in a line with their begging bowls. Of course the central power indulges this. The threat to the central power and to the globalists is the nation state. You buy into this anti-nation state agenda, but I fear you don’t realise why the globalists support it.

    “little more than small-scale protest that can be easily ignored”

    It is always the case that small, active minorities make change. Do you think the New Model Army was a majority movement? Or the American revolutionaries? Or, for that matter, the Nazis or the Bolsheviks?

    “your hopes to reform the British constitution to protect rights and liberties”

    I haven’t said this. Actually, I’d like to see England (and Scotland) independent. It’s what I believe to be a righteous cause, and I have hopes in that, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen straight away.

    “ID cards, banning demonstrations within a mile of parliament, or suspending habeas corpus for terrorist suspects”

    Pretty much bringing us into line with European norms. In any case, because your eyes are fixed on the future paradise, you will support such things if it will advance the European Project. So, you daren’t complain about Europol officers having immunity from prosecution, for instance, or the massive fraud and waste in the EU, or the ridiculous regulations that are imposed on this country, via the Vichy government in Westminster.

  26. “Pretty much bringing us into line with European norms”

    You see, now you’re just getting silly and allowing your rhetoric to run away with you – and from time to time I thought we were actually getting somewhere. “Vichy government in Westminster”? Next thing you’ll be referring to the EU as the EUSSR, the Labour party as ZaNu Labour, and spewing out the usual nonsense about how “European law doesn’t believe in the concept of being innocent until proven guilty”.

    In any case, your comment “you will support such things if it will advance the European Project” simply shows that you haven’t actually paid any attention to a single thing I’ve said.

    As such, I really can’t see the point in carrying this on any further.

  27. Are you suggesting that ID cards are not the norm in EU countries?

    Are you telling me habeas corpus is not an English legal concept? Does it exist in other countries?

    Vichy government is a metaphor, pointing to the fact that much of the EU agenda is implemented through government legislation …

    Oh sorry, I forgot, you’ve walked away from the argument, not wanting to dirty your hands, casting a few straw men (I’ve never used the term EUSSR, nor have I ever come across ZaNu Labour before).

  28. ID cards are fairly common, but not biometric ID. The Charter of Fundamental Rights (article 8) would also give us all a handy opt-out for biometric ID: “data must be processed fairly for specified purposes and on the basis of the consent of the person concerned”.

    And yes, of course habeas corpus exists in other countries – it’s one of the fundamental concepts of modern democracy. See the Charter of Fundamental Rights (article 47), which makes the concept even more explicit than does the UN Declaration of Human Rights (article 11).

    Hence, of course, why Britain is opting out.