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Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

The EU, UK and civil liberties

Via the Convention on Modern Liberty‘s Twitter feed and following yesterday’s post on German concerns about the EU being used as a democratic bypass comes news of a worrying development for the freedom of every EU citizen:

People may be aware of the debate in the UK over access to communications data… but are less familiar with the role the UK government has played in the EU, where it first proposed mandatory data retention, backed by France, Ireland and Sweden, in April 2004. The final stages of its passage through the EU came under the UK presidency of the council, and their officials crawled all over the European parliament to get it passed. Despite widespread opposition from more than 200 civil society groups, the EU data protection commissioners and many in the parliament organised an alliance of the PSE (Socialist group, of which they are part) and the centre-right PPE (Conservative group) to steamroller it through in December 2005…

We have good reason to be very critical of the authoritarian direction the government has taken at home, but we should be equally vigilant of what the UK government gets up to in the EU – and at the same time wake up to the fact that many of the threats to our freedoms and liberties now originate from the EU. Indeed, the surveillance society, which makes suspects of us all, is to be the centrepiece of the next five-year plan for EU justice and home affairs to be adopted later this year (pdf).

As the Convention on Modern Liberty tweet noted, “EU law is now a major threat to privacy… And it’s not eurosceptic to say that”.

But, of course, this in nothing new. I noted the Blair government’s attempts to use the EU to force through unpopular changes a few years back, and was disgusted [on ID cards] and outraged [over internet regulation proposals - the first hints of this current unpleasant legislation] at the time. The real problem is, as ever, the governments of the member states and their ability to wrap up such deals behind closed doors at meetings of the Council – combined with a lack of reporting on the EU in the mainstream press that allows major national newspapers like the Guardian to fail to notice such distasteful legislation until it has already been passed, challenged in court, and passed again.

Give the people of Europe more say in how the EU is run, give the European Parliament more power to halt such unpleasantness, then press reporting on EU affairs would become more attentive, such moves by member state governments to abuse both the EU and its citizens would be spotted sooner, and effective pan-European opposition could be mobilised. As it is, everyone only finds out after it’s too late – no amount of attempts to highlight dodgy legislation from a mere small blog such as this one will ever reach enough people in time.

Meanwhile, let’s just sit back and marvel at how it is the UK – that last European bastion against the forces of totalitarian repression during the 1940s – that has been the driving force behind EU legislation that would not look out of place in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Russia, Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal or Vichy France.

Come on, EU – you’re meant to be better than this.

Update: Oh, the irony – the European Commission’s now complaining about people trying to steal its confidential data. What out OUR confidential data, Commission types?

4 Comments

  1. Nosemonkey,

    You forgot to mention the UK Government slamming the door on European MPs with admittedly prejudiced views, but still only opinions.

    The UK Home Office interpreting security threat is like Sarkozy explaining the virtues of the internal market.

    Your main argument about Council dealings is both true and disturbing. (In the area of freedom, security and justice the Lisbon Treaty would do some good, despite its structural shortcomings.)

  2. Pingback: Afternoon round-up | Entangled Alliances

  3. Home » Common Law
    The Declaration of Rights 1688/9
    The Declaration of Rights

    February 1688/9 Day Tuesday 12

    Whereas the late King James the Second, by the assistance of divers evil counsellors, judges and ministers employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant religion and the laws and liberties of this kingdom;
    By assuming and exercising a power of dispensing with and suspending of laws and the execution of laws without consent of Parliament; By committing and prosecuting divers worthy prelates for humbly petitioning to be excused from concurring to the said assumed power;
    By issuing and causing to be executed a commission under the great seal for erecting a court called the Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes;
    By levying money for and to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative for other time and in other manner than the same was granted by Parliament;
    By raising and keeping a standing army within this kingdom in time of peace without consent of Parliament, and quartering soldiers contrary to law;
    By causing several good subjects being Protestants to be disarmed at the same time when papists were both armed and employed contrary to law;
    By violating the freedom of election of members to serve in Parliament;
    By prosecutions in the Court of King’s Bench for matters and causes cognizable only in Parliament, and by divers other arbitrary and illegal courses;
    And whereas of late years partial corrupt and unqualified persons have been returned and served on juries in trials, and particularly divers jurors in trials for high treason which were not freeholders;
    And excessive bail hath been required of persons committed in criminal cases to elude the benefit of the laws made for the liberty of the subjects;
    And excessive fines have been imposed;
    And illegal and cruel punishments inflicted;
    And several grants and promises made of fines and forfeitures before any conviction or judgment against the persons upon whom the same were to be levied;
    All which are utterly and directly contrary to the known laws and statutes and freedom of this realm;
    And whereas the said late King James the Second having abdicated the government and the throne being thereby vacant, his Highness the prince of Orange (whom it hath pleased Almighty God to make the glorious instrument of delivering this kingdom from popery and arbitrary power) did (by the advice of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and divers principal persons of the Commons) cause letters to be written to the Lords Spiritual and Temporal being Protestants, and other letters to the several counties, cities, universities, boroughs and cinque ports, for the choosing of such persons to represent them as were of right to be sent to Parliament, to meet and sit at Westminster upon the two and twentieth day of January in this year one thousand six hundred eighty and eight [old style date], in order to such an establishment as that their religion, laws and liberties might not again be in danger of being subverted, upon which letters elections having been accordingly made;

    And thereupon the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons, pursuant to their respective letters and elections, being now assembled in a full and free representative of this nation, taking into their most serious consideration the best means for attaining the ends aforesaid, do in the first place (as their ancestors in like case have usually done) for the vindicating and asserting their ancient rights and liberties declare:

    That the pretended power of suspending the laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal;
    That the pretended power of dispensing with laws or the execution of laws by regal authority, as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal;
    That the commission for erecting the late Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes, and all other commissions and courts of like nature, are illegal and pernicious;
    That levying money for or to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative, without grant of Parliament, for longer time, or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal;
    That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal;
    That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law;
    That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law;
    That election of members of Parliament ought to be free;
    That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament;
    That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted;
    That jurors ought to be duly impanelled and returned, and jurors which pass upon men in trials for high treason ought to be freeholders;
    That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void;
    And that for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.
    And they do claim, demand and insist upon all and singular the premises as their undoubted rights and liberties, and that no declarations, judgments, doings or proceedings to the prejudice of the people in any of the said premises ought in any wise to be drawn hereafter into consequence or example; to which demand of their rights they are particularly encouraged by the declaration of his Highness the prince of Orange as being the only means for obtaining a full redress and remedy therein.

    Having therefore an entire confidence that his said Highness the prince of Orange will perfect the deliverance so far advanced by him, and will still preserve them from the violation of their rights which they have here asserted, and from all other attempts upon their religion, rights and liberties, the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons assembled at Westminster do resolve that William and Mary, prince and princess of Orange, be and be declared king and queen of England, France and Ireland and the dominions thereunto belonging, to hold the crown and royal dignity of the said kingdoms and dominions to them, the said prince and princess, during their lives and the life of the survivor to them, and that the sole and full exercise of the regal power be only in and executed by the said prince of Orange in the names of the said prince and princess during their joint lives, and after their deceases the said crown and royal dignity of the same kingdoms and dominions to be to the heirs of the body of the said princess, and for default of such issue to the Princess Anne of Denmark and the heirs of her body, and for default of such issue to the heirs of the body of the said prince of Orange. And the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons do pray the said prince and princess to accept the same accordingly.

    And that the oaths hereafter mentioned be taken by all persons of whom the oaths have allegiance and supremacy might be required by law, instead of them; and that the said oaths of allegiance and supremacy be abrogated.

    “I, A.B., do sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to their Majesties King William and Queen Mary. So help me God.”

    “I, A.B., do swear that I do from my heart abhor, detest and abjure as impious and heretical this damnable doctrine and position, that princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope or any authority of the see of Rome may be deposed or murdered by their subjects or any other whatsoever. And I do declare that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God.”

    It is ordered by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and Commons now assembled at Westminster that this Declaration be ingrossed in Parliament and inrolled among the rolls of Parliament and Recorded in Chancery.

    Day 15 February 1688.
    His majesties Gracious answer to the Declaration of both houses.

    My Lords and Gentlemen
    This is certainly the greatest proof of the trust that you have in us that can be given which is the thing that maketh us value it the more and we thankfully accept what you have offered. And as I had no other intention of coming hither than to preserve your Religion, Laws and Liberties so you may be sure that I shall endeavour to support them and shall be willing to concur in anything that shall be for the good of the Kingdom and to do all that is in my power to advance the welfare and glory of the nation.

    Ordered by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal assembled at Westminster That his Majesties Gracious answer to the Declaration of both houses and the Declaration be forth with printed and published and that his Majesties Gracious Answer this day be added to the engrossed Declaration in Parliament to be Enrolled in Parliament and Chancery.
    could this be the silver bullet that will kill the E.U
    these laws have never changed as it would be act of treason
    to do so look on net for albert bergess

  4. Erm… Yes. Thank you, strange cut’n’paste historical document fairy.

    So you’re saying that we need to be invaded by a foreign prince at the head of a foreign army that goes on to occupy our place of government until an illegally-called parliament cedes sovereignty and capitulates to all its demands?