Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
EU Constitution marches on
This is the text of Daniel Hannan’s speech in the European Parliament today. MEPs voted by a large majority to push ahead with the implementation of the constitution by 2009. ‘Mr President, Listening to this debate, I am reminded of Bertold Brecht’s lines: “Wäre es da Nicht doch einfacher, die Regierung Löste das Volk auf und Wählte ein anderes? ” [Would it not be simpler to dismiss the people and elect another in their place?] The peoples of two core, founding states have thrown your project out, my friends. I know it’s hard to accept rejection, but look at the figures. Fifty-five per cent French voters. Sixty two per cent of Dutch voters. Now you might try to argue that the voters have got it wrong; that they are suffering from what Marxists call false consciousness; that they need better propaganda, and that it is up to us, the Euro-elite, to take a lead. To which I say: do your damnedest. Current polls in the Netherlands show that 82 per cent of Dutch voters would now vote “No”: a tribute to the level-headedness of that brave people. But if you think you can turn them around, dear colleagues, be my guests. Doing so would at least prove your commitment to the democratic ideals you so frequently invoke. Far more outrageous would (be) to push ahead with the implementation of the contents of the constitution without popular consent. Yet this is precisely what you are doing. Look at the number of policies and institutions envisaged by the constitution that have been, or are being, enacted regardless: the European External Action Service, the European Human Rights Agency, the European Defence Agency, the European Space Programme, the European External Borders Agency, a justicable Charter of Fundamental Rights. None of these has a proper legal basis outside the constitution. By adopting them anyway, you demonstrate that you will allow no force, internal or external—neither your own rule book nor the expressed opposition of your peoples—to arrest the rush to political assimilation. You vindicate the severest of your opponents’ criticisms. In the words of my countryman Oliver Cromwell, “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken”.’
Sunday, January 15, 2006
Minette Marrin twigs English Democrats' threat
Scottishness is a nail-biting problem for Brown. Generally speaking most people in England quite like the Scots, even though they seem to hate us. Surveys show we find their accents suggest intelligence and reliability. Politically speaking, however, this easy affection is disappearing fast, as Brown is well aware. Devolution in Scotland and Wales — fought for and introduced by new Labour — has much undermined our common sense of Britishness and fostered instead a new and rather irritable sense of Englishness in the South. Meanwhile Scots feel more Scottish and less British than at any time since 1707, according to some surveys, led astray, possibly, by films such as Braveheart.
More importantly the English public is at last beginning to sit up and take notice of the famous West Lothian question — the problem first identified by the then MP for West Lothian, that Scottish MPs at Westminster can vote and carry the Commons on domestic policies such as education and health that don’t affect them or their constituencies. The government has increasingly relied on the Scottish vote to push through purely English legislation, against English votes, and yet the reverse is not true; English MPs have no say over comparable Scottish affairs.
This is obviously unfair, as is the fact that more taxpayers’ money goes to Scotland, per head, for public services than in England, following the old Barnett formula. Devolution has only made this long-standing injustice feel worse.
In response, a feeling of English separatism is growing; the English hardly need Scotland and Wales and would be much freer and richer without them. It is not only those on the far right, now, who complain of the number of Scots at Westminster and their undue influence. Devolution as of now is plainly unjust. Scottish MPs are overmighty and a Scottish prime minister at Westminster, post-devolution, would find himself in a false position.Remarkably slowly England’s voters are beginning to wake up to all this. The higher their perception of it becomes, the lower will be Brown’s chances of arriving at long last at the summit of his smouldering ambition. So he has to persuade us somehow that he is not all that Scottish at all. No, he’s British. We’re all British (though this leaves out the awkward position of the Northern Irish, who aren’t exactly British.) He might even fly the Union Jack. But these questions are not going to go away.