I’ve been reading MEP Daniel Hannan’s series in the Mail this week. It’s a sort of summary of everything that’s wrong with the EU. Here are some extracts from the first long article:
Democracy is not simply a periodic right to mark a cross on a ballot paper.
It also depends upon a relationship between government and governed, on a sense of common affinity and allegiance.
It requires what the political philosophers of Ancient Greece called a ‘demos’, a unit with which we the people can identify.
Take away the demos and you are left only with the ‘kratos’ – a state that must compel by force of law what it cannot ask in the name of patriotism.
In the absence of a demos, governments are even likelier than usual to purchase votes through public works schemes and sinecures.
Lacking any natural loyalty, they have to buy the support of their electorates.
The EU buys support, needless to say. And it’s thoroughly undemocratic.
The plain fact is that the EU is contemptuous of public opinion — not by some oversight, but as an inevitable consequence of its supra-national nature.
The EU is run, extraordinarily, by a body that combines legislative and executive power. The European Commission is not only the EU’s ‘government’, it is also the only body that can propose legislation in most fields of policy.
Such a concentration of power is itself objectionable enough. But what is even more terrifying is that the 27 Commissioners are unelected. Many supporters of the EU acknowledge this flaw — the ‘democratic deficit’, as they call it — and vaguely admit that something ought to be done about it.
But the democratic deficit isn’t an accidental design flaw: it is intrinsic to the whole project.
The EU’s founding fathers had mixed feelings about democracy — especially the populist strain that came into vogue between the two World Wars. In their minds, too much democracy was associated with demagoguery and fascism.
They prided themselves on creating a model where supreme power would be in the hands of ‘experts’ — disinterested technocrats immune to the ballot box.
More ‘experts’. I’m so sick of ‘experts’.
It is a shock to discover just how extensive the EU’s reach is. Take its claim in 2003 to be ‘consulting the people’ about the draft of a new constitution by inviting 200 ‘representative organisations’ to submit their suggestions.
Every single one of them, I discovered, received grants from the EU. If you scratch the surface, you find that virtually every field of activity has some EU-sponsored pressure group to campaign for deeper integration, whether it be the European Union of Journalists, the European Women’s Lobby or the European Cyclists’ Federation.
These are not independent associations which just happen to be in receipt of EU funds. They are, in most cases, creatures of the European Commission, wholly dependent on Brussels for their existence.
The EU has also been active in spreading its tentacles to established charities and lobbying groups within the nation states. The process starts harmlessly enough, with one-off grants for specific projects.
After a while, the organisation realises that it is worth investing in a ‘Europe officer’ whose job, in effect, is to secure bigger grants.
As the subventions become permanent, more ‘Europe officers’ are hired. Soon, the handouts are taken for granted and factored into the organisation’s budget. Once this stage is reached, the EU is in a position to call in favours….
These days, the EU’s strength is not to be found among the diminished ranks of true believers or the benign cranks who distribute leaflets for the Union of European Federalists.
Nor, in truth, does it reside primarily among the officials directly on the Brussels payroll.
The real power of the EU is to be found in the wider corpus of interested parties – the businesses invested in the regulatory process; the consultants and contractors dependent on Brussels spending; the landowners receiving cheques from the Common Agricultural Policy; the local councils with their EU departments; the seconded civil servants with remuneration terms beyond anything they could hope for in their home countries; the armies of lobbyists and professional associations; the charities and the NGOs.
From the second long article:
The trouble is that the people running the EU refuse to learn anything from the failure of their project. Since the euro crisis began, they have pursued only one policy: bailout-and-borrow. When it doesn’t work, they accelerate it.
For years, EU leaders have been conditioned to spend public money. The first instinct of a Eurocrat, in a crisis, is to reach for his wallet — or, rather to reach for your wallet, since EU officials themselves are exempt from paying national taxation.
Expanding their budgets, of course, is what bureaucracies do best.
Yes, this seems to be their only solution.
When I debated the crisis with a socialist MEP on television earlier this year, I suggested Greece wouldn’t begin to recover until it decoupled, defaulted and devalued. He stared at me in horror.
This wasn’t about the economics, he spluttered. It was about the European ideal.
Surely it would be unthinkable for the EU to go ahead without the country where democracy was born. That would be a calamity for Greece and for Europe!
No, I felt like saying, it would be a calamity for you personally. As an MEP, you are far better off than you were as a Greek minister.
And from the third long article (maybe I missed one?):
Every nation joins the European Union for its own reasons. The French saw an opportunity to enlarge their gloire, the Italians were sick of a corrupt and discredited political class.
The burghers of the Low Countries had had enough of being dragged into wars between their larger neighbours, and the former Communist states saw membership as an escape from Soviet domination.
One thing in common is that they all joined out of a sense of pessimism: that they couldn’t succeed alone.
Confident and prosperous nations, such as Norway and Switzerland, see no need to abandon their present liberties. Less happy nations seek accession out of, if not despair, a sense of national angst. Britain signed up in 1973 at what was our lowest moment as a modern nation. Ever since the end of World War II, we had been comprehensively outperformed by virtually every Western European economy.
Suffering from double-digit inflation, constant strikes, the three-day week, power cuts and prices-and-incomes policies, decline seemed irreversible.
It was during this black period that we became a member of the Common Market, with the electorate confirming the decision by a majority of two to one in a referendum two years later.
He said that it was possible that the EU would just carry on like it is now, or carry out a managed separation, or an uncontrolled break-up of the eurozone.
It seems to me that what the EU is doing right now is trying to carry on as if nothing had happened. These people are idealists, not pragmatists. And the upshot therefore seems most likely to be a uncontrolled break-up, when something snaps and there’s no more sticking plasters to cover it.
Anyway, it was a fascinating read. There was a lot that I didn’t know.