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'No' to the Euro plotters: William Cash warns against loss of sovereignty by stealth

An article by Bill Cash published in The Times on 25 October 1988

 

The EEC competition commissioner, Peter Sutherland, writing on this page on Saturdny, said that the Community is already a federal structure in embryo. The only question is how fast we progress towards the goal. Egon Klepsch, Ihe leader of the federalist-minded European People's Party, with 115 out of 518 seats in the European Parliament, has said that it may be necessary for the 11 other member states to get together without Britain. Siegbert Alber, vice-president of the European Parliament. has called for a European Parliament sovereign in its responsibility to European citizens with a European government elected and controlled by the Parliament. 

 

However sceptical many may be about the chances of the federalists here and elsewhere in the EEC securing their goal, it would be naive and imprudent to ignore what is happening. The Prime Minister has done a great and historic service both to Britain and to the EEC by bringing this kind of European unity "by stealth" into the full glare of publicity. 

 

The great impact of European legislation and European politics has been left obscured on the margins of British political debate in Parliament for far too long. Those of us committed to the effective working of the Community, but who reject fedcralism, have to take a stand. What wc would like to know is: who would run a federal Europe, how and for what purpose.

 

Where Peter Sutherland and others are wrong is to assume that the economic integration we have backed by agreeing to the Treaty of Rome and the Single European Act necessarily implies political union of the federalist kind. We have agreed to no such thing. As the Duke of Wellington said of Napoleon's ambitions in Spain, "So far and no further".

 

It is disturbing too Ihat there are in this country longstanding, influential advocates of a federal-based Europe who have brushed aside the suggestion that this is the direction in which things have been manipulated and moved. With the notable exception of Edward Heath they have been conspicuous by their recent silence. The Prime Minister is certainly not "tilting at windmills" and Frere Jacques Delors is not engaging in "rhetorical flourishes". Battle, hopefullv a democratic and constructive battle of ideas for the future and for the benefit of the European Community, is now emphatically joined.

 

There is continuing concern about the manner of legislating and the shape of legislation which emerges from Europe. Much of it is excellent and Peter Sutherland is in the forefront of encouraging and enforcing greater competition, but it would be wrong to ignore the difficulties inherent in the attempt to "socialize" Europe through legislation, such as the Company Law Statute.

 

Even in the economic sphere there arc alleged altempts to undermine British industries by, imposing unnecessary, costly and unacceptable but legally binding technical standards.

 

We need a full survey of the membership, powers and composition of committees with authority over such standards. (Yesterday I put down a queslion in Parliament for such information.) These can themselves be essentially, if not obviously, anti-competitive; not because they impose unfair slandards but beeause they may rig the marketplace and be a reflection either of undue influence within the Commission by individual, national or other interests (often, it is alleged, West German).

 

The irony is that the real "nationalists" are those who seek to impose their own national standards, through Ihe doubtful use of majority voting and EEC legislation, on everyone else. In a market of such size the advantages so secured and wrapped up in tedious reams of legal paperwork are remarkable. A cynic might argue that those who stand by and allow such things to happen have only themselves to blame. But often justifiable insistence on specific domestic standards is caricatured as protectionism or as an ineffective response to Japan, the United States and the Asian challenge. Yet there is nothing "little Englander" in, for example, declining to accept Continental water standards. We are an island with quite different geographical and geological characteristics. Such a response is only practical. 

 

Thc EEC in principle has just about the right framework now. It will develop and must be reformed. The advantages it offers will help us to compete successfully with other continental giants. But political union on the same scale is unnecessary and could provoke unwelcome hostility. Diversity within the framework of the Community and in Nato is a better guarantor of peace and security, It is those who demand European government who are damaging the chance of success. 

 

It is not, contrary to the point made by Peter Sutherland and by Edward Heath at the Conservative party conference, the size or number of persons employed by the Commission that is relevant, but the power (which is the real sovereignty) they have, the use of it, and especially the tendency to enlarge it. 

 

Can it be right for the internal handbook of the European Commission to tell unelected and unaccountable senior Eurocrats that, in order to strengthen their authority and power, they should seek to divide and rule member states, seek additional power to negotiate unilaterally with other nations and take over more of the running of EEC matters at the expense of national ministers? We in the United Kingdom and in Parliament must throw our weight behind the Prime Minister in this historic debate. 

 

In a paraphrase of Dunning's 1780 Commons motion: "The influence ofthe Commission has increased, is increasing and ought to be diminished." 


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