Conspiracy at the heart of the European Union

Article by John Blundell in the Business

ONE of the great clichés of politics is that Britain has no written Constitution. Like all such stale propositions it is wrong. Britain’s constitution is called the Treaty of Accession. It has been supplemented by the Treaties of Maastricht and Nice. It leaves us with an increasingly constricted area of national discretion. Our politicians can chunter about schools and healthcare while most other important topics are controlled or directed by the European Union (EU).

Remember Winston Churchill’s phrase about “fighting them on the beaches”. Well our beaches are entirely subject to the European Commission’s directives. Britain cannot be responsible for the cleanliness of its shores, it seems. The EU is such an ambitious imperial force it is now assuming central control of defence procurement. Her Majesty the Queen will no longer have enemies for her military to fight. Martial matters are to be commanded by the EU.

You think I am exaggerating? We have the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which determines Britain’s policies on all the commercial horizons. No, it does not. The DTI has few residual functions that matter. It is largely the messenger boy for the instructions from the Commission.

These complex and detailed commands can be found, though I agree few of us look, in the “acquis communautaire”, the bulky handbook that is the 86,000 pages-long body of European law. These are not amiable abstractions or expressions of goodwill. They are the body of laws under which every British business operates.

Chancellor Gordon Brown told the Labour Party conference last September :“If we are to make poverty history we must make the scandal and waste of agricultural protectionism history.” Yet what can the British Chancellor of the Exchequer actually do? He has no powers to relax the organised corruption that is the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). If, or when, he became our Prime Minister he could still do nothing. He can mutter. He can exhort. He has no executive authority. He has no levers. The CAP cannot be dented by words. It is the creation of the Commission. It is cocooned. Where is Britain’s trade policy devised now? The answer is the Article 133 Committee. It never publishes its deliberations. It meets in secret. Nobody joining its proceedings has ever been elected by anybody. Nor can they be dismissed. This is a conclave far more secretive than anything from the Da Vinci Code.

What do they do? They operate subtle but effective protectionist measures. “Health and Safety Standards” sound rather positive but in reality they are a bluff to deter African farmers exporting their nuts, cereals and fruits on the pretext they may have been treated with aflatoxin. The Commission’s own advisers admit the “danger” is a mirage. Not one in a billion citizens would be poisoned. The Article 133 team also devise “anti-dumping measures” against non European food. Don’t you feel lucky these unseen figures are protecting you so diligently from cheaper products? It is all very odd. British business seems to be sleepwalking. It may be unkind but I cannot resist saying I think the EU’s game is up when you examine its admirers. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) bleats its loyalty to the Commission and its baffling ritual phrase “level playing fields”. Trade benefits precisely from differences not uniformities. Comparative advantage, the heart of economics, is a notion that continues to elude the CBI. I am struck how the senior voices of British business, long mute on these themes, are now speaking out. I identify a number of names who are no longer too timid to speak out for reform. Tim Melville Ross, Sir Michael Angus, Lord Sainsbury, Sir Brian Williamson, Rupert Hambro, David Ord, Stuart Rose and Simon Wolfson are shrewd men. They can