The EU's four-stage strategy to reduce Britons to servitude

Daniel Hannan
The Daily Telegraph, January 26th 2005

The penny is finally dropping. Thirty-two years after we joined, we are at last waking up to the nature of our subjection before Brussels. It was always going to take a big issue to jolt us from our narcolepsy, and immigration is that issue.

On Monday, Michael Howard promised that a future Conservative government would introduce an upper limit to the number of immigrants, and set a separate quota for asylum seekers. Insofar as one can sense these things, the voters heartily approved. People of impeccably liberal views went along with the contention that we could not open our borders to the entire world.

Passionate Labour supporters could be heard admitting that, on this one, the Tories had got it right.

Then, from Brussels, came the noise of a mighty collective snort. You are too late, said our masters in the Commission. We have been putting together an EU asylum policy over the past eight years, and your signatures - Jack Straw's and David Blunkett's, at any rate - are on all the documents. You want to withdraw now? Tant pis!

It comes as a bit of a shock to find out that the common immigration policy already exists. After all, wasn't this one of those "red lines" that Tony Blair kept swanking about? Haven't the home affairs spokesmen of all parties - even the Lib Dems - made a big issue of keeping our border controls? Yet it now turns out that, although we may indeed keep our physical frontier checks, we have ceded the right to decide who is entitled to cross them.

This is a pattern that one sees again and again in the EU. New initiatives go from being unthinkable to being inevitable without any intervening stage. It happened with the euro and the social chapter. It is happening again with the European army.

You hadn't heard about the European army? It is small, to be sure, but it certainly exists. Uniformed EU troops have been deployed in Macedonia, the Congo and, most recently, Bosnia. They are answerable, not to any national capital or combination of national capitals, but to the EU's own politico-military structures. Yet politicians continue to speak, rather touchingly, of "the need to oppose a common EU defence policy".

So it goes on. We are making a big fuss about the EU proposal to have its own diplomatic service, but it's already up and running. I recently visited the EU embassy in Lima (or the "European Delegation" as it is still coyly known). It employed many more staff than any of the member state embassies, and with good reason: it has assumed almost all their functions.

When I asked the Euro-diplomats what was left for the national missions to do, they grinned at each other and mumbled something about promoting tourism. Yet I'll bet that, when the EU formally calls its delegations embassies, there will be howls of outrage.

The same goes for the European police force ("Europol"), the EU prosecuting magistracy ("Eurojust"), tax harmonisation, human rights questions. In each case, Euro-integrationists pursue a well-tried four-stage strategy. Stage One is mock-incredulity: "No one is proposing any such thing. It just shows what loons these sceptics are that they could even imagine it." Stage Two is bravado: "Well all right, it's being proposed, but don't worry: we have a veto and we'll use it." Stage Three is denial: "Look, we may have signed this, but it doesn't really mean what the critics are claiming." Stage Four is resignation: "No point complaining now, old man: it's all been agreed."

Part of the problem is that, 32 years on, we still have not grasped the nature of EU power. Because the Treaty of Rome is called a treaty, we imagine that it simply binds its signatory states under international law.

In reality, though, the Treaty of Rome created a new legal order, directly applicable within the jurisdictions of the member nations.

So, to return to the case in point, let us ponder what would happen if a future Tory government implemented the policy that Mr Howard adumbrated on Monday. Let us imagine that someone entered the country illegally and that, several months later, he was discovered by the immigration service and ordered to leave. Let us further conjecture that he, like many sans papiers in this situation, suddenly claimed to be the victim of political persecution in his home country.

David Davis, as home secretary, would order his repatriation on the ground that we accepted as refugees only those who had been so identified by the UNHCR. The illicit entrant would at this stage take his case to judicial review and the judge, as things stand, would uphold EU law and order that he remain in Britain pending the assessment of his case.

The judge would act in this way, not simply because judges enjoy overturning deportation orders (although they do), but because he would be obliged, under Sections 2 and 3 of the 1972 European Communities Act, to give precedent to EU rules over our own parliamentary statutes. That is why, for example, the Metric Martyrs lost their case. Although a 1985 Act of Parliament explicitly allowed traders to use either metric or imperial units, an EU directive said otherwise, and our appeal court was obliged to give precedence to the latter.

Mr Howard understands this very well. Not only is he a lawyer himself but, as home secretary, he clashed almost weekly with our judges - not least on immigration cases. He must have known that the EU would react as it did to his proposals: indeed, I suspect he was banking on it. He has said before that he wants to take powers back from Brussels but, until now, the issue on which he was planning to go into battle - the recovery of our fishing grounds - seemed rather marginal to most inland voters. Now he has found a casus belli where the country will be behind him.

It has been a besetting British vice that we ignore what is happening on the Continent until almost too late. But, when we finally rouse ourselves, our resolve can be an awesome thing. I sense that this may be such a moment.

Daniel Hannan is a Tory MEP
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