I have a picture pinned over my desk here in Brussels, a 1929 photograph—“obtained under great difficulty,” the caption says—of a man being executed by guillotine at 5 a.m. on an open street in France.
The title of the picture is “Legacy of the French Revolution.” I keep it because it is a modern link with an historic Continental horror. That is to say, it is a reminder, as I shift from my desk to the European Commission press briefings, of what it means to be “European.”
For me the title of the picture should be “Lest We Forget.” Lest we forget the culture from which the European Union springs. Lest we forget the history that has shaped Europe: the Terror, Napoleon’s butchery and his civil code, the violent European revolutions, the Continental taste for coercion, the Marxist distaste for the sovereignty of the nation-state.
You may think I go too far, but the more I watch the European Union—and I’ve been writing about it since 1979, when I won a fellowship to study the thing—the more I understand. This Continental coalition has a flawed and bloody pedigree. It is no place for Britain, the island nation whose governments and laws spring from Magna Carta, Common Law, and the 1689 Bill of Rights.
The European Union is centralized, intolerant, antinational, single-party, elitist, undemocratic, and illiberal. It is the essence of the Continental attitude concerning the way government should function, an attitude the same now as in Napoleon’s time. It is everything Britain under her own ancient constitution is not.
Yet to my anger and despair, the British are abandoning their political heritage and allowing themselves to be drawn into this.
Years of propaganda from Brussels—the Commission budget for propaganda this year alone is over $3.5 billion, all disguised as “communications”—as well as a collective loss of nerve have led Britons to accept the E.U. line: “We are all Europeans now.” But Britons and Europeans are no more the same thing than Britons and Scandinavians are. We are not all Europeans now. We do not all share that shame.
Now, under a new treaty, the Lisbon Treaty, a single European state will be created. At this writing, the treaty is not yet law, but Brussels will not allow the people of Europe to refuse it. In 2005, the Dutch and the French voters rejected the text in referenda. Last year the Irish rejected it as well. So the E.U. elite simply rejected the votes. In Europe, the only vote that counts is the vote Brussels accepts. The Dutch, French, and Irish governments capitulated to this disgrace. Once the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, the European Union will become a “political entity,” a country called Europe with the power to act as a sovereign state.
One of my roles is to report for British readers on just how many more constitutional powers are being surrendered to Brussels. These stories—and those of jaw-dropping E.U. waste and corruption—once provoked fury. Now, when I come across yet another nugget of outrage, I increasingly wonder, “Why bother?” I know what Europe is destroying in Britain because I see it every day. What enrages me more is the somnolence of the British. It seems no loss of sovereignty, no obscene fleecing of the taxpayers to enrich the Brussels unelected elite, will make the British wake up and roar, “Stop!”
Britain now stands to lose everything to this new European state. Most disastrous will be the loss of the ancient British system of justice.
If you can cut your way through the deliberately difficult thickets of the Lisbon Treaty, you will see that it gives the European Union control even over procedure in British courts. Article 82 grants the European Parliament and the European Council (the meetings of heads of government) the power to set down rules for legal procedures in criminal cases: “They shall concern the mutual admissibility of evidence between Member States; the rights of individuals in criminal procedure; the rights of victims of crime; any other specific aspects of criminal procedure which the Council has identified in advance by a decision.”
Moreover, there is an institution called Eurojust, the E.U. “Judicial Cooperation Unit,” established in 2002. I could ask 10,000 people in England if they have ever heard of Eurojust, and the answer from each would be “No.” But under the Lisbon Treaty, Eurojust will gain the power to initiate investigations of British subjects and to order arrests.
The European Union presents Eurojust as a group of judges, one nominated by each member-state, whose job is to “enhance”—in the jargon of the Eurocrats, that means “take control of”—the effectiveness of the authorities in member-states when they are dealing with serious cross-border and organized crime.
In fact, some of these “judges” are no more than retired police officers or ex-prosecutors. That means, as the membership of Eurojust now stands, a Portuguese ex-public prosecutor, a Bulgarian ex-public prosecutor, the former general prosecutor for Martinique and Guyane in the French Antilles, and a Cypriot lawyer will be given the power to decide whether a British subject faces prosecution for an alleged crime.
Under Lisbon, all British vetoes in all areas of police and judicial cooperation are to be abolished. The European Union will gain the power to define what counts as a criminal offense, including a new power to set minimum and maximum prison sentences. The treaty also allows for the creation of a European public prosecutor who could prosecute British subjects.
Then there is the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which, under Lisbon, would give the European Court of Justice jurisdiction over various criminal-justice and migration issues. This charter is a modified version of the Convention on Human Rights drawn up 60 years ago by the Council of Europe—a larger, older organization. However, Britain has already been entangled in this European Convention and its European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for years, because all E.U. members are required to join the European Council and submit to the judgment of its court.
Last April, Lord Hoffman, Britain’s second most senior law lord, published a paper in which he attacked the ECHR for its “aggrandisement” of its powers and its relentless interference in British law. He said the system of selecting the judges “lacked constitutional legitimacy.”
Lord Hoffman was right to criticize the way the judges are selected. Like those of the European Court of Justice, they are men and women who may never have spent a moment as a judge before being appointed by politicians to the court. Which is quite apart from the question, Why should a Russian or a Serb or an Azerbaijani judge, or any one of the dozens of nationalities of the court, have the power to reach into British law and change it?
Yet the British submit, as they are submitting to the creation of a new European foreign minister, called the high representative, and a global E.U. diplomatic corps to direct the foreign policy to which Britain will be tied. To give you an idea of how Brussels works: The Commission has already gone ahead, at immense cost, with training more than 500 diplomats, even though this diplomatic corps can have no legal existence until the final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.
Then there is the determination by the French and some of the other member-states to form a European army. Already the European space policy has been modified to change the Galileo global-positioning project into one capable of deploying the kind of GPS-guided artillery now being used by Americans in Afghanistan. In short, there will be an E.U. military presence in space.
There is the single currency, designed as a tool ultimately to take control of all fiscal policy within member-states.
There is the arrogance of the members of the European Parliament who bank enough money in a full term to make them euro-millionaires—and a euro-million is $1.4 million. These elitist Euro-MPs, together with their colleagues in other E.U. institutions, now control up to 80 percent of Britain’s laws. Their powers are superior to Westminster’s.
Above all, there is the European Commission, whose structure has been recognized by one leading former Soviet dissident as looking “exactly like the Politburo—unaccountable to anyone, not directly elected by anyone at all.” Yet all European legislation originates in the Commission—much of it inspired, even drafted, by some of the thousands of unregulated lobbyists working in Brussels for multinational corporations.
Let me give you one final example of a recent European outrage that ought to be making headlines in Britain but is not.
Earlier this year, a group called the TaxPayers’ Alliance uncovered a shocking secret deal struck between the Commission and Lord Mandelson, the former E.U. commissioner who left Brussels in 2008 to join Gordon Brown’s cabinet. At the time this deal was uncovered, Lord Mandelson was business secretary. He is now much more than that: He is second in power only to the prime minister himself. The deal is that if Lord Mandelson criticizes E.U. institutions or policies, he could be threatened with losing his $52,000 index-linked pension as a former commissioner. (In addition to the pension from Brussels, the business secretary was in line for more than $389,000 top-up salary payments and a $25,000 “resettlement” fee for his move from Brussels to London.)
When Lord Mandelson took his cabinet seat, he did not volunteer the information that his pension may depend on his continued adherence to the Commission party line. I find it astounding that he was not forced to resign the moment the deal came to light.
Imagine, say, that the Indian steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal had employed a politician for p.r. work for three years. Then, after the same politician left Mr. Mittal’s employ to take up the job of business secretary, it came to light that Mr. Mittal had him tied to a secret $840,000 pension pot that depended on his continued support of his former employer’s steel investments while acting as a minister.
This would be so alien to the British tradition of how government is conducted that it would be breathtaking. Yet the thoroughly “European” Lord Mandelson shrugs off a similar financial arrangement with the European Commission, and the so-called Official Opposition drops the issue. Lord Mandelson continues in high office, a Manchurian candidate planted by Europe. We now have a cabinet minister who is in the pay of a Continental power.
Where is the British outrage at this? Gone, like the British constitution and that poor man’s head on that French street in 1929.