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June 30, 2006

Weird, Truly Weird

So Chris Huhne offers advice to the Tories on which group they should belong to in the European Parliament.

THE DEBATE about whether Conservative members of the European Parliament should withdraw from the European People’s Party, the main centre-right grouping, has been conducted almost entirely in partisan terms as if nothing else mattered.

Ooooh, partisan, bad d’ye see? We must be all statesmanlike (ie dead politician) instead.

For those of us who have studied the modus operandi of the Tory Euro-phobes over the years, this poor trade-off should come as no surprise. Like most extremists, they are far more interested in passionate posturing than pragmatic politics.

And of course, Mr. Huhne would not stoop to being partisan, oooh, no missus.

What does really get me is that here is a Lib-Dem, someone who knows that at the next election his major opponents are going to be the Tory Party, seriously offering advice to said Tory Party on what they should do. It should be blindingly obvious that what your enemies suggest you do is the one thing you don’t actually do. Brer Rabbit and all that?

And what is his justification for this advice?  That the Tories have to be in a coalition as only such coalitions actually work in Europe:

That is one reason why only three groups truly matter in the parliament: the European People’s Party, Liberals and Socialists. These three are the only groups that regularly negotiate together, because they can deliver the necessary supermajority. Other groups such as the Greens and the various fractious nationalist and xenophobic groups with which the Tories propose to ally themselves are regarded as too small and ill-disciplined to be worth much. Quite simply, they are not in the loop.


The liberalising supermajority that saved the City of London from an even worse fate than the present EU financial services legislation was composed of most of the EPP (except the southern Europeans), some of the Socialists (mainly the Scandinavians and British) and all the Liberal group.

So, actually, these groups do not vote as a block. Coalitions on specific matters are built across them. That’s a stunning argument in favour of having to be a member of a specific group don’t you think?

Britain is a big country with a great deal at stake in the standard-setting that is essential to the working of the EU’s single market.

And that is a statement of the most ineffable cretinism, especially coming from one who calls himself "liberal" and is even rumoured to know something about economics. The problem with the EU’s Single Market is precisely that idiots, knaves and poltroons think that there do indeed have to be such standards. That the curvature of cucumbers must be regulated (by law! Stick the wrong classification on peppinos, calling those that curve more than 1 cm per 10 cm of length as Class 1 and you will, in the UK, face a fine of up to 5,000 pounds plus 6 months in jail!), that (by law!) one may use citrus fruits to make jam but may not use essential oils of citrus fruits in jam, only in marmalade, that carrots are fruit, jam for the making of, and that tomatoes are fruit when in jam and vegetables when in pasta sauces. All of this is laid down in law, in legislation that has to be passed by, respectively, the Commission, the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament, the National Legislatures of the 25 member states and the various regional and devolved legislatures (Scotland, Wales, NI, Catalonia, Galicia, Aalund, blah blah blah).

In effect, we are imposing the continental system, the Napoleonic Code, upon the industry of the EU. You may do only what is allowed in law. We, the British, do indeed have an interest in this matter. Our interest is that this entire exercise of standardisation is swept away, replaced by the Common Law system. All items should be of merchantable quality and should be fit for the purpose. That’s it! Throw out 50,000 pages of those standards and replace with those two phrases.

It isn’t that, as Huhne states, MEPs should valiantly fight to get the standards set in Britain’s interest. It is that the fight should be against the very process itself, something which he obviously doesn’t understand nor care about. And he calls himself a liberal? a Liberal even? Does he not remember Campbell-Bannerman? "The man who is governed best is the man who is governed least"?

Does anyone seriously think that "liberals", from Manchester types through Gladstone, to C-B and so on, ever in their wildest dreams thought that the power of centralised government would be brought to bear on the curvature of bananas? And that if they did have such nightmares, they would not have simply laughed them off as being impossible? Ridiculous?

And, to look at slightly larger matters, what has this valiant fighting for better regulation brought us? The Restrictions on Hazadous Substances, REACH, The Denied Boarding Directive...a catalogue of the most absurd and destructive, inane in that they don’t even acheive their stated goals, simply stupid interventions.

That will make it even more likely that their real goal — complete withdrawal from the EU — comes a little bit closer.

Roll on that happy day for it is quite clear that there is no possibility of reform from inside.


June 30, 2006 in European Union | Permalink


Im glad you fisked this as I read this previously to visting your blog and was almost apoplectic when reading Huhne's mealy mouthed duplicity.

Posted by: Hovis | Jun 30, 2006 10:53:57 AM

Glaucon: I believe, O Socrates, that before 1973 there were no laws on food composition or trading standards, save for a vague assertion that goods should be "of marketable quality". All such laws are recent additions, and are part of the Code Napoleon. They are, moreover, unnecessary for international trade: I believe no such rules govern our trade with other countries.

Socrates: That, O Glaucon, is because you are a fool.

Glaucon: Very true, O Socrates.

Posted by: ajay | Jun 30, 2006 3:56:41 PM

Before, as is usual in these matters, a Euronutter claims that there's no regulation concerning the curvature of bananas the regulation in question is EU Regulation 2257/94 which requires, among other things, that bananas are at least 13.97cm (5.5in) long and 2.69cm (1.06in) round and do not have "abnormal curvature"

Posted by: Umbongo | Jun 30, 2006 5:16:07 PM

Huhne's position cannot possibly be described as pro-EU here. His remarks about EU regulation of Londod's finacial market makes it clear that all that could be done, within the EU, was to limit the damge the EU was doing. I find this quite remarkable for a possible leader of the LDs

My impression is that he is doing what he says he is - giving advice to Euro-sceptics in how to best oppose EU regulations. Putting sunset clauses into EU regulations was his original claim to fame, & not a bad one. He appears to be a pro-free marketeer who is at least 50% eurosceptic. How much more do you need?

Tim adds: The other 50%?

Posted by: Neil Craig | Jul 1, 2006 12:39:46 PM