What's New in 2004...
BLAIR GETS HIS 'ENABLING ACT'
The Civil Contingencies Bill received Royal Assent on 18th November, following a
House of Lords cave-in. This is a crying shame - just three and a half hours'
more Lords debate or could have stopped it. Or holding firm on just one of the
reasoned amendments against the arrogant demands of the Commons.
But it was not to be. Now we are supposed to 'trust' Blair and Blunkett and co.
(A highly dubious privilege. NB Baroness Amos promised that the government would not
"run amok" with the extensive powers. But Adolf Hitler gave exactly the same assurances
with his 1933 Enabling Act).
The Government moved to push through an updated Civil Contingencies Bill and the EU Constitution in 2004. The former does not mention the EU, but the latter includes 'civil protection' as an area for 'coordinating action' and the current Treaty mentions the topic vaguely. The Bill also enables the creation of arbitrary imprisonable criminal offences. It enables regulations that can delegate powers to anyone or confer jurisdiction on any court or tribunal. This could be an EU body, unaccountable to government or the people.
Although the draft Constitution gives us a veto on a European Public Prosecutor (the Government says it 'currently' sees no reason for one) Blair has said that he opposes permanent 'opt-outs' or being isolated in Europe. Although the amended Bill states that it will not change criminal procedure, the Government is happy for the EU to have over-riding powers to do this via the EU Constitution.
These developments happen at a time when the Government is trying to introduce universal ID cards and a 'population register', and has announced a national database to carry information on all children, not merely those 'at risk' (Sunday Times, 25.7.04). Again there are worrying parallels with European developments.
But behind all the assurances that the Government is working to "protect the UK", what it is doing behind the scenes isn't so obvious.
In November 2003, the Civil Contingencies Bill was heavily criticised by a cross-party Joint Committee - who noticed a catch-all definition of 'emergency' providing a trigger for action. This could be in the UK or abroad, and merely 'threatened', not actual!
A clause was to give the Government draconian powers, including the right to set aside (suspend or amend) virtually any legislation - even the Bill of Rights and the Human Rights Act! - totally side-stepping an elected Parliament. Yet strangely a government that is prissy on 'human rights' fails to protect basic civil liberties while maintaining a 'right to strike' which might stop emergency services from being effective in a true 'civil emergency' such as a flood.
The Joint Committee also pulled to pieces the case for Parliament to legislate on 'secret regulations' without being told of the possible consequences of their action.
Amazingly, MI5's website assures us that "the subversive threat to parliamentary democracy is now negligible".
So who will protect us from the Government?
...WITHOUT DUE SAFEGUARDS
The Government has been criticised for its plans to distribute a booklet to every UK household.
Preparing For Emergencies has been slated for 'stating the obvious', rather than offering real help.
A contact reports that in mid-August 2004, Central News noted that Birmingham Airport and many of the nation's main international
airports had had its Police presence cut since '9/11'.
Other services that have been cut include: Fire and Civil Defence manpower,
the Ambulance Services, Coastguard, Immigration Service, Customs and Excise,
Police and last but by no means least Armed Forces and Volunteer Reserves
at a time when they are stretched further than they have ever been stretched
before and manpower retention is proving a very real and serious problem!
The Civil Contingencies Act seems to have been more successful in giving the Government 'emergency powers'
than a real 'on-the-ground' means of tackling disasters. That it now only covers 'UK' emergencies
and provides that emergency regulations (etc) shall be in writing is scant consolation. It does
not even guarantee 'best endeavours' towards the functioning of Parliament and courts as a bulwark
against the arbitrary use of powers.
More info on the Civil Contingencies Act 2004.
Info from Statewatch on the Civil Contingencies Bill
TAKING MORE LIBERTIES (...OURS!)
Media attention has focused upon the Government's decision to abandon Britain's veto
on immigration and asylum policy decisions from 1.4.2005.
The government claims that the UK can opt out of any policies it doesn't like (Times, 23.10.04).
However, these relate to population movements from outside the EU (Treaty of Nice, 'Part III, Title IV').
However under existing Treaty rules (Treaty of Nice, 'Part II; Part III, Title III'), measures
concerning the movement of 'EU citizens' do not have an opt out. A Citizenship Directive
(2004/38/EC) was agreed in April 2004. It is to come into effect over a four year period.
Any non-EU nationals that gain a residence card or 'EU citizenship' (e.g. the illegal
immigrants whom Italy has generously amnestied) have the same right of free movement
within the UK as 'EU citizens' (the EU's term for 'nationals of an EU member state).
This Directive contains worrying provisions. 'EU citizens' can only be excluded from the
UK on public health grounds if they have an infectious disease recognised as 'epidemic'
by the World Health Organisation, or if the same strictures on movement apply to UK nationals.
Diseases discovered three months after entry cannot be considered grounds for expulsion.
Apparently entry cannot be barred on public policy or national security grounds
to an EU citizen with a criminal record, only a "serious threat affecting one of the
fundamental interests of society" is acceptable. Justifications based on 'prevention'
are not acceptable (even though the EU can use the 'precautionary principle' to take
action - without evidence - in other policy areas).
Persons excluded on grounds of public policy or security have the right to seek readmission
three years (maybe less) after their expulsion by claiming a change in circumstance.
After five years of residence (sometimes less), there is the automatic right to permanent
residence. As little as two-and-a-half years (maybe less) need be spent in the UK to qualify. After
ten years of residence only extreme ('imperative') public security reasons
can be used to deport an undesirable.
Citizenship Directive (PDF, 47pp, 189kB)
WHOSE LAW IS IT?
The media may have focused on on immigration and asylum policy side of a leaked EU policy document,
the Hague Programme (ref:13302/1/04), but there is much else to worry about. EU governments are set to agree it (or its later draft, ref:13302/2/04), by 5.11.04.
The government claims that the UK can opt out of any policies it doesn't like (Times, 23.10.04).
But remember New Labour's famous words: "We reject permanent opt-outs".
The Programme further Europeanises the areas of justice, home affairs and border controls. The usual tactic of starting life as 'co-operation' then removing the veto from policy-making has been maintained. And, as ever, the journey is towards 'a country called Europe'.
It claims that preparatory work is being done so that measures can be adopted as soon as the EU Constitution enters into force. This takes for granted that the public in Britain (and elsewhere) will vote for it - there is massive opposition.
Ominous words that "preserving national security is only possible in the framework of the Union [EU] as a whole". Also, the importance of "a swift abolition of internal border controls.... as soon as possible after 2007" (abridged). This implies that national security arrangements are to be usurped.
It also considers whether national experts can be converted into European corps of border guards.
It seeks harmonised solutions on biometric identifiers and data - which can only mean an EU wide population register and ID cards. It calls for the development of minimum standards for national ID cards.
It talks of the cross-border exchange of law enforcement information and "new centralised European databases" in an "intelligence-led law enforcement" at EU level.
Where persons or goods are under surveillance by security services , there are to be no gaps in surveillance when suspects cross a border. This is specific to 'terrorism' - but in recent years, the definition has been inflated out of all proportion to include peaceful but noisy protest, or even pensioners lobbying to change government policy.
The EU will, by 2006, develop a long term strategy to address the factors which contribute to radicalisation and recruitment for 'terrorist activities'.
This could mean anything, but 'radicalised militants' may not take kindly to any interference, particularly in what they see as a foreign policy issue.
Mentioning the possible development of a 'European judicial culture', it beckons "objective and impartial evaluation of the quality of justice". Although the 'independence of the judiciary' is to be respected, national rules may not be, in spite of lip service to "respecting legal traditions". (The EU singularly failed to do this with the European Arrest Warrant for which no hard evidence is needed).
Combined with harmonisation under the description 'approximation of law' and common standards of procedure in criminal proceedings, EU ministers will be responsible for defining both criminal offences and penalties. The hinted goal is "increasing the efficiency of prosecutions" - read: securing more convictions, so expect some existing safeguards to go. Contractual, family and other civil law areas are also targeted for Europeanising.
A long-threatened European Public Prosecutors Office will be set up to co-ordinate prosecutions with a cross border dimension.
As in Orwell's '1984', the proposals are couched in palliative language:
"Strengthening freedom, security and justice", "guaranteeing respects for fundamental freedoms and rights".
Statewatch link for more information
"Your freedom at risk": links to articles
EU CONSTITUTION SELL-OUT
On 29.10.04, Tony Blair signed the EU Constitutional Treaty (aka 'EU Constitution') in Rome.
But what exactly has he signed up to? June's agreed document has undergone a fair bit of tidying.
As at 31.10.04, the last version that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website had was published in June and was at least two versions out of date! (On 2.11.04, after this article was published, it seems that the 13.10.04 version was loaded - but read on!).
One of our readers received the following reply from the EU's 'Europe Direct' service:
"We acknowledge receipt of your message and in response to your enquiry we would like
to inform you that as the signature by the Heads of State and Government is foreseen for
29 October 2004, the definitive printed version of the text of the future Treaty will not
be available before the beginning of 2005".
However, the Constitution text signed (NB in French!) could not be found where advertised:
Instead - try the EU's 13.10.04 draft ('CIG87/04 REV 1') on
Even so - you have to read the EU's disclaimer. "Please note that it cannot be guaranteed
that a document available on-line exactly reproduces an officially adopted text.
Only European Union legislation published in paper editions of the Official Journal
of the European Union is deemed authentic."
Whatever it is needs to be ratified across 25 countries, some with referendum hurdles. Opposition
has been widespread, even amongst Labour MPs, with a 'Labour Against the Superstate' campaign
The Constitution aims to give power away from a democratically elected government in several
areas, including our criminal justice system, civil proceedings, oil and energy supplies,
and even health. The 'safeguards' need to be explored, as history shows that EU institutions
get round what we thought were vetoes on tax and employment law (e.g.).
Little wonder that the Sunday Times earlier (18.4.04) reported that the Government was
preparing a propaganda drive on the 'benefits' (sic) of the EU. Expect moves to soften up
the British public that the Constitution is harmless or good for Britain. It is disgraceful
that, with ever-rising taxes, your money will be used in this way.
Disappearing 'red lines' as the Government gives in -
plenty of evidence as to "Why You Can't Trust New Labour"
Our Constitution Index -
Links to key articles & websites.
RESOUNDING NORTH-EAST 'NO'
The people of the North-East have rejected regional government by a massive margin - roughly 78%:22% on a turnout of nearly 50%.
On 22.7.04, Deputy PM John Prescott announced that the planned referendums in the North-West and Yorks-Humber 'EU regions' would be postponed (without a new date). However, the referendum on electing the regional assembly in the North-East would go ahead on 4.11.04 - surprising as this 'region' has also had its problems with postal voting. It is an open secret that the Government stood no chance of winning the other two. But it certainly fancied its chances in a Labour heartland.
Regional government is a twin farce - a government that gives more & more powers to the EU is actually moving it further from the people. (As it has in London by moving planning powers away from councils).
Secondly, the EU wants to use regional government to improve its image, carry out its policies and enforce its regulations more tightly.
The existing NE Regional Assembly has a 'European Management Board', whose website lets it slip that it is "developing an understanding of the key priority issues of the European Government". Its stated purpose is "to realise the potential for the Region of being part of the EU".
Support for regionalism has been hyped by both the BBC and the Government, who are merely giving voters a choice of elected/unelected - without any real alternative.
BBC Online's so-called 'North Poll' photo-gallery was little more than propaganda whitewashing
the 'Yes' side with imagery of 'opportunity' and youthfulness (especially female and personable).
In contrast, the 'No' side was subliminally associated with images of elderliness, of being
rained off, and even eccentrically trying to scare people off. But the most offensive caption hyped that the government was keen on a clean fight.
Now that the contest is over questions need to be asked over the conduct
of both the Government and its Electoral Commission
- see the blog below for more information.
Congratulations and well done to Neil Herron and his 'North East No Campaign'
colleagues, who have been exposing the farce from the start.
'North East No Campaign' campaign website
Developments chronicled on Neil Herron's 'blog' site
Our regional articles
UK PUBLIC 'NOT EUROPEAN'
The EU's own attitudes survey, Eurobarometer earlier this year
revealed that for the first time in 20 years, there are
as many people in the UK strongly against the EU as for it!.
Of Britons asked last year, only 16% said that they would feel sorry
if the EU ceased to exist.
Last year's EU-wide survey showed that a minority now supported the EU project.
A previous Eurobarometer survey (1997) was scrapped after
the numbers opposing the single currency were greater than those for it!.
In 1992, another survey was dropped after it showed a minority
considered themselves 'European' as well as their own nationality.
In the UK, 71% said that they never considered themselves 'European'
'YOUNG PEOPLE REJECT THE EU'
William Hague MP wrote a rather interesting article on the younger generation: "The youth of today? They make me glad".
(News of the World, 17.10.04)
"Their political views will come as a big shock to some of their elders:
80 per cent are against joining the Euro and 70 per cent don't even want
to be in the EU at all. It would do Cabinet ministers good to go and
listen to them more often".
A welcome change from the 1999 version who said that the Maastricht Treaty was one of John Major's achievements, and good for Britain, as it gave us
the chance of joining the Euro?
'TIME RUNNING OUT FOR EU'
The Head of the European Commission in London resigned in disillusionment, after admitting that it
is impossible to convince Britain to "tolerate, let alone love" the EU. (Independent, 5.7.04)
Jim Dougal also complained that bureaucracy within the Commission was stifling, and criticised its
belief in a "le grand public" of Europe that simply did not exist. In particular, he warned
that its next generation of leaders would not understand the UK.
He felt that the future was in nation-states co-operating where "national sovereign
interests dictate" and warned EU member states not to let 'Brussels' [i.e. the Commission]
promote its own agenda. He admitted that UK rejection of the EU Constitution and even withdrawal from the EU was "now a possibility".
EU - 'NUL POINTS'
Another example of how our masters are out of touch with the people. The President of the
European Commission, Romano Prodi, claimed that Olympic medal successes belonged not to any one
country but to Europe - and that in future athletes should be made to show it.
He said: "In 2008 I hope to see the EU member state teams in Beijing carry the flag
of the European Union alongside their own national flag as a symbol of our
Britain's Olympic athletes were not amused:
- Runner Kelly Holmes said: "It's not something I'd like to see".
- Rower James Cracknell said: "This seems silly. I'm happy with the British
flag thank you".
- Sprinter Darren Campbell said: "If that happens I won't be there. I am British and proud to be representing Britain. I won't
be competing under any other flag, ever. This is completely stupid".
Unfortunately propagandising like Prodi's is not isolated. Similar proposals were made on the Yourturn.net website, subsidised
by Community Fund (national lottery) money and effectively sponsored by the BBC and UK government departments, out of your taxes.
BRITAIN '£20Bn BETTER OFF OUT'
Some years ago, France-based economist Ian Milne wrote a great analysis on the Single Currency, as proposed at Maastricht.
He has released a report "The Costs and Benefits of the European Union"
for the think-tank, Civitas. His online summary is well worth reading (HTML/PDF format), and he outlines his evidence that there would be no net loss of jobs or trade.
Click for report summary
Website for stockists, the June Press
This page updated: 27 November 2004