Viviane Reding is the European Justice Commissioner, and is one of those who is tipped for the top job to replace Barroso after the elections next year.
Today she took great delight in shooting down Teresa May’s ideas on getting the EU to change its policy on free movement of people. Ms May must know that it isn’t going to happen, but because this government is running scared of the UKIP surge it feels it has to bang the immigration drum louder and louder in the hope that the fury will drown out the sound of migrant footsteps as they cross our borders. Of course if the Tories were wise they wouldn’t be trying to compete with UKIP on migration, for to do so merely raises expectations that can only be dashed by the grim reality of what membership of the EU means. There is nothing we can do, as Commissioner made entirely clear, and each time the Government pretend they are trying to do so all they display is their impotence in the face of EU rules.
However what she said, and how she said it just shows us quite the level of contempt for Britain and our democracy that is common in Brussels. Here she is,
“It seems that some national systems are too generous. Don’t blame the commission or EU rules for national choices and national regulatory systems.
If member states want to restrict the availability of social benefits to EU citizens they can… change their national systems to make them less generous.”
It might have escaped her notice that Britain’s welfare system has developed over the past 100 years in order that we can look over those of our citizens who have fallen on hard times, or who are unable to work due to a variety of reasons. It is there to support the old, the sick those in distress and those in need. It is an act of generosity from those in our society who can afford it, to those who cannot. And it is based on trust and fellow feeling. It was not designed to provide for those who have had the misfortune to have been born in less happy lands, who have moved here.
For the Commissioner to essentially say, you cannot look after your own people as you have decided to do, democratically without looking after everybody else is outrageous.
We have a generous welfare system because we vote for it. Now there may well be arguments that we are too generous to our own people, that we, in our decency have disincentivised work and graft and so on, and they may be arguments that I share. But that is for us to decide. It certainly is no business of the European Commission, nor is it acceptable for a unelected foreign bureaucrat to lecture us on how we look after our own.
There is no earthly reason why we in this country should not decide that we are happy to support our own people, but do not wish to support recent visitors to these shores to the same extent. It was not their parents and grandparents whose taxes built our welfare institutions, the schools, the hospitals, the houses and so on. But it was our parents and grandparents who through their taxes did that. When they were doing it they were not doing it so that and Tomas, Dimitar or Henryka could be housed, educated and funded – far from it.
Any Government must govern not just for those who are here today, but must respect those that came before and plan for those yet to come. We hold this land in trust, it is a leasehold, not a freehold.
Something that our European friends would do well to respect.