If one were to take a poll in the UK asking “what bothers you about the European Union the most?” I believe that “meddling from Brussels” would score very highly. But what does that mean? If we were to push the respondents on what precisely they meant by that, many would say that they felt that the EU was involving itself unnecessarily in matters that were better dealt with within the UK, and that our culture had developed over many centuries for us to be self-sufficient in terms of governance.
I do not believe that most people, if any, think that everything that is done by the EU is necessarily bad. After all, it is via EU intervention that we are able to have, under the double-disapproval legislation, low-cost airlines, lower SMS charges, and perhaps soon universal telephone chargers. Indeed, under the Maastricht principle of subsidiarity, all decisions are to be made at the lowest appropriate level. So really, all should then be fine, shouldn’t it?
Maastricht was the tipping point in aggressive EU expansion as it put in place the single currency, and once you have monetary union, fiscal and political union must follow along in the jet wash. Let us look again at the principle of subsidiarity. Who determines what the appropriate level to take action is? It is the EU of course. On the face of it, the principle looks as though it is designed for power to percolate down, but in fact, given that the determinant hand is held by the EU, this principle sucks powers away from the lowest level and places it at the highest. In other words, the principle subordinates our local authorities and Government to tools of the EU and not the other way around.
So far this only includes civil matters, and some, like environmental standards, may well be better taken at supranational level, be it via the EU or even UN bodies, where aggregation of efforts are more likely to reap economies of scale. But the sanctions that the EU can hand down are only financial, and the refusal of France to pay its fines over its breach of the Growth and Stability Pact, sometimes make these supra-national efforts redundant.
In order for the EU to have teeth, it requires reach into criminality, and having the power to imprison. If it could take control of criminal powers, then the super state is complete. But that could not happen, we argue, as we have 28 culturally distinct criminal codes all of which reflect individual national characteristics and weaknesses. Moreover, in the case of the UK that would trigger a referendum. It would be all over the pages of the newspapers, not just the Daily Mail. This ‘meddling from Brussels’ could not escape notice.
It did. Here is a quote from yesterday from Viviane Reding. In case you have not heard of her, she is one of the Vice Presidents of the European Commission and has the brief of Justice.
“European criminal justice will eventually mature into a regular EU policy field. The European Parliament should be the co-legislator in all legislative procedures and the Court of Justice should have full control over all EU criminal legislation.”