|Montreal, September 28, 2002 / No 110|
by Ralph Maddocks
It has been said that today's European Union is an attempt to resurrect the Holy Roman Empire, an empire that was very different in that it largely used the language employed in the above title, instead of the numerous official languages of the present union. One tried and tested method of dealing with opposition of any kind is to divide it in order to rule it. An ancient technique employed throughout the ages by various megalomaniacal rulers perhaps best described by Machiavelli. Governments still practise the technique, and the latest example of it comes to us from Tony Blair's Britain. After managing to satisfy the egos of some discontented Scots by granting them some sort of limited sovereignty and tricking the doubting Welsh into forming their own political assembly, Mr Blair is now rushing to abolish the counties of Britain itself by subsuming them into so-called Regions.
Something similar was done by the Quebec government, presumably as part of its planned separation from the Canadian reality and body politic. Here they are called MRCs. Some may think that MRC stands for the Missing Children's Registry. They would be wrong however, MRCs are Municipalités régionales de comté or Municipal Regional Counties en anglais. The originality of our politicians being astounding, each MRC has its own Prefect and some sort of council composed of the mayors from the municipalities composing the MRC. At present they are just another way for creating jobs for the boys and expanding the bureaucracy to deal with matters like job creation and tourism. It is obvious though that here is the potential for later amalgamation of the many small villages and towns into larger groups which would then be much easier to control. The recent change in the law regarding municipal police forces is another example of this centralizing tendency. A tendency vehemently rejected by Quebec's politicians whenever Ottawa talks the same way. But I digress.
The average Englishman or woman identifies him or herself as being from this or that county and this or that city, town or village. This is in contrast to the inhabitants of Wales or Scotland, a land also divided into counties, who identify themselves simply as Welsh or Scottish. For example, one may be English and coming from Lancashire (an ancient county in the north-west) but one would also make the distinction of identifying oneself as being also a Liverpudlian (Liverpool) or a Mancunian (Manchester).
These divisions are not the fabrications of long expired historians, they reflect the geology, topography, the history, the architecture and the dialect of an area. The roots go very deep indeed, as can be seen in the placenames. Names with endings such as -garth, -thwait, -holme, -hulme, -thorp and -ton speak to the influence of the Norsemen for example. Just as in the states of America and the départements of France, counties are embedded deeply in England's cultural genes. Mr Blair and others of his political ilk have long hated the counties because while their own support came mainly from the industrialised towns and cities, their opponents, the Liberals and Conservatives, came largely from the counties i.e. the countryside. How else to explain this atavistic hatred of fox hunting, a sport they always imagined to be beloved by, and the exclusive preserve of, the rich county squires. The facts are that most hunts are peopled by farmers even though some rich or aristocratic landowners may also be present. The recent peaceful protest march in London, where in excess of 400,000 people showed up, shows that the government has underestimated the strength of feeling in the countryside. A feeling exacerbated by the gross mishandling of the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak last year, a catastrophe which has left many farmers ruined financially (see FOOT-AND-MOUTH OR FOOT-IN-MOUTH?, le QL, no 80).
Like most EU legislation, this UK regionalisation project is little understood by those who are likely to be most affected. It may be recalled that in a moment of unusual, and probably misguided, candour, Luxembourg's prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, once described the European Union "system" as follows: "We decide on something, leave it lying around, and wait and see what happens. If no-one kicks up a fuss, because most people don't understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back." A very accurate, though cynical, way to explain how European political integration and regionalisation proceeds by stealth.
Corroboration of the above candid assessment can be found in the announcement by John Prescott (Deputy Prime Minister) reported by the BBC on Sunday 19 May. Mr Prescott, who is sometimes known as "Two Jag Prescott," announced achievement of his so-called "dream" of eight Elected Assemblies in England. As with so many deluded politicians, it is not his dream at all but that of the creators of the European Superstate. The full title of the European Union is in fact "The European Union of the Regions," of which there are at the present time 111 separate regions.
The plan to devolve regions in England which Mr Prescott described so enthusiastically as "the conclusion of a political dream that I have held for decades" is exactly in keeping with Article 198A of the Maastricht Treaty. EU Document 501 PC0083 which sets up "the nomenclature of statistical units" which just happen to be identical to the regions announced by Prescott. The North East Region of the UK has been officially classified by the EU as region UKC. In fact Prescott's dream for 8 devolved Regional Assemblies is exactly the same in every detail as the Regionalisation plan of the European Commission – the EU Parliament having first produced a map showing the geographical divisions of the regions in 1996. No doubt a coincidence that Mr Prescott's dream coincides exactly with that of the builders of the European Superstate in Brussels.
When the people of the North East wake up from their sleep in 2006 they may find that their Region will be governed by an assembly, watched over by Brussels, which is of course further removed from the North East than is London. Just as a tormentor crushes his victim's personality by removing all sign of individualism, so dictators wipe the familiar from subject communities. For Much Binding in the Marsh the dictator substitutes Unit 2345 of Western Sub-Region Four.
Nobody in the UK has ever been asked if they want this to happen, but then nobody asked Quebecers about the MRCs either. A referendum has been promised seeking the approval of the electorate to establish each region. However, given the lack of understanding and general apathy among the population the likely result will be the adoption of the regional concept by a relatively small group of europhiles voting within the small, usually around 40%, turnout of the electorate.
The Committee of the Regions established by Article 198 a (or Article 263 as it is now known) has advisory status with some 24 of its members representing the regions of the UK. France has 24 as does Germany and Italy, Spain has 21 and the smaller countries have 6 (Luxembourg), 9 (Ireland and Finland) or 12 (Austria, Portugal, Belgium, Greece, Netherlands and Sweden). This means that each committee member representing the UK has 2.4 millions of "constituents" and the fortunate Luxembourg member represents just 65,000 "constituents." The members of the Committee and an equal number of alternate members are appointed for four years by the Council acting unanimously on proposals from the respective Member States and their terms are renewable. In total there are 444 representatives whose pay and expenses will be supported by the taxpayers of the various countries. Plus, of course, all their staff and all their expenses – but no more democracy and no more control over the unelected dictator committee – the European Commissioners.
The language used in the articles setting out the duties and responsibilities of the committee members is, as usual, difficult to understand in places. Committee members may not be bound by any mandatory instructions (presumably by their home governments) and are supposed to be completely independent in their duties. The committee may issue opinions either independently or when requested by the Commission. Nowhere does it say that members represent a region [viz. Wales], in fact it expressly states that they shall not have a mandate or be bound by instruction. This could mean that all the members and alternates could come theoretically from the same town or village. Could they come from the same political party? There seems to be no attempt at providing diversity of political opinion. Yet the European Union's own site shows that the "Committee of the Regions (expresses the opinions of regional and local authorities on regional policy, environment, and education)."
These committee Members though are not elected, they are proposed by, in the case of the UK, Westminster and then appointed by the Council, and their loyalty must be to Europe. The stipulation "...performance of their duties, in the general interest of the Community" makes the point clear. The committee
The entirety of Article 263 says nothing other than that the Committee shall have freedom of speech. Is the implication that citizens of the new State of Europe do not have freedom of speech? There is no undertaking that the Committee has to be consulted, nor that anything it says has to be listened to. Therefore since it has no authority, no area of jurisdiction and no responsibility, it has no reason to exist. Yet another costly talking shop!
Another interesting facet of all this has been the involvement of the Church of England in many meetings such as the "East of England Constitutional Convention" to be held next month in October. This event is to be chaired by the Rt. Rev. the Lord Bishop of St. Albans. The role of the official church – in the UK there is no separation of church and state – was said to be the result of an approach by high-ranking officials of the East of England Regional Assembly and the government. The request was to help them to develop a democratic debate about the need for regional government in the East of England. The church agreed, apparently because they wished to align their activities with them "...as part of a policy of tracking social developments against a background of church involvement in the local community in the context of their own faith commitment."
It seems to me that they are really involved in the undemocratic process of removing control from the hands of the UK people and handing it to an unelected group of commissioners in Brussels. Where this group, accompanied by a Parliament with little or no power, will continue to waste the taxpayers money on various idiotic and unnecessary schemes. The involvement of the C of E would be understandable if it had also become involved, for example, in measures to stop democratic control passing away from Westminster in the first place. If they had helped to stop decision-making powers being transferred from local Councils to regional bodies, the government, and the EU It is very strange that as guardians of the religious sphere, they are not campaigning against the EU's proposed draconian laws on "racism and xenophobia." These latter proposals will almost certainly mean very significant restrictions on those who believe in the Bible and try and practice their faith, apart from being a dangerous erosion of free speech in this once-free country.
The clerics who are promoting these Conventions vigorously seem to have forgotten their sworn oath of allegiance to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, which they all take upon becoming Clerks in Holy Orders. Indeed, the Queen also swore at her Coronation "...to govern the peoples of the United Kingdom according to their laws and customs." She did not swear an oath of allegiance to the EU and it's laws and customs. A succession of deceitful politicians in the UK have in effect forced her to break her oath. These so-called conventions have been established more or less throughout England with most of them being chaired by C of E bishops. It is contended that because of this they will be seen to be impartial. However, this is unlikely to be the case. The Church of England's own organisation "Christianity and the Future of Europe" receives grants directly from the EU, and from the EU's "Soul for Europe" programme, in order to promote the EU's case to the British people. The man who pays the piper usually calls the tune.
A recent MORI Poll, commissioned by that very same body, the East of England Regional Assembly, found that only 11% of the people in the six counties comprising the "East of England" thought of themselves as living in a region called "East of England." This must be especially true in the county of Hertfordshire, where the good Bishop of St Albans presides, and whose affinity and connections are primarily with London, not East Anglia. Still fewer than11% of the people in that "region" support moves to set up a remote regional assembly which will remove many powers from more accountable and accessible local district and county councils. I think that it was Roy Hattersley, a well known Labour Party MP, who remarked that he believed that power must be transferred continually away from the nation-state both up to a supranational body (e.g. the EU) and down to the regional level (e.g. the Regional Assemblies). Obviously this will leave the nation-state with no power at all, which is presumably the point of all this dividing in order to rule.
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