Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Well, no, we are not out of the EU

There seems to be some strange consensus being built up among Conservative and Conservative-leaning commentators that the UK is effectively out of the European Union for reasons that are rather hard to define.

Andrew Lilico wrote on Conservative Home

There will be a referendum on our EU Membership even if Ed Miliband wins the next General Election. And even if there weren't, we would still be out of the EU regardless of whether we still officially held an EU membership card. Our EU membership, in the terms we have understood it up to now, is over.

Get-out-ers seem to have been even slower to grasp that and its implications than have the Cameroons (who are still pitifully behind the play). We are leaving the EU, one way or another. That isn't in doubt; it isn't the issue; and it's barely worth debating. Given that I didn't want us to leave, I might occasionally indulge in some recriminations over whose fault it is that we're leaving, but that's not the interesting question.

Whether we are leaving the EU is highly questionable as no particular plan has been proposed or even discussed officially. Even more questionable is the assertion that our membership "in the terms we have understood it up to now, is over".

Exactly, what has changed? Are we not still legally bound to obey the legislation in all its forms that emanates from Brussels? Do we not still pay over large amounts of money with more being demanded in the budget under discussion? Are we not part of the CAP, the CFP, the European Arrest Warrant (EWA) and many other alphabet institutions?

Today we get the same tune from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard at the Daily Telegraph, whose headline says: Britain has left the European Union in all but name. All the above questions need to be asked and all the implied objections apply.

Mr Evans-Pritchard is assuring us that we are preparing to withdraw from vast amounts of legislation to do with the Third Pillar, that is law and justice. Well, no, not as such. So far, we have had a great deal of talk about not opting into some of the legislation from which opt-outs have been negotiated though this government has already opted in unnecessarily in a few cases. There is no sign whatsoever that the country will pull out of anything like the European Arrest Warrant or the European Investigation Order, which the government quietly and without telling anybody much opted in.

Periodically we get noises from Ministers who suddenly "discover" after a good many years that yes, indeed, EU rules do apply, have applied and will apply until we come out and negotiate a completely different agreement. We also get noises about how much this particular government has managed to save from the EU or, much more frequently, how much it will save any minute now. Been there, done that, ever since John Major's "game, set and match" over Maastricht.

There is a litmus test that needs to be applied whenever a government, a political party or its acolytes in the media start making statements of that kind: what are they saying about the fisheries policy? As long as this country's fisheries are run by the EU through the CFP we are not out of the EU nor are we heading out.


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