October 18, 2010


Pay very close attention when William Hague talks about the EU 

By Norman Tebbit

Last updated:
October 17th, 2010

William Hague: just what has he conceded?

William Hague: just what has he conceded?

I have recently read the text of William Hague’s speech as Foreign Secretary – or, as he reminded the Conservative Conference, Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary. There is a lot of sound common sense in it. However, his remarks about the European Union, which brought great applause, need to be looked at very carefully indeed.

First, he said that “The Coalition is agreed that we will not agree to move more areas of power from Britain to the EU”. Notice the careful choice of words. It is not an undertaking that more powers will not go to the EU, but, that “no new areas of powers” will do so. Indeed, the Coalition opted into a scheme to give foreign police forces wide new powers within the UK , although it had no need to do so and cannot now opt out again. Even worse, those powers can be changed or extended without our consent by majority voting.
Nor will Mr Hague’s words rob the EU of its powers under the Lisbon Treaty to extend its reach and powers over this country. The powers are already there, they are simply not yet being used.

Mr Hague says there will be legislation requiring a referendum before any other Treaty “giving away more areas of power” (and notice that word “areas” has appeared again) could be signed. Of course a future Parliament could repeal that legislation, although that is unlikely, but it can do nothing about the powers already ceded to the EU.

What brought the greatest cheers from the assembled Tory activists was Mr Hague’s final assurance: “A sovereignty clause on EU law will place on the statute book this eternal truth: what a sovereign parliament can do, a sovereign parliament can also undo”. That really does worry me. It is a general rule of life that if a man in a pub declares loudly that he is stone cold sober, the odds are that he is drunk.

A parliament which is sovereign has no more need to legislate to declare that to be so than a sober man has to announce his sobriety. Indeed, by so doing it casts doubts on whether it is or was sovereign.

There never was any possible doubt that by the repeal of the 1972 Act the United Kingdom would become free of the European Union. Of course if that were done without a mutually agreed transition it would be an almighty mess. But to say that there is a need to legislate to assert that that is the case, undermines the assertion itself.

Whoever slyly whispered in the ear of the Foreign Secretary that a sovereign parliament needs to pass a law to say it is sovereign must be well pleased by his work. After all, all he needs now is a majority one day in Parliament to repeal Mr Hague’s sovereignty Act and Parliament would be no longer sovereign and the EU would have won, as poor John Major thought he had done at Maastricht, game set and match.

There were plenty of lively comments on my blog about Cameron’s decision to allow US special forces to attempt to rescue Linda Norgrove. Black Arrow criticised Cameron on the grounds that you don’t take decisions on incomplete and unreliable information. But the world isn’t like that. Navigating a 707 across the Pacific in bad weather before SatNav or even inertial systems, you never had anything but incomplete and unreliable information. And all too often if you wait for complete and reliable information you find that a decision has taken itself whilst you were waiting. And that is just as true in No 10 as on the flightdeck. Of course, as bionicraspberry and stevenmckkeane advocated, Cameron could have insisted that the SAS should go in, but there were hazards in that too, including possible delays and split command. Then, as jackfrost suggested, for no fault of their own, but for lack of kit, the SAS may not be as good as they once were.

Anyway, as rosina reminded us, the villains were the kidnappers, not the would-be rescuers and as nellie pointed out, had Linda Norgrove been rescued you could be sure that the kidnappers would probably have killed a child or two to sucker the media into blaming the rescuers.

Charles bath and cartimandua agreed that negotiating with kidnappers is a mistake, and skicarver agreed that killing hostage takers does have an effect on other would be kidnappers, although cleisthenes of Glasgow had a fair point in saying that death does not deter the most extreme Islamists.

Perhaps the last word on that should be left to blobby2010, who asked what happened to the Chandlers, the couple who were kidnapped when their yacht was seized under the nose of the RN, who were forbidden to attempt a risky rescue.

I hope that darkseid was right in suggesting that Cameron might be strengthened by this experience. We will have to see whether he will be, or whether he will be left scarred and gun-shy.

Once again I think simxn’s comments about me were too kind. However I agree with james1 who suggested that all of us who are concerned about the future of our country need to join together. Perhaps there will be a Tea Party here, but I suspect not. It is more likely that the revolution will come within one of the larger parties than from a new organisation.

MapleLeafForEver and aasvogel both raise the question of the future of the Commonwealth. I have to confess to having changed my mind about that. Twenty years ago I was very dismissive of the Commonwealth, but I now think I was wrong and that it has some important strengths derived from its diversity, which is balanced by its use of the English language, its common heritage of past British rule and the political and legal systems which have largely survived de colonialisation. It is an asset not enjoyed by any other nation and I now think it worth developing.

I do not know enough about the US welfare system to enter a discussion on it with bersher, but I am certain that in general tax breaks are better than hand-outs to middle earners. Child benefit sprang from the earlier system of child tax allowances and the recent debacle would have been avoided if the change to benefit had never been made.

Lastly, ped was well on target in saying that Parliament was once a bulwark against the tyranny of the Crown and now the Crown may become the bulwark against the political elite. However, we cannot expect the Crown to do what the people through democratic elections have the power to do, but chose not to. Personally, I am with disgruntled on this at least. As he observed, better a constitutional monarch than a head of state in Parliament.