Dan Hannan is an MEP for the South East and blogs for The Telegraph.
Is there anyone out there who just happens to support deeper European integration? Without being paid to say so, I mean?
I ask the question perfectly seriously. When he introduced the Bill to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, made a song and dance about the fact that it wasn’t just Labour politicians who backed the wretched thing. A whole range of NGOs, he told MPs, had also come out in favour.
“The NSPCC pledged its support, as have One World Action, Action Aid and Oxfam,” he said, looking typically pleased with himself. “Environmental organisations support the treaty provisions on sustainable development and even the commission of bishops supports the treaty. This is a coalition, not of ideology, but integrity”.
Integrity, eh? Within a few hours, Eurosceptic blogs were pointing out that every single organisation he had cited received money from the EU (hat-tip EUReferendum.blogspot.com).
Most of them, it turned out, also got bungs from the British government. Hardly surprising, then, that they should dutifully endorse a treaty supported by their paymasters.
What is surprising is the extent of their financial dependency. When Miliband sat down, I fired off a written question asking the European Commission how much money it had paid these organisations. I have just had the answer. In 2007, ActionAid, the NSPCC, One World Action and Oxfam received, among them, €43,051,542.95. (I’ll come to the bishops in a moment.
Just think about that sum for a moment. Can organisations in receipt of
such colossal subventions legitimately call themselves
“non-governmental”? Can they claim to be independent? Can they even
describe themselves as charities – at least in the sense that we
commonly understand the word?
Why, after all, should any of us give money to a body that is already
forcibly expropriating us through the tax system, and then using part
of the revenue to lobby the government to do things that we oppose? The
next time you get bumph from, say, Oxfam, bear in mind that it got
€37,449,517.55 from Brussels last year. This is a minimum figure, by
the way: the Commission is at pains to point out that its statistics
don’t include “structural funds via calls for tender managed by Member
States’ authorities or grants under indirect centralised management”.
The “commission of bishops” was a little harder to identify, but
patient googling revealed that its full name is the “Commission of
Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community”. Far from being an
episcopal body that just happens to back closer union, it is a
Brussels-based outfit whose stated purpose is “to promote reflection,
based on the [Roman Catholic] Church’s social teaching, on the
challenges facing a united Europe”. That’s right: an organisation
wholly dependent on the EU believes – get this – that the EU
should have more power.
This, of course, is how the EU likes to work. Whenever it wants to
extend its jurisdiction into a new field, it goes through the motions
of “consulting civic society”. What it means by this is that it invites
the opinions of a series of organisations that it has itself created,
and which look to Brussels for their income: the European Women’s
Lobby, the European Union of Journalists, the European Trade Union
Congress and so on.
A couple of months ago, the European Commission wanted new rules on
pesticides, so it set up a front organisation called “Pesticide Watch”
– an amalgam of various EU-funded bodies – to push it in that
direction. In the same way, the Commission pays Friends of the Earth to
urge it to take more powers in the field of climate change, it pays WWF
to tell it to assume more control over environmental matters, it pays
the European Cyclists’ Federation to… oh, you get the picture.
You see how the system works? The EU firehoses cash at these
organisations to lobby it, they tell it what it wants to hear, and it
then turns around and claims to have listened to The People. And here’s
the clever bit: millions of people are thereby drawn into the system,
their livelihoods becoming dependent on the European project.
There are occasional grumbles, of course. Last week, a report
complained about the influence of industry lobbyists in the European
legislative process. What the authors of the report – an alliance of
trade unions and eco-groups – fail to see is that they are just as much
a part of the problem.
Whenever the European Commission comes up with a proposal, it turns to
NGOs and corporate affairs people on both sides. So, yes, you get the
pharma giants and the oil lobby and the independent healthcare
corporations and the rest. But you also get the greenies and the
women’s groups and the assorted busybodies who claim to speak for
“civil society”. What you don’t get is any direct input from voters.
Public opinion is intermediated by quangoes.
You’ll often hear it said that the EU is undemocratic. Actually, it’s
worse than that: it’s anti-democratic, run by and for
people who fear the electorate.