Magazine article The Spectator

Season of Myths

Magazine article The Spectator

Season of Myths

Article excerpt

MYTHS of old were often spun around an element of fact. Archaeologists removing the sediment of Cadbury Castle in Devon observed that this ancient hill-fort might indeed have been the site of Arthur's Camelot. Latter-day researchers, digging beneath the hyperbole of a good tabloid Euromyth, may sometimes find a kernel of truth.

In the run-up to next month's Nice summit there has been a spate of tales from Brussels, ranging from plans to ban village fetes to reports of an attempt to ban Euroscepticism itself (see last week's cover story by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard). And then there is the passport myth, or alleged myth.

The autumn storm culminated in frenzied headlines announcing that 'Brussels' was about to introduce standardised EU passports, in EU blue with EU gold stars. The British emblem on the cover was to be wiped off. Neil Kinnock has since issued frenzied denunciations (see cover story) of this kind of myth-making, and so I decided to get to the bottom of it.

I was confidently told at the outset of my inquiries that the passport myth had no basis in truth but had magically appeared from nowhere on a Brussels website and spread from there. So I called a senior Commission official.

It is a fact, he wearily explained, that the Commission is looking at ways of improving EU passport design to achieve greater 'homogeneity', thereby making forgery more difficult. But it is not true to suggest that the Commission is acting without the authority of democratically elected national governments. The power to make proposals on the design of passports of EU citizens was conferred upon the Commission in 1992 when heads of state signed up to Article 18 (citizenship) of the Maastricht Treaty.

It was John Major and his Conservative government who signed away this slice of sovereignty because it was they who signed the Maastricht Treaty.

It is a myth to claim that the new measures are an attack on national citizenship, he continued. …

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