Why Can't We Run Our Own Foreign Affairs? Britain Is the Sixth-Biggest Economy in the World and the Fourth-Strongest Military Power

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), October 31, 2010 | Go to article overview

Why Can't We Run Our Own Foreign Affairs? Britain Is the Sixth-Biggest Economy in the World and the Fourth-Strongest Military Power


Byline: DANIEL HANNAN

At the very moment George Osborne was on his feet announcing the Coalition's spending cuts, MEPs were voting through rises in the EU budget that would have added [pounds sterling]900million to Britain's contribution.

David Cameron went to last week's Brussels summit determined to block the increase. The EU, he said, should reflect the austerity of its member nations.

Although he managed to persuade other EU leaders to oppose the full 5.9 per cent rise demanded by MEPs, the EU budget will still grow by at least 2.9 per cent.

Britain's share of the increase - not our share of the budget, our share of the increase - will be [pounds sterling]435million. That's enough to pay for 6,000 NHS doctors, 12,000 nurses, 15,000 police officers or 22,000 Army privates.

Why do Eurocrats want this extra money? Here they have been admirably frank. In its 'Amending Letter to the 2011 Budget', the European Commission set out three areas where it argued that additional spending was needed: Europol; the new financial supervisory agencies; and, most expensive of all, the European External Action Service (EEAS).

Thus, even as it scraps quangos in the UK, the Coalition is funding gargantuan Euroquangos. Europol is the EU's federal police force. The financial supervisory agencies will do grave damage to the City of London, shifting responsibility for the invigilation of banks and equity funds from our own regulators to officials who bear us little goodwill.

But it is the EEAS, the EU's diplomatic corps, that poses the most immediate challenge to our independence.

The EEAS says it wants the extra millions to recruit new staff and to upgrade its embassies, but why does it need to do these things?

Why must it spend [pounds sterling]10million on doing up its swanky new headquarters just as Britain, like every other country affected by the downturn, is closing or merging several legations?

The answer is that the EU means to signal to other countries that it, rather than its 27 constituent members, should now be their first port of call.

To to almost any non-EU nation and you will find an EU embassy towering over the national missions and typically employing three or four times as many staff as any member states.

The EEAS's annual budget is [pounds sterling]5.8billion, more than twice that of our own Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The net salary of the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs is more than twice that of the British Foreign Secretary.

These figures don't simply reflect the EU's profligacy; they also reflect a genuine shift in the balance of power.

What were the traditional functions of the British Embassy in, say, Nicaragua? Principally trade, aid and visas. But all these functions are being taken over by Brussels.

Since 1973, Britain has had no commercial policy: we are part of a single bloc, surrounded by a common external tariff. We have also increasingly lost control over international development - although we still fund some schemes, the big money is recycled through Brussels.

And while visas are still awarded by national consulates, the EU's common immigration policy increasingly determines who gets them, and through which procedure.

Small wonder, then, that while the EU embassy in Nicaragua employs several dozen staff, the British mission there has closed.

Much of this shift had taken place before the EEAS was formally established. That's how the EU works: it stealthily extends its jurisdiction into a new area and then, sometimes many years later, regularises that extension in a treaty. …

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