A shot fox

26 February 2005

A debate on Wednesday evening with Marc Glendening of the so-called Democracy Movement. (You may recall a conversation I had with him in an earlier blog entry.) We’ve debated with each other several times in the past, so it is always interesting to see how his arguments developed. This time, he didn’t make the same points as he had on previous occasions. Here is why.

The trademark arguments of the so-called Democracy Movement (you notice that I always use that epithet – you can read why here) have in recent months and years centred on the European arrest warrant and the fear of a growing EU police state. High-profile cases such as the plane-spotters in Greece have attracted a lot of attention in the UK, and this has been exploited by the anti-Europeans. The issue taps into some kind of primeval British fear of foreign courts and foreign justice. We’re not very good at foreign languages, we don’t trust them to play fair, that kind of thing.

Marc has previously made a lot of hay with this argument, but not this time. The problem for him is that the biggest governmental threats to civil liberties in the EU at the moment come from the British government and not from abroad. Only in the UK is it proposed to introduce house arrest on the say-so of a government minister. The European Convention on Human Rights prohibits this, so the government intends to opt out of the convention. Europe is the protector of our rights, not the thief of them. Maybe the government will back down or change its proposals in some way, but the point is still made. The anti-Europeans’ fox is shot.

My argument in the debate was not that the EU is perfect, not at all. It has its flaws and its problems, like any political institution, and these need to be understood and acknowledged. But the point is that it is another political institution with a distinctive job to do. The national governments of Europe on their own cannot deal with all the problems faced by the citizens of Europe. Supranational democracy is needed to deal with some of them. That’s what the EU is for. To argue against the EU or other supranational institutions means that you have to argue that the British government is all we need. But can we preserve a Britain-shaped patch of ozone layer?

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News from Tom Wise MEP about the Monnet quote. He read it in the letters page of a newspaper. That’s hardly an authentic source, is it? What someone needs to come up with the date and place and occasion for the quote. (The reason I am on my high horse about this is that it is completely at odds with everything else Monnet ever did or said: the whole point of federalism is to extend democracy, not to subvert it.) I am happy to debate the merits or otherwise of the EU on the basis of facts, but not on the basis of quotes that somebody made up somewhere.

This blog entry first appeared on www.yes-campaign.net. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Federal Union or of the Yes campaign.

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