Monday, 16 March 2015
The EU Okey-cokey
We live in a world where, if you want to avoid telesales callers you have to sign up to the Telephone Preference Service to opt out of participation in that modern-day torture of having to proactively say no to pests who are, in effect, violating your privacy. If your job demands that you work long hours, or you voluntarily put in overtime you have to formally opt out of the European Working Time Directive. The same principle, however, does not appear to apply to Iceland’s wish to withdraw its application for EU membership.
There are rules about withdrawing, it seems; it’s not good enough to just step out of the queue as you would in, say, the Post Office. The EU Commission says that the Icelandic government's letters are not enough to remove Iceland from the list of EU candidate countries and it will need to send the Council of the European Union a new letter formally withdrawing it. But this is the best bit: “if such a letter would reach the Council it would then request the opinion of the Commission. Based on that opinion the Council would take its decision whether Iceland would or would not be removed from the candidate countries list.”
Am I reading this right? This makes it harder for a country not to join the EU than it is to get taken off the Reader’s Digest mailing list. The presumption in both cases must be that you didn’t mean it, really. Even insurance companies have to give you a cooling off period in which to change your mind. There has been talk of making organ donation a presumed consent transaction whereby you have to say a definite no in advance if you don't want your body parts harvested. How much longer before the commission’s default supposition is that all countries in what are deemed to be the EU’s boundaries are automatically candidates for membership and must formally retract that status, with tanks if necessary?
David Cameron has ‘promised’ to hold a referendum if he gets back into power. But given the likely coalition that will be needed to keep him in Number Ten, will he even be permitted to pass the enabling legislation? And the EU has considerable form on denying democracy - ask France, ask Holland, ask Ireland. Actually, closer to home, just look at what they did to Britain’s ‘watertight’ opt-out on the charter on fundamental rights, rendered meaningless by the European courts of justice.
I'm too small, throw me back!
The EU strategy is plain; denial. “We didn’t get your email. I’m sorry, this is a terrible line. Maybe it got lost in the post? We are experiencing heavy volumes of traffic just now, please call back later…” And so it goes. You can call for a vote as much as you like, but once you’re through the EU door, you’re staying and there’s an end to it. You may as well hang your coat back up and put on your slippers and cardie; you're going nowhere, you're on the list. If nothing else this sorry tale ought to make you think long and hard before signing up to LinkedIn