Bribed with our own money

“They give us back a little of our own money; they tell us what to do with it; then they expect us to be grateful”.  I coined this aphorism ten years ago, and have been repeating it at every opportunity, but it is particularly relevant now.

When I wrote my May 3rd piece on the EU’s “Arc Manche” project, I thought the idea was so evidently and egregiously preposterous that no right-thinking Englishman (or woman) could support it.  So the piece was merely shock/horror, a cri de coeur, rather than forensic analysis or tightly-argued polemic.  But judging from a couple of comments on the piece, I was mistaken, and I need to argue the case.  I am, characteristically, happy to do so.

The EU is aiming for a Europe of Regions, in which the nation state will wither away, and become a dusty anachronism, rather like the fading memory of all the principalities, dukedoms and city states that littered Europe in the seventeenth century.  We see this policy in big things like the centralisation of administration and law-making in Brussels, which proceeds apace.  We see it in small things like the EU’s insistence that its wretched Crown-of-Thorns flag be flown on public buildings in the UK during Europe Week (which starts Saturday May 7th, in case you’d missed it), under penalty of draconian fines.  I hope that British local authorities and the Conservative-led government will stand together to resist, reject and repudiate both the flag-waving and the fines.

We see the determined effort to undermine the nation-state in a series of organisations and programmes.  Like INTERREG, which funds projects but only on a trans-national basis, so we see joint applications for funds from (in some cases) hugely ill-assorted groups of organisations from different countries, thrown together with the sole aim of exploiting the rules and the funds.  We see it in pointless organisations like the European Economic and Social Committee, and the Committee of the Regions.  These exist primarily to stroke the egos of local big-wigs in, respectively, industry and the unions; and local authorities.

These people are made to feel important, given titles, sent on fact-finding missions and conferences where they enjoy networking, benchmarking, sharing best practice, and not a little entertainment at the public expense.  The EU is simply buying influence, and the support or at least acquiescence of the participants, who clearly constitute a significant opinion-forming group.

“Arc Manche” is clearly another of these initiatives.  But let’s be fair and look at the arguments adduced in its favour in the comment column on my earlier piece.

It is “simply a voluntary organisation of local authorities and stakeholders”.  (Stakeholders — note the new Labour admin-speak).  It “assists them them in accessing EU funds”.  It enables them to discuss relevant cross-border issues of which (says the comment) there are many.

The first two claims are linked.  Local authorities volunteer because they see it as a way of accessing EU funds.  But EU funds don’t come free.  They don’t grow on trees.  It’s our money, which has been laundered through Brussels, and as I have shown elsewhere, each pound we get back costs the UK economy around £3.  I can understand the Kent County Council (say) being pleased to get £1 million from Brussels for some pet project, and I support them in the attempt, but it could have been £3 million if we’d managed it ourselves.  We’ve been bribed with our own money, and on very bad terms.

And relevant issues?  There are none.  If it’s navigation rules in the Channel, these should be negotiated bilaterally between the UK and France.  If it’s more local, like cross-channel ferry schedules, it should be discussed between the Ports of Dover & Calais.  Arc Manche is a microcosm of the EU’s larger problem — yes of course there are transnational issues to be discussed, but almost never is the group of countries in the EU (or the councils and “stakeholders” in Arc Manche) the most relevant group.  For example, there may be vital concerns in the North Sea that should be discussed by countries bordering that sea.  But not the EU 27.  We’d need Norway in (it’s not an EU member), and we certainly wouldn’t need Greece or Slovenia.

So let’s have relevant discussions between relevant groups — not a rigid EU/Arc Manche structure which is rarely ideal for any issue, and which in any case is designed not to solve local problems, but to promote EU centralisation and to sideline the nation-state.

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9 Responses to Bribed with our own money

  1. James says:

    “We see it in small things like the EU’s insistence that its wretched Crown-of-Thorns flag be flown on public buildings in the UK during Europe Week (which starts Saturday May 7th, in case you’d missed it), under penalty of draconian fines.”

    This has been denied by the Head of European Commission Representation in the UK and the Head of European Parliament Information Office in the UK: http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/ECintheUK/letter-to-the-editor-of-the-daily-express-re-article-eu-flag-rules-were-poles-apart-on-4th-may-2011/

    Do you have evidence that what you say is true (and no, the fact it was written in the Daily Express doesn’t count)?

  2. Jonathan says:

    Rather than respond to all the allegations and misinformation contained in your post, I will instead make a general comment. However, I would just like to make clear once again that the Daily Express article is entirely misleading and without substance. The Channel-Arc-Manche does not want its own president, flag or anthem!

    Roger, do you honestly believe that if the EU were not to exist, English local authorities, French regions, Dutch provinces, (Norwegian municipalities?) etc would not wish to talk with each other? Yes, of course they would! Indeed, the totally non-EU related North Sea Commission is presided over by a Norwegian delegate and has been working on trans-regional issues for a number of years. Nations, regions, politicians and citizens will always want to speak with their neighbours and I think it is depressing to believe that the British interest stops at the coastline.

    Throughout both of your posts, you make an (incorrect) assumption that £1 spent by the UK government or a local authority has the same impact as £1 spent on an EU INTERREG project. This is not the case. The added value that comes from working on a trans-regional project should not be underestimated. Let’s imagine you are working (as I once did for a short time) on a trans-regional enterprise project with a focus on innovation clusters, hi-tech incubators and modernised manufacturing techniques that involves English, French and Belgian organisations. Through working together and pooling their resources they are able to exploit new joint procurement routes, make efficiencies in their own organisations (saving money/hiring new staff), develop new trade links, access new public-private markets and increase their European and global competitiveness. In many instances, business projects like this are supported by local authorities who are also able to gain similar advantages.

    As you will know Roger, one of the biggest savings local authorities can make is in their public procurement processes. However, most local authorities are just too small to have the economic clout necessary to get the best deals. That is why many local authorities are sharing services with their neighbours, pooling staff and undertaking joint procurement. Why should this stop in England? Why not undertake similar work with our mainland European neighbours? Joint procurement on energy efficient building materials, electric autos, renewable energy (all things I know you love!).

    Finally, this Eurosceptic obsession with the dismantlement of Member States into a Europe of Regions is so passé. Not since the Commission Presidency of Jacques Delors has anybody seriously spoken about a Europe of Regions. The Treaties of the European Union clearly lay out the principles and foundations of the EU and this is one of Member States, not regions. Only if EU Member States in the Council of Ministers approved this, would such a change occur.

    I live in Brussels, so should you wish to discuss this in person, I more than happy to stop by for a coffee 😉

    • This is a travesty. No one wants “British interests to stop at the coastline”. I have quite specifically said that we need to discuss cross-border issues (if you’d troubled to read what I wrote). The questions are (1) is the EU — or Arc Manche — the ideal forum? (2) does the EU have an ulterior motive? (3) Should our local politicians be bribed with tax-payers’ money?

      Answers, in case you haven’t worked it out, Jonathan, are NO; YES; and NO.

      • Jonathan says:

        I would suggest the answer to your questions are yes (and many other similar forums), no (because it is not an EU orgnaisation), and no (they are not being bribed, they are merely taking advantage of external funding).

        Is Cameron being bribed when he accepts party donations from big business, or is he just looking for external funding?

      • Jonathan: I have made it quite clear that I support British local councils seeking to maximise their utilisation of EU funds (though I don’t think that the system of EU funding should be in place to start with). When I speak of bribery, I am speaking of the creation of ersatz organisations like the Committee of the Regions, the Economic and Social Committee, Arc Manche, and indeed town twinning, which are primarily designed to buy the support of opinion-formers, by offering them kudos, titles, travel and entertainment opportunities. But then, Jonathan, if you’d troubled to read my original post, you’d know that already.

  3. Climate Change Con...... says:

    Further information on Arc Manche is covered in this briefing note :

    Click to access SNIA-04894.pdf

    Eurosceptic campaigns alleging the abolition of Westminster Standard Note:
    SN/IA/4894
    Last updated : 20 November 2008
    Author: Vaughne Miller
    Section International Affairs and Defence Section

    This Note looks at eurosceptic campaigns alleging that the EU will remove England from the map of Europe and abolish Westminster. It does not examine the allegations and claims in detail, but presents the basic arguments and considers the EU instruments to which they are linked.

  4. Pingback: Arc Manche: The thin end of the wedge « Roger Helmer MEP

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