The Power of the Euro-parliament and Brussels

There is a pitiful comparison with Westminster …the laws of this country are no longer determined by Parliament at Westminster

euro-parliamentComment from Boris:  “Cor, I thought. This is what it must be like to be in one of those films. You nod off for 10 minutes and you wake up in 200 years’ time. We had just pitched up at the Gare du Midi in Brussels and the transformation was incredible. It was 20 years ago that this paper despatched me to the Belgian capital to be its Common Market Correspondent, and in those days the Gare du Midi was a wonderfully dingy place with feral cats and trod-on chips and Turkish taxi drivers snoozing in their battered Mercs and trains departing slowly for First World War destinations like Poperinge.

“Now the future had arrived. A vast space-age Eurostar terminal loured over the ancient quartier, and as we headed into the heart of Euroville I couldn’t believe my eyes. Poor old Brussels took a terrible pasting in the Fifties, when ruthless British developers moved in and razed so many lovely maisons de maître, whacking up anonymous office blocks in their place. That was nothing to the destruction now taking place in the name of Europe.”

He highlights the sites of the burgeoning European institutions – they are as though gigantic alien motherships of glass and steel have crash-landed on the city, dwarfing the cobbled streets and crushing out the patisseries and the gloomy little bars he used to love.

Take the Euro-parliament, where he had a fairly poky office on Rue Belliard. Seeing it now – to call it a palace is a wild understatement. It is more a series of palaces, a city within a city, with bars and restaurants and coiffeurs, and arcing passerelles linking one modernist monstrosity with another. Boris explains that in his time the Euro-parliament was an amiable backwater, the mother-in-law of parliaments, a herbivorous habitat of oddballs – German ex-stormtroopers, retired Italian porn stars, long-haired Flemish greens, the young Geoff Hoon. The agenda broadly consisted of having lunches in Strasbourg before issuing strongly worded and cosmically irrelevant denunciations of African famines or Latin American earthquakes.

All that is changed, changed utterly. There may have been a bar in the old Brussels Euro-parliament office, but not even the most desperate journalist would have gone there in search of a story. Today that parliament bar is heaving, and so are all the innumerable places of refreshment, pullulating with animated young thrusters of both sexes, their Christian Dior spectacles glittering with lust for – lust for what? Power, that’s what. For the first time in the 30-year history of this much-mocked institution I had a sense of the power that seeps from the brown moleskin walls, and as I watched huissiers scuttling softly to and fro, I saw an assembly newly drenched and glistening with a rich béarnaise of self-confidence.

Of course he could not help thinking of the pitiful comparison with Westminster, the parliament in which I recently served:  “Woe to the Westminster MPs, the vast majority of whom are – at least in my experience – decent and hard-working public servants. They have been so bullied, burned and beaten by the media that they seem to have had a collective nervous breakdown. Many of them are retiring, shell-shocked by the expenses scandal, their confidence permanently shredded by the detonation of public anger.  As for their replacements, they must cope with an unloved unreformed Gormenghast of a parliament, in which they are still forced to use their archaic third-person form of address, still forced to vote by an ancient procedure that means 15 minutes of halitotic shuffling round wood‑panelled lobbies.  What a contrast with Brussels. In Brussels and Strasbourg (and Luxembourg, where heaven knows what they get up to), the MEPs just turn up and ker-ching, they claim their per diems. They vote at the push of a button, they are attended by every possible comfort, they have minimal interaction with their constituents, and in general the great Euro-gravy train rolls on at très grande vitesse.  In Brussels the parliament is growing in physical splendour and size, with about 750 Euro-MPs now browsing in its pastures. In London the tendency is all in the opposite direction. Not only are there plans to reduce Parliament from 659 to about 400, but British MPs face a protracted humiliation, of being forced by the whips to fill in weird prep-school forms giving an account of how they have spent every hour of every day.  In Brussels the lunching seems as uninhibited as ever; in London it’s humble pie all round – and the kicker of the whole affair is that this change is not just symbolic. It reflects the underlying reality. It reflects the shift in the balance of power and the fact that the laws of this country are no longer determined by Parliament at Westminster.”

You do not need to understand the detail of the directive on Alternative Investment Fund Management, for instance, to grasp that it is aimed at businesses in London, and risks doing considerable damage to such businesses, and yet our Parliament in London is wholly irrelevant. The result is a directive that threatens to drive such businesses outside the European Union. Of course there is a case for sensible regulation, and there is still time for that directive to be improved. But who is going to do that work? There is no point in the venture capitalists and the hedge funds lobbying any British ministers. Under the new co-decision powers of the Euro-parliament, those crucial amendments will be made in Brussels by Euro-MPs.

And, he concludes, with more directives in the pipeline, the future of the whole UK financial services industry is probably in their hands. That is why it is so telling to see the physical contrast between desiccated Westminster and sleek, self-confident Brussels. Power has passed, is passing, and under the Treaty of Lisbon, will pass further to the Euro-parliament. 

You can read this article in full in the Daily Telegraph today

21 thoughts on “The Power of the Euro-parliament and Brussels”

  1. “a herbivorous habitat of oddballs – German ex-stormtroopers, retired Italian porn stars, long-haired Flemish greens, the young Geoff Hoon.”

    Hahaha haha!

  2. That most of the laws being foisted upon the British peopole are now made in Brussels is indeed a scandal, but to blame this on the rather procedures of Westminster is mistaken. What matters in a legislature is not the language, the procedures or even the age of the buildings but the quality of the debate and the thinking of those taking major decisions.

    Let’s take the voting procedure as an example. In the wonderful world of euroland MEPs simply have to push a button on their desks. Doubtless this speeds things up, but at what expense to careful consideration?

    Consider two (dis)honourable representatives of the people, one in Westminster one in Brussels. Each has just enjoyed a considerable luncheon and must now vote on something important – the shape of cucumbers for instance.

    In London our brave MP must at least remain sufficiently sober and alert to clamber from his seat, totter several yards and then pass through the correct lobby door. In Brussels, by comparison, the MEP simply has to remain conscious enough to differentiate between two voting buttons which, in true Janet and John fashion, are doubtless large and brightly coloured. Hell! In extremis one of his less incapable colleagues can probably assist him.

    Certainly the Westminster set up has problems and doubtless there are some traditions which could be queitly shuffled into retirement. But do we really want to reduce voting on matters of national importance to the level where even a half-trained monkey can do it just because it’s “modern” and “sexy”?

  3. I do think the depressing nature of the Palace of Westminster must contribute to the dully rancid quality of modern British politics. It is a beautiful building outside, a pastiche of Gothic motifs organised in a semi-classical way that ought to look silly, but manages to be dignified, inspiring and nice. Inside, though, it is about as inspiring as a Victorian lunatic asylum. There is a miasma of cruelty and despair about the place.

    Contrast the Scottish Parliament; a mess on the outside, but fine on the inside, encouraging, light but serious.

    Time for a move?

  4. I do agree with a lot of what The Remittance Man says above.

    What some MPs did was very bad, but we are in danger of forgetting that it was not all of them, not even half of them. We had a Parliamentary system the world used to envy. That has received a huge blow, but if we tear it down altogether, we will be destroying something very precious.

    I wish that all MPs would get together and do something that would restore the public trust. Why don’t they all agree to Boris’s suggestion about giving up government cars and get on their bikes?

    We must not throw the baby out with the bath water. There are many good, dedicated MPs at Westminster, who would never dream of doing anything wrong, and they are getting the flak just the same.

    Tiresias, I have been to Westminster a few times and it was an amazing experience. If you love history, you cannot failed to be stunned by the beauty of the place, I was totally in awe. Parts date back to the 10th century, my jaw clanked like a portcullis.

    There is so much that is good about British politics, can’t we hang on to that and work on the bad bits?

  5. Thanks for the insight report of the EU Parliament bar – full of young, fashionable, animated thrusters of both sexes ( Mmm… no middle sex? ), their Christian spectacles glittering… (!!!).

    This reminds me of what I have seen on the streets of those Mediterranean cities : cheap, try-so-hard folks. Think Nancy Dell’Olio.

    After having tottered around Europe a few times, I must say that England is the most civilised European country generally. And I ‘m not biased at all.
    ———

    Sir Abdelbaset Al Magrahi ( working behing Olay anti-aging creme counter, yodels to boost sales ) :

    OOoooooooLaaaaaaaAyyyyYyyyOoooolaayyyy eeh eeeh OoooooLaaaaaYyyyy

    eeeh ehhh OooooooooLaaaaaayyyYyyyy eeeeh eeeeeeh Oooolaaay

    OooLaaayyy eeeeeeeeez foooooouurrr yoooooooouzzzzz

  6. When the Conservatives come to power, can we reverse parts of the Lisbon Treaty, to recover more control?

    If Boris was our Prime Minister, he would never let a treaty be signed that was not to our benefit, and he has the brain to work out the long term repercussions.

  7. “Can Boris Johnson find a way from City Hall to Downing Street says the Daily Mail Online? YES HE CAN!

  8. Dan

    Thanks for your link to the Lisbon Treaty which is great if anyone has a spare ten hours to read the detail! anyone got an idiot’s summary guide?

  9. Meli, what does that mean! “Bind us to supranatural thinking?” Is that something we want to do, which will benefit all of Europe, or will it mean that Germany and France are able to wreak revenge for World War 2 and the Battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo and kick us in the you know whats?

    They do want to. When I am in France, all I hear from French friends is “oh quel horreur, you beat us at so many battles, c’est incroyable!”

  10. Angela – I once helped out on a book all about supranational thinking: “A Europe of Many Circles” by Dick Body MP – the radical Bruges Group thinker. Here is a summary:
    Supranationalism is a method of decision-making in multi-national political communities, wherein power is transferred to an authority broader than governments of member states. Because decisions in some supranational structures are taken by majority votes, it is possible for a member-state in those unions to be forced by the other member-states to implement a decision. Unlike in a federal supra-state, member states retain nominal sovereignty, although some sovereignty is shared with, or ceded to, the supranational body. Full sovereignty can be reclaimed by withdrawing from the supranational arrangements. A supranational authority, by definition, can have some independence from member state governments, although not as much independence as with federal governments. Supranational institutions, like federal governments, imply the possibility of pursuing agendas in ways that the delegating states did not initially envision.

  11. I am pro the individual rather than supra-national bodies taking over, ie pro the corner shop rather than too much globalism and vast empires

  12. I have said many times in this room before – the naive, fake, Russia-influenced, western hardcore Lefties/ Socialists in the UK and Brussels have been trying all they can to turn the EU into a new Soviet Union to replace their Russian masters’ lost Empire – a laughable fictionally-idealistic empire drawn on a piece of soiled loo paper.

    Sitting in their head quarter in Brussels, they have been making unnecessarily stupid same rules for all the member states to follow; regardless of the differences between each countries. Forcing them to use the same currency, to sell only standard shaped fruits and vegetables, using the same measuring units. Tell me, how much trouble had Brussels taken to order this Labour government to force British people to use their metric system? How much did it cost British businesses to replace the old measuring system with the new one? How many shops and small market traders had been prosecuted by the British Trading Standards Agency for failing to use the metric system? One market trader refused to pay his fine for failing to use metric system on his stall, taking his case to the House Of Expense-Fiddling Lordies in London (!) through to the useless, political-correctness-gone-mad-obsessed European Court in Brussels. And while waiting to hear his case, he popped his clogs because of all the stress the case had brought him. He died a martyr. A small fry soon forgotten. Before, only a few months ago, Brussels decide to allow British people to use their old measuring system again. All for nothing.

    Tell me, why are British pubs, businesses not allowed to fly an English flag or Union Jack flag outside their shops in case it could cost them some customers? Why are our local authorities very reluctant to fly the Union Jack flag nowadays; even on the right occasions? Why did our local police forces take side with the complainant because his next door neighbour was flying Union Jack flag outside his home?

    In USA, I saw American flags everywhere – on commercial and government buildings, local authoritical buildings and houses. And they seem to fly their country’s flag with pride. No wonder foreign-born Americans hold their American passports with pride, too.

    Admit it – nowadays most British people are trying hard not to do anything or say anything which THEY think could be regarded as racism. It is an obvious sign that they have been brainwashed and loosing their nationalism gradually without realising it.

    Labour has even deleted the Union Jack logo on the planned British ID cards, claiming that the Union Jack logo would clash with the original nationality of the ID card holder and this could offend the card holder. Surely, if they chose to live in Britain and became a British citizen they should be proud of their new nationality and their new country. And the lovely Union Jack represents their chosen new country.

    The truth is Labour and Brussels have been using all the tricks to erase your nationalism gradually. Queen M. L has even criticized nationalism openly.

    All this nonsense EU Empire will crumble and end in tears. Exactly just like the Soviet Union and the Eastern European communist block did 20 years ago. And that is what Brussels’s Russian masters have been waiting to see to happen.

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