He who knows not, but knows not that he knows not, is a fool – shun him
Yesterday Philip Hammond, erstwhile Foreign Secretary, appeared before the House of Commons European Select Committee.
Following the long convoluted, opening question from Chairman Bill Cash about the ability of our national parliament being unable to veto EU law in order to protect such matters as they considered to be in our national interest, Hammond replied:
………Lets go to the heart of your question which is about a national, unilateral power to disallow the Acquis or pieces of European legislation and you will be well aware of the government’s position to reject that idea as being not workable – not practical – because if it applied to us, it would apply to all other members of the European Union. We would effectively have EU a a carte; where different member states could choose to be bound by those bits of legislation they liked and be not bound by those bits they didn’t like.
Frankly, if I go to the Single Market which for me has always been the core and most important element of the European Union, it would completely disrupt the functioning of the Single Market, very significantly to the disadvantage of British companies and British businesses; and it seems to me that in any rules based organisation, when you join, you accept the benefits of other members being bound by the rules and the dis-benefits of being bound by the rules yourself.
Clearly what we would like to do, in an ideal world, is join an organisation in which everyone else was bound by the rules and we weren’t – but that’s not practical for obvious reasons.
He continued that the government should proceed with reform for those issues it felt important and then, when the government had done its best at negotiating reform, to put the resulting agreement to the people in a referendum for their approval or rejection.
Not one member of the European Select Committee pointed out that members of EFTA/EEA have, under Article 102 of the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement, the ability to veto, or dis-apply, (right of reservation) EU law; and that if MPs want that right of national veto to protect what they may consider to be the UK’s national interests, there is an alternative to full membership of the European Union. (Remember, Norway did just that with the Third Postal Directive as they felt it was not in their national interest to comply).
The point was also missed by those members of the European Select Committee present, that Norway, in applying her veto to the Third Postal Directive, coupled with the fact that, at the last count, she still had not fully applied 400 EU Directives, did not appear to have disrupted the working of the Single Market.
Another important point missed was that if Hammond believes the Single Market to be the core and most important element of the EU, how does he justify the call that we need full membership of the EU to trade with the EU, when in fact EFTA//EEA membership provides that without the ‘political baggage’?
Any reader viewing this session will be struck by the paucity of the questions asked, which leads one to wonder, where members of Committees are concerned and whose purpose is to hold government and its ministers to account, just how much does party loyalty intrude into Select Committees to the extent it appears what should be ‘Dogs of War’, are muzzled?