Following the disaster at Grenfell Tower in Kensington, Dr Richard North has two recent posts (18 and 19 June) in his blog, EUReferendum.com, which discuss how responsibility should be allocated between national and international governments (he does not bring local government into his discussion). He is thorough in his analysis and cautious in his conclusions.
For our purpose here we are treating the EU as the ‘international government’, senior to the British government, because government status is both the ambition of the EU and to a considerable degree its achievement to date.
Our interest in this discussion is to uncover the extent to which the growing aggregation to itself by the EU of “competences” (defined here simply as the power and authority to make policies, laws, regulations and others) has deprived the UK of the ability, and even the right, to set standards and embed these standards in legislation that the British government may see as relevant to circumstances in the UK.
This in turn is part of the larger question, whether by joining, and choosing to remain in, the European Union, previous British governments, and present government Remainers, have delegated upwards responsibilities that they were elected to undertake, to a body that was not elected to undertake such responsibilities.
(How this came to pass is covered in part in our earlier posts The European Project: Some History and Plan v. People, in which we look at the manipulative way in which the EU has evolved towards ever closer union and supra-national government. Our concerns in this post are the present implications and exemplification of this history.)
The processes of attributing competences, and particularly shared competences, in the EU is complicated and in his two posts (and more generally) North does a good job of making them accessible for his readers and pointing them to the relevant EU directives and other legal documents. He thoughtfully avoids attributing blame for the Grenfell Tower disaster.
We use this topic to focus on the issue of governance of the UK and its limitations while we are members of the EU, following North’s concluding comment that, “…membership of the European Union has deprived us, in important respects, of the ability to govern ourselves.”
European standards (known in the business as EN standards) are many in number (and each is numbered); an incomplete list can be found in Wikipedia, for those who are fascinated by the miniscule corners into which EU governance penetrates.
North says that “Once they [EN standards] are promulgated, adoption by the Member States becomes compulsory. They are obliged to remove or modify existing national standards to remove any conflicting requirements, in order to bring them into line with the EN.”
This is confirmed in the website of CENELEC, the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization:
An EN (European Standard) “carries with it the obligation to be implemented at national level by being given the status of a national standard and by withdrawal of any conflicting national standard”. Therefore, a European Standard (EN) automatically becomes a national standard in each of the 34 CEN-CENELEC member countries.)
Their use of “conflicting” suggests that it may be possible for a national government to implement a standard that is different from, but consistent with, an EN standard. However, a member state must get permission from the European Commission before amending any EN standard and only implement the change if the Commission does not object (this is why we describe the EU government as “senior” to the UK government).
“In considering whether to intervene, the Commission – even if Cenelec has no immediate plans for a harmonised standard – will be looking for a gradual convergence between the Member States and will not normally look favourably on proposals which magnify differences between regulatory regimes.”
Gradual convergence is a key procedure of the EU, which needs to impose a standard regime (including a regime of standards) on all EU member states, in order to further its main objective of converting the EU into a super-state.
Following a judgement from the ECJ, a regulation was issued to tighten loose ends, such as the intra-EU sale of products that were manufactured under national standards that remain in place because they were formulated before the relevant EN was introduced, or in its absence. Under this regulation a national authority cannot prohibit the sale of a product, such as building cladding, that is lawfully sold in another member state.
In other words, not only can the EU prevent the modification of its standards, even where these are regarded as inadequate or out of date, such as those covering fire safety, it also prevents the banning of a product approved for use in one member state from being sold in another member state even if the product does not conform to standards imposed on domestic manufacturers.
This is just one example of the complexity designed by the EU to further ever closer union (“gradual convergence”). The task of governing “Europe”, as the EU is too often called, would be demanding enough if all its members conformed to identical political and judicial regimes, which conformance is among the goals of ever closer union. The super-state obviously cannot be achieved while its members and, notably, their citizens continue to demand that historical divergences are protected and preserved.
We find it impossible to believe that the EU will be able to achieve its ultimate goal, despite its remarkable survival for more than 60 years in the face of its obvious contradictions and the degree of deceit that has been needed to get it so far. That, for us, is the strongest reason for the UK to leave the Union; to get away from the disasters that are its political, judicial and monetary impositions, even if that involves some sacrifices on the economic front.