REGIONAL GOVERNMENT - THE EU CONNECTION
The 1998 referendum on giving Greater London an elected Mayor and Assembly had both a low turnout and a general lack of public interest. This new Assembly won't be just an expensive talking shop - it will exercise some functions relevant to London.
The relevance of this issue to the EU is that the GLA will also cover one of twelve new Euro-regions in Britain answerable to the Brussels-based EU Committee of the Regions. These will create a tier of government that will eventually deal directly with the EU.
The COR's website states that "The Europe of Regions is a cornerstone for the political integration of Europe...The Committee...views European integration as a political project for the whole of Europe." Robin Cook has spoken of a "Europe of Regions" - and these regions do not respect national boundaries.
COR Vice-President Cllr. Kenneth Bodfish stated at a secretive conference on 23.4.98 that South East England , London, North East France, the Brussels area and Western Germany are now known as the "North-West Metropolitan area" of the EU. The South East region of England is part of the "Nord Pas de Calais".
"Thank EU for giving some of our money back?"
The government set up Regional Development Agencies (on April Fools Day 1999) with extensive powers. Personnel appointed by Ministers will deal directly with Brussels, bypassing Westminster in the process. Already, most County Councils have taxpayer-funded European Offices both locally and in Brussels. They can get some money back under the INTERREG programme - on condition they form partnerships with Regions in other states. West Sussex,for instance, has done this with both Noord Holland and Upper Normandy and lists among its reasons for having a European Strategy "European Funding and Advocacy or lobbying."
The question arises - if local and regional authorities are to constantly bypass Westminster to get money from Brussels, surely our Parliament will be downgraded and undermined? There is hardly a case for having elected and accountable regional assemblies as yet another tier of local government in Britain. There is no case for fragmenting Britain into a state where it can be more easily absorbed into a European Union, dividing our nation and conquering it. I might instance the phony Scottish National Party wth its call for "Independence in Europe" - nationalists wanting to downgrade their country into a province seems incongruous to say the least!
And what is in store for Northern Ireland, after the electorate backed the hyped Good Friday agreement - persuaded by a pop concert and over £3m of taxpayers' money, equating to nearly £5 per vote? Keith M. Fitzgerald is an associate at Harvard Law School in the USA and a security policy anayst. Quoted on CNN's web-site, 24.5.98, he was quick to spot the EU connection.
"It is also potentially a great victory for the EU. It is entirely appropriate for observers to see 'Europe' as the "warm bath" in which such an experiment in identity, citizenship and shared sovereignty can take place".
Is it just a coincidence that Blair's "looking to the future" Cool Britannia seems to involve jettisoning our historic national identity - followed, I suspect, by jettisoning Britain?