Monday, September 29, 2008

Sooner or later they will have to talk about it

The Conservatives are very hopeful about winning the next election when they will be in government but not in power. They do not want to talk about that. George Osborne has made his vitally important speech in which he said nothing of any importance, despite the apparent joy with which commenters on ToryBoy forum have greeted it.

There will be no tax cuts because the economy is in a bad state. The last time we were told there would be no tax cuts it was because the economy was supposedly in good shape and the "profits" would be shared out.

Unreformed, wasteful and seriously harmful instiutions like the education system, the NHS and the Department for International Development will carry on squandering vast sums of money and causing untold harm with it. Great. Really makes it worth one's while to vote Conservative.

There is the rather curious proposal to freeze local taxes for two years if the local councils agree but that is likely to go nowhere.

Then there are the proposals to give the Bank of England more powers to step in with regulations for banks earlier. Unfortunately, this reminds one of the partial nationalization of Bradford & Bingley as well as those endless calls to lower VAT on this, that and the other. None of it can be done without the Commission's say-so. We may get that say-so or we may not. But one would have greater faith in Georgie-Porgie as future Chancellor of the Exchequer if he made it clear that he recognized this fact and had some ideas of how to deal with it.

Of course, the Conservative Party is not actually going to discuss the elephant in the room at this Conference. There are fringe meetings on the EU but not one main debate. This means that there will be no discussion (again) about the extent of the EU's competence in such matters as financial rules and immigration. And that means, in turn, that Tories can go on bleating like blessed little baa-lambs that Europe is not an important subject with the electorate.

Before the conference we had Anthony Browne, former Director of Policy Exchange, now Head of Policy to the new Hizonner the Mayor, writing in the Independent (as quoted by Conservative Home) that he would like to see an amnesty for illegal immigrants who are already in London.

Setting aside such questions as to the usefulness of rewarding legal wrong-doing and the obvious problem that London cannot have an amnesty by itself, there is the problem, unrecognized by Mr Browne or various other commentators that Britain has no right to make decisions on these subjects.

Mr Browne tries to circumvent the argument that an amnesty now would bring in ever more illegal immigrants by promising that there would be toughter border controls. Oh yes? Border controls and matters to do with immigration have been passed over to the European Union.

Recently the ECJ ruled in the so-called Metlock case that individual countries could not prevent non-EU nationals from staying on in an EU member state if they married, however hurriedly, one of those nationals. After which no other member state could keep those hurriedly married newly acquired citizens from entering its own territory. What are the Conservatives going to do about that?

Subsequently, as my colleague on EUReferendum wrote, our own Law Lords decided, going beyond theECJ decision but using it as a basis, that no legal or judicial authority had the right to question whether the marriage was actually a valid one or was merely contracted to keep a certain illegal immigrant in an EU member state, possibly with the intention of moving on to another one.

Questioning such matters as marriages contracted deliberately for visa or right-to-stay purposes, presumably even if that involved a forced marriage imposed on some unfortunate girl in this country, would be against the hopeful illegal immigrant's human rights.

How does Mr Browne or, for that matter, the Conservative Party, propose to get round this problem?

European Voice reports that during the recent meeting the EU's interior ministers (to which Britain sent the junior Minister for Immigration, Liam Byrne) there was a rebellion, led by the Danes.
Denmark's interior minister, Birthe Rønn Hornbech, said during a meeting the EU's justice and home affairs council on 25 September, that she wanted the EU to find a way to undo the effects of the Metock ruling. The Danish governing coalition includes the fiercely anti-immigrant Dansk Folkeparti (Danish People's Party), which has expressed its strong opposition to the ruling.

According to sources, Ireland, Austria, Germany and the UK all also expressed strong reservations about the judgment, arguing that it could encourage marriages of convenience.
The Commission has promised to evaluate the judgement that went further than Directive 2004/38/EC on which it was supposed to rely. This is not an unusual event for the ECJ or for our own Law Lords. Judges are notorious for their constant efforts to supplant politically accountable bodies. Then again, how accountable are the institutions that bring us those wonderful directives.

The Council of Interior Ministers is promising to return to the subject after the evaluation as this is clearly an issue that might cause them all pain at home. But the decisions will be taken at EU level.

Sooner or later even the Conservatives will have to acknowledge this fact.

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