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Speaking Out

Mad Map to Leave Britain in Bits
London Conference, The Queen, the Realms and Europe, 28 October 2006

In September The Sun newspaper ran a sensational article under the headline, ‘Mad Map to Leave Britain in Bits’ (4th September 2006).

The article began ‘Germany is plotting to wipe Britain off the map in their revived bid to create a EU superstate. They want the 25 member states to scrap their national boundaries so England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland cease to exist. They would be split up and merged with other countries to form new “trans-national” EU regions.’

The article ended with ‘The master plan will be put into action when Germany takes over the EU presidency in January and tries to revive the rejected EU constitution. German minister Wolfgang Tiefensee said: “There is the great hope underlying the goal of a United Europe that we can overcome old borders.” ‘
The article had a surprising source: the Conservative Shadow Minister for Local Government and MP for Brentwood and Ongar, Eric Pickles. He is campaigning against it. It was Mr Pickles who issued a press release, which the Sun picked up as did every other newspaper, on this different way of breaking up – or regionalising - the UK.

One reason I am enthusiastic about what Mr Pickles is doing is that he has read my book Disappearing Britain, The EU and the Death of Local Government on this very subject. So please forgive me if I talk my own book.

This afternoon I will talk about two types of regions that are being imposed on us and then finally an attempted territorial takeover by stealth.

We all know about the twelve regions of the UK created because we are European Union members but these regions are different: they all cross national borders.

The first type is what is called a Working Community. Mr Pickles issued another press release a few days ago about a trans-national regional assembly, Arc Manche, which had just met at Fontwell Park courtesy of the taxpayers of West Sussex – who weren’t asked of course and didn’t know anything about it.

Arc Manche is what is called a EU Working Community and it is the only one to include parts of the United Kingdom. There are thirteen of these big regions across Europe. Usually they surround a major geographical block to integration like the English Channel in our case or the Baltic Sea or the Alps. The most ambitious take in five or six countries. They have assemblies of regional heads of governments, commissions of executive officers, general secretariats, and standing commissions on a wide range of issues.

Arc Manche was founded ten years ago. It includes the French Regions of Brittany, Nord-Pas de Calais, Lower Normandy, Upper Normandy, Picardy and from this side of the Channel the counties of Dorset, Hampshire, Kent, West Sussex, East Sussex and the Isle of Wight. Essex, Cornwall and Devon are observers.

The Elected members of this Arc Manche Assembly first met a year ago in Brighton. Of course they are not actually elected to the Assembly, there have been no elections - but they are people who are elected to other councils or regions.

Its President Le Vern is also the president of the Upper-Normandy Region and its Vice-President is Brad Watson. Mr Watson is a Conservative elected to West Sussex County Council and is in the cabinet in charge of external affairs so he goes on all the EU jollies.

So that is one type of regions – the Working Community – which is deliberately challenging the integrity of the nation state.

But Mr Pickles has not just taken on Arc Manche. He’s campaigning against what I think and I have certainly put that in my book – may become the administrative units of the new European state - the Euroregions or Border Regions. So far two exist in this country - Transmanche Région and Rives-Manche. French names again but including British land.

Both regions, like Arc Manche, span the English Channel as though it were a stream.

Every Euroregion crosses national borders. That’s based on the slim premise that areas around national borders are severely economically deprived they need special treatment. People living in counties along the south coast of England would not recognise that they are a Border Region, or severely economically deprived or united with France.

Across Europe there more than 70 Border Regions taking in over 200 regions or UK counties. They include about half the EU land mass and a third of its population.

Transmanche includes Kent, and one French region the Nord-Pas-De-Calais and all three Belgian regions. It started in 1987 and added Belgium four years later. The second region, Région Rives-Manche, combines East Sussex with the Seine-Maritime and Somme.

Both of them are administered from Rouen in France.

According to the Transmanche web site the building of the Channel Tunnel spurred the development of the first cross Channel region. Here's the EU view:

‘The Channel simultaneously divides and joins two parts of Western Europe, which for centuries have shared common events to create a joint History. A thousand year period, beginning with the Norman invasion of England, now nears its end as that same island becomes physically linked to the continent of Europe.’

All this is funded by the European Union’s Interregional programme – our money again. According to the EU Commission, this programme prepares border areas for a Community without internal frontiers. Border Regions are funded to ‘ensure that national borders are not a barrier to…the integration of Europe...’

Not surprisingly both East Sussex and Kent County Councils see Border Regions or Euroregions more as sources of grants for voters. Since 1992 those grants have been worth over £26 million to Kent alone.

Setting up a legal entity to destroy national sovereignty has not been straightforward. The first agreements between neighbouring regions were effectively twinnings, relying largely on goodwill. Then Associations were set up within each country and legally binding agreements were made between them across the border. Later, the 1980 Madrid Convention created a legal framework to develop the Border Regions.

As yet, any decisions made by the Border Region authorities are binding only on the public authorities and not on the individuals living within the regions. They are not yet a form of local government, they are still a hybrid.

From 1988 onwards when more EU money was available there was a sharp rise in the creation of Border Regions. After Austria joined the EU in 1995 five new Border Regions were started. As countries in Eastern Europe applied to join the EU, so they too were divided into Border Regions.

Our money goes not just to EU member counties but to the whole of Europe, and as far afield as Russia, the Black Sea and North Africa. That money is a sweetener to entice non-members to join the EU and extend the influence of the EU.

Switzerland with its substantial banking sector, and Norway with huge resources of oil, are both particular targets for EU’s Border Region programme. But both countries are of course still outside the EU.

The Nordic Council of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark gets EU grants for its eight Euroregions.

All Switzerland’s borders are part of Euroregions. The EU says that this is necessary to ‘integrate Switzerland in European regional planning’. We can all work out why.

So where do Euroregions come from? The Euroregion was invented in Germany. Germany created the first one in 1958, a year after the Treaty of Rome was signed. It embraces part of Germany and the Netherlands and over 3 million people. Called EUREGIO, it is described on its website as ‘a life without borders’.

Prince Klaus of the Netherlands endorsed a cross border parliament - set up in 1979. It members are elected by all the city councils within that Euroregion.

Its headquarters of German and Dutch staff is in the German town of Gronau, exactly where the customs checkpoint once stood. Deliberately symbolic.

That first German – Dutch region passed a resolution 25 years ago: ‘border and cross-border regions are …components and brides in the European unification process.’ Today all Germany’s borders are within Euroregions and they are far more integrated than our own two ‘emerging’ Euroregions.

Germany, which invented and spread these border regions in order to break up nation states including the United Kingdom, will take over the presidency of the EU this January for 6 months. One of the issues the German govt has said it will promote is the INSPIRE directive. This takes the idea of border regions a whole lot further. INSPIRE establishes an infrastructure for spatial information. That is mapping everything to do with the land in every country for the benefit of Brussels or should we now say Berlin? The directive says all this information which has to be sent to Brussels is to protect the environment – how could we object? - but it also says it could be extended ‘to other sectors such as agriculture, transport and energy’.

Well why not defence or policing or taxation – of course it doesn’t say so but there will be nothing to stop that happening.

Among its many articles is number 18: every member state has to provide access to their data through a portal operated by the EU Commission. And there can be no barriers (all to protect the environment you understand) - so all local authorities must open everything up. Data banks, which are presently ring fenced within this country, may not be ring fenced from the European Union.

There is a caveat that a country may limit access for reasons of national defence or commercial secrecy but we should note that this is derogation from the directive. We all know what happens to derogations. Sooner or later the EU challenges them and they are withdrawn.

In the annex to the directive is a long list of things the EU must have information about. Apart from every nook and cranny of the geography of the UK it will include identifiers of property - people’s homes - including aerial and satellite photographs; and all property and landholdings with data kept for tax purposes including who legally owns what – information held in the Land Registry.

The EU could even seize the vast amount of data held by the Valuation Office Agency, which is used to levy council tax and inheritance tax. Will this lead to a EU wide property tax?

So all of that the German government wants to bring into force.

Lastly, I would like to mention a meeting in Amsterdam last June to which the German Minister of Transport Building and Urban Affairs made a report. The report was called A Territorial Agenda for Europe – Looking Ahead to the German Presidency.

Wolfgang Tiefensee, the German Minister, said that ‘we Germans…see it as our duty to work …to promote regional and social cohesion in Germany and in Europe - we view this as an integrated approach aimed at achieving prosperity and enhancing the quality of life at all levels.’

He went on ‘even if scepticism about Europe is sometimes widespread and the work on a Constitution for Europe needs to regain momentum, there is great hope underlying the goal of a United Europe so that we can permanently overcome old borders and hostilities.’

So the German government wants the EU Constitution (despite the no votes from France and the Netherlands); a United States of Europe and the end of all national borders.

At last what or who is really behind the European Union is beginning to come out into the open and what we are now seeing is both unpalatable and extremely worrying.

© Lindsay Jenkins, London, 2006