Monday, June 11, 2007

EU directives – the bindweed of British politics

It has been common knowledge (well, fairly common, when the media bothers to inform the people) that the reason EU foreign nationals who commit crimes may not be summarily deported is because of EU Directive 2004/38/EC. This concerns ‘the rights of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of member states’. Prior to this, all convicted muggers, burglars and fraudsters could be deported simply because their presence was considered ‘not conducive to the public good’. Now, because the EU has tightened the ratchet, only those who pose ‘a present, genuine and sufficiently serious threat’ to society may be removed. Terrorists with guns and bombs who hijack aeroplanes and then claim asylum have every right, under EU rules, to live as free citizens in the UK.

A little more trivially, though by no means insignificant, it has also been reported that the decision for councils switching to fortnightly rubbish collection and increasing recycling is due to the EU landfill directive, which demands that the UK reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill to 75 per cent of its 1995 total by 2010. Councils, like national governments, are powerless to resist, and no vote of the people can change this state of affairs.

But what Cranmer did not know (…though he ought to have suspected…) is that Home Information Packs also have their genesis in an EU directive. The Government has diluted the scheme, the Opposition never wanted the scheme, estate agents despaired at the scheme, and sellers will have to pay for the scheme whether they like it or not. HIPs are here to stay because, as the Government’s website helpfully explains: ‘By 2009, all buildings in the UK that are constructed, sold or rented out will have to have an Energy Performance Certificate, in accordance with the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive’.

These pesky directives are stifling British politics and undermining democracy. The entire canon of EU legislation now runs to 170,000 pages, and new directives are added every month which receive no scrutiny from Westminster. The seeds of this weed are sown, they germinate, spread, bind, and produce more seeds, and (sadly) the ground on which they fall is not arid and stony, but fertile and damp, and there are no competing thorns to choke them.

It is therefore all the more important that the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition commit the Conservative Party either to a referendum on the ‘Constitution for Europe’, or to repealing it altogether. According to The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Cameron has said: ‘Any treaty that is about the transfer of powers to the EU must be put to the country in a referendum’. Quite so.

On the eve of the Prime Minister’s departure, he intends to sign the United Kingdom up to the new ‘Constitutional Treaty’, which is simply a re-branded version of what the French and Dutch have already rejected. It will establish a permanent EU President, and an EU ‘foreign minister’ with the power to represent the Union on key international bodies such as the UN Security Council. The ‘Treaty’ also includes proposals to give foreign police the right to freely enter the UK and arrest British citizens suspected of crimes abroad with no regard to the current extradition procedures. Other plans include a central European database of EU citizens, containing highly confidential data such as credit cards records. In addition, the revised voting system will reduce Britain's ability to block unwanted legislation by about a third. The susceptibility of the UK to these interminable directives will thereby be massively increased, and the British people can do nothing about it.

If Prime Minister Brown does not make good his manifesto pledge to hold a referendum, Mr Cameron must do so. The issue is not now one of mere politics, but of morality.


Anonymous Observer said...

You missed out the really funny one - water. It was nationalised by Edward Heath when he destroyed local government and privatised by Margaret Thatcher when she found out how much the Drinking Water Directive would cost to implement.

So the water companies were privatised and asset stripped of land-holdings for building houses, and billions spent on meeting EU Drinking Water quality standards.

Meanwhile bottled water sells at record levels and c 33% London's high quality drinking water is lost through pipeline leaks.

A sensible policy would have been to upgrade the piping to reduce water loss but no doubt that is a Directive for another day.

As for Energy Certificates - since Britain has some of the oldest housing stock in Europe it makes it kind of hard to meet these standards unless houses built pre-1931 are demolished and rebuilt with cavity walls - the building code did not require duble-skinned walls until 1931

11 June 2007 at 07:48  
Anonymous G Eagle Esq said...

His Grace the ArchBishop Cranmer

Your Grace

I wonder if this ridiculous Government are aware of how close this Country is to economic disaster

Do they care about the High-Risks involved in dumping their un=Wanted HIPS regulations on an unwilling Public

This is not an enjoyable & profitable diversion, like extracting inflated MP's Pensions together with £113,000 in MP's average annual expenses - or appointing themselves & their friends to lavishly-paid Quangos

Sellers cannot be Forced to pay for Hips Packs with their Local Searches (traditionally paid-for by Purchasers) or for Energy Reports (of minimal interest to Purchasers)

Sellers can adopt the simple expedient of refusing to put their Houses on the Market and refusing to be Sellers

.... if this happens, the Housing Market could well collapse, with a consequent collapse of Government Revenues from unendurably high stamp duty

.... the ever-increasing (sincce 1945) House-prices could well collapse, with all the miseries of negative equity

... credit from debit cards could also collapse without the support of inflated House Prices

... and this could well produce a slump in spending on New Cars & in the High Street, with a slump in tax from VAT

I have the honour to remain your Grace's obedient but very apprehensive servant etc

G Eagle

11 June 2007 at 08:44  
Blogger Little Black Sambo said...

I wish house prices would collapse; then I might be able to buy one.

On the EU: no one I meet wishes to be part of it. Why is not at least one major political party offering the choice of leaving? This is a great mystery of political life.

11 June 2007 at 09:26  
Anonymous Voyager said...

the ever-increasing (sincce 1945) House-prices could well collapse, with all the miseries of negative equity

The big inflation in house prices came after 1971 when Edward Heath deregulated credit..before that they did not increase much more than incomes.

Once Heath abolished the Corset and SSDs at the B of E and the Conservatives went mad on credit expansion house prices became property assets with almost guaranteed inflation returns

Schedule D was a means to control house prices but that too was abolished.

Currently they are like long bonds - their value is inversely proprtional to interest rates

11 June 2007 at 09:33  
Blogger Ed said...

One problem for wannabe first time buyers in a crash is that you might find no bank will lend on an asset which is falling in value! That's how crash spirals keep going.

Europe is rearing its head again and Cameron looks to be quite sound on the issue. Will 2009 be an election on the issue?

11 June 2007 at 10:26  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Will 2009 be an election on the issue?

11 June 2009 European Elections.....what are the policies of the parties ?

11 June 2007 at 13:08  
Anonymous Voyager said...

House prices


11 June 2007 at 14:22  
Blogger Cranmer said...


It makes one ponder the ethics of capitalism.

Not, of course, that His Grace is advocating Socialism.

11 June 2007 at 16:03  
Anonymous Voyager said...

It makes one ponder the ethics of capitalism.

Capitalism has no ethics Your Grace.

Economics is a branch of Moral Philosophy - the area Adam Smith was studying and Hume - it is why we maximise Utility and have Goods and Bads and why Supply and Demand Curves are simply Utility Functions.

The ethics came from Christianity - the main drivers of commerce in Britain were not Anglicans - they had access to the professions insulated by the Test Acts and the Corporation was Nonconformists who built businesses - Congregationalists, Baptists, Unitarians, Quakers etc etc......they had the Protestant ethic and their Chapel......that is why it was their Bible that provided the ethics to men like Titus Salt

The modern belief that Capitalism is "ethical" per se is to make Capialism analogous to Marxism which claims to be a General Theory of Living.......Capitalism is nothing more than an economic system - find your Ethics in THe Bible

11 June 2007 at 16:32  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Voyager,

His Grace thanks you for your swift response, but, insofar as ethics is concerned with the morality of human conduct, it is intrinsic to moral philosophy. If, as you say, Economics is a further branch, it is not inaccurate to talk in terms of an 'ethic' of any subsection.

If Kant is correct in asserting that duty is central to morality, then man is bound, from a knowledge of his duty as a rational being, to obey the categorical imperative to respect other rational beings. Since such a rule of conduct was identified by Plato (and Aristotle), the sum total of ethical enlightenment is not to be found solely in Scripture. Unless, of course, you hold to the notion of pre-disclosed revelation, in which case it must be asked why the Western Church is so prepared to embrace Plato but not the Buddha.

11 June 2007 at 16:56  
Anonymous Voyager said...

from a knowledge of his duty as a rational being

Ah, the flawed premise upon which our economic fallacies are built. The Classical position is of Perfect Competition and Fre Markets with no Costs of Production and no Barriers to Entry......Perfect Information and Infinite Elasticity of Demand and Supply.

This is the Theoretical Model postulated to keep our minds agile for imperfections in utopia.

In the world of Commerce however we note that behaviour is not rational. The Giffen Good is one where demand increases as it becomes more expensive a seemingly irrational situation.

Much of economic and business activity is irrational and driven by what Keynes called animal spirits

"Even apart from the instability due to speculation, there is the instability due to the characteristic of human nature that a large proportion of our positive activities depend on spontaneous optimism rather than mathematical expectations, whether moral or hedonistic or economic. Most, probably, of our decisions to do something positive, the full consequences of which will be drawn out over many days to come, can only be taken as the result of animal spirits - a spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction, and not as the outcome of a weighted average of quantitative benefits multiplied by quantitative probabilities." (161-162)

"... human decisions affecting the future, whether personal or political or economic, cannot depend on strict mathematical expectation, since the basis for making such calculations does not exist ... it is our innate urge to activity that makes the wheel go around ..." (p. 162)

Charles Kindleberger in Manias, Panics & Crashes highlights the speculative excesses of animal greed.

Even a simple case like EBay is illustrative. Watch how often the bidding frenzy gets people locked into competing for an item which is available cheaper elsewhere on the auction site; or sometimes cheaper to buy new from

Rationality is not self-evident in economic activity, especially when one considers the excessively leveraged housing market. I submit that there are elements in economic activity which are a) immoral and usually b) amoral

Even if rational in terms of self-interest they are often without moral foundation, and those who ascribe morality to a marketplace are to my mind deficient for not everything that is bought and sold should be.

11 June 2007 at 18:11  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Voyager,

His Grace was referring to rationality as a feature of cognitive agents; ie, that they adopt beliefs on the basis of appropriate reason. Insofar as Aristotle asserts that this distinguishes man from beast, the term 'rational' may be deployed to characterise both agent and belief. While you assert that the world of commerce is non-rational, or irrational, this is not the same as the non-rationality of a stone, which is manifestly incapable or rational assessment, and neither is the same as the irrationality of those who purposely violate the principles of rational assessment, for they are not contrary to the dicates of reason.

The irrationality of commerce or economics may be deemed rational if appeal is made to emotion, faith, authority, or to an arbitrary dimension of a decision or action. They are not subject to the laws of logic or mathematics, or to the scientific method, but appeal to human cognitive limitations. One's ability to be rational depends on a basic ability to exercise intelligent judgement that cannot necessarily be completely captured by adhering to systems and rules.

11 June 2007 at 20:22  
Blogger Snuffleupagus said...

Little Black Sambo - I suggest you become a teacher in London and then the government will become your best friend. They will offer to pay anywhere up to one hundred thousand pounds towards a house for you.

And perhaps you need to widen your circle of friends, if everyone you know is against the EU. Aha! Teaching would take care of this issue as well.

11 June 2007 at 21:13  
Anonymous Voyager said...

While you assert that the world of commerce is non-rational, or irrational, this is not the same as the non-rationality of a stone, which is manifestly incapable or rational assessment, and neither is the same as the irrationality of those who purposely violate the principles of rational assessment, for they are not contrary to the dicates of reason.

You have a fair point well-made Your Grace

11 June 2007 at 21:49  
Anonymous epctruth said...

Home Information Packs (HIP) were a Labour Party manifesto pledge in 1997, while the EU "Energy Performance of Buildings Directive" which enforces the energy performance certificate (EPC) element of HIPs was introduced in 2003. As they say in the USA, "do the maths"

EPCs were bolted onto HIPs, not the other way round.

4 July 2007 at 15:08  

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