Is it just me or is Eric Pickles rapidly turning into the male version of Nadine Dorries?
The Tories have issued a St George’s Day rallying cry against plans by Brussels to “wipe England off the map” and create a United Europe.
As Gordon Brown hoisted the English national flag over 10 Downing Street to celebrate St George’s Day, it was revealed that EU officials had revised a map wiping out the country and the Channel.
The change splits England into three and lumps those parts together with chunks of other countries to create “transnational regions”.
Really? And what, pray tell are these ‘transnational regions’ going to do?
Each region, which will be given taxpayers’ money to promote trade links, cultural ties, transport policies and tourism, is to be run by a “managing authority” of unelected officials overseen by a director.
None will be based in the UK, with Manche ruled by the French, Atlantic by the Portuguese and North Sea by the Danes.
The regions have legal status and Manche has a budget of £261million between 2007 and 2013, Atlantic £127million and North Sea £219million.
Or to put it another way:Caroline Spelman (Meriden, Conservative)
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what public funding has been provided to the Arc Manche regional assembly from (a) central Government and (b) the EU Interreg programme.
Phil Woolas (Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government)
None. There is no such organisation. Arc Manche is a voluntary network of French regions and English local authorities along the English channel. Its aims are to co-operate on themes of common interest and to reinforce the links between both sides of the channel. This network has no implications for regional structures, or either elected or non-elected regional assemblies.
Hansard – 5 March 2007
Inter-Reg IV, which as the name suggests has been preceded by three previous Inter-Reg projects, is nothing more than an EU funded regional development programme/fund, one that differs from its predecessor, Inter-Reg III only in the sense of being a bit more ‘regional’ this time around.
North West Europe, which covered the UK, Belgium, Ireland, Holland, Luxembourg, parts of France and Germany and, as an outside partner, Switzerland;
North Sea, which covered the Eastern half of the UK, Denmark, Holland and parts of France, Germany, Sweden and Norway; and,
Atlantic, which covered the Western half of the UK, Ireland, Portugal and parts of France and Spain.
(The more observant of you will notice that there’s actually very little difference between the structure of Inter-Reg III and that proposed for Inter-Reg IV)
And what kind of dreadful undemocratic stuff did these earlier transnational regions get up to?
Well here’s just one example, referenced in Hansard from a debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly on 12 November 2007:
Michelle Gildernew (Sinn Féin)
The RAFAEL project is funded by INTERREG III and is aimed at encouraging local authentic food producers to develop new markets. The main focus of our project, which was centred in the west, is to encourage and support local food producers and processors to develop and compete successfully for business in the public sector, particularly in hospitals and schools. Figures from Age Concern show that many people are suffering from malnutrition before they go into hospital, so it is important that the food that they receive in hospital is of the highest quality in order to help them through their convalescence. In that respect, the lack of food miles in those products – as well as the support that the RAFAEL project provided to the local food industry – is important, and I want it to be rolled out across the Six Counties.
Well that kind of thing really does fuck the UK over, doesn’t it?
What could possibly have a more deleterious effect on British sovereignty that the prospect of hospital patients getting a plate of locally produced meat and two veg for dinner.
And Eric Pickles’ view of this programme?
Eric Pickles, the Conservatives’ communities spokesman, said: “We already knew that Gordon Brown had hoisted the white flag of surrender to the European Constitution.
“Now the Labour Government has been caught red-handed conspiring with European bureaucrats to create a European superstate via the back door.
“Gordon Brown literally wants to wipe England off the map.”
Well it seems that Pickles’ needs a bit of history lesson because, as I mentioned earlier, were now moving toward Inter-Reg IV – there have been three previous Inter-Reg programmes, also financed under the European Regional Development Fund, the first of which began in 1989.
Interreg was launched as Interreg I for the programming period 1989-93, and continued as Interreg II for the subsequent period 1994-99. It has moved on to Interreg III for the period 2000-2006. Projects from that period are currently closing, and will all have done so by the end of 2008. Interreg IV will cover 2007-2012.
Inter-Reg has its origins in the Single European Act of 1987, which was signed by Margaret Thatcher on the UK’s behalf and which brought about the creation of European single market, indeed part of the purpose of the Inter-Reg programme, as with other ERDF programmes, is to support and encourage regional development in ways which ensure fair and equitable competition in the market place by addressing, for example, regional inequalities in access to transport infrastructure.
One thing that’s got the Mail particularly hot under the collar is the requirement that:
Every project funded by a region must have a publicity campaign which ensures “there is provision for flying the EU flag at least one week every year”.
In other words a marketing exercise.
From previous programmes a pretty typical example of such a ‘publicity campaign’ would entail say, a market town on the South Coast that received funding to build trade links with a town in Northern France, playing host to a few dignitaries from their partner town, putting on a joint local market with produce from both areas and flying the EU flag over the local Council House or Town Hall while the whole shebang takes place – hardly the stuff of a nascent European superstate.
If Pickles serious believes that Gordon Brown is ‘conspiring with European bureaucrats to create a European superstate via the back door’ then one would presume that he also believes that both Margaret Thatcher and John Major did much the same thing in implementing Inter-Reg I & II, which would make for an interesting volte face on Pickles’s part, given that he entered Parliament in 1992, voted in favour of the Maastricht Treaty and was a member of the ruling party at the time that Inter-Reg II was implemented in 1994.
The other thing worth noting that this is not even a new story – Pickles has been hawking this nonsense around for more than 18 months, as this Tory Party press release dated 22nd October 2006 demonstrates – cchq_press_release (pdf) – nor is this the first time that the Daily Mail have had a hissy fit about InterReg:
For centuries the people of Kent have called their county the Garden of England. So they might find it quite a surprise that – according to the European Union at least – they are actually part of France.
Along with next-door Sussex, Kent has been rolled in with the Calais area on a map drawn up for Brussels.
The counties now belong to the “Trans-Manche region”.
Under the plans from German cartographers, the East of England has also been shoehorned into a new region, which includes Scandinavia.
And yes, last time out, it was Eric Pickles who played official rent-a-gob on this non-story:
Local government spokesman Eric Pickles said: “Under the Labour Government, Britain has already been subdivided into regions as part of John Prescott’s empire building.
“I fear that there is an agenda to undermine national identities and impose a United States of Europe by stealth. Conservatives will fight these attempts to Balkanise Britain.
“I fear Eurocrats could literally wipe Britain off the map and hardworking families and pensioners should be concerned that Europe wants the authority to build a database of their homes – this threatens to lead to an EU-wide property tax.
“We should work constructively with Europe to promote trade and co-operation between nations, but Conservatives believe that this is just the type of unwarranted interference that gives Brussels a bad name.”
Oops, he’s forgotten to mention the ‘EU-wide property tax’ this time so I guess that must have been bullshit, much as is the case with the result of his overheated rhetoric.
Just to drive the point home, let me give three examples of projects undertaken under the auspices of InterReg III, starting with the PLANARCH II project, for which the lead body is Kent County Council.
Although North-West Europe has an immensely rich archaeological heritage, its population density puts an enormous strain on this sensitive historical legacy which can disappear once and for all if it is not carefully preserved. Planarch II builds on the conclusions of an earlier IIC project to protect and enhance historic environment and 26 archaeological heritage within the framework of spatial planning. The project is led by Kent County Council and brings together eight partner organisations from Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. The partners have set themselves four objectives. Firstly to make heritage information more accessible to planners by developing common standards, terminology and methodologies for heritage records in order to facilitate the decision-making processes. This information will be made available on a multi-lingual web-site. Secondly the partners will develop costeffective methodologies for locating archaeological remains and establishing their value, particularly within a spatial planning framework. These methodologies will be developed and tested at transnational level around three pilot projects focusing on wetland areas in Essex, Flanders and Kent. Thirdly the partners will look at ways of better integrating archaeology into spatial planning by ensuring that the historic environment is appropriately treated in Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA). Archaeological master plans will also be developed and compared in Kent Rhineland and Wallonia. Fourthly the partnership will develop a joint promotion campaign at transnational level to raise public awareness to this issue. These various actions represent a total investment of €2.57 million.
Then there’s Norwich City Council’s Liveable City programme, funded by the North Sea region which:
…aims to develop an integrated approach to the development, management and maintenance of the public domain in urban historic centres. The project works with a wide range of activities involving public spaces, innovative facilities, events and security amongst others. It aims to promote social inclusion, boost economic prosperity and enhance the environment.
And from the Atlantic region, there’s the AGATE project in Dumfries and Galloways which:
…aims to involve local people in identifying issues related to food production, marketing and living with the land in Annandale and Eskdale. It invites people who are not normally consulted to consider what working and living with the land will be like in 20 years time. The findings of the project will be used to create projects that can work towards positive futures for rural regions all over Europe.
The people involved from Dumfries & Galloway, are farmers, organic gardeners, hotel owners, people involved in agricultural education, housewives, retailers, councilors and people from community groups.
Yep, our national identity and sovereignty is really going to be undermined by that little lot, isn’t it?
What can we conclude from all this?
Only that Eric Pickles is a scaremongering hypocrite.