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The EU Has No Power to Make Us Do Anything, So Calm Down

02/06/2013 21:21 BST | Updated 02/08/2013 10:12 BST
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Last week I wrote about how angry Ukippers (henceforth to be known as kippers) tend to be and suggested that rather than write nasty things in the comment section, they should get stoned and chill out. Apparently some people seemed to miss the light-hearted nature of this recommendation and decided to go ahead and write nasty things in the comment section anyway.

One lady made the quite valid point that if you are high on drugs, you probably aren't very well placed to fight off invading armies of fascist eurocrats, hell-bent on destroying British democracy. So I would like to state clearly that I did not, and do not, condone the use of illegal drugs to enhance one's ability to kill European regulators.

Despite my request for the angries to email me rather than insult me in the comment section, no one did. So I'd like to tackle one of the recurring themes from the comments spattered below last week's post. Many people seem to be convinced that the European Union is genuinely satanic and driven by forces that would make even my namesake, Harry Potter, tremble.

To pre-empt the frothing kippers' insults (again), I would like to say (again) that I am not that pro-European, think the UK would probably do just fine outside the EU and that by remaining in it, the UK is holding up a lot of stuff the Europeans need to do to avoid certain economic doom.

But when I hear descriptions of Brussels as capital of a hideous European USSR or fascist dictatorship, I have to say I feel a tad confused. Having lived in this slightly drab, miserable city for two years, I fail to see any of the hallmarks of an evil empire. Quite the opposite in fact.

I don't see anyone being crucified or fed to lions and I don't think my flat has been bugged by any secret police. There are no public floggings and the eurocrats I know are definitely not closet Nazis. The capital of Europe, unlike its Roman or Soviet equivalents, is actually quite grimy and non-functioning. Indeed if its capital city is anything to go by, Europe is in fact covered in dog sh*t. And where are the Euro-stormtroopers? I imagine their blue uniforms would be covered in yellow stars, making them quite adorable, if they actually existed.

So if it doesn't look like an evil empire, why do people think it is? Red tape and immigrants appear to be the rallying cry for most British patriots, which is actually quite uninspiring when you think about it. For Churchill, it was liberating Europe from fascism. For Thatcher, it was amputating the dead hand of the state. For our contemporary leaders, it is the injustice of European SME regulation and Polish fruit pickers.

In this context, I read with interest comments made by an angry frother on ConHome last week. The person claimed that, in relation to the UK being taken to court over its benefits tests, 'the EU's reach is now so great that many of those top 10 issues [that voters say they care about] are influenced in part or controlled in totality by Brussels.'

It's hardly surprising that the kippers (or wannabe kippers) are experiencing such waves of orgiastic pleasure over this particular event. After all, it combines three of their favourite themes: immigrants, benefits and Europe. However despite what they seem to see as an example of Europe's power, I see it as quite the opposite.

Firstly we should clarify what we mean when we say ''the EU' because at the moment most coverage in the UK is misleading. It is the European Commission, which is the understaffed and under-resourced civil service of the EU, that has initiated these proceedings, not 'the EU', which covers a lot more. The EC spends most of its time complaining, but has very little real authority or power. So already, and unsurprisingly, the court case is being blown way out of proportion.

Secondly, this particular tiff between 'the EU' and the UK has been going on for years. The UK has happily got away with applying its own benefits tests all that time without 'the EU' spanking Iain Duncan Smith for being a naughty boy.

Thirdly, the UK is supported by Germany, the Netherlands and Austria, all of whom are part of 'the EU' which the kippers and IDS so passionately detest. Given that the 'rich' northern member states tend not to like 'poor' southern member states, we can assume that the 'benefits test' alliance will expand to include Finland, Sweden and Denmark. This is hardly the unity one would expect from an evil empire.

Fourthly, what happens if the UK is found guilty by the European Court of Justice? Not much actually. After several years of bitching and moaning, the ECJ will either say 'legal', which means case closed, or it will say 'illegal', which means the laws will then be changed. There might be a fine, but no one is going to force the UK to pay it. And at no point will 'the EU' invade the UK to enforce a law that has been ignored for years already.

The EU's reach is, in effect, non-existent because 'the EU' relies on its member states, including the UK, to implement and enforce legislation. When a member state doesn't implement or enforce legislation, 'the EU' (meaning the Commission civil service) can complain all it likes. But it has no actual power to make member states do things they don't want to do, like reduce fiscal deficits, stop burning toxic waste or making sure olive oil is dispensed from sealed containers in restaurants.

The EU is more an aspiration than a solid entity to worry about. The most it can do is ask politely that we desist from doing something. So to all the kippers out there who are stamping their feet and getting very upset, calm the f*ck down. If you must be angry, direct your frustration at the real culprit, which is our own government.