Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Monday, May 02, 2005
"Can we talk about this later?" says the EU...

Tim Worstall examines a nice bit of political manipulation and news management on the part of the EU. I never read this sort of post without thinking, this is the future they want for us. However EU skulduggery about textiles was not the only thing that prompted the title of this post.

...and answers, No.

The mighty Worstall content fountain also, of course, hosts the Britblog roundup. One of the roundees-up (roundup-ees?) is this post from the EU serf, which (honest guv) I had noticed independently but hadn't had time to blog. The Serf quotes an article in Forbes Magazine, "Liberty, European-style" by Dan Seligman. Frighteningly it seems that a perfectly natural and unforced reading of the EU constitution might forbid discussion of measures to change what it defines as rights. The EU constitution says:

"Nothing in this Charter shall be interpreted as implying any right to engage in any activity … aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms recognized in this Charter or at their limitation."
Seligman writes:
This seems highly problematic. If someone were to mount a campaign favoring the death penalty, or opposing collective bargaining, or opposing preferences for women, or limiting the options of asylum-seekers, this would plainly constitute an effort to destroy rights recognized in the Charter--an activity characterized as an "abuse of rights" and therefore prohibited. The Bruges Group, a think tank in London, has published an essay arguing this case. The essay was written by Brian Hindley, a British economist, and was endorsed (in a prefatory note) by Oliver Letwin, who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Tory "shadow cabinet."
An EU spokesman on cultural issues called this argument "nonsense." I am not reassured. Many a time we have been promised before a new abridgement of liberty is made law that it would only be used against obvious nutters and evildoers but that has not been the case. To take an obvious and only apparently trivial example, if someone had said at the time of the 1972 referendum on the EU that one day the law would be turned on humble market stallholders if they sold fruit in pounds and ounces then the speaker would have been denounced as a paranoid fantasist.