Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Does the Bishop really want a debate?

Following the Bishop of St Albans's letter in The Times last month in support of the EU Constitution / Lisbon Treaty, DM campaign director Marc Glendening has written to The Right Rev Christopher Herbert offering him an opportunity to participate in a public debate on the subject.

This is what the Bishop claimed to want when, back in 2005, inspired by a meeting with then Europe Minister Denis MacShane, he wrote to all senior Anglican clergy encouraging them to "contribute to a more informed debate on Europe".

With his letter to his colleagues, the Bishop enclosed the Foreign Office's highly partisan Guide to the EU.

The Bishop was writing to The Times in his capacity as Chair of the House of Bishops’ Europe Panel - a sub-committee of the House of Bishops.

The panel's terms of reference can be viewed here (in a MS Word document) but its brief is essentially "promoting and shaping an open and transparent Europe close to its citizens and to monitoring the EU institutions in so far as they affect Church life and practice".

Letter's false basis

The Bishop's letter was based on the hackneyed myth that the Lisbon Treaty is 'necessary for enlargement', apparently 'forgetting' that this justification was also claimed for the EU's previous treaties of Amsterdam and Nice which were agreed well in advance of ten new countries joining the EU in 2004.

Only two further countries have joined the EU since then, which it's far from clear in itself warrants transfers of decision-making to the EU that the EU Constitution or its re-named successor treaty encompass.

In truth, such treaties are quite obviously far more about increasing the power of EU institutions at the expense of elected national governments than anything to do with enlargement.

Sadly a reply to Marc's letter has yet to be forthcoming. Which begs the question as to whether the Bishop really wants a debate. Or, as so often, is such a claim merely designed to sweeten a pill of pro-EU propaganda?

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