28 Jan 2013

Forget Brussels: now we are ruled by the giants of Geneva

As predicted, that speech on “Europe” delivered by David Cameron at eight o’clock on Wednesday morning put one in mind of the White Queen’s boast that she could “believe six impossible things before breakfast”.

He wanted us to believe that he could persuade the EU to change its nature and the purposes for which it has been built up over 60 years. He wanted us to believe that it could breach its core rule that powers of government once surrendered to Brussels are never handed back; and that he can somehow persuade Brussels, and the other 26 members, to allow us to retain full membership, while opting out of much else except the right to continue trading freely in the single market.

He would also have us believe that he can win the next election on the promise of such negotiations, and that they could be completed by 2017, to be part of a new treaty the EU is planning, for quite different purposes – even though the requirements for such a treaty, including a lengthy intergovernmental conference, could not possibly be completed by that date.


Like many other people, Mr Cameron is clearly unaware that recent years have seen a mighty and accelerating revolution in the way that rules are made in our globalised world. A huge proportion of the regulations governing the single market now originate from global bodies even higher than the EU; and in the tortuous process of shaping those rules, Norway is not only a very active player but also enjoys more influence, as an independent country, than we do. Britain is increasingly represented on these bodies only as part of the EU, on the basis of a “common position” agreed by majority voting, where we are just one of 27 member states, with 8 per cent of the votes.

Rather than seeing Brussels as the source of many of our laws, we should be looking at another European city, Geneva, where vast buildings house the largest number of UN employees on the planet (34 organisations, comprising the United Nations Office at Geneva, or Unog) and such powerful bodies as the World Trade Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the UN’s Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the International Standards Organisation, and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with its sponsoring bodies, the World Meteorological Organisation and the UN Environment Programme, to name but a few.

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