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Giles Fraser: Saying ‘no’ to distant government

18 June 2008

Well done, Ireland. In voting “no” to the Lisbon treaty, you have struck a blow for democracy, and exposed the lack of legitimacy at the heart of the European Leviathan. Those of us who have been denied a voice by the machinations of slippery politicians are in your debt.

I am no fan of government from Brussels. I do not want further powers slipping away from the Government over which my vote has some sort of control, and being transferred to unelected bureaucrats over whom I have no control. Democracy is the beating heart of political freedom.

If there were any question that the EU had become too full of itself, the response of its officials to the Irish vote must surely have dispelled all doubt. All 27 member states have, by law, to agree the Lisbon treaty if it is to be accepted. One state — indeed, the only one with a vote — has said “No”.

QED, there is no treaty; except that European officials are urging other states to press ahead with their processes of ratification. The only reason for this is that they believe that they can get around the Irish vote; that they can find some clever way of bypassing the will of the Irish people. That would be a scandal.

Transnational agreements are fine and good when they enhance the freedoms of the member states. But when they seek to turn themselves into a state in themselves — run by officials and committees far removed from the lives of ordinary people — all is not well.

The same thing is going on in ecclesiastical politics. More and more, people have been referring to a thing called the Anglican Church. I thought I was a priest in the Church of England. Then I was a priest in the Anglican Communion. Now, apparently, it is the Anglican Church. What will happen next is that many of the powers that the Church of England used for running itself will be transferred to this new body, the Anglican Church.

As this takes place, authority will get further and further away from ordinary people in the pews. In the Church, this process is called the Covenant, and officials say that it is a way of bringing us together (just like the EU). But it will create just the same resentments that have been bubbling over in Ireland, and that are set to get much worse, as backroom eurocrats try to outmanoeuvre the voice of the Irish people.

The whole Anglican Church project may look sensible from the viewpoint of a committee in Lambeth, but when the thing gets going, the pews of middle England will be in uproar — and rightly so.

The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Team Rector of Putney.

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