Who runs Westminster – Brussels or Whitehall?

When Raedwald wrote and Autonomous Mind drew our attention to:

By ‘realists’ of course [Tim Montgomerie] means central Statists; those who agree with senior civil servants that a wartime mode of government with micromanagement of everything direct from Whitehall is the only feasible option.

… the thought immediately crossed the mind about how many of us have been concentrating on the influence of Brussels on Westminster whilst its influence on Whitehall is largely left unscrutinized. In fact, if Brussels is to be believed, it’s the other way round:

France and Germany were fuming yesterday [in 2002, under Kinnock] at new reforms seen as promoting a British takeover of the Brussels machine and turning the European Commission into a “branch office of Whitehall” … The reforms have been attacked as part of an Anglo-Saxon putsch that has transformed the European Commission from a dirigiste institution into an engine of free-market capitalism.

Pardon? Free-market capitalism? It goes on:

Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper said the Commission had become “a branch office of Whitehall”, and British officials were strutting the streets of Brussels like a new occupying force. It said the emergence of English as the lingua franca of the EU was giving them undue influence over policy proposals while French was being “left in the dust”.

A German organ wrote that? They failed to note, of course:

But Britain loses the key post of director-general in charge of the single market, currently held by John Mogg.

That was then and this is now. The TPA has looked into it [pdf] and written:

… adding:

… before concluding:

Though that sounds logical and it describes the interplay, it still doesn’t definitively establish who runs whom. Douglas Carswell commented about Cameron’s accession:

The day David Cameron walked into Downing Street as Prime Minister last May, one image in particular stuck in my mind. As he stepped through the threshold of Number 10, the Prime Minister was greeted by Sir Gus O’Donnell, head of the Civil Service.

Who, I wondered, was welcoming who? Was the head of the Whitehall machine presenting himself to the democratically elected leader of the country? Or was the democratically elected leader of the country reporting for duty to the Whitehall machine?

Well yes. It’s the Sir Humphrey Syndrome again but where is the EU in all this? This paper has some snippets [pdf] but remember it is from 2000:

And so to Alex Singleton’s article on the Brussels grab for Whitehall:

Hidden in the depths of the European Commission website, the bureaucrats have published a series of documents known as the “European Interoperability Strategy for European public services“.

They are demanding “integration” between each civil service in the EU by harmonising the computer systems and legislation of member states. This, the strategy says, is to overcome “barriers to easy delivery of public services across borders and sectors” and because these powers are “crucial for achieving European integration”. They even admit that an aim is to ensure “efficiency when establishing European public services“.

… on which IPJ noted:

I have written about it endlessly, here, here and here to mention but three times.  Many other blogs have also written extensively about it. Witterings from Witney has written about it here and here, and many more times besides …

Commenters at the Telegraph said, among other things:

It always bugs me why people say our foes are in Brussels when it is people is London who keep giving away what is ours … it is Whitehall that wants us to merge…This is not a power grab by the EU, it is a power grab by the same people that sponsor all of the power grabs…
… which is basically what Brussels has been saying all along. To determine this, sorry to disappoint, would require going into each and every Whitehaller of influence and linking him/her with Brussels – that would be the work of a dissertational thesis, not of a small blogpost.

8 comments for “Who runs Westminster – Brussels or Whitehall?

  1. June 20, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    It’s our MPs and Lords passing the laws through. They could stop it; can we stop them?

    • June 21, 2011 at 5:31 am

      We could stop voting for them…

  2. June 20, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    That is the issue of the moment.

  3. Voice of Reason
    June 20, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Yes, minister.

  4. derek M
    June 20, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    Every four or five years, you get the opportunity to vote. If you feel strongly about a particular policy, don’t just sit there and let others do all the work, go out and campaign on behalf of the policy that you believe in. The politicians and beurocrats just love wingers who will not go out and spread the word. Go to public meetings, say your piece. Join the marches, or if there aren’t any, organise some. If you believe in something, surely it is worth putting in a little effort to try and persuade others of the merit of your case.

  5. June 21, 2011 at 6:49 am

    Westminster has been neutered, so who cares what it does in the few areas left within its control.

    The EU has the powers Westminster once held dear and these are being wielded with such breathtaking incompetence and arrogance, that soon they will be taken back by the people of Europe, but where they will individually end up is presently far from clear!

  6. June 21, 2011 at 7:43 am

    There’s the Ian B theory which says that actually Whitehall runs the EU and our politicians then use the EU as a fig leaf for doing whatever it was they were going to do anyway. He reckons its important for the UK to leave the EU because we are dragging them down, and not the other way round.

    • June 21, 2011 at 8:18 am

      That seems to have a lot going for it, that view. It certainly is supported by statements by the EUists over there.

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