Richard North, 17/05/2006  

The Times leader today comments on yesterday’s ECJ ruling in favour of Yvonne Watts.

Interestingly, in its piece, headed, "The European Court's unerring knack of erring", it mirrors the line taken by this blog. Thus it suggests that, while "at face value" the ruling would appear to hold potential benefits for NHS patients, in fact it is going to create a legal minefield.

More to the point, The Times notes the way the Court has defined healthcare as a "service", thus allowing the court to invent a huge amount of new law. It "has now become a player in the NHS, on the ground that it is legislating on free movement of services," the paper concludes.

That is very much the way we saw it, with the added proviso – we think - that this paves the way for the commission to propose "harmonising" legislation affecting the provision of healthcare throughout the EU.

Thus, while The Times considers that yesterday's ruling "is further proof that when given the choice, the European Court will always place its limitless desire for harmonisation and integration before all else, including the interests of the sick," it is also a step change in the process of integration.

Despite the significance of the judgement, though, the politicos have been remarkably silent about its implications.

If The Times is getting the point, the Conservative website simply has Andrew Lansley using the ruling to make a facile party political point about the government's "target culture". Possibly, Lansley does not understand what has happened, but then he could hardly complain about more integration. After all, the Conservatives don't do "Europe" any more.


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