In today’s Telegraph, Boris Johnson gives up his column in favour of his leader Michael Howard – a distinct improvement by any account.
And Michael Howard, confounding this Blog’s expectations, takes on the EU dimension of EU immigration policy – although it takes him until the penultimate paragraph to mention it – and commits again to taking back powers from Brussels.
"If we are to restore order," he writes, "we need to ensure that policy is decided in accordance with the needs of the British people – something Labour refuses to do." He continues:
The Prime Minister will not withdraw from the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees even though he has conceded that "It was drawn up for a vastly different world in which people did not routinely travel huge distances across multiple borders."
It can't get much clearer than that, but Howard’s statement does beg several questions, the main one being, how does he intend to take back powers from Brussels? Is this a question of "negotiation" or is Howard, as with fishing, prepared to put a Bill before the House, unilaterally withdrawing from the EU's immigration policy?
And he cannot set a limit on the number of asylum seekers Britain should accept, because his Government has ceded control of huge swaths of immigration policy to Brussels. Despite the Prime Minister's claim in the House of Commons that he has not given up the power to set our asylum laws, he has signed up to every directive on immigration that has come from the European Commission. He has surrendered the powers necessary to police our borders.
A Conservative government would take back these powers and say no to the further loss of control which the European Constitution would bring.
One also notes that "claw-back" commitments in the Conservative Party are beginning to add up. So far, the Party has committed to withdrawing from the CFP, to repatriating foreign aid and to securing an "opt-out" from the social chapter.
Additionally – although not widely publicised - the Party is promising to promote "British produced" labelling for food, which would put it at odds with EU law, and some of the proposals in the James report – cutting government expenditure – would also put a Conservative government in breach of treaty obligations.
Now that Howard is committing to withdrawing from the EU's immigration policy, how long is it before commentators wake up to the fact that the Conservatives are now well down the road towards complete withdrawal from the EU?