Richard North, 02/03/2014  

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Angela Merkel's visit and the Somerset Levels floods highlight how this country is in thrall to policies demanded by the European Union, declares Booker today.

Last week, he writes, brought two more glaring examples of what – it is time we came to recognise – has become one of the most alarming features of British politics. This is our extraordinary inability to understand the realities of the strange, all-pervasive form of government that now rules so much of our lives, thanks to our membership of the European Union.

We have an example even now in Fraser Nelson and another example was summed up in those headlines that greeted David Cameron's meeting with the German Chancellor. "Merkel dampens Dave's EU dream", said one; "Merkel dashes hopes for overhaul of the EU", ran another.

Nothing should have been remotely surprising about this encounter. As Booker has often tried to explain – ever since Mr Cameron came up with his notion, a year ago, that he could somehow hope to negotiate a new relationship for Britain with the EU, then put it to a referendum in 2017 – every point on his wish list was just pie in the sky.

It defied every bedrock principle of how the EU works: that, once powers of government are handed over to Brussels, they cannot be given back; that, under Article 48 of the Lisbon Treaty, he would never get the required majority from 27 other countries allowing him to negotiate; that the tortuous procedures now laid down for such a new treaty could not possibly be completed by 2017.

In other words, those millions of words that in the past year have been spoken and written by pretty well every politician and pundit one can think of have been devoted to discussing something that could never possibly have come about in the first place – as Mrs Merkel confirmed on Thursday.

Another, very different, example of the same phenomenon has been the public hoo-ha over how and why parts of England, including my own county of Somerset, have lately been subject to abnormal floods.

As again Booker has been trying to explain in recent weeks, these floods were not just an unfortunate act of nature. They were deliberately made much worse by a major shift of government policy, designed to put the interests of wildlife and "biodiversity" above those of people, homes and businesses.

This new policy has been driven at every point by a plethora of EU-funded study groups and EU legislation. It is impossible to understand what has happened without some knowledge of the EU's 1992 Habitats Directive, its Water Framework Directive of 2000, its 2007 directive on the management of floods.

To that must be added the mass of policy documents that show how, in parts of Britain, specifically including the Somerset Levels, the intention has been to "increase flooding" in the interests of nature and the concerns of "green" lobby groups, heavily funded by the EU, including the WWF, Friends of the Earth and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Yet when, on Wednesday, MPs spent three-and-a-half hours solemnly discussing the floods in the House of Commons, not one of the 25 who spoke showed the slightest knowledge of this EU legislation. The only mention of the EU came from a Labour front-bench spokesman, calling for Brussels funding to help towards paying for the damage, which, as she seemed wholly unaware, had been largely brought about by the EU's own policies.

Virtually the only senior politician who does understand this is our Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, who wishes to see a complete reversal of the policy that has caused this disaster: first, by dredging those deliberately silted-up rivers, then by putting the management of flooding on the Levels back in the hands of those local boards that kept them properly drained for generations.

But when, on Thursday, an array of local organisations met to discuss the plan Mr Paterson has asked for, the key part played by EU legislation in the flooding was scarcely mentioned.

An alliance of the Somerset county council, the Environment Agency and green lobbyists, all of whom have received millions of pounds in funding from Brussels to shape and implement EU policy, looks ominously like winning the day, to the point where any hope of reversing that policy and preventing a repetition of this disaster begins to look pretty forlorn.

So, as with Mr Cameron's dreams of "winning back powers" from a "reformed EU", the elephant in the room yet again remains hidden from view. Until we find a way to reach some grown-up understanding of how this shadowy form of government actually works, we are doomed to stumble on like helpless children from one folly to another.

We must remain as bewildered as was our Prime Minister on Thursday, when Mrs Merkel politely kicked over the little house of cards that has been at the centre of his "European policy" through all this past, wasted year.

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