Richard North, 12/04/2014  

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There is a touch of bovine conformity in the responses to my reaction to the latest developments in Littlewood's Brexit shambles. The idea of "one mustn't make a fuss, old boy" is so typically British that it is no wonder we suffer serial incompetence in our public administration and the ruling élites are all over us.

That notwithstanding, since the Institute of Embarrassing Amateurs has been bounced into publishing the remainder of the "Brexit" finalists, I don't really have an option but to make a fuss. Their dross is "in your face" and some of the scribblers don't even have the sense to keep quiet about it. In due course, I am going to have to take them apart, and very publicly.

Rather than clutter this blog, this is what is going to happen. The work is going to go offline. I'm going to write critical appraisals of all six finalists, and then publish the result as a .pdf accessible from this site - our "Dross Report". I'll send a copy to the IEA for comment - no guesses what the response will be. 

As it stands, the IEA is literally at sixes and sevens. It has six low-grade "plans" from seven equally low-grade writers. What we are doing is approaching some of the IEA "rejects" and others to collect seven authors. We'll  put our names to one document. E pluribus unum, to coin a phrase.

We are talking to some serious people here and the current aim is to have a book-length publication ready to launch for the party conference season, possibly with our own video and a sponsored fringe meeting. Meanwhile, we've got Peter down in the dungeon, where we're feeding him on bread and gruel until he's hammered the Flexcit website into shape (note the shiny new logo on our masthead), and relaunched The Harrogate Agenda website. We'll let him out for a good thrashing when he's finished. 

As the plans progress, we will keep you fully informed. If you care to hit the donate button it will certainly help things on their way. We are not messing here. Your money will be well spent, which is more than the IEA can tell its donors.

However, before we leave the subject, I just want to give you a taster of what we'll be doing in the "Dross Report", with a look at the paper by Stephen Bush, Emeritus Professor of Process Manufacture and of Polymer Engineering at the University of Manchester. It is ranked five in the Brexit Hall of Shame.

I need you to look at page 79, and then footnote 103. There Bush airs his knowledge of the basics of the EU, and presumes to give us the benefit of his wisdom. The footnote is reproduced below:
The EU legislates in two ways – Directives and Regulations. Both are legally promulgated by their being adopted by the European Council. Directives are requirements placed on member states to embody the principles in National Law, enforceable in National Courts. Regulations are precise instructions which act immediately on individuals in member states.
Now, I am sure you will agree with me that there are few more basic things about the EU than its legislative system. And if there is one fault I have [amongst the many, of which Mrs EU Referendum is quick to remind me], it is a presumption that my regular ex-readers know about such matters. But, it would seem, we cannot make that assumption of Prof Stephen Bush.

Looking at his footnote we can, unfortunately, see some horribly basic errors. Firstly, the EU does not legislate in two ways but three. As the Commission helpfully tells us (and one supposes they should know), there are three basic types of EU legislation: directives, regulations and decisions.

As to being "legally promulgated by their being adopted by the European Council", that is not exactly the case. In fact, there is a technical term for it: wrong. EU law is "promulgated" by being published in the Official Journal, or more formally, the Official Journal of the European Union.

Then, just to add to the errors, one has to note that EU legislation is not "adopted" by the European Council. This is not even a legislative body: it takes no part in the approval process. Stephen Bush must be thinking of the Council of Ministers or, more formally, the Council of the European Union.

Then, of course, this is only part of story. With the ordinary legislative procedure (what used to be co-decision), the law must be approved by both the Council and the European Parliament. Only in the less common "special legislative procedure" does the Council act alone.

Moving on, Prof Bush tells us that Directives are "requirements placed on member states to embody the principles in National Law, enforceable in National Courts". That is fair enough. The Commission says: "Directives set out general rules to be transferred into national law by each country as they deem appropriate".

But, when it comes to Regulations, Bush goes sadly awry. These are, he says, "precise instructions which act immediately on individuals in member states".  No, Stephen, they are not. Go to the back of the class. 

Regulations are laws which apply to members states. They may or may not act immediately, but the key characteristic is that they have direct effect. That means they take effect without being transposed into national law. 

One of Bush's mistakes here is that he is confusing "immediate" and "direct". The bigger mistake, though, is that he thinks a regulation is a decision. For reference, the Commission tells us that a decision "only deals with a particular issue and specifically mentioned persons or organisations". The mistake could not be more basic if it tried.

Now, from this, two points emerge. The first is how easy it is to write rubbish, compared with how much effort it takes to identify and comment on the errors. Secondly, one notes that we have a respected member of the eurosceptic community talking utter tosh at a most basic level, and there's plenty more where that came from. 

Yet errors win prizes, it seems – or they do if you are Professor Stephen Bush writing for the IEA and you are being judged by a panel of ignoramuses. Please note, the IEA give prizes to a man who doesn't know the difference between an EU Regulation and a Decision, who is presumed to be capable of telling us how to reorganise our legal system on exit from the EU. Well done Mr Littlewood. Take a bow.

So, stand back a moment. This is the last specific analysis you're going to get on this blog for a while (although Booker will be writing briefly on it on Sunday). Ask yourself if we have a problem, or whether we can we continue on like this and pretend everything in the garden is rosy. 

And the pic? Well, it's about time Myrtle had an outing. Read his piece in the Barclay Beano and weep.


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