Holocaust denial ban? Don’t blame the EU!

I too am deeply concerned by reports that the EU is to make holocaust denial an offence (Liberal England, Iain Dale). I’m intrigued though by the suggestion that the Religious and Racial Hatred Act already covers the scope of this law.

What this means is twofold: firstly, a backdoor offence of holocaust denial has already been imposed – by Labour – and that by acquiescing to an EU Directive on the subject, Labour will effectively ensuring this law cannot be revoked without EU approval. The British representative on the Council of Ministers – presumably John Reid – could have vetoed this Directive if they wished: they didn’t.

The problem with the EU is not fundamentally a problem of unelected bureaucrats imposing their will onto the rest of us – it is elected politicians using it as a smokescreen to press for undemocratic agendas. Does it need reform? Undoubtedly. But our fundamental problem in the UK is that, unlike in countries such as Denmark, our government gets to do pretty much what it likes in Brussels without Parliament – never mind everyone else – from having a say.


  1. I’m astonished to hear that the Racial & Religious Hatred Act already covers the scope of this law not because of any question of its interpretation but because it isn’t in force yet.

    The Act was passed on 16th Feb 2006 and is still awaiting its commencement order (all 3 clauses and one schedule of it)

    The last time the Government conveniently forgot this was after the Nick Griffin trial when they said that the law didn’t work and needed changing before it was even in force!

  2. “But our fundamental problem in the UK is that, unlike in countries such as Denmark, our government gets to do pretty much what it likes in Brussels without Parliament – never mind everyone else – from having a say.”

    I’m not sure I understand you. I thought the EU wrote directives and we had to incorporate them into our law. The government can say what it likes, but it HAS to incorporate the directive.

    So as I see it, the problem IS with the EU.

  3. BH, you are missing out a very important factor.

    The UK, as with all member states, has a vote on whether each Directive goes ahead or not at the Council of Ministers stage. In the case of criminal law, such as this, it has a national veto. In the case of areas which are voted on by Qualified Majority Voting, it wields enormous influence.

    Very few ‘bad’ EU directives progress without the UK government’s acquiescence at the Council stage.

    In countries like Denmark, the Parliament dictates terms to the executive about what it can, and can’t negotiate at Council level. The minister concerned has to immediately report back about what they agreed. They are kept on a very tight leash. In this country, the Parliament (the House of Commons in particular) simply ignores what the government agrees at the EU level, and then moans about having directives ‘imposed’ on us.

    I’m not pretending that Parliamentary scrutiny is a panacea that would solve all our problems, but it would be a good start. But the way governments use the whip system to jealously guard their majorities in this country is preventing it from even being seriously discussed.

  4. OK, so the Commission proposes a piece of illiberal legislation. Our government refuses to veto it. We can speculate as to why this might be – I can’t think of many honourable reasons though. It’s interesting also to speculate as to why the Danish parliament was willing to permit their executive to agree to the directive.

    Governments will always introduce bad law and illiberal law, and in normal circumstances we are able to overturn repeal these at a later date.

    In the current circumstances we’re stuck with it though, aren’t we? (It’s theoretically possible that we can persuade the commission to introduce the repeal of the directive, and then persuade all EU members to support it – but every single one would have a veto so, let’s face it, it’s unlikely to happen in reality).

    And therein is the problem with the EU. Governments are able to bring in illiberal legislation, and once it’s in place we are stuck with it. The fundamental of the British Constitution – that no parliament may bind its successors – has been eroded so far as to make the whole thing a farce. Essentially, everything is set in stone, forever, unless a government is willing to repeal the European Communities Act.

    An unhealthy state of affairs, I’m sure you’ll agree.

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