There is clearly so little going on in the world of climate change that Christopher Booker has led his Telegraph column today with another of his pet hates, the European Union (EU). Thus he reveals that he once found a really, really damning document in the National Archives which proves, well, something about the UK’s membership which in turn means he was right.
The supposedly incriminating document, which is identified as one from Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) folder 30/1048, is titled Sovereignty and the European Communities, and the version cited by Booker has been extensively annotated by his pal Richard North. The North additions, in fact, provide as much content as the original paper, much of it judgmental and revisionist.
North agrees that the paper was a briefing note, but does not say for whom. He suggests that it should for some unspecified reason have been made public in the run-up to the UK’s entry into the then EEC, and that this would have stopped the accession in its tracks, such would have been the outrage from the public. But he makes one significant false assumption.
And that is that the public back in 1972 would have seen the paper the way he did 30 years later. Given the lack of a time machine, that public would not have had North’s insights to guide them, particularly his claim of FCO “duplicity”, the clear assertion that “sovereignty” is not being discussed in acceptable terms (acceptable to North, that is), and that “deceit” and an “outright lie” are being practiced.
North insists that terms such as “wide degree of cooperation” should be replaced by “subjugation”, dismisses some conclusions as mere “weasel words”, and manages to miss (Paragraph 12 (i)) the part where the limits to Community law are clearly laid out, while inferring that sovereignty will be totally lost, along with democracy (Booker claims the UK would ultimately “no longer be a democratic country”).
Let’s cut through the spin here: Booker is for the most part taking a post on North’s EU Referendum Blog and churning it over, right down to details such as denouncing elected mayors as “meaningless local figureheads”. But the two erstwhile collaborators cannot even agree on the paper’s authorship: North sees several hands at work, yet Booker ascribes it to a sole FCO author.
Both are viewing the paper selectively, and neither appears willing to concede that one other person viewing the original document without North’s annotations could come to a diametrically opposite reading of the text. It’s another case of saying “this document proves our case because we say so”, which the usual Telegraph readers will obediently take on trust.
Anyone else should tread warily and draw their own conclusions.