From: Sir Humphrey Appleby
To: Bernard Woolley
Any attempt by this new government to weaken our ties with the European Union must be firmly resisted. Our membership has been a godsend. Since no cabinet minister is really au fait with all the provisions of the treaty of Rome, we can guide them towards our desired decisions by telling them they are obligations under the treaty, and deflect them from unwelcome actions by saying that the treaty prohibits them. In addition we can cite some of the myriad directives, which can be creatively adapted to our purposes by skilful translation from the original French. Since few of them have progressed beyond O level in any modern language, our version is unlikely to be challenged. And of course when we want to get rid of a minister for a few days we can always arrange an emergency meeting in Brussels, Strasburg or Luxembourg to give us a few days breathing space.
Brussels provides a model for modern government. Legislation can be brought forward only by officials, not by elected members. All important posts are filled by appointment, not election. Political ‘leadership’ is rotated every six months, to ensure that no one ever gets a real grip on the job. The proliferation of nations and languages gives officials endless scope for fomenting distrust, confusion and conflict between members. And there is no nonsense about financial constraints: the auditors have refused to approve the EU accounts for the past fourteen years, but they go on spending happily regardless.
Ministers in previous governments have occasionally expressed concern about this in their early months, but we have always found that after a few visits to Brussels and contingent exposure to the legendary Belgian hospitality, their opposition has cooled remarkably, and indeed they express enthusiasm for further visits, which of course we are more than happy to arrange.
(Sir Humphrey Appleby KCB CVO)
© Sir Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, 9 September 2010