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Disappearing Britain, The EU and the Death of Local Government.

...As Jenkins herself states in her opening chapter, “this book is a plea for local democracy and for less government, for the freedom of the British people to run their own lives in their own country”.

Jenkins meticulously charts the course of the steady break up of Britain into regions that has been occurring since the 1972 British ratification of the Treaty of Rome.  Jenkins also describes with unnerving clarity the steady dissolution of Britain as a sovereign state, as these regions are encouraged to deal bilaterally with Brussels bypassing our democratically elected national parliament. The eventual outcome as predicted by the author will be that “all regions both in the UK and across Europe will eventually report to Brussels alone and not to countries. Countries will be reduced to lines on a map, without substance, and of historical interest only”. 

Considering the range of issues covered, Disappearing Britain never seems to drag or lose focus. This is thanks to the book’s tight structure, upheld by a succession of short but highly informative chapters, which divides her work into manageable portions. Such an arrangement also allows Jenkins to demonstrate how her wide area of study feeds the central argument. For example, one might be forgiven for wondering how the issue of differing local dialects relates to the process of regionalisation as a whole. But after reading Chapter 18, Local Languages Exploited to Divide Countries, the Commission’s huge role in reviving virtually extinct dialects such as Manx and Jérriais in order to build separate regional identities becomes clear.

The way in which Jenkins endeavours to support her arguments with clear, irrefutable evidence demonstrates the levels of both secondary but especially primary research that she has undertaken to produce this book. Indeed, the book is bursting with facts and figures. Personal correspondence, quotations from newspapers, Hansard, the European Parliament, the Commission, government White Papers, Committees and even a map of Britain’s National Parks all serve to support and promote Jenkins’s argument that democracy in Britain is slowly seeping away. Perhaps the most interesting quote comes straight from the horses mouth, from a regional assembly member who discloses in a letter to the author that, “members receive their massive papers only days before the Assembly meets and they have no real idea of what is happening…It is a charade of democracy”. With admissions such as this, it is evident that Ms Jenkins’s arguments should not be ignored.

Far from being a standard investigation into the politics of the EU, Disappearing Britain is also a historical and geographical study into the regionalisation of Britain. The book offers three clear and concise opening chapters explaining the history of regionalisation. For instance, Jenkins identifies the Treaty of Rome as the legal source of regional government as evidenced by its desire to reduce the ‘differences existing between the various regions and backwardness of the less favoured regions’.  She notes that even before Britain became a full member of the EU change was already occurring to bring our regional policy in line with that of the EU’s.  The book examines the more recent devolution of power to Scotland and Wales, the failed referendum in the North East of England and even the extent to which Poland was obliged to adopt the EU’s three-tier system of government in 1999, replacing its 49 provinces with 16 regions to ensure it gained full-membership in 2004.

In terms of geographical interest, one must admire the way in equal attention is paid to all areas of Britain, giving fair coverage of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland as well as the English regions. For anyone interested in the history of the UK’s counties, there are some fascinating details of the ways in which 13 Welsh counties were reduced to eight and counties such as Avon and Cumbria were created to satisfy Britain’s proposed EEC membership. At the other end of the scale, far from creating new counties Jenkins goes on to explain the next step in the re-naming of regions according to Brussels’ Spatial Plan. Apparently London is now known to Brussels Eurocrats simply as UK I, with outer and inner regions numbered UK I II to UK I 23 replacing the well established boroughs. Rural counties have not escaped this re-branding either and pending the abolition of County Councils, councils such as Dorset and Devon will be referred to as no more than UKK 43 and UKK 22 respectively.      

For want of a single criticism, coverage of the situation in other EU Member States was slightly lacking. Save for a brief list of ‘snapshots of a changing Europe’ in Chapter 14, the only other EU Member State that is looked at in any kind of detail is Germany.  But then again, the title of the book is Disappearing Britain, not Disappearing Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Greece, etc.

Of course this review could continue to sing the praises of Disappearing Britain. Each chapter introduces yet another angle in which British local government has been destroyed and replaced by the EU’s own system of local government. Whilst some sections such as Chapter 8, Taxpayers Foot a Heavy Bill, evoke feelings of pure anger that so much of our money is being wasted on projects such as a £120 million building for the London Assembly, other sections conjure up a sense of regret that so much subversive damage has already been done. At times you will feel incredulity at just how many pies the bloated EU bureaucracy has its fingers in and just how deep the EU’s control is in the UK, even over seemingly mundane things such as road signs. The only way to appreciate the depth and scope of this book is to go forth and read Disappearing Britain for yourself. Remember, in the words of the hymn Jerusalem, it is our mountains green and pleasant pastures seen which are at stake.

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