From the pro side we are often told that 'being in the EU doesn't change Britain, do you really think that the French are any less French because they are in the EU? Or the Germans are any less German?' Yes the French still make 1001 cheeses, most of which can be eaten with a straw and the Germans still have an almost inexcusable appreciation for David Hasselhof, so the argument has a point.
On the anti side an inchoate response to a tide of regulations washing up Dover beach is that we should become more like the continentals, in that we prosecute the law, whilst they merrily sign up to every Directive and regulation and then promptly ignore them.
Britain has long prided itself on being a high-trust, law-abiding society. For us, unlike the Greeks or Belgians, where breaking the law has been part of culture for centuries we were it was said 'well governed, because we were little governed'. The problem lies in that today whilst we have the cultural inertia which means that we do what we say, we now have thousands of pages of the Aquis Communitaire to comply with.
So we are ill governed, because we are over governed. (Now please don't get me wrong, this isn't merely a problem of our membership of the EU, for a few decades now we have had way to much of an activist government, whose members feel that if they are not legislating they are not doing their job. But I would suggest that this activism has been ably supported, encouraged and exacerbated by our membership of the EU).
All this ruminating has been caused by an article behind The Time's firewall today about the impact on the NHS of the Working Time Directive. According to the article,
"The NHS is increasingly disregarding a European law which restricts the maximum hours that doctors can work as the Government seeks to limit the impact of the rules on staffing levels and medical training".By this they mean that the NHS has stopped checking whether hospitals are complying with the Working Time Directive. One can easily understand why. The NHS is there, not to provide jobs and salaries for Doctors nurses and administrators, though it does do that of course, but to treat the sick, the injured and the dying.
It has no other purpose, and over the centuries the UK has built up systems of care, service and most specifically training that mean it is generally well equipped to fulfil this task.
However the application of the Working Time Directive has driven a wedge between the application of the law, and the ability of our health workers to fulfil their vocation.
As he article puts it,
"A Department of Health Spokesman said the move "would limit the impact of the working time directive in the NHS", and suggested that it would also cut unnecessary bureaucracy and costs associated with the rules".I could hardly believe my eyes when I read that. What we are saying is that a British Government department is deliberately colluding in the breech of law.
Why? Because the requirements of a law, imposed on this country against its will by the European Union are too onerous and diametrically at variance with our own.
This is wrong both culturally and gives a lie to the old argument about Europe not changing a country, but also stupid.
If this government is wilfully avoiding the law on the Working Time Directive, then any nurse/doctor/administrator in the NHS who chooses could take the NHS to the European Court of Justice, and with a class action could cost the NHS millions of pounds in EU fines, money that would then be removed from the budget for healthcare.
The European Union is bad for our health.