Mr Clegg should be ashamed

by David Moss
25 February 2008


The Liberal Democrat policy on ID cards is admirably clear:

The Government's identity card scheme will be expensive and ineffective. We would scrap it and use the savings to put more police on the streets, and equip them to combat crime more effectively.

Their policy on the surveillance society also:

The Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference today backed measures to roll back the legislation that has turned Britain into a ‘surveillance society.’ [20 September 2007].

On 19 September 2007, the day before that conference decision, EU Ministers met in Lisbon and agreed the following declaration unanimously:

Ministers recognise that ... In order to meet the need to exchange information across borders, such as those arising from the obligations of the Services Directive, Member States shall intensify efforts to achieve cross-border interoperability, the importance of which has already been highlighted in the electronic Identity and eProcurement areas. The objective of achieving interoperability applies equally to the implementation of Article 8 of the Services Directive which will be facilitated by interoperable and mutually authenticated electronic identities and electronic documents.

One month later, on 15 October 2007, the following press release appeared on the EU's eGovernment website:

The ultimate goal of the STORK project is to implement an EU-wide interoperable system for the recognition and authentication of eIDs [electronic identities] that will enable businesses, citizens and government employees to use their national eIDs in any Member State. Once established, this would significantly facilitate migration between Member States, allowing easy access to a variety of eGovernment services including, for example, social security, medical prescriptions and pension payments. It could also ease cross-border student enrolment in colleges ...

Mr Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, says in a Guardian article: "I'm unashamedly pro-European". Why isn't he ashamed? He should be. The EU has policies which flatly contradict Liberal Democrat ID card policy.

He says:

I believe the EU is the most sophisticated response to globalisation the world has seen. In previous generations it secured peace and prosperity for Europe. In our generation, it's our only real hope in tackling global challenges like climate change, mass migration, cross-border crime and terrorism. In an increasingly insecure world, the EU offers us safety in numbers. It strengthens our real sovereignty in an age in which national borders have become increasingly meaningless.

The EU's response to crime and terrorism is to introduce ID cards. What's "sophisticated" about that?

National borders may be meaningless to Mr Clegg and the EU but they are being replaced with electronic borders, so-called "eBorders", borders which can be anywhere the government says they are.

The Guardian has already reported the exraordinary UK proposal to profile people by collecting passenger data on rail and sea travel as well as domestic UK air travel.

The UK are not alone. There are suspicions that this policy meets with the approval of Franco Frattini, European Commissioner for justice, freedom and security:

Frattini's plan was slammed by data privacy advocates as going too far ... "Retaining passenger data would only make sense if such a system were to be implemented for train passengers and cars as well, but if this were announced publicly now, there would be huge protests," said German Data Protection Commissioner Peter Schaar.

How do the Liberal Democrats reconcile their anti-ID card and anti-surveillance society policies with their pro-EU policy? They can be pro-civil liberties. Or they can be pro-EU. But how can they be both?

David Moss has spent five years campaigning against the Home Office's ID card scheme.

© 2008 Business Consultancy Services Ltd
on behalf of Dematerialised ID Ltd