Proposed EU Constitution is
'BLAIR's BLANK CHEQUE?'
6 February 2003 saw the release of a draft EU Constitution1 document. It will not be the final document - the consolidated 'official' proposal will be due in June.
The Foreign Office (FCO) does not - at the time of writing - seem to have issued any press release on it (although its website is full of other propaganda and trivia, such as feting 'Minister for Europe' Denis MacShane's day of giving out multi-lingual poetry to commuters!)
Despite all the hype about it being needed for 'clarity', the draft falls well short of achieving it. Many people are unclear as to whether it replaces the existing Treaty [of Nice] or simply adds a layer of legal principles to it. Giscard d'Estaing, the Chairman of the Convention on the Future of Europe, which is looking at a Constitutional Treaty, has confirmed that the ratchet-like acquis communautaire - that maintains power at EC/EU level - is preserved. It would therefore 'roll up' any existing legislation that is not superseded.
A letter to the Times had to query the status of the Euro 'opt-out' after vague comments from the FCO. MacShane responded that it will be unaffected. (However that decision ultimately lies not with him, but the European Court).
THREAT TO OUR PROSPERITY & SECURITY
Chancellor Brown says that the UK will not agree to a federal economic policy for the EU, tax harmonisation or majority voting on tax.2 But the draft says that powers will be allotted on a federal basis, and gives the EU power to co-ordinate economic policy - more strongly than at present. 3
The EU gains "exclusive competence" in the "free movement of persons, goods, services and capital" and on "competition rules".4 As there have been claims in the past that different national tax systems "distort competition", that would be sufficient pretext to act.5 That "guardian of the treaties" the European Commission has promoted the view that having a separate currency is an obstacle to free movement of capital6
The EU would gain powers to interfere in our energy for the first time7. Just as Britain's fish became "Europe's fish", what odds are on North Sea Oil being ruled a "common resource"? It is not clear how the "shared competence" (or should that be "incompetence"?) in controlling it would work.
Generally, in areas of so-called "shared competence", Member States are only allowed to act where the EU chooses not to8.
The draft would also mean the end of the permitted "Buy British" policy in defence procurement, the loss of jobs and potentially a tie-in to European manufacturers, after a "progressive framing of a common defence policy"9.
The EU would gain "legal personality" in defence and foreign policy areas and thus the ability to conclude international agreements10. We would effectively lose our UN Security Council veto to an EU representative.
Even if we accept the Home Office's assurances that only British law enforcement officers can arrest (innocent) suspects for taking abroad under the European Arrest Warrant, this 'protection' would end as "any discrimination on grounds of nationality" would be seen as illegal11.
POWER TO REMOVE OUR RIGHTS
For the first time "Citizens of the Union" (us!) are to be directly bound by the Constitution - current Treaties only bind Member States. Federalists in the European Parliament noticed this gap as far back as 1994.
The so-called 'European Charter of Fundamental Rights' - and with it the EU's ability to take away any of our rights - would become legally binding12
(Under the Treaty of Nice it was just a Declaration - although the highly politicised European Court of 'Justice' said it would refer to it in its judgements).
MORE SHOCKS IN THE SMALL PRINT
Other areas of "shared competence" include transport, environment, social policy, which are currently subject to majority voting ("QMV"). However it notes that the "list of competences" is not exhaustive, and admits that it avoids having to define those powers in detail.13 The "Part Two" covering such powers is nowhere to be found in this draft. Very strange for a document that is supposed to clearly decide the powers to be used by EU or Member States!
The only apparent brake on the EU's powers to harmonise national laws & regulations concerns six areas where competence lies with the Member States (e.g. culture, sport, education). That doesn't rule out the EU taking action under other headings (e.g. free movement of people). [cf. The Working Time Directive fiasco, 1996].
The draft pays lip service to "respecting the constitutional structure" of Member States14 - a bit of a joke when it confirms the supremacy ("primacy") of EU Law & Constitution!
Withdrawal from the EU is referred to by the Constitution but would be governed by a "Title X" that it not covered anywhere!15 As EU Law would be supreme, we could only withdraw on its terms, if at all!
And the EU gives itself powers to interfere in whatever areas of national power remain - even if they are "not affected by EU Law".!!!16
Member States will sign up to "loyal co-operation" and "refrain from anything that might jeopardise achievement of'" Treaty objectives, which include Economic & Monetary Union.... If the natives revolt and reject the Euro, then start planning for the next referendum?
OUR BATTLE FOR SOVEREIGNTY
Some Parliamentarians have meekly called for a referendum - the implication is that if people can be conned/coerced into voting for it, then it is somehow legitimate. But we maintain that sovereignty belongs permanently to the people and is legally not there to be given away.
Some campaigners have already called for a referendum, no doubt tactical to gain attention, but one will not be given either at home or EU-wide. (Constitutional referendums are needed in Rep. Ireland & Denmark but illegal in Germany).
Instead shouldn't we be getting defence industry workers & unions, business groups and others who stand to lose to take on the Government with its 'weapons of mass distraction'?
Our message should be: JUST SAY NO! - with whatever threats to the government's electoral standing and individual reputations that are necessary.
It is also a great time to put a clear case for life outside the EU racket, as by explaining how the UK has a future as the world's fourth largest economy, it will answer the "argument" that if we do not sign up, we will face the prospect of leaving the EU!17
Constitution article references:
1. European Convention ref. CONV528/03. Published by the Secretariat of The European Convention.
2. Evidence to Commons Treasury Committee, 27.2.03 (BBC Online)
3. Articles 1, 13
4. Art 11
5. e.g. Ruding Commission report, 1992. Also the British Management Data Foundation saw renewed interest in tax harmonisation - see: The Treaty of Nice in Perspective, vol. 1, p.40.
6. 'Economic & Monetary Union' pamphlet, 1996, ISBN 92-827-7294-2
8. Art 10.2
9. Art 10.4
10. Art 4, 10.4
11. Art 6
12. Art 5.1
13.Title III, p15
14. Art 9.
15. & 16. Annex II, p11. NB 'EU Law' technically is called 'EC Law' at present.
17. Giscard d'Estaing advocated this on 21.10.02
Date this page updated: 8 March 2003; links updated 28 March 2005