Wednesday, October 10, 2007

MPs invoke British Constitution to resist the EU Constitution

The European Scrutiny Committee (a Labour-dominated cross-party committee of MPs) has been scrutinising the EU Reform Treaty, and has concluded that it is ‘substantially equivalent’ to its previous incarnation – the ‘Constitution for Europe’. While this simply affirms what many EU leaders have been saying for the past year, it completely undermines the Prime Minister’s assertion that the Treaty is so sufficiently different from the Constitution that there is no need to honour Labour’s manifesto pledge to hold a referendum.

But what is different about this challenge – and by far the most politically powerful one made to date – is that a foundational part of the British Constitution is being invoked, with which the ‘Reform Treaty’ is in direct conflict.

There is clause in the Treaty which compels all member states to contribute to ‘the good functioning of the Union’, which effectively ties the UK into being positive, supportive, and constructive towards the whole project. The clause is designed to prevent an emerging opposition, to silence the dissenting voices.

But the Bill of Rights 1689 protects the British Parliament from being placed under legal obligations by any outside body. The signatories to the Act declared:

‘…that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God.’

The Treaty conflicts with the constitutional declaration of supremacy. While the EU in its sundry court judgements has previously declared that ‘Community law’ is indeed superior to national law, this ‘Treaty’ goes a step further by binding member states to a fore-ordained future. Since Parliament may not bond its successors, and the Bill of Rights 1689 has not been expressly repealed, it is therefore the view of this cross-party body of MPs that ‘the imposition of such a legal duty on the Parliament of this country is objectionable as a matter of principle and must be resisted.’

Excellent.

The problem is the propagation of the delusion that the ‘constitutional concept has been abandoned’, and the assertion by Europe Minister Jim Murphy MP that UK ‘opt-outs’ mean that ‘Britain's version of the treaty is the furthest away from the old constitutional concept’.

Britain’s version?

Is there to be a carefully-translated and deceptively-diluted version just for the British? The ‘red lines’ for the retention of national sovereignty on crucial policy areas are supposed to give the UK the right to opt out, yet these are not secure and ‘will leak like a sieve’. And the 'opt-in' provisions on police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, and the protocol on the charter of fundamental rights, are all subject to challenge in the courts.

The committee's Labour chairman Michael Connarty alludes to the EU’s tried-and-tested ratchet strategy. He concludes: ‘Looking at the legalities and use of the European Court of Justice, we believe these will be challenged bit by bit and eventually, the UK will be in a position where all of the treaty will eventually apply to the UK.’

And herein lies a golden opportunity for the Conservative Party...

8 Comments:

Anonymous Sage King said...

What the Tories need to do is not just offer a referendum but a retrospective one, if and when they come to office. that would be political dynamite! and in the current political standings would send a shudder through the rest of EUrope.

what are the odds of a legal challenge to this? I seem to remember in the judgment on the metric martyrs, mi lords had in effect put a line down in the sand about any future EU takeover thru extra-parliamentary maneuvers.

10 October 2007 at 09:57  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it is an excellent time for the Tory party to skewer these duplicitous pro-eu labour liars. momentum is with them not the government on most issues. if NuLab want to steal Tory policies then how about a referendum? This could be the issue that effectively kills off the government for good.

10 October 2007 at 10:21  
Anonymous Tanfield said...

Your Grace,
A pity this point wasn't taken when the House of Commons voted in the early 1970's to join what was then the Common Market - I remember it very well. Nevertheless there is now the opportunity for the Conservative Party and indeed all others who oppose the European Empire to prevail and require a referendum, ideally retrospectively, to enable UK to leave once and for all.

10 October 2007 at 11:55  
Anonymous oiznop said...

From The Guardian:

William Hague yesterday renewed calls for a referendum on the EU reform treaty, ahead of next week's crucial talks in Lisbon. The shadow foreign secretary accused the prime minister of a "cynical betrayal of promises" because the government pledged a mass vote on the document's predecessor, the constitutional treaty which had to be abandoned.
Gordon Brown insists the new document bears little relation to the old one, largely thanks to the "red lines" the UK has established. He has pledged that unless these four conditions are upheld at the informal summit on the treaty he will either veto the treaty or hold a referendum. But this week's highly technical report from the cross-party European scrutiny committee has placed him under fresh pressure, with the Labour chairman, Michael Connarty, telling the BBC that he feared the supposed safeguards would "leak like a sieve".

The report raised particular concerns over criminal justice and labour laws.
Some Tories suspect Mr Brown may provoke a row in Lisbon to demonstrate his independence and win favour with the Eurosceptic press.

This is the verdict of the government, committee and Conservatives on the strength of the red lines as they currently stand.

Protecting labour and social legislation

Tories argue that the charter of fundamental rights will allow EU judges to decide on British laws by the back door - potentially overruling the government on issues such as working hours and the secondary picketing ban. That could happen because judges are obliged to interpret EU law the same way throughout the union, effectively discounting the UK's protection, or through cross-border cases. They cite the Swedish prime minister's recent remark that "the UK was given a clarification, not an opt-out".

The government says the charter merely sets out the existing rights of EU citizens and does not give national or European courts any new powers to strike down or reinterpret EU law. It points out there is a protocol specifically for the UK, to ensure this is the case.

But the committee warns that the protocol's wording must be tightened up if it is to be an adequate "safeguard", as it may be inconsistent with the charter at present. "There is possible inconsistency between the charter and the accompanying protocol," the committee said.

Protecting our criminal justice system

The government says the treaty offers an opportunity, not an obligation: the UK will be able to choose whether it wants to cooperate with other states in tackling issues such as combating terrorism and crime. It will do so only when the measures are in the national interest and allow the UK to retain control of its borders. But the Tories argue that the opt-in is flawed, because Britain has no veto if measures it has supported are then changed in ways to which it objects. The committee says British interests would be "better protected" if the treaty specifically stated that the UK can opt out of agreements again if their final drafts prove unacceptable.

Preserving an independent defence and foreign policy

The Tories argue that the new EU high representative will be a thinly-veiled foreign minister, reducing the importance of Britain's voice in the world.

Not so, argues the government, which says that the change is purely organisational. The job merges existing roles and makes it easier to present an agreed EU position in international organisations.

The EU presidency (which rotates between member states) is already able to do this, so it in no way paves the way for an EU seat on the UN security council, for instance. Member states will still have to reach unanimous agreement on common policy objectives and a declaration confirms that foreign policy will remain in the hands of the member states - though the Tories point out that the declaration is not legally binding.

The committee recognises that most decisions on the common foreign and security policy will be adopted unanimously, and welcomes the assurance the European courts will not be able to rule on the policy.

Protecting the tax and benefit system

This is more of a red herring than a red line, say the Tories, who argue there was never a serious threat here - the government was merely trying to make itself look tough. They cite the BBC's Europe editor, Mark Mardell, who wrote in July: "The government have the good grace to privately admit it [the red line on tax] was a bit of a con."

But ministers insist their resilience in negotiations has ensured that the UK controls its own social security system. A strengthened "emergency brake" means that any proposals which might affect it can be referred to the European council, where it will have to be approved by every member state to go ahead.

10 October 2007 at 14:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since Parliament may not bond its successors, and the Bill of Rights 1689 has not been expressly repealed, it is therefore the view of this cross-party body of MPs that ‘the imposition of such a legal duty on the Parliament of this country is objectionable as a matter of principle and must be resisted.’

Such a shame that Parliament fails to realise that the Bill of Rights 1689 was in effect repealed by the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, had it not Her Majesties Government and Parliament would not now be at the mercy of Papists or EU officialdom.

Maybe the esteemed Cranmer would like to write a treatise on how allowing EU power is not only unlawfully but that this Parliament is treasonous and an illegal assembly under the BoR etc.

10 October 2007 at 17:28  
Blogger Savage44 said...

But the Bill of Rights 1689 protects the British Parliament from being placed under legal obligations by any outside body. The signatories to the Act declared:

‘…that no foreign prince, person, prelate, state or potentate hath or ought to have any jurisdiction, power, superiority, pre-eminence or authority, ecclesiastical or spiritual, within this realm. So help me God.’

The Treaty conflicts with the constitutional declaration of supremacy.


It does seem to me that this makes the existing process of belonging to the European so-called Union entirely unacceptable under that wording, if it still holds. There are vast swathes of legislation which have been implanted into the UK statute books in accordance with EU directives. Working in the pharmaceutical industry, I see large numbers of these directives, and I’m sure many other industries and organisations have observed the same. To the best of my knowledge, the majority of this legislation is simply added, without debate or question, and in some cases without even consideration on how to implement it. (NB: I don’t think all of it is necessarily bad; requiring all pharmaceutical companies in Europe to follow the same standards is in general a good thing. But the regulations are in some cases massively over-complicated, and the resultant burden on industry is enormous.)

However, that wasn’t really what I wanted to say about the EU. The reason I referred to it as the “so-called” European Union above is that I don’t believe it’s a union. It never will be, no matter how many treaties are passed or constitutions written. It’s a political construct, a group of nations who are being forced into an unnatural cohesion by their respective governments - which paradoxically thereby become steadily less powerful and influential, with all real power and influence devolving to the largely unelected bureaucrats at the centre. And I don’t believe it will survive. There are enough lessons in history to suggest that: Tito’s Yugoslavia has gone, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has disintegrated, Czechoslovakia is no more. Belgium itself has effectively split back into Wallonia and Flanders. Even the (dis)United Kingdom is starting to crack at the seams again. (There’s an excellent essay by Prodicus on British and Britishness http://prodicus.blogspot.com/2007/09/is-britishness-merely-state-of-mind.html, in which he expertly lays out the natural supremacy of the nation above all other groupings. He says it considerably better than I could.)

I do believe there’s a case to be made for removing ourselves from the EU, though remaining within the European Economic Area, joining Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. That way we would lose most of the disadvantages and retain most of the benefits, including the avoidance of at least some of the inevitable trouble that will ensue when the whole thing goes pear-shaped. But whether it can be done, or whether any politician would have the will to do it, is not something I would like to speculate on.

In any case, Gordon Brown should still honour the manifesto pledge and give us a referendum. His arguments against it were never very convincing and are now becoming increasingly hollow.

10 October 2007 at 19:03  
Blogger ENGLISHMAN said...

Along with the Bill of Rights,we have now been blessed with,the UN declaration on the rights of indiginous peoples,i urge you all to read it, for it has great bearing upon the topic under discussion.the document has been annexed to the un declaration on human rights, so that any that have signed the human rights document ,are obliged to respect the provisions in this one also,and i am sure that some significant use could be made of it,regarding our current position with the eu.There are many articles in this document upon the rights of indiginous peoples, so one or two as a sample:article 3."indiginous peoples have the right to self-determination.By virtue of that right they freely determine thier political status and freely pursue thier economic,social and cultural development"article 8."indiginous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or the destruction of thier culture"

10 October 2007 at 20:03  
Blogger Dr.D said...

Listen up, everybody! National sovereignty is on the line to a greater extent than at any previous time. Great Britain has already lost a great deal, but this will be the end if you let it happen.

11 October 2007 at 04:17  

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