David Cameron: “Essentially, we will let matters rest there”
Sovereignty has already been removed. Insofar as it has been ‘pooled’, subjected to QMV, dissected, disseminated and meted out to our ‘EU partners’, it is invalidated, negated, nullified, destroyed and snuffed out. There is no sovereign Act of Parliament which can take precedence over EU law, for the Lisbon Treaty states quite clearly that EU law is supreme. A UK Sovereignty Bill will be as ineffectual as Margaret Thatcher’s Merchant Shipping Act of 1988. The moment it was placed before the ECJ, it was ruled to be incompatible with the provisions in the Treaty of Rome, contrary to the founding principle of ‘ever closer union’, and Her Majesty’s Government was obliged to set aside what was believed to be a sovereign Act of Parliament because Parliament no longer had the authority to pass such an act.
In a representative liberal democracy, sovereignty resides with the people: it is they and they alone who may determine which of their powers and liberties may be abrogated in perpetuity. And successive generations of politicians have conspired to deprive them of their birthright.
David Cameron has decided that there will be no referendum, and yet he intends to amend the European Communities Act 1972 to legislate for a referendum ‘lock’ on all future attempts by the British government to transfer power to the European Union. ‘Never again’ is to become an election campaign slogan. Bizarrely, he boasts that this protection will be ‘very similar to that which exists in Ireland’. And a fat lot of good it did them. He refers to this provision as a ‘major constitutional development’: it is nothing of the sort. There is no such thing as an Act of Parliament enacted by a Cameron government which cannot be undone by a future parliament, for Parliament may not bind its successors.
The Conservative Party’s via media on ‘Europe’ is neither conservative nor reformist. Significantly, it has profoundly alienated the thinking ‘sceptics’ like Dan Hannan and Roger Helmer (both have resigned their front bench posts), while the European Movement appears to be delighted.
And yet Mr Cameron says he doesn’t want a ‘massive Euro-bust-up’ to distract him from his primary task.
The argument that the next period of government is too important to be ‘distracted’ by the EU is absurd. Is not the Tory revolution in education too important to be distracted by the economy? Is not tending to the economic morass too important to be distracted by education? Is not the reform needed in health provision too important to be distracted by either education or the economy? Is not our commitment in Afghanistan too important to be distracted by education, the economy or health?
The essence of effective government is the ability to juggle a dozen balls at once. But the EU ball has already been dropped. This should come as no surprise, because it is a weighty spheroid of disproportionate significance: it is the ball of balls; the globe of ubiquity; the balloonistic mother ship from which everything else hangs and by which it ascends or falls.
What Mr Cameron has outlined is more ‘Eurosceptic’ than has been set out by any Conservative leader who has either held the office of prime minister or been likely to over the past 30 years. It never really mattered what EU policy was under the leaderships of William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith or Michael Howard: deep down, we all knew they were never going to become prime minister. Even Margaret Thatcher never set out such a stall while she led her party and the country, and she has lived to regret it.
Cranmer urges his readers and communicants to consider the details of Mr Cameron's speech for just one moment, and then ask if it is not worth a five-year benefit of the doubt.
One may set aside certain cosmetics, like the Sovereignty Bill or the establishment of some sort of Constitutional Court. But Mr Cameron’s assertion that he intends to ‘repatriate’ certain competences marks a profound change in direction, and this change is not without immense significance. The subsidiarity principle, enshrined at Maastricht, has never before been invoked by an EU member state, and yet the Conservative Party is now pledged to reverse the Acquis – i.e., to roll back from ‘ever closer union’. There will be a manifesto commitment to opt out from the Social Chapter, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and all matters relating to criminal justice.
This is sovereignty restored. It is unheard of in the UK’s entire 36-year subjection to EEC/EC/EU rule. It is progress. It will not be easy to attain: indeed, the French have already declared their unequivocal opposition to it. Whether Mr Cameron likes it or not, there will be a ‘massive Euro-bust-up’, and it has already begun.
And there is great encouragement in that, for the beast has been stirred, and the prince of the power of the air offended by the presumption and insubordination of the likely next prime minister of the United Kingdom.
And to all those who are thinking about voting UKIP or the BNP in protest, since neither can win the next general election, you simply risk a further five years of Gordon Brown and his deficient, amoral, anti-Christian Labour government. It is a grotesque contemplation; a perverse political strategy.
Please consider that just as we have been ratcheted in to the superstate, almost imperceptibly, so must we be eased out. The Conservatives (and their Tory forebears) have always preferred measured reform over revolution: change implemented piecemeal rather than by seismic upheaval. Burke argued that no political community is a blank slate upon which one can write whatever one wishes on the basis of the latest theory. In order to move a political community in a different direction one has to take account of what it is, where it is, and, above all, the facts of experience. But move it must, because ‘a state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation. Without such means it might even risk the loss of that part of the constitution which it wished the most religiously to preserve’.
David Cameron has set out a strategy by which the United Kingdom may re-acquire some means of change, and thereby some means of national conservation. It is worth giving him the benefit of the doubt.