The CofE and the EU – ‘Not in my name’
Well, here we are again with an outburst of Europhilia, if not Eurotica, from that very self-same Church, which goes on and on with its quest to ‘encourage the religious communities to present projects meetings, seminars social activities...; to contribute to the recognition and understanding of the ethical and spiritual dimension of European unification and Politics’.
Daniel Hannan MEP observed four years ago:
As regular readers of this blog will know, one of my own recurrent themes is that the EU always pits the top brass against the Poor Bloody Infantry. This is true of the CBI, the TUC, the NFU, most political parties and, for that matter, most churches. I'll never forget walking past my local parish church in 1992 and seeing, among the prayers being posted, one for "the Maastricht Treaty and peace in Europe".Now the Church of England has contributed to a report by the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee: ‘The future of the European Union: UK Government policy’. And on behalf of all communicants of the Established Church, the Archbishops’ Council says (in summary):
• The Church of England is a Church established by law in the UK but it is also by virtue of its history a European Church. It recognizes that to have any influence in Brussels it needs to work in partnership with others. To this end it has invested time, energy and resources in building appropriate bilateral and multilateral relations with key strategic partners across Europe.
• At the December 2011 European Council, the United Kingdom found itself not only without allies, but without credibility as a negotiating partner as it opposed measures which were intended to achieve broad policy goals which are fully in line with UK national interest. This exposed the domestic constraints on the British government and left its partners with the impression that it was an unreliable partner. An opportunity to show solidarity with partners was missed. The UK must work to rebuild trust with its EU partners.
• Successive British governments have failed to articulate a policy towards the United Kingdom’s closest partners that sustains public opinion while enabling it to take a constructive line across the board. Unless future governments develop more constructive and positive conceptions of and commitments to the EU and are able to sell them to an increasingly skeptical domestic audience then Britain could find itself slowly drifting towards the exit. Rather than looking to formalize a two-tier structure the Government should use existing Treaty provisions on enhanced oooperation to press for a more flexible multi-speed Europe with variable membership across different policy spheres.
• By agreeing a legally binding intergovernmental agreement outside the scope of the EU Treaties, signatories to the fiscal compact have marginalised the EU institutions and in so doing weakened their ability to defend the single market. These new arrangements could also have significant implications for the EU’s common judicial space and common foreign and security policy. There is a very real worry therefore that the fiscal compact while saving the Euro might over time contribute to the EU’s demise.
• It is in the fundamental interests of the UK that the problems of the Eurozone are resolved and it is in the UK’s interests that this fiscal compact is folded back into existing EU Treaties as soon as possible. Those wishing to press ahead with a stability union should be able to do so using existing Treaty provisions that allow for enhanced cooperation. The development of a two-tier or even a multi-speed Europe is not without its riskes but it is preferable that such a development builds on existing Treaties rather than departing from them.
All of which amounts to the CofE opposing a referendum on EU membership. And there are some absolute gems in the detail:
...The Archbishop of Canterbury has a permanent representative to the EU institutions in Brussels and members of its Europe Bishop’s Panel are frequent visitors to Brussels and Strasbourg.
...The Church of England’s policy on Europe has been framed by a succession of papers which have been endorsed by the General Synod, its representative assembly. The Church of England engages with the European Union to ensure a values based approach to Europe's development. It does so in order to build a humane, socially conscious and sustainable Europe at peace with itself and its neighbours.
...The decision not to join the Euro until the economic conditions are right, and only then if approved by referenda, has meant that Britain has always been detached from conversations regarding the governance of the Eurozone. One of the stated reasons why past governments have opposed membership of the Eurozone is that along with monetary union must come closer fiscal integration. There is therefore a ‘remorseless logic’ of closer integration in-built into the Euro project that Britain has rightly or wrongly decided to exclude itself from.
...Moving beyond Eurozone specifics, the 2011 European Union Act acts as an emergency brake on Britain's relationship with the EU by requiring any proposed EU Treaty or Treaty change to be subject to a referendum. As a number of Lords Spiritual pointed out at the Second Reading, the Bill ties the government’s hands in future Treaty negotiations by delegating authority to the people acting through a referendum. The relatively negative state of public opinion towards the EU (in 2011 opinion polls indicated for the first time a majority in favour of leaving the EU) opens up the prospect of referendum defeat for any future government.
...The December 2011 European Council showed, however, that the 2011 European Union Act does not serve as an emergency brake on the integrationist tendencies of others. That other countries, even non‐Eurozone states, are now willing to openly press ahead without Britain, even if that means working outside the formal structures of the EU, is symptomatic of Britain’s waning influence in Europe and its declining ability to cultivate allies in Europe.
...Against this uncertain background future British governments need to develop constructive and positive conceptions and commitments to the EU, sell these ideas to an increasingly sceptical domestic audience, and find friends in Europe. Unless it does so the UK could find itself slowly drifting towards the exit. That would be a travesty given the positive contribution that Britain has made to the EU since it joined in 1973.
...Any notion that the UK could somehow turn to ‘like‐minded’ member states to define an alternative to a core of more ‘integrationist’ member states was shown by events in December to be unrealistic. The problem of the December European Council was not that of two camps, but of a single camp with one major player outside it, despite its vital interest being at stake.
...The events of December have shown that, despite differences of approach between member states, almost all wish to travel together based on a recognition of continuing shared interests and a desire for solidarity in the face of the most significant policy challenge for the EU since its inception. A two‐tier Europe is simply not on the agenda. We suspect Europe’s future will be more messy and complex with Europe developing a multispeed approach with variable membership across more closely coordinated policy spheres.
...Popular disenchantment with the EU, might be most marked in the UK, but the EU’s crisis of legitimacy is a Europe‐wide rather than a uniquely UK problem. As suggested by the Lord Bishop of Guildford in the House of Lords debate on the EU on 16 February 2012, Europe needs a revival of the vision of Europe which fired the EU's founders and which is deeply rooted in Europe's many cultures and, now, its many communities of faith.
...As suggested by the Lord Bishop of Exeter in a supplementary question in the House of Lords on 8 December 2011 the EU’s international reputation has already been dented by its handling of the Eurozone crisis, but its soft power could be further eroded if others find the way it organises itself less attractive. We suspect it will be hard for the EU to meet future challenges if an important geopolitical country such as Britain is excluded from its core.
...It is in Britain’s interests that this fiscal compact and/or its provisions are folded back into existing EU Treaties as soon as possible. Those wishing to press ahead with a stability union should be allowed to do so using existing Treaty provisions that allow for enhanced cooperation. The development of a two‐speed or even a multi‐speed Europe is not without its risks, but it is preferable that such a development builds upon the existing Treaties rather than departing from them.
...In terms of safeguards, the Government should press for a deepening of the single market in order to strengthen the ties that bind all member states together regardless of which lane they are in. This step might be productively linked to pressing for enhanced cooperation in other areas where Britain has a competitive advantage and strategic interest such as foreign and defence policy.
...Taken together these measures might go some way to dispelling the impression given in December 2011 that Britain was being awkward for the sake of it. We recognise that this strategy is unlikely to find immediate favour with a euro‐sceptic electorate, but over time it might help to refute the assertion that the EU works against British interests.
If His Grace may on this one occasion, uniquely and extraordinarily (for the end is nigh), adopt the first person singular: the Archbishops Council of the Church of England speaks ‘Not in my name’.