The Telegraph reports that Britain is to reopen attempts to change key sections of the proposed European constitution despite warnings by its chief author that this risks undoing months of painstaking negotiations.
The Government will issue a White Paper in early September setting out its ‘red lines’ – the issues that it will not compromise on – in the final round of bargaining for the constitution that will be launched by European Union leaders in October. Senior officials said the issues include a determination to remove a mutual defence pact that would undermine Nato, clauses regarded as a backdoor attempt to harmonise taxation, and proposals for an EU public prosecutor.
For once the Conserative opposition sounds almost reasonable. Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative defence spokesman, said:
They said the constitution was just a tidying-up exercise. They have realised late in the day that it’s much more than that. Even if they win on their red lines, they have already given much more away, not least the principle of having a constitution in the first place.
Mr Jenkin maintains that, despite phrases ostensibly respecting countries’ obligations to Nato, the draft constitution would give the EU primacy over the transatlantic alliance. It is not yet clear how far Britain will resist the proposals to create a common defence policy.
Valery Giscard d’Estaing, the former French president who presided over 16 months of debate at the European Convention, has warned all sides that tampering with the text risks creating a free-for-all.
And we wouldn’t want that, right?