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Truth about EU constitution

Here is a quote from an opinion piece by David Heathcoat-Amory MP, the Tory party representative on the convention, published in the Telegraph:

No one in the convention doubts the scale of the undertaking or the huge implications for the way Europe is governed – except, apparently, the British Government, which is completely isolated in maintaining that the new constitution is just a “tidying-up exercise”. In the convention, this caused bafflement and then some hilarity. Peter Hain, the government representative, belatedly declared a number of “red lines” on proposals that he wants removed, such as majority voting on foreign policy, social security harmonisation, and interference in criminal justice procedures. But if these issues are so important to the Government, how can it just be a “tidying-up exercise”?

The truth is that the European Constitution founds a new union, with a single unified structure and legal personality. The existing structure, which secures the rights of member states to make their own decisions and collective arrangements about foreign policy and criminal justice matters, will disappear. The EU will have “exclusive competence” over trade, competition rules, common commercial policy, fisheries conservation and the signing of all international agreements.

Please read the whole article, it’s terrifying in its clarity. To be honest, I don’t know which bit I find more scary. The one about the changes to the UK legal system:

The EU’s proposed criminal justice powers are particularly striking because they allow for harmonisation of national laws and procedures by majority voting. This obviously goes to the heart of domestic policy, particularly for a country such as Britain with a distinctive common law tradition, including jury trials, habeas corpus and rules of evidence that differ from those in most other EU countries.

Or the one about foreign policy:

Foreign policy, which is at present decided between national governments, will change completely. The new foreign minister will “conduct the Union’s foreign policy”. There is provision for majority voting on policies recommended by the foreign minister.

None of the above is new and has been bemoaned on Samizdata.net many times, but it gets more frightening as the process of EU imposition on the UK progresses…

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22 comments to Truth about EU constitution

  • Guy Herbert

    The government’s problem with this position (whether it admits it or not) is precisely the same one Major and Thatcher had. Since they refuse to contemplate walking away from the Union, they can announce all the “redlines” they like, but will eventually be dragged over them by compromise between where they are now and the fixed goal of full union. Simply splitting the difference will eventually bring you arbitrarily close to your opponents’ position.

    (This is the same trick as “balancing rights and responsibilities”, beloved by bureaucrats everywhere: the balance to be struck is not on the merits of the issues from first principles, but between the status quo and the most extreme version of the change required.)

    Should we be frightened now? Or is it a far-off danger like the possibility of global warming drowning Putney? What’s the event-horizon of this particular black-hole?

    How about the establishment of an “area of security and justice” adumbrated by the Amsterdam Treaty, but properly empowered in the Constitution. If my translation of the eurospeak is correct, an area of security and justice is a single territory affording uniform law and order to its inhabitants. More traditionally put, a state. (Not a federation–subsidiarity is empty woffle.) Within a year or so.

    I say we should be very frightened. Anybody know a good supplier of flammable Euroflags? Burning your own property in a political cause is not (as far as I’m aware) an offence under the Terrorism Act.

  • Liberty Belle

    Guy Herbert asks “Should we be frightened now?”

    Yes! On this anniversary of Waterloo, this time the bugle rallies *us* to the Belgian battlefield!

  • Michael Sullivan

    From an american point of view, It would simplify the U.N. With a common constitution the EU would have to be considered one country with one seat.

    Or would the U.S. be considered 50 countries with 50 seats?

  • John Thacker

    The EU would definitely be more centralized than the US if this carried, and would deserve but one UN seat by this measure.

    Of course, that would only make many UN human rights commissions even more obvious jokes, as the truly oppressive countries would easily win majorities on most of them.

  • Liberty Belle

    There is a “provision for majority voting on policies recommended by the foreign minister”. Yeah. Right. So suppose Britain, Spain, Denmark and the Vilnius 10 vote to go to war and France, Germany and plucky little Belgium vote not to go to war – 13 to 3 – what do you think the “foreign minister’s” decision would be? Guesses, anyone?

  • Guy Herbert

    Don’t think the UN works like that. It’s about what you can bribe or bully the others to accept, not desert or logic. Recall the Ukrainian SSR was a full member from the foundation, ‘cos it suited Stalin; and communist China got nationalist China’s Security Council seat when it had enough bombs.

    The EU will want to keep Britain and France recognised as separate countries and on the Security Council provided it can tell their representatives what to do, and will get plenty of votes to do so by offering itself (with a heavy heart of course) as leader of the anti-American world.

  • Guy Herbert

    But I don’t want to emigrate. Especially not to a cold wet rock, or (with respect to Samizdata’s esteemed sponsors) a concrete sea-fort. I want to be freer where I live, in a big messy cosmopolitan community. I’d like the rest of Europe to be freer too, and I hope lots of the people of Europe might like that.

    Things are relatively speaking not that bad, but they are getting worse, accelerating, and seemingly inexorably. Finding a less bad place is still hard (though maybe not much longer). Getting admitted to one is harder…

  • “From an american point of view, It would simplify the U.N. With a common constitution the EU would have to be considered one country with one seat.”

    Michael… are you suggesting that if Britain were to lose it’s seat on the security council, that would somehow be a good thing?

  • tony

    Not big on history but doesn’t it seem that the EU is resembling more and more the Holy Roman Empire under the Papal thumb that Henry VIII extricated England from? And now with a whimper we go scampering back in, to have some dogmatic, central power tell us how to lead every aspect of our lives, even to the correct diameter and cleanliness of Welsh leaks. It’s as if the continentalists have been watching Monty Python and not caught on that it’s comedy. However have we survived this last several hundred years!

  • tony

    Not big on history but doesn’t it seem that the EU is resembling more and more the Holy Roman Empire under the Papal thumb that Henry VIII extricated England from? And now with a wagging of tails we go scampering back in, to have some dogmatic, central power tell us how to lead every aspect of our lives, even to the correct diameter and cleanliness of Welsh leaks. It’s as if the continentalists have been watching Monty Python and not caught on that it’s comedy. However have we survived this last several hundred years!

  • Watcher, I believe Michael is saying with a united foreign policy, the individual states on the European continent and the British Isles would be reduced to a single entity within the organizational structure of the UN. It would drive up the “value” (if you could call it that) of each member’s vote in the General Assembly and actually shift power away from the EU by reducing it’s number of votes to one…

    …but it would indeed be terrible to lose Britian (and Spain and Italy). They are among the best allies we have in this world. It would leave the UNSC with the US, China, the Russian Federation, and the EU as permanent members. Screw that. The EU (particularly the ones in control) and Russia are uncomforably close at times, so that would leave China in the absurd position of being the “middle ground” in any despute between the US and anyone else. And we all know how the people (still) in power in China think of the US.

    Ugly. Very ugly. I wish the US press was digging into this more and I wish that at least the US politicians who fake their devotion to limited government and freedom would speak up and denouce this. It’s a tremendous political change and I think it isn’t being given the importance it deserves.

    A link I found: The EU constitution: a 10-point guide, a guide from the Foreign Office reprinted in the Guardian. It’s pretty clear about the direction of this effort, no matter how it spins the reality.

  • Guy Herbert

    Tony,

    No; nothing like the Holy Roman Empire. Which was more often in a cold war with the Pope than under his thumb, and was closer to the UN than the EU in its centralised effectiveness… and Britain was never a part of. (Though the King of England was also the Elector-King of Hanover for a century, it was a bit after Henry VIII…)

  • All the (serious) comments above lead ineluctably to the conclusion that we shall have to get out. It just does not seem possible for our nation state to obtain within the ever-closer Union. And that IS the bottom line: the continuing existence of a viable British nation state.

    That being so, the questions which should occupy our minds are:-

    1. How and when will we get our chance of freedom?

    2. What price will the majority be prepared to pay?

    My guess is that the next Conservative government won’t come much before 2009. By then the mess of potage we sold our birthright for should have brewed up nicely. Even so, leaving could be hugely traumatic, certainly expensive – no major economy has established or re-established an independent currency. The risks are enormous. Not only that, Scotland and Wales may pursue a different future, within the Union. Would the English go alone, then – in the teeth of opposition from our European “friends”, from multi-national business, from the left and the doubters and faint-hearts at home?

    I hope so.

  • I really hate people who quote Tolkien so I’m going to get my tuppence in now.

    It is clear that Tolkien saw this very clearly with the expedition of Balin to Moria.

    With such claustrophobic phrasings as “We cannot get out” and the “drums in the deep”, he obviously foresaw the problems that we now face from the Orcs.

    Does this mean Chirac is the Watcher in the Water, slimy tendrils in many pies guarding the path to Europe? The tentacle fits…

  • Liberty Belle

    Guessedworker – I don’t know why it would be so costly. Europe needs us, as a customer, far more than we need them. In fact, our economic need for Europe can be summed up in three words: Not at all.

    Norway and Switzerland have no Blairesque delusions of being “in the heart of Europe” – nor Blairesque palpitations about being “sidelined in Europe”. Frankly, sidelined in Europe would seem to be a pretty good place to be – well away from the embracing, ever-tightening coils that are squeezing democracy and free trade to death. Being in the heart of Europe sounds like being in the heart of darkness. Let’s turn our faces to liberty and light and get the hell out. And keep our North Sea oil. And fish where we bloody well please and if the French don’t like it, send a gunboat. What are they going to do? Break the habit of a lifetime and fight back? Stop paying the criminal CAP, so British people could enjoy food prices similar to America’s. (Also give Africa a break by opening up our markets unilaterally to their wonderful cheap produce.) Also, it’s time we stopped going along with the Beaujolais Nouveau gag.

    We already belong to a fine organisation that has roots in reality and history: the Commonwealth. We’re already, by nature of our language and history, members of the Anglosphere. These are real constructs, based on history and reality. The EU is an artificial construct that has absolutely no reason for being other than to keep Germany from invading France yet again. Why should we be involved in the Franco-German psychosis? Let them get on with it. Maybe Tony Blair can find an African country to be president of and get out of our hair.

    If anyone is “sidelined” or “marginalised”, it’s Europe. They’re slipping in importance on the world scale. Asia is overtaking them. Dynamic India, jammed with bright and energetic people, is about to step front and centre stage. Europe is flatlining. They’re like old men who sit around making fidgety little treaties with one another, thinking they’re changing the world, while nurse heats the milk for their cocoa.

  • Guessedworker

    Belle, fighting talk – pleased to see it – and a lot of positives outside the Union, I agree. The likelihood is, though, that we will have Blair/Brown for another six years or more. It isn’t improbable that in that time they’ll find some way to circumvent public opinion and force through the Euro. Son of Constitution will have been enacted by then as well. The game will have moved on. We can’t say for sure what obstacles to secession will exist. But I would expect them to be substantial.

    The biggest positive could be that the Union will have risen to the top of the public agenda by then, with more bent banana stories than you could fit into the Wednesday Guardian’s job pages. But the British public’s appetite for having a go is something we debated elsewhere – to no agreement, as I recall.

  • Liberty Belle

    Guessedworker. Yes. We agreed to disagree. If Labour’s majority shrinks significantly at the next election, and the rancid Brown gets in (I speak of general perceptions; personally I think Blair and Brown are equally rancid in different ways), they won’t find it as easy to circumvent the will of the people as they do now. They may not be able to find a way of slithering the euro in against the public will (although it certainly won’t be for want of trying).

    It would be a plus if an influential American figure formally invited Britain to join NAFTA and got a debate going. There needs to be a turning point of some kind, something people can rally round. Right now, everything is too amorphous. You can’t punch fog. There’s a need for something substantial – like a publically issued invitation to join NAFTA. This should be done ASAP, while Blair’s still reeling on the ropes.

  • tony

    Guy, Thanks for the feedback, I will be more careful in future in using half remembered school history lessons of long ago to form opinions. It’s like the people who do so on the basis of newspaper headlines. Do you think there is a model from the past for what the EU is trying to do?
    In a discussion with German friend of mine, she said that it is quite new, there has never been an undertaking like this before. I shocked her into treating me as personna non grata for about a week by replying, but there has, Russia had a gov. like that for some 70 years!

  • Guy Herbert

    Let’s see…. Late Soviet Union’s a good comparison in some ways–say, the nomenklatura system–but lacks the corporatist, fascist aspect.

    Hm… UAR? (Pretty damn fascist, but didn’t get very far.)

    India? (Bullying co-option of princely states…)

    Delian League? (Thought they were in it for the trade, got stuck with an awfully long war against a military superpower…)

    Bismarck’s unification of Germany? (Gradually extending Customs Union to quasi-parliamentary absolutist welfare state…) Yes; that’ll do.

    But I don’t know that historical parallels take us very far, other than giving a chance to look at how parallel problems were approached by the people involved–if we know. History certainly doesn’t repeat itself. Historical analogy like other analogy should be used for explanation, not prediction.

    However, the relatively recent unifications of Germany and Italy, and the revolutionary unification of France (nominally one kingdom under the ancien régime but riven by internal tariffs and local law and privilege) only a little before, may partly explain why there’s general enthusiasm for the project in those places. They’ve already done it; and may seem to have made things better in the longer term.

  • Johan

    “If anyone is “sidelined” or “marginalised”, it’s Europe … Europe is flatlining.”

    – Liberty Belle

    I think WWI and WWII was the start of it. After that, countries in EUrope saw it as necessary to form some kind of union to prevent another WW.

  • tony

    Guy, your historical analogies are certainly explanatory and I like the thought that history doesn’t repeat itself, the other way round is such a cliche. It would be interesting to speculate if there would have been an English Empire had the union not taken place and if Scotland would have been better off as an independant country these several centuries past. I’m sure there have been reams written on the subject. It would be nice to be able to study history but one can’t do everything, it’s enough to try to keep up with current events and make some sense of it all. The blogocracy [what an ugly word! did I make that up?] certainly makes a huge difference, I’d be lost without it now. tony.