16 April 2007


Euro-spinFirst we were assured by our Government that the Charter of Fundamental Rights, part of the ill-fated European Constitution, would have no more legal standing than The Beano. But then the European Commission noted that it would become mandatory.

Then our Government introduced the Constitution to us as a mere tidying-up exercise. But a host of Europe's leaders assured it was "a great leap forward" (Giscard's d'Estaing), "a gigantic step" (Prodi), and "a capstone of a federal Europe" (Verhofstadt).

Now we have the British and Dutch prime ministers saying that the European Union does not need a "whole new constitution", just limited changes to existing treaties.

However the Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel wants, before her presidency of the EU ends in June, to set up an intergovernmental conference that will produce a new treaty by 2009 – a treaty that will "preserve as much of the old constitution as possible" and build on what Italy's Prime Minister calls the "very solid basis" of the rejected Constitution.

The truth is, anything that reduces our veto on EU regulations or even mentions an EU president or foreign minister will be a constitution in all but name.

Yet, just as Giscard d'Estaing once pointed out that a "no" vote on the Constitution would not take Britain out of Europe, we do not need even a simple "amending" treaty at this time. Without it, we will not lose our seat on the UN Security Council nor cease being a leading member of NATO and the G8. We will continue our membership of the World Bank and the OECD, and will remain central to the Commonwealth. We will also continue to hold our place as the world's fourth largest economy, the second largest global investor, and the largest trading partner with the world's sole superpower, America. Moreover, since the EU trades in surplus with the UK, our continued trade with the EU is certain, irrespective of our relationship with the rest of the Continent, so do not even need a treaty in what Blair now dismisses as "the tradition of the treaty that we negotiated in Amsterdam some 10 years ago."

What we need is a more outward-looking, flexible and competitive Europe – a community or association of free-trading nations – something closer to what Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, Europe's wealthiest nations, enjoy as members of the European Free Trade Association and European Economic Area, free from the strait-jacket of the EU – something closer, in fact, to what voters were told they were signing up for last time we had a say on the matter, more than three decades ago.

And one more thing: no more spin.


Steve said...

Blair says he's going to finalise a "basic outline agreement for a treaty" at the 21-22 June summit. If that's all it is, there's nothing to worry about, is there...? The man deserves at least an ASBO for the way he's vandalised our country and its institutions.