23 June 2007

European Fundamentals

Blair's top non-negotiable "red line" was "We will not accept a treaty that allows the charter of fundamental rights to change UK law in any way."

Yet look what we find on page 18 of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) mandate, under "II. AMENDMENTS TO THE EU TREATY":

9. The Article on fundamental rights will contain a cross reference³ to the Charter on fundamental rights, as agreed in the 2004 IGC, giving it legally binding value and setting out the scope of its application.

³ Therefore, the text of the Charter on fundamental rights will not be included in the Treaties.
(BTW, the seemingly innocuous "IGC 2004" refers to the Conference that adopted an amended version of the 2003 Constitution.)

Of course, I'm not a lawyer, so perhaps I have failed to understand the legalese to be found in all the footnotes. Patiently checking the Open Europe blog periodically, they posted a report earlier today, The Constitution by any other name, in which they write:
Open Europe’s legal analysis, based on interviews with judges at the European Court of Justice, shows that there is a powerful body of evidence that even with such “safeguards” [designed to stop the Charter from changing national law - inserted at the UK’s insistence], the Charter would still come to change national law.
  • We interviewed several judges at the European Court of Justice (ECJ), who said that they believed the Charter would change national laws, despite the safeguards. This is crucial, as it would be the Court’s judges who would ultimately decide on how to interpret the Charter if the constitutional treaty is ratified.
  • One EU judge said it would “renew” member states’ labour laws and would be “a basis for challenging national law”. Another has said it is “foolish” to think it will not affect national laws. Even the President of the Court explicitly refused to deny that the Charter may be used to change member states laws.
  • One judge told us: “The problem for the UK is that the social rights of the Charter could make it obligatory for the UK to accept some rights that they don’t accept in the same way as other European countries… they are afraid that because of the social rights in the charter the Court and the EU would extend the practice of other member states to the UK. I’d say that it’s more [like] a continental model, than an English model of social relations. So in this sense I understand that the companies’ owners are worried because you could have the exportation of the continental model on them.”
  • Several judges said that the Charter, despite the “safeguards”, would give the court “more power”. Asked whether the proposal for safeguards would work, one judge said “I guess not, because I saw what was the destiny of other safeguard clauses in the treaty.”
  • A legal opinion previously commissioned by the TUC found that, “The attempt by the New Labour government to ‘protect’ the UK’s restrictive labour laws from the fundamental rights proclaimed in the European Constitution failed…there will be no ‘protecting’ UK labour laws.”
Maybe Blair knows something we don't. Or maybe he just doesn't care, now he's finally on his way out...