A nice bit of rhetoric from The Telegraph leader… “For Europe’s sake, we must vote no”. But the writer, nevertheless, is getting himself (herself?) into a muddle over the status of the constitution and the treaty. He refers to the claim that this “Constitution for Europe” is established by a treaty which has allowed its advocates to claim that it is not a constitution at all, hence cannot create a superstate.
This, in fact, completely misses the point. As early as 1977, the European Court of Justice confirmed that the Treaty of Rome amounted to the ‘internal constitution’ of the Community, which member states were bound to obey (CJEC, opinion 1/76 of 26 April 1977, ECR 741). To that extent, the EU already has a constitution and, by like measure, the Treaty of Rome and subsequent treaties have become part of the constitution of the United Kingdom.
If these facts are not terribly helpful to the cause of those who would wish to present the draft constitutional treaty as something special and different, so be it. But, as it stands, the treaty which establishes the constitution is indeed a treaty, and has exactly the same status as the earlier treaties. Therefore, should Parliament remove its assent, and decide specifically that this and other treaties should no longer apply, that is the end of the matter. And, in that sense, Parliamentary sovereignty survives intact.
By raising the issues that it does, in the way that it does, therefore, The Telegraph does us no particular favours. The Europhiles have long complained that we view the EU as something which “them over there” do to us, instead of accepting that the EU survives because of the assent, and continuing permission of Member State governments.
The EU is not being imposed on us, as such, and neither will be the constitution. It will apply because our own elected representatives permit it to apply. The responsibility, therefore, lies not in Brussels but in Westminster. Many MPs hide this from us and themselves would like us to continue focusing our attention on Brussels. It would be helpful, occasionally, if they were reminded of their own personal liability, not least by The Daily Telegraph.
To read the editorial, click here.