Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Woolly thinking from UKIP

In a letter to today’s Times, Roger Knapman, UKIP leader, is still claiming that six member states must fail to ratify the constitution for it to fail.

For this he relies on a Declaration in the draft which states “If, two years after the signature of the Treaty establishing the Constitution, four fifths of the Member States have ratified it and one or more Member States have encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter will be referred to the European Council”.

From this, Knapman believes that the Council could then impose the constitution on dissenting states, but nothing could be further from the truth. No nation can be bound a treaty unless it consetns to it. That much is spelt out by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.

Knapman and his advisors, therefore, fail to understand is that the passage quoted has no relevance to the entry into force of the Treaty. It actually means what it says. If after two years, current five member states have not ratified, the matter will be referred to the European Council – no more, no less.

And what then? As happened after the first Danish referendum on Maastricht, and again after the Irish referendum on Nice, the European Council will discuss the matter, and attempt to seek a political way forward.

If they cannot agree, then the Protocol in Article IV-8 to the Treaty applies, viz:

The Treaty establishing the Constitution shall enter into force on… provided that all the instruments of ratification have been deposited, or, failing that, on the first day of the month following the deposit of the instrument of ratification by the last signatory State to take that step.

Spelt out, with no room for doubt, therefore, is the absolute requirement for all signatories to ratify the treaty. If one fails to sign, the treaty cannot enter into force and the constitution falls.

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