Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Second take

Beyond the immediate fluff of the headlines on the European Council's "mandate", a small but growing band of MPs is beginning to realise the full constitutional implications of the treaty-to-be.

Picked up by The Telegraph's Bruno Waterfield, in today's piece - but not given the prominence it deserves – is a demand which "appeared to give the EU institutions supremacy over national parliaments."

Attributed to Mark Francois, the Tory spokesman on Europe, is the identification of an "unprecedented" obligation in the new treaty which states that: "National parliaments shall contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union".

Francois is cited as saying: "This appears to oblige Parliament to work for the benefit of the EU," with him adding: "If this clause is left as it is, there is a real threat to the independence of Parliament."

The reference here is the Annex I, Title II of the European Council "mandate" (page 27), laughably entitled. "Provisions on democratic principles", which proposes the insertion of a new article into the treaties "on the role of national parliaments in the Union". And indeed, the proposed Article does state that, "National parliaments shall contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union".

There are then stated six "obligations", including the final one, national parliaments are instructed to take part "in the interparliamentary cooperation between national parliaments and with the European Parliament, in accordance with the Protocol on the role of national parliaments in the European Union."

The issue here, of course, is that our Parliament is sovereign in its own House, responsible only to the people and accountable through elections. It, and it alone decides on its procedures and is subordinate to no one. Yet here is a treaty article which challenges that very principle, instructing the Parliament on what it must do.

This, by any measure, is a clear breach of national sovereignty and, if accepted, fundamentally changes the relationship between Parliament and the EU. It effectively acknowledges the Union as the supreme authority and relegates this and the other parliaments of the member states to a subordinate status.

If you add the changes proposed for the European Council, and realise that the new "aims and objectives" of the EU institutions apply also to the Council of Ministers, then it becomes transparently evident that we are talking about fundamental constitutional changes.

Yet, it is upon the fiction that the constitutional treaty did not change the fundamental relationship between the UK and the European Union that the government's case for refusing a referendum rested.

Fiction, it was then and, as MEP Joe Leinen acknowledges in his report to the EU parliament, it is fiction now. He, "welcomes the fact that the mandate safeguards the substance of the Constitutional Treaty," adding his voice to the torrent of European politicians who are all saying that this "reform treaty" is the constitution by any other name.

How ironic it is that Gordon Brown, in claiming to hand more power to Parliament, is working on being the prime minister who finally destroys its sovereignty.

We must have a referendum. Spread the word about the petition - now over 11,000 signatures.


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