Saturday, June 16, 2007

Can't win 'em all

Mind you, I would settle for a few. My colleague has definitely achieved a certain status for this blog and his postings on defence procurement are beginning to be taken very seriously, indeed.

I was, therefore, rather pleased to receive a phone call from the Guardian, no less, asking if I would produce a piece for the Comment is Free section on their website about, you guessed it, Angela Merkel, the Constitution or not, the European Council and so on. I was a little taken aback when the editor of the section or whoever I was speaking to, made what-are-you-talking-about noises when I mentioned the IGC, but I thought that maybe he had misheard me.

Anyway, I did write what I considered to be a reasonably well argued piece that relied on facts and information rather than emotion or political point scoring. Our readers can judge for themselves.

The article did not go up, which is not a tragedy, though somewhat annoying. Much more irritating was what did go up: a piece by the soi-disant sceptic, Iain Dale, who, on his own happy account, is interested far more in the personalities of politics than anything else.

There is nothing wrong with the posting but not much right either. (Elaib on England Expects takes a much harder line on this.) It is a somewhat superficial piece that promotes the Conservative line on European integration, complete amnesia on certain matters and all. It confuses the European Council and the IGC and shows no understanding of what a treaty is in EU terms. And it has another go at UKIP on one hand and Dennis McShane on the other for doubting the Conservative sceptics' good faith. And no, Iain Dale is not a xenophobe or Little Englander, not that anyone has really accused him of that.

Well, as I said in the title, can't win 'em all and I do have the outlet of this blog on which I can post my own piece below. But I do find it mildly depressing that the MSM, regardless of its political affiliation, prefers to discuss what is, after all, a serious matter in such a superficial way. We shall never win a single battle if we do not even understand where the enemy is and what it is doing. That, as I said on Iain Dale's blog, is one reason why real eurosceptics (yes, yes, I know the expression of choice is euro-realist) do not consider the Conservative Party to be a reliable ally. Anyway, here is the piece The Guardian rejected:

Angela Merkel's swan song

Another European presidency is coming to an end and once again we must admit that very few of the stated intentions have been achieved. The EU remains over-regulated, centralized and protectionist. Ah but she has managed to bring everyone on board for a new constitutional document that may or may not be a European constitution. Even that is questionable. What Frau Merkel will announce, contrary to the hysterical articles and statements the media, politicians and political analysts in Britain have been making, is her recommendation that an Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) be called as soon as possible at which a new treaty would be discussed.

The point that a number of those making statements have missed is that according to the Consolidated European Treaties (already an effective constitutional structure) only an Inter-Governmental Conference can decide on a new treaty, no matter what its contents might be. What we are going to have in just over a week is a European Council, which can vote with a simple majority (thus the possible Polish veto is of little significance at this stage) to call an IGC.

In other words, the whole mess is being dumped on Portugal, who holds the next Presidency and whose Prime Minister has already expressed certain worries about being able to get the constitutional treaty through. Even that will not be the end of the story. Once the treaty is agreed to unanimously (another requirement) the treaty with its attachment, which is the Constitution, it has to be implemented in each member state and that might cause problems.

Of course, one has to see the text of the document that will be presented for discussion at the IGC but early indications are that it is not going to be all that different from the original. It will have long and detailed instructions on how member states are to legislate on economic and social matters. It will assert that the Constitution will be the source of the primacy of European over national legislation. Just to clarify matters: this primacy already exists but, at present, it exists in Britain by Parliament's will. Once the Constitution is through that will change. Other matters, such as an EU Foreign Minister and, possibly, a directly elected President as well as a change in voting rights and number of Commissioners are also likely to be there.

In other words it will be same old, same old, which raises the question of whether we should have a referendum in this country because the changes are so large constitutionally. It will be Gordon Brown's government that will have to grapple with those issues but the idea that a document that takes away Parliament's primacy for good, introduces a Foreign Minister who will overrule Britain's Foreign Secretary, and makes the Charter of Fundamental Rights part of the constitution is not large enough to be put to a referendum of the whole country is laughable. Gordon Brown must be made aware of the fact that the people of this country want a say in changes of that calibre.

However, even a referendum will not solve the problem of those aspects of the Constitution that have been brought in already, without any legal rationale. The European Defence Agency and the European Space Agency that were supposed to be set up only through the new treaty, have been set up, quite illegitimately. And that Charter of Fundamental Rights is already being used as a reference point in all legislation that comes from the European Union and cannot be rejected by Parliament. What are we going to do about that?


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