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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Blair fisk Project part 4

There are also new powers for national Parliaments to object to Commission proposals on subsidiarity grounds.

But these are meaningless - even more so than in the original constitution.

Compared to the 2004 text the protocol on parliaments has been altered so that half of national parliaments need to object to trigger the process rather than ‘just’ a third.

In the unlikely event that fourteen national parliaments all vote against their Governments on the same proposal, on subsidiarity grounds, during a eight week window, then the Commission has to ‘reconsider’ - but it can still override national parliaments. Which is exactly what happened the very first time the mechanism was given a ‘trial run’ several years ago. On the upside the time for them to try to use this ludicrous process has been extended from six to eight weeks (woo-hoo!)

Such proposals are actively damaging, because they give the impression of accountability without the reality, and are used to fob off proposals for real democracy in Europe.


There are a number of extensions of qualified majority voting. In the most sensitive areas of QMV—justice and home affairs, and social security—we obtained the right either not to participate or to insist on unanimity. In addition, a number of other QMV measures—for example, those about rules within the eurozone, or those in justice and home affairs—do not apply to us. As for the rest, we have agreed them, because qualified majority voting is often in Britain’s interest. The biggest move to qualified majority voting in Europe’s history was the Single European Act, but this allowed the creation of one of Europe’s greatest achievements: the single European market. More recently, we have secured reforms such as the services directive and other liberalising measures through QMV, including the lifting of the beef ban, when they would almost certainly have been blocked through unanimity. Among the QMV provisions in the treaty is one that provides a new legal base and QMV for energy market liberalisation, and another that provides QMV for decisions on emergency humanitarian aid to third countries—both of them manifestly in the UK’s national interest.

There are plenty of moves to QMV. As noted above, even seemingly nice things like urgent humanitarian aid have clear downsides (e.g. aid to Hamas)

You can get a list of all of them on our analysis of the IGC mandate.

The claim that "The biggest move to qualified majority voting in Europe’s history was the Single European Act" looks wrong to us. There are far more moves under the new constitution. I don't understand how the Government can stack this up. Blair said later in the debate that there were 49 moves to QMV in the "new" treaty. But the Government also admits that there were only 12 moves to QMV in the SEA. We would love a reply from our regular at the Foreign Office on that one...


The other main reform is the fixed term, two-and-a-half-year presidency of the European Council, replacing the current rotating six-monthly arrangements. This is necessary for the Union’s efficiency, but does not involve any extension of presidency powers. The President of the European Council will remain the servant of the leaders of the member states.


Again, actually this is a big deal. The constitutional treaty would create powerful new positions and institutions, making the EU institutions more powerful in relation to the member states. These institutions are likely to grow in strength over time. Control of the 3,500 civil servants in the Council Secretariat would give the President a substantial power base – and the president would have an incentive to expand its own powers.

The new President would fundamentally change the nature of the legislative process in Brussels. Instead of negotiations between the supranational Commission and a national head of Government with a vented interest in protecting the rights of member states, negotiations would in future take place between one unelected, independent Brussels institution and another.

It has already been suggested that the new President of the European Council will be merged with the President of the Commission to create a US-style President for Europe. Sarkozy has called for the President to eventually be directly elected, as in the US.


The most important aspect of the new treaty is that it allows the European Union to move on to the issues that really matter. For too many years, we have been bogged down in a debate about institutions. Withthe increase from 15 to 27 member states, change is essential, but with this agreement, we can now concentrate on issues that really matter: energy security, organised crime and terrorism, globalisation, further enlargement and making Europe’s voice more effective internationally.


This is pathetic.

The lazy, hazy, argument that the new constitutional treaty is needed to make the EU work is not backed up by the facts. The EU is passing laws 25% faster since enlargement.

The vague arguement that this will somehow "let the EU fight terrorism" or save the planet is worthless too. What new power will the EU have to so this? Isn't the truth that the EU doesn't need more power to sort out its lamentable environmental record, but the will to sort out failing policies like the EU Emissiions Trading Scheme?


This agenda is surely quintessentially one in Britain’s interests. Over the past 10 years, Britain has moved from the margins of European debate to the centre. This is absolutely right for Britain. Whether indefence or economic reform or in energy policy orthe environment, or of course most particularly in enlargement and the appointment of the new Commission President, Britain has for a decade been in a leadership position in Europe. That is exactly where we should stay. I commend this agreement to the House.


A leadership position in Europe? What on earth?

This is from the Government that:

(a) Said there would never be a European Constitution. Keith Vaz, then Europe Minister said in Parliament, “the hon. Member for Ludlow said that the charter represented the beginning of a European constitution. If a telephone directory were published in Brussels, the hon. Gentleman would believe that it was the forerunner of a European Constitution. We are not going to have such a constitution” He said that the suggestion that there would be a European Constitution was “the last euro myth”. (Hansard, 22 November 2000)

(b) Promised the Charter would not be made legally binding. “Our case is that it should not have legal status and we do not intend it to”
- Tony Blair, 11 December 2000

(c) Said it would not give up the rebate - but then did. Tony Blair said "The UK rebate will remain and we will not negotiate it away. Period." (Hansard, 8 June)

But the Government did give away 7 billion pounds of the rebate in return ffor nothing other thann the promise of a "review" of EU spending later. As German newspaper Die Welt noted at the time: "Tony Blair began the EU presidency as a tiger and ended it as a doormat."

Anyway - you get the general idea. We could go on and on about the Government's u-turns.

The Government's case against a referendum is pathetic. Every single serious EU leader says it is exactly the same as the old EU constitution.

But the Government's calculation is that while people don't like it, they won't care enough to make a difference. Proving them wrong is what the next six months are all about.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we should also recall that the EU is an institution whose financial accountability is so poor that it consistently fails to get its accounts signed off by the Auditors. If it can not or will not put ist house in order on such a matter why should it be trusted with any more powers.

Anonymous said...

"In the unlikely event that fourteen national parliaments all vote against their Governments on the same proposal, on subsidiarity grounds, during a eight week window, then the Commission has to ‘reconsider’ - but it can still override national parliaments. Which is exactly what happened the very first time the mechanism was given a ‘trial run’ several years ago."

Could you please source your claim here?

You may be referring to the "dry run" operated by the conference of European affairs committees in 2005, which was meant to examine how national parliaments would operate their own individual mechanisms on the subsidiarity check. Of course, the check could only be a dry run and could have no effect on the Commission until the Constitutional Treaty came into force.

For you to represent the "dry run" as not having achieved something with it was never designed to achieve is really a bit rich, and merits clarification, if not outright correction.