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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

New light shed on Tony Blair's Charter of Fundamental Rights 'opt-out'

Was Tony Blair arguing for a Charter opt out or not?
Following five years of wrangling the European Commission has finally given in to requests from the European Citizen Action Service and the European Ombudsmen and released documents concerning the UK's negotiation position on the Charter of Fundamental Rights - you can read them here.

Were they worth the wait? Well it has been known for some time that Tony Blair's
opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights was not what it was originally billed to be. In fact  the 'opt-out', listed as one of Gordon Brown's celebrated defensive "red lines" was derided at the time as a 'Maginot line' defence.  However these documents do shed some light on how the UK Government presented its manoeuvring to different audiences.

Tony Blair in the
House of Commons 25 June 2007:  
"It is absolutely clear that we have an opt-out from both the charter and judicial and home affairs. Those were the reasons why people like the right hon. Gentleman were saying that they wanted a referendum."
Well was it an opt-out? And was Tony Blair actually arguing for one? Apparently not, according to the new documents released by the EU's legal service. On 21 June 2007 in the privacy of the European Council the UK Government changed its mind and decided not to argue for an opt-out after all:
So was the UK arguing behind the scenes against an opt-out while in public saying it had secured one and where does that leave us now?  In the end the UK secured a clarifying protocol to the Lisbon Treaty rather than an opt-out.

The Protocol states that the Charter “does not extend” the ability of the ECJ to find that UK law is inconsistent with the rights and principles elucidated in the Charter. Indeed subsequently the Europe Minister Jim Murphy admitted: “It is clear that the UK does not have an opt-out on the Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

As we noted a while ago now, the ECJ cited the Charter extensively in its ruling to ban gender discrimination with respect to insurance, which illustrated that the Charter is very much alive.

7 comments:

Jesper said...

Apologies for going a bit off topic but a link to a recent press release:
http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-13-126_en.htm

They are remarkably honest:
"...deeper integration of decision making in policy areas like taxation and labour markets as an important solidarity instrument."

Probably only for euro-zone but still. How to interpret the closing comment?

Is 'deeper integration of decision making' code for: 'centralisation of power'? Can it be anything else?

A recent speech in the UK:
http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-13-174_en.htm
A quote:
"....opening up its services market and by encouraging wages to rise..."
Increased competition to lead to higher costs (wages)?

Rik said...

The legal situation re the relation EU-law and UK-law is simply a complete mess. Like here people have been signing up to things as if it were Christmas-cards and not important far-reaching international obligations.
Preferably this all should be cleaned up in Dave's reneg exercise. But it will be a heck of a job.

@Jesper
Especially all EZ countries need a lot of income to pay for all the goodies that were earlier financed partly by overborrowing. And as you see that including Germany and Holland austerity means raising taxes. It looks pretty clear that they donot want any real competition on the government revenue front (read tax-level) so measures like this can be expected if not stopped.
Politics getting reelected by a lot of people who want to keep their entitlements is simply a much higher priority than being competitive in the longer run.
Just wait an see which morons will sign up to this nonsense to find out 5 years later they have signed their own death warrant, like we have seen so many times in the past.

Rollo said...

Bliar at his most deceitful, with the full connivance of Brown. I hope this is going to be reported in the press. Lies. lies and more lies. And Cameron has no doubt learned form this and will repeat the lies while 'renegotiating'. He already knows there is no forum for renegotiation, that acquis communautaires are acquis and there is no going back. The only question is how he will present his lies to the electorate.

Anonymous said...

OMG!

You mean Blair is a hypocrite!?

Wow!

Who would have thought it!?

Jesper said...

The speeches given by commissioners can be very interesting, this one by "JoaquĆ­n Almunia Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-13-168_en.htm
This line:
"We will also address what I call the ‘deep-pockets distortions’ issue, which results from the uneven spending capacity of different Member States."

The stated intent appears to be to address 'the uneven spending capacity of the different Member States'. Can that mean anything but transferring money from the countries with spending capacity to the ones without spending capacity? Transfer union?

Ray said...

Rik, are you that confident there will actually be a renegotiation as it would be described by a dictionary? I'm certainly not and I don't think I'm alone in that.

Jesper said...

Some rumours on the MFF.
http://www.europolitics.info/europolitics/no-2013-eu-budget-top-up-no-mff-parliament-will-say-art348991-46.html
Interesting things they might ask for....

The fun/sad thing now is that it is likely that some voters in the EP election might not have seen a clean audit of EU-books in their lifetime.

This report from the auditors might explain why:
http://eca.europa.eu/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/21310806.PDF

The commission reply (p31):
"Although the Commission is ultimately accountable for the
implementation of the EU budget towards the Discharge
authority within the regulatory framework, adopted by
the Council and the European Parliament" and then it continues on by explaining that the Commission is actually not responsible. Ultimately accountable sounds very definite but the commission seems to think it is not.

It would explain a lot if it was made clear that the commission believes that, even though it is specified in the treaties, it is not ultimately accountable for the implementation of the EU-budget.