Friday, 29 May 2015

EU constitution delivered through the back door

The huge problems that have arisen from enlargement are relatively minor compared with the threat posed by the attempt to draw up an EU constitution. Peter Hain, then Minister for Europe, described this as no more than a 'tidying up exercise'. This kind of misleading comment is typical of the deception and misrepresentation that euro-enthusiasts habitually practice in order to achieve their objectives. Far from consolidating existing powers the new constitution would have triggered a massive erosion in the already much diminished ability of member states to govern themselves. In addition to its already considerable powers, the EU would also become involved in foreign, defence, and home affairs, including asylum & immigration policy. Moreover, the new constitution would have established a legal status for the EU, which is the prerequisite for an internationally recognised state, and creates a single unified organisation.

The current structure, which still allows member states to make their own decisions and arrangements about foreign policy and criminal justice matters, would have disappeared. The EU would have 'exclusive competence' over trade, competition rules, common commercial policy, fisheries, conservation and the signing of all international agreements. Most other policy areas would be 'shared', including transport, energy, social policy, the environment and consumer protection. In this context 'shared' means that when the EU decides to legislate in these areas, then member states will be forbidden to do so. Although lip service is paid to the principle of 'subsidiarity', namely taking decisions at the lowest possible level, the reality is that this requirement is consistently over-ridden by the quest for greater 'cohesion' between member states.

A matter of much concern was the proposed new criminal justice powers, requiring the harmonisation of national laws and procedures by majority voting. Britain, with its distinctive common law tradition, including jury trials and habeus corpus would be particularly affected by this proposal. Foreign affairs, which are currently decided between national governments, will change completely. A new EU foreign minister will conduct foreign policy, a matter which has traditionally been the exclusive responsibility of member states. In addition the Union would 'have competence to co-ordinate the economic and employment policies of the member states'. Finally, to avoid any misunderstanding, 'the Constitution…. shall have primacy over the laws of member states.'

It is difficult to find any matter over which national governments would still have unfettered responsibility. The principle role of national governments appears to be to merely act as agents to ensure that EU directives are being implemented. Regrettably, Britain appears to be more zealous in enforcing EU directives than other countries, often 'gold-plating' them with additional damaging bureaucratic requirements. In the event the proposed EU Constitution was abandoned following its rejection in the French and Dutch referenda. What was never in doubt was the determination of the euro-enthusiasts to pursue their agenda of greater integration, and diminution of the powers of national governments. Thus it came as no surprise that most of powers proposed in the EU constitution subsequently appeared 'through the back door' in the Lisbon Treaty.

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