The House of Lords has invited submissions regarding the EU’s Renamed Constiutution, and I have made the following submission on behalf of The Freedom Association.
I submit the following on behalf of The Freedom Association(TFA), of which I am the Honorary Chairman. See www.tfa.net. We are a long-established membership organisation which campaigns on issues of personal freedom.
Our submission is in two sections: General objections to the Lisbon Treaty; and specific problems in the area of Law and Institutions.
General objections to the Treaty
The TFA is strongly in favour of trade and voluntary intergovernmental cooperation in Europe (and beyond Europe), but is opposed to political union in Europe. We believe that the EU as currently constituted is inimical to Britain’s interests: it is making us poorer, and less democratic, and less free.
Making us poorer: Figures from the EU Commission itself show that the costs of regulation in the Single Market exceed trade benefits by nearly four times (€600 bn per annum vs €160 bn). That is without accounting for the very high costs of the CAP, and our direct EU budget contributions. The EU is a Customs Union. We believe that this is an old-fashioned and sub-optimal structure unfit for the 21st century. We believe that a European Free Trade Area would better serve our interests. We note that the pattern of the EU’s external trade agreements with third countries is biased against the Anglosphere (former British colonies) in a way that militates against our trade interests, and against the Commonwealth.
Making us less democratic: The outstanding example is the Lisbon Treaty itself. The EU institutions have shown contempt for public opinion, by bringing back essentially the failed EU Constitution, despite its rejection by referendum in France and Holland in 2005. More generally, we recall John Stuart Mill’s remark that “Where people lack fellow feeling, and especially where they read and speak different languages, the common public opinion necessary for representative government cannot exist”. Democracy requires more than counting votes. That is merely arithmetic. It requires a people (as Enoch Powell said) “who share enough in common in terms of history, culture, language and economic interests that they are prepared to accept governance at each others’ hands”. That situation obtains in the nation state. It clearly does not obtain across the EU.
Making us less free: Our people are bound by laws to which they did not agree and to which our government may not have given assent. They are under a system of governance in which they can no longer dismiss the people who make most of their laws. Moreover the defence of the realm, secured within NATO for many decades, is now under threat from the EU’s defence pretensions, which while adding no new resources to our military nevertheless divide NATO and create confusion in our defence forces and military planning.
The government’s arguments against a referendum do not bear a moment’s examination.
“This is a quite different document”. Frankly, this claim is an insult to our intelligence. Only this month (October), Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Chairman of the Convention that drafted the Constitution, again insisted that the Treaty was essentially the Constitution with cosmetic changes. European leaders have queued up to claim that the Treaty is 90%, or 96%, or 98% of the Constitution. We especially note the Open Europe study which shows that 400 clauses of the Constitution appear relatively unchanged in the Treaty. But the smoking gun is surely Angela Merkel’s letter (she was then President-in-Office) to member states in the spring of 2007 when she proposed “Presentational changes and different terminology but with the same legal effect” (my emphasis). This is cynicism and deceit of a high order.
“We have our red lines”. But we had them with the Constitution in 2005. If they did not render a referendum unnecessary then, neither do they render it unnecessary now. In any case, as the European Scrutiny Committee has observed, “The Red Lines leak like sieves”. No one in Brussels expects them to survive challenge in the ECJ, and such challenges are currently being planned.
“We never had referenda on previous Treaties”. Just because we made mistakes in the past, that is no reason to repeat them. There is a much greater awareness now of the extent of EU integration, and much greater public concern.
“We are a parliamentary democracy — we don’t do referenda”. This from a government that has held dozens of referenda, on Scottish and Welsh devolution, on a Regional Assembly for the North East, on a mayor for Hartlepool. The government has de facto conceded that significant constitutional changes require the assent of the people, and this is the most important change of all. Even if the government had a manifesto commitment for the treaty, it would be arguable that so great a constitutional change required separate public assent . But it has no such commitment. On the contrary, it has an explicit commitment hold a referendum, and it is a constitutional outrage that it should now try to talk its way out of that commitment.
“People won’t understand it — it’s too complicated”. The average voter might be unable to write an essay on all the policy areas dealt with in a General Election, but we still accept the people’s verdict. That’s democracy. The idea that political decisions are too difficult for the public to assess is the road to totalitarianism. It also shows a vast contempt for the voters.
TFA demands a referendum on the renamed Constitution,
Observations specific to Law and Institutions.
We oppose qualified majority voting on criminal Law and policing. These are fundamental national issues, and it is the first duty of our government to protect the citizen from arbitrary arrest at the behest of a foreign power. This is an especially important point since our legal system is so different from continental systems. We shall end up with a dog’s breakfast of conflicting provisions. Indeed we do not see any advantage in deciding these matters “at the European level”. We also oppose the European Arrest Warrant, which allows British people to be taken abroad, without due process, to inferior legal régimes where traditional British liberties are not respected, and even in certain cases to be tried for behaviour which would not be a crime in our country.
“The emergency brake” is merely a rhetorical device to enable our government to suggest we have control over these matters, while making it easy for them to acquiesce privately to EU proposals.
TFA absolutely opposes the development of Eurojust and a European Public prosecutor. It is a transparent attempt to diminish national police and justice systems and to create a Europe-wide system based on the Napoleonic model. It must be stopped.
We do not see any need for family law measures at the EU level, and we absolutely condemn the passerelle clause in any EU context. We cannot trust our government to defend Britain’s interests even when faced with a Treaty and a ratification procedure. How can we trust them with decisions made in private behind closed doors?
We are opposed to any British engagement with Schengen, which would undermine our ability to run an effective immigration policy.
We oppose any enhanced role for the ECJ in FSJ issues: indeed we need to reduce its role.
We oppose any application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the UK. It would promote judicial activism. It would transfer law-making powers from politicians (whom at least we can sack) to judges whom we cannot sack.
On the general passerelle provisions, see above comments on the passerelle in family law.
ROGER HELMER MEP
Honorary Chairman, TFA