The EU Bill: At best condescending; at worst, contemptuous

Next week, the Commons will vote on the EU Bill — that is, the Bill we were promised to ensure that no future transfers of power from the UK to Brussels could take place without a referendum.  We were to have a “Triple Lock”: before such transfers could take place, the government, the House of Commons and the British people would all have to approve it.
 
I have argued for months that the measure is (prepare yourself for a cliché) a paper tiger.  It is a toothless Bill, designed to give the impression of a tough policy on the EU while making no difference whatever in the real world.  Worse than that: like a succession of Brussels policies (“subsidiarity”; the “Yellow Card”; the people’s petition) it is a cynical ploy designed to give a spurious veneer of democratic legitimacy and accountability to a fundamentally anti-democratic process.  In the end, the decision comes down to this: does the government of the day want a referendum?  But the government of the day can make that decision without this new Bill, which is therefore wholly redundant.
 
We have seen the enthusiasm with which the Coalition has handed powers to Brussels in its first few months of office, and we have seen the self-serving sophistry used to justify its clear breach of its solemn word (from both parties) on the Lisbon referendum.  We can have no confidence in the government on this issue (and even less in any future government).
 
The measure was also designed to buy off dissent amongst Conservative Eurosceptics in the Commons, and here it seems to have backfired badly.  The Bill has been panned by Bill Cash and the Commons European Scrutiny Committee.  John Redwood and Philip Davies have stated their opposition in very clear terms.
 
The initiative seems to represent an error of judgement by William Hague, David Lidington and Conservative Ministers.  The Bill is simply a futile gesture, and anyone who looks at it can see that it is futile.  It has the look of a bone thrown to the dog, to distract him for a moment.  The fact that it was proposed in this way represents at best a very condescending attitude to Eurosceptic MPs, and at worst downright contempt.  It is an insult to their convictions and to their intelligence.
 
Eurosceptic Tories have tabled a series of robust amendments which might make the Bill credible.  But the amendments may not commend themselves to Conservative Ministers, and will be anathema to Nick Clegg and his rag-bag troupe of Euro-Luvvie Lib-Dems, already rattled and restive over a range of other issues.  But partly through opportunism, it looks as though Labour may support the Tory rebels (funny how parties get more sceptical in opposition), and the amendments could succeed.
 
I am confident that a number of our East Midlands MPs will support the amendments and defy the Whip.  (As my old Mother used to say, “No names, no pack drill”).  Other regional MPs will want in their hearts to support the amendments, but they have positions in the government to consider.  But the question arises whether they put party or country first.  We got it wrong on Maastricht: we need to get it right this time.
 
None of us wants to destabilise the Coalition.  But we have reached the present sorry pass in Europe by paying too much attention to short-term tactics and too little to the big picture.  So in advance I salute those Conservative MPs who will put the independence of their country first, and support the amendments.
 
And a note to William Hague and David Lidington: we want the steak, please.  Don’t try to fob us off with the sizzle.

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13 Responses to The EU Bill: At best condescending; at worst, contemptuous

  1. Russellw says:

    Not much point in asking our MP to vote for the amendments – it’s David Laws MP (LibDem – Yeovil)!

  2. Heather Alibakir says:

    I sincerely hope that every MP in the East Midlands will support this amendment. I and many others are sick of the EU and the way in which the people who accepted our votes in return for promises, which we believed, are backing off from making a stand against the European fat cats as if they are faced with rabid dogs when all they need to confront are the domesticated kittens with whom they share the house.

  3. Mike Spilligan says:

    Many thanks for setting this out, succinctly, again.
    My own MP (Tory, East Mids.) usually does what DC/the Whips instruct. We can only hope that an increasing number of MPs remember that they are “honourable” members and remember, too, what that means.
    The electorate has become used, over the last 13 years, to being held in contempt by Labour PMs, but I see no reason – except as a display of personal power – why DC should do this, assuming that he retains some moral integrity.

  4. Peter Hulme Cross says:

    If the current polls are to be believed, a majority of people in the UK do not want more power to be transferred to EU institutions.

    Now there was once a time when our elected MPs represented their constituents. Unfortunately nowadays they just do what the Whips tell them because that way they think they can have a ‘career’ in politics.

    This Bill epitomises the contempt with which the Government views its backbenchers. Let us hope that as many of them as possible suddenly discover some backbone, do what they were elected to do and, if they can’t vote against it, at least vote for the amendments.

  5. FaustiesBlog says:

    How can backbenchers be persuaded to defy the whip on this, Roger?

    A glaring flaw in the bill is the reference to “significant” powers. The word “significant” is not defined and can therefore mean whatever the government wants it to mean.

    Can anyone post a link to the tabled amendments, please?

  6. Robert Dow says:

    From both the article content and the following comments, the only way we can control the effects of either the EU or our self-seeking MPs is to secede from the EU entirely.

  7. I hope and pray, that all of the proposed amendments to the EU Bill will be accepted. Also, that more Conservative backbenchers will start to support the cause of facilitating our country’s eventual exit from the EU (in both word and deed). It is not too late yet, to gradually restore our country’s sovereignty and national pride. True and righteous Conservatives, should always put the national interest first.

  8. Rich says:

    Anyone who studies political ‘science’ is not worthy of representing actual people. The sooner we can make politics a pain in the arse and not a career to be followed, the sooner Polly Titians will go back into the woodwork where they belong. Public service should be a vocation and so not very well paid. Take them off salaries and pay them expenses only. And have a really cutting and biting scrutiny commitee to oversee those expenses. And get rid of lobbyists and any Polly Titian that consorts with them.

  9. Derek says:

    I am confident that my MP will stand up for strengthening this bill. I just hope there will be enough to do the job. There is no point in being in parliament and not standing up to be counted.

  10. Samuel says:

    Roger totally agree with you about the European Union Bill. It is not worth the paper it is written on and will provide the government with the same excuses as previous governments when even more of our sovereignty(if thats possible) now is given away to the EU.

    The Freedom Association has done an excellent brief highlighting like you have said the futility of the bill.
    :http://www.tfa.net/files/the-european-union-bill-2010—1011—a-brief.pdf

  11. Jason says:

    “None of us wants to destabilise the Coalition.”

    And why not? This coalition government does not represent the people of this country, seeing as we did not vote for a coalition. The manifestos of each coalition party were cast aside in the name of compromise; that I accept and agree with. But there is no reason to keep stable a coalition government which has rejected the pledges it promised to uphold upon gaining power. This watered-down EU bill is just one example of that.

  12. Anne Palmer says:

    Any new Bill/Act that this Government was to introduce, the EU, according to the Treaty of Lisbon, “Shall have Competence over”.

    In any case, as the EU has been given “Legal Personality” in the same Treaty, it too could bring in an EU Directive of its own to make clear that the EU can basically do what it likes as long as it does not act contrary to its own laws.

    Example of acting contrary to its own laws. Certain fishermen have been charged over the years, some had prison sentences, some had their livelihoods taken away from them, an act absolutely contrary to our own Common Law Constitution-yet no-one put up a fight for them-yes, they had broken the law but the Bill of Rights 1689 makes clear none should have excessive fines nor their livelihood removed taken from them. (Yes I have details on the case that never was) Yet no one has brought a case against the EU for making laws that, in the fishermen trying to obey EU laws, they have had to throw billions of tons of fish back into the sea because they would not be permitted to land them without threat of prosecution. This has resulted in the depletion of fish stocks, polluting the sea-bed and depriving future generations from a very valuable (in more ways than one) source of food. Why hasn’t anyone made such a challenge?

    If politicians IN THIS COUNTRY are not straight forward with the people in this Country soon, this Government may be the last government, for, from what has happened in the recent past and what is happening now and is being put forward for the immediate future-the people will never believe anything anyone of them says-certainly nothing bodes well for the future, does it?

    Any alteration to it must be ratified by all 27 Countries-whether that alteration affects this Country of not, because in the future any alteration NOW will affect us, whether we have an ‘opt out’ to the Euro or not for the Currency of the Union is the Euro. See Vienna Convention on the laws of Treaties for withdrawal of not applying the rules correctly etc.

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