Proposed EU Constitution exposed
'NEW LABOUR, NO BRITAIN'
29 October 2004 saw the agreement of the EU Constitution document (ref: CIG87/2/04 REV 2). Forget the Foreign Office (FCO) hype - this 'Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe' is seriously bad for our democracy.
The Constitution establishes a state in its own right
The EU is re-founded with its own legal personality, and powers to sign international treaties of a political (as well as commercial) nature.
The Euro-state's laws will dominate ("have primacy over") our own in virtually all areas. Although not an absolute departure from the current EU arrangements, there will be few policy areas left where a democratically-elected British government is truly answerable to the people. (Art I-6)
The current 'EU' consists of three 'pillars':
v the 'European Community' (economic and political integration, under the jurisdiction of the European Court of 'Justice')
v Common Foreign and Security Policy ('CFSP'; foreign policy, defence and potentially wide-ranging 'security' issues)
v Justice and Home Affairs ('JHA', also known as 'police and judicial co-operation' ; border controls, policing, justice system).
The sensitive CFSP and JHA policies have mainly been seen as matters for national governments. However, under the Constitution, they will typically come under the very political European Court - which will rule on practically all EU matters.
As it acts as an agent of political integration, it will look for ways of undermining the veto we thought we had on CFSP and JHA matters - just as it has done over taxation policy. It has ruled that the intentions of EU treaties are binding, and act on the Constitution's intention on "the achievement of an ever-increasing degree of convergence of Member States' actions" in the CFSP area. (Article I-40)
The EU aims to control our defences
Democratic nations want peace but also to maintain the capability to defend themselves.
Although "common defence policies and ultimately a common defence" were agreed in spirit at Maastricht, a national veto has always been read. However, the Constitution rules on the European Defence Agency (which was actually set up in 2004).
Its purpose is effectively to Europeanise defence equipment procurement and general military capabilities. The Constitution is subject to interpretation - although the EDA is "open to all Member States wishing to be part of it", the EU decides its workings by majority voting, implying that there is no veto. Its rationalisation activities could damage our domestic suppliers. (Art III-311)
The EU aims to control our policing and justice system
The Constitution allows the EU to define a range of criminal laws, offences, and penalties (sanctions). As before, its police agency, Europol, is empowered to co-ordinate the actions of national police forces. Again, our veto is removed from some sensitive areas. (Art III-270-276).
The EU is also given powers to act in 'crime prevention', which might include surveillance and blanket restrictive measures. (Art III-272)
The Constitution aims to bind us as 'EU Citizens'
To date, the concept of 'EU citizenship' is has been explained as being 'a citizen of one of the Member States of the EU'. With the EU gaining legal identity, it can claim direct allegiance from British citizens.
In the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the Union, it is clear that the EU expects its 'citizens' to be subject to the 'responsibilities and duties' laid down by European law. It also gains the 'right' to restrict our "rights" in its own interest. (Part II Preamble, Art II-112)
The Constitution bans us from passing our own laws
The Constitution gives the EU "exclusive competence" (law-making powers) in the following areas, barring individual countries from legislating, save under permission from the EU: (Art I-12, I-13)
v commercial policies, including international agreements; customs union.
v competition policy for the 'single market'
v monetary policy for the Euro-zone
v conservation of marine resources, apart from fisheries
Individual countries are barred from legislating in the following "shared competence" areas where the EU wishes to act in accordance with the Constitution: (Art I-14)
v 'single market'
v transport, environment and communications networks
v agriculture and fisheries
v regional aid and social policy
v public health and safety
v consumer protection
The UK theoretically has an opt-out on some Justice and Home Affairs areas, such as border controls for non-EU nationals, but the EU can decide on internal population flows and justice matters.
As now, Member States are banned from passing laws that conflict with European legislation.
The potential for Euro-taxes
The Constitution says that the EU "shall provide itself with the means necessary" to attain its (very ambitious) objectives and although the EU's budget is to be financed from the conventional system of 'own resources', this can be changed and is "without prejudice to other revenue". (Art I-54)
In the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the Union, the EU expects its 'citizens' to be subject to the 'responsibilities and duties' laid down by European law. This could be used to justify taxation of individuals in the name of 'solidarity' or 'the environment', as the EU can restrict the right to enjoy one's own property to meet 'objectives of general interest'. (Part II Preamble, Arts II-77, II-112).
Energy/environment taxes could be slipped through without a veto so long as they are seen as 'primarily environmental' rather than 'primarily fiscal'. (Art III-234) In the light of recent developments, transport-related taxes, such as road charging, could be seen as "any other appropriate measure" (Art III-236)
As at present, the European Commission could potentially act against national tax regimes that are seen to distort the 'single market'. (Art III-174)
UK rebate potentially jeopardised
Although there is unanimity in deciding the system of 'own resources' used to finance EU expenditure, implementing measures have no veto. If a change is agreed to the system, the UK's longstanding rebate could be affected or even removed by the implementing legislation. (Art I-54)
Control of energy resources
The Constitution gives the EU powers to "ensure the energy supply in the Union" without a national veto.
World oil supplies are predicted to come under pressure after 2010. Just as Britain's fish became 'Europe's fish', what odds are on North Sea Oil being ruled a "common resource" for the EU to ration? As this is a matter of so-called "shared competence", Member States are only allowed to act where the EU chooses not to. (Art III-256)
Spin on democracy and a greater role for national parliaments
Claiming that the EU shall be founded on representative democracy, or that 'citizens' will be consulted and involved is merely a fig leaf for the undemocratic pedigree of the EU. Even if a million people petition the European Commission on a 'citizens' initiative', they gain no rights to any action. (Art I-41, I-47).
Involving national parliaments in vetting proposed legislation does not give them any new rights; it merely delays proposals and does not stop the European Commission doing what it wants to do anyway.
EU withdrawal made complicated
Should a Member State wish to withdraw from the EU, this is made more complicated. It is barred from withdrawing within two years of its notification, unless early permission is agreed by the European Council and European Parliament. The withdrawing state is excluded from Council discussions (as opposed to negotiations) on withdrawal terms and its future relationship with the EU. (Art I-60)
'Treaty of Nice' powers preserved
The EU maintains all its law-making powers under the Treaty of Nice, under the acquis communautaire rule.
Date this page created: 28 March 2005; updated: 29 March 2005