Wednesday, November 04, 2009

David Camerons New EU Policy - My Verdict

So there it is, straight from the horse’s mouth, a Cameron Conservative Government:

- Will accept Lisbon and will not hold a referendum.

- Will attempt to repatriate some Social and Employment laws, (which remain unspecified).

- Will seek an opt-out on the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

- Will offer a referendum guarantee on future power transfers to Brussels.

-  Will pass a British Sovereignty Act stating that the will of Parliament is supreme to that of the EU.

So let's look through this; calmly I hope.

The Conservative Party will accept Lisbon, and only seek repatriation of certain laws laid out as above. So the EU President is in, as is the High Representative, and the EU wide ID Card scheme, control of the police and of our economy. No word though on whether the EURO is now an option. If it is not under the next Conservatives it definitely will be the next time Labour or the Liberals get in. But the bottom line from Cameron is that it was Labour that screwed us and that we should blame Labour, but the Conservatives will not attempt to reverse or take the UK out of the EU or force any retrospective vote on Lisbon.

Initial reaction to this can be read over on the Daily Telegraph, where a group called the "European Movement" could not be happier with David Cameron speech, in fact they are positively thrilled.
The European Movement welcomes the statement by David Cameron today that a future Conservative government would not seek to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty.

Peter Luff, Chairman of the European Movement, said:

“The Lisbon treaty is not in force yet, so it is premature for the Conservatives to say that it is not working and needs to be changed. That would be to put ideology above practicality, which is not the right thing to do. Better to give the new treaty a chance.

“There is a large and far-reaching agenda ahead of Europe at the moment, including economic recovery, fighting climate change, helping Afghanistan attain stability, and improving Europe’s relations with China, Russia and America. The Lisbon treaty will help Europe deal with these important issues.

“Any attempt to renegotiate the treaty will be difficult, time-consuming and counter-productive. It makes more sense to deal with the real issues facing Europe right now than to pick an unnecessary and distracting argument with our European partners.”

There is more, but I think you get the point.

Secondly we have the previously mooted repatriation of powers is limited to some Social and Employment laws. David Cameron acknowledged that he would need the support of all 27 member states and probably only when attached to a new accession treaty could this be achieved. So, if the EU does not expand there can be now repatriation. If the EU offers no new treaties, as it does not need to do now that Lisbon grants self amending powers there will be no repatriation of powers. And if the 27 member states do not agree, there can be no repatriation of powers. Let me spare the guff, this cannot happen, there will be no repatriation on this basis. This is nothing more than wishful thinking. How do I know? Because the working time directive was rammed through the EU Parliament this year with the support of Labour MEPs overriding our previous so called “red line”.

There was nothing, absolutely nothing Gordon Brown as PM could do to reverse it. That was the PM’s position in relation to an EU Directive where the UK had achieved a “red line” BEFORE Lisbon.

There is not a conceivable situation whereby 27 council members or a majority in the EU Parliament will grant this power back to the UK, and Cameron should and I assume does know this. But, he is setting himself up for a fight he will not win or another climb down later on.

As someone who wants out of the EU, the repatriation argument was going to be the key today for me, and how far the Conservatives would be prepared to reach and how hard they were prepared to fight was going to be the key to how badly support would leak away. The answer I take from the speech is not very deep, not very hard and allowing themselves 4 to 5 years to do some pretty undefined and uninspiring stuff. It has not brought me closer to voting Tory; I wonder how many wavering Tories will feel that this is simply not good enough?

The third point is an opt-out on the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Now my understanding is that this is a document that was agreed at Ministerial level about 20 years ago and has been bouncing around ever since. It is not in itself a treaty or laws but a proclamation of statements about Human Rights. There is obvious concern about how this will be interpreted by Judges and how it will affect legal practices throughout the EU. However, I think there is a little misleading going on here.

Human Rights Laws are subject to great debate in the UK, but the fact is, most of these do not stem from the EU, but from the 47 Member Council of Europe and the European Convention of Human Rights which the Council passed. This is not a part of the EU; it has nothing to do with Lisbon. The inclusion of the Charter to Lisbon will not really change the debate in the UK on how Human Rights laws are implemented, and really most of the argument boils down to Judges Interpretation both in the UK and in the ECHR Courts in Strasbourg. The Tabloids will still have plenty to write about on this score. I can’t help thinking this point is a smoke screen from the Conservative Leadership, and the misplacing of laws enacted from the Council of Europe rather than the EU (a mistake frequently made) was often publically seized upon by Ken Clarke to ridicule those who complained about the EU but did not really know what it does. So I wonder if Ken prompted this to be included?

The next point was that the UK Parliament would offer a law to guarantee power of referendum on any future transfers of powers. This I think is an interesting pledge, one which some people will buy into, but here is my thinking. EU law is superior to our own laws on areas where the EU decides it is, and up until now, the EU has required treaties to change the balance of those powers.

The EU now only needs, say 10% control, and without much more than a snap of the fingers, it can assume at will up to 100% of control from the nation-state. That’s the deal that is what we are signed up to. So, by going back to the first point, that generally the Conservatives are accepting Lisbon it is hard to see how any transfer in this sense, the 10% to 100% grab will be possible, in fact I would say it is impossible to achieve and would again require unanimity from 26 other nations who have nothing to gain from an UK opt-out here. I return to the point that an amendment would be required at EU Law, which would never be passed in the council or the EU Parliament and potentially a treaty, of which there may not be another one. If this is not the case I hope someone can link to some supporting evidence, because this is certainly the case now.

But what of that small pool of laws that we have retained, well The Conservatives could pass a law in the UK Parliament guaranteeing that a referendum must be held before any more powers be passed. What is left to be passed? The EU will now control us, our education, our police, our local councils, they can impose ID cards, and control environmental policies, employment laws, and they will soon control our economy and increasingly are merging the lines between the national defence and security initiatives of different nations. Seriously, what is there left to want a referendum on? But even with this law, it is subject to British Law and as such can be reversed by a future Labour or Liberal Government. It is only good for as long as the Conservatives hold power in Westminster. I am not filled with confidence this pledge will serve us in the way it was being sold.

It is in fact very much a symbolic bolting of the barn door when the horse is long gone, only the barn is derelict and the bolt is rusty, so what’s the point? Poor horsies.

Maybe I am wrong, I fail to see how any security can be gained or felt from this pledge.

The final point is the Conservative promise of a British Sovereignty Bill asserting that UK Law is supreme to that of the EU. It is an Interesting notion. However, this is another smokescreen.

During what could laughably be referred to as the debating of the Lisbon Treaty in Parliament, Bill Cash introduced Clause 9 as an attempt by the UK to assert Parliaments supremacy over that of EU Law. The Clause read
“Notwithstanding any provision of the European Communities Act 1972, nothing in this Act shall affect or be construed by any court in the UK as affecting the supremacy of Parliament"

The idea being that UK Courts would not feel obliged to ignore UK Laws where these were contradicted by EU law which no matter how you cut it is considered to be superior to UK law. If a vote in favour of the clause had of been accepted the passing of Lisbon could not have happened, as the text has to be adopted by each country in exactly the form it arrives. The vote for clause 9 was defeated, but that is not the point I am trying to make. It is that it had a chance of passing, however, the night of the vote, the Conservative Whip sent Conservatives the all clear to go home, which they did as the Whips word is as good as the Party Leaders word. Just 7 minutes after the texts were sent, the vote went to the lobbies. Only 48 MP’s were present or able to make it to the vote which was then easily defeated.

If David Cameron views the Supremacy of UK law, why did he have the Whip send everyone home? If David Cameron was serious about not wanting Lisbon, Clause 9 was about the best chance of scuppering it in Parliament, so why not try to do so?

These are questions I do not have the answers to, you will have to draw your own conclusions there, but for the record here are the 48 who deserve a mention for defying the whip and voting for what David Cameron now wants you to believe is his aim to.

Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Binley, Mr. Brian
Butterfill, Sir John
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Conway, Derek
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Gray, Mr. James
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
McCrea, Dr. William
Pritchard, Mark
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Robinson, rh Mr. Peter
Scott, Mr. Lee
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simpson, David
Spink, Bob
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Walker, Mr. Charles
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas

Even if The Conservative Leadership now believes that there should be a protection written at UK Level, it is entirely pointless trying to argue in an EU court that a UK Law supersedes it. It does not, and only someone who does not understand this or a person who hopes that others do not understand this would try something so utterly pointless.

If you are in the EU, you are in the EU 100%. The Conservative will be laughed at all across Europe for even trying to get control back, it ain’t gonna happen and certainly not in the ways they envision. Frankly it shows how little this has been researched because the lawyers will all say the same.

There is a case for a retrospective referendum, but if recognised by the EU it would also have to dismantle the structures of Lisbon (which have all been erected before it became law, so you can be sure this will not happen) and there is a case for an “In or Out” referendum, which will obviously be a vote on whether to leave the EU or not. Such a referendum is the only way of achieving the desired relationship so many of us in the UK want; that of EFTA Membership and full trading rights and access, whilst none of the statehood that comes about by being in the EU. Best of all, we would write our own laws again and govern ourselves again. This is not on the table from the Conservatives; they are tabling acceptance of the EU and nothing stronger than the hint of inclusion of a referendum in a second Conservative Parliament. Sorry but this is not good enough. We all know, thanks to Stuart Wheelers legal challenge that an actual manifesto pledge is not considered sufficient for the courts to act upon, let alone a line in a press conference a whole Parliament before.

So, after today’s speech I can see absolutely no reason to vote Conservative given my strong feelings on the EU, though I now welcome that the Tories can finally admit that we are enthralled to the EU’s wishes, and I think can no longer claim to be an EUsceptic Party. Though I do for some reason still think of David Cameron as a good man, a measure not easily attained in my estimations, I can see no serious policy attempts to make all of our lives better by wresting control away from the EU juggernaut. In fact, I really felt like David Cameron did not fully appreciate exactly how enthralled this country is to the EU. Until the Conservatives really open their eyes to the extent of damage being done to our country by membership of the EU and until Conservative voters are prepared to hold their votes until stronger EU Policy is drafted it is simply more of the same merry-go-round that has led us squarely to where we are today.

Because of my personal feelings I think there will still be a few exits, and possibly a defection or something of that ilk. However, where as Ithink I have a pretty good measure on the Eurosceptic feelings of the country, I have misestimated the level of actions proportionate to certain events, so I am really guessing as to the voter and potential reactionary response here. I am interested in hearing others opinions both on what I have written, but also on their take from Cameron’s speech and how they are feeling about the Conservatives right now. So, feel free to let rip in the comments.


Sue said...

I don't think he's fooled anyone!

Catosays said...

I'm with you. His speech was utter rubbish and there is nothing he can or will do about the Lisbon Treaty other than offering an referendum on our continuing membership.

He's lost my vote.

See my blog.

Anonymous said...

I'm worried about loosing fundamental rights, unless he has something to replace them with.

Anonymous said...

I am nearly seventy and have consistently voted Tory. No more...