Let's have a closer look at the Sun's article (Wed 25 April) on the plans to have another go at changing the EU Treaty framework. My comments in Bold:
TONY Blair was accused last night of “smuggling” through a surrender of British power to Brussels without giving voters a say.
The PM was savaged for plotting with Germany to bring in a rewritten EU Constitution by the back door.
The deal, which would see an irreversible handover of power, was “stitched up” in talks in Berlin. He has said there will be NO referendum.
Critics say it will mean: No more OVERTIME for millions of workers; UNELECTED European judges with power over UK suspects and FOREIGN cops acting on British soil.
But a) the EC working time Directive can already be amended by a qualified majority vote under the existing Treaties, and there already is a proposal to this effect. b) very few countries elect judges c) the constitutional treaty would retain a veto for all Member States concerning cross-border movements of police forces
Firms will have JOB-destroying laws foisted on them and WEALTH-hitting laws will hamper the City.
Does it ever occur to Sun journalists and their readers to wonder why any UK politician would sign up to such a thing? In fact, the Constitutional Treaty would make only marginal changes to the EC's internal market or social law powers.
Mr Blair plans to put the finishing touches to the blueprint in June as virtually his last act as Prime Minister.
Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “Tony Blair made a clear promise — to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution.
“And Labour promised it would not be brought in via the back door. This will be an outrageous breach of that.
“There should be a referendum on any treaty that hands yet more power to Brussels.”
It isn't yet clear whether the UK and other countries critical of the Constitutional Treaty will accept the creation of any 'new' EU powers (the new powers in the Constitutional Treaty in any event largely comprise powers that the EU already exercises in practice) or that they will accept any extension of qualified majority voting. To me these are the crucial questions in determining the importance of any revived attempt at Treaty amendment.
The EU Constitution was effectively dropped two years ago after French and Dutch voters rejected it. But last night Mr Blair and German leader Angela Merkel were drawing up a replacement.
They insist it is a treaty, NOT a Constitution, and Mr Blair says there is no need for a national vote on its contents.
Yet three years ago he said: “You cannot have a situation where you get a rejection of the treaty and bring it back with a few amendments and say, ‘Have another go’.”
One crucial change will be over our power to veto barmy EU laws. At present, we can do deals with other EU states to block laws. But the treaty will alter the “weight” of each country’s voting powers, making blocking far harder.
This confuses the two separate issues of shifting from unanimity to qualified majority voting on the one hand, and the question of weighting the QMV on the other. As for weighting QMV, the Sun's argument is simply astounding, for the Constitutional Treaty would INCREASE the UK's voting weight.
Let's look at the facts. At present Article 205 EC requires that most EC acts adopted by QMV need support from a majority of Member States and 255 votes out of 381 -- of which the UK has 29 votes, or 7.6%. As a back-up it must also be demonstrated that a measure has the support of Member States with 62% of the EU population. According to the annex to the Council's rules of procedure, the UK has 60m people out of 493m in the EU -- or 12%. The Constitutional Treaty would drop the second rule, which gives extra voting weight to small and medium-sized countries as compared to the big ones, and amend the first and third -- so that it will take 55% of Member States with 65% of the population to approve a measure. Clearly this would mean that it will be easier to block legislation for the biggest four Member States, since a) the threshold for a blocking minority will be lower (35% of the population instead of 38%); b) the second rule, which hugely reduced those countries' voting power as compared to their population, would be dropped; and c) the threshold for applying the first voting rule would go up from 50.1% to 55% of Member States.
Campaigners Open Europe say this could mean Britain having to accept a string of job-destroying laws. The Working Time Directive would see us having to adopt a maximum 48-hour week.
The particular example given is absurd, because the UK has struck an alliance with Germany and several smaller Member States in blocking the abolition of the individual opt-out in the working time directive, and, as the biggest Member State, German voting weights would increase by far more than any other's if the Constitutional Treaty were approved.
I invited the open people at Open Europe to correct the Sun's misapprehension -- they did not publish my reply to their blog...do carry on bravely fighting against inaccuracies and for democracy and free speech!
Trade ministers have warned this would cost industry £9billion a year and deny millions vital overtime cash.
There would be new “EU rights” for criminals, with European judges being given a say over large parts of our procedural criminal law.
The content of any EU criminal procedural legislation would depend on what legislation gets adopted, and whether the UK participates in it (see below). God forbid that the EU does anything to strengthen the right to a fair trial!
Our veto on criminal justice affairs will go, and the European Court of Justice would get sweeping new powers.
Our veto over criminal justice would be replaced by an 'emergency brake' -- so we could either block the adoption of legislation or not participate in it.
The treaty will also mean a permanent EU President and foreign minister, with a seat on the UN Security Council.
No, the Member States with seats on the Security Council would have to let the EU foreign affairs minister state the EU position -- if there is one -- in their stead.
An EU diplomatic service would be set up at a cost of billions to represent EU citizens abroad.
It is not clear whether this service would entail any extra cost, and if so how much -- the basis of it would be the Commission's existing external representations. The constitutional Treaty does not say that the external action service would have the function of representing EU citizens abroad.
But wait, let's look at the leader article too:
....The extended Charter of Fundamental Rights is being quietly finessed under existing clauses.
The Constitutional Treaty would not 'extend' the Charter in the sense of adding substantive rights to it.
And the decision not to give EU law primacy over Westminster’s is irrelevant because we lost that battle years ago.
Indeed, before we joined, and before 2/3 of the public voted to stay in...
So what’s left?
Just a few “meaningless” items, like a full-time EU President and a Foreign minister to represent us at the UN.
An even bigger inaccuracy than in the article -- as if the Foreign Minister would take over our seat in the General Assembly and UN committees!
We will lose our veto over criminal justice, immigration and the right to defend ourselves militarily without EU approval.
On the veto over criminal law see above; we would retain our opt-out over immigration law; and the third assertion is just absurd. The Constitutional Treaty clearly states that it is without prejudice to national defence policies and NATO; the veto is retained for military and defence issues; and there is only a requirement of consultation with other EU Member States before taking a foreign policy action which could affect the EU's interests.
Brussels will be able to pick and choose any new powers it takes from member states.
Where on earth does this idea come from?
Unaccountable Euro MPs will gain extra powers.
They are only accountable to the electorate, in direct elections...
And if we don’t like it, we’ll have to lump it because any act of protest which holds the EU up to ridicule will become an offence.
How on earth would the Constitutional Treaty accomplish this? If they are thinking of the recently agreed Framework Decision on racism and xenophobia, which is separate from the Constitutional Treaty anyway, how can it be seriously argued that it would have this effect? It requires only criminalisation of racist statements intended to incite violence, or condoning or denying the Holocaust or other genocide with the intent that it is likely that violence will result. This is a far cry from ridiculing the EU.
But perhaps telling porkies about EU law should be an offence. That would clear the streets of Sun journalists....