Sadly this Labour chaired and dominated committee has largely devoted itself to two issues: firstly the position of national parliaments under Article 8c of the new treaty which states, inter alia, that “National Parliaments shall contribute to the good functioning of the Union” and whether the treaty thus subordinates national parliaments to the Union; and secondly to trying to demonstrate that, as far as possible, the four so-called ‘red lines’ are watertight so that Brown and Miliband can go on waving them much as Chamberlain did his piece of paper after Munich.
That comparison is not original, of course, as the Committee Chairman, Mr. Connarty, has already made the comparison which caused Miliband to have a serious hissy fit in which he wielded his Jewishness as a defensive weapon. Nonetheless, though Mr. Connarty was browbeaten (as people are these days when anyone bleats ‘anti-semitism’) into apologising, the comparison was an apt one.
As to the first issue raised, the committee is still much exercised by the apparent obligation laid upon parliament by the Article 8c which says:
National Parliaments shall contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union:
(a) through being informed by the institutions of the Union and having draft European legislative acts forwarded to them in accordance with the Protocol on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union;
(b) by seeing to it that the principle of subsidiarity is respected in accordance with the procedures provided for in the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;
(c) by taking part, within the framework of the area of freedom, security and justice, in the evaluation mechanisms for the implementation of the Union policies in that area, in accordance with Article 64 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and through being involved in the political monitoring of Europol and the evaluation of Eurojust’s activities in accordance with Articles 69k and 69h of that Treaty;
(d) by taking part in the revision procedures of the Treaties, in accordance with Article 33 of this Treaty;
(e) by being notified of applications for accession to the Union, in accordance with Article 34 of this Treaty;
(f) by taking part in the inter-parliamentary cooperation between national Parliaments and with the European Parliament, in accordance with the Protocol on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union.”
I have picked out the words “shall contribute” as to any lawyer worth his salt the word ‘shall’ immediately imports a clear and unambiguous sense of the mandatory. This is what so concerns the committee, though they seem unable to grasp that the word ‘shall’ means what it says.
Their conclusion is worrying, given that Brown is due to sign us away in early December:
We are not persuaded that the text of the Reform Treaty has been amended so as to put beyond any doubt the principle that no obligation must be imposed on Parliament. In our view, the obvious amendment would have been to use the word “may” instead of “shall” in Article 8c EU as well as in Article 63 and Article 9 of the Protocol on the role of national parliaments in the Union. The statement “National parliaments shall contribute to the effective functioning of the European Union” is one from which an obligation can readily be inferred. Given its constitutional significance, we must emphasise that this is not an area in which any ambiguity is tolerable and we shall look to the Government to ensure that its original undertakings are met in any new text.
One is inclined to ask how and when they think the text is to be changed at this late stage.
And how is it that they are unable to understand that when the word ‘shall’ is used, it means just that. This clause plainly places a mandatory obligation on the UK Parliament and thus subordinates it to the Union.
I turn now to the four ‘red lines’. I do not propose to look at them in detail, for in reality they are matters of considerable irrelevance in the context of the Treaty as a whole. Suffice it to say they are less than persuaded that the Charter of Fundamental Rights is not going to be justiciable in UK Courts in one manner or another and is less than persuaded that the justice and home affairs red line will not eventually cost us a shed load of money. In other words they reckon the Brown-Miliband assurances as to the watertight nature of the red lines are not worth the paper upon which they are printed.
But in the end this is all very much a matter of not being able to see the wood for the trees. The Treaty as a whole has enormous and devastating implications for the independence of the UK. Would it not have been better for them to have addressed it as a whole?
Sadly this sort of nit-picking is what we may expect of the passage of this dangerous and inimical Treaty through Parliament. Instead of taking a broad view of the Treaty and its state-building nature, Labour is going to bog everyone down in the minutiae. The Tories will be sucked into this process and everyone will be bored to tears. And unless some Labour MPs remember they are British before they are Socialists, we shall have been sold down the river.
In the meantime the Sun King, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, himself has his own blog (I kid you not) in which he has lately boasted of how his essential nine points from the original Constitution have been faithfully reproduced in the Treaty.
Of the 1975 referendum, many who voted ‘yes’ can today honestly say ‘we never realised it would be like this’. No such excuse is available this time round for we have been told time and time again that the Constitution and the Treaty of Lisbon are essentially the same thing. Giscard d’Estaing has, after all, been banging on about it for months. Yet still much of the political elite affects not to hear or understand.
Well, we have marked their wilfulness and will know for whom space must eventually be found in the dock when the time comes.