of a State Visit, Sarkozy forgets who is
truly sovereign and upon whose
consent government depends
It is all very well for M. Sarkozy to call for us to join in such schemes as the Schengen Agreement (which would neuter at a stroke any pretence we might have to control of our own borders), the Euro (which would neuter at a stroke our economy much as the ERM did) and to opt in to a vast array of policies on criminal justice (which would destroy at a stroke a system of law which it has taken us a thousand years of careful evolution to produce), but the reality is that no Government of the United Kingdom has any political or moral authority to do this.
That is a stark consequence of Labour and the Lib ‘Dems’ ratting on their manifesto commitments to subject the Treaty of Lisbon (which they know full well is a Constitution for the EU) to a referendum. Indeed that refusal, which removes any political legitimacy from the Treaty and from any further act of integration hereafter, is likely further to poison our relationship with the EU as any government trying to propel us into such integration will lack the authority of and consent of the British people so to do.
Under the new dispensation the British Government will be called upon day in and day out to subordinate this or that decision-making process to the Brussels Diktat. Each and every time the political and moral legitimacy of that act will be called into question. The laws that emanate from it will be imposed on an increasingly sullen and resentful populace which made clear its desire to have a say on the EU and long thought it would have such, only to have the promise removed for shabby partisan political reasons. The resentment will be ever the greater if the new decree from Brussels is a direct product of the powers so casually thrown away by Gordon Brown and David Miliband this year.
M. Sarkozy said in his address to parliament:
This Parliament has become what it is through the fight for the protection of essential individual freedoms and the principle of the consent to taxation.
He ought to have added that our Parliament had become what it was through development of the fundamental notion of the principle of government by consent. It is a golden thread that runs through our parliamentary history that the right to order our comings and goings and the right to take money from us to run the functions of the State has always been dependent upon an ever-expanding franchise.
From the time when the King alone ruled, then the King and his Barons, then the King, his Barons and the new mercantile classes through to modern times when first the franchise was extended to all men and then to all women government has depended on an ever-widening franchise through which, with universal adult suffrage, we now give our consent to be governed thus.
The failure to seek our consent to the changes brought about by the Treaty of Lisbon is thus a fatal flaw inflicted upon the character of our support for the manner in which we are governed. If the Treaty is ratified and comes into force, it will be wholly without the consent of the people thus governed.
And that, I suggest, is a fundamental problem for every government hereafter. No further progress can be made in or relationship with the EU until this issue is resolved. Without the consent of the people and the legitimacy that that would confer, we are entering a period which we have not known since the time of the Civil War where a large part of the populace can be said to be in a state of dissent from the manner in which we are governed.
It is a problem which must be faced and faced soon. Labour, however, has painted itself into a corner from which it cannot now escape by rail-roading the Treaty through Parliament and reneging on the promise to hold a referendum upon it and as such has lost all authority to proceed. Only a Conservative government can now lance this boil.
Sarkozy Waves goodbye: We wave goodbye to Government by Consent
It is for that reason that the policy of Mr. Cameron and Mr. Hague upon a ratified treaty is so important and why we cannot long be left in ignorance of what is meant by not ‘not leaving matters there’. This is no mere technical detail of footling importance: it goes to the very heart of the legitimacy of the Parliament which for now claims to have authority in this land and as such this matter will not go away.
Finally M. Sarkozy has, in some places, been lauded as a skillful politician. If so, his praise of Gordon Brown for railroading the Treaty of Lisbon through without a referendum in these terms:
I am not the only one in Europe who appreciates what he has done. What he has done was necessary for Europe.
was surely a grave mistake, bearing as it does the clear and unambiguous implication that this has all been done not for our benefit but for the benefit of others. It leaves a sour taste in the mouth.