|Tuesday, 2 September 2003||
David Heathcoat-Amory, a member of the Convention on the Future of
Europe, reveals the true meaning of the proposals for a European
On Friday 20 June, the political landscape of Europe will be transformed
by the arrival of a new European Constitution. For on that date, Valéry
Giscard d’Estaing will present his new Constitutional draft to the
Thessaloniki Intergovernmental Conference (IGC).
It is now clear that the new Constitution will endow the Union with far
greater powers than the existing EU already enjoys, writes David
Heathcoat-Amory MP in The European Constitution and what it means for
Britain, published today, Tuesday 17 June 2003 by the Centre for Policy
Many more decisions on foreign policy, criminal justice matters and
economic and employment policies will in future be taken in Brussels,
The author, who has served on the Convention on the Future of Europe for
the past 15 months, shows how the approach of the Convention was
integrationist and instinctively hostile to suggestions that EU powers
should be devolved (see pages 13 onwards). He condemns for instance the
process by which contributions from Convention members were limited to
two minute speeches.
He acknowledges that at the IGC changes will be made – but the scale and
scope of the undertaking will remain. The result is a new constitutional
order for the Union and its member states, with profound implications
for parliamentary democracy and the principles of self-government.
The new Union will have a permanent President and a Foreign Minister;
the European Commission, the European Parliament, and the European Court
of Justice will all gain new powers; national parliaments will be the
losers. The gap between the Union and its citizens is set to widen.
This is not, as the Government (uniquely) claims, a “tidying-up
exercise”. (See the attached sheet for examples). Indeed, the author
lists six specific areas in which the Government itself has promised a
veto (see page 34).
Most other member states have announced that the final Constitution will
be put to national referendums. Denmark, Ireland, France, Spain,
Portugal, Austria and Italy are all likely to hold referendums with
others still to declare. In the Convention itself a German campaigning
group has obtained signatures from 95 members of the Convention calling
for national referendums.
What if a referendum were held and the result ‘no’? The author describes
the true legal position: the country concerned could not be ejected from
the EU but could negotiate a relationship with the Constitution member
states from a position of strength.
The British Government has no mandate to ratify such a major
constitutional change without a referendum. In contrast to Maastricht,
the 2001 Labour manifesto contained no reference to the Convention or
any proposal for a European Constitution.
The European Constitution founds a new Union, with incalculable
consequences for the way we are governed, by whom, from where and by
what powers. The author concludes:
“The Government’s refusal to admit a referendum is based on deceit and
cowardice: deceit, in trying to disguise the importance of the
undertaking; cowardice, in not having confidence in their own arguments.
This must be challenged by all who believe that democracy is more
important than expedience, and that Constitutions must be decided by the
1. The European Constitution and what it means for Britain, by Rt Hon
David Heathcoat-Amory MP is published today, Tuesday 17 June 2003 by the
Centre for Policy Studies, 57 Tufton Street London SW1P 3QL. Price
£7.50. The full document can be downloaded from www.cps.org.uk/euconvention.pdf
2. David Heathcoat-Amory has been Member of Parliament for Wells since
1983. He was appointed Minister for Europe in the Foreign Office in
1993. In 1994 he became Paymaster General at the Treasury and resigned
from the Government two years later over the issue of Europe. He was
made a Privy Councillor in 1996. He has served on the Convention on the
Future of Europe for the past 15 months as a member from the House of
3. The Centre for Policy Studies has been at the forefront of the
analysis of the European Constitution. In February 2003, it published A
Defining Moment? A review of the issues and options for Britain arising
from the Convention on the Future of Europe by Norman Blackwell. On 6
May 2003, the CPS held a private seminar to inform selected journalists
on the workings of the Convention, which in turn contributed to the wide
media coverage of this subject in the weeks that followed.
4. Contact details:
David Heathcoat-Amory: 020 7219 6370 (House of Commons)
0783 148 3125 (mobile)
Tim Knox 020 7222 4042 (office)
(Editor, CPS) 020 7587 0220 (home)
The Government has repeatedly described the European Constitution as a
‘tidying up exercise’.
The following proposals in the new Constitution can be compared to
equivalent clauses in the existing EU Treaties:
1. Legal personality
New: The Constitution establishes a Union, which ‘shall have legal
personality’ (Articles 1-1 & 6).
Existing: ‘By the Treaty, the High Contracting Parties [i.e.
member states] establish among themselves a European Union (TEU Article
Note: The existing intergovernmental treaties are replaced by a new
legal entity, the Union, founded by the Constitution, separate from
2. Primacy of Constitution and Union Law
New: The Constitution, and Union law, ‘shall have primacy over the
law of the Member States’ (A. 1-10).
Existing: No equivalent Treaty reference.
Note: The primacy of EU law has hitherto been established by European
Court of Justice case law only and is not unconditional. The primacy of
the Constitution is an entirely new concept.
3. New powers
New: The Union shall have ‘exclusive competence’ over competition
rules, common commercial policy, the customs union, the ‘conservation of
marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy’, and to
make international agreements (A. 1-12).
Existing: The EU possesses such exclusive Treaty powers only in
regards to the customs union.
4. New areas where member states cannot legislate if the Union chooses
to do so
New: The Union shall ‘share competences’ with member states in most
policy areas, including transport, energy, social policy, ‘economic,
social and territorial cohesion’, the environment and consumer
protection. ‘Shared competence’ is defined to mean that member states
cannot legislate if the Union chooses to do so. (A. 1-11 and 13).
Existing: No such category of powers exists. There is no EU
responsibility over energy.
5. Coordination of economic and employment policies
New: ‘The Union shall adopt measures to ensure coordination of the
economic and employment policies of the Member States’. (A. 1-14)
Existing: No such powers or instructions exist under the Treaties.
6. Harmonisation of criminal justice rules and procedures by QMV
New: Harmonisation of criminal justice rules and procedures by
Qualified Majority Voting. Provision for a European Public Prosecutor
(A. 111-166, 167 and 170).
Existing: No QMV; no legislation allowed on national criminal
procedures, eg trial by jury, habeas corpus. No criminal prosecutions by
7. A European President and a European Foreign Minister
New: A full-time European President and European Foreign Minister
who, ‘shall conduct the Union’s common foreign and security policy’ (A.
1-21 & 27).
Existing: No such positions exist.
8. Most national vetoes to disappear
New: Qualified Majority Voting becomes the norm, and is extended in
more than 20 areas where the national veto currently exists, including:
§ criminal justice and policing
§ asylum and immigration
§ social security
§ intellectual property
§ civil protection
§ certain aspects of company taxation
§ initiatives by the European Foreign Minister.
David Heathcoat – Amory MP.
The final draft includes a provision for all remaining vetoes to be
surrendered by the European Council without the need for National
Parliament assent or referendums.
This important pamphlet, essential for everyone who wants the inside
perspective on what the new EU Constitution will mean for Britain, is
available to e-mail subscribers at the reduced price of five pounds inc.
p&p (standard cover price: seven pounds fifty pence).
To order one or more copies please send a cheque to the Publications
Officer, Centre for Policy studies (www.cps.org.uk), 57 Tufton Street, London SW1P 3QL.