Friday, 4 June 2004

Why I will vote NO! to the European Constitution


A few weeks ago, those that like to think of themselves as my political masters announced that, in their infinite wisdom and compassion, they were after all willing to allow people in Britain a chance to vote on the proposed European constitution. This surprised many. For, so the media tell us, 75 per cent of people in Britain today are opposed to the constitution. I wonder what fraudulent game Blair is playing this time. Still, it’s good to have a voice – for a change.

Whether the European ideal, up to the present, has been a good or a bad thing, is debatable. On the up side, it improved the economy in Europe, particularly during the 1950s. It has allowed people to move around Europe. I myself lived and worked in Holland for three years in the late 1970s, which would have been much harder without the EEC. And it may have helped to stop the Germans and the French from fighting each other. On the down side, however, are the vast sums ploughed into subsidies, the growth of bureaucracy, and all the bad laws and directives that emanate from Brussels.

Up to about 1991, I was something of a Europhile. But, as I have become more and more alienated from politics in general, I have become more and more disillusioned with Europe too. When some of my freedom-loving friends told me that there were bad things – and lots of them – in the “Draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe”, I felt I had to find out for myself. I had to read the constitution. So, I got it from the European Convention’s web site – all 263 pages of it, dated 18th July 2003.

What does the document contain? After Preface and Preamble, it has four Parts. Part I (42 pages) says what the objectives of the European Union are supposed to be, and briefly describes some of its institutions. Part II (14 pages) is a “Charter of Fundamental Rights”, an attempt to write down a statement of human rights to be respected by the EU. Part III (160 pages) is a more detailed statement of how the EU and its institutions are supposed to work (or not). And Part IV (5 pages) contains a hodge-podge of things, like a European anthem and procedures for changing the constitution. At the end are several short Protocols, a contents list and a list of those involved in the deliberations which led to the document.

I make no pretence at being objective about this document. Even before I had read beyond the title page, I had made my own nick-name for it. I called it the Daft Treaty establishing Constipation in Europe. Or the Daft Treaty, or Daft Constipation, for short.

Reading the Daft Constipation is hard work. To be fair, the prose is not quite as turgid as I had feared. But, after only about 25 pages, my mind had started to boggle. After my first, three and a half hour session, I had only reached page 70, and both eyes and mind were ready to switch off. But I did – over several weeks – get through it all.

I had, at first, a sense that the document had been written by the proverbial thousand monkeys with typewriters. But no, that was not a good analogy. It took me quite some time to find the right one.

Imagine rather, if you will, a thousand monkeys with but one single typewriter between them. What would they spend their time doing? Sitting on committees – which vote on which monkeys will be on the committee, which gets to decide which monkey will decide which monkey will have control of the typewriter for the next five minutes. This, I think, is how the Daft Treaty establishing Constipation in Europe must have been written.

I will make first some general comments on the Daft Treaty. It is a deeply conservative document. It is also deeply, and horribly, politically correct. It repeats the same things over and over again. And it is very hard for the layman, or the casual reader, to pick up its nuances.

Just occasionally, though, I found a sentence I could almost approve of. I will begin, therefore, with some of the rare highlights.

“Respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights” I. “A society of pluralism, tolerance, justice, solidarity and non-discrimination” II. Oh, how noble sounding! Unfortunately, many of these words and phrases mean different things to different people. From the rest of the document, it seems that “liberty”, for example, means to its authors something quite different – and much less – than what it means to me.

Free movement of persons, goods, services and capital, and freedom of establishment and residence” III. That’s fair enough – but it doesn’t need a constitution to bring it about.

Encouraging research and technological development IV. That’s OK up to a point, but why does it need the EU to do it?

A Europe-wide space program V. That, I think, is a positive, because space opens the way to one of the long-term, large-scale energy sources – solar power collected beyond the atmosphere. But again, why does it need the EU?

An environment favourable to initiative and innovation VI. Progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade VII. All good-sounding stuff.

But that’s about it for the positives. I did, it is true, enjoy a couple of humorous asides. I enjoyed the waggish way in which one monkey managed to insert the phrase “good global governance” VIII. For I, also, am amiable to alliterations. And I enjoyed, too, the phrase “horizontal Union programmes” IX, which presumably was written pleasurably in bed.

Next, some things I was doubtful about. “An area of freedom, security and justice” X. That sounds good, but I started asking myself the questions. Whose freedom? Whose security? And justice – of what kind, and for whom? And the answers I started coming to, while reading the rest of the document, were not good ones for the human individual.

I also worried about the lack of flexibility in the Constipation. It is theoretically possible for the inhabitants of an area of Europe to withdraw from the EU XI. But it wouldn’t be easy. Similarly, it is possible to change what is in the Constipation XII. But the procedure is very cumbersome. And the EU and its Constipation are supposed to last for ever XIII. For ever! Not even the Roman Empire could manage that.

As I read, I became aware of the sheer number of the organizations that make up the EU. Not just the obvious ones like the European Parliament, European Council, Council of Ministers, European Commission and Court of Justice. But also, (to name only some), the European External Action Service, European Armaments Research and Military Capabilities Agency, Committee of the Regions, Economic and Social Committee, European Central Bank and European Investment Bank. And the chillingly named Eurojust and Europol, reminding me of George Orwell’s Minitrue and Miniluv.

I found, too, some coy phrases whose meanings were hard to work out. “Services of general economic interest”, I eventually twigged, actually means “services inefficiently provided by government monopolies”. With “social partners”, on the other hand, I drew a complete blank. They’re obviously important to someone, but what they are I have no idea.

Now, to the brickbats. The very first sentence of Part I begins, “Reflecting the will of the citizens and states of Europe to build a common future” XIV. Is this not pre-judging the question? We have not been asked.

Soon, though, comes Article 3. This one defines the EU’s objectives. And it is full of the politically-correct Big Lies of our age. “Balanced economic growth”. “Social justice” XV. “A high level of protection”. “Improvement of the quality of the environment” XVI. “Sustainable development of the Earth” XVII.

Later, in Part III, more flesh is put on some of these. The makers of the Daft Constipation want to use the precautionary principle in environmental matters XVIII. What this means to you and me is that any cost to be imposed on us is “justified”, no matter how small the benefit or how unlikely (or untrue) the risk it is supposed to allay. They want, too, “a high degree of protection in health, safety and consumer protection” XIX. Big Brother is also desirous of “obviating sources of danger to physical and mental health”, and “reducing drug-related health damage” XX. But at what cost in freedom?

Meanwhile, if perchance you thought the EU would be on the side of right on the subjects of world peace and disarmament, think again. “Member states shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities” XXI.

If you worry about innocent people being victimized by police, look at Europol’s remit XXII. And the idea, that Europol delegates coercive measures to local enforcers XXIII, brings to mind a European organization of many centuries ago. That organization conducted investigations, convicted innocent people and then passed them over to the local magnate for capital punishment. It was called the Inquisition.

Who will be expected to pay for all this? That’s easy to guess, although the monkeys with the typewriter are very coy about it XXIV. EU expenditure is supposed to “develop in an orderly manner” in a “multi-annual framework programme” XXV. It’s obvious what that means; more taxes, higher taxes, ever increasing taxes, and taxes that go on for a long, long time.

Combine this with “Sustained convergences of the economic performances of the member states” XXVI. Combine it with “Reducing disparities between the levels of development of the various regions” XXVII. Now, isn’t that strange – I thought that diversity was something the EU was meant to foster? Combine it with their desire to waste as much of our money as possible on foreign aid programmes XXVIII. Then, their stated desire to eradicate poverty XXIX takes on a whole new meaning. It’s very easy to eradicate relative poverty. All you have to do is force everyone, rich, poor or middling, down into destitution all together.

Are these all the low-lights? Hell, no. Centralized, EU-wide authorization, co-ordination and supervision arrangements for intellectual property rights XXX. Take-over of employment agencies XXXI. Fines for disobedience by member states XXXII – and guess who will be expected to pay them? Various statements which seem to give the EU the right to do just about anything XXXIII. Perhaps, even, to extinguish the English common law XXXIV.

Then there is the empty motto, “United in diversity”. Setting Beethoven’s Ode to Joy up on a pedestal as European anthem. And declaring my birthday to be “Europe Day” XXXV. It’s my birthday, for goodness’ sake!

Then there is the euro. The primary stated objective of the euro is to maintain price stability XXXVI. But it does not appear, even in just the short time it has existed, to have been very successful in this aim. When the Dutch adopted the euro, for instance, it was close to 2 guilders to 1 euro. Now, so my friends tell me (and a recent visit to Holland bears this out) prices are much the same in euros as they were in guilders three years ago.

So, to the human rights bit, Part II. I am not going to review this in detail, because I already did that for the UN Declaration of Human Rights XXXVII. Part II of the Daft Treaty suffers from many of the same problems as the UN declaration. But there is worse yet. The clause that is supposed to protect our privacy XXXVIII has been completely emasculated. “Respect for our private lives” is no defence at all for the privacy of our phone calls or our e-mails. Now, what was all that about “a high level of protection”, eh?

There is a rather nonsensical right to compulsory education XXXIX. There are unworkable non-discrimination “rights” XL. There are even provisions for “specific advantages in favour of the under-represented sex” XLI.

But the worst of all is tucked away in the detail, Article II-52, paragraph 1. This is a long sentence, hard to read and hard to understand. But what I think it means is that, if those in power want to, they can make out that the objectives of the EU override all human rights.

There was, indeed, a dissenting view on the Daft Treaty. Eight brave men – three Danes, one Czech, one Finn, one French, one Irish, and a Tory called David Heathcoat-Amory – produced an alternative report. Their four pages entitled “The Europe of Democracies” were published as an annex to a later document. When I searched for a single sentence to describe the Daft Constipation as a whole, I found that Mr Heathcoat-Amory and his friends had already written a good candidate. Here it is: “The Draft Constitution creates a new and centralized European state, more powerful, more remote, with more politicians, more bureaucracy, and a wider gap between the rulers and the ruled”.

But I will offer my own one-sentence summary too. For me, the Daft Constipation creates a stagnant, suffocating super-state, a leviathan that if unchecked will fetter the human spirit, destroy the dynamism and individuality natural to human beings, and inexorably squeeze out of all Europeans our earned prosperity and our chances of happiness.

The vision of those at the helm of the EU seems to be a three-tier Europe. On the top tier, a few thousand politicians, swanning round Europe on expense accounts, congratulating themselves on what a good job they are doing. On the middle tier, tens of millions of bureaucrats, meddling in people’s lives and implementing bad policies designed to harm us. On the lowest tier, the victims of the system; us human beings.

There used to be, until quite recently, a society that had exactly this three-tier structure; politicians, ruling party members and slaves. It extended, indeed, over a large area of a continent, and included many different ethnic groups. That society was called the Soviet Union. And it collapsed in 1991.

No, I do not want the kind of Europe that suits the authors of the Daft Treaty. And, much as I applaud the stand taken by Mr Heathcoat-Amory and his friends against change in the wrong direction, I cannot agree either with their vision of a Europe of democracies. I do not have the blind faith in democracy that they seem to have; but that is a story for another day.

I do not vote in elections. But I will vote in the referendum on the European constitution – assuming I get the chance. I will vote NO! to the Daft Constipation. I will vote NO! to the politicians and bureaucrats that want to rule over me. I will vote NO! to their attempts to re-create the Soviet Union in my back yard. And I will do what I can to help others understand how important it is for them to vote NO! too.

Of course, we can expect the politicians to do their best to cloud the issue. We can expect them to come up with some cosmetic changes to the Daft Constipation, making it seem less bad, but without changing its essentials. We can expect them to moan about how much Britain will lose if it is denied access to European markets. But we shouldn’t waste time or energy answering them, except with one word: NO!’

Lest I be accused of negativity, I will give you my personal vision for Europe. The Europe I yearn for is a Europe of individuals, living in peace and harmony, and prospering through honest business and trade. A Europe of common-sense justice, where people are treated, in the round, as they treat others. A Europe where governments are minimal and law is honest. A Europe free from destructive politics and bureaucracy. A Europe with an environment of individual freedom and human progress. And Europeans whose motto is not “United in diversity”, but something more like “Each of us is an individual, but we have common sense too”.

And here’s my list of three simple steps towards a Europe worth living in. One, open all the borders. Two, sack all the bureaucrats. Three, pillory all the politicians.

Well, what are we all waiting for?

I Part I, Article 2.

II ibid.

III Part I, Article 4.

IV Article III-146.

V Article III-155.

VI Article III-180.

VII Article III-216.

VIII Article III-193.

IX Article III-330.

X Part I, Article 3, also a section of Part III starting at article III-158.

XI Part I, Article 59.

XII Article IV-7.

XIII Article IV-9.

XIV Part I, Article 1.

XV I have written before on the subject of justice. See “Why Today’s ‘Justice’ Is Not Justice”, August 2002.

XVI For my view on the environment, see “Why the Environmentalists are Wrong”, September 2002.

XVII See “How to Make the Economy Sustainable, and to End Poverty in the Process”, December 2002.

XVIII Article III-129.

XIX Article III-65.

XX Article III-179.

XXI Part I, Article 40.

XXII Articles III-171 to III-178.

XXIII Article III-177.

XXIV See, for example, how they tiptoe around the subject in Part I, Article 53.

XXV Part I, Article 54.

XXVI Article III-71.

XXVII Article III-116.

XXVIII Articles III-56, III-220.

XXIX Article III-218.

XXX Article III-68.

XXXI Article III-19.

XXXII E.G. Article III-76.

XXXIII Part I, Articles 9, 10 and 17 are cases in point.

XXXIV Article III-170, paragraph 2, sub-paragraph (f).

XXXV All in Article IV-1.

XXXVI Part I, Article 29.

XXXVII See “Why the UN Declaration of Human Rights Isn’t Quite Right”, September 2003.

XXXVIII Article II-7.

XXXIX Article II-14 paragraph 2.

XL Article II-21.

XLI Article II-23.