|Tuesday, 10 July 2007||
Many people must have rubbed their eyes in disbelief at Gordon Brown’s statement to MPs last Tuesday when, in announcing his new “constitutional settlement”, he promised to give “more power to Parliament and the British people” on the one hand while, on the other, ruling out a referendum on the new EU treaty – which would take away a lot more power from Parliament and the British people.
The layers of spin and deceit that surround this wretched EU treaty are so convoluted that it takes some working out to disentangle the contradictions, U-turns and straight lies it has come to involve.
The fundamental problem is that the EU’s leaders are determined to foist on the peoples of Europe the final components of a supranational government, as agreed in their constitution, without giving the peoples of Europe any say in the matter.
Ever since the constitution was rejected by the people of France and Holland, they have been trying to find a way of smuggling it back in, by pretending it was something else.
What they cleverly came up with last month was a document which looked very different and much shorter. But this was only because the original version, scrapping all the earlier treaties, reincorporated them in the new constitution.
The new document simply leaves the old treaties on the table, but adds as amendments to them all the new bits included in the constitution, such as giving the EU a full-time president and granting it a mass of other new powers.
Apart from a few cosmetic changes, such as changing “Foreign Minister” to “High Representative”, and leaving out the flag and the anthem (which the EU has had since 1986 anyway), the net result is precisely what the French and the Dutch rejected in 2005.
Many Continental politicians have been quite happy to admit this. As Luxemburg’s prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker put it, the new treaty contains “99 per cent” of what was in the old “Constitution for Europe”.
But their hope is that, because the list of amendments making up the new document look so impenetrable, they can be slipped through without the people noticing.
This Continental trickery, however, looks quite mild compared with the sleight of hand being practised by Gordon Brown. Because he was elected on the Labour manifesto of 2005, which promised a referendum on the constitution, he dare not, like his Continental colleagues, admit that it is the same thing.
He must pretend it is something totally different. And here he has immediately become ensnared in all sorts of difficulties, because this is so blatantly not true.
One of Mr Brown’s excuses for not having a referendum was that the new treaty doesn’t give away as many powers as Maastricht, on which there was no referendum, But up then pops his new Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, to blurt out that it in fact gives away much more power than Maastricht.
Mr Brown’s other excuse was that Britain has held onto all its “red lines”, such as being given an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
But up jumps the EU’s former justice commissioner, Antonio Vittorini, and a gaggle of lawyers to point out that this is nonsense. A cross-reference in the treaty shows that Britain is just as much subject to the charter as anyone else.
The title of the EU’s Foreign Minister may have been changed, on Tony Blair’s insistence, to High Representative, but he is still being given new powers to decide EU (i e our) foreign policy which Jack Straw, when foreign secretary, described as “simply unacceptable”.
As the think-tank Open Europe and others have pointed out, it is truly astonishing that Mr Brown should begin his premiership, while promising to be “open” with the British people, with a deceit so shameless as to make his predecessor look like an honest man.
It is made even more remarkable by the fact Mr Brown should do this in the very week when he was busy wrapping himself in the Union Jack and ordering that our national flag should be flown on every government building.
The British people should not just be rubbing their eyes in disbelief at Mr Brown’s behaviour: they should be shouting with anger.
By Christopher Booker
London Telegraph – Sunday July 8, 2007