The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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The “Constitution for Europe” - abandoning our independence and our sovereign constitutional rights

Leolin Price QC

TheConstitutionforEurope

Contents

Our electorate's constitutional authority
Law-making and government transferred
A new "Constitution" for Europe
Our Westminster government's attitude to this Constitution
Primacy for EU law
President
Council of Ministers
The Commission and its President
"Competences"
The euro and economic policy

Some important people assert that the Constitution for Europe is not about the creation of a European State.

They live in a world of make-belief. The words of the draft Constitution speak loudly against their view. Its content is muddled, prolix, pretentious and, for all who cherish our own institutions and the authority of our electorate under our constitutional arrangements, dangerous.

Our electorate's constitutional authority

Our votes cast in our general elections decide who, until the next general election, will be the members of our Westminster Parliament and which will be the party which, until that election, will provide our Westminster Government.

Until that election law-making power and the power to govern us are vested, by us, in our Westminster Parliament and Government.

Their authority is for a short period. If we disapprove of what is done in exercise of that authority, we can vote them out of office and authority at our next general election. Under our arrangements they are subject to that electoral discipline.

Law-making and government transferred

The arrangements made under the Treaty of Rome, our Treaty of Accession and subsequent amending Treaties represent, already, a massive transfer of law-making and governing powers away from Westminster to the institutions of the European Community and Union. Over a wide range of law-making there is qualified majority voting in the Council of Ministers. EU directives and regulations may be directly applicable to us or may impose on us an obligation to incorporate them into our law. The makers of such laws, directives and regulations are not at risk of dismissal at our next general election. They are not subject to that essential electoral discipline.

The extent to which, already, we have laws made for us, and are "governed", by the institutions of the EU is unsatisfactory. The countries recently joining the EU have to adapt their own laws to conform with 97,000 pages of EU laws and regulations.

A new "Constitution" for Europe

If the new "Constitution" is established the institutions of the EU will dominate. Qualified majority voting will be extended into important new areas of law-making. The structure and language of the "Constitution" are designed to make us part of a new State and, in effect, a province of that State; to make our laws subordinate to the laws of that State; to diminish the importance of our Westminster Government and Parliament; and, after this Constitution is established and in place, to diminish what will be our electoral sovereignty and power in our general elections.

After this Constitution is established and in place, to diminish what will be our electoral sovereignty and power in our general elections

What, after all, is a "Constitution"? A constitution is for a State, defining the principles upon which it is established, regulating its law-making and government, defining the relationship between its government and those who are governed; and marking out the way in which its organs of government are to act and interact.

Our Westminster government's attitude to this Constitution

In July 2003 when it emerged from the drafting Constitution the new Constitution was not acceptable. Later our Government drew "red lines" within which the Constitution would have to be confined. Today the "red lines" are not as red; and our Prime Minister now seems determined to sign up to the Constitution. There is no sign of any substantial change.

We must hope that this Constitution, dangerously destructive of our national institutions and of government answerable to our electorate, will not be signed or ratified.

Primacy for EU law

Article 10 of the Constitution says unequivocally that "The Constitution, and law adopted by the Union's Institutions in exercising competences conferred on it, shall have primacy over the laws of Member States".

This is not merely an affirmation of what had been said in court, judicially, years ago, when the operation of the Treaty of Rome applied only to defined and limited areas of government activity. It is put forward as a specific provision in a document calling itself a "Constitution for Europe"; and Article 10.2 of that Constitution requires us, a Member State, to take all appropriate measures "to ensure fulfilment of the obligations flowing from the Constitution or resulting from the Union's acts".

What are there referred to as "the Union's acts" may have been enacted against the wishes and votes of our Government or of anyone representing us.

President

A new President of the European Council, will be elected by that Council by qualified majority for a term of two and a half years, renewable once.

This is not a continuation of the existing six-monthly rotating Presidency. It is new and the new President's functions are defined in wide general terms. Such a President is appropriate for what is a State.

Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers, comprising Member State Ministers relevant to the business transacted, continues as the principal law-maker of the Union. The Council is a legislature without Hansard or other reporting of what the legislators say in debate; a legislature without the slightest concession to "democratic" practice or accountability. In what is designed as the Constitution for a European State this unprincipled institutional enormity is to continue without change.

The Council is a legislature without Hansard or other reporting of what the legislators say in debate; a legislature without the slightest concession to "democratic" practice or accountability

The Commission and its President

The Constitution is in effect, with all its staff, the central government of the Union. The creation of a new President of the European Council does not diminish the power and importance of the Constitution's President.

The Constitution provides that, from 1 November 2009 the Commission will consist of the President, Vice President, the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs and 13 Commissioners. Hitherto there has been at least one Commissioner from each Member State and we have provided two (currently Vice-President Kinnock and Commissioner Patten). A Member State which does not provide one of the 13 Commissioners is to provide a "non-voting" Commissioner! A Commissioner without a vote will not be in a position of power.

Article 25.2 provides that Union "legislative acts" can be adopted only on the basis of a Constitution proposal. That legislative initiative is at the heart of the Commission's governmental power. it underlies and promotes the authoritarian, interventionist, integrationist, centralising character of the Commission and the Union.

The Commission is not, and will not be, accountable to our Westminster government or Parliament or our electorate. If it had been, we would surely not have put up with its inefficiency, its over-regulation of our enterprises and lives and its failures to control fraud or to organise acceptable accounting control of its own expenditure.

"Competences"

In the confusing muddle about "exclusive" "shared" and other competences regulating the respective governmental powers of the Union and Member States, it is clear that what has hitherto been a constantly growing acquis communauitaire is not abandoned. The Constitution is a manifesto for a continuing transfer of power from Member States to the Union. What is said about "subsidiarity" and "proportionality" will not halt this process.

The Constitution is a manifesto for a continuing transfer of power from Member States to the Union

The euro and economic policy

"The currency of the Union shall be the euro" (Article 1V.1). Under this Constitution will we be able to stay out of the euro? The pressure to adopt the single currency may not be irresistible but it will be strong and persistent; and control of our currency is an essential part of the control of our economy and our economic self-government.

Article 14 of the Constitution requires the Union to co-ordinate the economic policies of Member States and requires Member States to co-ordinate their economic policies within the Union.

Co-ordinating economic policy could require acceptance of the euro as legal tender throughout the Union, even in Member States which do not adopt the euro. That would be the end of sterling; of our economic self-government; and of national independence.

Our self-government, independence and constitutional arrangements in peril if this Constitution is adopted

Our Westminster Government and Parliament, have a limited period during which our electorate authorises them to govern us, and make laws which we must obey. The power which we give them for that short period cannot properly, or lawfully, be transferred to an alien government which is not accountable to them or to us and cannot be dismissed by us in our general elections. The "sovereignty of parliament" is surely subject to the superior "sovereignty of the people".