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.

NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies.

If you not change browser settings, you agree to it. Learn more

I understand

Cookies are a technology which we use to provide you with tailored information on our website. A cookie is a piece of code that is sent to your internet browser and is stored on your system.

Please see below for a list of cookies this website uses:

Cookie name: _utma, _utmb, _utmc, _utmz

Purpose: Google Analytics cookies. Google Analytics is software that lets us analyse how visitors use our site. We use this information to improve our website and provide the best experience to visitors.

Function: These cookies collect data in an anonymous form. Please see Google's privacy policy for further information. To opt out of these cookies, please visit Google's website.

Cookie name: Sitecore

Purpose: Stores information, such as language and regional preferences, that our content management system (the system we use to update our website) relies on to function.

Function: This is a session cookie and will be destroyed when you close your browser. This cookie is essential for our website to function.

Cookie name: ASP.net_session

Purpose: Allows the website to save your session state across different pages. For example, if you have completed a survey, the website will remember that you have done so and will not ask you to complete it again when you view another page on the website.

Function: This is a session cookie and will be destroyed when you close your browser. This cookie is essential for our website to function.

Cookie name: website#sc_wede

Purpose: Indicates whether the user's browser supports inline editing of content. This indicates whether our content management system will work for our website administrators in their internet browsers.

Function: This is a session cookie and will be destroyed when you close your browser. This cookie is essential for our website to function.

Cookie name: redirected

Purpose: Remembers when the site forwards you from one page to another, so you can return to the first page. For example, go back to the home page after viewing a special 'splash' page.

Function: This is a session cookie, which your browser will destroy when it shuts down. The website needs this cookie to function.

Cookie name: tccookiesprefs

Purpose: Remembers when you respond to the site cookie policy, so you do not see the cookie preferences notice on every page.

Function: If you choose to remember your preference with a temporary cookie, your browser will remove it when you shut it down, otherwise the cookie will be stored for about a year.

Cookie name: _ga

Purpose: Additional Google Analytics cookie. Google Analytics is software that lets us analyse how visitors use our site. We use this information to improve our website and provide the best experience to visitors.

Function: These cookies collect data in an anonymous form. Please see Google's privacy policy for further information.

Cookie name: SC_ANALYTICS_GLOBAL_COOKIE, SC_ANALYTICS_SESSION_COOKIE

Purpose: Sitecore Analytics is software that lets us analyse how visitors use our site. We use this information to improve our website and provide the best experience to visitors.

Function: These cookies collect data in an anonymous form. When you close your browser, it will delete the 'session' cookie; it will keep the 'global' cookie for about one year.

Facebook cookies

We use Facebook 'Like' buttons to share site feedback. For further information, see Facebook's cookie policy page.

Twitter cookies

We use Twitter 'Tweet' buttons to share site feedback. For further information, see Twitter's privacy statement.

YouTube cookies

We embed videos from our official YouTube channel. YouTube uses cookies to help maintain the integrity of video statistics, prevent fraud and to improve their site experience. If you view a video, YouTube may set cookies on your computer once you click on the video player.

Cookies pop-up

When you close the cookies pop-up box by clicking "OK", a permanent cookie will be set on your machine. This will remember your preference so that the pop-up doesn't display across any pages whenever you visit the website.

Opting out/removing cookies

To opt out of Google Analytics cookies, please visit Google’s website.

You can also control what cookies you accept through your internet browser. For details on how to do this, please visit aboutcookies.org. Please note that by deleting our cookies or disabling future cookies you may not be able to access certain areas or features of our website.

mailing list
donate now
join now
shop

The EU Constitution and civil liberties

Robert Oulds

Over the summer and autumn representatives of Europe's governments, even the different branches of the European Union, will be in frenetic negotiations over Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's draft Constitution. This dialogue, culminating in an Intergovernmental Conference, will determine how the European Union will be governed.

So far the draft has failed to please both Europe's federalists and those that want to see power returned to national Parliaments. But the Constitution's small print suggests that the EU will evolve from what is essentially a bureaucratic but still intergovernmental organization, with delusions of nationhood, to a body that will have all the trappings of a state called Europe. However, if governments are bold enough to make principled stands then there is still much to play for.

Tony Blair has made a notable stand on preventing Qualified Majority Voting on tax, foreign policy and defence. Yet, there is an issue where the Prime Minister is failing to defend Britain's interests. This concerns the kind of European state that is being built and should concern even those that want more integration. This issue is the potentially illiberal and authoritarian nature of d'Estaing's Europe.

One of the main threats to civil liberties comes from a part of the Constitution conversely titled the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Only in the European Union!

The Charter's final paragraph, Article 54, reads,

Nothing in this Charter shall be interpreted as implying any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms recognised in this Charter or at their limitation to a greater extent than is provided for herein.

This may threaten freedom, in particular freedom of speech, because it lists subjects that EU citizens have no right to question. The guidance notes as to how Article 54 must be interpreted can be used to defend the EU institutions themselves from those that want to undermine them (Eurosceptics?). Legal precedents justifying the banning of political parties in Austria and Turkey are used as examples as to how that article should be applied. Surely any liberal democratic government should oppose this? Just because some people's and group's opinions may be objectionable does not give others the right to prevent them being voiced. Where will it end? Lets not even start going down that road.

What is more, the provisions of the Charter will be interpreted by the notoriously activist European Court of Justice, removing the role of the British Courts, even the European Court of Human Rights, as the defenders of liberty. Of course there are as yet no penalties for those who challenge the Charter but it creates a blank space for lawmakers to fill.

This all comes against the background of a Constitution that will make the democratic deficit grow ever wider.

The proposed EU Constitution also gives the EU a wide range of new powers to control criminal law. Under the constitution Britain will not be able to use its veto to stop EU legislation that defines crimes, sentences, even legal procedure. Now, no legal system is perfect but the English and Scottish systems have evolved with a particular bent to prevent the innocent from being imprisoned. This, however, is not the aim of Continental law.

Britain will also not be able to veto moves by the EU to expand the area of criminal law over which the Union takes control. The transfer of criminal law from the member-states to the European Parliament and Council may have implications that stretch beyond the abandonment of a system that has on the whole balanced the rights of the accused with the need to control crime. As criminal procedure and law will be set by those that are unaccountable, remote and without the legitimacy that derives from being chosen by those that will be governed then there is the possibility that people will be less inclined to obey. Eroded civil liberties and increased disorder makes a worrying combination.

The EU Constitution, in addition to expanding the powers of Europol, will also demand the standardisation of law enforcement and policing. On these issues the PM's silence is deafening.

A legal revolution and the loss of key rights means that the government can no longer pretend that the EU Constitution is just a 'tidying up exercise'. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing's proposals will create a unitary European state where civil liberties do not apply. The Government should veto the EU Constitution.

This is taken from an article by Robert Oulds for The Parliamentary Monitor