Dr Lee Rotherham
The past few weeks have seen an astonishing series of volte-faces by the British Government in the Convention.
The first tranche of six working groups are now drawing to a close, and the other four are slipping into third gear with a series of expert witnesses being called – expert, that is, in their dealings with the Community institutions, and therefore almost universally biased. Whether an EU-funded university professor or the head of a Communities body which is out for more power, the views being put across to the delegates are one-sided, to say the least.
That, however, does not excuse the slack attitude of nominally-Euroreticent governments (such as New Labour) who appear to now accept, quietly, that they have no chance of influencing the debate – packed as it is with integrationist sleep walkers and sheep – and who are trying simply not to rock the boat, and to feed some inconsequential wordage into the final texts in a feeble attempt to mask the final product.
Thus the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which Robin Cook informed the House of Commons was of zero constitutional concern and Keith Vaz famously likened in significance to a copy of the Beano, will indeed be proposed for integration in the final text. Similarly, national parliaments have failed to secure any real recovery of power. Reams of competences are opened up for grabs in Justice and Home Affairs, which pillar, like that of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, appears set to be collapsed and incorporated into a single Union Treaty, conferring legal personality.
The best the UK Government have been able to come up with have been some slender phrases promising that such articles will not be used of themselves to incorporate more powers. Such packaging will prove shoddy when it comes to any legal interpretation by the ECJ, however.
Of course, the Convention has been established to set up a stall so that the next IGC can decide what it wants to buy. But if it ain’t on display, it ain’t gonna get sold; and if it is on the market, it’s going to take some real persuasion – vetoing with a handbag – to keep half of it from being picked up. Do Blair, Straw et al have the guts to say no? Well, that would require becoming a bit unpopular with your holiday hosts now, wouldn’t it?