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Passionately pro-Europe?

Mark Mardell | 00:59 UK time, Thursday, 26 July 2007

Pity the poor Piris group, their partners and children.

These are the legal experts from each of the 27 EU countries who are being asked to do a most un-Brussels-ish thing and work through August. They will be fleshing out the new Reform Treaty so that it is ready for perusal by the European Union’s foreign ministers in early September.

Although I was still in Turkey at the time, as far as I can gather the unveiling of the intergovernmental conference earlier in the week was something of a damp squib.

Perhaps this was intentional. Although the Brits are the greatest worry, no-one in the European Union establishment has any interest in anyone trying to re-open arguments or question the smooth ratification of the treaty. Almost uniquely for a major document, it was made available only in French. The cunning blighters had failed to spot one thing: some of the Eurosceptics have been dashed clever and have actually gone and learnt the bally language.

Dishonesty claims

In Britain, those opposed to a new treaty are doing their level best to keep it in the news, bobbing way beneath the surface of all that flood water. They want to garner support for their argument that the government’s case for the treaty is unravelling, and that it is pretty much the same as the old constitution.

hague2_pa_203.jpgThe shadow foreign secretary William Hague has repeated his call for a referendum saying the government are out on a limb when they claim this is not the same as the constitution. Labour MEP Richard Corbett attacks this as “intellectually dishonest”.

Open Europe say their research shows that 96 % of the treaty is the same as the constitution with only 10 items out of 250 dropped.

The former Europe Minister Denis MacShane accuses them of mis-translating the French to suggest there will be an EU foreign minister, rather than a high representative.

The Conservatives’ Europe spokesman Mark Francois keeps hammering away, arguing that it is “the constitution under another name”. A government white paper on the process sets out the nature of an “amending treaty”.

Global Vision says this is deeply dishonest as Britain’s relationship with the EU will be “profoundly altered”.

Much of this depends whether you accept the government’s argument, which it can’t state as baldly as it would like. It would go something like this: “We never thought it was a real constitution in the first place but once they called the wretched thing a ‘constitution’ it was hard to resist calls for a referendum. Now we’ve got rid of the word and all the mentions of flags and anthems and other constitutional stuff it doesn’t look like a constitution. So even if it is pretty much the same as the old document there’s no need for a referendum. Now, can we get on with something more interesting?”

Sexier subjects

Funnily enough, it’s the sentence I have just invented that I’m most interested in at the moment.

For I think all the signs are that Britain has its most passionately pro-European foreign secretary since Robin Cook, who intends to win, not duck the argument about Europe. Jack Straw and Margaret Beckett were in terms of New Labour’s boundaries, sceptics.

mili_sol_afp_203.jpgDavid Miliband’s first visit was not to Washington or Iraq, but Paris and Berlin. The white paper states quite clearly that the European Union is “crucial” to Britain and “at the heart” of its efforts in the world. Mr Miliband has made it one of his top priorities.

That’s a pretty bland, politico-speak sentence - but think about it.

In his first big foreign policy speech, Mr Miliband mocked the idea that the Foreign Office had 10 “strategic priorities.” So he has whittled them down to just three:

    • Tackling extremism and its causes
    • Climate change
    • Forging a “more effective European Union to help build prosperity and security within European borders and beyond"

Out goes fighting international crime, supporting the UK economy and managing migration - all on the surface sexier subjects than the EU. Which makes me think he really means it.

Neck out

In the same speech he states: “Britain acting alone does not possess the power or legitimacy to directly effect changes on the scale required” in the world. He repeats his call for the EU to become the “Environmental Union” and goes out of the way to argue for the EU to play a bigger role in foreign affairs, “giving better expression to the common commitments of nation states”.

Now, I have heard Jack Straw and Margaret Beckett say similar things in interviews or when put on the spot in the Commons. But Mr Miliband is sticking his neck out, emphasising that this analysis is central to his approach.

Indeed, in his statement on the Alexander Litvinenko case he suggests Russia should amend its constitution to accept the European arrest warrant if it wants freer access to EU markets.

I don’t want to overstate the significance of this, but many senior British politicians who support the EU don’t go out of the way to give it good reviews, and give positive examples of where they think it increases Britain’s clout in the world. They think it just puts another barrier between their argument and their audience.

I think, come the autumn, we are in for a more interesting battle than we thought. But however strongly Mr Miliband believes in his case, I doubt he wants to test it in a referendum.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 06:40 AM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • minifesto wrote:

I wonder how much Mr Millibank knows about Europe?
He sounds like an innocent at large and will probably be taken to the cleaners by his european friends.
I live in Europe and have a french wife. I hope the Gordon keeps a close eye on what his brownies are doing.

  • 2.
  • At 08:47 AM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • john s wrote:

A few clarifications, please...
"Bally lamguage" What's that ?
"Mark Francois" or "Mark François". If he latter, an odd name for an opponent of Europe
"Milliband going first to Berlin and Paris" sounds verey much like the Gaullist "Europe des patries"
Please explain the difference between the relations with America and the "relations with Europe"

  • 3.
  • At 08:55 AM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

Very interesting analysis, Mark, and the first time I've seen this picked up on since his appointment.

As the son of a Belgian and a Pole, his mixed background is similar to many of the 'Eurokids' in Brussels who have a natural tendency to see themselves as Europeans first. His previous appointment in Environment, Food and Rural Affairs may also have had an impact on his outlook. While CAP may push many towards a certain degree of cynicism, the post would nonetheless leave one with a strong sense of the importance of the EU for the UK in negotiations with the world - e.g. in the WTO rounds.

There seems to be a certain idealism about Mr Miliband - and if you are right about his willingness to fight the corner of Europe, let's hope it's enough to shield him against the claws of the tabloid press.

  • 4.
  • At 09:08 AM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Mark, Amazing really how even in Perfidious Albion some people can read French...

The battle for a referendum has begun.

  • 5.
  • At 09:22 AM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Giacomo Dorigo wrote:

I think all this arguing about the new treaty will or won't be a constitution is quite... how to say...

Let's consider these following points:

__ in federal unions it is not the federation that allows members to exist, but quite the opposite: the members agree in creating the federal level and this federal centre power will exist till the members continue agreeing to make it to exist.
__ in federal unions it is not the central level that decide what are its powers, but the constituent members which decide the the centre has this or that power and all the others remain to the members; this is quite different from a national State with strong autonomous regions (such as the present Germany, UK, Spain, Italy, Austria, etc.), in which case the centre power delegates some powers to the the regions and what is not explicitly given by the centre then remains in the hand of the centre
__ national State constitutions arise from the work of a constitutional assembly which in democratic countries is elected by the people, but in federal Unions constitutions can be written also by an assembly of legitimate member States representatives
__ when a national State or federal union has its own constitution then it will no more use a constitutional assembly in order to change it, but it will use its own institutions (generally the rules for changing properly a constitution are written in the constitution itself)

From all these considerations I derive that EU is already a federal union.
I said this because the IGC has been in some way institutionalised, I mean incorporated in the EU.
At the beginning the IGC as something independent, quite similar to a constitutional assembly, they wrote the treaties but now for amending them the IGC has not been created independently, it has been called by the European Council that is an institution of the EU. But not only the Council has called the IGC, it has also GIVEN it a precise mandate, so this mean that it was an organ of the EU that has given to this IGC its power, and this means that the EU with its present treaties its ALREADY acting as a federal union with a constitution.

Of course its a different kind of federal union than USA or Canada ( but also Canada is a very peculiar federal State formerly still under the Queen of UK! ), I think the big difference is that USA for example has a unified army, and it is clear that USA citizens feel century after century and war after war as a single people.

So the problem is not EU will or won't be a federal union, it is already. What can change is the grade of integration of this union or of some sub-sets of its members. And so UK citizens has to decide if they want to remain or not inside this union more than if they want or not a constitution. I agree with euro-sceptics that claim for a referendum about the EU in the UK and that the treaty is a kind of constution, but I also agree with the labour MPs when they say that the new text will introduce not so much changes in the structure of the union as a whole (even if I think there is a bug in the proposed role of the Supreme Court that will introduce a damaging uncertainty in the EU laws), the problem is the new text, that even if not named constitution, actually it is, is not a NEW constitution, because the treaties as a coherent juridical corpus as always been a defacto constitution since at least 1992.

Finally a foreign secretary who understands a little of International Relations. The UK on its own is longer big enough or ugly enough to enforce its interests globally and the 'special relationship' is useful but ultimately a one way street. Developing a strong EU with the UK taking a leadership role makes for a better future for us here!

  • 7.
  • At 10:18 AM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Cllr. Paul V. Greenall (Con), West Lancashire DC. wrote:

"But however strongly Mr Miliband believes in his case, I doubt he wants to test it in a referendum". Mark, this is they key comment.

If Miliband really believes in the EU, then he should have the balls to put the case forward in a promised referendum campaign. Otherwise, he is just another cowardly, manipulative EU-fanatic, who does not have the courage of his convictions, and who sees election promises not as things to be honoured, but as a cheap means of advancing their EU dream.

Like Max Sceptic wrote at 9:08am, the battle for a referendum has begun. And I intend to play my part in ensuring the Blairs, Browns and Milibands of this world, don’t get away with tricking the British people into thinking they could have a referendum on this issue.

  • 8.
  • At 10:24 AM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Ian wrote:

Miliband is an "internationalist" who like a large swathe of Neo Labour, would rather the nation state just ceased to exist. That is what all pro EU parties eventually seek, & Miliband is no different.

The fundamental dishonesty & lack of representative democracy in Europe shown by its ruling elite will be its undoing.

Perfidious indeed....

  • 9.
  • At 10:48 AM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • michael brimacombe wrote:

It is still the same document so we should have a referendum. I believe there would be a resounding NO but if i am wrong sobeit.If Brown does not want to be as sleazy as Blair he should keep his word and let us vote.If the vote is yes you will not hear me complain. But i am fed up with politicians telling us they know best. We pay their wages and they should LISTEN TO US !

  • 10.
  • At 11:10 AM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Cynosarges wrote:

Mark states "but many senior British politicians who support the EU don’t go out of the way to give it good reviews, and give positive examples of where they think it increases Britain’s clout in the world"

Perhaps he should realise that this is because there aren't any.

(Unless of course you consider the massive damage to African farming caused by the CAP gives Gordon Brown more opportunities to pontificate about Africa.)

  • 11.
  • At 11:13 AM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • vinay wrote:

Mr Miliband's call for changing Russian constitution, irrespective of the motivation for the statement, hardly helps his cause. While straight talking is generally perceived to be more "short term efficient" than diplomacy, the latter can win you more. One would expect Mr Miliband to exercise more tact.

As in the field of business, international politics has come of age - no longer are countries in competition - they are in collaboration. Mr Miliband will not get far with his climate change agenda without the support from Moscov. Nor will he succeed in making UK any safer, if he continues to rub people on the wrong side.

Yes, getting things to work within the EU is already a challenge, but while this is "necessary", it is rather "insufficient" to have things neatly worked out within the ivory tower of EU.

  • 12.
  • At 12:51 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • robert hutchins wrote:

I see again references to how Britain is not big enough to fight its own corner in the world. This is hard to believe, given that Britain has one of the largest economies in the world and also one of the largest armed forces. I have lived in Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain
and all those countries talk about a US of Europe - and they most certainly do not have Britain´s best interests at heart, though they do like the net net cost to Britain, so far, of what - a hundred billion pounds?

  • 13.
  • At 01:33 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Alex Stone wrote:

Another thought provoking article Mark, and i offer the following:

While the British public's attention is so firmly fixed on other matters, some incidental, some gleefully and thankfully encouraged by Government and favourable press, Milliband has, to a certain extent, escaped closer scrutiny.
So who is this fellow? What are his core principles?
We can surmise from several speeches he's made that he's a pro European. So am I, and i maintain that the EU project, once back in the hands of the public, can be a big step forward, not only in cementing relationships across former walls, but encapsulate many new and prosperous relationships for all who embrace this system, including new countries not yet in the scope of the public eye, or acceptance.
However, i seriously doubt Milliband's credentials. His enthusiasm for maintaining and strengthening a strong UK/US link puts him at direct odds with the EU project, which has more to do with a fairer balance of corporate and welfare principles, and less to do with straight, ruthless, capitalism. And further, the EU model is one of self determination by the member countries, and so far, Milliband has foregone that in his willingness to embrace the US capitalistic ideal. That's not a criticism of the USA, but the mindset is, largely, diametrically opposed to a larger proportion of caring for one's citizens, and we've seen that in various incidents in recent years.

I have a more serious problem with Milliband and his rampant idealism. He's already expressed a mindset that is in sync with that of Blair, one of 'always believing one is right.' This leaves little room for movement, or lacks the open minded approach that is essential in representing not only those who vote for you, but those who didn't. And his idealism plays directly into the hands of the 'neo-cons', and powerful religious and corporate lobby groups, who seek to eradicate all sense of national identity, and overthrow independent economic determination, in favour of a global 'one' vision of which, naturally, they are in control, and reap the most benefit from, be it honestly or otherwise.
Thinking of the EU from another perspective, a federation or 'relationship' between member states, ensures that national identity remains, and those voices, importantly, are heard. They provide a balance and restraint that is lacking in the 'one vision' model.
Some do this well, and others are still learning to play the game. The continued friction within the EU and some of it's members frankly clumsy representation, is as much to do with external vested interests trying to prevent the member states from joining together, as it is a continual and relentless attempt to take over. Some member state representatives have missed this, or are in 'league' with this one vision cabal, and they do their people and the wider EU no favours by putting their efforts into undermining the process, instead of helping to shape it in a direction that will best represent the wishes for stability, peace, and prosperity that the citizens of the EU want.

Milliband, in my humble opinion, doesn't work for the EU, but against it, and while the smile and words might seem pro-EU, he has another agenda that will ill serve the EU and citizens of the UK.

Simply put, i don't trust him at all, and urge what's left of the free press in the UK and Europe to stay on his tail, and closely, continually, and objectively examine just what he actually wants, and what his motives are. Inside Europe, and removed from the top table of PM's and presidents, he can do a lot of damage, and it won't be for Britain's benefit, but those who are fearful and fighting against a united Europe that determines its own destiny.
He could well turn out to be the greatest benedict of the modern british era. I hope i'm wrong.

Alex Stone.
Briton in Moscow.

  • 14.
  • At 01:49 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Jukka Rohila wrote:

For all you eurosceptics, please leave the EU if you don't like it and don't want to take part on further integration.

The fact of the matter is that other countries in the EU want further integration and more tighter Union that serves their needs better. If Britain keeps on resisting change, resisting integration and resisting common Europe, then there is no part for Britain in the Union. Blocking the ascension of the rest of the EU will for certainly open a scenario where either Britain is expelled from the Union or other states will forge a new union with out Britain.

I personally like Brittan, it's parts and it's culture, and would like to see it in the EU and as an integral part of it, but if it doesn't grow up and understand that its part of Europe and other EU states and EU are its best friends and best partners on keeping up with the future. The other future without EU, is the future of the protectorate of US. You really want that?

  • 15.
  • At 01:55 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • David wrote:

to Cllr. Paul V. Greenall

"he should have the balls to put the case forward in a promised referendum campaign."

case for what?

referendum for what?

As Mark clearly explains above, the treaty was never a constitution (just given that name by over-reaching French grandees who have now been defeated) and now is just a treaty again.

The UK has won, as a Member State will actually have more clout as a result of the reforms set out in the treaty, and all the bits the UK objected to have been removed.

We have no constitutional basis for a referendum - the only ones ever held have been pragmatic affairs held by governments who wanted to pass the buck.

The government's responsibility is to make the decision in the best interests of the UK, based on the best information to hand - and be judged at the next general election.

That's how our country works.

  • 16.
  • At 02:03 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Ronald Grünebaum wrote:

As each and every article by Mark brings out the euro-phobes demanding a referendum (something rather alien to the British political system, n'est-ce pas?), I have two simple questions:

How will you assure that people know what they are voting on (or in other words: How do you keep the tabloids from peddling their usual euro-hate?)?

Will you have the guts to ask whether the British people want to stay in the EU or will you just go for another cheap shot against the EU?

I think the rest of Europe has a right to know.

  • 17.
  • At 02:50 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Matt Davis wrote:

Sadly this just goes to show how totally unsuitable Milliband is to be Foreign Secretary. He is clearly going to do everything but put Britain's interests first and his Europhilia is completely at odds with the vast majority of not only the UK's but also Europe's peoples.

We were explicitly promised a referendum on the Euro constitution, whatever new name it may have, and if we don't get one then that will clearly show that the Brown led Government are as dishonest as the Blair led one was and that they cannot be trusted on anything at all.

  • 18.
  • At 03:04 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

Thanks, Mark, for the link to the French-language text/s (which I hadn't found, but have now printed out to read: Oh,Yes-We-Can!). First impression is that it's genuinely praiseworthy drafting (clever French polytechniciens, really) but it does restore most of the 'Constitution'. As it should, because most of that was usefully just consolidated stuff that it could be claimed we had already 'agreed' to. Sadly, though, 'we' here never did actually 'agree'. That's what has now to be unstitched, and poor Mr MilleniBand has to find a way of avoiding Martello Towers, Pillboxes, or their modern virtual equivalents.

  • 19.
  • At 03:17 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

The real problem that this government has in relation to this "treaty" is simply this:

people are not stupid, they can read what other European leaders have said about this treaty, namely that it is, in effect, simply the rejected constitution by another name with small bits taken out. Many of them can also read French, and so read the "treaty" for themseleves to confirm this. (Incidentally, isn't it against the EU rules to publish formal documents just in French? A plainer example of the corrupting influences within the Commission in pusuit of their own agenda is harder to imagine).

This government promised in their official manifesto a referendum on the EU constitution, and Gordon Brown signed off on that. Simply changing the name and not the substance cannot now invalidate that solemn pledge. If a government can ignore its own manifesto, the one on which it was elected, then what is the point of publishing one? We may as well toss a coin to choose a new government. Gordon cannot claim that he wants to reinstate the public's trust in politicians and then simply throw out a major plank of the manifesto on which he, like every other Labour MP, was elected. If he doesn't want a referendum, then he should call a general election with a new manifesto rejecting one. I firmly believe that we should have a constitutional court to which citizens can turn to hold politicians to account in case like this, and make them live up to their promises. Trust? I doubt he can even spell it.

  • 20.
  • At 03:37 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Cllr. Paul V. Greenall (Con) West Lancashire DC wrote:

To David at 1:55pm,

You say "we have no constitutional basis for a referendum" and "the government's responsibility is to make the decision in the best interests of the UK…and be judged at the next general election"

The former is historically incorrect and the latter is somewhat naive.

Firstly, if we can have referendums over issues like staying in the EEC, devolution, English regional government, the Northern Ireland agreement, whether certain areas have an elected Mayor and whether council houses should be transferred to a housing association, then we can have a referendum over our future participation in the EU. Secondly, elections don’t give governments the right to do as they please, regardless of what the people want. Don’t forget, politicians are meant to serve the public, not the other way round. Indeed, as Communities Secretary Hazel Blears correctly stated earlier this month “Democracy should be about much more than casting a vote every few years”. I agree, and suggest democracy should be about Abraham Lincoln’s notion of the “Government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

If you believe in the EU, then vote ‘yes’ in the referendum, but if democracy is to count for anything in this country, then the Government must honour a clear and unequivocal election promise. Otherwise, we are not living in the democratic society we like to think we are.

So I repeat what I said at 10:18am: “If Miliband really believes in the EU, then he should have the balls to put the case forward in a promised referendum campaign”

Thanks Mark and I thought the BBC was biased.
As for a referendum I quote:-
I gathered my loved ones around me,
And as I gazed on each face I adore,
I heard a voice within me whisper,
THIS is worth fighting for.
There'll always be an England,
And England will be free,
If England means as much to you,
As England means to me.

  • 22.
  • At 04:11 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Jean Bowler wrote:

Either every other EU delegate is lying about the resemblance of the new Treaty to the old Constitution or our Government is attempting to deceive us about the nature of the new Treaty/Constitution by dissembling over words to avoid a referendum

Which is it?

  • 23.
  • At 04:39 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • A Warmington wrote:

The problem with a UK referendum presently is that many people here are likely to reject things out of hand due to real fears about loss of control and 'political jobs for the boys'. This is a great pity as there is much to gain from a fully united Europe if there was genuine grass roots up inclusion in deciding processes and importantly, full openness about what the goals/benefits are. Some pluses are open borders; free trade; infrastructue support; economic buffering and so on. However, the current system gives me the feeling that it's like watching the fairground from the other side of the fence: a big gravy train for the politicians; a ship we are on with a crew that doesn't listen and follows it's own adgenda; little evidence or knowledge of how we are benefiting; lots of legislation but the wheels for the people don't appear to turn.
I doubt people on the whole in UK are rabid xenophobes as the right wing press here likes to stir up, but similarly we aren't stupid and don't like to be taken for a ride!

  • 24.
  • At 04:46 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Tim Corthaut wrote:

David Milliband has actually quite interesting credentials when it comes to the current reform process. Back in 2001 he was a member (and a rather remarkable one, given the fact that the other members (Giuliano Amato, Jean-Luc Dehaene, Jacques Delors and Borislav Geremek) were already all seasoned statesmen at the time) of the so-called 'Laeken Group', which aided the Belgian Presidency in drafting the Laeken Declaration which kicked-off the European Convention. In a sense he actually grandfathered the Constitution and thus the Reform Treaty.

  • 25.
  • At 04:57 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Sebastian wrote:

The funny thing is that the argument here is not at all about the contents of the treaty but about whether or not to have a referendum.

It is also funny that the sceptics of the integration complain about the EU being run inefficiently and having long delays in decisions. Yet when a solution for the European reform is presented they are against it. They want to maintain the status quo or (even more extremely) leave the European Union.

  • 26.
  • At 05:27 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Could the concerned citizens of other EU member states kindly bear in mind that that subject of whether or not to have a referendum in the UK about the proposed Reform Treaty is a matter for the British people.

Ronald Grünebaum (16) asks:
"How will you assure that people know what they are voting on (or in other words: How do you keep the tabloids from peddling their usual euro-hate?)?"

Answer: If you believe that the 'the people' are so easily manipulated then you obviously consider them to be incapable of independent thought and thus more suited to be 'lead' like a herd of cattle. The British public appreciates strong leadership but also likes to demonstrate who's really the boss by kicking out governments from time to time. Furthermore, have you considered that mass tabloids (commercial enterprises all) may be reflecting public sympathies rather than forming them?

Ronald Grünebaum also asks:
"Will you have the guts to ask whether the British people want to stay in the EU or will you just go for another cheap shot against the EU?"

Answer: This question should be addressed to our government. I don't think they'd have - as you say - the guts: they may not like the answer! Besides, what you are saying seems to be: 'Either accept the EU dictat [re the Treaty] or get out'. Can the EU really afford us to leave? Will Germany and the Netherlands be happy to assume the increased financial burden?

Another continental correspondent Jukka Rohila (14) writes indignantly:
"For all you eurosceptics, please leave the EU if you don't like it and don't want to take part on further integration.

Again: we are being told to 'accept all or nothing'.

A wise and proud Briton once wrote "When I have to choose between Europe and the wide open seas . . . I will always choose the wide open seas.”

  • 27.
  • At 07:37 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Lord Truth wrote:

Its curious that no one has noticed Millibands extraordinary insult to the British nation and people revealed in this article
Milliband says
"Britain acting alone does not have the power or legitimacy to directly effect changes on the scale required in the world"
Britain may not have the military or economic power true but LEGITIMACY??
What nation would Mr Milliband suggest has the "legitimacy"
required? Germany? Russia? Japan? Israel? America? Turkey?
Britain has been at the centre of the fight for freedom justice and democracy for four hundred years.
To suggest that it does not have the legitimacy to make its voice proudly heard in the world is a gross insult
However Mr Milliband does feel that he can legitimately make Britains voice felt by calling for Russia to CHANGE ITS CONSTITUTION (!) to get some Russian possibly connected to a murky criminal affair extradited to the U:K: without presenting any evidence in any court of law in Britain or Russia.
Blair signed an agreement with America that allows just that-if the Americans want you returned to America they do not have to provide any evidence "why" there is no prima facie court hearing.
This is now regarded by lawyers as an appalling situation.
Michael Howard was famously described as "Having something of the night about him"
Ghoulish Milliband has something of the "found under a stone "about him
-and like such things may be just as poisonous as he looks

  • 28.
  • At 07:51 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Louisa wrote:

Max Sceptic writes: "We are being told to accept 'all or nothing'."

Well, I've got to the point of understanding where those who say that come from.
Since the end of the Second World War, Britain has consistently chosen Europe as a second option, consistently interrupted and confused events and treaties, and always - miraculously, I just don't understand how - tried to negotiate opt-out clauses.
The fact that Britain manages to opt-out of various things so regularly is a sign of Europe's willingness to be flexible and adapt.

Yes, Europe wants Britain there because the European project is phenomenally important. I really do think most Eurosceptics lack a real grasp of history. Half of the twentieth century was ruined by European conflict. So European peace is absolutely crucial, and building the European project has taken years of cooperation and negotiation.
The European ideal is built on the premise of cooperation and working together because getting on is so much better than killing each other. How do Eurosceptics suggest this should happen without negotation, without Britain giving way sometimes, without some things being far from ideal? Eurosceptics seem to suggest that the rest of the Europeans are getting what they want and poor Britain is being victimised.
How are we to solve key international issues, like cross-border terrorism and climate change if we refuse to talk to each other?

I studied too much of the Nazis at school just a couple of years ago to accept the Eurosceptic line. We are not in a playground, this isn't a practice run for real life. We need to get on with making this world better for people.

  • 29.
  • At 08:38 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • fabio wrote:

What the British do not understand or maybe do not want to understand is that by getting involved in the EU, rather than sitting on the sidelines and moaning, they can shape the future of Europe together with the other nations. And thinking that the UK can cope outside the EU is just wishful thinking. Not even the UKIP would dare to pull the UK out of Europe. Oh yeah, they might say it to get a few votes ( just what the Tories are doing now ). The whole economy would simply collapse. Come on, Brits. Get involved. Do not let the us always drug you.

  • 30.
  • At 09:14 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

To David (15): That's not how our country should work unless you believe that power belongs to politicians and they should be able to say one thing to gain office but do another thing when in office. The case for a referendum is twofold:

(i) Legitimate power in democracies belongs to the people. The people elect a Government to exercise their power for a 4-5 year period. Government should not be able to use their time in office to permanently give away to Brussels the powers they have been loaned without the consent of the people who are its true owners. John Locke argued in his ‘2nd Treatise of Government’ that “The Legislative cannot transfer the power of making laws to any other hands. For it being but a delegated power from the people, they who have it cannot pass it to others”.
(ii) The present government was elected on a mandate to hold a referendum. Indeed all three main parties made this a manifesto commitment in the 2005 election. For the government to renege on the program they were elected on would mark a fresh low in the history of our democracy.

If the British people dislike changes to Westminster law they can replace the government responsible for it. The new administration will command a majority in Parliament such that they can replace the unpopular law that led the people to change their government. But if the present government ratifies the substance of the EU Constitution in the form of an international treaty then simply replacing Brown at the next election will not allow any new government to replace the EU Constitution or the new European laws that can be imposed on us under the terms of its articles. This treaty transfers the power to make law in 50 areas to Brussels institutions such that we will in future be required to live under law in these 50 areas that the British people and government disagree with but must accept as the supreme law of the land. Kicking future governments out because of unpopular EU laws will be pointless because the superiority of EU law means that no new government will be able to alter them and we cannot reasonably hold government ministers responsible for laws they themselves vote against in the EU Council of Ministers. The person future generations will hold responsible is Gordon Brown because it he they that will have agreed to Constitutional rules now that require them in future to live under law they disagree with but cannot change.

Edward Heath was Prime Minister between 1970 and 1974 and agreed to the Common Agricultural Policy. For 30+ years it has been reviled and despised but no government has been able to reform it. This so-called ‘reform treaty’ is badly named because it will lead to common European policies in 50 new areas that future generations of Britons will be powerless to reform.

  • 31.
  • At 09:48 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • john s wrote:

So Max Sceptic doesn't want to be told to do what he wants to do....It seems that for him, Britania's sovereignty to block other countries' sovereignties should not be impeded."Britannia waves the rfules" indeed

  • 32.
  • At 09:56 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

The British conservatives aren't the only ones claiming the 'new' treaty is the same thing as the 'old' constitution (which was just a treaty as well, but hubris led Giscard to call it a constitution).

Here are some more politicians who think its the same thing (with source quoted):

“The substance of the constitution is preserved. That is a fact.”
(Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, Telegraph, 29 June 2007)

“90 per cent of it is still there... these changes haven't made any dramatic change to the substance of what was agreed back in 2004.”
(Bertie Ahern, Irish Taoiseach, Irish Independent, 24 June 2007)

“Only cosmetic changes have been made and the basic document remains the same.”
(Vaclav Klaus, Czech President, Guardian, 13 June 2007)

“A great part of the content of the European Constitution is captured in the new treaties.”
(Jose Zapatero, Spanish PM, El Pais 23 June 2007)

“There’s nothing from the original institutional package that has been changed.”
(Astrid Thors, Finnish Europe Minister, TV-Nytt, 23 June 2007)

“The good thing is...that all the symbolic elements are gone, and that which really matters – the core – is left.”
(Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Danish PM, Jyllands-Posten, 25 June 2007)

“The original Treaty for a Constitution was maintained in substance.”
(Austrian government website, 25 June 2007)

The new treaty “takes up the most important elements of the constitutional treaty project.”
(Guy Verhofstadt, Belgian PM, Agence Europe, 24 June 2007)

“As for our conditions… I outlined four red lines with respect to the text of the Constitution: to keep a permanent president of the EU, to keep the single overseer for foreign policy and a common diplomatic service, to keep the extension of majority voting, to keep the single legal personality of the Union. All of this has stayed.”
(Romano Prodi, Italian PM, La Repubblica, 24 June 2007)

Lithuania has “100 percent fulfilled the tasks set forth before the meeting, including the primary objective of preserving the substance of the Constitutional Treaty.”
(Office of the President of Lithuania, official press release)

“The substance has been preserved from Luxembourg’s point of view.”
(Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxemburg PM, Agence Europe, 24 June)

With the new treaty, the EU gets “content that is not essentially different from the constitutional treaty… All key institutional solutions remain… Some symbolic elements will be cleared up and some formulations toned down.”
(Janez Jansa, Slovenian PM, 23 June 2007, Slovenian Government Communication Office)

“It’s essentially the same proposal as the old Constitution.”
(Margot Wallstrom, EU Commissioner, Svenska Dagbladet, 26 June 2007)

“This text is, in fact, a rerun of a great part of the substance of the Constitutional Treaty.”
(Valery Giscard d’Estaing, Telegraph, 27 June 2007)

So who's being intellectually dishonest here mr Corbett? It's the EUluvvies and their lies about the 'new' treaty being something new.

The truth is clear. The 'new' treaty is effectively the same thing as the 'old' constitution. We want a referendum so we can reject it and tell politicians that the peoples do not want 'more and more integration' at all and any cost.

  • 33.
  • At 11:12 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

Max Sceptic - that quote from Churchill was in the context of the invasion of France with our US Allies, before the EU was even considered

However, at the Albert Hall in 1947, Churchill declared 'If Europe united is to be a living force, Britain will have to play her full part as a member of the European family.'

The British people deserve to hear the pro's about the EU as well as the cons (many dreamt up by the tabloid press' in this country)

We are hated around Europe as boarish louts, our society is decaying (read this mornings Daily Mail if you don't believe me) and we have very little 'homegrown' industry left. And yet we still think there is nothing good that Europe can teach us.

I fail to see why we shouldn't try and learn from our EU neighbours rather than have the arrogance to think that we are the best.

  • 34.
  • At 11:12 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Bedd Gelert wrote:

This really is becoming a must-read blog - if only to understand the cloud cuckoo land that other Europeans are living in.

We never wanted to be a federal superstate and an idea of burying the idea of 'nationhood' which has served us for centuries is just living in dream land. If other Europeans cannot deal with that, what gives them the right to impose their rather deluded views on those of us with a more pragmatic view?

By all means let us co-operate on climate change and the like, but please understand that we are British first, last and always and to say that we are European merely reflects our geography, not our politics.

As a Welsh person I have seen the problems with trying to centralise too much power in a distant nation - and the lessons have been learned by giving more autonomy to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If only the Europeans could understand the same thing, and admit what a failure the euro has been for a large number of the countries joining it.

  • 35.
  • At 11:44 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
  • Giacomo Dorigo wrote:

Max Sceptic wrote:
"Could the concerned citizens of other EU member states kindly bear in mind that that subject of whether or not to have a referendum in the UK about the proposed Reform Treaty is a matter for the British people."

For sure the final decision is a matter of British people (via UK government...), but I think we all have the right to express our own opinion about it, isn't it?
Perhaps British people couldn't express their opinion about repressive laws in China only because they are not Chinese citizens? No, they can say what they want, because there is freedom of speech in Britain...

So why people from other countries couldn't express their opinion about UK politics?

Besides, the UK final decision of accepting or rejecting the European Constitution will have effects on all Europeans, and if the referendum will be used to take such a decision probably won't be so indifferent... so we are a little bit entangled together...
I am sorry for these ties that bound us, as I already stated somewhere, I think that UK citizens has the right to vote in a referendum, I think they have the right to chose if they want or not the Constitution, I think in general every European citizen would have to have this right fully granted, and I think it would be fair if our governors would clearly say to us that the political direction EU is taking since at least 1992 is a federal direction! Besides I think we all would have to be allowed to express a vote about this, saying clearly if we like this direction or if we prefer that our countries will keep separate again.

  • 36.
  • At 12:23 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Oliver Lewis wrote:

"The British public appreciates strong leadership but also likes to demonstrate who's really the boss by kicking out governments from time to time."

I agree, so Max Sceptic must accept that no UK government has ever suffered for it's position on the EU, a point he has elequently made for me here.

"A wise and proud Briton once wrote "When I have to choose between Europe and the wide open seas . . . I will always choose the wide open seas"

Wonderful poetry, perhaps this is the "high romanticism" the Federalists so liked. Sadly, the wide open seas don't provide the economic engine to pay for education, healthcare or the quality of life the UK seems to want. Sea water also doesn't have a great record on climate change or fighting terrorism.

I agree that ultimatums are unhelpful and probably counter-productive, but I suspect that they reflect the frustration that many view the europhobes with, that the UK has voluntarily taken part in an club of states which has enriched and enpowered it, assured it's positions, usually the positions of the rest of EU, are heard and felt, and at the end of it, it seems to have a case of jumped up xenophobia and almost laughable suspcision about "foreigners".

I suspect the desperation for a referendum is more about the fact that a better functioning EU would actually be in position to deliver even more results on perhaps the three most important political issues in the UK today; growth, climate change and terrorism. For those who want to kill the European project, they know they best chance is to run trashy and simplistic tabloid campaigns, that grossly misrepresent what Europe is about, rather than dealing with the fruit of Europe, which is very well tuned to what people actually demand from government. Consider it, the means by which the Europhobes have fought there case until now, through long term tabloid anti-euro bile with fringe political opportunism, suggests they are certainly well organized and undoubtedly astute. If they truly believe what they say, that Europe will fail because of bureaucracy, lack of legitimacy and lack of connection to it's peoples, then they would gladly let the whole thing go ahead. The desperation for a referendum (I mean, on how many issues has there been a Referendum Party, despite the fact they are very rare in British politics) reflects the fact that reality will not vindicate them, and most of the UK's politicians know this, so a populist and simplistic tabloid campaign is all that's left.

I find it bizarre that those demanding a referendum expect most of the UK's citizens to read hundreds of pages of documents written in legal treaty language. This is precisely why representatives are elected, to represent the people's interests, and to be judged at the end of their term. Given that the people of the UK have, and have not used, the right to kick out any government getting too close to Europe, then I think we can assume that the Europhobes are not the all dominant force they feel they are, and that when it comes down to it, people may grumble and moan, but the people of the UK expect the EU has an important to play in Britians national interests.

I think it's time to put to bed a bunch for fanatics who in their nationalistic fanatasism, seem more than happy to let their irrationality get in the way of the good of the people, and who, after decades of failing to get what they want through democratic means, are finally so desperate, they now want to run a populistic and sensationalistic campaign through the tabloids to get what they can't get through elections. Why are they any different to any other losers in the democratic system who can't get what they want?

  • 37.
  • At 07:22 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • harry starks wrote:

The Irish PM declared after the last Council meeting that something like 96% of the old constitution treaty had been agreed at that meeting. That was the story that run in the Irish press. Yet because Blair declared that he had prevented the Community from gaining competence in particular areas - even though plans to increase Community competence in those areas were not up for debate - the British press presented that as the main story. What is the matter with the British press when it comes to the European Union?

  • 38.
  • At 07:42 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Jukka Rohila wrote:

Max Sceptic wrote: "Could the concerned citizens of other EU member states kindly bear in mind that that subject of whether or not to have a referendum in the UK about the proposed Reform Treaty is a matter for the British people."

Yes, you are right on that the matter of referendum is a matter for the British people. In the same time the result of the referendum or the decision of British parliament regarding this subject concerns all Europeans and thus we other Europeans have right to voice our opinions on the matter, so that you British can take all things in consideration and make your decision.

Max Sceptic also wrote: Again: we are being told to 'accept all or nothing'. A wise and proud Briton once wrote "When I have to choose between Europe and the wide open seas . . . I will always choose the wide open seas.”

All or nothing is a possible end result of a scenario where Britain doesn't accept the new treaty and thus ascension of the EU is put to halt with out way to move forward in the current setting. In this scenario it could be possible that France and Germany will form a new organization outside current EU and future integration is done via this setting. As the time passes on and the new organization gathers momentum and more members that have accepted the rules and federal direction of the organization, the current EU could come to it's end.

So all or nothing is a real deal. Yes, it may and will take time before this reality opens up, but as it does there is no going back to todays setting. It should also be noted that entering in late may not be an easy option, British entry to EEC was blocked by de Gaul for 10 years. All or nothing is a real scenario that all eurosceptics should think very carefully as they have to have the answers on how to go on if integration is halted and all or nothing is true.

  • 39.
  • At 08:24 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • zzz wrote:

How about we scrap the whole horrible treaty thing - what good is constitution that the average citizen can't be bothered to read, let alone study. Instead, we could try a rather simple and straightforward document that everybody can understand:

article 1) No war
article 2) Full protection of human rights
article 3) Free childcare and education for everybody under 18
article 4) Free healthcare for everybody
article 5) Living pension for everybody over 65

Let's put that on referendum all over Europe and see if people of Europe really can't agree over basic things.

  • 40.
  • At 09:04 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

zzz - if only it were that simple. In one fell swoop you've just signed over foreign policy, education, health and work and pensions to the EU, all of which are fiercely sensitive member state competences.

While not wanting to underplay its significance and the undoubted extension of powers it entails, the real treaty is first and foremost aimed at streamlining the decision processes in a swollen EU.

  • 41.
  • At 09:09 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Lousia (28) who says the EU is necessary to prevent war. The EU project is modelled on the German unification in the 19th century which started with a customs union (the zollverein) and lead via confederation to an undemocratic state that started two world wars.

It is democracy and not political integration that prevents war. There has never in the history of the world been a war between two democracies. Europe is becoming less democratic because of the EU.

I would like to point out to the European contributers, to his debate, that whilst your governments might have been honest with you about the EU and where it is heading, the UK Government has not.

The last referendum held in this country was about a Common Market (EEC), that is the only thing on which the UK people have had a say. Had the truth been told, we might not be in this situation, then as now, we don't know if we want to be in a federal superstate.

We agree to the open borders and free trade but unfortunately, the effect that the EU has on implimenting these ideals, is actually a closed shop, with massive tarrifs for those wishing to export to the EU, and protectionism of the French markets.

At no point have any of our (UK) Political leaders actually told us how our common law will interact with EU law and which takes precedent, Justice Laws made a statement that "Common Law" could not be repealed and was as important as the 1972 EEC Treaty. But Common Law gives us right to trial by jury, habeas corpus, not to be fined or suffer forfeits or loss of freedom other than a court of law. But which law should we use, one that we have had for years and works, or one that treats us as guilty until we prove our innocence. You have crimes in the EU that are not crimes in the UK, Holocaust denial for example, which would mean an EU arrest warrant could be issued and acted upon in the UK. Even though there is no such offence.

Our public servants ie. Police can be prosecuted for misdemeanors and offences, we have the right to take them to court if they have acted above the law, our politicians can be taken to court, No one is above the law! Yet the EU Police and their families have immunity from prosecution, how can that sit well on anyones mind?

We read the press, yes and some of it is against the EU, but we also have the internet, we can research and find out for ourselves, we see how our government is lying, and we don't like it, we don't like petty restrictive rules that are being foisted upon us, Cigarette ban, now EU wide, yet go in any spanish bar and see how many people are smoking!

We see the rest of Europe as making the rules and then ignoring them, yet the government we have at the moment in the UK enforces the laws tot he tenth degree.

we see the EU as wasteful, as crooked as being ruled by the french and germans, so all these things add up to fears about whether we wish to be in the EU.

  • 43.
  • At 10:01 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Cllr. Paul V. Greenall (Con), West Lancashire DC wrote:

Loiusa (28) states:

“I really do think most Eurosceptics lack a real grasp of history. Half of the twentieth century was ruined by European conflict. So European peace is absolutely crucial…”

Yes, half of the 20th century in Europe was ruined by conflict. However, WWI and WWII were begun by mainland Europeans and ended by Britain’s closest and best friend, the USA.

And if you read you post WWII history, you will understand that the peace in Europe has not been maintained by the EU, but by NATO. And who is the biggest contributor to NATO? Britain’s closest and best friend the USA.

I am all for European countries - indeed countries across the globe – coming together to co-operate on the big issues, but I resent being mislead, manipulated and lied into an EU Superstate.

If like me you want a referendum, then sign the Downing St Petition at:

And the visit:

Either way, don’t take this nonsense laying down…!

  • 44.
  • At 11:41 AM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Liberty Valence wrote:

In reply to Jukka Rohila who wrote (at 01:49 PM on 26 Jul 2007):
"For all you eurosceptics, please leave the EU if you don't like it and don't want to take part on further integration".

Well, if that is what the EULP (the EU of LIEING POLITICIANS) wants, then the UK certainly needs a referendum to decide its future outside a EULP which clearly no longer has the same aspirations as many UK people have!

Jukka Rohila confirms this when she/he says:
"The fact of the matter is that other countries in the EU want further integration and more tighter Union that serves their needs better. If Britain keeps on resisting change, resisting integration and resisting common Europe, then there is no part for Britain in the Union. Blocking the ascension of the rest of the EU will for certain open a scenario where either Britain is expelled from the Union or other states will forge a new union with out Britain".

Certainly, Britain must make its own decision. And my recommendation is to have one referendum now on the so-called "Reform Treaty" which is really (subject to different estimates from various EULP leaders) 90% - 98% of the "old constitution". And if that doesn't lead to a much more honest approach from the current EULP leaders, then another referendum will be needed to consider the UK's withdrawal to the edge of the EULP, in order to keep its LIEING leaders at arms' length!

  • 45.
  • At 12:22 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Tony Robinson wrote:

"Passionately pro-Europe?"

I am "Passionately pro-Europe" but anti -"EU".

The "EU" is not Europe.

  • 46.
  • At 02:01 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • john s wrote:

Jukka Rohila speaks of "France and Germany setting up a new organisation outside the EU". Such organisations already exist, but INSIDE the EU; they are called the Eurozone (the Euro) and the Schengen agreement (travel without border controls). Some EU countries are not part of the first and only Brittain and Ireland are out of the second which is all the stranger since non-EU countries (Norway, Iceland and Switzerland) are also members, Some non-EU members like the Union more than some EU members...

  • 47.
  • At 02:14 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Assaf wrote:

To the first commentator - We ALL live in Europe. The British Isles are a part of Europe, and the fact that Brits say "Europe" and mean someplace which isn't here is quite sad and disconcerting.

  • 48.
  • At 03:15 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Mikael wrote:

Lots of European leaders said that 95% of this new treaty is similar to the constitution, that's true.
But those comments apply to the treaty as it will be implemented for contienental countries.

Britain has won many opt-outs and therefore won't have to "undergo" 95% of the constitution... More like 50% or something like that.

I still find quite amazing that "winning" an opt-out on the Charter of fundamental rights can be presented as a victory abywhere in Europe... Welcome to the U.K....

Regarding the referundum, I think that Britain should sign this new treaty and then, only a few month later have a referundum on its membership/withdrawal of the E.U. This way, British people can give their opinion on what affect them without stopping the whole thing to happen for people supporting it (their opinions count too!).

What is the difference? Well, if there is a NO to a referundum about this treaty, it would block the treaty for ALL countries; However, if there is a NO to the overall British membership, it would mean the withdrawal of Britain from the E.U. and it would only affect the U.K., not stopping the whole integration process desired by continental countries.

If you don't like the E.U, then leave it, do not prevent other people to build it. Thanks.

  • 49.
  • At 03:46 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

@ Mark Mardell, could you change the title of this blog post?

Like Miliband, I am passionately pro-Europe as well. Unlike Miliband, I believe that if one is pro-Europe, one has to be anti-EU. Why? Because the EU is bad for Europe.

  • 50.
  • At 03:50 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

Mikael (45), can we (Netherlands) leave too? Thanks!

And what is this integration process 'desired' by the continental countries?

As far as I know, there is hardly a majority anywhere for this 'ever further integration'.

So why are you arrogantly presuming we 'continentals' all want this undemocratis supergovernment?

  • 51.
  • At 05:42 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

I find it amusing that those most vocal in support of the 'European Project' and confident of the righteousness of their cause seem to be the most reluctant to put it to the popular vote.

Arguments against a referendum are many and varied (unconstitutional, not the 'British way', people will answer the wrong question, etc.) but usually ammount to the same thing: a total lack of confidence in people's ability to think and act in an independent and rational manner.

What are you afraid of?

Sigh. This debate is always guaranteed to depress anyone in the UK with a mind.

All I ask is this: if we have a referrendum, can the question be "Accept the treaty or leave the EU"?

I am fervently pro-Europe, but it irritates me so much to watch the UK attempt to derail the whole European integration project at every turn. Either we're in or we're out. If the rest of Europe wants to integrate to become a huge world player then let it- if the UK is too stupid to want to be a part of it then let it rot on the outside.

  • 53.
  • At 08:41 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • John wrote:

The idea that people on the Continent want to create a political union but are being held by the UK is baseless. The French & Dutch rejected this Constitution in 2005 and a poll of 17500 people in 27 countries in March this year showed that 16 of those countries would vote down any new treaty that transfers more powers to Brussels. Those 16 are the Netherlands, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Malta, Romania, Austria, the UK, Slovakia, Sweden & Latvia.

See page 4 of

It seems there are some people posting here from these same countries that are more concerned to see a denial of democracy in the UK than to fight the one being performed in their own countries. A slow coup against democracy is being executed across Europe and all the peoples of Europe should be rising up to reject it.

“Il fallait une révolution pour ramener les hommes au sens commun” J-J Rousseau

  • 54.
  • At 09:41 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • G.Edwards wrote:

I am really enjoying reading these comments. I feel that this is a discussion is something that is not encouraged in the UK nor mainland Europe and I doubt that it will be anytime soon.

I would point out that a referendum in the UK is not binding - so a government can ignore the result of a referendum albeit with the sure knowledge of losing the next election.

Secondly the doctrine of implied repeal in English constituional law could be the basis for removing us from the European treaties - an argument that is ongoing today.

However I feel that the real problem here is the lack of information given to the public about the EU. Yes - we can look things up and read or study it but when was the last time that a MP regardless of nationality or member state actually explained anything to do with the EU?

As the EU is a clumsy complex compromise between 27 member states the decision making process has been jealously guarded by the political elite of Europe - who consider the whole thing to be too complicated for the public to understand. As a result there is no real discussion about the EU.

The vast majority of the public are left to read stuff in the papers which on the continent is largely pro-european and in the UK largely anti.

The other problem is that all governments in the EU with very few exceptions have used the EU as a scapegoat when it suited them and then sign up to new policies/treaties/agreements at the first opportunity - such tactics bewilder and confuse the public as well as angering many.

The EU member states really have to make a concerted effort to have an open frank discussion about the EU its direction and its objectives. The EU must be more democratic but the responsibility resides with the member states and national governments talking openly and clearly with the public.

  • 55.
  • At 10:21 PM on 27 Jul 2007,
  • willynonowt wrote:

I would like to be imformed about the benefits Britain as GAINED from membership of the union.
I seems to me ,I may be wrong, that we always come off worse in all negotiations regarding trade.The first was fishing,where are the fish now.then it was fuel supplies ,the petroleum industry.steel. manufacturing.we now produce nothing in this once great nation of ours ,I notice that the above situation seems not to have altered the French,German. industries .WHY IS THIS.
We also seem to be Picked on, to pick up the TAB when more money is needed for other nations,is it because our politician's are weak. I remember voting for the common market,not an Eu state.I would also like to be able to read this so called treaty ,in plain ENGLISH ,but we will not be allowed as our politicians ,would not allow it, thats democracy you see.
The Laws that are being imposed on us,also stop ours from working as they was ment to,once again by being signed over by some politition,who disapears ,but as is name in the BOOK.
I personaly think we brits are mugs,no wonder the Scots,Irish,Welsh,want to leave the UNION,and join the EU ,under there terms thus gaining more cash for there people.
Who will pay,I'll give you one guess.
So will someone tell me what I get out of this treaty.
By the way I would like to nominate Berty the Irish Tesoich to be prime minster of England.Now theres a politician.
I will vote no in a referendom.OUR MEPS will then have to work harder for US,ie the ENGLISH

  • 56.
  • At 03:08 AM on 28 Jul 2007,
  • zzz wrote:

Chris, you misunderstand. It says nothing about who has the power to do what. It just says what all members must provide to their inhabitants.

  • 57.
  • At 04:09 AM on 28 Jul 2007,
  • Shirley Jackson wrote:

Bravo, Jukka Rohila! I agree with you. I'm Polish. The Brits should hold a referendum asking the question: "Do you want the United Kingdom to join the European Union? (Yes or No)"

Fear not, we Europeans will expel Britain one day, the day we form the European Defence Force with the Russians and expel the Americans and Canadians from Europe.

* 25.
* At 04:57 PM on 26 Jul 2007,
* Sebastian wrote:

"The funny thing is that the argument here is not at all about the contents of the treaty but about whether or not to have a referendum."

So it seems that the really important and interesting question is: Will Mr. Milliband be able to bring intelligent debate to British politics -or will the triumph of fluff over substance continue?

I'm also curious if the members of the Confederation of British Industry also have the recurring nightmare that they are in a country called "Industry"...... Does this organisation have a constitution by the way?

Surely, the biggest argument against a referendum is the irrational and ill-informed level of debate surrounding the subject. Not even an innocent person would want to be tried by a jury so biased and unreasonable as a trial by British media. Present company excepted -of course.

  • 59.
  • At 08:44 AM on 28 Jul 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

Constitution or no constitution, referendum or no referendum, Labour government or Tory, life for most of us goes on by and large unchanged. The rain would have fallen and the floods would have happened whatever government was in power. The last constitution had a web site, in English, and I read it. Yes I actually read the constitution. How many who are so against it have read it first hand and how many will not read it on principal because, well it's foreign, can't be good can it. By and large peoples information on Europe or any subject is via the media and the media is interested only in good headline grabbing stories. The truth is often inconvenient. Before you believe anything you read consider the business and political interests of the proprietor, then of the editor and the bias of the journalist, not forgetting pandering to the known predudices of the readers. Tell them a mix of what the newspaper wants them to know and what they want to believe. I believe that if a referendum was held most people would base their vote on newspaper headlines and would never have read a single word of the original document. But, life will go on referendum or no, constitution or no

  • 60.
  • At 12:39 AM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • DaveH wrote:

It is good to see all the usual hysteria and nonsense about the EU coming from the "sceptics" - come on, Cllr Greenall and the rest of you, you really want to leave the EU, don't you? (At least Liberty admits this). The Tory party has never held any referendum on Europe, despite the key changes in the treaties of Maastricht and Nice. Now, "Dave" says he is not going back to the old Tory agenda and what do you know, William Hague, (yes, he of the euro/save the pound hysteria in 2001) is demanding a referendum - yes, backed by 70% or so, yet all of them will admit that they do not even know what the subject matter is all about! It would be a campaign fuelled by tabloid hate feeding on ignornace - and when the EU-haters had won, they would have nothing to offer UK in terms of direction after withdrawal.

However, these "Eurosceptics" still want the benefits - free trade, easier travel, easier commerce, free movement of workers, even buying property in these countries, which are happily in the EU! We cannot pick and choose - not least as these issues must be decided, rules amde and administered at some supranational level in the first place. Being part of the EU also expands our own influence overseas (eg: in the Middle East quartet) and in dealing with the big boys, old and new.

Mikael is right and it seemes to be a sentiment shared by European contributors - if we keep saying "No", we will just get left behind and Cllr Greenall and his colleagues then think we can be "big" on the world stage. Think that the EU wastes money? Now they claim to have been misled by the WMD claims, but the Tories voted for the Iraq war simply out of pro-US/anti-EU sentiment. Total cost now: £5bn and rising. They hate the euro, but would prefer some link with the North American peso as it drowns in debt.

Rather than questioning Mr. Milliband's motives, perhaps we should enquire more about Mr. Hague's?

  • 61.
  • At 09:32 AM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • Patrick wrote:

In reply to A. Connor (09:10 AM, post 42).

"The last referendum held in this country was about a Common Market (EEC), that is the only thing on which the UK people have had a say."

- Fact: there is no constitutional right to a referendum. The way it works is like this- the ratification of international Treaties is a "royal prerogative" (i.e. rests with the Queen) and is delegated to Ministers.

"At no point have any of our (UK) Political leaders actually told us how our common law will interact with EU law and which takes precedent"

- Fact: Community law takes precedent, but we have the "nuclear option" of withdrawal. Why should politicians explain how the common law interacts?

"Common Law gives us right to trial by jury, habeas corpus, not to be fined or suffer forfeits or loss of freedom other than a court of law. But which law should we use, one that we have had for years and works, or one that treats us as guilty until we prove our innocence."

- And other countries don't have these basic rights?! In fact, our country has been guilty of eroding away at these basic rights in the name of terrorism. Furthermore, the government has agreed that we won't have the benefit of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, so we will be "rights-poor" by comparison with other countries.

"Our public servants ie. Police can be prosecuted for misdemeanors and offences, we have the right to take them to court if they have acted above the law, our politicians can be taken to court, No one is above the law! Yet the EU Police and their families have immunity from prosecution, how can that sit well on anyones mind?"

- Fact: the UK Police benefited from blanket immunity from legal actions until a Strasbourg judgment (Osman v UK, go and read it). Yes we have anti-corruption laws, but they are rarely used. Do other countries have similar legislation? Of course! The "EU Police" (whoever they are) are subject to the same laws as everyone else.

"we don't like petty restrictive rules that are being foisted upon us, Cigarette ban, now EU wide, yet go in any spanish bar and see how many people are smoking!"

- Fact: the smoking ban is a UK initiative which has nothing to do with the EU. It's up to other countries how they deal with the problem. The "petty rules" are intended to facilitate trade and relations between countries. EU legislation has modernised vast areas of our law: employment, environment, intellectual property and health & safety.

"we see the EU as wasteful, as crooked as being ruled by the french and germans, so all these things add up to fears about whether we wish to be in the EU."

- Fact: we have the same number of votes in the Council (the decision-making body of the EU) as France and Germany. Wasteful? 80% of the EU budget is spent by member states - 80% invested back into the member states. It's up to Britain to work this in its favour, as Ireland has done. Crooked? Why - it has less employees than Birmingham City Council and it's relatively small internal budget is heavily monitored.

  • 62.
  • At 12:04 PM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • Mike Dixon wrote:

I get the strong impression the the core E.C. countries have more or less had enough and have given up on the British and their: 'Everbody is out of step but us'. I believe most will press on anyway with or without Britain. The Euro has prospered without U.K. involvment and so can everything else that Britain has opted out of.

  • 63.
  • At 05:17 PM on 29 Jul 2007,
  • jason hunt wrote:

Firstly I am not a European, I am British. To be called a European citizen is rather highly offensive. Secondly what exactly has the 'EU' given the UK, except for out of control immigration, mad Euro laws that no one wants, attacks on our heritage and a rather dull one size fits all mentality. The sooner our 'EU' cousins realise that to the majority of people here in the UK the EU is of no consequence and find it rather offensive that they are trying to assimilate us like the BORG. The EU needs the UK for trade, and visa versa. Lets keep it like that please, and keep the dream of a United States of Europe where it belongs, in Europe! Perhaps letting the Europeans forge ahead is a good thing. It will make the whole house of cards come down even quicker. 'GEEN VEREENIGDE STAATEN VAN EUROPA! Yes even us small minded Brits can speak the languages of 'foreigners'. Chin Chin.

  • 64.
  • At 09:18 AM on 30 Jul 2007,
  • Robert Hutchins wrote:

It is perfectly reasonable for British people to be for or against the renamed Constitution, or, indeed, for or against Britain remaining in the EU.. What is not reasonable and is, in fact, dishonest, is to hide the truth from them as to where the EC is going.
15 years ago the talk was of subsidiarity - that only those things best done there would be done at European level. Now, subsidiarity has disappeared and it is tacitly accepted that Brussels can interfere in everything. At the time of the referendum, people were told that it was only about trade, even though Mr Heath subsequently insisted that everyone knew where the EU was going. They did not and had they been told they would have voted "No". People have been conned - every step of the way has been presented as small, just a tidying up, routine, doesn´t really change anything. At stake is the future of the UK as a free and independent country and the matter should be debated freely and, above all, honestly. Many people in other EU countries have said the same sort of thing to me over the years.

  • 65.
  • At 11:25 AM on 30 Jul 2007,
  • Edward wrote:

It seems to me that Britain’s EU policy can be summarised in the following seven points.


- does not want to leave the EU. According to UK surveys, only between 15% and 20% of Britons want to leave the EU.

- wants the EU to focus on the so-called “four freedoms” (freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and labour) and on the neo-liberal economic and social policies considered necessary for their implementation: liberalisation of public services, labour market flexibility, etc. Britain is one of the EU member states that most scrupulously apply those four freedoms.

- does not favour other forms of EU economic and social integration and would therefore prefer to remain outside the Eurozone and not be bound by an EU charter on human rights.

- does not favour further EU foreign policy integration, except within the framework of what it sees as the two pillars of its own foreign policy: its bilateral relations with the United States and a trilateral relationship with France and Germany.

- does not favour further political integration of the EU in terms of increasing the role of the European parliament and other democratic reform, as that could lead to more economic, social and foreign policy integration; for example, through EP legislative initiatives.

- does favour EU enlargement, including to Turkey, as that will extend the “four freedoms” to more countries, while hindering further economic, social and political integration within the EU.

- realises that other EU members will not accept much enlargement, and indeed that the EU cannot function, without some reform of EU institutions. Is therefore willing to accept a reform treaty, but one that is as minimal and has as many UK opt-outs as possible.

To conclude, the UK will in the foreseeable neither leave the EU nor accept much more EU integration. Other EU members, especially those in the Eurozone, will therefore have to decide whether they wish to press on without the UK and possibly some other EU members. A few may opt for further integration, at which point the question of an EU+ constitution, provisional constitution or “basic law” will again arise.

  • 66.
  • At 08:36 PM on 30 Jul 2007,
  • George J. Georganas wrote:

How about this paradox ?
Politicians in the rest of undemocratic EU Member States are telling the world the truth about the new EU Treaty, while the elected government of the UK, the only true democracy East of the Atlantic Ocean, is a bunch of liars that cannot be made to keep a simple election promise to its own people. Those in the UK who care so passionately about the truth should presumably be in favour of closer integration in the EU, as a means of tempering the liars in London by bringing in those honest fellows from across the English Channel.
Seriously now, if the UK government were to introduce simultaneously two questions in a future referendum on the new treaty and one on leaving the EU altogether, I suppose it would be judged to have kept to its election promise fully and doubly so. I wonder whether such tactics would split the anti-treaty block. I have no doubt the tabloids will be for leaving altogether. But there is a chance that the terms of the argument will be changed.
I am, also, sure that if the French and Germans were to state their preference, they would like the UK to vote itself out of the EU. They reckon that the US will have to get closer to them, since their trusted UK will no longer have a seat in EU councils.

  • 67.
  • At 10:50 AM on 31 Jul 2007,
  • Jouni wrote:

"the peace in Europe has not been maintained by the EU, but by NATO"

Nato has nothing to do with it, councillor. In any case, it doesn't stop hostilities between its members, otherwise Cyprus wouldn't have been invaded - twice!

Besides, several EU countries are not in Nato, and feel quite safe outside it. And we don't have to put up with foreign military bases, imagine that.

  • 68.
  • At 11:04 AM on 31 Jul 2007,
  • John Cazaly wrote:

How to vote: I am a pro european and do not understand these little islanders. The Tories are against a united europe so no votes there, the Labour Party doesn't know what it wants, Brown wants the power of a go it alone but the help of europe to get there and the Liberals, well if they got a dynamic leader they would have my vote and stayed pro europe.

  • 69.
  • At 11:28 AM on 31 Jul 2007,
  • michael brimacombe wrote:

Who does Oliver Lewis ( read 36 )think he is. Because we do not want Europe we are losers. If we are a small bunch of people why are we having this discussion ? Put the whole thing to rest and ask the people what they want. Then we can talk about something else.
The losers are people like Mr Lewis who are afraid of the thought of being on there own.You are never on your own if you have the right principles.

  • 70.
  • At 06:11 PM on 31 Jul 2007,
  • Jon Kingsbury wrote:


  • 71.
  • At 02:08 AM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • jacqui wrote:

a Promise is a promise. The original Cabinet's mandate as laid down by the original leader. Promised a referrendum. Party tricks by the new so called [unelected by the people]leader should not be allowed to go ahead. Labour party members must know that it will not go un-noticed by people who bother to vote, that there leaders deem it nesessary to ignore previous promises. Undignified to say the very least.

  • 72.
  • At 04:52 PM on 01 Aug 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

#47 Assaf.

The fact that the UK is geographically part of Europe has no relevance to our membership of the EU. For example Russia and Greenland together comprise two thirds of the geographical land area of Europe, and are not members.

If you mean Europe as a cultural or polictical identity, then in my view the differences between countries are far too wide for this to be a meaningful concept. If the UK is "European" culturally and politically, then so are Australia and Canada.

The EU is a statist, centralist concept that sits well with German and French culture and history, but not ours.

  • 73.
  • At 08:42 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Martin Porter wrote:

A country which does not hold a referendum on the European treaty has forfeited any democratic credentials it might have had. The sooner several countries reject the treaty the better. These so called titying up exercises represent a great increase in the ideal of Europe as a sovereign state. It is not, merely a set of nations having divergent interests, different languages trying to create the impossible by regularly signing treaties. The Iraq war showed the real state of european unity.

  • 74.
  • At 09:06 AM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Paul Lewis wrote:

If the Government didnt think the Constitution was a constitution in the 1st place why did they have a manifesto commitment to a referendum for it?

And why did ex-High representative - sorry - Foreign Sec promise to 'campaign vigorously' in favour?

  • 75.
  • At 04:25 PM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • JillP wrote:

This topic is a candidate for your first post-holiday blog: much too important to leave languishing in the summer pages. Please repeat with the key points.

  • 76.
  • At 07:19 PM on 02 Aug 2007,
  • Marcel wrote:

@patrick (61):

you are repeating the same old same old lie about the EU having less employees than Birmingham City Council. As with all EUphiles, you completely ignore the fact that hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats directly working in the memberstates are doing nothing but implementing EU regulations and directives.

Such is the deviousness and trickery of the EU that it has covertly usurped much of the competences of national governments and parliaments and national institutions.

Many national bureaucrats should in reality be counted as EU employees. The real number therefore exceeds a million easily. And likely several million at that.

What ticks me off the most, is that the EUphiles think that abolishing national democracy is something good. Arrogant elitists they be.

I repeat: I do NOT want a supranational supergovernment and neither does the MAJORITY in the EU. And furthermore: EU and Europe are not synonyms.

  • 77.
  • At 09:44 AM on 03 Aug 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

I'm British AND European. They're one in the same. That's just the way it is. Our country needs to wake up and stop dreaming about this useless, one-sided 'special relationship' with America. Little Britain can't last by itself when the economies of India, China and Brazil become hugely important. Everything the EU is doing now is to prepare the small countries of Europe for the future

  • 78.
  • At 02:12 PM on 03 Aug 2007,
  • John wrote:

The foreign secretary described the US as our most important bilateral partnership. He has left himself some wiggle room because the UK-EU relationship is a multilateral one, but the importance of the US relative to the EU26 increases every day. In the 1890s Bismarck remarked that the most important fact for the 20th century would be that America and England speak the same language. The US population has grown steadily since then to 125 million in 1945 to 300 million today and it will rise to 400 million by 2050 and 500 million by 2100. Population projections for all the Continental countries show population decline during the 21st century such that the population of the six main English speaking countries will be twice that of Continental Europe by 2100. The US GDP/person is pulling ahead of Europe and globalisation makes choices based on geographic proximity ever less relevant. If the primacy of the UK-US link was the right policy in the 20th century it is going to be an even better policy in the 21st century.

It would be an act of supreme folly for the UK to ape the EU-centric foreign policy of Continental countries that simply have fewer options than are available to us.

  • 79.
  • At 03:41 PM on 03 Aug 2007,
  • BenM wrote:

The sheer desperation of eurosceptics on this blog is eye-popping. They cannot articulate exactly what it is about the reform treaty they are against. They're just against it because they've been spoon fed anti-EU hysteria for so long they find it easiest to regurgitate.

Thankfully no government in the UK has ever won power on the back of an uncompromisingly eurosceptic ticket. And I doubt any ever will. The British are a pragmatic lot, and although they remain to be persuaded about much of the EU's direction, they can see Britain's membership as being beneficial, on the whole.

It is the eurosceptics who are out-on-a-limb, at complete loggerheads with the voters. That is why we see this increasing desperation in them.

European contributors to this blog can see the level of ignorance we are up against in the UK. I don't for one second believe the British people like being misled by daily anti-EU diatribes. The overreach of eurosceptics will be their undoing.

The Reform Treaty is good for the EU, therefore it is good for Britain.

  • 80.
  • At 01:05 PM on 04 Aug 2007,
  • Nick wrote:

I definitely agree with Josh in a previous post. Britain needs to start becoming a principal leader in the EU instead of languishing in the back waters. We will a much stronger nation that way!
Also, us citizens of the UK need to have better exposure to the benefits that working together with Europe has to offer and be more pro-active in our involvement. There is also a lot of culture out there for us to appreciate.

  • 81.
  • At 10:01 PM on 04 Aug 2007,
  • albert sanjuan wrote:

The current situation within the EU is ridiculous. There are 26 countries that want to become a strong and united political power, but they are pretending it is not that in order to keep UK inside.

Dear British, the rest of Europe want more, so do something: wether join us or leave us, but do not try to brake us. Thank you.

  • 82.
  • At 12:52 PM on 05 Aug 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

I fail to see what benefits Britain gets from being a memeber of the EU it could not equally obtain with bi-lateral trade agreements. On the other hand, it suffers many drawbacks. It contributes more money than it gets and has very little say over where and how that money is spent. It's borders have all but disappeared as vast influxes of foreigners in a very short time are overwhelming it. It woke up one day expecting 25,000 Polish emigrees and found instead 650,000. This taxes its infrastucture and makes city planning hopeless as nobody can predict what capriciousness of personal decisions by any of the hundreds of millions of EU citizens and others legally and illegally in the EU will bring in the future. It has lost control over much of its sovereignty being forced to opt out if possible from laws and rules made by faceless bureaucrats and unaccountable legislators in Brussels rather than by affirmative legislation by its own citizens representing their own constituencies and subject to being voted out of office if their actions are unsatisfactory to them and their decisions reversible. It has allowed the EU to morph from a trade organization to a supranational government and a nascent superstate without any referendum in which its own citizens would be allowed to express their views on what is in Britain's best interest in this most crucial issue, and denying and refusing this have in large measure repealed Britain's democracy. All that remains is for Britain to adopt the Euro and all measure of control it can exclusively exercise over its own affairs will be gone. Yet neither the three main political parties nor the electorate have made a vocal issue of this by challenging the government's complicity and passiveness, even eagerness at times to merge Britain blindly into this alien entity. Personally as a citizen of a non EU nation, I am neither pro nor anti EU and have no views on whether this is right or not for Britain but it seems odd to me that given the importance and consequences one way or the other, there has been so little public debate and so little demand for a plebicite even if it's just to take a measure of the nation's views.

Mark, thanks for a thought-provoking and highly interesting article, which has obviously generated no shortage of informed (and uninformed) responses. Excellent.

To Cllr. Paul V. Greenall (Con) West Lancashire DC, at 3:37pm:

Firstly I find it highly telling that a (Conservative) elected official should be calling the electorate "niave". There´s a way to get elected. And given the current turnout trends (or lack thereof), it's interesting to note which way the niave pendulum swings...

Secondly, you state that it is inaccurate to note that "we have no consitituional basis for referendum" (David, 1:55pm). You use referenda on local housing, regional assemblies for English regions, and Northern Ireland as examples. While I certainly agree that referenda have taken place on issues substantially less constitutionally important or relevant than the UK´s relationship with the EU, there still remains no constitutional prescription for referenda in the UK. None. At all. (Show me the piece of paper that says we have to have one.) So, in fact, it is indeed accurate to say, as David does, that we have no constitutional basis for a referendum. Where you might have a case is in the area of convention, rather than the explicit constitution, however I believe that there is no conventional or constitutional principle that links all these referenda other than political pragmatism, and so there is no requirement for one on the EU treaty.

Thirdly and finally, isn´t your belief in Abraham´s Lincoln´s ´democracy´ also somewhat niave? Do you think that such a system could ever effectively operate in a major western country of a population such as ours? Indeed, do you think such a system operates effectively in the United States? And ´government of the people, by the people, and for the people´- what, precisely, does that mean? Referenda on every major issue? Politicians simply listening to the people more? It´s certainly nice to see our Conservative elected local officials setting the trend and leading by example. But then, what did we really expect...?

Finally, if you were Miliband (or at least were in his position), would you have ´the balls´? (it´s also nice to see our (Conservative) elected officials not using gender slurs in their language)...

  • 84.
  • At 01:10 PM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • Andrea wrote:

The treaty is going to be good for the EU and therefore in the long run for the UK as well.
If the british majority want a referendum, then maybe it would be good to hold one (although sometimes it is not smart to leave decisions to the "people", specially when the media have such an influence on them); but are you sure you want to risk it's result?
Not accepting the treaty would slowly throw you out of the "leading" countries (if not from the EU entirely) and limit your influence by much.
In Europe we need to understand that we will manage to act as main characters on the world stage only if we stick together; I would hate to see Britain out of it (could you at least leave us the scots?) but if you want to be isolated and small again, please let us go our own way.

  • 85.
  • At 02:21 PM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • towcestarian wrote:

Albert Sanjuan wrote:
"Dear British (sic) the rest of us want more so do something: whether join us or leave us, but do not try to break us."

My dear Albert. We British would desperately love to leave you to your European Project, but our government won't let us leave and none of our major parties are offering us the choice at a General Election. Perhaps, Albert, you could have a word with Mr Brown and explain to him that the other Europeans don't want us Brits in the club and that he should give us a vote on leaving. I for one would be overjoyed to see the back of Project Europe and its creeping destruction of our successful Anglo-Saxon free-market economy.

  • 86.
  • At 04:58 PM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • Tony Southampton wrote:

An intersting discussion.

For me the key point is democracy - the government promised a referendum on the Constitution (or Treaty as it is now known) and it should not renege on that promise.

If the Treaty is good for us (the British people) then with a full, open and honest debate the British public are politically mature enough to weigh and consider the arguments and arrive at a democratic outcome one way or the other.

However, my feeling is that because those arguments may not hold up to scrutiny political duplicity is at play.

If the "Treaty" is as good for us as we are being told Europhiles should have no fear; but for the sake of democracy they should at least have the decency to come out and demonstrate that this is the case and then let the people decide!

  • 87.
  • At 06:05 PM on 06 Aug 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

BenM writes: BenM wrote: "Thankfully no government in the UK has ever won power on the back of an uncompromisingly eurosceptic ticket". True, but disingenuous, as one could equally claim that 'no government in the UK has ever won power on the back of an uncompromisingly europhile ticket'.

The subject of Britains place in the EU has never been at the top of Britain's electoral concerns. War(s), taxes, health, transport, etc. all claim higher priority come a general election. It is precisely for this reason that such fundamental and constitutional matters such as the ceding of [additional] sovereignty need a popular mandate via referendum. (Unless, of course, you believe this subject beyond the comprehension of the man/woman in the Clapham omnibus).

  • 88.
  • At 12:10 PM on 07 Aug 2007,
  • Tony wrote:

The attempts to finesse the argument and question either the merits or "constitutional basis" for a referendum miss the point a little. All that's required is a cursory reference to the Labour Manifesto of 2005 in which such a referendum was promised: "It is a good treaty for Britain and for the new Europe. We will put it to the British people in a referendum and campaign whole-heartedly for a ‘Yes’ vote to keep Britain a leading nation in Europe."

The Labour hierarchy obviously concluded that such a "tidying-up exercise" warranted a popular vote, as did the Tories and the Lib Dems; that commitment should now be honoured. Indeed, for a PM that champions the "renewal of democracy" and runs on a ticket of transparency and openness, reneged on such a promise blows a hole through all that bluster.

As for the government's position, it seems once again quite amorphous. This treaty was, in its first guise, incessantly described as nothing more than a "tidying-up exercise", only for this later to develop into something that would "have fundamentally changed the relationship between the EU and the UK" in the words of former Europe Minister, Geoff Hoon (writing in the Guardian, June '07).

Now, it's back to the old redlines being protected. The UK opt-out regarding the Charter of Fundamental Rights is already subject to a morass of differing legal opinion; the EU Foreign Minister/CFSP has undergone a little cosmetic surgery: “As long as we have more or less a European Prime Minister and a European Foreign Minister, then we can give them any title” in the words of Romano Prodi; The tax and social security policy redline has emerged as a red-herring. The only one that seems watertight is an opt-out over Justice and Policing, but with a voluntary opt-in if the UK should so wish.

The UK Europe Minister, Jim Murphy, also seems to be engaging in this clever sleight of hand by claiming the "constitutional concept has been abandoned" in a petty attempt to obfuscate the matter with semantics. Quite a departure given the PM recently made a Freudian slip and admitted in a press conference with Bertie Ahern: "We have discussed the European constitution and how that can move forward over the next few months".

Isn't it time to come clean and show the same candour as the rest of Europe? Any referendum might finally give an undertaking to engage in a rigorous, informed debate on this matter for once, and lance any boil.

  • 89.
  • At 01:04 PM on 07 Aug 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

I would just like to point out to everyone who's accusing the UK of derailing the EU integration project that the countries with the most EU high court cases against them for non compliance are Italy and France, meaning that while they agree at the treaty table they then ignore their agreements. Surely this is doing more to hurt the EU's integration efforts then the UK having opt-outs which legally give us the choice on compliance.

The real problem to integration though is a mixture of law bases, the UK being based on the common law, whereas much of Europe (and the EU itself) is based on an explicit code law basis. This leads to differing ideas and approaches to law making, for example the EU directive which has led to a vast amount of paperwork being devoted to attempted standardisation of foodstuffs (notably sausage and cherry liquor), whereas a far simpler approach would be an "if its a sausage in one country, its a sausage everywhere" idealogy.

My final though though is this: Parliments power in the UK is supreme. Anything can be done through an act of parliment, so it would actually be a fairly simple process to leave the EU. It needs to be remembered, we loan the EU power, but we can take it away again with an act of parliment.

  • 90.
  • At 02:07 AM on 08 Aug 2007,
  • Keith Hamilton wrote:

Typical Brussels socialist-communist fashion- shove the sudo-constitution/referendum down the peoples throat by not "listening to the people" and let the government decide through a referendum, that is “intellectually dishonest”. Brussels needs this referendum to impose their international and domestic tax system. The true socialist countries inside the EU is broken and thus require a new Europe.

Call it what it is- another way to wall in Europe, impose international taxes with new taxation programs such as "Global Warming" and restrict peopled freedoms. Or as the European Socialists see it:
• Forging a “more effective European Union to help build prosperity and security within European borders and beyond"

When will Europe-less England learn that a free market economy that is governed by the people, for the people works and that cutting the EU government at least in HALF would be a successful start..

... or go the other way which will eventually lead to greater social unrest and even, god forbid, an international conflict or war. Europe has not created a world war in a long time, maybe you start with your Euro currency and then EU walled in socialism, international taxation to fund socialism/communism directives,world wide collapse and then EUWW3.

The best approach would be to have England, Italy, Ireland, Scotland, etc go to the US Dollar currency to stop the Eurocrat destruction that is underway in Europe. We would want favorable terms though such as limiting their communist political party representation.

  • 91.
  • At 05:35 PM on 08 Aug 2007,
  • vincenz wrote:

And where are the hands and wallets of the international corporations in all this? Many red herrings thrown about while they, as always, work behind the curtain. They will always seek the arrangements under which they prosper best - democratic or not. China knows this well.

  • 92.
  • At 12:55 PM on 09 Aug 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Ben Mills #83
Can government of the people, by the people and for the people exist in the US and what precisely does it mean? It's a question a lot of Americans have worried about for a long time including many who are expert in government and come from many areas whether academe, the legal profession, civic groups, and just plain ordinary folks. In recent decades, concern over the rise in the ability of those such as large corporations and wealthy individuals to "buy" the government they want has been a prominent concern. I've heard it all my life. The government is run by "the church", "insurance companies", "labor unions", "big business", "the banks", "the oil companies", "the tobacco companies", "the right wing conservatives", "the left wing liberals", "the military." Everyone has a devil to blame. Well there are many strong signs that government of the people, by the people, and for the people is still very much alive and well in the US. In what for most Americans was a smashing victory, 70% or more if the polls are right, a strange coalition of liberals, conservatives, and the President who wanted a very forgiving immigration law for illegal aliens and pushed hard for it in Congress was crushed, devastated by enough Congressmen fearful of losing the next election to reject anything that even smelled of amnesty for the illegals. Congress just passed a bill which would severly restrict the actions of Washington lobbyists, long overdue. Much to the dismay of many attorneys, judges, professor of law, clergymen, extreme liberals, and even those in government, a legal death penalty for heinous crimes is the overwhelming choice of Americans and is the law in 38 states, the Federal government, and the military. So is legal abortion, still under attack but still legal. And it might be remembered to the chagrin of those who changed their minds and now wished they'd voted the other way that Congress gave overwhelming support in concurrence with the wishes of the majority of Americans to the invasion of Iraq. Hillary Clinton can dance around it all she likes but that is a fact of her past voting record which will not go away.

Those who come to live in the US or even pay more than a superficial visit may be surprised just how easy it is to become involved in politics, especially local politics. It's always easy to blame the opposition when they win, ascribing it to fraud or a sellout to special interests. As for voter fraud, corruption, and other irregularities which mar the system not to mention vicious campaigns smearing one's opponents, that has always been with us from the beginning of America's history and always will be no matter how many times pundits say things are now worse than ever. Politics is a very dirty game most people love to watch and many love to get into so that they can join the melee and sling their own mud.

  • 93.
  • At 10:04 PM on 09 Aug 2007,
  • Steve Peers wrote:

On the Statewatch website there are a series of analyses of the draft Reform Treaty -- showing exactly how it would amend each provision of the current treaties, with annotations as to the meaning of each change and comparisons between the Reform Treaty and the Constitutional Treaty:

  • 94.
  • At 11:21 AM on 14 Aug 2007,
  • Roger Hayes wrote:

A lot of your European contributors seem a little confused as to why we Brits have so much problem with the EU with some showing open hostility at our reluctance to accept the concept of 'ever-closer union.' Let me explain:
We have never been consulted about the creation of this monolithic bureaucracy to rule over us... we were once asked (in 1975) if we wanted to remain in a so-called common market having not been asked if we wanted to join in the first place and we were then told we were joining a free-trade area and that there was absolutely no threat to our sovereignty. We were lied to. The EU has been built on a foundation of lies and deceit and therein lies the core of the problem... we resent the fact that our laws and the regulations that govern virtually every aspect of our lives are being dictated by institutions that take pride in having made lying & deceit such a success story. There isn't anything about the EU that I and many other respectable Brits find admirable and worthy of our patronage. If other Europeans want to snuggle up to this type of governance don't mind us... GO FOR IT but do not blame the Brits who have the good sense to see the writing on the wall. And so to your contributor number 14, Jukka Rohila who asks why we don't just leave, I would answer WE'RE TRYING... but we are still being denied that opportunity.

Mark - in the US the government of, by and for the people DOES exist since 1783. This is because the US constitution limits the powers of ALL 3 branches of the federal government. Most prerogatives are reserved to the states, or to the people.

The EU constitution, AKA the Reform Treaty, is different: it creates a sham, powerless parliament and awards absolute power to an unelected executive. It also says that if the EU forgot to add itself any powers, it can award those itself if it wants to. No referendums.

The EU needs to be radically changed if it is to exist. What is now currently proposed, i.e. the AT and zero referendums, will only serve to further distance voters from those who govern them. Currently, in every EU member country there is a majority of not less than 65% (83% in Britain) which wants a referendum on any new EU treaty.

As for Richard Corbett - that's the typical tactic of Europhiles - an ad hominem attack.

  • 96.
  • At 09:21 PM on 19 Aug 2007,
  • smellystick wrote:

26 Jul 2007, Louisa wrote:
"I really do think most Eurosceptics lack a real grasp of history. Half of the twentieth century was ruined by European conflict"

I studied too much of the Nazis at school just a couple of years ago to accept the Eurosceptic line. We are not in a playground, this isn't a practice run for real life. We need to get on with making this world better for people.

I suggest that a few lessons on nazism at school has taught you nothing about europe or the intentions and deceptions of its elite, I doubt you even know what the line/lines are that are drawn by Eurosceptics [label]
Some of us have been in your playground for quite some years for the reasons you claim to know to much about.

  • 97.
  • At 09:13 AM on 20 Aug 2007,
  • Jean-Pierre Le Rouzic wrote:


I don't intend to beeing rude but it seems to me that EU is a convenient scapegoat for brits.
If things are so scarry here, why are you fleeing England to the continental sunny places after retiring :-)

Perhaps it's also a question of open mind: I am working with a lot of EU persons: Germans, Finns, Hugarians, Italians, Spanish. Nearly all the time it's easy to work together.

But my colleagues who work on a daily basis with Brits say that it's always more difficult than with other Europeans, Brits are unfriendly, change their minds very often. I have another kind of experience with Brits through the education system, and I perceived Brits again as unfriendly.

As a French I sadly should say that in the European mind, French and Brits are both often viewed as narrow minds that don't want to open to other cultures and think they know better. Norwegians sometimes share this bad reputation with Brits and French.

So in conclusion, EU is equally an opportunity to UK and a threat, as is every change. But be against any change is not the better way to tackle with it. UK should start to do what other countries have done in higher education: Open itself to other cultures.

BTW I am a fan of BBC!


  • 98.
  • At 02:01 PM on 20 Aug 2007,
  • Marek Jarzembowski wrote:

I am of Polish origin and proud to be so. I am also very proud of having been born and bred in Britain. The UK has much to offer Europe and the world and it is time that Britannia took her rightful place as a European leader, not an outsider.
I was a natural Tory supporter, but find myself unable to vote Tory, almost purely because of the cockamamie attitude the Conservatives have towards Europe. Euroscepticism has made the Tories all but unelectable and again it is rearing its ugly head.
I agree, there are many aspects of "Europe" that need improving. But things won't be changed by an outsider pereceived as being peevish, ill-willed and at times behaving like a spoilt child. Let us integrate and bring the level of European structures UP to the level we desire. This can only be of benefit.
Europhobes, whether in the UK or elsewhere, frequently play on emotions and use scaremongering tactics, because ultimately, their arguments are flawed.
The UK economy has benefited from the influx of young, dynamic and well-educated people from abroad. Their taxes will help fund the pensions of the baby-boomers now coming up to retirement. An open Europe has encouraged cultural exchange and international acceptance and understanding on a personal level that has never before been experienced. Can we really envisage a situation in which the UK and Germany go to war again?
I am Polish, I am British and I am European and I am proud of my roots and heritage.

  • 99.
  • At 06:56 PM on 20 Aug 2007,
  • Joseph wrote:

Having lived in Maastricht for 8 years and after reading the comments left by others, I would like to add my thoughts on this debate.

Firstly, it is not just people from the UK who are Euro-sceptic, many Dutch citizens are also very concerned about enlarging the powers of the EU, and are especially upset that the so called 'reform treaty' is just a new constitution under a different guise.

The merits of being inside a European community far outweigh the benefits of being outside, however, being a member of a single federal state is a receipe for total anarchy, the German and French have far to big a say in how Europe is run, which can clearly be seen in how the Germans seem to be able to ride rough-shod over all other countries bar France.

If the present UK Government really wants to sell the EU to British citizens, I suggest that they allow them a referendum on the EU and listen to what the voters are saying, they may well find that most voters are concerned not about the financial aspect of being a EU member state, but instead about idiotic EU policies on Immigration, Religion and the much abused and discredited Human Rights act.

If the government started addressing these topics, I am sure that the reluctance of many voters would disappear.

To the comments about the UK being difficult and xenephobic, I would suggest that these posters take a good look at their own countries, France and the Netherlands both said no to further power to the EU, Most Eastern European countries do not want Turkey to be a member, the majority of German citizens want the Deutschmark back the list is endless, so don't attack the British for using these sorts of forums to make what are very valid points.

The difference between all these other countries and the UK is that the UK government refuses to allow a vote on the constitution/reform treaty, whilst these other countries have allowed their citizens to vote.

  • 100.
  • At 10:20 PM on 22 Aug 2007,
  • jeremy morrison wrote:

Go Europe more integration my Grandfather and Father fought European Wars with the idea of building a better closer linked europe one of my older relatives fought on D Day and he still feels the same way. A bas les sceptics!

  • 101.
  • At 03:16 PM on 24 Aug 2007,
  • Bennie Gocev wrote:

I salute British people for not being clones and following rest of German and French brainwashed Europe. The new treaty should be scrapped, and all countries in EU must have referendum about it.

Also i want to say that i am a Macedonian, and i do NOT want my country to join the EU. With their constant fights and increasing of EU power over internal issues i think it is a very bad time for more Eastern countries to join, and it will ruin our economy if we do join. We have very high unemployment but this would get worse not better, because of the EU tobacco laws (our biggest industry is in tobacco). This will certainly put off many countries from joining EU despite the benefits - we just gained independence, we dont want to be controlled by France and Germany...

  • 102.
  • At 05:41 PM on 25 Aug 2007,
  • david barron wrote:

I am a retired brit living in Italy and passionate about europe.When I read the news on what is happening now in Britain I think it says a lot for the rest of europe that they want them in the eec .
Britain should make up its mind once and for all..IN or OUT.
It is no longer GREAT Britain or a UNITED kingdom.The sooner that the british government ask the people in a referendum IN or OUT the better.

  • 103.
  • At 02:25 PM on 28 Aug 2007,
  • eva wrote:

I would like to share my thought with you on this debate... Indeed, an innovative and exciting event for European participative democracy is about to take place in Brussels in October.

First, the Reform Treaty is supposedly the solution for retrieving the lost European Union. These institutional reforms may path the future of the European project but won’t be sufficient in scheming a future for the European project. Do we want a European social model? Do we want a powerful Europe? Do we want of a common immigration policy? Where should our borders to stop?

All these questions will need to be solved after the adoption of the treaty. Indeed, questions on further integration and enlargement will eventually need to be tackled again. This time around, the most crucial decisions will have to be made with citizens’ input.

Furthermore, what would ordinary Europeans think, if they all came together in the same room? How would their views on the future of Europe change, after a balanced confrontation of their different visions? These are the questions Tomorrow's Europe (a project of Notre Europe, the European think tank founded by Jacques Delors) the first EU-wide Deliberative Poll®, aims to answer by inviting 400 citizens to deliberate at the European Parliament in October.
More on Tomorrow's Europe:

Why do UK citizens need anything literally "set in stone" at the top or centre (or whichever way round you want to view it) when we already have so much liberty "set in stone" at the bottom (rock/ margin/ gap), thanks to our wonderfully generous (largely unwritten) and therefore flexible British Constitution?

Personally I can't see the point of going to all the expense of a EU Treaty referendum. I also think "head to head" arguments about something and nothing like the EU Treaty are frankly quite boring and I am starting to wonder if we are inventing such mythical conflicts just because "its what we normally do".

  • 105.
  • At 10:32 AM on 29 Aug 2007,
  • Jukka Rohila wrote:

When this thread started, I posted few comments (14 & 38) to this discussion. My message was that Britain has two options with European Union, 1) to either continue integration with others or 2) pull out of the union.

Few commentators have basically said that democracy isn't democracy with out referendums. I disagree. In my home country, that's Finland, we didn't have a referendum on European Constitution and we will not have a referendum on the new Reform Treaty. These both matters are for the Finnish parliament to decide. The reason for this is that our state is republic, also known as representative democracy, where people elect their representatives for a period of time to handle matters of the state and the fate of the nation. The work of representatives is to find out the facts, discuss and make decisions. It's seen better to have representatives to do the decisions as many times the ordinary people just don't have the time, capacity or will to make an educated decision about a matter on hand. And yes, we have had referendums on both ending the prohibition and joining the EU, thought they have only being advice giving preserving the parliament the final say. In these situations the parliament has wanted a formal backing of a nation for their argument to do the decision.

On a note I do understand that other countries have different traditions and trust levels to their government and elected representatives. That however doesn't render a country a non democracy if it doesn't have referendums. Also it should be noted that a referendum doesn't always tell what people really think about the matter. In case of France and Netherlands concerning their referendums on European Constitution, it can be argued that in both countries the negative result was more about citizens messaging their frustration on their government and less about the content of constitution. It's a good question on how many of the voters even knew what constitution meant and what accepting or rejecting constitution would effect on their personal living, their country and the whole Union.

It should also be noted that all EU member states are independent meaning they can make their own decisions and pull out of the Union. For commentators who have said that nobody has asked them about further integration that has happened after joining the EC, this renders their point invalid as they have had the change to vote on elections to have a parliament that would pull out of the Union. In short, they have had their say on the matter via their elected representatives, and their representatives have not elected to pull out of the Union.

There has also been few posts about a possibility on UK being out of the Union. If UK would be out the Union, it wouldn't have bi-lateral trade treaties with other Union countries, it would have a one treaty with the Union same way as the Swiss does. Other option for UK would be to join the club of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein as an member of EEA. EEA however isn't free lunch either as the EEA members have to accept part of the EU legislation with out a say in the matter, also EEA members have to pay fees for the Union. So if UK would be out of the Union, it still wouldn't mean that UK be free from EU legislation or payments.

Some commentators have also said that in todays world it doesn't matter where a country is located and who it has as it's neighbors as it can engage in global economy. That's false thinking. Location is the king still. UK is part of the Europe geographically, it's near France and Germany, it's economy is linked to them very closely. Just go to a local company to look how their manufacturing and service processes are linked to other European countries. You can't ignore location, you can't ignore continental Europe, you can't ignore the advances that belonging to a biggest industrial concentration offers.

I also have to confess that I really can't understand why some commentators are so concerned about giving more power to the Union and having less decisions made in member states. Countries do not exists for their own right, they exist to enable their citizens to fulfill their life's. If delegating power to higher level enables countries to give more to their citizens, then they should do it. Because countries have given power to the EU, we today have in example common markets, freedom to move Europe wide, and in Schengen area without passport, and we have common currency in Eurozone that has enabled more stable currency and economy, these are all good things, they are enabling both individuals and companies, they offer better possibilities to fulfill ones wishes.

On a final note I want to say that European Union is a two way street. You give something and you get something. In Britain it seems that the whole country has locked itself to only counting money going out and money coming in, ignoring all the other things that the Union offers. What Union offers to Britain is a platform to engage developing the European integration, the European Union itself. If Britain would engage to the matters of the Union as much as Germany and France do, it would have a major effect on how the Union works and what it is. It could with the help of other countries pressure the Union to open up and make its bureaucracy more effective and make it more democratic. In short, if you don't like the Union as it is, then engage on developing it, make it more British, make it to be better suited for your needs. As I said, the EU is two way street, you get something if put something in. So maybe it would be greet idea to start out discussing what Britain can put more to the Union to increase what it gets out of it.

  • 106.
  • At 06:34 PM on 30 Aug 2007,
  • Manuela wrote:

@Joseph (99):"..the Germans and French have far too big a say in how Europe is run, which can clearly be seen in how the Germans seem to be able to roughshod over all other countries bar France"

What is it exactly that you have in mind when you say "roughshod"? Would you mind providing a good example? Some commentators here seem to imply that the EU constitution/treaty or whatever you label it is something that is foisted on the British people by a EU that is "dominated" by France or Germany. Is it really? Weren't there a sufficient number of British diplomats that have had a say on its content? Have they been forced to shut up and agree while the Treaty was drafted? I would think that this document represents a compromise, the minimum the representatives of the people in ALL EU Member States could agree on, but maybe I am unbelievably dumb and naive.

  • 107.
  • At 07:05 AM on 31 Aug 2007,
  • stinky wrote:

Louisa wrote:
Max Sceptic writes: "We are being told to accept 'all or nothing'."

Well, I've got to the point of understanding where those who say that come from.
Since the end of the Second World War, Britain has consistently chosen Europe as a second option, consistently interrupted and confused events and treaties, and always - miraculously, I just don't understand how - tried to negotiate opt-out clauses.

I think that another look at history may if looked at properly enlighten you as to the true timeline of events
that have passed since the end of the second world war and any involvement of the uk with "europe"
your words are purely your own opinion and share no relation with fact.

  • 108.
  • At 07:30 AM on 31 Aug 2007,
  • stinky wrote:

jukka wrote
It should also be noted that all EU member states are independent meaning they can make their own decisions and pull out of the Union. For commentators who have said that nobody has asked them about further integration that has happened after joining the EC, this renders their point invalid as they have had the change to vote on elections to have a parliament that would pull out of the Union. In short, they have had their say on the matter via their elected representatives, and their representatives have not elected to pull out of the Union.

Your uninformed comments are just that. 1.In this country the mention of any matter re europe by the uk gov as with the national media up untill very recently has been a TABOO
2.Not everybody here voted for our present representatives.
3.our present representatives did not gain power with the support of or majority of uk citizens.
4.The one single time that the gov gave uk citizens a chance to express their feelings was decades ago at which time the people of the uk were lied to and deceived as to what it was they were actually voting for,as it stands anybody presently under 50 years of age would not in any case of been old enough to vote.

Just more ill or uninformed opinion stated for the sole reason of having a pop at us british, aim well off of the bully [a miss]

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