U-turn on EU Constitution May04


In June 1975, the British people endorsed overwhelmingly the UK's membership of the European Union. Since then, the EU, under numerous new Treaties, has expanded from 9 Member States to 25 nations by next week. Twelve of the existing Member States have adopted the Euro as their common currency and some of the new Members about to join are likely to do the same.


Such a large group of nations forming the European Union is unprecedented in history. No wonder it is difficult to identify a system that is efficient, practical and acceptable to such a diversity of nations. Each Member State, large or small, is eager to retain its national sovereignty and share of the benefits of EU membership. Some members are net payers and others net beneficiaries. This transfer of wealth and human resources within the EU of 15 Member States has raised the living standard of European citizens. Before EU membership, citizens of Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland earned less and experienced difficulty in finding jobs. Since membership, they have witnessed a steady rise in income and prosperity. Their dependency has transformed into demand for goods and services creating markets and prosperity for providers in the larger more prosperous nations


Each of the EU Member States currently has one or two Commissioners and holds the Presidency of the Council of Ministers for six months on a rotational basis. Each expansion of the EU required the introduction of additional languages for translation of proceedings in the European Parliament and its Committees. It required locating new EU institutions in the new Member States. The 25 Member States in an enlarged EU requires a change in the architecture of the EU institutions.


Should we have additional Commissioners to manage the same EU budget? Is rotation of Presidency of Council desirable and practical with 25 Member States for a 5 year parliamentary mandate? Should the EU have a President of Council as well as the President of the Commission? How can we have a voting system that reflects the different populations of Member States as they range from 400,000 in Malta to 90 million in Germany? Should there be a veto so that one Member State can block any major change in the working of the EU?


The Giscard Convention proposed a draft constitution that covers existing EU treaties and suggests essential changes in the architecture of EU institutions. It defines competence for areas of common interest where the EU will require Member States to pool their sovereignty under decisions taken by Qualified Majority Vote (QMV). It identifies areas of policy where the Subsidiarity Principle would allow any Member State to veto or opt out of an EU initiative. It suggests that the EU should have a legal identity, a President and a Foreign Minister, so that the EU may be represented as a block at the UN Security Council and in other world agencies.


Britain has enjoyed the longest period of stable parliamentary democracy in the EU. Since the Union with Scotland about 300 years ago, the United Kingdom has not experienced any internal wars or occupation as a result of World Wars. Most other Member States in the EU have experienced civil wars, military dictatorships and occupation in the World Wars. Britain has achieved peace and stability, based on parliamentary democracy and its monarchy, without a constitution. Other Member States, overthrew their monarchies and had constitutions imposed on them as a consequence of war or civil unrest. Insecure about their own national stability, it is easier for Europeans on the continent to accept an EU constitution. It is neither easy, nor necessary, for us in the UK to accept an EU constitution. We can accept changes based on Treaties between nation states, but not a constitution that will change our system that has worked so well for so long.


Britain and the British people do not need an EU constitution. They need a Europe that offers freedom to work, feel safe and to live without interference from bureaucracy and government.