No referendum needed?
Posted by rantingkraut on June 18, 2007
The BBC tells us that Blair set out four criteria which, in his opinion, would make a referendum on the thinly disguised re-launch of the EU constitution unnecessary:
“First, we will not accept a treaty that allows the charter of fundamental rights to change UK law in any way.
“Second, we will not agree to something that replaces the role of British foreign policy and our foreign minister.
“Thirdly, we will not agree to give up our ability to control our common law and judicial and police system.
“And fourthly, we will not agree to anything that moves to qualified majority voting something that can have a big say in our own tax and benefit system. We must have the right in those circumstances to determine it by unanimity.
He added: “If we achieve those four objectives I defy people to say what it is that is so [sic] supposed to be so fundamental that could [sic] require a referendum.” (source)
1. “First, we will not accept a treaty that allows the charter of fundamental rights to change UK law in any way.” At least this is concrete, although it is worth noting that there could still be far reaching implications for the way law can be interpreted. Indeed, if this was not so, there would be no point in such a charter.
2. “…something that replaces the role of British foreign policy and our foreign minister” would still allow for something that complements Britain’s foreign policy. All that is needed for an eventual replacement is an initial claim that the EU foreign minister complements national foreign policies followed by a gradual widening of EU competences.
3. In a very similar way, not giving up the “ability to control our common law and judicial and police system.” is general enough to leave room for institutions that are complementary at first and don’t interfere enough to amount to a loss of control. Then, gradually, they can evolve into replacements of national systems or impose gradually tightening constraints on them.
4. Reference to “a big say in our own tax and benefit system” immediately implies that something which gives the EU a small say could well be acceptable. The only question then is: who is responsible for measuring and defining the ‘size of a say’ and by what standard.
Blair is obviously trying to rescue the pretence that the current treaty negotiations will not lead to the gradual absorption of the UK into a European federal state. From the onset, there have been efforts to present the constitution as a minor treaty not worthy of much public attention. Just in case anyone might have forgotten this, the BBC also informs us that “…he also revealed that he did not believe there had been a need for a referendum on the constitution in its original form.”
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