Most of us over here aren’t following the progression of the E.U. terribly closely, but I do remember following the multi-vote Irish adventure, and now the Spanish are having a vote on the E.U. constitution.
How popular is the E.U. idea over there in Merry Ol’ England? Obviously, the “Anglosphere” would be undermined if the U.K. was subsumed into the E.U.
Personally, I like the idea of the E.U. as a free-trade area – not so sure on this whole transcension of national sovereignty thing…
Thursday, March 03, 2005
The Loss of the U.K.: America’s Emerging Foreign Policy Challenge
The big news in the European Union last week was the Spanish people?s overwhelming approval of the proposed E.U. constitution. When we checked in to El Pais to read the coverage ( http://www.elpais.es/ ), there was a banner ad urging a ?yes? vote taken out by the European Commission that read:
The Europeans say the Americans are simplistic and drawn to empty slogans, but it?s hard to find a better example of both than that ad. Simply draw up a document giving yourself power and tell everyone with their own tax money what monsters they are if they disagree. One of the reasons the E.U. project is so popular is that its P.R. campaign has convinced a whole generation of Europeans that it is synonymous with those values and not, say, a completely unaccountable and undemocratic Leviathan.
Imagine the poor Spaniard who objected. Obviously, he?s for injustice, racism, war and spite. Why, his own government says so! One way or another?not the least of which is the fact that the E.U. is notorious for not taking ?no? as an answer?this constitution is likely to come into force sooner or later. And with it, we can say goodbye to our greatest ally, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The Constitution of the European Union
Nothing evidences the utter futility of the European Union more than the proposed constitution ( http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/lex/JOHtml.do?uri=OJ:C:2004:310:SOM:EN:HTML ). You?ve seen those pocket versions of the U.S. Constitution that the Federalist Society and other conservative groups hand out? The ones that can fit in the back pocket of your tightest pair of jeans? Don?t try that with the E.U. Constitution; you?re likely to break something
The HTML version linked to above weighs in at a hefty 475 pages and covers a ridiculous amount of territory. While the Common Law tradition allowed the United States to erect a bare-bones framework that laid out general principles, thereby allowing the beautiful old thing to remain relevant to a world the Framers wouldn?t even recognize, the Civil Law perspective of the Europeans compelled its constitution drafters to attempt to produce an all-inclusive document for all ages.
The summary released by the E.U. on its proposed constitution declares that:
The draft Constitution first of all defines essential principles regarding:
[i]- the principle governing the allocation of the Union?s powers;
- lawmaking in accordance with the principles of subsidiarity and the proportionality of the
exercise of competences;
- the primacy of Union law, which is stated unambiguously;
- the obligation of Member States to implement Union law.
Distinctions are drawn between three categories of Union powers: areas of exclusive
competence, of shared competence and areas where the Union may take supporting
action, provided this conforms with the provisions of Part III relative to the area where
action is to be taken. Particular cases that do not fit into the general classification are
dealt with separately: for example the coordination of economic and employment policies
(Article 14) and common foreign and security policy (Article 15).
The flexibility the system requires is guaranteed by a clause allowing the adoption of
measures necessary to attain any of the objectives laid down by the Constitution where
there is no provision for powers of action to that effect in the Constitution. Its scope is
therefore wider than that of the current Article 308 of the EC Treaty, which is confined to
the internal market, but the conditions for its implementation are stricter in that, as well as
requiring unanimity in the Council, Parliament?s approval will also be needed.
This provision is complemented by the Protocol on the application of the principles of
subsidiarity and proportionality, which provides for an ?early-warning system? involving
national parliaments in monitoring how the principle of subsidiarity is applied.[/i]
And you thought the Establishment Clause was difficult to understand. Keep in mind, this is the summary, and of only one portion of the constitution at that.
Recently, Times columnist William Rees-Mogg published an article entitled ?Are We Fools Led By Liars?? ( http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,1052-1503692,00.html ) about the debate over the constitution in the U.K. It seems that leading members of the government, led by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, are representing to the British people that the constitution merely formalizes what is already in existence and represents no threat to the sovereignty of the nation.
Straw is hampered in this thankless task by two things. First, a strong majority of the British people don?t believe it since it contradicts what a good British friend of ours would call ?blind stinking reality?; and, second, other European politicians keep letting the damn cat out of the bag. As Rees-Mogg notes:
The German Minister for Europe, Hans Martin Bury?.told the Bundestag that the constitution of the European Union is more than a ?milestone?, it is ?the birth certificate of the United States of Europe?. Last month Mr Straw said that the constitution treaty signalled ?thus far and no further on European integration?. Is the treaty a boundary marker for European integration or is it a birth certificate for ?a single European state bound by one European constitution?, to use the language of the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer?
It?s a hard matter indeed to sell the constitution as a mere legal document when all evidence demonstrates that the U.K. will simply cease to exist as an independent sovereign nation should it sign up. As Rees-Mogg goes on to note:
[i]Nevertheless, the constitution does two things which do allow one to answer the question: boundary stone or birth certificate? It creates a state. Article 11: ?The constitution establishes the European Union.? Article 15a: ?The constitution . . . shall have primacy over the law of the member states.? Article 18: ?Every national of a member state shall be a citizen of the union.?
This new state will have broad and predominant powers, with ministers to execute those powers. Article 111: ?The member states shall co-ordinate their economic and employment policies within arrangements as determined by Part 3, which the union shall have competence (power) to provide . . . the union shall have competence to define and implement a common foreign and security policy, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy.?
The EU is already proceeding step by step to the establishment of this common foreign and security policy. Nato is being downgraded; a European diplomatic service is being developed; the constitution provides for a Foreign Minister. The whole European structure has been built by general aspirations backed by creeping bureaucracy. The common foreign and defence policy is likely to become a fait accompli.[/i]
The Debate in the U.K.
Despite such overwhelming evidence, however, the debate in the U.K. continues to focus on small matters, completely missing the fact that the country is likely to not exist in any recognizable form in the near future.
It?s simply a matter of numbers. Since the law has to be unified, the Civil Law tradition of the Continent is just going to swamp ?outdated? British concepts central to the Common Law. Already, the E.U. uses ?human rights? law to declare wide swaths of our cherished tradition out-of-bounds and out-of-touch. Leave aside and forget that the Common Law has been many, many times more effective in securing liberty and prosperity in the legal history of the West.
Little things matter too. Already the U.K. has lost its old system of measurements. Speak of ?pounds? of bananas at a produce stall in Manchester these days and you?re likely to face a fine under E.U Directive 234/C/233b-2. Of course, the metric system is more ?rational? and works better, as is obvious since the only Western state to retain the Imperial system leads the world in high technology, engineering and space travel.
The mathematics and the structure of the new constitution compel ?an ever greater Union? and can do so only at the expense of an independent U.K. Imagine a world where there is another crisis like the Iraq War and the E.U. has a ?common foreign policy.? Whose ideas are likely to predominate in such a union: Jacques Chirac?s or Tony Blair?s?
The unique structure and tenor of the British Constitution, the ancient and strange institutions, the vitality of the Common Law, all are at risk, even though they are the only thing that has stood between Europe and whatever totalitarian foolishness is a la mode on the Continent since the time of Napoleon.
But what really amazes is all this is happening without so much as a debate. As Rees-Mogg points out:
[i]I sometimes think that Britain has a Government which takes us all for fools. There may be a case for a United States of Europe. Many continental Europeans believe in that; most Germans, for instance, see a single European state as a natural development, similar to the creation of a united Germany in the 1870s. Britain, as Franz-Josef Strauss used to say, should have the status in a United Europe which Bavaria has in the Federal Republic. Bavaria, he would add, does not feel any need for a separate air force. Some Germans differ. One recently commented to me: ?What is the problem for which the European Union is the solution??
We could have a useful debate on these issues. Is it Europe?s destiny to become a superstate? Is the age of British independence at an end? Can we protect democracy and the rule of law in a fully united Europe? That would be an honest and historic debate. But it cannot be an honest debate so long as the Government pretends that the European constitution is anything other than a constitution for the United States of Europe. The Germans are telling the truth. So long as our Government takes us for fools, we have every reason to take them for liars.[/i]
The Labour Party is rushing headlong to this brave, new world, the Liberal Democrats are the party for those who can?t stop talking about how ?ashamed? they are of their history and the Conservatives are split. The only thing that stands between the U.K. and its obsolescence are the brave souls of the U.K. Independence Party and those good democrats who are demanding a referendum.
Of course, the U.K. has some very good reasons for wanting to be in the E.U. But we wonder what would happen to the debate were we to make a good counter-offer. Perhaps a U.S.-U.K. political-economic-military union where the U.K. and its people have full and complete access to the United States and under which we would neither demand their sovereignty nor their laws is an idea whose time has come. Perhaps the time has come for us to rescue our most important ally, even if it doesn?t seem to know it?s in mortal danger.