I said in today’s debate on the Sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament and the European Union debate, in Westminster Hall,
that Sovereignty means “supreme power or authority” – “a self-governing state”. This is not a debate about getting out, as such, but about the practical issue of how we deal with the European issue. It is not an abstraction but about the daily lives, both economic and political, of those who vote us to this Parliament. It is about Eurorealism, both in the United Kingdom and in Europe as a whole. It is about rules that don’t work, economically and politically, and the need for radical reform of a system which has become uniform and inflexible, with the acquis communautaire, which has become sacrosanct and irreversible, with majority voting and the system of co-decision, barring only a total negotiated change by all 27 Member States into an association of nation states, and if and when this fails by asserting the sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament, to override this failing system, where it is in our vital national interests so to do.
Yesterday on the Today programme I heard a pre-eminent German banker stating he believes there will be “revolts in the street” in “ever higher frequency” and a “kicking out the Government” – he described the situation as “highly dangerous” and there were indications of “revolution”. We have already seen hundreds of thousands of people all over Europe coming out onto the streets and the catastrophic failure in Greece. It is not as if this has not been coming for decades. In Visions of Europe, (1993), I warned of how the binding rules of economic and monetary union, with massive cuts in public expenditure, would result in “civil disturbance in weaker economies”, which 17 years ago foreshadowed the very statements we are now hearing on the Today programme. The real question is what is the United Kingdom Government, our Coalition Government, going to do about all this and lead the United Kingdom and Europe out of the present chaos which is damaging to both the United Kingdom economy and our democracy and also to individual European countries and Europe as a whole. This is simply a practical necessity requiring vision, statesmanship and political will. The argument is over – it is now down to action.
The 1972 Act, as Lord Bridge has said in the Factortame case, is a voluntary Act. European Treaties are subordinate to Parliament. This includes the Lisbon treaty. Consistently and repeatedly I have made this point, including three speeches already in this new Parliament. I have set out the case in correspondence with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary for the immediate implementation for my United Kingdom Parliamentary Sovereignty Bill and the unchallengeable, legal, political and constitutional case for it and the necessity to enact this immediately to underpin the negotiations which are needed and which includes for example those talks that the Prime Minister will have to conduct this week in Brussels.
The Sovereignty Bill was in our manifesto. The Prime Minister made a speech entitled ‘A Europe Policy that People Can Believe In’ on 4th November 2009 to which I replied to in The European Journal and which was on my website during the General Election. I intimated to the Foreign Secretary immediately before the General Election why we needed the Sovereignty Bill now to underpin negotiations to deal with the inevitable and now present course of events. I wrote to the Prime Minister on 10th May, regarding these fundamental matters in the context of his negotiations for the Coalition Agreement to which he replied on 21st June, after the event. The situation has now become significantly worse, including proposals, within the context of majority voting, for the sovereign right of the United Kingdom Parliament to receive and determine its own budget which the Prime Minister will have to address this week. Under the Coalition agreement, we are now reduced to a proposal for a Commission to discuss sovereignty, not a manifesto commitment to pass the Sovereignty Act. The Sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament and the imminent practical necessity supersedes the compromises and devices of a Coalition.
We are where we are – so we must address the present crisis at the heart of our Constitution and at the axis of our economic and political future. On the Andrew Marr programme on Sunday, the Foreign Secretary replying to questions about the European proposals for the United Kingdom to submit the UK budget to the European institutions before submission to the United Kingdom Parliament replied that these were “only proposals”, that they would be dealt with “in due course” and that we will “argue for that position and maintain that position”. He declined to use the veto, no doubt in the knowledge that the proposals would be dealt with under majority voting.
In 1986, I put down an amendment to the Single European Act which was refused for debate but which stated that “Nothing in this Act shall derogate from the United Kingdom Parliament”. It was only supported by one other Member of Parliament at that time – The Rt. Hon. Enoch Powell, who understood why this was so important – ahead of the times. There is also the question of the Irish guarantees which take us back to the Lisbon Treaty itself and which we are told will be attached to the next succession treaty, possibly Croatia but in respect of which we will be denied a referendum despite the incretion of powers to the European Union which this will involve. We have already been refused a referendum on this treaty, despite the fact that it fundamentally alters the constitutional relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union – a point deceptively denied by the outgoing Government but well understood by the Conservative Opposition in the last Parliament and on which I made a minority report in the last Parliament.
There is also the question of the unlawful guarantees given by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer in respect of their bailout for the Greek economy on which I have tabled questions and received no satisfactory answers but which appear to have been thrust under the carpet despite the fact that they expose they the United Kingdom taxpayer to about 12 billion pounds worth of commitments – and this, against the background of the current Government debt and deficit, which is second only to Greece itself. This of course is compounded by our being the second greatest contributor to the European Union, rising to £6.6bn for 2010-2011 and according to the Taxpayers Alliance, the European Union costs the individual British taxpayer £2,000, which they can ill afford.
Furthermore, there is the proposed European tax on our financial services sector which infringes the sovereign right of taxation of the United Kingdom Parliament, not to mention the European regulation of the City of London, again by majority vote and on which, the jurisdiction, as with all European legislation, is with the European Court of Justice overt and above the Bank of England and/or Financial Service Authority. This raises the whole issue of competition as well, in respect of which Professor Roland Vaubel of Mannheim University has written clearly that regulation is a form of “collusion” between the Governments of Member States. Yet again, there is the problem of overregulation calculated by the British Chambers of Commerce in the Burdens Barometers, as written by Tim Ambler and Francis Chittenden, which shows that both in the United Kingdom and in Europe, 70% of overregulation comes from the European Union as illustrated by the paper they wrote for the European Scrutiny Committee and which, since 1998, has cost the British economy £76.8bn. One of the worst legal obligations being the Working Time Directive, which came through the Single European Act, because despite my warnings to the Government at the time was misleadingly included in a Declaration which the Court of Justice then ruled was a legal obligation – a costly mistake which has to be reversed. Even the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson stated, as did his fellow Commissioner, Mr. Verheugen, that overregulation which so undermines EU and UK competitveness – for example with China and India – amounts to as much as 4% of GDP. And the announcement today that Lord Young who will be leading a review of health and safety legislation must surely recognise that so much of its damaging impact comes from the European Union and which will need to be overridden, as with so many other European laws, after careful analysis of the Sovereignty Act which is required.
We hear that we want the Eurozone to be stable. I have argued for many years that an imploding European Union is not in our national interest but that what is needed is a realignment of Europe into an association of nation states precisely to avoid the now crystal implosion which is taking place. The Lisbon agenda has failed. The Stability and Growth Pact has failed and with it the rule of law. The Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy, the Eurostat statistical system have all failed. There is endemic fraud. The Maastricht deficit criteria of 3% is nothing short of a joke, with massively serious consequences for the voters in this country and throughout the whole of Europe who are subjected to bungled economic management, massively increasing debt in our own case, in real terms, with the hidden costs of up to £3.1 trillion and this cannot be swept away. The budget deficit proposals of £6 billion are a mere sop and will not convince the bond markets or the ratings agencies which determine our ratings in the global marketplace.
We are told by the Prime Minister that we need to have a strong Eurozone because 50% of our trade is with that zone but the Eurozone itself is imploding, as Angela Merkel and the German people, 68% of whom were opposed to the Greek bailout precisely because the whole structure of the European Union, economically and politically, does not work. It is no good our being committed to a eurozone which is so undermined by its own institutional inadequacies and the diversity of its different economies and the real requirements of the voters and the business community in each country on the ground. This is pre-eminently a practical matter. Europe does not work.
It does not work not only because of overregulation and the irreversibility of the acquis communautaire, subject only to a Sovereignty Act – but also because it is essentially undemocratic and authoritarian. This is dangerous as the German and Greek commentators agreed on the Today programme only yesterday – and it is not only one or two commentators. It is both true and endemic.
The whole of Europe is trembling and the action is needed now. As those such
as Ambrose Evans Prichard of the Telegraph and Martin Wolff of the Financial Times and a growing band of Eurorealist Members of Parliament are clearly stating. In Holland, the General Election has left its message on the table. In France and Germany, the same. In Italy, Ireland and Greece, in Romania, in Bulgaria, and in the entire breadth of the Continent, the people are disillusioned with the European Union and demand change and action yet we are still presented with a policy of further enlargement against which I have argued for several years.
The Spectator devoted its leader to the proposal for Turkish accession only last week. It is clear that Turkey is moving towards accession and on both economic and political grounds it should not be regarded as a prospective member of the club given its dealings now with Syria and Iran and in the Middle East. The problem with the European Union in the case of enlargement is as so often in the case in the economic and political sphere that its policies once espoused are deemed irreversible and just when decentralisation, electability and democracy, listening to the people, becomes essential so the institutions and government establishments of European Union and each of the Member States, careers ever more wildly forwards into crisis. We have the experience of the European Arrest Warrant and the absorption of our criminal justice system as yet another area of deep concern – with the British resident, Mr. Arrapi, being convicted in his absence under the European Arrest Warrant for 15 years and the inconceivable and unacceptable vision of a British judge ordering his extradition when there is apparently overwhelming evidence that he was in Staffordshire at the time he was supposed to have been committing murder in Italy. The whole project is flawed from beginning to end and must be radically reformed or else.
Indeed I would now turn to the mechanism we would deal with in our own Parliament for dealing with these myriad problems and the crisis which I have sought to identify in my 26 years on the European Scrutiny Committee, often in advance circumstances, when it was difficult to be heard let alone be listened to, certainly not agreed with. Over the Lisbon treaty it must be said the Conservative Party in opposition, barring only one vote over the Sovereignty of the UK Parliament, achieved remarkable unity over the last 2 years.
ORIGIN MARKING causes untold damage to the Third World and Peter Lilley’s Committee on Global Trade demonstrated this only last week.
The manner in which European legislation is dealt with in our Parliament has been subjected to a number of improvements. Indeed the present Home Secretary made some significant proposals for reform to European scrutiny and adopted my proposal that if the European Scrutiny Committee has recommended a European matter for debate and 150 Members of Parliament proposed that it was a vital matter of national interest then it would be subject to a free vote on the Floor of the House.
Furthermore, she also proposed that the European Scrutiny Committee should meet in public, as many of us had advocated for some time. This was finally voted on by the ESC but then abandoned but must be revived. In my 26 years on the Committee, the establishment/Government of the United Kingdom has always ensured that there is a majority in favour of European proposals which emanate from Brussels so that although matters may be recommended for debate, sometimes by majority vote, unless they are referred to European Standing Committee, no vote in that Committee ever goes against the Government or if it ever does, it is immediately reversed as being inconsistent with the ECA 1972 on the Floor of the House. Not one vote has ever gone against Brussels legislation in my 26 years on the Committee. I understand that the Cabinet Office minister only last week indicated that there were no proposals for a Sovereignty Act which would alter this disgraceful state of affairs.
Whatever the merits of the national interest which I have already indicated today, it is vital to create a requirement as agreed by the Prime Minister in 2005, where he was referring to competitiveness in the economy but which occurs across a broad spectrum. In other words, the ESC are called for debates on which there are not votes which makes the process intrinsically futile. The ESC has power to impose a Scrutiny Reserve whilst such debates take place but this is occasionally overridden in what is described euphemistically as “urgent” necessity but in any case only holds the juggernaut for the time being and there is no resistance whatsoever to majority votes being imposed on the UK Parliament.
“Moreover the Backbench Business Committee proposals which are coming before the House this afternoon do not include European documents although they would not seem to preclude votes which could be imposed in relation to European affairs. Therefore we have debates without votes on a “take note” basis and much of the business is conducted behind the scenes in Brussels by UKRAP and part of the COREPER, conducted with its own arcane procedures by the European establishment as a whole. Not only is most of this conducted behind closed doors but the majority voting system is not transparent and more often than not we do not even know which way the UK Government has voted or deliberately abstained in order to acquiesce or even appease the European institutional consensus whilst the UK Parliament is bypassed and stitched-up.
We have reached a point in the 1922 Committee where we had a failed attempt to undermine the independence of backbenchers in our own Party but the same already applies to the Parliamentary Labour Party. We know that the BBC has consistently declined to give proper coverage to the European issue and has adopted this policy with tenacity and editorial contrivance since the 1950s. Anyone who raises serious and seminal questions about the European issue tends to be regarded as Europhobic or worse. What can be said with certainly now is that our economy, our democracy and our Constitution are on the line this week as the summit discusses the proposals for our Budget to be presented to the European institutions before our Parliament sees them or to attempt to some obscuration device to make it look as if this is not really happening and all under the aegis of majority vote. At last the penny has dropped. The mask is being stripped away. Our national interest is at stake and the need for political will to reaffirm the sovereignty of the British people through its representative Parliament has become paramount for all to see in the national interest. I urge the Government to veto – yes I mean veto – these proposals this week and to enact the Sovereignty Bill I have proposed within the next month or sooner if possible.