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Lord Harris of High Cross: My Lords, I join other speakers in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, for initiating this important debate. I also take the opportunity of thanking him for his quite splendid paper, A Defining Moment, published by CPS. His lucid account, clear even to a non-lawyer, helps me to withstand the daily outpouring of legalese from Brussels.
In return for that enlightenment and the enlightenment I hope to gain from other speakers, I should like to widen the discussion by offering some clues to the economic philosophic background to the deep-rooted disagreements that have repeatedly ruffled Anglo-French relations. In so far as I have an interest to declare, it is of strong links through family and friends scattered around Normandy, Paris and Provence. I visit those delightful places at least four or five times a year.
Starting as a liberal free trader, my early hopes for the original Common Market were already severely qualified by the illiberal elements, such as the common agricultural policy, the quotas on Commonwealth trade and, not least, the establishment of a powerful Commission in Brussels dominated from the start by
On this occasion I do not want to dwell on the long political and military rivalry between our two great countries. Rather, I want to emphasise the distinctive addiction of the French to dirigisme, etatisme, planification and all that kind of thing. The phrase laissez-faire, laissez-passer was known to every schoolboy before the days of comprehensive education. But it is not one much visible in French politics over a very long period going back into the last century and earlier.
More in character with French politics was Louis XIV's principal minister, Jean Baptiste Colbert, whose name became a byword in economic texts for protectionism and subsidy. Colbert's great idea was to favour manufacture at the expense of French agriculture. His successors' even better idea is to favour French agriculture at the expense of other countries' taxpayers and consumers.
Nevertheless, an awkward truth for me to face is that undoubtedly, although the French have not been much good at winning wars since 1066, they are very good indeed at making centralism and planning work in their own land. The classic case of French education is famed for its central direction and control from Paris.
French planning also played an important part in the recovery from the effects of war after 1945. Yet when we in Britain slavishly attempted to imitate planification francais, although we had in charge of our country a fully-fledged Oxford economist named Harold Wilson, even the creation of a brand new department of economic affairs could not conceal the abject failure of the whole operation within the space of one year. The truth seems to me that the close collaboration of government, business and unions which we call "corporatism", reinforced by the "enarque" system of ruling elites, succeeds better in France than in many other countries. The French, indeed, almost exult in concentrating power at the centre and using it purposefully. That has some unpleasant side-effects, such as raising the political stakes in a way that spawns an extensive industry of lobbying. It also tends to harbour a good deal of corruption, which is anyway more characteristic of the closed French political system than of our open British parliamentary democracy.
For proof positive of the fundamentally conflicting economic approaches of our two countries, we need look no further than the repeated, vehement French denunciation of the British and Americans over a long periodlong before Iraqfor their "Anglo-Saxon economics", by which they mean the importance that we have attached since at least the 19th century to markets and competition. We might understandif we cannot sharethe proud French view that clings rather desperately to the EU as a rival global power to the dominance of the American language, culture and economy. From our more open station, we cannot be blamed for resisting the full embrace of the United
Unfortunately, Germany also lacks any deep-rooted tradition of liberalismapart from a brief post-war surge under Ludwig Erhard. A vivid characterisation of the European project was as a marriage between a jealous wife and a guilty husband. More brutally, the partnership that has bestrode Europe for the past decade has been described as a scheme to achieve French ends by the use of German muscle. The Elysee treaty, signed in 1963 by de Gaulle and Adenauer, committed both countries specifically to agree a common position on every European issue in advance of meetings of the Council of Ministers, and so forth. At least until German reunification, the common position meant to have France plainly on top.
It was thus with the support of Germany that M Jacques Delors was appointed President of the Commission and promptly set about exploiting the Single European Act to bulldoze a so-called level playing field in place of competition, mutual recognition and subsidiarity. Such a total transformation was, alas, legitimised by the European Court of Justice, which is plainly a missionary court bound by the unlimited mantra of "ever closer union".
Dominant French influence was also shown by the absurd creation of a duplicate Parliament in Bonn and the rather shady deal over the governorship of the European Central Bank, requiring the successful candidate to give way at half time to the defeated French candidate, M Trichet.
It is not surprising that when France backed a commission on a new European constitution, its head should be a French pro-consul, enarque and former president, Giscard d'Estaing. Nor is it surprising that the commission immediately began to steer towards a more powerful, centralised, supra-national European state. The only question that seems to be left open is which Frenchman is being groomed for ultimate enthronement.
My objections to the European roller-coaster range from the costly bureaucracy of Brussels and its insatiable appetite for regulation, right down to the impertinent interference with such valued British freedoms as duty-free shopping for foreign travellers. I set aside the exaggerated pretensions of the European Parliament, but I still from time to time ponder the divided loyalty of respected Privy Councillors who if going to Brussels are compelled to recommit themselves to a primary allegiance to the European Union. A more personal regretabout which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, will knowis the division sown between long-standing friends on the overwhelming, towering issue of whether the relentless European process must end in the final extinction of our national sovereignty.
It was last Remembrance Sunday, in a Paris bistro, that one of my beautiful Anglo-French grand-daughters, now studying law in Paris, told me sadly: "Grandpa, it is more difficult for the French to feel
Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, I rise with pleasure to follow for the first time the noble Lord, Lord Harris of High Cross. He rightly stated that on almost every other issue save this, we are bound by ties of friendship and even ideological agreement. I once even had the pleasure of representing him in a notable lawsuit in which we successfully challenged illegal "comprehensivisation" of the school attended by his children. So we have much in common, but nothing at all on this matter.
I join all the previous speakers in thanking the many people who have helped to keep the House so well informedthe noble Lords, Lord Maclennan and Lord Tomlinson, the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell and those who work on his committee, and many others. I agree with my noble friend Lord Howell that this issue should be being debated in Government time, and I hope that we can have an assurance that that will be more forthcoming in future, because the issue remains of huge importance.
Beyond that, I confess to a feeling of being somewhat remote from the up-to-date, comprehensive expertise of many other noble Lords who have spoken. I have been involved neither in the European committees of this House nor in detailed, day-by-day study of the immense volume of helpful documents that confront us. Far from being post-modern on the issues, my knowledge is almost neolithic, because it goes back not merely to the European Communities Act 1972 itself and the Single European Act but to an occasion that my noble friend Lord Howell may remember, when that distinguished journal, Crossbow, which he was then editing for the second issue after my editorship of it, carried one of the first comprehensive pamphlets entitled, "The Rome Treaty and the Law". That paved the way ahead of many others.
What was made clear was that at the heart of our accession to the European Community was the acceptance of the concept of directly enforceable Community law, adjudicated by the European Court of Justice and directly applicable to our citizens in many waysways defined by the treaties that followed. In that sense, we are now discussing that same lawin a different context, of course.
My neolithic past compelled me to look back at some of the earlier things that I had said and done about the European Community. I came across a long and tedious lecture that I gave in 1996, entitled, "What next for the European Union: a constitution or a foreign policy?". I then had no hesitation in answering that we needed a foreign policy much more than we
I should also point out that I am not in principle against referenda full stop, come what may. In company with the cousin of the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, at a meeting of the Welsh Conservative Party in 1962, we put forward the proposal for local referenda on the opening of Welsh pubs on Sunday. That proposal was adopted by the then Home Secretary, Henry Brooke, and 35 years later the process of liberation of the Welsh drinking classes had been completed. So, in the right circumstances, referenda can achieve a good purpose. It would be nice to think that the Prime Minister could before long find the courage of his own convictions and decide to have a referendum on the euro.
Despite the importance of the issue, I find it surprisingto some extent for the reasons advanced by the noble Lord, Lord MacLennanthat my noble friend and others, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, whose speech was a lucid presentation of the issues set out in his very clear pamphlet, so far ahead of the outcomes that will finally emerge, are arguing for a referendum on the issues still very much under discussion. The present reality, as many have pointed out, is that the convention is almost waterlogged by the volume of amendments now before us. Despite the intermittent arrival of Foreign Ministers into its deliberations, we are a very, very long way from arriving at or foreseeing the single agreed text that will emerge from the inter-governmental conference.
If one looks back over the history of these matters, a series of ambitious texts has been generated by the European Unionthe Genscher/Colombo Act, which turned out to be no Act at all, and the Spinelli Treatyeach of which was an ambitious constitutionand the report of the Dooge committee, which preceded the intergovernmental conference on the Single European Act. All those bore very little relation to what finally emerged.
I have to say, particularly having read the pamphlet by my noble friend Lord Blackwell, that one must wonder whether calling now for a referendum does not foreshadow a rather different objective, perhaps only lurking in the back of my noble friend's mind. If one is determined now, ahead of the emergence of the treaty, to conclude that it will result in a quantum leap into a super-state, and if we say now that Britain is about to see its nationhood abolished, we risk backing the Conservative Party into a position where I would not like to see us. Effectively we would be backed into a commitment to withdraw from whatever emerged from this treaty. If we did that, or if we were to do it with a specific commitment now for a referendum, it would risk repeating on a much more serious scale the
The House should be aware that many in the Conservative Party do not share that gloomy view of the implications of what is now taking place. I dare say that not many Members of your Lordships' House will be aware of the memorandum submitted at the beginning of September last year by a group of us under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Brittan of Spennithorne, including the noble Lords, Lord Garel-Jones, Lord Hayhoe, Lord Heseltine, Lord Hurd, Lord Inglewood and Lord Tugendhat, and a corresponding cast from another place. That memorandum suggested to President Giscard that we were expressing our,
I have two general observations to make about those. The first is that I think that the timetable under which the process is being conducted is unrealistic and reckless, particularly given the preoccupation with so many other events around the world. People engaged in the process can understand that much more clearly than I do. But there is a risk of the substance of the matter being swamped by ceremonial ambitionto have a treaty signed in Rome on the anniversary of an earlier treaty, for example. It is very important that the negotiations should not be unduly constrained by an artificial timetable of that kind.
If I may give a rather absurd parallel without immodesty, the tax law rewrite project in which I am engaged is doing nothing more harmful than simply rewriting existing English legislationwe all speak Englishin simple language. We thought that we would cover the entire statute book in five years. It has taken us six years to produce two quite modest tranches. If one looks at that alongside the polyglot procedure of the convention, I think that festina lente must be the right motto for President Giscard and his colleagues.
The other danger is that the Government may be too ready to make concessions, almost subconsciously, as it were, to compensate for their non-membership of the eurozone and a feeling that, if we may be regarded as not fully paid-up members of the club, we cannot be quite as substantial as we would like to be in defending propositions that need to be defended. It is of the utmost importanceand I agree with both my noble friends who have spokenthat the Government should be pressed to sustain our case in ensuring that, where it is proper, the institutional balance of the existing European Union is maintained.
I support two examples that have already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell: the case for a robust attitude towards the right of national parliaments to oversee and enforce subsidiarity, as
Returning to the last point, I would put the common foreign and security policy, as I did in my address in 1996, at the very top of the agenda that concerns us alongside the convention. That may seem difficult and unrealistic in today's circumstancesmuch more difficult in the long runbut it is an area where we must succeed. It is interesting that that is recognised even by public opinion in this country now. In a YouGov poll a couple of days ago everyone agreed that relations between ourselves and the United States and Europe have been severely damaged by the present argumentswho could argue? One of the questions put was: if the result was to bring the United Kingdom closer to the United States than to Europe, would you be sorry or pleased? Forty per cent of people would be sorry at the idea of being drawn closer to the United States than to Europe, and 31 per cent would be pleased. There is a narrow majority, which is surprising in the present circumstances, that recognises that we need to adhere to that European relationship.
If one looks at the hazards that confront us, there could be no doubt about our concern if we faced a Rumsfeldian future based upon the proposition "might is right". But equally we should be concerned if we faced a Chirac-Putinesque future, trying to construct a multi-polar world on the basis of a competing superpower stretching from the French coast to the Urals embracing Russia and some parts of the European Union. Surely, nobody can doubt that the way to handle sensibly American unilateralism and the anxieties that that causes is not rivalry; it must be partnership. But it cannot be Anglo-American partnership, which is the alternative canvassed, at least by implication, in the pamphlet by my noble friend Lord Blackwell. He talks about our retaining our freedom to work in alliance with our American partners. I regard that as a fragile framework indeedone small voice in the United States Administration, often carried along we know not where. We need to cement ourselves within a European framework to get the authority we need.
I understand entirely the point made by my noble friend Lord Howell. It cannot be a framework designed by old Europe as caricatured or as represented now. It needs to be a framework shaped as well by new Europe, including the newly acceding states as well as ourselves. If we can achieve that, and we have a stronger European voice in foreign policy, it will be more credible when we try, when we have to, to say "No". It is also less likely that we should have to say "No" if we worked together as strongly as that. For me, that is what the foreign policy of the European Union has always been about; it always has been and always will be. It was at the heart of the reasoning that
Lord Hooson: My Lords, I agree with much of what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe of Aberavon, said. He reminded me that my late cousin and he had decided to hold a referendum on the opening of public houses in Wales. I am sure that my late cousin would never have accepted it as a general principle that one should be in favour of referendums. I do not think that we should go along with the idea of a referendum now.
What has been lacking in our approach to Europe, under successive governments, has been fine, determined leadership. We should have taken the lead. We complain when other countries take the lead in Europe, when we have given up the opportunity of being leaders in Europe. Looking back on many years in both Houses, I think that Sir Edward Heath was one of the most underestimated Prime Ministers. He was the one Prime Minister who provided true leadership on European issues.
I decided to take part in the debate because I believe that the Convention on the Future of Europe is of even greater historical significance now than when it was set up. I speak as one who believes that the achievement of a united Europe is the most important political goal for this country, as well as for the continent of Europe, and the greatest contribution that we in Europe can make to world stability. That is clear. The day of the independent sovereign state is virtually over.
The truth is that, over the years, we have surrendered our sovereignty by degrees, as has almost every other country. Speaking as a Welshman who is proud of his language and culture and a specific way of life, I think that it is possible to maintain all those things without being a sovereign state. It is, for example, obvious that English will become the everyday language of commerce all over the world, including Europe. That does not mean that we will see the death of French culture, German culture or anything else. It means that we have accommodated ourselves to a way of life.
Many of us were firm believers in the Atlantic alliance as a cornerstone of security for the West and of world peace. Nevertheless, we have become increasingly and uncomfortably aware of an obvious divergence of view and reaction to events and developments between the United States of America and Europe, particularly after the shocking events of 11th September, which illustrated to the strongest military and economic power on Earth with sickening drama the vulnerability of its citizens to attack from without, against which its massive defensive shield afforded no defence. That has had an enormous effect on world thinking. Mention was made of Mr Donald Rumsfeld, who is an old friend of mine. We were delegates to NATO Parliamentarians and went on military tours together. Mr Rumsfeld is what you see. He is no diplomat, but, in my experience, he always speaks the truth as he sees it.
Reaction to those events has illustrated the different approach of a confident, powerful United States that regards the selected rogue states mentioned in the "axis of evil" speech as threats that must be tackled by military action. The military might of the United States enables it to do so. The military might of Europe would not enable it to do so, even if Europe had that intention. The attitude of the European populace, by and large, which has experience and recollections of the horror and suffering inflicted by war on ordinary people, has led to serious disagreement between European leaders. Those leaders have accentuated those differences by failing to make sufficiently meaningful progress in developing co-operation between themselves that would enable Europe to speak with an agreed voice, achieved by democratic means in a united Europe.
I mentioned the deep problems that beset the alliance. The transatlantic alliance is a supremely important relationship. All of us have a duty and a prime reason to appreciate that the Americans regard the "special relationship" as being with Europe, in particular. For example, Mr Donald Rumsfeld comes from a German background. Years ago, people were surprised when I referred in your Lordships' House to the number of people who claimed descent from various backgrounds. More people claimed descent from the Germans than from the whole of the British people. Few claim descent from the British; they claim descent from the English, the Scots, the Welsh or, as they would call them, the Scots-Irishthe Ulstermen.
It is important that we should be regarded as a pillar. The Americans regard Europe as a pillar of the Atlantic alliance. We always talked about the American pillar and the European pillar. The truth is that we have failed miserably to create a European pillar. We have not contributed to the bridge across the Atlantic as we should have done.
We should put out of our mind the outmoded nationalism that I heard about today. We are out of date, if we think that we are an independent sovereign state and that we must maintain that sovereignty at all times. We can regard sovereignty only as a series of spheres. There is a huge sphereineffective, in many regardsof world-wide sovereignty, which, we hoped, would be provided by the United Nations, which needs much reform, no doubt. Then, there is the European sphere, in which we have surrendered a certain amount of sovereignty. We have devolved sovereignty on certain matters within this country to the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. We must learn to think of sovereignty in such spheres.
We have been subjectedparticularly in recent timesto old, dredged-up stories about the infidels in France and about the unreliability of other European countries. Old stories are dragged out that are the leftovers of bygone imperial battles in war-torn Europe. We should remember that our forebears gradually replaced tribalism with the so-called nation state. It is high time that we replaced the nation states or placed them in an effective united Europe. Therefore, I hope that the work of the convention will
We must remember that in a democratic society allowance is always made for amendment of a constitution. We all know how important amendments, frequently introduced, have affected the United States. There must be liaison with the European Parliament, the national parliaments, the regional bodies, such as the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, and the proposed regional councils in this country. The relationship of all these institutions must be considered. Therefore, it is necessary to have an elastic constitution which will enable change to be made in the light of experience. The European Court of Justice should not be bound by rigid rules. We must allow for its development in the light of requirements.
I turn to legal personality. I agree with the concept of an ever closer Union provided that the doctrine of subsidiarity is involved as an essential principle; that is, subsidiarity in retention of agreed powers at certain levels below the European level. Thought must be given to what matters should be entrusted to the nation states as they are today and whether some powers should be given to local government, and so on. All those issues must be considered.
However, I agree with the view that there should be a merger of the treaties of the European Community and of the European Union. There is also the vital importance of a charter of fundamental rights spelt out in any constitution of a civilised state. As a matter of thought, should there be a requirement for every citizen of the European Union eventually to take an oath or declaration of loyalty to that Union? That could be a matter of vital importance.
Perhaps I may make one point concerning the euro. I have always regarded a coinwhether a dollar, a euro or sterlingas simply a means of exchange. It may be of some reassurance that, apparently, in the reign of Edward the Confessor an attempt was made by his government to impose a coinage for the whole of England. Thereby he greatly affronted people in Wessex, Northumbria and Kent, as well as other areas, who were all jealous of their own currency. They objected and rejected the proposition. A few years later, William the Conqueror imposed his own currency over the whole country overnight and abolished the existing coinage. I do not think that England was any the worse for that because it had a means of exchange, which is all that coinage really is.
I conclude by referring noble Lords to the book, entitled, Paradise and Power, about America and Europe in the new world order, by Robert Kagan. It was published about a fortnight ago and is well worth reading. It has only 100 pages, but it is a brilliant analysis by an American of how America views its role as a preserver of the peace, with a great military strength, and its perception of Europe. Kagan writes about the reaction that he hopes to see eventually building up in Europe, whereby the two pillars of the Atlantic assembly come together and we do not resort
Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, I, too, welcome the debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Blackwell. As various speakers have said, we need more such debates. Possibly it is appropriate that I follow the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, in this debate because I think that his is the only speech so far with which I entirely disagree.
My starting point is that action was necessary to address the increasingly complex and chaotic structure of the European Union. Enlargement of the Union means that the existing arrangements are not likely to endure. However, I believe that in addressing the need for change, the methods and the approach adopted have not proved adequate. We are in danger of finding ourselves faced with an outcome that is undesirable but one that the Government are not prepared to reject.
I fear that some amendments along the way may be claimed as victories but with the overall result constituting a paradigm shift on a par with our initial membership of the European Community and more significant than the Single European Act. We are in danger of finding ourselves faced with a fundamental decision to accept or reject a package that could undermine, potentially even destroy, the concept of the nation state within the European Union.
I start with the problems of the process adopted. The convention is the wrong size and does not have the most appropriate membership for drawing up a draft constitution. It is too large to be a proper drafting body. It is too small to be a body that is representative of opinion throughout the European Union. As Dr Ann Robinson and my colleague at Hull University, Dr Paul Robinson, have written in their recent study entitled A Constitution for Europe?, the size of the convention means that it has had to rely on the presidium to guide its work and on the secretariat to organise it. That moves power out of the hands of individual delegates and into the hands of the presidium and secretariat. Leadership lies in the hands of the president and two vice-presidents who are not chosen by the convention.
There are two fundamental problems. First, there has been no full and proper debate derived from first principles as to the ultimate aim of the exercise. As my noble friend Lord Blackwell argues in his recent pamphlet entitled, A Defining Moment?, there is a
The approach of some members of the convention to addressing this fundamental question appears to be the same as that of the Lord Chancellor to the West Lothian question; that is, do not ask it. One member of the presidium said:
Secondly, there is a failure to consult adequately with civil society. I appreciate that this has been attempted. In some countries, there has been far wider debate than has occurred in this country. I accept that we have not done as much as we could and should have done to engage debate on the issue. However, the extent of the debate with civil society throughout the European Union is, in my view, completely inadequate relative to the sheer significance of the issue.
There has been the Youth Convention. There has been the Forum. These are fine as far as they go, but they do not go far enough. After all, the latter is confined to self-selecting groups. There is very little evidence of engagement with the public. I know that my right honourable friend in another place, Michael Ancram, said that MPs are receiving letters about the conventionI suspect not very many.
Indeed, I am concerned as to what is defined as public opinion. Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate two weeks ago, the Welsh Secretary, Peter Hain, said that the Government did not accept the proposal for a European public prosecutor. Yet the day before he spoke, the European Commission claimed that "public consultation" confirmed the need for the convention to take action to establish a European public prosecutor. The public consultation on which this claim was made comprised 200 written and oral communications. For a Select Committee inquiry, that is a lot. For an EU-wide exercise, I do not think it can be deemed necessarily to reflect the opinions of civil society.
The convention is thus proceeding almost in a vacuum, detached from first principles and detached from civil society. It is producing a draft constitution that, so far as I can see, is not clearly the product of the remit given it by the Laeken summit. Perhaps at this stage I may pose a question to the Minister who is to reply. Let us take Articles 10 to 14 of the draft constitution. Can the Minister explain how these relate to the questions posed in the Laeken declaration? One could ask the same question about many other articles, but Articles 10 to 14 are unquestionably among the most significant. So far as I can see, the convention is working well beyond its remit. In so doing, it is producing a document that fundamentally reshapes the EU and, as my noble friend Lord Howell argued, poses a threat to the role and independence of the nation state.
We are at a stage where, if the convention proposals are to proceed, there should have been widespread consultation and discussion. Yet the "listening" stage of the convention ended last June. If there was a major engagement with civil society then, as I indicated, I am not aware of it. We thus face a dilemma. The recommendations of the convention go forward to the IGC next year. The Government are right to remind us that any changes have to be agreed by EU governments acting by unanimous agreement. But does anyone seriously doubt that the political pressure to agree to some change will be massive, that the IGC is unlikely to have the time and the political will to engage in a complete re-write of the convention's proposals, and that the Government will be unlikely to utilise the nuclear option of the veto?
Given that, what can be done if we find objectionable sections or even large parts of the draft constitution? My noble friend Lord Blackwell advocates a referendum once the IGC has agreed a new treaty. I have previously expressed my opposition in principle to referendums. I do not want today to pursue those arguments. They are on the record. It is clear from some of the speeches we have heard today that I shall have an opportunity later to return to them. In any event, I think that advancing the argument for a referendum on whatever the IGC may approve is premature. One of the purposes of a referendum is not only to enable citizens to express a preference but also to educate them on the issue. My view is that we need to be educating people now about what is proposed rather than leaving it until there is a referendum.
The relationship between the nation state and the EU is fundamental to how we are governed. That relationship is likely to, indeed will, undergo dramatic change if the draft constitution becomes a reality. We need to be thinking about that now. It is appropriate, as the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, said, that Parliament itself spends more time on it. It is appropriate that we consider how we ensure that people are more aware of the implications of what is proposed. The more extensive the debate, the more likely it is that the Government will have to pay heed to the concerns that are expressed. Government need to be listening now and acting upon what they hear ahead of and in preparation for the IGC. As my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon indicated, there is still time to influence the convention. I do not want to leave it until the IGC itself or until a referendum debatea debate that may or may not take place.
That brings me to my second question to the Minister. What do the Government propose to do, and how soon, to disseminate information to citizens about what is emanating from the convention? We need to ensure that information is made available and in a form that people can grasp. There is a divide between the political elite and the people in the EUit has existed for some timeand we need to ensure that it is reduced or eliminated in the United Kingdom.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Norton, is right: we have almostperhaps certainlyleft it too late to understand exactly where we are going in the European Union. I want to join other noble Lords who have spoken in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, for introducing the Motion and for the way in which he did so. It was lucid and dealt with the problem very firmly indeed. He was right in saying that if the proposals in the convention were adopted, they would mark the end of Britain as a sovereign and independent nation. I believe that to be absolutely true.
I suppose that I am one of those people who the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, describes as having a carping, backward-looking attitude to the European Union. I would not describe it quite like that. My attitude has always been that when we were told we were joining a Common Market, we were joining nothing of the sort. We were in fact joining an organisation which had as its final objective a United States of Europeand so it has proved. Unfortunately, the road has been gradual and built on a number of treaties and misleading information, to say the least, if not downright lies about where we were heading. It is therefore right that we have people in this country who query what is being done by government and in the name of the British people.
I heard for the first time today what is almost a seditious speech from the noble Lord, Lord Hooson. He goes further than anyone I have ever heard on the subject in that he wants us all to swear an oath of allegiance to the European Union. When I came here, I affirmed an oath of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. How many oaths of allegiance do I have to swear in order to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Hooson? I am satisfied with one. Indeed, our system of government over many hundreds of years has proved to be superior to many whom the noble Lord so admires.
Since the debate on 7th JanuaryI said pretty much of what I want to say then, but perhaps I had better say a few more words at this stagethe convention has been grinding on, wallowing in an ocean of paper, to produce a constitution and a system of European government which will be more powerful, more centralised and less democratic than ever before. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, said in his excellent speech, it gives the European Union a new legitimacy, imposed from above. We are not talking about building a federal state; we are talking about building a unitary state, and we should remember that. This is not a federalist convention; it is a unitary convention.
What is taking place is being done ostensibly to accommodate a United States of Europe of 25 countries and is precisely the opposite of what many of those favouring enlargement sought to achieve. They believed that the more countries that joined, the greater would be the push for decentralisation and the return to the nation states of powers lost to them. My own view has always been the opposite. The more countries that join the European Unionor the United States of Europethe more centralised it would have to become, and so it has proved. The convention is working towards just that. The final building blocks of the European super-state are being put into place, aided and abetted by the Tower of Babel that the convention has become, in an attempt to hoodwink people into believing that there is a democratic element in putting the final touches to the United States of Europe.
Incidentally, the term "United States of Europe" is not mine. It was coined by Giscard d'Estaing. In his first draft he proposed that one of the names might be the "United States of Europe". Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who at Question Time today accused me of fantasising, ought to read that draft and apologise for his remarks.
What is even worse is that this huge project, further to deprive nation states of their sovereignty, is being driven forward to accommodate an unrealistic timetable. An attempt is being made by the Italian Prime Minister to speed it up even further in order to meet his silly, vain and arrogant ambition to have the new treaty, constitution or whatever it is called, signed during his country's presidency. When we are dealing with something like this, we need all the time it takes. It is too serious to rush and we should make sure that we have all the time it takes, irrespective of the wishes of the Italian Prime Minister.
As we know, the new constitution will involve ceding more powers to the Union, increasing the competences and influence of its institutions and enabling it to intervene in and make decisions about virtually every aspect of policy, from foreign affairs, defence, economic policy, taxation to social and environment mattersand even the electoral arrangements and financial assistance for political parties. It will interfere in every nook and cranny of our national life. What is more, as the noble Lord, Lord Blackwell, pointed out in his opening remarks, it will be able to alter things as it goes along. Under Article 16, it will be possible for the Union to put right things which perhaps it got wrong at the beginning. Even Gisela Stuart, one of Parliament's representatives at the convention, is very concerned about that and, it is to be hoped, will be able to do something about it.
What is not understood is that, due to the qualified majority voting system, which the Prime Minister wishes to extendhe said so in his Cardiff speechgreat decisions will be made not by Her Majesty's Government or our Parliament, but by a gaggle of 25 countries whose interests are so often inimical to those of our own. But the Prime Minister, who claimed to be a British patriot in an article in the Sun, in March 1997, believes in more integrationagain, in his Cardiff speech he said that he wanted to see more integration; that is, a stronger Commission and the President of the Council to be
Of course our friend Mr Prodi, the President of the Commission, and, since last week, Mr Solana, have agreed that we should go even further. They are demanding a single European Union voice in the United Nations and other international bodies. Let us face it, they are simply taking a common foreign policy, which Mr Blair supports, to its logical conclusion; that is, if we have a common foreign policy, it cannot be effective unless it has a seat and a voice in the councils of the world.
There is yet another serious aspect to what is being proposed in the draft constitution: the requirement for loyalty to the institutions and decisions of the new order. Even the proposers do not suggest that an oath of allegiance should be taken, but nevertheless they are demanding that loyalty should be given to the decisions that are taken. That will apply not only to governments, it will extend to individual citizens, who will also owe that loyalty. Although it might appear at present to be somewhat innocuous, the long-term aim is to transfer loyalty to one's country to loyalty to the European Union. We know now that some Members of this House believe that that would be a good thing.
In the face of all that, it is difficult to understand the policy of the Official Opposition and the Conservative Party, which is to be in Europe but not governed by Europe. They must surely now recognise that that position is untenable and that you cannot remain in Europe if you do not agree to be governed by it. If they stick to that policy, it will be hung around their necks, as was their policy on the pound; that is, their commitment to retain the pound only for one Parliament instead of insisting that the pound was a symbol of our independence and sovereignty and would never be relinquished. If they have any sense, the Opposition and the Conservative Party will say that they will resist the convention proposals and that, if they are returned to power, they will repeal them, even if that means leaving the European Union, or whatever it may then be called.
If the Conservatives really want to hold a referendumand I am not at all sure that I agree about that because it needs to be thought throughunless they are prepared to take that kind of policy to a referendum, I think that they will not win it.
Finally, I have to say that the Prime Minister seems to be suffering from a diplomatic and political dose of schizophrenia. At the same time as wanting to be at the heart of Europe, he is also desperate to be a junior partner in the new world construct of the United States of America. Recent events must surely have convinced him that he cannot have both and that the cure for his schizophrenia is to become a real British patriot, which demands that Britain's position as a free and democratic nation is to be safeguarded at all costs. That cannot be achieved by even further European integration, but only by disengagement from the process of creating a United States of Europe.
Lord Saatchi: My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend Lord Blackwell on introducing the debate and on gathering together so many distinguished Members of your Lordships' House to speak on this important and urgent subject. Those of us privileged to serve under my noble friend's chairmanship in the Centre for Policy Studies are particularly proud of his pamphlet, which my noble and learned friend Lord Howe and the noble Lord, Lord Harris, both described, quite rightly, as extremely lucid and helpful.
Is it a coincidence that the publication of draft Articles 1 to 16 of the new constitution coincides with the worst breakdown in relations between Europe and America in our generation? Is it possible that this chilling document and that distressing breakdown can both be traced to the same root causean issue touched on by my noble friend Lord Howell and my noble and learned friend Lord Howethat is, a profound rivalry with America and envy of it?
When considering the rightness or wrongness of an action, English law advises us to consider the motive behind it. I accept that this is only a first draft and I am aware, as my noble and learned friend Lord Howe said, that there have been many, many amendments to it; no doubt there will be many redrafts. I also accept that the Minister will shortly say that some Members of your Lordships' House are afflicted with paranoid delusions; that if only we put our faith in the Minister and her Government then all will be well. However, the first draft of any document is often the most revealing of the motives and the mind of its author.
It is understandable that America would be envied by poor people and poor countries. But would it not be ironic if the power of America had now created envy among the so-called rich countries of the world, the authors of this document? Envy twists the mind so that envious people despise, and yet wish to ape, the object of their envy. Freud's law of ambivalence describes this mental process by which the envious ones come to love and hate the same object at the same time.
So, as the first draft reveals, those same Europeans who display such palpable distaste for American capitalism appear to have belatedly fallen in love with the American concept of globalisation. Is it not a supreme irony that Europe, which probably contains more critics of globalisation than any other area, where people routinely link hands under the unlikely banner of "Join the world-wide movement against globalisation", should have so enthusiastically embraced that American doctrine in this first draft document? Size is all. E pluribus unum. Unity is strength. If mergers of companies are good, so too must be the merger of countries.
So they want Europe to become one big country like America. Is that not why they drafted Articles 10 to 14, which, as my noble friend Lord Norton said, contain by far the most telling provisions of the draft constitution? For example, Article 13, which concerns
Do not the authors want that because they believe America has too much economic power? Have we not heard, for example, the French complain that while America accounts for seven of the top 10 investment banks and eight of the top 10 companies, and so on, France is dismissed by Americans as a "tourist destination"? For example, is it not right that Jean-Claude Trichet, the governor of the Bank of France, likes to tease audiences by pointing out that America accounts for only 30 per cent of world trade and then asking them, "But what does the dollar account for in the total of world transactions?"? He enjoys surprising people by telling them that the answer is "70 per cent". He points out the obvious injustice and says that the euro was created to put right that injusticeas, perhaps, was Article 13.
Is it America's military power that gave birth to Article 14? Perhaps it is painful for the authors to contemplate that America's military expenditure is greater than the next nine countries in the world put together; or to observe that this year's increase in the US defence budget is greater than the entire defence budget of the whole of the eurozone. Hence former French Foreign Minister Vedrine's expression "Hyperpuissance"beyond superpowerto describe the so-called "hectoring hegemon" America.
Article 14 will provide the antidote to what Le Monde called the "cretinization" of American foreign policy. Not only does it lay down what we will do, but the manner in which we will do it. As my noble friend Lord Blackwell pointed out, Article 14 concerns the common foreign and security policy. Its language is striking. It states:
Who will decide whether an action is "contrary to the Union's interests"; whether we have provided our support "actively and unreservedly"; whether our loyalty has been shown to have the exact right degree of "spirit"? Never has so much been given away by so many for so few.
Everyone now knows how offended European diplomats are by America's unilateralism; by its reluctance to commit itself to what Kofi Annan calls "multilateral solutions", whether in matters of war, justice or the environment. Maddeningly for them, "Stupid GI Joe"as they dub America is so dim that he persists in his gunslinging ways, failing to appreciate post-modern transnational due process, negotiation and co-operation to adjudicate disputes. Is that why they drafted Article 9, which concerns the
Or was it the basis of Article 10, which introduces us to one of the more unusual uses of the English word "competence"to mean not "ability" but "jurisdiction"and, as my noble friend said, helpfully sets out who will have jurisdiction over what?
The authors of the draft document want regime change. The regime they want to change is the one in which America is dominant. But the Ten Commandments condemn covetousness. Envy is one of the deadly sins. The original sin of envy arose from resentment of God's monopoly of the tree of knowledge. In the same way as now, envy and resentment have risen up in Europe, never more clearly expressed than in this first draft document, against America's monopoly of financial, military and cultural success.
We remember what happened to those who succumbed to the sin of envy. The serpent's life would be to crawl on its stomach; the woman would for ever suffer pain in childbirth. And the man? He would bear worry and anxiety on his head for the rest of his days. I personally would not wish such a fate on the authors of this draft constitution, but to avoid it, I advise them to gather up all the copies of the first draft and tear them up before my noble friend Lord Norton gets his way and more members of the public notice what is in it.
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