Select Committee on Liaison Third Report


Memorandum from Lord Moran

Proposal for a Select Committee to consider what might be the consequences of a withdrawal from the European Union

The Head of Research Services in the House of Lords Library has confirmed that there appears to be no "authoritative and impartial report on what detachment from the European Union, in whole or in part, would mean for the United Kingdom". (Dr. Victory's letter of 28 July 2003, attached.) It is the view of all those who have subscribed to this paper that a report on this is overdue and that a Select Committee of the House of Lords would be the most appropriate body to produce such a report.

Members of the Liaison Committee will be aware that there is no provision for withdrawal in the existing EC Treaties. The draft Treaty establishing a European Constitution does, however, include, in Article 1-59, a procedure for withdrawal from the Union. The text of this article is attached. A House of Commons research paper points out that Baroness Scotland, when a Foreign Office Minister, was asked why there was no provision in the EC Treaties for the free and unilateral withdrawal of Member States, as there is for the treaties governing NATO and the WTO, and that she replied: "We see no need for the Treaties governing membership of the Union to include a specific provision on unilateral withdrawal. It remains open to Parliament to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, the logical consequences of which would be to withdraw from the EU The terms of such a withdrawal would be for the Government to negotiate with the other member states." (HL Deb, 11 January 2000, WA 96-7). This paper also records that Peter Ham told the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee in November 2002: "We saw it for the first time as we did other ideas in the skeleton draft constitution which he put forward and we are having a look at it. It may be a good idea that Member States which are so fed up with the European Union are able to remove themselves from it. We need to look at the detail, we need to know exactly what it means."

Against this background our House on 27 June 2003 gave a Second Reading to the European Union (Implications of Withdrawal) Bill (HL), introduced by Lord Pearson of Rannoch, which would require the Government to set up an independent inquiry into the implications of withdrawal and to publish the result.

During the debate Lord Moran, a Cross Bencher, suggested that instead of seeking to get the Government to set up such an inquiry it might be better for this House to do so. He said:

"It is of the greatest importance that we should have a thorough, impartial and well-informed study of what detachment from the Union, in whole or in part, would mean for this country. I do not suppose that this Government or any other that is in sight will do this, although of course they should. I believe that in those circumstances the best way forward might be for us to set up a Select Committee of this House to consider thoroughly and to report on the implications of acting in accordance with Part I, Article 59 of the draft constitution. Such a committee must command confidence and be as balanced and impartial as possible.

A good precedent was the Select Committee on the 1996 Inter-Governmental Conference … three Eurosceptics were co-opted to this committee to balance the Europhiles—that is, the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddard of Swindon, and myself as a Cross-Bencher. It worked well and we all signed the report which was, I think, a useful one.

Such a committee established now could hear evidence from experts in all the relevant fields. A report on these lines, calm, dispassionate and authoritative —would be an enormous help to all those considering our future relationship with Europe and would enable all of us to judge whether withdrawal would be a catastrophe or bring benefits to this country. I commend the idea to the House."

This approach is welcomed by Lord Pearson (who has agreed that if such a Select Committee is set up it would not be necessary to proceed with the further stages of his Bill) and is supported by at least 51 Peers from different parts of the House whose names are attached. These include a former Prime Minister, a former Speaker of the House of Commons, several former senior Ministers and a number of Peers who are distinguished members of the business community.

We think it essential that the Select Committee should command general confidence. It should not be overbalanced by known Europhiles or known Eurosceptics. It should be as dispassionate and authoritative as possible, and this would apply most of all to the Chairman. Its aim should be to shed light on the question, not to generate heat.

In our view it should seek oral and written evidence from the most eminent available experts on all aspects of the question— the constitutional and legal position, financial, trade and investment implications, effects on our foreign relations and defence arrangements and on agriculture and fisheries. It should then set out the likely consequences of partial or total withdrawal, detailing the likely positive and negative effects.

Peers supporting this request: Ampthill, Astor, Baker of Dorking, Beaumont of Whitley, fen, Black of Crossharbour, Blackwell, Campbell of Alloway, Cavendish of Furness, Chalfont, B. Cox, Cuckney, E. Erroll, V. Falkland, Feldman, Forsyth of Drumlean, Glenarthur, Griffiths of Fforestfach, Harris of High Cross, Inge, Kilclooney, Kimball, B. Knight of Collingtree, Laing of Dunphail, Liverpool, B. Mallalieu, Mancroft, C Mar, Monson, Moran, Mowbray and Stourton, E. Onslow, Palmer, Pearson of Rannoch, E. Peel, Pilkington, Renton, B. Saltoun of Abernethy, Sheppard of Didgemere, Shrewsbuiy & Waterford, Slim, Stevens of Ludgate, Stoddart of Swindon, B. Strange, Swinfen, Tebbit, Thatcher, Vinson, Waddington, Weatherill, DL, Willoughby de Broke.

Enclosures:  Letter from Isolde Victory to Lord Moran dated 28 July, 2003

      The Draft Treaty Establishing a European Constitution. Text of Article I-59

* * * * * *

Letter from Isolde Victory to Lord Moran dated 28 July, 2003

Withdrawal from the EU

I have been following up your query about whether there have been any authoritative and impartial reports on what detachment from the European Union, in whole or in part, would mean for the United Kingdom.

I could not find any impartial consideration of this question of the kind you proposed for a select committee (HL Hansard, 27th June 2003, col. 561). There have been a small number of pamphlets and journal articles on the subject but none with the balance and range of a select committee report.

I hope this is of assistance.

The Draft Treaty Establishing a European Constitution. Text of Article I-59

1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the European Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.

2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention; the European Council shall examine that notification. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council of Ministers, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

3. The representative of the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in Council of Ministers or European Council discussions or decisions concerning it.

4. The Constitution shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, decides to extend this period.

5. If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to re-join, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article

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