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There has been a great deal of comment on the strengthening of the position of the high representative as provided for in the treaty. The renamed post will bring together three functions that already exist: the Council presidency, the commissioner for external affairs and the high representative. At this stage, it is of course very difficult to assess how this will work in practice, but the objective is to bring about more effective and coherent EU external action. Obviously, a great deal will depend on the working relationships within the EU with the president of the Council and the president of the Commission, but most importantly with the member states, particularly as the high representative will chair the Foreign Affairs Council, which is a real innovation that will undoubtedly give the incumbent a great deal more clout.
In a practical sense, the less ambitiously framed role of the current incumbent is already far more influential than it used to be. His current functions may not be as extensive as those laid out in the treaty, but his influence is already very considerable. The influence of the new role is really nothing to fear. It will develop, and it may vary from incumbent to incumbent. Frankly, we above all people should recognise that. It is not so unlike Parliaments relationship with Ministers. Some Ministers are very influential and others are less so. Much depends on the man or woman concerned.
Lastly, there is the impact of the treaty on our position at the United Nations. Concerns and myths have proliferated about this. If one believes some parts of the popular press, we shall lose our seat on the Security Council and our right to speak; we shall lose our very veto. Whatever such rabble-rousers are prepared to try to persuade the British public to believe about their own Government, do they really think that they can persuade anyone, however naive, that the French would give up any of those?
There is a change that provides for member states on the Security Council to request that the high representative be invited to speak to present the EUs position, where that position is unanimously agreed. The request must be made; that is all. The Security Council may agree or not agree. There is nothing so extraordinary in that; diplomats and others are already regularly invited to speak to the Security Council. Our right to speak, our right to vote and our veto remain unaffected, and we made that very clear in paragraph 7.82 of our report.
We have heard today and no doubt we will hear a great deal more about the referendum on the treaty. Put boldly, the accusation is that the Government have acted in bad faith, and that will be repeated. Both sides of the argument will accuse each other of putting party before national interest and of trying to obscure the real argument. Both sides will quote their supporters, and both sides will attempt to trump each other in the importance of those whom they quote. It is all pretty predictable stuff. We shall no doubt have every opportunity to go over it in detail. Perhaps I may make one or two points in opening on our side on some of the points made by the noble Lord, who I am glad to see has now returned to his place.
As I understood it, the IGC mandate records that the agreement of all 27 heads that the constitutional concept that consisted in repealing all existing treaties and replacing them by a single text called a constitution is abandoned. I understood that that was what had been agreed.
The constitutional treaty, as I understood itbut maybe the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, can tell me that I am wrongwas legally unprecedented. It would have abolished the EU and refounded it under a single constitutional order. The Lisbon treaty, by contrast, amends the existing treaties in no way differently from the Single European Act and the treaties of Maastricht, Nice and Amsterdama pretty important difference between the original constitutional treaty and the treaty before us today.
By dropping the name of the Foreign Minister, getting rid of the treatys references to flags, anthems, currency and mottos, and removing the charter from the body of the treaty, the so-called constitutional trappings have all gone. The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, may think that that is paltry stuff, but I prefer to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, who, after all, is not part of this political scrap, that these are not trivia but hugely important issues for all nations and we attach great significance to them.
The really important point was what was negotiated after the original treatythe so-called red lines, which really do mean that Britain is in a different position from that of other signatories to the treaty. The red lines include a legally binding protocol that is specific to the United Kingdom in the Charter of Fundamental RightsI make that point particularly for the noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite, who is looking scepticalis applicable in both the UK courts and the European Court of Justice, and confirms that the binding charter will have no impact on UK domestic law and will create no powers for the EU to legislate. That is pretty significant.
I turn to the criminal law and police and judicial process, regarding which the Government secured an extension of our existing opt-in rights on migration, asylum and immigration issues. My goodness, if we had not, we would be hearing all about that today from the other side, who believe it is a very significant point. On social security, the Government secured a provision allowing us to insist on unanimous voting by EU member states if we were concerned that a proposal would affect important aspects of our social security system. That is the third point. The fourth red line is, of course, where we secured an agreement on common foreign and security policy whereby it will continue to be intergovernmental and on which there would, again, be voting unanimity by EU member states.
The noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, may think that that does not count at all and that those red lines, negotiated after the original constitutional treaty, do not count. I beg to differ, and most sensible people would, too. The noble Lord was allowed to finish his remarks without being interrupted. Perhaps he would extend the same courtesy to me. In the mean time, nothing can take the place of detailed analysis of what this treaty changes in respect of our current treaty and our treaty obligations in the EU. We have to look at what the treaty actually says, not what some people would like it to say.
When the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, held a press conference on the publication of our report a couple of weeks ago, a number of journalistsin fact, quite a few journaliststurned up. They searched desperately through the report for the condemnations, for the criticisms and for the sensational conclusions. They searched in vain. What they found were the considered judgments to which 80 of your Lordships had contributedmeasured, sensible and accurate judgments. Of course, nothing appeared in the press. That is what we call balanced reporting on the European Union in this country. I left the press conference with a number of journalists, one of whom said very sadly to another, I thought that the Lords was full of
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Lord Brittan of Spennithorne: My Lords, first, I apologise to the House for the fact that a very long-standing commitment means that I shall not be able to be present for the concluding stages of the debate. I want to use the time available to speak about the treaty and not about the referendum. However, I should make it clear that I am not only very much in favour of approving the treaty but I am also strongly opposed to a referendum on this issue.
In my view, the treaty is useful and necessary but it is not a radical transformation of the European Union or of our relations with our European Union partners. It does not constitute a constitution in the sense of a document that creates a system and the rules under which the system is to operate. The mistake was to call the previous lapsed treaty a constitution. The mistake was made because, whereas that description made many people in this country suspicious of it, in much of the European Union the creation of a constitution was considered politically attractive. That may have been a misjudgment; it probably was, but that misjudgment does not make the previous treaty a constitution or the present one anything like a constitution.
This treaty is, in fact, one of a long series of treaties, each of which alters in some respects the way in which the European Union is governed. However, it is incremental in character, not transformationalit does not amount to a significant transfer of power from the member states to the institutions of the European Union. In that respect, the comparison that has been made between this treaty and the Single European Act or the Maastricht treaty is fair, but this one is much narrower in scope and more limited in effect.
I would add that in my view the treaty should be supportednot because the clever Government have saved us from the wiles of Brussels or the machinations of continental federalists but for positive reasons. It provides two positive benefitsbenefits for us and benefits for the European Union as a whole. I think that it is a positive achievement, not a lucky escape.
First, the treaty makes the changes that are necessary to enable the European Union to function more efficiently and effectively after the recent huge increase in the number of member states through the admission of the countries of central and eastern Europe. When I was in the Commission, I saw successive enlargements making the machinery more and more cumbersome, with very few changes to take account of that. Now, at last, it is catch-up time, and one of the more entertaining featuressome might say one of the few entertaining featuresof the discussions about the treaty is that suddenly long-standing opponents and fierce critics of the European Union are saying, Its all working well. Why change it? Why do we need to have this treaty? That seems to me to miss the point. There was never any question of the European Union suddenly collapsing
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As the United Kingdom has, on a cross-party basis, rightly been a strong supporter of enlargement, it would be wrong to the point of perversity for us now to oppose the institutional changes that are needed as a result. Apart from all else, it would have a devastating effect on our relations with the countries of central and eastern Europe which we have taken such pains to fosterand to very good effectfor our benefit and for the benefit of Europe as a whole.
What are the institutional changes? At this stage of the debate, they have already been referred to. They include the reduction in the size of the Commission to make it more manageable and the capping of the size of the European Parliament. The reduction in the number of issues requiring unanimity means that a single country can no longer block legislation in the areas concerned; and of course it is surely a statistical probability that that use of a single countrys veto is more likely to occur the more member states there are in the European Union. As it happens, much of the increase in qualified majority voting is in areas such as energy, intellectual property, transport and research where the United Kingdom has always supported EU activity and promoted it. The veto is retained in the really sensitive areas such as taxation and social security. In addition, as has been mentioned frequently, the opt-in, opt-out arrangements are extended in areas relating to criminal law, police and judicial process, and there is the special protocol protecting the Charter of Fundamental Rights, itself creating justiciable rights in the UK; that is quite a formidable package.
You also have to look at the other side of the cointhe benefits as well as the features needed to deal with the changes brought about by enlargement, such as a substantial increase in UK voting power or the totally new powers for the national parliaments. Looked at as a whole, which is surely the right and fair thing to do, the features show a balance of power moving from the Commission to the member states. Let us not forget that the European Council sounds like, and is written up in the treaty as, a European institutionbut what is it? It is the Heads of Government of the member states. It is a governmental, not a Commission-type, institution.
The second main benefit of the treaty, apart from the changes to take account of enlargement, is the strengthening of the European Unions ability to operate globally in the area of foreign policy. That is achieved by the creation of a more permanent President of the European Council and the merger of the Commissioner for External Relations with the high representative for foreign and security policy. That provides for greater continuity and clarity, but it is extremely important for the debate in this country to underline that it does not confer new powers on either of those two people. It does not impose agreement on the member states if they are disinclined to reach such agreement, nor does it enable the European Union through those new institutions to act as a single unit where there is no agreement by the member statesand by member states, I mean all the member states.
On the other hand, by creating a clearer structure and greater continuity, it will be easier to build consensus from the bottom up and will make it more likely that the European Union will be able to speak with a single voice on the world stage more often and more coherently. It does not guarantee that, but it makes it more probable. When you consider the great issues todayclimate change, security of energy supply and the environmentyou realise that no one country can solve those problems on its own. The European Union acting where there is agreement, and achieving a greater possibility of securing such agreement, can make a significant contribution. Increasing the chances of the European Union being able to act collectively is in the interests of us all in handling the great issues on the world stage. That is what the Lisbon treaty will achieve and is why it should be supported.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, it is a great honour for my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke and me to speak in this debate on behalf of the UK Independence Party. It is the only respectable political party that is telling the British people the truth about the colossal folly of our EU membership.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, the truth is still valuable to the British people, even if it is not valuable to some noble Lords opposite. The other main parties have misled and lied to them for some 36 years, and have thus brought this country to its present predicament. That predicament can be simply put: EU membership is ruinously expensive and has deprived us of most of our right to govern ourselves. The Lisbon treaty will complete the job and should, therefore, be rejected by this House at Second Reading.
Of course, our political establishment, so richly represented in your Lordships House, will not agree with me. It cannot face up honestly to either of those accusations, just as it dare not admit to how low it has brought this country in every other area of our national life. What do I mean by our political establishment? I mean the Members of the House of Commons and this place, the bureaucracy which supports us and the Government of the day and, a point often missed, the political media which feed off us. It is that political class, politely referred to as the Westminster village, which is becoming increasingly despised by the real people who earn the money to pay the taxes to keep it afloat. If those real people are denied a referendum on this Lisbon treaty, which they were clearly promised, our whole political system will rightly be held in even greater contempt.
To take the accusation that our EU membership is ruinously expensive, I can but refer your Lordships and future students of our national demise to my debate in your Lordships House on 8 June last year, calling for an official cost-benefit analysis into the benefits or disbenefits of our EU membership. I held similar debates on 27 June 2003 and 17 March 2000. No one can say I have not tried. The response from the Government and the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Benches has always been wearisomely the same. Like propaganda machines the world over, they parrot that
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As I have mentioned before, there have been several responsible private academic studies over recent years which put the economic cost of our EU membership conservatively at around 8 to 10 per cent of GDP, or £80 billion to £100 billion per annum. That sort of cost is supported by no less a personage than the EUs Competition Commissioner himself, GĂ1/4nter Verheugen, who has put the cost of EU regulation alone at some 6.5 per cent of GDP.
The most successful piece of Europhile propaganda is that we cannot afford to leave the EU because 3.5 million jobs depend on our membership, with the implication that they would be lost if we left. It is that obvious nonsense, constantly repeated by Prime Ministers downwards, for many years, that has gone into the subconscious of the British people and made many of them fearful of leaving the EU. To be charitable, I can only hope that our political leaders mouth this fantasy because they do not understand much about international trade or commerce. Perhaps they really do not understand that if we left the political construct of our EU membership, our trade with our clients and suppliers in Europe would continue and so would the jobs which depend on it.
In the background, there is also the killer point that the EU sells us more than we sell them. We are the EUs largest client. So if we left the EU, it would need to continue in free trade with us and none of our jobs would be in danger. There are at least two other killer points in the Eurosceptics economic locker. The first is that EU membership forces us to remain below decks on the Titanic of the EUs over-regulated and sclerotic economy, now starting to sink fast after coming up against the iceberg of the free economies of the east. The second is that only about 9 per cent of our economy trades in the EU at all; about 11 per cent with the rest of the world; and 80 per cent stays right here in our domestic economy. Yet Brusselss job-destroying over-regulation hits the whole 100 per cent of GDP of our economy. So the truth is the reverse of the Europhile propaganda; leaving the EU would create jobsmillions of them.
My second principal reason for suggesting that your Lordships should reject the Bill at Second Reading is that our present EU membership has already deprived the British people of most of their right to govern themselves; that is their right to elect and dismiss those who make their laws; and that the Lisbon treaty will deprive them of the rest. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, and my noble friends Lord Forsyth and Lord Blackwell have made the unanswerable case that the Lisbon treaty is indeed the same as the rejected constitution, give or take the flag and the anthem, which will continue to be used anyway.
So I will content myself with reminding your Lordships that most of our national law is now made in Brussels and then imposed on this Parliament and our people. The German Government have put the proportion of their national law made in Brussels at 84 per cent. Even our own Government have been forced to admit
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In this important debate it is worth reminding your Lordships just what the Brussels law-making system is, and how it is the very antithesis of democracy. EU law, which is superior to British law, is proposed in secret by the unelected Commission. It is then negotiated in secret in COREPER or by bureaucrats from the nation states, and then it is passed in the Council of Ministers, where the UK Government are reduced to some 8 per cent of the vote and where they propose, under Lisbon, to throw away nearly all of their remaining rights to a veto. The resulting laws must then be rubber-stamped by this Parliamentif we get to see them at alland executed by the self-same unelected Commission, aided and abetted by that engine of EU integration, the Luxembourg Court of Justice.
Two other features of the quagmire in which we find ourselves are that powers, once passed to Brussels, cannot be returned to national parliaments, and the treaties can only be changed by unanimity in the Council. That is why we in the UK Independence Party say that renegotiation of the treaties is not realistic. The only way out is the door.
Against all of that, the Europhile propagandists pretend that this brave new system of law-making is somehow rendered democratically respectable by the process of scrutiny in both Houses of Parliament. My noble friend Lord Vinson may have more to say in this regard, so I will content myself by pointing out that our EU scrutiny committees can do only that: they can scrutinise, report and debate, but they cannot change anything. I fear that I have come to wonder what the point of them is at all. They have certainly done nothing over the years to stem the steady handover of our once-proud sovereignty to Brussels, from the Single European Act in 1986 to Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice. There should have been a referendum on all of those, of course, but five wrongs will not make a right if we do not have a referendum on Lisbon.
It is somewhat devious of the Europhiles to pretend that Lisbon reverses this trend by giving real power to national parliaments. It is true that if, in eight weeks, one-third of national parliaments can get their act together and get the parliamentary time from their Governments to disagree with a new legislative proposal with which most of those Governments will already have agreed, then Brussels must think again. However, the Commission can go ahead unless the Council and the Parliamentwhich will also have agreed with the proposalchange their minds and agree with the one third of national parliaments which do not want it. Even then, 54 per cent of the votes in the Council and 49 per cent of votes in the Parliament can agree with the national parliaments and be overridden. Some democracy, that.
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