Mr Brown's red line
Published in: Daily Mail
Well, what an amazing surprise. Tony Blair is reported to have protected all his 'red lines' at the Brussels summit.
Gordon Brown, who previously promised that he would call a referendum if Britain's interests were threatened by the new constitutional treaty, now says we don't need a referendum after all because of Mr Blair's negotiating genius.
So apparently we can all relax. St Tony has strangled the EU dragon with his bare hands before striding out of Downing Street into the sunset. The threat to our power of self-government has been seen off. Britain has been saved.
Oh please. Pull the other one, it's got euro-bells on it.
The plain fact is that, true to type, the EU set out to smuggle in a constitution by stealth -- and it is now brazenly doing precisely that. Even by its own ruthless standards, the scale of the intended deceit and the railroading of its own procedures to ensure that it gets away with it are truly breathtaking.
What actually happened in last Saturday's pre-dawn diplomatic brawl in Brussels was that Mr Blair's red lines turned into the colour of fudge and then faded from sight altogether. The supposed safeguards he secured on the core issues of foreign policy, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, economic policy and criminal justice are simply not worth the paper they are written on.
For the new treaty doesn't just extend the EU's powers. It turns it into a constitutional freak, a bureaucratic Frankenstein's monster without a shred of democratic legitimacy, which will destroy what remains of our powers of self-government and make Mr Blair's apparent 'opt-outs' absurdly irrelevant.
For example, the EU is now to have its own foreign minister. The fact that this panjandrum will be called the EU's 'high representative', which sounds like something straight out of Gilbert and Sullivan, does not detract from his power -- which is to head a diplomatic service with ambassadors worldwide in pursuit of an EU foreign policy.
What's more, member states will be forced to support that policy 'actively and unreservedly'-- and will be barred from launching military strikes or declaring war that might be thought to damage the EU's standing. In other words, we would be forbidden from defending our own interests and would be forced instead to do whatever the EU collectively decides.
Downing Street claims that an annex to the treaty it has secured means this will not happen. But since this annex is a 'declaration' rather than a legally binding protocol', it would seem that it is the equivalent of a white handkerchief waved at Trafalgar.
Similarly, the supposed exemption Mr Blair secured from the Charter of Fundamental Rights has been described by one legal expert as 'nonsense' and is highly unlikely to survive a European legal challenge. Just as devastatingly, Mr Blair has surrendered Britain's power to block a European police force and public prosecutor, and the European Court of Justice will get enhanced powers to tell us how to run our justice system and determine our immigration policy.
Mr Blair has, in fact, surrendered our veto in at least 40 areas of policy including energy, defence and the annual budget. So in what important areas of policy will we remain free to govern ourselves? None.
If a nation cannot take the foreign policy measures needed to defend itself, if it can no longer decide to whom it will grant the right of citizenship, or exercise its own historic values of law, justice and liberty, it is no longer an independent nation at all.
And even worse than all of this is the outrageous provision by which this treaty can be amended in future without the need for any further treaties.
So we are not merely signing away all the powers listed in this treaty; we are also surrendering our ability to thwart any future attempt by Brussels to extend its power over us yet further in any way it might decide.
The precise ramifications of this treaty and all its tortuous annexes and declarations may currently be as clear as mud, but one thing is plain. This is the EU constitution in all but name. To describe it as an 'amending' treaty is demonstrably untrue.
It grants the EU a single legal personality whereby it can sign treaties and international agreements in its own right. It thus brings into being a totally new global entity -- a superstate -- which changes the legal relationship between Britain and the EU into one to which the British people have never agreed.
The way it is being pushed through, moreover, takes the undemocratic ruthlessness of the EU to new depths. Usually, its treaties are preceded by an inter-governmental conference to thrash out their provisions. This time, the conference is to be held afterwards -- and member states will be told they can only discuss the terms that the European Council wants.
The whole thing is therefore, in effect, an EU coup d'etat.
Who can be surprised? Mendacity and hostility to democracy are written into the very DNA of the European project. It always was a scheme to destroy the sovereignty of member states while pretending to act in their interests. It always involved a wholesale deceit of the peoples of Europe, because it was always understood that none of them would knowingly vote for their countries to commit national suicide.
At every single stage, we have been told that the EU's progressive erosion of national sovereignty was a scare story invented by swivel-eyed xenophobes. At every single stage, we have lost more and more of our independence. At every single stage we have been lied to.
The 64,000- euro question is what Gordon Brown will now do. Tony Blair's parting gift to him is a primed constitutional time bomb.
For even before Mr Brown kisses hands with the Queen on Wednesday as her Prime Minister, he has been landed with a choice between destroying what remains of her sovereignty in Parliament and throwing a huge spanner in the EU works.
If he calls a referendum, he will lose it. If he doesn't, he will lose the voters. For the public are not stupid. They can see this constitution for what it is.
To ask whether he would call a referendum is, however, surely to think in the wrong way. For if Mr Brown did agree to call one -- and the pressure on him is growing after Ireland's decision to do so -- this would mean that he would first be recommending this treaty to Parliament.
But since it entails the destruction of Britain as a self-governing nation, no Prime Minister should present it to Parliament in the first place. Prime Minister Brown should simply refuse to countenance it at all. Indeed, how could any Prime Minister committed to upholding democracy do otherwise?
That should be Mr Brown's own, absolutely non-degradable red line. After all, if he accepts this treaty what will his first Cabinet be other than a transparent charade? What is the point of selecting a new Foreign Secretary, Home Secretary or any other minister if they are to be merely ciphers of Brussels?
If Mr Brown puts this constitution to Parliament and in addition refuses to hold a referendum, he will not merely forfeit the voters' trust at the very start of his premiership. He will make voting for him or for any other government totally pointless. This is not just another tiresome political row. What is at stake here is democracy itself.