For my generation, it was grimly taken for granted that Europe would remain divided between West and East, between freedom and tyranny. But when the Soviet Union collapsed, it quickly became clear that the countries of the East saw their future alongside us in the European Union.
What is odd here is the feeling that the collapse of the USSR and the Warsaw Pact just sort of happened. It didn?t. It happened because a few people at the helm of a few countries just would not give in to the ?inevitable? but were prepared to act. No European would have dared to go to Berlin and demand ?Mr Gorbachov, tear down this wall? in the way that Reagan did in 1987. Most of the Eadtern block countries see no alternative to the EU, this is true, but to say that they see their future in the current EU, that is overstating the case
They would not have done so if the EU were another tyranny. So I was surprised that The Daily Telegraph concluded its otherwise very informative series on the proposed constitutional treaty for the EU by saying it 'creates a tyranny that would imperil all that has been achieved since 1945'.
No tyranny would tolerate the freedom of thought, speech and action that the people and institutions across the European Union rightly and routinely enjoy.
Odd that. In the last couple of months the country most associated with the heart of Europe has in fact in a way that can only be described as tyrannically. Belgium. The way in which the Courts have been used to block freedom of political association, in the case of the Vlams Blok ? and please don?t think that because one disagrees with them then they should necessarily be banned. Me I think that the Green party is a danger to freedom and democracy, but I would never say ban them, I would just demand of other parties to beat them in argument and get their vote out. The problem in Belgium is that the Blok seems to be winning (at least in Flanders and Antwerp in particular, and the corrupt and venal; old parties have had to resort to the courts top have them banned. Then there is the case of the journalist Hans-Martin Tillack, about which I have written extensively. The arrest of this journalist on the flimsiest of evidence was done at such haste by the Belgian State, not because they had any hard evidence, but because an European Institution OLAF, demanded it. So Mr Straw thinks that ?Tyranny? would not ?tolerate the freedom of thought, speech and action that the people and institutions across the European Union rightly and routinely enjoy?. Actually Mr Straw, it doesn?t.
Here in Britain the debate about the substance of the draft constitutional treaty was being drowned out by understandable concerns about whether the British people would have a direct say in ratifying any treaty. Now that a referendum has been agreed, we can better make the case that the draft treaty is about practical reforms to make an expanded EU work more effectively, and to give greater powers to national governments and parliaments.
True, true Mr Straw, but why was that? Because your Government had set its face hard and fast against giving the people a say. You can hardly claim the credit for granting a referendum, when it had to be pulled from you like a dummy from a squalling baby.
It is not a constitution for a federal state. Were this an accurate description, I would certainly vote against it. But the arguments used to support this case are either a misreading of the text; or they assume that Britain's red lines will be breached in the negotiations; or they describe what is already in the treaties, on which our membership of the EU is currently founded.
Well what do you suggest it is other than a federal State. Oh I know the words ?United States of Europe? , were removed from the draft so as not to frighten the UK electorate, but come on who are you kidding. I won?t go into the Treaty in detail but just in the question of Veto rights and the concept of ?Loyal Co-operation? suggst that you should be voting no come the day.
I accept that the Government has a duty to explain more clearly what is in the draft treaty, because the polling shows how little is known about it. In fact working for greater public understanding is a national duty, because Britain's active role in Europe is fundamental to our national interest. We must tackle the central myth that we are negotiating away our sovereignty.
Like the myth that we are negotiating away Gibraltar?s sovereignty. Sovereignty cannot be shared, either on has the power over one?s own affairs, or one doesn?t. End of story.
Take foreign policy. Our opponents make much of Article I-15.2 saying member states must support the common policy 'actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity'. But this is a direct quotation from the Maastricht Treaty, which has been part of British law for more than a decade. In that time we have maintained our own foreign policy, most notably this time last year when we were in major disagreement with several member states over Iraq. When we do choose to act jointly with our European partners, decisions are made unanimously, so we retain our veto. That will remain the case under any treaty which this Government signs and is reflected in the draft text negotiated - but not agreed - last December. This is a red line.
Hold on with that direct quote. That is quite true in the way it works. It is a direct quote from Maastricht but had been filtered by the time on Amsterdam ? which supersedes and renders obselete Maastricht. Thus it hasn?t been on the statute book for more than a decade. true. In the Amsterdam Treaty (Article J.13) It states ?In a spirit of mutual solidarity, the Member State concerned shall refrain from any action likely to conflict with or impede Union action based on that decision?. The last word on this newly defined principle, no less a guiding principle must rest with Jean Luc Dehane, former Prime Minister of Belgium and Vice President of the Constitutional Convention. "Federalism always presupposes loyal cooperation."
It is a gross exaggeration to portray the EU as a state with its own executive, legislature, judiciary, police, civil service, currency, central bank, taxes, army, foreign minister, embassies and flag. Yes, the union already has a bureaucracy in Brussels and a court, both of which have existed from the union's beginnings as the Common Market. So has the primacy of EU law.
How, for instance, could we ensure that the single market operates otherwise? I take it our critics are not arguing against the single market, which has greatly benefited Britain by ensuring that legal powers exist to prevent other EU countries from erecting barriers to free trade and for which Mrs Thatcher fought so successfully in the mid-1980s. Most member states have joined the single currency. Our decision will be subject to a referendum.
The key point missed by those who make the superstate argument is that the powers exercised by the union are freely conferred on it by the member nations. The draft constitution makes this even clearer, which ought to commend it to those who fear centralisation - Article I-9.2 states that 'the Union shall act within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the Member States'.
Aslo true, but a tad disingenuous, given that another 30 plus areas will move to QMV when a country can be outvoted, thus being forced to do something directly against the wishes of a member state.
On the Charter of Fundamental Rights, article II-51 says this 'does not extend the field of application of Union law beyond the powers of the Union or establish any new power or task of the Union'. Our White Paper of last September made clear that we will make a final decision on incorporating the Charter in the light of negotiations.
No it doesn?t need to as this government has already transposed the Charter into UK law. (Including my favourite right of all, the right to good administration! (Chapter 5 Article 41)
The draft treaty has not been handed down on tablets of stone from Brussels, but is a live document still subject to negotiation by the democratically elected leaders of 25 sovereign nations. Britain's democratic Government still has substantial reservations, as we have said.
Whoa hold on there, but is it not you and your boss who laugh when the Tories talk about renegotiation. So what pray is the difference?
The main reservations ('red lines') were listed in paragraph 66 of the White Paper. Unanimity (that is, the national veto) must remain for Treaty change 'and in other areas of vital national interest such as tax, social security, defence, key areas of criminal procedural law and the system of own resources (the EU's revenue-raising mechanism)'. If we negotiate a treaty on those terms, the constitution on which the British public votes will not establish a tyranny, nor found a superstate.
It will make clear that we are members of a union of sovereign nations, whose legitimacy derives from its democratically elected governments; which is subject to scrutiny by 25 national parliaments; and in which power is shared only where the nations freely choose to do so.
We will not sign a treaty that fails to meet this standard. But we will enter the negotiations with confidence, because Britain is now a country with real negotiating clout as a result of this Government's policy of active engagement within the EU.
Britain as a successful nation state and a major player on the world stage has a strategic interest in being at the heart of Europe. Our prosperity and security depend on it. All of us who are committed to this must now get out and start winning the argument and strive for greater public understanding of the reality. We must have a debate based on fact, not myth. I strongly believe that this is an argument we can win.
In what way does our ?security and prosperity depend on it?? If it is security that we depend on the EU then we had better all dig holes in the ground and buy tin helmets. The EU was unable to sort out the former Yugoslavia without the Americans, if something really serious came along ? like say, the war on terror where would we be if we threw in our lot with a bunch of appeasing charlatans. If our prosperity depends upon it, Lord above Jack, just look at the economies around Europe and thank your cotton socks that you have a channel, nay gulf between them and us.