There can be no renegotiation of our membership of the EU, since any changes to the treaties require unanimity among all member states, argues Gerard Batten MEP (pdf).
•The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, recently launched a ‘Review of the Balances of Competences between the UK and the EU’: Of course, when the word ‘competence’ is used in relation to the EU it actually means power incompetently exercised, but that is another matter. In his document, Mr Hague itemises the vast amount of power that has already been ceded to the EU. He sets out the three categories of EU power (sorry, competences): ‘exclusive’; ‘shared’; and ‘supporting’.
Exclusive Competence means that the EU has exclusive power to act in these areas, for example in the customs union, the internal market and monetary policy for countries using the euro. Shared Competence means that the EU enjoys primacy in respect of legislation in these areas and the Member States may only ‘exercise their competence to the extent that the Union has not exercised its competence’ (how very kind!). The Member State may act, but may be prevented from acting once the EU has done so.
This second tier of power has given the EU power over the years to legislate over almost every aspect of our national life. It includes: agriculture, fisheries, trade, the environment, consumer protection, transport, energy, space and sport; and most disturbingly, the areas of ‘freedom, security and justice’. This refers to the creation of an EU-wide system of criminal law designed to overrule the centuries-old safeguards of our ancient freedoms and liberties.
In the last category of Supporting Powers, covering, for example, culture, tourism and education, action by the EU does not prevent the Member State taking action of their own (how very kind again), bearing in mind of course that EU law has primacy over national law anyway.
The Government’s document lists each of the succession of treaties which have surrendered power to the EU; and the areas of policy that HM Government no longer controls. Why is the Government being so frank? The document’s purpose as given by Mr Hague is to “examine the balance of the EU’s existing competencies”. And then what?
There will be a review, and all and sundry will be invited to take part in a consultation. The promised end result will be a ‘detailed analysis on what EU power means to the UK’, which will be presented to the public so that the political parties can make their own policy recommendations. This will all take some time, of course, and the review is expected to conclude during 2014. My guess is that the Government will present its findings just before the European elections begin in May 2014.
The Tories are all too aware that the growing opposition to our EU membership is manifesting itself in increased electoral support for the UK Independence Party. They therefore need to find a way of hoodwinking the voters the next time around as they have done so many times before. This latest wheeze is designed to enable the Tories to pretend to be Eurosceptic again.
Let’s publish a big list of things we wished the EU didn’t do to us; then Mr Cameron (if he is still around) can bravely go to Brussels to demand that they please repatriate some powers. No doubt the Tories think that if they can see off the UKIP threat in 2014 they can try and string the process out until the general election in 2015.
Quite possibly Mr Cameron will pre-arrange a sympathetic response from the European Council and Commission, who will appear to take his concerns seriously. But eventually it will dawn on everyone that there can be no ‘renegotiation of our relationship with the EU’, since any changes to the treaties require unanimity among all Member States. Nothing will happen. Once the national elections have taken place, the final stages of full economic and political union can be implemented. The EU can then proudly come out of the closet as a United States of Europe.
I once listened to William Hague make a speech in which he praised the EU as a great political achievement. He may believe this, if a Tory is capable of believing anything, but I can guarantee that he doesn’t believe for one second that his Review of EU Competences will make a half-penny’s worth of difference to anything in the long-run.
The Tory party thinks that if it makes the right noises at the right time it might just fool enough voters to scrape in next time. It will then carry on as before - betraying
what is left of Britain. After all, they reason, Labour and the Lib-Dems will do it anyway if they win, so why not enjoy the position, prestige and privilege of office even if there is no real power any more?
Those of us who have been observing the EU during the last thirty-nine years understand that the only solution to the problem of surrendered national power is not to conduct a review but to leave it.