05 November 2009

And People Take This Man Seriously?

Right, so I was talking about David Cameron's U-turn. You know, the way he lied to the British people when he promised them an opportunity to vote on the Lisbon Treaty? Ahem, yes, I know, sorry, it was only ever posturing. Still, though, what's his current strategy to keep the Europhobes onside?

It seems the big plan is to bring in a UK Sovereignty bill, 'to make it clear that ultimate authority stays in this country, in our Parliament.' Frankly, this seems a spectacularly pointless piece of posturing.

This seems utterly unnecessary. As the UK government pamphlet in 1975 said, Westminster retains the right to repeal any laws it has enacted, including all European treaties, and thirty-seven years of European integration haven't changed this one bit. The Lisbon reforms won't do so either: as the German constitutional court at Karlsruhe ruled on 30 June of this year that the European institutions have no powers in their own right, merely administering delegated competences in prescribed areas, with all sovereignty remaining in the hands of the individual member states which remain 'masters of the treaties'.

Secondly, Cameron's other big idea is to introduce a 'referendum lock' into British politics: the idea is that henceforth no powers shall be transferred to the Union without the British people specifically approving such a transfer by referendum. To quote the man:
'We will give the British people a referendum lock to which only they should hold the key, a commitment very similar to that which exists in Ireland... This is a major constitutional development, but I believe it’s now the only way to reassure the British people that powers cannot be given away without their explicit approval in a referendum.'
Leaving aside the extraordinary fascination with referendums, as though representative democracy is invalid, the obvious problem with this promise, as anyone with even a passing familiarity with the British constitution should know, is that it's a basic principle of the British constitution that no Parliament can bind its successors; if one Parliament enacts a law to say it lacks a certain power, a later Parliament can always repeal that law.

This may simply be a case of the Conservatives pretending to shut the stable door after the horse has ambled out. Not because Lisbon is self-amending, as so many of its opponents have falsely claimed, but simply because there's no appetite in Europe for another big reform treaty.

It seems increasingly clear that Cameron is all talk. He's gone back on his word, and now he's proposing pointless cosmetic laws as a sop to those he's lied to. Most of them will swallow it, too, the gullible eejits.


Tom said...

If you'd seen the speech in full you'd know that Cameron was asked about how binding this referendum lock would be and he reckoned that no future government would dare to overturn it without a mandate to do so from the British people. It doesn't make a referendumless treaty impossible but it does make it significantly unlikely.

The Thirsty Gargoyle said...

Do you ever read anything you don't agree with? You should, you know: it's good for the mind.

I didn't see the speech at the time, but I have read it, over at your beloved Iain Dale's blog. Alas, it doesn't record what he said to subsequent questions, but what he thinks future governments might do doesn't mean squat. The fact stands that no British parliament can bind another, and Cameron's new promises don't change that.

It's fun counting the ways he bends the truth: the first few lines alone contain the conceit that the Treaty is no longer a Treaty, that the EU shall have 'a President', and that there was a referendum promised on the Lisbon Treaty, when there wasn't. I'm not sure how he plans on wording his proposed amendments to the Accession Act, given that the Factortame judgements, make clear that while national laws must be in accordance with EU law, and cannot trump it.

As for the powers he says he'll claw back, I think it's become very clear in the last week how little chance he has of that: this isn't going to happen, not merely because nobody else wants to start tinkering with treaties again, and allowing one country to start getting exemptions now would be a very dangerous precedent that could cause the whole thing to unravel.

The reality is that he knows full well that full involvement in the EU in the only game in town, and that the Union acts to enhance Britain's sovereignty. He just can't say this, because his party is full of nutters who he's afraid will join UKIP. He's done quite well to keep them onboard so far, but I'd not like to speculate on whether this'll last into a new administration.