Lords usher in EU treaty with 12-hour farce
2008-04-09 0:00

By Christopher Booker | telegraph.co.uk

Left: Lord Kinnock, Middle: Lord Kerr (Deputy Chairman, Shell), Right: Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (Former President of the French Republic & Knights of Malta)

By happy coincidence, two events last week again confirmed the Orwellian ingenuity of the EU's coup d'état over the constitution.

In 2005, with the EU's leaders in shock after their constitution had been rejected by French and Dutch voters, their response was "Plan D", to win the support of the "citizens of Europe" through "democracy, dialogue and debate". Then they had an even better idea: to rearrange the contents of the constitution under another name and railroad it through national parliaments without allowing the voters of Europe a further chance to reject it.

April Fool's Day brought the latest instalment of this cynical farce in Britain. Once the treaty had been rammed through the Commons, it was the turn of the Lords. The 12-hour debate, the longest of recent times, was wholly ignored by the press - and why should it have been otherwise? Since the noble lords could do nothing to alter the treaty's contents, it was in no sense a real debate. The two sides merely talked past each other, from lunchtime until midnight, without ever engaging on any point.

The pro-treaty peers, as if speaking from a script, all insisted that constitution and treaty were totally different, that its only aim is to make the EU more "efficient", and that, far from taking powers away from national parliaments, it will give them more. The other side pointed out that constitution and treaty were virtually identical, and that making the EU more "efficient" means giving it a lot more power, to make it even more our supranational government than ever.

Conspicuous among the treaty's supporters were an array of former EU office-holders, including five former commissioners. None of those five observed the rule that they should declare an interest, though they enjoy hefty Brussels pensions (in the case of Lord Kinnock, £175,000 a year). Lord Kerr, though not a commissioner, was Giscard D'Estaing's right-hand man on the constitutional convention: he carefully avoided the word "constitution", though he had actually drafted much of it, and coyly referred only to "the convention".

Margot Wallström
These triumphant representatives of Europe's political class could afford to treat their opponents with lofty contempt, since they know they have won the day. But by what sublime irony did Margot Wallstrom, the European Commissioner for Communications Strategy, announce a new initiative on the following day - "Debate Europe, Giving Citizens A Voice". The Commission is to spend millions of euros on Pan-European Citizens' Consultation Projects, to enable us to become "ever more closely involved" in debating the EU's future.

The people of Europe cannot be allowed referendums on the treaty - which show that two-thirds of them want. But once the Not-the-Constitution is in place, they may engage in "democracy, dialogue and debate'" with the EU's political class - on terms dictated by the likes of Ms Wallstrom and her colleagues.

Orwell, thou shouldst be living at this hour.

Article from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/

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