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The Lisbon Treaty has finally been ratified after years in the making. It cleared its final hurdle in the Czech Republic. Europe’s leaders on the left and right are relieved to be able to get onto tackling the real challenges people are facing: fighting the global financial crisis, climate change, and terrorism. In fact, there is only one conservative party that wants to put the global fight against these challenges on hold: Cameron’s Conservative Party. The row on Europesince their party conference has merely served to confirm this view across the European Union. 

President Obama may think Cameron is a lightweight, but Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy are taking him seriously at his word. Cameron’s partnership with fringe, right-wing parties and his promise to renege on an internationally-agreed treaty, if ratified, are viewed with horror by mainstream conservatives. That’s why German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party quietly broke off relations with the Tories before the summer. Even the Czech President Vaclav Klaus has now rebuffed the Tories. This is a dangerous turn of events, which risks leaving Britainwithout a voice or allies if Cameron wins the next election. 

Britain is already suffering from the Tories’ decision to spurn mainstream conservative parties in the European Parliament. Their influence has been much reduced, undermining their ability to represent Britain’s interests in negotiations on common policies. 

The British are famed for their European reformism in the same way as the Danes – and, in partnership, we have been able to take a positive reform agenda forward, such as on agricultural policy. Gordon Brown has been extremely effective in pursuing this reformism in Europe. But the Tories have strayed from the reformist mainstream that wants better and more transparent European decision-making to enable us to lead from the front globally, in relation to the big powers like the US or China. This is simply fundamental to the future of all our nations. 

As a former Prime Minister of Denmark, I held several referendums on draft European treaties, as required by our constitution. But Denmark’s judicial review ruled that the Lisbontreaty doesn’t transfer sovereignty - it streamlines rules: rules that we need to govern effectively and democratically in a globalised world. So, like Britain, we ratified the treaty through parliament, as was fitting and appropriate.  

The European Union is the largest economic bloc in the world: it is vital to the economic future of the UKand all EU countries, not least during this recession. Gordon Brown knows this all too well and has led European efforts to fight the crisis. But if Cameron wins the next election with a pledge to hold a referendum on all or parts of a ratified European treaty, it will be viewed as an attack on Europe’s rule of law and will throw into question Britain’s EU membership. There is a reason why international treaties are honoured by newly elected governments the world over: if they didn’t they would be spurned by their international partners. Nobody should want this, especially not in these times of crisis when we should be sticking together, not falling apart. 

European leaders on the left and right want to keep Britainat the heart of Europe. Cameron’s Tories should want that too.

Poul Nyrup Rasmussen is President of the Party of European Socialists (PES) and former Prime Minister of Denmark

Comments

Ikke bang.
ron_broxted wrote:
Tuesday, 3 November 2009 at 10:19 pm (UTC)
Sir, As a Europhile I am basically in agreement but I voted No to the Lisbon Treaty twice in Ireland. Why? The mention of terrorism and "harmonizing" of laws. If Ireland harmonizes with forward looking democracies as Finland and Sweden good, but with the likes of Slovakia, Greece and England, bad. The English/British have always been wary of foreigners, we are seeing a periperal Europe (Denmark, U.K and a few others) up against a high speed E.U. One final thought, on harmonizing the E.U foreign policy. Will Ireland become like Britain? A small and poor province of the American Imperium? Mann takk, Ron Broxted.
annedebruce wrote:
Thursday, 5 November 2009 at 01:45 am (UTC)
Sadly, the Tories are prepared to cut off their noses to spite their faces... Tory position vis-a-vis the EU as gleaned from David Cameron's recent hostile declaration, albeit watered down, should be enough to put UK's EU membership in question.

Is this what the Tories want for Britain? Is this what the British want?

The prevailing Euroscepticism in Britain is due largely to mis-information about the EU. I suspect, very few in Britain are truly aware of what or how the EU functions, its institutional role, let alone know about the contents of the Lisbon Treaty.

kieran_w wrote:
Thursday, 5 November 2009 at 11:32 am (UTC)
"Is this what the Tories want for Britain? Is this what the British want?"

In terms of supporting what Cameron said yesterday, the answer to both of those questions would be yes.

"The prevailing Euroscepticism in Britain is due largely to mis-information about the EU."

This is patronising nonsense. People are Eurosceptic simply because we want the laws which govern the UK to be primarily made by our own elected institutions. People are also Eurosceptic because those who support Britain's full participation in an integrated EU have historically failed to put forward a coherent, positive case for our country proceeding in that direction.

The pro-European case seems to consist of asserting that there is a list of important problems which need to be tackled by the governments of all nations which cannot be dealt with by the governments of each nation state in isolation. What is never explained is why these issues cannot be successfully dealt with through co-operation between independent, sovereign nation states. We simply do not need a vast bureaucracy, a whole extra tier of government to deal with issues such as trade, climate change or international crime and terrorism.

Of course you also get the constant attempts on the part of enthusiasts for the EU to discredit opposition to it by association with political extremism, condemning people as little Englanders, isolationists; as if somehow a UK that maintains its political independence must by its very nature disappear down some back ally of irrelevance.

It is this failure to put an enticing or believable pro-European case to the British people that is behind their Euro-scepticism, not some long running campaign of mass indoctrination by the likes of the Murdoch press. The pro-European side of the argument is given ample opportunity to present such a case by the likes of the Guardian, the Indy, the FT, the Mirror and large parts of the broadcast media. It just hasn't presented a very good case up to now.
annedebruce wrote:
Thursday, 5 November 2009 at 11:56 am (UTC)
What I said was not patronising nonsense.

You yourself said it..."People are also Eurosceptic because those who support Britain's full participation in an integrated EU have historically failed to put forward a coherent, positive case for our country proceeding in that direction."

You should take your leaders to task for failing to put forward coherent, positive case for Britain's integration, for failing to inform the citizenry of the UK at the very least.

The popular belief that British sovereignity will be lost because EU laws will be governing the UK is downright nonsense. There is absolutely nothing that is done in the EU that is not ratified or approved by the UK Govt, none!

Britain has an enormous delegation in Brussels, hordes of British top ranking civil servants -- including British MEPs, who are tasked with just that, ensuring that what is done in the EU is in line with British interests. They act as checks and balances so that nothing in the EU is passed without the consent of UK govt.

The absence of correct information coming from Britain's own guards in the EU is synonimous to mis-information.
kieran_w wrote:
Thursday, 5 November 2009 at 12:13 pm (UTC)
What is patronising is the assertion that people hold Euro-sceptic views out of ignorance, and that they are so stupid as to be open to manipulation by a media viscerally hostile to the EU (as I stated, no such uniformly Euro-sceptic media actually exists in any case).

My point is that no appealing case has been presented to the British people in favour of their participation in a fully integrated Europe, because no such case exists. Supporters of integration simply don't have the vast arsenal of ammunition that you seem to believe could be deployed in order to win the battle for British public opinion for the Euro-enthusiast cause.

You state that:
"There is absolutely nothing that is done in the EU that is not ratified or approved by the UK Govt, none!"
That is indeed true, but then neither have any of the integrationist measure past in recent decades received the specific consent of the UK electorate via a referendum, other than the referendum on continued membership a over thirty years ago.
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