Mr. Ashley Mote, MEP spoke on the above theme when he addressed the League's latest public meeting, held at Rudolf Steiner House, Marylebone, on Friday 30th July.
Mr. Mote was elected as a United Kingdom Independence Party MEP for South-East England in the June elections. Subsequently he was suspended from party membership after it emerged that he was facing charges of falsely claiming housing benefit. He resolutely denies these charges, and also denies a malicious press report that he has been in contact with M. Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far-right French politician, with a view to forming a political group in the European Parliament. On this basis the League was happy to continue with the meeting, which had been arranged before these matters came to light. A report of Mr. Mote's address now follows.
Mr. Mote began by asking when previously had a sovereign nation allowed a foreign power to impose a new constitution on it otherwise than by defeat in war.
He stated that Britain was a square peg in a European round hole. No other state in the European Union, he continued, is faced with such a magnitude of change in culture, traditions and the way of doing all the things that matter.
In Britain, he said, the State draws power from the people and everything is permitted unless the Law forbids it; on the Continent, states exist in their own right and decide what freedoms people shall be allowed to have. In Britain no one is above the Law; in the EU, bureaucrats have given themselves immunity. He described the EU constitution as a weapon of mass destruction: destruction of democracy. It represented the most dangerous threat to our country since 1940.
The brief of the Convention on the Future of the European Union, chaired by Valery Giscard d'Estaing, had as its brief to make the EU more democratic, transparent and efficient. Instead the Convention turned itself into a Praesidium (now where, Mr. Mote asked, have we heard that word before?) and the concepts of democracy, transparency and efficiency were nowhere to be found in their conclusions. Compared with Magna Carta or the American Constitution, the EU constitution was deeply flawed: an elaborate attempt to legitimise the seizing of power by an elite. It was vague, grandiose, imprecise, self-contradictory and deliberately confusing. It was prescriptive rather than enabling: making law rather than creating a framework in which law-making could take place. It gave power to a self-perpetuating bureaucracy which it placed above the law, and turned the people from masters into servants.
The existing EU treaties, he said, draw their power from the member states; the constitution creates power for itself and demands unquestioning obedience and support. The Government claims that the constitution does not represent any fundamental change, but what other purpose could it have? In the original French, the text talks of the Union being given comp‚tences, and in the English version this has simply been translated as "competences", whereas it actually means "authority" or "powers"; this attempt to confuse or deceive was typical of the whole process.
The constitution states unequivocally, he went on, that "the currency of the Union shall be the Euro", leaving no room for other currencies to exist. Many believe that if Britain adopts the constitution this clause will be used to make it impossible for us to keep the Pound. Likewise, the constitution contains clauses which will give the EU control of our defence and oil.
As for the much-vaunted "right to leave" clause, this, like much else in the document, was not all it seemed. A member state wishing to leave would first of all have to submit a request. There would then be a two-year moratorium, during which the said state would play no part in any decisions, yet would be bound by all the decisions made during the two years, and would have to pay any budget contributions demanded by Brussels. If, after the two years were up, the request was granted, it would be on Brussels' terms. Compare this, Mr. Mote went on, with the present situation, where a parliamentary vote to repeal Clause 2 of the European Communities Act 1972 would suffice. Far from offering a release clause, the constitution was setting a trap.
Pro-EU people often made much of the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights, but Article 52 of the Constitution stated that the EU could withdraw rights if they judged it "in the interest of the Union". "Now you see it, now you don't", as Mr. Mote put it. The constitution also imposed responsibilities on "citizens of the Union", although these were not specified.
The constitution also stated that "discrimination on grounds of nationality shall not be permitted". Admirable though this may sound, in practice it would mean foreign nationals being able to vote or stand as candidates in British parliamentary elections, interfering in what should be British decisions.
Article 3 decrees that the EU shall have a "social market economy". Mr. Mote's view was that this could ultimately lead to a judgement in the European Court of Justice that Britain's free enterprise economy was somehow illegal and should be constrained.
Article 17 was a catch-all clause under which the EU could claim any additional powers retrospectively without getting authority from the member states, who merely have to be "informed". Ratification of the constitution would therefore ratify in advance any future EU demand for more power. It would be reckless to agree to this - tantamount to handing over a blank cheque. Europeans are our neighbours and should be our friends, said Mr. Mote, but they cannot be our masters.
"Power attracts the people least suited to holding it", said Mr. Mote, adding that all the provisions he had described meant that the constitution was dangerous and mischievous, and would put us on the road to tyranny. On his first visit to Brussels after his election, he was shocked to hear a bureaucrat referring to life under the constitution as "the post-democratic era".
While many in Mr. Mote's audience were appalled at what he had to tell them, they were also galvanised into resisting the EU constitution all the more resolutely.
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Studies of the 2001 census have revealed that the gap in wealth between southern England and the rest of the country has widened since the census of ten years previously. South-east of a line roughly between the Severn Estuary and the Humber, we apparently have a burgeoning - perhaps even overheating - economy increasingly dominated by London; north-west of the line, we are told, lies a much slower economy interspersed with pockets of high activity such as Manchester or Leeds.
While there will be various reasons for this, particularly the decline of manufacturing as a part of the British economy, the baleful effects of European Union membership will certainly have contributed. By shifting the sightlines of our economy from the open seas to the near continent, the EU has shifted trade away from our west coast ports such as Liverpool and Glasgow, towards the ports of the south-east. The Common Agricultural Policy, by constraining British agriculture, has weakened the role of market towns in sustaining local economies, as has the Common Fisheries Policy in fishing towns all around our coast. The parts of Britain further away from Brussels - everywhere except the south-east - have witnessed most strongly the gravitational force which pulls power and economic activity towards Brussels.
The Government seems intent on exacerbating things by imposing their proposed regional assemblies on England. These will centralise many of the powers currently exercised by local government, reducing people's scope for creating local solutions. Even worse, the regional assemblies will in practice have to compete with each other for Brussels funding and will have to dance to the tune of the Brussels piper in order to get it. Fearing embarrassing and inconvenient defeats, the Government has pulled the plug on two of its three regional referendums planned for November. Even in the remaining referendum, in the North-East, victory for the Government is far from certain. Despite the emergence of a rival "No" campaign, the active and vigorous "No" campaign co-ordinated by Neil Herron, already up and running for two years, is continuing its highly effective activities.
It is not just Britain that suffers from the iniquities of the Common Fisheries Policy. When it joined the European Community, Portugal was given a derogation stipulating that the Azores fishing grounds would remain under Portuguese jurisdiction until 31st July this year. From 1st August onwards these fishing grounds were due to come under the Common Fisheries Policy.
The fishing grounds around the Azores have very special characteristics; their fish are particularly long-lived, and it is therefore even more crucial here than in most places that fish are only extracted from the sea at a rate which ensures that stocks are not depleted. For centuries Azoreans have done this by traditional methods, but the likelihood now is that other fishing fleets - particularly the infamously predatory Spanish fleet - will move in and quickly run the Azorean fish stocks down to virtual extinction, destroying a local culture into the bargain.
Norway, by contrast, outside the European Union, has successfully protected its fishing waters, fish stocks and fishermen.
The contrast between the Azores and Norway was examined recently in an excellent edition of Radio Four's Crossing Continents programme; while we rightly draw attention to the pro-EU bias which regularly features on the BBC, we should also give credit for fair reporting when it occurs, as in this case.
British withdrawal from the CFP could be the catalyst which stimulates other countries to do likewise; this would be good for fish stocks, good for ecology and good for democracy. It would be bad for the European Union, although good for those with a vision of European co-operation beyond the EU straitjacket.
Ask the man in the street what he associates with the European Union and "bureaucracy" is one of the words which will be mentioned most frequently. Even when it tries to reduce the stranglehold of regulation, the EU invariably seems to end up making things worse.
The declared aim of a directive currently being discussed in Brussels, provisionally known as the Directive on Services in the Internal Market, is to reduce red tape. But its effect could be devastating. One of its provisions is that firms which operate in more than one EU country would only be subject to the regulations of their home country, rather than those of the country in which they are operating (insofar as national law has not already been superseded by EU law).
This means that overseas firms which operate in Britain would not be subject to British law - including Health and Safety regulations - but to the law of their home country. This would include the building industry. So British workers injured in the workplace while working in Britain for such companies would not be able to seek redress through British Law and British Courts, but only through the law and courts of the firm's home country.
This will encourage unscrupulous British operators to set up companies in countries where Health and Safety laws are lax in comparison with Britain's, and to run their British operations on this basis. As well as damaging the British economy and depriving British workers of proper protection, it will add to one of the European Union's most undesirable consequences in Britain - that of eroding respect for the rule of Law.
The British tradition has been to have a relatively small body of Law, relatively easily understood and generally regarded as reasonable and fair. Furthermore, the process of lawmaking, either through Parliamentary debate or through the organic evolution of Common Law, was relatively transparent and easy for the well-informed layperson to follow. This encouraged respect for the Law within the framework of a free society. The European Union approach, by contrast, has an enormous body of virtually incomprehensible law made by undemocratic, unaccountable and remote institutions, an approach which is likely to invite corruption and contempt for the Law.
It is possible that the worst aspects of this draft (or should it be daft?) directive will be toned down or even that whole thing will be withdrawn. But what a way of going about things! When will our Members of Parliament stand up and say "no more" to this lunacy? When will they reclaim the sole right, as our democratically elected representatives in Parliament, to make the Law of this country?
In his recent speech to the Labour Party conference, Mr. Tony Blair spoke of the 25-country European Union as "Europe reunited after centuries of conflict". This was but the latest of many recent references by advocates of more integration into an EU-superstate to Europe being "reunited" rather than "united".
Questions as to which previous united Europe has been re-created have never been answered. The last time a substantial chunk of Europe was united within one State was under the Third Reich. Surely they could not be referring to that?
Mr. Blair's reference to "centuries" has at last given us a clue; he could only have been referring to the Holy Roman Empire. Leaving aside that Britain never fell under the sway of Charlemagne and his successors, perhaps we can now better understand Mr. Blair's desire to play a greater role on the European stage! All empires eventually unravel, and sometimes messily, but Mr. Blair and his fellow Eurofanatics will expect to enjoy a lengthy period of power before that happens.
Perhaps the referendum questions should be: should the Holy Roman Empire be re-created, and should Britain be a part of it?
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The Anti-Common Market League is holding an Autumn Reception, on Friday 22nd October, from 6.30 p.m. to 9 p.m., upstairs at the Hoop and Toy public house, Thurloe Place, London SW7 (one minute's walk from South Kensington station)
A number of our friends from Parliament and the media have been invited.
Tickets (including buffet): on the door - £7 (single) or £11 (double), in advance - £6 (single) or £10 (double), from the League's Worcester Park address. Cash Bar. All members and friends are welcome
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Britain and the European Project by Christopher Hoskin, The June Press 0-9534-4134-2 £4.35 inc. p&p.
The author has managed with great clarity to illuminate the history of Britain's European Union membership, and indeed explains the justification put forward for joining the European Project.
After a brief overview of Britain's relations with European powers from the Middle Ages, he explains how and why the nation state is the only vehicle yet devised which successfully permits self-government. After exposing the fraudulent premise of "pooled sovereignty", he discusses Britain's political traditions and compares them with those of our continental neighbours.
This booklet is well-written and worth reading.
Available from: The June Press, P.O. Box 119, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 7WA
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No sooner had Mr. Mandelson accepted his appointment as European Union Trade Commissioner than he illustrated both his, and the EU Nomenklatura's, contempt for democracy, by indicating that a No vote in the forthcoming referendum on the EU constitution would be simply disregarded.
Continuing membership of the European Union is incompatible with democratic accountability and the very existence of our constitution of Liberty under the Law.
Parliament's powers not unlimited
It has been suggested that "no Parliament may bind its successor", the implication being that there is no constitutional limit to Parliament's power. This is fallacious; Parliament's powers are delineated by Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Rights (1628), the Declaration and Bill of Rights (1688/9), the Coronation Oath Act (1689), the Act of Settlement (1701) and the Treaty and Acts of Union (1706/7). These create a contract between those who govern and the people; Parliament does not have absolute power, and what was perceived to be an attempt by the Stuart dynasty to establish rule by Divine Right of Kings was brought to an end by their overthrow in 1688.
The constitutional settlement reached and established thereafter a system of limited and defined power, which may not be lawfully ignored or overturned. Indeed, Crown servants and politicians have a legal duty under their oaths of allegiance to comply with our constitutional law.
The obligation of Parliament to maintain our liberties
The continuing obligation of Parliament is to uphold the people's liberties and rights as set out in the settlement known as the Glorious Revolution. Parliament is thus duty-bound to maintain and not diminish these rights, as is the Crown (and its servants). This constitutional contract forbids the overturning of its provisions such as no taxation without representation, the guarantee of trial by jury, the presumption of innocence and the right to own property, the guiding principle being to prevent oppression of the people. We are thus free to do anything other than that which is proscribed by law, i.e. the rule of law. The "Continental" system of the European Union is the reverse, which is the reason for the myriad of regulations it spews forth, governing the minutiae of people's lives, and, indeed, the reason for the absurd prolixity of the EU constitution, which purports to control every aspect of our lives.
As Aldous Huxley wrote: "Liberties are not given - they are taken". The Code Napol‚on system exemplified by the Human Rights Act (incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights) is one of "rights" handed out by the state. Before our subjection to the Treaty of Rome (as amended), the Law limited the state and enlarged the area in which the citizen could be free. British judges "discovered" the Law by reference to statute and precedent; now they have become amateur social scientists and "divine" the Law by reference to what politicians have said.
No power to transfer power
The right of self-determination enjoyed by the people cannot legitimately be given away or transferred, even by referendum, since one generation cannot remove the right of a future generation to self-determination. Parliament has no legal power under our constitution to destroy its own power (and with it the sovereign power of the people), for example by transferring power and authority to an alien centre such as the EU.
If the EU issued a directive imposing direct taxation upon us, it would be unlawful under our constitution to accept it. Since the Crown is constitutionally limited, all use of the royal prerogative is thereby limited, and Royal Assent may not be used to impose unconstitutional legislation.
EU rule by bureaucracy
What we now have is rule by bureaucrats. The Council of Ministers, which is theoretically the democratic element in the EU, is in 80 per cent of cases merely a rubber stamp for decisions already agreed beforehand between the unelected bureaucrats of the Commission and the bureaucrats who are the Permanent Representatives of the Member States (Coreper).
The Commission has, of course, been given the power to initiate legislation. In the European "Parliament", MEPs in a large number of cases simply endorse without real debate what is put in front of them by the officials. Power has been placed in the hands of those who are not accountable, not elected and not removable; in addition, they are not bound to the people of the United Kingdom by a duty of allegiance to the Crown. The system of rule by EU regulation and directive thereby infringes the people's sovereignty and accordingly is unconstitutional.
The sovereign power of the people and the duty of the Monarch
Under our Constitution, the sovereign power of the people is placed in the hands of the constitutionally-limited Monarch. The House of Commons and House of Lords together draw up the wordings of Bills which become Acts by the granting of the Royal Assent (a prerogative power of the Monarch). The Monarch, however, is sworn to abide by Magna Carta, the Coronation Oath and the Bill of Rights, and is sworn to govern us according to our laws and customs. The Monarch is therefore bound by oath to refuse Royal Assent to an unconstitutional Bill. The Monarch can dissolve Parliament and, by exercising the negative power of refusing assent, ought to ensure the maintenance of constitutional governance. It is therefore clear that adoption of the EU constitution is not legally possible under our existing Constitution.
No politician has the legitimate authority to overthrow our Constitution; the Monarch, Parliament and the Judiciary are duty-bound to prevent this, and the right of resistance to unconstitutional actions is provided for.
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The evidence of the damage being done to the British economy by European Union membership continues to accumulate.
A recent study by Liverpool Macroeconomic Research concluded that EU membership was costing Britain between £25 billion and £35 billion per annum. About £5 billion of this is due to the Common Agricultural Policy, while membership of the EU customs union means that we are paying between 20 per cent and 80 per cent more than world prices for manufacturing imports. The Liverpool report followed a report earlier this year by the think-tank Civitas which came to similar conclusions.
Meanwhile, on the fishing front, the harm done by the Common Fisheries Policy has taken yet another twist.
Earlier in the summer, the British Government went cap-in-hand to Brussels asking for a ban on pair-trawling for bass in the English Channel; the practice of pair-trawling - a pair of boats pulling a single net between them - has been depleting stocks and resulting in large numbers of dolphins being washed up on English beaches. The EU Commission sent them packing. Belatedly, Mr. Ben Bradshaw, the fisheries minister, has announced - at a Labour Party Conference fringe meeting of all places - a unilateral ban on the practice within twelve miles of the English coast. This ban, while useful, will not prevent the practice continuing further out at sea.
That the British Government cannot even take basic decisions about fishing in British waters is indicative of what a threat to self-government the EU really is. Is the Government's commitment to the EU so complete that they will readily submit to this sort of humiliation?
Suggestions that the refusal of a wider ban was a result of pressure from France, where most of the bass trawlers are based, were denied by the Commission.
One is lead to wonder why relatively little attention is drawn in the media to items such as this compared with the vast amount of pro-EU propaganda which they broadcast.