As our “Little England” politicians continue to squabble over David Cameron’s pie-in-the-sky talk about holding a referendum in 2017 on a new treaty relationship with the EU, the real puzzle is why no one in Britain is talking about the rapidly advancing plans of the EU establishment for another much more important treaty of their own, designed to take the EU a huge step further forward to becoming a fully fledged “Government of Europe”.And to make the point for him, today we have in the same paper, Chirs Grayling arguing that "Britain needs a completely new relationship with the EU", Tory MPs demanding a veto on EU laws, then Iain Duncan Smith in the Times saying "he wants to change EU law over benefits and migrants, and the Guardian reporting that "President of European parliament says UK has 'no chance of curbing basic principle of free movement'".
No doubt this kind of nonsense about "repatriating powers" will intensify until May in anticipation of UKIP's predicted success in the Euro-elections at the cost of Tory votes.
Yet the real story of the 2014 elections won't be UKIP but instead it will be used as justification for a major treaty which has designs for the next great leap forward in EU integration. EU Commission President Barrosso has called for an EU-wide debate on proposals to deepen Economic and Monetary Union, and to create a legitimate political union. Conveniently 2014 is also the 100 year anniversary of the First World War which the EU will undoubtedly use as justification:
Barroso says next year will be the 100-year anniversary of the First World War, which affected Belgium greatly. The war, however, began in the Balkans – and Barroso believes this underlines the fact you cannot turn inwards and ignore the world around you.And as with all things EU its desire for further integration is no big secret. The 300 page draft of the new treaty can be found here. Angela Merkel's first speech to Germany’s parliament when she was re-elected made clear the need for a new Treaty:
In the first speech of her third term, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged European partners to tackle flaws in their currency union by ceding control over economic policy and making politically sensitive changes to the bloc's treaty.
With the release in October of the draft we are given a very clear picture of what this treaty might look like. A 300-page draft of the treaty by the Spinelli Group entitled “A Fundamental Law of the European Union” sets out in detail just how the EU can take another huge step towards political integration."I know that pushing through treaty changes in the member states can be difficult, but if you want more Europe, you have to be prepared to develop it further. In a world that is constantly changing, we can't stand there and say that at some point we agreed the Lisbon Treaty and there's no need to change it again. This won't work."
Interestingly at its core it revives former EU Commission’s President Jacques Delors's vision in 1990, when he proposed that the Commission should become the “executive”, the Council of Ministers the “Senate” and the Parliament, given new powers, elected by the people. A plan that was dismissed by Margaret Thatcher's famous “no, no, no” speech which triggered her downfall:
Within the draft are also proposals for much closer integration of foreign, defence and energy policies, more control by Brussels over national finances and budgets, particularly in the eurozone, more power to impose measures “to combat climate change”.
In short, this new treaty – backed behind the scenes by Delors himself - is designed to complete the task which so humiliatingly fell short when that earlier planned EU “Constitution” was rejected by the voters of France and Holland in 2005, only to be smuggled in again three years later as the Treaty of Lisbon.
The draft even wants to reinstate the European anthem and the EU flag (page 19):
The Fundamental Law brings back the symbols of the Union (the flag and the anthem) which were jettisoned from the Treaty of LisbonSo while our "Little Englander" media and politicians squabble about reforming little bits of the EU, the EU itself is concerned with getting on with major reforms that have complete different objectives and outcomes. Mr Cameron’s bluff on negotiating a “new settlement” for Britain is about to be called out.
Aside from the fact that a fundamental principle of the EU is powers once given up are never returned, even if they could be, as Richard North consistently notes, Cameron hasn’t got the faintest chance of meeting his 2017 deadline for a referendum anyway:
...if there are changes to the treaty, we have to go through four stages.The EU instead will be entirely focussed on their own, more important treaty, while Cameron dances about on the touchline waving his arms frantically trying to gain attention. Ignoring him the EU will get on playing their much more important game. The UK will be sidelined whether we like it or not.
First, we have to secure a simple majority. That means that we need to find 14 member state governments who agree with us. We have not started that task and it looks as though we are not going to start it until after the election. Secondly, we have to get a consensus in the necessary convention. The last convention took 18 months. The third stage is that we have to get unanimity in the intergovernmental conference - Maastricht took a year - and the final stage is ratification.
Actually, the last (and only) convention process started with the Laeken declaration in December 2001 and effectively ended the start of the IGC in October 2003 – just two months short of the two years. The IGC then finished in June 2004 – the door-to-door treaty process taking two-and a half years.
Transpose that onto the current situation and assume that David Cameron gets re-elected in May 2015, that brings us to November 2017 on the same timescale. But then there has to be a referendum campaign, bringing us well into 2018.
And this process of sidelining the UK will be given official status under the new Treaty in the form of a new construct “Associate Membership” (page 284 - Protocol No 9 Associate Membership of the Union). Clearly this is offered as a solution for countries which cannot go along with the further drive to create “a country called Europe”, but which still want full trading access to their Single Market; countries like (obviously) the UK but also Ireland and Denmark and also for non-members Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and possibly even Turkey.
What is interesting is such flexibility in the past has always been resisted on the basis that it creates a dangerous precedent where other member states start asking for a change in terms and conditions such that the entire project comes crashing down. Thus the EU must now be very confident that it is now not possible for most member states to take the 'Associate’ option.
However the trade-off with the 'Associate’ option means limited participation with EU institutions and the deal itself can also be limited in duration, for example under Protocol No 9:
The agreement will set out the terms, conditions, scope and limits of associate membership and the adjustments to the law of the Union which such association entails. The agreement may be of limited duration.
The agreement shall specify in which of the Union’s policies and functions the Associate State is to participate, and the terms and conditions, financial and institutional, which shall apply to that participation.
An associate membership agreement may be suspended, in whole or in part, in accordance with the procedures laid down in Article 133.EU membership with limited participation - a new twist on their favourite phrase "government by fax". Thus what it offers Cameron, and indeed Clegg and Miliband is poisonous; a chance to remain part of the EU – which they say they never wish to leave – but only on its outer ring. We would in effect just be a second-class member.
Cameron, and the rest of our political class who are equally adamant that they could not allow Britain to leave the EU, would be reduced to campaigning in a referendum arguing that Britain should become just a second-class member of the EU, excluded from its central counsels. They will be horribly caught out.
Such a confrontation was always inevitable, the UK's 'sort of in, sort of out' position - topped off with lies and deception - was always incompatible with EU membership when it continued to do what it does best - politically integrate. For many decades the UK establishment has embraced the idea of European economic and political co-operation, but has never been able to persuade the UK people about the idea of political integration.
Instead of indulging in empty political gestures and wishful thinking, we are going to be brought sharply down to earth - to decide whether we really wish to become second-class citizens of the EU, or to find a wholly different way forward.
Whether Cameron likes it or not the EU is going to take the next big leap foward in integration with a new Treaty and leave us behind, effectively placing us firmly in the lounge marked "departure." Perhaps we might then have a proper grown-up discussion over the best way forward.