Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Most Damaging Clause In The Lisbon Treaty


It seems to me that there is an implied and odd kind of consensus, between those who advocate EU membership and those who don't, that any EU exit will be a final chapter. For many who support membership, such an action would be a "disaster" from which there is apparently no return. Conversely some if not many who oppose membership understandably see exit as a cause of celebration and a job well done - a historical correction finally completed.

What is not in doubt is that any referendum campaign to exit will be difficult, rigged and unfair. What also is not in any doubt is exit, as consequence of an "out" vote, will be difficult, long and protracted. A simple act of parliament cannot magically make the Japanese Knotweed-like-tendencies of the EU  - that has acted like an invasive species - disappear over night.

Yet while there would be much to applaud regarding an EU exit, 40 years of very hard work and money could be undone within a space of just a couple of months. The reason? Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty - the accession clause:
Any European State which respects the values referred to in Article 2 and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union. The European Parliament and national Parliaments shall be notified of this application. The applicant State shall address its application to the Council, which shall act unanimously after consulting the Commission and after receiving the assent of the European Parliament, which shall act by an absolute majority of its component members.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument Cameron, having won the General Election in 2015, has his EU referendum in 2017 and the “outers” win against all the odds. All well and good, Cameron is then forced to begin negotiations to leave via Article 50. Parliament may bind its successor. So, despite the expressed will of the people in a referendum, there’s nothing preventing a future government from invoking Article 49 and applying to rejoin. And as history acutely informs us no popular mandate is needed in order to do so. We would be no further forward from 1972 and would have to start all over again.

It's for this reason that I believe the importance of Harrogate's 6 demands is not to get us out but instead to prevent us from ever re-entering such a project again. That should be its successful legacy. EU exit for the UK in my view will probably be dictated by other factors beyond Harrogate.

In some ways membership of the EU may have done us a favour, highlighting dramatically the failings in our own system of governance albeit such a revelation has come with a very very heavy price tag.

By dramatically reforming the way we are governed we can ensure we are better governed than we have ever been before in our history. And ultimately we can prevent the fundamental failings that Tony Benn highlighted during the Maastricht Treaty debate: "no [MP] has the legal or moral authority to hand over powers borrowed from the electors to people who would no longer be accountable to them".

But they did, and will do so again without changes. Exit from the EU is not merely enough.


  1. I've always been intrigued by the paradoxical idea that the EU is not a foreign government. Westminster has willingly made itself the UK local assembly and it shares an outlook with Brussels. Therefore leaving the EU would leave us with out own mini version and would be a partial solution.

    Should we invoke art 50, I'm more frightened of an attempt to derail the process, as as far as I can see, it doesn't have to end in exit, although that's a reasonable assumption.

    I think we'll be kicked out as much as leave, as being more trouble than we are worth. I don't really see a Cameron figure slipping us back in under art 49, but stranger things have happened, and the EU flows around obstacles like an amoeba to preserve itself.

    1. I agree we'll more likely be kicked out, or basically ushered towards the exit door - particularly if there's a new treaty which focuses on further integration for the core Eurozone...

  2. Exit from the EU is neither here nor there... Our membership of the EU is merely a symptom of the problem.

    The problem is far more deep rooted in our own country, it is a combination of a decadent ruling class, a meritocratic political elite that wishes to operate within what Mandy used to call the post-democratic environment, which I would suggest is more a reaction by ordinary folk to the antics of our sick political parties. The downtrodden folk in the UK, having been lied to continuously since 1945, and arguably since the very early days of more comprehensive suffrage, at the turn of the 20th century, all tends towards apathy.

    All of this malaise has led to a community that, apart from a few notable exceptions is wedded to the idea that Britain is in terminal decline.

    However laudable is your (sorry North's) Harrowgate Agenda, it is not going to have any effect on the behaviour of government in this country, nor the consequent reaction of its peoples. In the same way as its predecessor didn't.

    The only things which these criminals understand, is a direct attack on THEM, whether that is through force, the ballot box, or non-compliance (as in Gandhi), depends on how long this disconnect continues... The longer, the more violent will be the eventual reaction.

    Precedent can be seen in the 1980's and 1990's with the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Something similar is happening in Egypt at the moment. The trick is to have a group, who are well organised and not aggressively against too many other groups, and capable of listening... ready to offer solutions.

    No "charter" is going to have, nor did it have any value in those places and it won't here, either.

    There is a difference between a mass movement and a cult, and the latter is something which has no future once its object of adoration has retired, died or gone gaga.

    1. "Exit from the EU is neither here nor there... Our membership of the EU is merely a symptom of the problem".

      Aye, that was the gist of my piece

  3. Here's the thing. The sort of men (and a few women) who governed Britain before 1972, for all their failures and weaknesses, were of a different calibre to those who govern it now. The knowledge of what it means to BE a Member of Parliament, a SOVEREIGN Parliament, has all but been lost. Post-exit, everything is on the table for those who are prepared.

    1. I suppose so, because after 1972 it increasingly became a case of being a branch office, with a branch office mentality, i.e. much more managers than leaders and not having to take big decisions because all that comes from head office. They were left to play with their vanity projects.

      However, I'd say the process started post-Suez when British politicians started to think their task was managing decline, but felt that Britain had to have a leading role. Being part of the EU was part of that; it was hoped it would solve economic problems by some sort of osmosis and they really thought they would have a respected, leading role. The UK not joining the Euro has frustrated that, if nothing else has. I think they misunderstood the EU and it was never on the cards anyway.

      Don't forget there was a movement starting from the late 50s, especially within the Conservative Party, to become a part of the European Project, and it was always a dishonest sell. Look at the Gaitskell quote of 1962 in the column of quotes on the right hand side of the current page.

  4. This is just awful if it were ever to happen but I cannot believe that having won and "out" a new government (against the people's wishes) tried to rejoin.
    You say the Harrogate Agenda would make sure we never joined anything similar again. If you know anything about our Constitutional Documents, they were set up with countless checks and balances to stop this kind of handing over of power and make it illegal. But governments have ignored the documents and even though successive governments cannot be bound by the last none ever repealed anything from the EU. Nothing is guaranteed.