The EU constitution is back and more dangerous than ever!
Do you remember the European Constitution? Yes, the one rejected by the French and Dutch? That same European Constitution on which the Labour Government promised the British people a referendum before the last General Election?
Well, it's back with a vengeance. Like some old Hammer horror movie, the constitution has returned from the dead, now repackaged as a 'treaty'.
But the so-called 'new' EU Treaty has all the same ingredients as the old constitution. In fact, it was revealed yesterday that it is 96 per cent identical to the old constitution.
And so the response to this newly repackaged threat to British freedom and independence must be exactly the same: a referendum to give the people the final word.
As usual, our politicians in Westminster have woken up late to the full significance of the 16-page mandate that Tony Blair signed with a flourish at his swansong EU summit last month.
In contrast, the speed with which the Eurocrats have moved to head off any British objection to their power-grab has astonished political observers more accustomed to the leisurely habits of Brussels.
Over the years the EU, aided and abetted by our own Foreign Office, has given the impression that the process of what it terms 'pooling' sovereignty is inevitable. But the EU's notion of 'pooling' is suspiciously similar to what will actually renounce all individual sovereignty.
So, while our fresh-faced Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, was in Brussels on Monday to launch the Intergovernmental Conference that will decide the exact wording of the new treaty, the first stirrings of resistance could be heard in London.
William Hague, who has done a good job of stiffening David Cameron's backbone on Europe, gave a speech yesterday in which he renewed the call to 'trust the people' with a referendum on the new treaty. The Tories seem to have woken up to their duty to defend British democracy.
Similarly, the Commons European scrutiny committee has belatedly sounded the alarm at the proposed wording of the treaty that purports to tell the British Parliament what to do. The treaty text reads: 'National parliaments shall contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union.'
Rightly, the committee is worried that these words would be interpreted by unelected European judges to force our elected representatives to put the interests of the EU above those of the member states. Parliament would be reduced to the status of a regional assembly.
Such a loss of parliamentary sovereignty is incompatible with Gordon Brown's promise to restore Parliament to its past glory. But even if Mr Brown tries to renegotiate the draft text to neuter its proposed powers, other member states will try to block him.
And the more closely the Prime Minister examines the text of the proposed treaty he has inherited from Mr Blair, the more worried he should be. Apart from a few trivial changes in wording - instead of a European Foreign Minister, for example, we will have a 'High Representative' - the treaty incorporates virtually the entire constitution.
On defence and foreign affairs, for example, it reads: 'The Union's competence in matters of common foreign and security policy shall cover all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to the Union's security.'
Meaning that its explicit aim is a common EU defence policy that would undermine Parliament's right to decide when to go to war: a centrepiece of Mr Brown's programme of legislation.
It is the same story across the entire spectrum covered by the treaty, from immigration to the environment. Out goes the free market and in comes the 'social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, with a high level of protection'.
If anyone doubts this treaty is simply the old discredited constitution under another name, they need only listen to an architect of the constitution, former French president Valery Giscard d'Estaing.
He has admitted that the changes made were 'few and far between, and more cosmetic than real'. The term 'constitution' was dropped simply to 'make a few people happy'.
This time, not content with allowing other member states to accelerate the creation of the superstate, the treaty would let the EU kick out countries that rock the boat. It isn't hard to guess which nation the gentlemen in Brussels have in mind.
Britain still sees its role in the world very differently from its Continental neighbours. For all the bonhomie between Mr Brown and President Nicolas Sarkozy at their meeting in Paris last week, the British and the French do not see eye to eye on Europe.
Mr Sarkozy has no intention of giving his voters a chance to reject the treaty for a second time. Nor does the Dutch prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, who has ruled out such a vote.
So this time Mr Brown will not be able to rely on continental voters to save him the trouble of holding a referendum. If the British don't want to be part of a European superstate, they will have to force their leaders to grant them a vote.
That is why Mr Hague's speech was so vital. Unless at least one of our major parties is serious about a referendum, it is not going to happen.
But if Mr Hague can rally the Tories behind the cross-party campaign for a referendum, then it will acquire the momentum it needs to force the Government to give the people a say.
After all, we have come to a crossroads in our relations with the EU. This treaty marks the point of no return - the point at which the British must decide who they are.
Do they wish to be submerged in what the EU Commission President JosÈ Manuel Barroso calls the 'empire' of Europe? Or do they want to continue as an independent nation state?
The leader who dares to tell us the truth about the choice we face on Europe will transform the political landscape. If David Cameron were to put half as much effort into the referendum campaign as he does into more modish causes, he might soon restore some of his flagging fortunes.
We should be grateful to William Hague for putting the issue back at the centre of Westminster debate.
While Europe may not be a fashionable issue, like climate change or poverty in Africa, it is the key to all the others. Once Britain has lost the power to control its own destiny, it won't matter what other policies future governments adopt.
Already up to 70 per cent of our legislation comes from the EU. Unless this treaty is stopped, the nation that gave freedom, democracy and the rule of law to the world will wake up to find that it has forfeited all three.
It takes a statesman to tell people things that they do not want to hear. In 1941 Winston Churchill told the Commons the British people are 'unique in this respect. They are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst'.
Whatever Euro-fanatics may say about him, Churchill's instincts and actions were those of a British patriot - one of the greatest who ever lived.
Our leaders should follow his example, and come clean with the electorate about the extent to which the powers delegated to them by the people have been lost to Europe - before the loss becomes irrevocable.
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