Brussels elite accused over
Evans-Pritchard in Brussels
Britain will lose control of foreign policy and
defence and will be stripped of its sovereign power to legislate in
almost all areas of national life, under the draft text of the
European constitution released yesterday.
Sweeping aside British objections, the document
establishes the European Union on a "federal basis", enjoying
"primacy over the law of the member states".
The 16 articles unveiled at the European Parliament
are the first piece of a constitutional text being drawn up for the
Convention on the Future of Europe.
Article 3 gives the EU powers to "co-ordinate the
economic policies of the member states", which covers fiscal
Article 4 says "the Union shall have competence to
define and implement a common foreign and security policy, including
the progressive framing of a common defence policy".
Virtually all the current activities of the British
Government will fall under the "exclusive" or "shared competence" of
the EU, meaning that Westminster will be prohibited from legislating
unless Brussels chooses to waive its primacy.
The areas cover public health, social policy,
transport, justice, agriculture, fisheries, energy, economic and
social cohesion, the environment, internal and external trade, and
The Government reacted with horror to the text
yesterday, accusing an elite group of insiders on the convention's
13-member praesidium of carrying out a "federalist" coup.
Downing Street's envoy to the convention, Peter Hain,
the Welsh Secretary, said the authors had disregarded the collective
will of the 105 members of the body, which is drawn from MEPs, MPs,
and governments of the EU's 28 current and future states.
He said:"The praesidium has got a lot of explaining
to do, and we'll be making clear that a lot of the material in the
draft has got to change." Mr Hain added that the text appeared to
"put the EU in charge of foreign policy and economic governance",
even though the working groups were divided or had rejected such
He said a large group of countries, including France,
Spain, Holland and Romania was "very unhappy" about the document,
pointing to a future blocking alliance that would force the
praesidium to retreat.
"The member states are the key building blocks of the
European Union. There is no question at all of a federal superstate
being erected here in Brussels," he said.
Tim Kirkhope, an MEP and Tory justice spokesman,
accused the praesidium of flirting with "dictatorship".
He said: "This puts our parliamentary democracy under
grave threat. It turns the EU on its head by saying that everything
is the competence of Brussels unless determined otherwise. It is
totally unacceptable to the British people."
The text of the constitution is being released in
chunks, culminating in a final version by early summer. The
convention delegates can suggest changes, but they do not have
voting power to impose their views.
EU diplomats said the praesidium had been hijacked by
a group of EU insiders. The two European commissioners on the body,
France's Michel Barnier and Portugal's Antonio Vitorino, have taken
charge, bringing in commission lawyers to draft the language.
There was speculation last night that the term
"federal basis" would be removed from the final text as a sop to
Britain, although this would not in any way lessen the transfer of
power to Brussels.
In theory, any state can veto the document at the end
of an "inter-governmental" vetting process this autumn, giving the
Britain a second chance to slow the juggernaut.
But the convention's president, Valery Giscard
d'Estaing, says that no one state should be allowed to block the
majority, saying that naysayers will have to leave the EU
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