Speech to the Congress for Democracy
"My speech today was planned some time ago under rather different personal circumstances.
I am, however, very glad to honour my agreement to speak, in my new capacity as a backbench MP.
I take this opportunity to congratulate Michael Howard very warmly on his election…
…to pledge my absolute loyalty to him as my new leader…
…and to wish him the very best of luck as he continues the Conservative campaign against this failing Labour government.
When I became leader in 2001, we were told by every pundit and commentator that the Party would never unite on Europe.
We were told it so often we nearly believed it ourselves.
At the end of my leadership, I consider that prediction to have been confounded.
One of the greatest legacies that I leave my party is unity on the question of Europe.
This unity was not achieved at the cost of principle.
Our position remains firmly anti-federalist.
If the Party stays true to the line I laid down…
We will repatriate our fisheries and our foreign aid budget.
We will never accept a European army or a common foreign policy.
We oppose the single currency not just for the moment, but for ever - on principle.
And in Prague earlier this year -
…following many weeks of consultation with all shades of opinion within the Party -
…I stated that we oppose the European Constitution also, on principle.
Labour's dishonesty: tidying up?
With every passing day, the dishonesty of the present Government has become more clear to the British people.
In almost every aspect of its activity, Labour has lied about its record and its intentions.
But nowhere has this tendency been more marked than on the question of Europe.
Remember when Tony Blair declared his love for the pound?
For seven years, we have been solemnly assured by Mr Blair of his intention to defend our national independence.
For seven years, one item of independence after another has crossed the channel to Europe.
Remember when he said he would never consent to a European army?
Remember when he said foreign judges would never have power over British citizens in Britain?
Treaty after treaty… summit after summit… directive after directive…
…the right of the British people to govern themselves has drained away.
The colours are fading from the Union Jack.
For seven years, Labour have shifted and shuffled, twisted and turned…
…to justify what can never be justified: the ceding of our sovereignty to Brussels.
And the ultimate, the crowning insult to the intelligence of the public…
…has been Labour's rhetoric on the European Constitution.
The Foreign Secretary has said that that the draft Constitution simply codifies the principles on which Europe already operates.
The Minister for Europe has said that the draft Constitution is merely a 'tidying up exercise'.
And the Prime Minister has said that the draft Constitution:
'do[es] not involve any fundamental change in the relationship between the EU and Member States.'
All three men are either deceiving themselves - or they are trying to deceive the British people.
[As we have heard from Martin Howe], the Constitution goes much further than existing treaties.
Everyone knows it is far more than a tidying up exercise.
Other Europeannations certainly think so - which is why they're holding referendums on it.
It does represent a fundamental change in the relationship between the EU and the Member States.
It gives Brussels a new power to 'co-ordinate' the economic, employment and social policies of the Member States
It incorporates the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights into UK law.
It makes criminal and judicial affairs no longer subject to intergovernmental decision-making…
…but to the new supranational area of 'freedom, security and justice'.
It lowers the hurdle of Qualified Majority Voting to an even lower level than that agreed at Nice…
…which we were told would be the last change before enlargement.
It establishes a common asylum policy, and does not include the opt-out Britain has previously negotiated on this issue.
It makes provision for an autonomous EU defence capability outside NATO - in other words, a European army.
And it requires Member States to - I quote -
'actively and unreservedly support the Union's common foreign and security policy in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity…
…[and] ensure that their national policies conform to the positions of the Union.'
These are all unacceptable examples of the encroachment of Brussels -
…and they are telling evidence of the way the Blair-Brown Government has lied to the British people about Europe.
Some claim the British people will lose influence if they reject Old Europe's agenda.
But influence must never be bought at the price of our permanent interest.
Influence is a means.
Britain's permanent national interest is an end.
Every one of these changes is unacceptable because none of them is in Britain's national interest.
Changes to our lives
How will these changes impact on our daily lives?
The Constitution stipulates that the EU will pursue a 'social market economy' -
…that is, the high unemployment, low growth model of France and Germany.
The EU will 'co-ordinate' health and education policy -
…meaning NHS and schools reform will have to wait on the approval of Brussels.
The Constitution gives the EU the right to raise its own taxes.
It reverses the industrial legislation of the Thatcher years, allowing workers the unlimited right to strike.
It allows the EU to define criminal offences and set minimum sentences.
In every area of domestic policy, it diminishes Britain and the British people.
Treaty or Constitution
So there is a more fundamental principle at stake than the Government's dishonesty.
Article I-10 of the Constitution states that:
'The Constitution, and law adopted by the Union's Institutions in exercising competences conferred on it, shall have primacy over the law of the Member States.'
And yet the Government insists that the Constitution marks no fundamental change.
Some of the Government's deceit may be born of ignorance.
There is certainly some confusion in the Government.
In September Jack Straw told Parliament that international treaties already take primacy over UK law.
But in the same month he issued a White Paper saying that our 'ultimate guarantee of Parliamentary sovereignty' is protected…
…because Parliament may repeal the Acts which give effect to the treaties.
He is simultaneously arguing that the Constitution changes nothing because the EU has primacy already…
…and that the Constitution changes nothing because we will keep our national sovereignty.
What, I wonder, does the Government think is not undergoing any 'fundamental change' -
…our dependence or our independence?
The reality is, of course, that fundamental change is happening - and it is happening to our independence.
We're losing it.
Jack Straw's obfuscations hint at an important truth.
Of course treaties take primacy over UK law…
…in the sense that a country may not plead national obligations to escape international ones.
And of course Parliament may repeal an Act giving effect to a treaty.
But [as Martin has made clear,] what is envisaged here is much more than a treaty.
It is a Constitution.
And the difference is crucial.
Treaties derive their authority from the assent of independent states - and they lapse once that assent is withdrawn.
A Constitution is its own source of legal authority - and once enacted, it becomes permanent.
In all the Treaties of the EU, authority explicitly derives from the 'High Contracting Parties', i.e. the Member States.
Under the new Constitution, authority explicitly derives from the text of the Constitution itself…
…and under the terms of Article I-10 which I quoted just now, the authority of the Constitution is binding and permanent.
The Constitution formally dissolves the present EU and creates a new one -
…an EU which, for the first time, has a legal personality distinct from the Member States.
And it creates the European Court of Justice as a supreme court…
…with supremacy over British law and with the power to determine its own powers.
The British Constitution
If this is not a fundamental change, one wonders what Mr Blair and Mr Straw think would be!
From being an international agreement between Governments…
…the EU is becoming a part - and, what's worse, the governing part - of the internal Constitutions of the Member States.
Because this is the really important thing about the new Constitution.
It does not merely alter the legal basis of the European Union.
As the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution reported last month…
…it alters the Constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom itself.
Jack Straw states that this is 'a Constitution for the EU, not for Member States'.
This is a Constitution for Britain - and one which abrogates the Constitution we already have…
…the oldest Constitution in the western world.
Democracy only thrives when it is embodied in a living culture and society -
…and as Edmund Burke said, a nation extends in time as well as space.
It is an historical community as well as a geographical one.
This is a change to the way we are governed…
…as profound as anything that has happened in 1,000 years of British history.
In particular, Tony Blair is reversing the Glorious Revolution of 1688…
…when sovereignty was established in the people of the United Kingdom…
…and incorporated in the name of the 'Queen in Parliament'.
He's about to do away with both Queen and Parliament -
…and by a final irony, he will do so by ordering a Parliamentary majority and demanding the Royal Assent.
He should get neither.
Under this unwanted and unnecessary Constitution, ultimate sovereignty will rest not with the Queen in Parliament…
…but with the European Court of Justice.
This is something no Government - nor Parliament, nor Queen - can accept on their own authority.
The British Constitution is not the property of Tony Blair, to do with as he will.
It is the property of the British people.
It is held only in trust by the Government.
No Prime Minister or Member of Parliament can vote away the basis on which he holds his office or his seat.
Martin Howe's book [launched at the event] quotes John Locke in the defence of the Revolution of 1688…
"the Legislature cannot transfer the power of making laws to any other hands. For it being but a delegated power from the People, they who have it cannot pass it to others."
This is a fundamental principle and one I could scarcely feel more strongly about.
The power we as politicians have is not our own.
It does not come down to us by divine right.
Our power is the people's - it is the power of the collective will of our nation.
We do not have the right to vote it away -
…any more than we can vote never to have another general election, and decide to hold our seats forever.
In Britain, sovereignty rests with the people, represented by the Queen in Parliament.
If it is to be represented by the institutions of the European Union, then its ultimate source, the people, must be consulted.
No sham of a Parliamentary division, called by the Prime Minister and whipped along the party line…
…is going to make legitimate a change of this magnitude.
Only one thing can possibly do that - a referendum.
Mine is a positive vision of the future.
A vision of a new Europe.
This is not a blue-print for withdrawal from the EU.
We will always have institutional links with our European partners.
Britain does not want to exist independently of the continent we form part of.
But nor do we want to exist as a part of a single, unitary and unaccountable super-state.
We must reject the false choice laid down by Mr Blair.
It's not 'old Europe' or 'no Europe'.
There is a third option.
A new Europe.
A Europe of independent democracies, co-operating as they see fit…
…but retaining their sovereign right to run their own affairs.
A Europe diverse and flexible, harmonious and free.
Transparent and accountable to the people who pay for it.
A Europe of national democracies.
The sort of Europe most Europeans want.
An EU which looks to the world outside, not one focused on constantly reorganising its own internal arrangements.
An EU which wants to expand more than it wants to deepen.
An EU actively committed to the relief of poverty and disease in Africa…
…the former colonial territories of the European powers, now so shamefully neglected.
A New Europe of nations dedicating their will and wealth to the twin objectives of global justice and global security.
A truly global Europe would see its greatest challenge to be responsibility to those in greatest need.
But the EU is pitiful.
The world is hungrier because of what EU agriculture and fishing policies…
…have done to the world's poorest farmers and producers.
Why does so much of the EU aid budget end up in the hands of corrupt officials?
Why is so much of the current EU aid budget having to pick up the pieces from the Union's protectionist trade policies?
And why does the EU spend its time frustrating - rather than furthering -
…the efforts of the civilised world to root out terrorism?
New Europe must do better.
My path in politics has been guided by my belief in Britain…
…my respect for our nation's past and my ambitions for its future.
My leadership of the Conservative Party has been inspired by belief in the strength and qualities of the British people…
…and the expression of their will in institutions accountable to them.
This belief has sustained me throughout my time as leader - and as a Member of Parliament.
From Maastricht to the present day, I have always been prepared to fight for our country's independence…
…no matter the personal cost.
And I will continue to do so.
I fear little.
But I do fear the might of an insensitive, destructive and distant power…
…uncaring of Britain's interest…
…and uncompromising in its campaign to deprive the British people of their democratic birthright.
All good men and women should fear such a threat.
But let our fear breed energy.
Let it breed a fierce appetite for the fight ahead.
This is a fight for our nation.
But not only for our nation.
It is a fight for all nations.
For generations Britons have fought for freedom - for their freedom and for the freedom of others.
Surely my party, with its proud history, must stand up for others as much as for ourselves…
…and fight for a better way - for a new Europe.
This is a fight for the truth.
A fight we must win.
The fight of our lives."