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Ancram: Britain's interests in Europe - The tests Blair must not fail

Press conference in Conservative Central Office, with Michael Ancram, Bernard Jenkin, Oliver Letwin and Bill Cash

With the Convention having reported to the IGC, the next phase of agreeing the future shape of the EU has in Thessalonica already begun. The Government have claimed that the report from the Convention is merely a "tidying up exercise". That is why - we are told by the Government - there will be no referendum. We are informed by the Government, that only if there were a fundamental shift in the UK's relationship with the EU or a fundamental change to the British Constitution and to our system of parliamentary democracy, would there be a case for a referendum.

We know that true to form the Prime Minister will claim at the conclusion of the Summit that he has achieved major victories. He always does, which makes it strange that the history of his negotiations in Europe over the last six years has been one of serial concession and surrender. This weekend he will no doubt claim victory on resisting tax harmonisation and preserving the veto on foreign and security policy. They will be hollow victories for they are already in the bag and long ago discounted by our European partners.

If however the Prime Minister is to maintain the claim of merely tidying up with no fundamental shifts in relationships or constitutional changes, then there are a number of simple tests that he must demonstrate openly and unequivocally that he has met. If he fails, then by his own definition he should concede a referendum.

These are some of the tests he must meet in terms of the proposals made by the Convention that will be the subject of intense discussion in Thessalonica.

A. First principles of national sovereignty

1. The establishment of an EU Constitution, overriding national constitutions, must be excised.

2. The European Union must not be granted a single legal personality.

3. There should be no permanent EU President.

4. There should be no European Foreign Minister, especially one who initiates Foreign policy and could replace national representatives in the UNSC.

B. EU Powers and Laws

5. There must be no 'Escalator clauses' that allow the loss of national vetoes without national parliamentary approval through Treaties.

6. There should be no "flexibility clause" that allows the EU to extend its power in any area mentioned in the new Treaty.

7. The Charter of Fundamental Rights should have no legal standing in either EU or domestic law.

8. There should be no shared competences which would give the EU a carte blanche to take the lead in law and policy making in areas like energy and transport.

9. National parliaments must not only be able to warn against breaches of their rights under subsidiarity and proportionality - they must be able to enforce them.

C. Home Affairs Concerns

10. The Prime Minister must guarantee that he will preserve intact British control over our criminal law, border control, and asylum system, resisting moves to establish a common area of freedom, justice and security.

11. The Prime Minister must uphold control of our criminal justice system and not let it be governed by Europe or assimilated to the European system by the backdoor.

12. The Prime Minister must resist the move towards control of our judicial practices from Europe.

13. The Prime Minister must not allow our police forces and their practices to be governed by Europe.

14. To ensure that we keep control of our asylum and immigration policy, along with control of our borders, the Prime Minister must secure an unbreakable opt-out from Schengen as well as ensuring that we opt back out of Dublin 2. The EU must not be allowed to decide our immigration and asylum policy.

D. Defence Concerns

15. There should be no consolidation of defence and security issues into the new EU Constitution.

16. The primacy of NATO over EU defence policy must be asserted at this summit and in any new Treaty.

17. The EU should suspend its decision to take over the NATO peacekeeping mandate in Bosnia, until NATO has exercised "right of first refusal".


These are simple, straightforward benchmarks against which the government's claim of merely tidying up can be tested. If they fail these tests, then by definition they are negotiating a treaty which will fundamentally shift the relationship between the EU and member states and which will fundamentally change our constitution. In those circumstances they should be honour bound to concede a referendum.

They should trust the people and let them decide.

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