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Kirkhope:Referenda to protect national sovereignty

Speech to the European Convention

Mr President, the Laeken Declaration laying the foundations for this Convention rightly stated that the European Union should not intervene "in matters by their nature best left to Member States." The reason for this is clear. If the Union intervenes in such areas, people feel that it is exceeding its proper role and they feel their national identities are under threat.

Respect for national identities should be at the forefront of our minds when we consider the various drafts of the final text over the coming weeks. I am, for instance, extremely pleased that the Praesidium's draft of Article 1.2 states that "The Union shall respect the national identities of its Member States" but I have tabled an amendment to make it crystal clear that the Union will also respect "their national sovereignties." If the Union does not respect such sovereignties, it cannot respect national identities and the future of the Union will therefore be threatened.

The embodiment of national sovereignty is, in my view, the will of the people. This is why, throughout the Convention process, I have gone to great lengths to stress the importance of elected institutions in the Union. The supremacy of National Parliaments should be protected—from both unelected European institutions and also from over-zealous Governments. And, of course, the European Parliament should play a bigger role in the European decision-making process.

For the same reason, I would urge fellow Convention members to support my proposal for an additional Article 1.4, specifying that: "The people of each Member State shall be consulted by referenda (where permitted by national constitutions) before ratification of [the final text of this Convention] by Member States' Governments."

If the people—consulted in separate national referenda—unanimously support the final text of this Convention, they will have no reason to feel that their national identities have been threatened. If, on the other hand, it is rejected, the people will have spoken and we will have to reflect on that and respect their views.

I have already quoted Winston Churchill once in the Plenary, but I will do so again today. "Trust the people," he said, otherwise we risk losing their trust in us.

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