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Heathcoat-Amory: Home Affairs and the EU's constitutional status

We have heard a lot of speakers with a long shopping list of desirable additional powers for the EU over border controls and police, and action against every sort of crime. Frankly that is the easy part - the difficult part is to ensure proper accountability because these are highly sensitive matters.

We are dealing here with the coercive power of the state over the individual. That has been the stuff of political debate for centuries and it cannot be avoided or wished away. One answer - and we must be honest about it - is to say that the EU can exercise this. The EU is a government; the EU can therefore legitimately exercise this coercion. But then those wanting to take that approach must be honest and describe exactly what the constitutional status of the EU is.

For my part, I believe we have not reached that stage and that it is dangerous to separate these powers from the legitimacy of Member States. Of course, we can all cooperate and coordinate better, but if we take these powers away from Member States, away from national parliaments, away from the electorate, then we feed the extremist parties of Europe. They then simply point out and exploit the fact that the ordinary citizen has lost control and these powers are being exercised in a "Euro-Space" of some sort, without any real accountability or legitimacy.

So my simple appeal is that those who want to transfer everything from the inter-governmental pillars to the European Community pillar must be much more honest about the constitutional status of the EU. Is it a state and, therefore, can it take over from Member States that coercive power which goes to the root of this issue?

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