Thursday, 13 January 2011

Time for a UK mass exodus from the clutches of the EUSSR? (5 x updated)

Was I uncharitable regarding British tabloids, large parts of the political establishment and the UK educational system, which have utterly failed to frame the UK discussion on ”Europe” in constructive and forward-looking terms? My criticism in UK and the fall of the ”EU dictatorship” (12 January 2011) seems mild in comparison to fellow euroblogger @Nosemonkey who tweeted about the ”barking mad #EUbill reading/debate”.

Westminster bubble

Generally ”Europe” is treated as an alien, hostile and threatening empire (EUSSR), rather than as the team the United Kingdom is playing on (and should be playing for).

I invite you to be your own judge. Read the record of the 11 January debate on the European Union Bill in the Westminster Parliament.

How do you, as an EU citizen, perceive that the House of Commons debate on parliamentary sovereignty (or Crown in Parliament), especially the Tory rebellion led by Bill Cash targeting the independence of courts (the rule of law), addresses our real concerns about values, security and prosperity in a world increasingly shaped by rising powers (BRICs)?

Bleak House ahead

The Gulf Stream Blues blog noted that the Tory rebellion was defeated, but the government's European Union Bill is heading for adoption, and Bleak House lies ahead: UK throws a spanner in EU integration (12 January 2011):

In the end, if the British vote 'no' on something the rest of the EU is ready to approve, the only logical next step would be for the British to have an 'in or out' referendum on its own membership. One can't quite predict how that will go, but I suspect it would be a 'yes' because deep down the British know they need the EU. But they can't stay in it if they're going to drag it down by rejecting every attempt at treaty change.

So there you have it, quite a bleak future for the UK's relationship with the EU. And there's little chance of this bill being overturned by a later government.

For Europeans, being dragged down by the United Kingdom is not the brightest of prospects.

Sterile sovereignty

In my view, framing the debate about the European Union in terms of (parliamentary) sovereignty is sterile. The rights and interest of citizens are primary, which a House self-obsessed with its own sovereignty does little to serve.

Yesterday, the Federal Union blog made a similar observation, in: Where sovereignty lies (12 January 2011). What matters, are the rights of citizens, not the rights of MPs. The rights of citizens need to be strengthened:

For a number of reasons, most of them good ones, the principle that what parliament says, goes, is no longer unbending. International treaty obligations, including notably those of the European Union, plus many other home-grown concerns, combine to restrict what parliament may do. Purists of the old school, as exemplified by Bill Cash, may dislike what has happened, but it is nevertheless the case. Even leaving the EU would not restore parliamentary powers to their former glory. What matters, though, are the rights of citizens, not the rights of MPs – do not confuse the two – and those rights are being strengthened.

Pace of learning

In the political culture of the United Kingdom the concept and meaning of national citizenship have yet to take root.

Sixty years after the establishment of the Council of Europe (CoE) and the conclusion of the (European) Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), the protection of citizens' rights through the rule of law seems alien to considerable parts of the British political establishement.

In addition, the rulings by the European Court of Human Rights ECtHR are often confused with decisions by the European Union, itself no spring chicken, with roots going back to the 1957 (EEC) Treaty of Rome.

If you do not believe me about the constant confusion and misinformation, see Talking about the EU: The European Court of Human Rights is NOT an EU institution (11 January 2011).

Ignore, deny or accept

Ignoring, denying and accepting all seem to be alternatives equally presentable, even if we discuss a matter of fact.

Little wonder that the Federal Trust is going to host a conference 20 January 2011 on these great unknowns: Citizenship and the Lisbon Treaty – can the British ever be European citizens?

Dual citizenship

Despite the excruciatingly slow pace of learning, legally the case is clear. Citizenship of the European Union was introduced by the Treaty on European Union (TEU), also known as the Maastricht Treaty, which was signed in 1992 and entered into force in 1993.

Today, this dual citizenship – national and EU – is enshrined in Title II on provisions on democratic principles of the Treaty on European Union (OJEU 30.3.2010 C 83/20):


Article 9 TEU

In all its activities, the Union shall observe the principle of the equality of its citizens, who shall receive equal attention from its institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. Every national of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship.

Concrete provisions on and benefits of the bonus EU citizenship are found in Part Two of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), Non-discrimination and citizenship of the Union (Articles 18 to 25).

Through the treaties and secondary legislation EU citizenship confers some, but not full, political rights on the citizens. The European Union is still ”owned” by the member states, instead of vested in its citizens.

The member states even hold the keys to who becomes an EU citizen, since it follows automatically from national citizenship, without effective brakes on mass naturalisation by an individual government: National and EU citizenship: What if? (30 November 2010). .

As we saw, EU citizenship is less than twenty years old, almost nothing compared to the age of the Council of Europe, the ECHR, the Treaty of Rome (EEC) and other landmarks of European integration still freely ignored or misunderstood by large sections of British media and nationals.

Ignorance or denial?

Should we rejoice that denial is better than ignorance, because the denier at least is aware of the existence of his or her citizenship of the European Union?

In addition, the protest comes without cost. If you tell the world that you reject your EU citizenship, you still retain your status and the benefits.

The effective, non-gratuitous way to get rid of EU citizenship is to become a national of a state which is neither an EU member, nor a potential member. This leaves plenty of exotic options among the 192 member states of the United Nations.

Mass exodus?

The Tory rebellion having failed, European Union Bill of the UK government is on the road to the statute book, and the campaigns to get Britain out of the EU seem to be going nowhere (even if UK secession might be a blessing for the rest of the union).

Why don't the tabloids, Bill Cash, Daniel Hannan and others act in the spirit of the Pilgrim Fathers to flee oppression by the EUSSR dictatorship and head for a new start in a more promising land?

Afghanistan? Belarus? Burma? Cuba? North Korea? Iran? Libya? Pakistan? Saudi Arabia? Zimbabwe?

The choice is almost endless for those who cherish their age-old English liberties enough to flee the evil European Union. (See Freedom in the World, Freedom House ratings of more than a hundred countries in 2010.)

Do I see lines forming in front of the Consulates, crowds crying Exodus, English political notables packing their bags and media campaigning in overdrive to spur people to take liberty into their own hands?

Update 13 January 2011: The European Citizen has written a blog post on the trials and tribulations of the UK Parliament to come to terms with sovereignty in the context of the debate on the European Union Bill.

Update 2, 14 January 2011: Nosemonkey has returned to the EU and UK sovereignty in a long, but interesting blog post.

Update 3, 14 January 2011: Eva en Europa writes (in Spanish) about the British drift away from the rest of Europe manifested by the European Union Bill debate.

Update 4, 14 January 2011: The House of Commons debate on the European Union Bill does not convince Caroline Bradley of Blenderlaw about the merits of parliamentary sovereignty.

Update 5, January 2011: Charles Reed on the Ethics and Foreign Policy blog wonders if the European Union Bill introduces referendums for the wrong type of questions.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The Parliament magazine focuses on the directly elected European Parliament, which co-legislates on more of the important issues concerning EU businesses and citizens than before the Lisbon Treaty. Lobbyists have spotted the influence of the EP. Should EU citizens too?