Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

The Proposed EU Constitution

Delivered in Plenary - December 3rd 2003

Mr President

The British Conservatives - i.e. the European Democrats - do not support the idea that the proposed European Union constitution as discussed currently at the IGC in Rome is merely a tidying-up exercise. We believe it significantly alters the balance of power between Member States and the European Union institutions.

We believe it is one more stage in the process of setting up a federal super-state with its flag, currency, army and now constitution, rather than a simplifying treaty basing itself on a unique supranational creation between sovereign Member States. We are concerned at the new, high-profile role of the Council President and the proposed Foreign Minister and EU legal personality, which will enhance the perception that the EU is a de facto state and will shortly be demanding membership of the UN Security Council.

We are opposed to the passerelle clauses which jeopardise our veto rights over taxation, social security and, most worryingly, CFSP, which includes security and defence. Theoretically, it becomes possible for a new British Government to be out-voted over the deployment of its own troops already committed by a previous administration.

We have also seen concessions over a separate planning headquarters for autonomous EU operations, which will play into the hands of isolationist US strands who will be happy to see Europeans go it alone as they question the need to keep the US tied into NATO, an organisation which in my view has served us well for so long.

We reject the Charter of Fundamental Rights - with its vague rights to jobs, health and social security - becoming legally binding. It is a recipe for the activism of the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice in its agenda to enforce the social market economy and undermine the Thatcherite economic reforms of the 1980s which made my country a magnet for foreign direct investment.

Lastly, we are adamant that such major constitutional changes require a full public debate in all the Member States. With particular reference to my country, I call upon Prime Minister Blair to allow the British people a say through a referendum on the outcome of the Intergovernmental Conference.