Most people in Britain know we are in “Europe”, and the BBC has told us that’s a good thing – “Europe” is cosy and warm, while outside “Europe” it is lonely and cold. So sadly most people want to stay in “Europe”, where it is warm and dry. That is all most people know about this thing called “Europe”. However a few inquisitive souls want to find out more about it, and that’s when they discover that it is not “Europe” at all, but is something called the “European Union” [EU for short]. Even fewer inquisitive types go on to try and find out things about this “EU”. And they can find out stuff about the EU, through searching the internet online. One source of information on the EU is the latest EU Constitution, also known as [aka] the Treaty of Lisbon.
“Europe” is now called the European Union, but before that it was the European Economic Community [EEC], known as the Common Market, which became the European Community [EC], and after the Maastricht Treaty of 1992, the EU. The Treaty of Rome set up the Common Market in 1958, and over the years since then it has been amended by new constitutional treaties – such as the Treaties of Brussels, Maastricht, Amsterdam, Nice and so on. All of which have strengthened the powers of the central government in Brussels, called the European Commission, over the member countries of “Europe”.
When Edward Heath, Britain’s Tory prime minister, signed the [then] latest version of the Treaty of Rome in 1972, he threw the ancient “unwritten” British constitution overboard, in favour of a [very] written “European” constitution, drafted by the Eurocrats of the European Commission. Edward Heath was a bit of an odd cove, he was best mates with Mao-Tse-Tung, the Great Helmsman of Communist China, who steered Red China to a famine, aka the Great Leap Forward, which killed sixty million Chinese people between 1959 and 1961. Rather an odd friend for a Tory leader to spend his holidays with in Peking, but then “there’s nowt so queer as folk”. Ted Heath signed the European Communities Act , and told the British people that it meant no loss of their national sovereignty, although his Lord Chancellor told him otherwise.
But surely the EU has a Parliament, just like ours in Westminster, so it must be alright then? The trouble is that the EU Parliament in Brussels [and Strasbourg ] is not like ours at all. Buried deep [very deep] in the Treaty of Lisbon is a clause that renders the EU’s so-called “Parliament” [it began as an “Assembly”] all but powerless. Clause 7 of Article 294 of the “Treaty on the Functioning of the EU” [TFEU – part of the Lisbon Treaty] says that to reject or amend proposed legislation, the EU Parliament needs a “majority of its component members”. This means a majority of all Members of the European Parliament wherever they are, not just of those MEP’s voting in the EU Parliament. This is what is called an Absolute Majority, whereas a majority of those voting is a Simple Majority. And which majority is needed to pass laws through the EU Parliament ? You’ve guessed it – a Simple Majority.
Our Parliament in Westminster has always only needed a Simple Majority to reject proposed laws. The curious need in Brussels & Strasbourg for the Absolute Majority to reject proposed EU laws has ensured that none have ever been voted down & out in the EU Parliament [as far as I know, I welcome any news to the contrary]. The EU Parliament or Assembly has never had the power to draft any laws itself. The EU Commission has always drafted EU laws, which are first presented to the EU Council of Ministers for approval, before going before the EU Parliament.
The Council of Ministers is a gathering of similar ministers from EU member countries – all their ministers of agriculture for example, or of transport – which meets in secret, supposedly to peruse proposed EU laws in their field. When they meet, the Council of Ministers is presented with a summary of the decisions that they will reach. This summary is drafted by the bureaucrats of COREPER [the Committee of Permanent Representatives] who are civil servants delegated from EU member countries. About one hundred and seventy COREPER committees and working groups are involved in completing the tidal wave of details in the EU Commission’s draft legislation. The Council of Ministers meet to give COREPER’s conclusions an impressive seal of approval. They usually meet only for a weekend, they would need months to read through the acres of small print that they approve, if they could stand the boredom.
And that is what this “Europe” thing is all about – how the EU Commission has triumphed and crushed opposition in “Europe” – through boredom used as a political weapon. Back home in their EU member countries, elected politicians pass off the unelected Commission’s laws as their own. If you don’t believe me go here online, it took me a while to unearth Clause 7 of Article 294, of TFEU. Other horrors could be lurking deep in the dense forest that is the EU Constitution. The more you discover about this thing called “Europe”, the more ominous it gets.