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Saturday, June 19, 2004

EU Constitution

Well its been agreed. My gut feeling at the moment is that I will vote against it when the time comes, but I will hold off making a final decision until I have actually read through the whole thing.

Now, I am hardly an expert. I could well read the treaty 'wrong' - but that's frankly not my problem. And yes, although I will try to read through the Treaty with an open mind of possible I have to admit to hefty bias against it. With that in mind these are the five main things I will be looking for.

1) Whether the Fundamental Charter of Rights can be applied against UK law. Anything that includes a 'right to strike' will automatiicaly get my no vote. There is a reason why the French economy is in the doldrums, and I'd rather the UK not drown in the same boat.

2) Whether, with all the talk of a European Prosecuter, a someone resident in the UK (be they citizen or resident alien) could be arrested for a crime that is not on the UK statute books. If I think the Constitution could allow this, I will again vote against.

3) Foreign affairs & tax. Again, anything that limits UK action in these realms would very likely ensure a no vote, though to be honest I am not expecting to find anything objectionable here.

4) Economic stuff. The area I probably know least, but if I think there is a threat to our economy, particularly the role of London, it will induce a no vote.

5) Common law. If I perceive a threat to UK common law a no vote, no question. In fact in the above 4 I might give a little leeway here and there for a very good reason, but this one is entirely and utterly non-negotiable. Out system of law is one of the things that I believe has made my country great throughout the centuries, and is something so integral to how we operate that trying to alter the system I would regard as an explicit attack on British liberty. Extreme words perhaps, but that is what I think.

I am hoping to find increased democratisation of the EU in the treaty as well, but I am expecting to find only nice phrases of little substance.

A final thought, at quick count of the election results (slightly skewed because it does not take into account Northern Ireland) 55% of people who voted did so for parties that will campaign against the treaty. Only 40% did so for parties that intend to support the treaty. The remaining 5% are to minor parties whose views I do not know. However, a word of caution on those results, just as UKIPs large Euro election result is unlikely to translate into a large General Election share of the vote (because people are more likely to vote on domestic issues than european/international issues at a general election) so we should expect traditional party-line voting to be even less relevant to the referendum, whenever we hold it. This means that I think there is no reliable guide to how the vote will go. The one thing that would radically change the dynamic is if the referendum is held the same day as a general election. I think politically the risks of doing this are too high, but it remains a possibility. An election is widely expected next year (relatively successful British governments tend to call elections every four years, though a Parliament has a maximum lifetime of five years). A possible argument for holding the election and referendum together is a bid to increase turnout. Another set of local elections are held next year, county council elections, and combining the two would make more sense (like they did this time around with the local & euro elections).

We'll just have to see. I believe Parliament will need to ratify the Treaty first. That should be fun.

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