22nd Nov 2017

UK should help kill off EU constitution, MPs say

  • Westminster: some MPs do not want commission "ambassadors" abroad (Photo: wikipedia)

A group of cross-party British parliamentarians have urged their government to end the "paralysis" surrounding the EU constitution by encouraging other states to bin the document.

The foreign affairs committee of the UK's House of Commons, made up of Labour, Conservative and Liberal-democrat parliamentarians, in a report dated 19 July concluded that "although the [Constitutional] Treaty is not dead, it is comatose and on life support."

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"We conclude that the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe is unlikely ever to come into force, although attempts may be made to enact some of its provisions by other means," the MPs wrote after hearing various UK officials over recent developments in the EU.

"We recommend that the government encourage its European counterparts to face up to this reality and explicitly to abandon the Treaty as a package."

The UK government led by prime minister Tony Blair has so far refrained from a firm public stance on the fate of the EU constitution after French and Dutch voters rejected the charter last year.

London has put plans for a referendum on the text on ice, but has not sided with The Hague which has declared the constitution "dead" or with those states pushing for a revival of the charter, such as Germany or Spain.

It is widely believed that London would not resist a slow starving off of the document however, with the chances of a positive outcome of a British referendum on the constitution seen as marginal.

In their report, the MPs also attacked attempts to implement key ideas of the constitution one by one, referred to in Brussels as "cherry-picking."

The report firmly rejects recent European Commission proposals to eliminate national vetoes in justice and police cooperation, through the so-called "passerelle" or "bridging" clauses in the current EU treaties.

These proposals, set to be discussed by justice ministers in September, have so far been cautiously welcomed by UK officials, but the House of Commons members write that "we oppose attempts to use the bridging clauses in the current treaties to introduce core objectives of the constitutional Treaty in the field of justice and home affairs."

Attempts to "cherry pick" and revive another key part of the constitution - the creation of an EU foreign minister post together with an EU diplomatic service - also caused alarm among the deputies.

"We conclude that, whatever the merits of the proposal to establish a foreign minister and an external action service for the EU, it is important that the European Commission should not develop a diplomatic service or ‘embassies' by stealth."

"We recommend that the government take steps to prevent the official use of the term 'ambassador' to refer to the commission's representatives," says the report.

The commission in a June paper put the EU consular service back on the agenda by proposing to exchange more personnel with diplomatic services of member states and by suggesting that "the EU should give further consideration to sharing of premises and support services for member state and EU external representations in third countries."

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