9th Apr 2020

UK foreign secretary to back EU Constitution

The UK foreign secretary, Jack Straw, is expected to express the government’s backing for a written constitution for the European Union, arguing that it must become the "main aim" of the constitutional convention working on a new EU blueprint. Mr Straw is set to say that the constitution could help ease a growing sense of disillusionment across the EU by making it more accountable. It would be the first time that the Labour government has explicitly called for a written EU constitution.

Touring to raise the popularity of the EU

Mr Straw's speech today to the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce is the first stop in his country tour to raise the popularity of the EU among the British. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is set to tell business leaders in Scotland on Tuesday that the constitution could help ease a growing sense of disillusionment across the EU by making it more accountable. He is expected to argue that a constitution would clarify what powers should be left to national governments and reconnect European voters with the EU institutions.

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Mr Straw is expected to call for "a constitution which enshrines a simple set of principles, sets out in plain language what the EU is for and how it can add value, and reassures the public that national governments will remain the primary source of political legitimacy."

Part of a move to a European superstate

Previous British governments regarded the idea of a European constitution as a threat to national sovereignty and the Conservatives have attacked it as a "sell-out" of British interests. Shadow foreign secretary, Michael Ancram, said that despite assurances to the contrary, the government is backing a constitution, which only makes sense as part of a move to a European superstate. "We are now clearly seeing integration by stealth, step by step, in the hope the British people will not notice," Mr Ancram pointed out.

Subsidiarity watchdog

The foreign secretary will also call for a "subsidiarity watchdog" comprised by MPs from the different member states to check that the EU is not taking power from national and regional bodies and that decisions are taken at the lowest practical level - which is the principle of the rule of subsidiarity.

Mr Straw is also expected to lobby for EU enlargement, allegedly by saying that "the EU is poised to agree its biggest-ever expansion with up to 10 new members by 2004." Most observers believe roadblocks still exist which may prevent even the first "near-in" six applicant states, led by Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, getting in by the official deadline, the Guardian says.

Jack Straw will again spell out how the UK wants to see that the Convention supports greater powers for the EU's central authorities "in areas where it is manifestly in the national interest to do so, such as in the fight against crime and immigration." Mr Straw is also set to call for reform of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).


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