To millions of Britons, December 13, 2007 is a date which will live in infamy.
In the Labor Party’s 2006 Election Manifesto, the British people were given a devout promise that there would be a referendum on whether to sign on to the proposed EU Constitution. Gordon Brown reaffirmed this vow when he succeeded Tony Blair as Prime Minister in July of this year. The promise was an empty one. The proposed EU Constitution — meant to replace all previous treaties — was already legally dead thanks to ”no” votes by both the French and the Dutch in 2005.
But behind the scenes, there has been treachery afoot these past 30 months. Bureaucrats never take your “no” for the answer to what they want. Slowly, the Euro forces began cosmetic surgery. The Constitution underwent a political makeover and re-emerged as the new EU Reform Treaty, a document which is not only the same as the failed EU Constitution, but has added even more bureaucracy to it.
On Thursday morning, December 13 in Lisbon, Portugal, the Presidents and Prime Ministers from the 27 member nations were to gather to sign this new Treaty. All were present except for Gordon Brown. He sent his Foreign Minister. David Milliband signed this historical document on behalf of the UK when the cameras were flashing. Brown explained his absence as a “conflict of scheduling.” Then events took a turn toward treachery worthy of a Shakespearian play. Three hours later, Brown surreptitiously arrived. Cowering in a back room off the main hall – where he had hoped in vain to avoid the cameras — the pusillanimous Prime Minister signed the document. One EU insider dryly remarked that Brown acted like someone who was trying to keep a dirty little secret.
Brown seems to have imagined that this out-of-sight out-of-mind tactic would fool the British public. Hardly. The Shadow (Conservative) Foreign Minister, William Hague, asked what the members of the EU would think of a man who “dithers for a week about whether or not he wants to be photographed putting pen to paper.” To others it was more a case of Brown proving to be as handy with a knife as Brutus.
So just what are the most important points of the so-called “Reform Treaty” as they impact minor details like, for instance, British sovereignty?
The EU is designed to be a superstructure entity that creates a single foreign policy and one-stop overarching decision-making powers which will be directed downwards to all its member states. Until now, the heads of the 27 member nations served six month rotations as nominal EU President. That egalitarian practice is now dead. There is to be a new all-powerful unelected President of Europe, appointed by the 27 heads of state – not elected by the 350 million people of new Europe. (Frustrated Democrats who have never gotten over the US 2000 election, please note). Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the UK, has been heavily tipped to take over this coveted post.
Although the initial idea of a single EU Foreign Minister was abandoned in this round of “ever closer union”, the new Treaty calls for a Foreign Policy Chief — who will hold diplomatic status and head up the new EU Foreign Service bureaucracy. What’s in a name? Perhaps everything.
Great Britain and Poland asked to opt out of signing on to the 50-article Charter of Fundamental Rights — for the time being. This charter promises life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and religions freedom. It then goes on to promise universal collective bargaining, fair working conditions and shelter. Yes, shelter. No one in the New Europe will be allowed to be homeless.
The UK continues to demure on joining the Euro. But this Treaty puts yet more pressure on Great Britain to ditch the Pound in favor of New Europe’s collective currency.
The most sinister part of the Treaty is contained in another rule. This one gives the EU rights to overturn decisions made by Britain’s Immigration and Asylum Tribunal. Those who have sought — and have been rejected — as asylum seekers in the UK now have the right to take their cases over the head of Great Britain’s highest court and appeal to the unelected European Court of Justice in Luxembourg whose EU bureaucrats will have the final say. Giving the EU authorities power to trump immigration and border issues inside the UK is seen as the end of their democracy by many a Brit. When the EU Court of Justice can overrule any member nation’s own judiciary, another piece of national sovereignty has been signed away.
The output of venom directed against the Prime Minister since Wednesday’s dirty deed has been stunning. The most vociferous critics of Brown’s stealth execution of the treaty are calling for his severed head to be skewered on a pike and set above the Thames. This was often the fate of traitors in earlier times. The British have such colorful traditions. Others have suggested that the Tower of London be re-commissioned to serve as a prison for Brown and his minions. Calls have been raised for a million people to surround the Houses of Parliament in a massive protest where this Treaty must be ratified in the House of Commons. Two full weeks of debate have been promised the public — but then promises come cheap in politics.
Brown himself has been compared to Neville Chamberlain, who returned to England from Germany in 1938 waving a paper which Adolph Hitler had written promising that there would be no future war. British veterans and their heirs must surely wonder why two world wars were fought and millions of lives lost if the British sovereignty would eventually be surrendered — by their own government — to their former continental enemies. Brown is also now being parodied in cartoons and editorials which compare him to that bumbling silent English loner, Mr. Bean. After all, the wags point out, Brown doesn’t like to even mingle with his EU counterparts. Brown bungles about like Mr. Bean, although Mr. Bean’s awkwardness and its consequences are inadvertent. And like the bumbling Mr. Bean, since Brown went slinking off to Portugal to sign away his country’s autonomy, Brown has mumbled to the English press that the new EU treaty "would provide a lasting framwork for the EU" yet at the same time create "a circle of reflection" on the EU’s long term future.
Of course, there is a technical flaw in that observation. Gordon Brown isn’t English. He’s a sly and canny Scot. Come to that, so is Tony Blair. Many a wary English eye is now being cast north of Hadrian’s Wall. Just a few months ago, the ever more powerful Scottish Parliament voted to give every one of its citizens free health care, the costs for which will be taken out of English pockets. Is the new Europe Reform Treaty part of the Great Scottish Plot? Is this Braveheart’s Revenge?