Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Hammond tells that old lie about the European Community

In his speech to the Conservatives' rally in Manchester yesterday. the chancellor of the exchequer repeated the canard that a previous Conservative government had taken the UK into an organisation that was only a common market, that the EC and the EEC had morphed into the monolithic and authoritarian EU without our government being able to do anything about it.

Well, I am a little older than Mr Hammond and I distinctly remember that giving up some of our sovereignty was part of the discussion at the time of our accession and during the campaign leading up to the referendum of 1975. Moreover, the objective of an "ever-closer union" is explicit within the preamble to the founding treaty of the EEC and subsequent revisions - is Mr Hammond saying that predecessor ministers, including Mrs Thatcher, did not read what they were signing up to?

The EU has demonstrably become more democratic since Rome, from the adding of the words “in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen” after “ever-closer union” in subsequent treaties, to giving power to the elected European Parliament to hold the councils of ministers and the Commission to account, including the right to propose legislation.

So the EU is less authoritarian than the old EEC. Moreover, the aspiration to be a United States of Europe has been watered down and, if the signs from Mr Cameron's rather clumsy 2015 negotiations are to be believed, may well have disappeared from the next treaty revision. Instead, Mrs May's decision to withdraw has revived the imperial spirit in France and no doubt some quarters in Germany, to the dismay of liberals and democrats throughout Europe.

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