Thursday, June 21, 2007

Parliament vs the EU

Read this with a large pinch of salt:

BBC NEWS | Politics | EC boss argues against referendum

In the above BBC article European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso appealed to Blair to not put the latest EU treaty to a UK referendum. He said:
"Britain is the country that exported Parliamentary democracy to the world. Do the British people consider Parliament the backdoor?"
This jumped out at me because I had just read in Private Eye that the UK government has avoided several attempts by the UK parliament to find out what the government would be trying to actually do at the current treaty summit. One parliamentary committee did manage to corner the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett, and ask her directly what was happening. Here is part of the exchange taken from the "Called to Ordure" column in Private Eye (BTW, it's much better done in the Eye (issue 1187)):
Regarding the treaty summit, Beckett said "This is a frozen debate, there is nothing on the table"

When Beckett is asked what she means when she uses the words 'meaningful negotiations'. Becket replies "If I did use the word 'meaningful' I did not mean it to carry any significance."

In response to increasingly frustrated questioners Beckett say that "There is nothing going on"

The civil servants who go in ahead of a summit are called "Sherpas" because they work out the draft wordings and tease out the issues that need to be resolved. When Beckett was asked what the Sherpas were discussing in the lead up to this summit, Becket answered "not much".

In short, parliament was kept in the dark and had absolutely no input into the treaty process at all.

So, Mr. Barroso, it's not so much that the UK parliament is a "backdoor" but rather that is not a door at all in this case.

I think we need that referendum.

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