Peter Preston

What delightfully garbled logic. If we try to leave the European Union then:

It was there at the heart of the so-called constitutional treaty, but almost nobody noticed. It is there again in the reviled reform treaty, but no one has mentioned that so far. Turn to clause 57 and article 35, then: "Voluntary Withdrawal from the Union". Scan, for the first time, precisely how we\’d get out of Europe. You can (paragraph 1) decide to withdraw if you like. You must (paragraph 2) negotiate with the council of ministers. You\’ll need to agree the details of that withdrawal and a framework for future relationships with the EU. The European parliament will want to approve this, too.

Thereafter, every dotted line signed, you\’re out. The treaties of membership don\’t apply – unless (paragraph 3) there\’s still haggling to do over the small print; in which case, you\’re free from those obligations after two years while the argument goes on. But note (paragraph 4) that you\’re off the council the moment you signal your intention to pull out. You have no voice in other decisions the EU may take. The ministers who remain will use qualified voting. No vetoes apply.

So therefore we can\’t leave because it would all be too complicated.

Which really rather misses the point. All of this only comes into effect if the Constitutional Reform Treaty is ratified. The current situation is that we pass an Act of Parliament and we\’re out.

All of which means that it\’s a great deal simpler for us to leave now rather than later, doesn\’t it?

9 comments on “Peter Preston

  1. Actually, regardless of what the Treaty provides, the passing of an Act of Parliament would be enough to get us out anyway. British Acts trump any and all foreign treaties (Mortensen v someone or other) and that’s not really a legal position as much as a philosophical one.

  2. Timj, the idea that British laws trump all Foreign treaties will come as news to succesive British governments who have seen the Human Rights laws of the UN and the EU trump British laws time and time again.

  3. TimJ is right. The bad part of the British Constitution is that Parliament is Sovereign. That is why vicious discipline by the Government Whips exercised over a parliament of party poodles has been able to destroy so many liberties so fast. The good part is that Parliament is Sovereign. It cannot alienate that sovereignty. All it takes is a vote, and we are out.

    I still live in hope that we will be expelled. That would make it more difficult for a future government to reapply.

  4. Then what the bugger are we waiting for? Why doesn’t someone draft a Private Member’s Bill that (i) gets us out, and (ii) gifts £50 million per MP, tax free. It’d pass in a jiffy.

  5. dearieme

    Brilliant suggestion: I think, though, you’d be overpaying. £50 million would certainly get you unanimity if that’s what you want. I imagine £500,000 plus luncheon vouchers for life would get you the necessary majority.

  6. 1. No parliament may bind its successor.

    2. Treaties are just that – treaties. You can sign them and you can abrogate them.

    Might be messy – but it’s not impossible.

  7. Dearieme, that is a very good suggestion! Maybe on the high side though. As Labour have proven it takes far less to buy a politician. We can actually afford over $4 million, which should be ample, to each MP and still end up quids in compared to our net contribution to the EU.

  8. The only way the EU treaty would be binding was if the EU were prepared to field an army to stop us leaving, as the North did to the South in US Civil War. Laws are only worth anything if in the last resort they can be upheld by force.

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