Monday, June 25, 2007

Did Blair Get A Hummer?

Tony Blair seems to be having some credibility problems.
Blair hands Brown an EU timebomb as treaty starts to unravel

Gordon Brown has been handed a constitutional 'booby trap' which will rob him of the power to block European interference in dozens of areas of national life, it was claimed.

In a Press conference, Tony Blair declared he had successfully defended Britain's interests in the marathon negotiations over a new 'constitution' for the EU.

But within hours Mr Blair's bold assertions were unravelling, as doubts were cast on crucial treaty clauses designed to safeguard our independent foreign policy and our right to opt out of the controversial Charter of Fundamental Rights.

------ ker-snip ------

Speaking in Brussels at his last ever Press conference as Prime Minister, an exhausted Mr Blair insisted Britain's so-called 'red lines' had not been crossed.

He said: "The four essential things we in the UK required to protect our position have all been obtained."

But a new analysis reveals that this claimed victory may be short-lived.

The UK had insisted on an amendment making clear that the EU's vaulting ambitions to develop its own foreign and security policy could not challenge the interests of national governments.

A 'declaration' was inserted into the footnotes of the treaty saying the 'responsibilities of member states' would not be affected.

However, this first and most important red line now looks less than secure after experts pointed out that in EU language a 'declaration' has limited or no legal power - it is merely a 'political aspiration'.

The treaty creates a new European foreign minister - or High Representative - who will have his own team of envoys and embassies. He will also chair meetings of EU foreign ministers.

Neil O"Brien, director of the Open Europe think-tank, said: "It is hard to see how in practice this will not undermine the freedom of manoeuvre for our own Foreign Secretary." Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "Tony Blair says he has safeguarded British foreign policy from EU interference, even though he has agreed to an EU diplomatic service which will mean EU embassies and an EU foreign minister by any other name.

"When you examine the small print, it is clear his so-called safeguards have no legal guarantees at all.

"This is typical of the Government's approach to negotiation on this vital treaty, which undoubtedly shifts power from Britain to the EU."

A second Blair red line was over the Charter of Fundamental Rights. During the Brussels negotiations, a special opt-out was secured that exempts British courts from this new European bill of rights.

However, European judges warn the opt-out could be subject to a legal challenge. Jacques Ziller, a professor of European Law, has described the British exemption as 'nonsense'.

Britain's third red line covered our right to veto EU decisions on tax and benefits. Mr Blair said there would be no hand-over of power in these areas.

But, under the treaty, Britain has ceded control in 52 separate areas of policy. Critics fear Brussels supporters of a super-state could use these new powers to introduce a common European social security policy by the back door.

According to Mr O"Brien, the first challenge could come over the rights of new migrants from within the EU to claim benefits.

The final red line was Britain's right to veto European plans on criminal justice. But the small print of the treaty revealed that Mr Blair had quietly agreed to relinquish our blocking vote on grandiose plans to create a European police force and public prosecutor.

However, Europe Minister Geoff Hoon, responding to criticism that the Government had failed to defend its own positions, said: "We have spent weeks ensuring that these provisions are watertight."
That's what was said about the Titanic.

See the comments.

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