New EU treaty is old constitution in disguise, warns Hague

7th August 2007

William Hague Pictured

Gordon Brown faced fresh Tory pressure for a referendum on the new EU treaty yesterday after William Hague described it as 'overwhelmingly' similar to the old constitution. The Shadow Foreign Secretary published research showing that only ten out of the 250 proposals contained in the document rejected by French and Dutch voters had changed.

He suggested the 'unreadable' treaty had been designed to confuse the public and accused the Prime Minister of trying to push it through on the 'quiet'. Mr Hague warned that once MP's return from Parliament's summer recess they will have only nine working days to debate the treaty before it is signed off by Mr Brown in October.

His party boosted its campaign for a referendum by publishing a pamphlet entitled The EU Treaty in Plain English. Mr Hague accused Labour of handing sovereignty to Brussels as the treaty creates a powerful EU president and foreign minister.

He said Britain is losing vetoes in some 60 policy areas including transport, energy and migration and warned that new powers are being handed to the European Commission, Court of Justice and Parliament. Mr Hague added that a little-noticed 'ratchet clause' in the treaty would allow the EU to abolish vetoes in almost all other areas. Member states would simply have to 'notify' MP's of what was happening. He Said:

" There has been limited public debate about this issue and it is important for people to have a clear understanding of it. The plan all along has been to keep the substance and change the presentation."

" The EU treaty is overwhelmingly the same as the EU constitution. It is in large measure and predominantly the same thing with the same effect. I think in a way Gordon Brown wants to get this out of the way with as little public attention as possible. Certainly they want to get it through on the quiet."

Attacking the document's complicated language, Mr Hague cited a passage which says: "As far as the content of the amendments to the existing treaties is concerned, the innovations resulting from the 2004 IGC will be integrated into the TEU and the Treaty on the functioning of the Union, as specified in this mandate. "Modifications to these innovations introduced as a result of the consultations held with member states over the past six months are indicated below."

Mr Hague explained:

"That is really taking everything that was agreed in the European constitution and using it as a starting base for the treaty."

In another passage, the treaty says: "Articles 29 to 39 of Title VI of the EU Treaty, which related to judicial cooperation in criminal matters and to police cooperation, shall be replaced by Articles (111-257 to 111-264 and 111-270 to 111-277) of the Treaty on the function of the union."

The Tory pamphlet paraphrases this as: "EU judges will now be able to rule on EU agreements over criminal justice and policing."

In Labour's 2005 general election manifesto, Tony Blair had promised voters a referendum on the EU constitution that was eventually shelved that year. Mr Brown has refused to hold one on the new treaty after insisting that the Government had protected its four 'red lines' on tax, human and social rights, foreign policy and benefits.

However, Mr Hague pointed to a stream of remarks from prominent EU leaders admitting that the new treaty is the constitution by a different name. Spanish foreign minister-Miguel Angel Moratinos has said that '98 per cent of the content' of the old constitution has survived. Mr Hague denied that the Tories are returning to an 'old agenda' or playing to the party's disaffected Right-wing by focusing on Europe.

"This cannot be the Conservative Party returning to an old agenda when a referendum was promised in the last Labour manifesto," he said.

He added, that an 'EU treaty referendum would be key to the Conservatives general election campaign' if an early poll was called by Mr Brown.

The Conservative Plain English Guide to the EU Treaty Taken from the Daily mail 7th August 2007

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