EU's back door is at No 308
As our EU partners, led by Angela Merkel, flounder about trying to find ways to get the EU constitution back on track without any need for those beastly referendums, startling light has been shed on another way the EU is already misusing the famous Rome treaty to extend its powers.
The importance of the treaty, of which the constitution was merely another instalment, is that everything the EU does has, in theory, to be legally authorised by the articles it contains. These represent the powers legally ceded by nation states to Brussels. But when the original treaty was signed 50 years ago, it included a catch-all Article 235, which could be used to justify laws not authorised elsewhere in the treaty - so long as they served the purposes of the "common market".
In 1997 the article was renumbered as 308 and has long been used to smuggle in laws which had nothing to do with the "common market". Only now, thanks to the persistence of a Ukip peer, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has the Government finally come clean on how extensively Article 308 has been abused.
A list placed in the Lords Library shows that since 2004 the EU has used it no fewer than 45 times. Many of these laws represent major extensions of its power, such as that setting up an agency to administer the Charter of Fundamental Rights, a significant part of the as-yet unratified constitution. Article 308 has also been used to authorise a whole range of other important measures, from setting up a European Health and Safety Agency and increasing the powers of Europol, the EU's police force, to co-ordinating national social security systems.
When Lord Blackwell recently asked the Government how it could justify the misuse of Article 308 in this way, he was sent a letter written in 2004 by Jack Straw, as foreign secretary, explaining that 308 was no longer considered to serve just its original "narrow and restrictive" purpose of promoting the common market. It can now be used to justify anything that would help to achieve "one of the objectives of the Community". Since one of those objectives is to pursue "ever closer union", it is hard to see how, by Mr Straw's logic, Article 308 could not be used to whistle into law the whole of the constitution. Perhaps Mrs Merkel would like to suggest it?
So what does the text say about this?
"W) "In article 308 (flexibility clause), as amended in the 2004 IGC, a paragraph ill be added ststing that this article cannot serve as a basis for attaining objectives pertaining to the CFSP, and that any acts adopted pursuant to this Article will have to respect the limits set out in Article [III-308, second sub paragraph]Gossip has it that Prodi was asleep in the afternoon, therefore he joined the debate late. Which is why he only noticed a couple of problems in the text after 8pm. Therefore he is negotiating now. (Thanks Romano)
The bar is closed. They are promising to open it again in ahlf an hour, they seem to have found more beer, so we shall see.
Meanwhile the male loo seems to have given up the ghost.
As have a tranche of hacks,
And still we wait for Blair