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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Milliband at the FAC

David Miliband is at the Foreign Affairs Committee today. Thoughts as they occur to us below:

The Government has some very peculiar arguments: M says "it makes it clear for the first time that member states are in charge of foreign policy" - so what was the case before?

The reality is that the warm (and non binding) words in the "declaration" Miliband is talking about are only there as a sop to the UK because so much else is being given up.


An interesting question: would Miliband have been happy to campaign for the Constitutional Treaty, as promised in the 2005 Labour manifesto?

However, in answer we are being treated to the usual blah blah – its not a single treaty, UK has lots of opt outs etc. But yes, he "stands by it."


David Heathcoat Amory has picked M up on his pathetic attempt to rubbish the European Scrutiny Committee report by saying its out of date. Obviously he isn't answering the question. He talks about the "transitional" agreements in Justice and Home Affairs.

DHA is now pressing for detail on the changes in the new draft. Miliband says "there is detail now" - but he sounds jolly defensive and rightly so. Because it isn't good detail from the UK government's point of view.

Look at the new article 4a of the protocol on the UK and Ireland (on page 61 of this document).

It essentially says that in future if there are amendments to JHA legislation which the UK is opted into, then the other member states can hold a gun to the UK's head by saying that Britain will be thrown out of that piece of legislation:

If at the expiry of that period of two months from the Council's determination the United Kingdom or Ireland has not made a notification under Article 3 or Article 4, the existing measure shall no longer be binding upon or applicable to it

And indeed in future:

"The Council, acting by a qualified majority on a proposal from the Commission, may determine that the United Kingdom or Ireland shall bear the direct financial consequences, if any, necessarily and unavoidably incurred as a result of the cessation of its participation in the existing measure."

In short the opt-in arrangement has been substantially weakened - after quite a strong fightback from the more federally-minded member states. Hardly a triumph. In fact it *strengthens* the ESC's case that the "red lines" will "leak like a sieve".


Miliband says, "Every single one of the rights in the Charter exists already."

This is palpable nonsense. If they were not new rights why did the Government initially spin that it had an "opt out" (before doing a u-turn)? If they are not new rights why has the Government been worried about it for the last seven years. In fact many of the rights are said in the text of explanations to be derived from documents to which the UK is not a signatory. Others are just plain new. (See our guide for more.)


Wonderful forensic stuff from Gisela Stuart. Just got him to admit that people in Britain are perfectly capable of making rational decisions in referendums. He says its only the French who vote on other off topic issues.

Also (for euro-nerds) she makes the good point that even the Constitution didn't bring all the treaties together... actually the Euratom treaty stayed out. A fair quibble on a fundamentally terrible argument from the Government. Why was stapling the treaties together "legally unprecedented" anyway?

Stuart has also come back to the first point - why do we have to say "member states are in charge of foreign policy" – aren’t they anyway?

M says "its good that its clear and established... we know where we stand". Another awful argument deflates....


Stuff on the timetable for ratification.

M says there isn't one yet. He will proceed "promptly" with ratification after December.


It's been pointed out that the declaration on foreign policy is not legally binding.

M says declarations are "worthwhile even if they don't have legal force". Grrrr-eat.


Verdict: a pretty defensive performance. Miliband better get used to it - with the election off there is going to be years of this stuff....

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