21st January 2014: Today at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the relationship between the European Parliament and national parliaments.
"Mr Chairman, I found your words quite reassuring, at first, especially when you quoted the kind words of the Lisbon Treaty on the important role of national parliaments, but not for long!
"It is a clear fact that the number of competences enjoyed by the EU either exclusively or as a shared competence is increasing irreversibly.
"The range of competences that are enjoyed exclusively by the member states- that is by the parliaments of member states is continually diminishing.
"I am not sure whether legislation can be measured or quantified easily and whether quantities of legislation passed by national parliaments and by the European Parliament can be compared accurately. "However the proportion passed by the European Union is increasing and the proportion passed by national parliaments is diminishing.
"It appears that the EU’s hunger for increased competences cannot ever be satisfied. Are there any identifiable competences that could never be transferred to the EU. If so, what are they?
"If there are not, then national parliaments will increasingly become elected advisory bodies. COSAC is a useful body- one of the few EU institutions of which I approve - but it facilitates advice and concern rather than the exercise of power.
"The few ostensible increases in the national parliament role are consultative rather than grants of power- a national parliament claiming the principle of subsidiarity or proportionality for example.
"The Lisbon Treaty did for the first time enshrine in treaty form the right to withdraw from the EU but that was simply the articulation of an assumed right. Its codification raises the possibility in the distant future of that right being removed from subsequent treaties.
"The British Conservative Party is pledged to negotiate the return of power to national parliaments but you all know that Such a return of power is impossible without treaty change by unanimous agreement – not very likely.
"I am now going to refer to something that is not strictly relevant to the question. However, Mr Duff has raised the issue of the probable results of the European elections in May, so I feel that I can also comment on it. In the UK, there will probably be a big increase in the representation of UKLIP. If you thought that was a plug for UKIP, you would be quite wrong.
"You might be interested to know that UKIP is immune to criticism in the British media – even in the Pro-EU media. Attempts to publicise UKIP’s lamentable attendance record in both the plenary and in committee always fail.
"You will remember Mr Verhofstadt’s reference to Mr Farage’s committee attendance (he had not attended his only committee once in 2011 and 2012). Mr Verhofstadt finished by predicting that the BBC and the independent broadcasting authorities would give widespread coverage to the revelation. He was wrong; not a word was heard about it."