26th January 2011: Yesterday, Andrew Brons rounded off a busy day in the European Parliament in Brussels with his fifth speech which came during a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the programme of the Danish Presidency.
"You (the representative of the Danish Government, Mr. Nicolai Wammen) said:
"We here to take the European project forward".
Those words could have been spoken by the last Presidency or the one before that and they will probably be spoken by the next Presidency. It is not a Danish agenda that is to be followed. It is the same Commission agenda wrapped in a different national flag, lending superficial credence to the myth of member state influence.
"As a Post-Lisbon Presidency, emphasis will be on the legislative role".
That is because it is the only major role left. However, it is the role of Speaker and not that of a political leader.
The European Council - de facto decades old but officially created by Lisbon - is now presided over by its own permanent President, who is not of course a representative of a member state.
The Foreign Affairs Council is now presided over by the High Representative (a Vice President of the Commission). The High Representative is supposed to receive her mandate from the Council but, in reality, receives her mandate from a body over which she presides.
Lisbon has left the Rotating Presidency and therefore member states with reduced influence.
It is interesting that we have invented almost Orwellian words of disapprobation such as Intergovernmentalism to refer to member states decisions and similar words of approbation, such as Community Method to refer to decisions that exclude member states. It is significant that those words have been used in those senses this afternoon.
I was interested to hear from members of this committee that citizens will have a greater role. My heart almost leapt with joy at that prospect. Perhaps that will extend to a right to have a referendum on each subsequent treaty, and a right for the results of each referendum to be treated with respect and not followed by a second referendum, if the result of the first referendum was not the approved one.
When we talk about citizens' rights, it is right to do as they are told."
22nd December 2011: At the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday evening, Andrew Brons made the following speech during a debate at a joint meeting of the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) and the Committee of Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) which was discussing the Draft Agreement on Budgetry Harmonisation. "I have already, in the AFCO meeting this afternoon, raised constitutional objections and pointed out that the Draft Agreement did not have the status of an official EU Treaty but was just a private agreement. Therefore, it would be improper and possibly illegal, to use EU institutions to enforce it. I do not intend to repeat these points here. "However, the Agreement is also economically flawed. I and others have argued that a single currency value for seventeen very different economies is bound to be inappropriate for many of those countries. The same criticism applies to the same interest rate for seventeen different economies. "However, it is argued by many that moves towards fiscal and perhaps political union between the seventeen or seventeen plus countries will somehow render the economic criticisms invalid. "The fact that very different economies are in a single state or fiscal union, rather than several states or fiscal entities, will not solve the problem. "In previous recessions, in the same political states, there have been regions in recession whilst other regions were enjoying economic expansion and full employment. That was true in the 1930s world wide. It was true in the UK in the early 1980s and in the early 1990s. "It might be said that single political states often feel that they have an obligation to give assistance to depressed area. However, sometimes states do not feel that obligation and even if they do, their actions might not be successful. "Countries in Southern Europe in the Eurozone need to readopt their own currencies and allow their values to fall providing export led booms to lead their economies out of recession. They do not need an economic and budgetary straightjacket locking them into recession and poverty."
21st December 2011: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels Andrew Brons made this speech during a joint meeting of the Constitutional affairs Committee (AFCO) on the Draft Agreement Between Euro-zone Countries (and possibly others) on Budgetary Harmonisation "The draft agreement begins (in the first paragraph) by stating the contracting parties i.e. the seventeen, possibly plus six, have an obligation, as member states of European Union, to regard their economic policies as a matter of common concern. "I was going to suggest, in my naivete, that they might have an obligation as contracting parties, but that they did not have the same obligation as member states of the European Union? However, I looked at Article 121 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and I found to my dismay that (all) member states do indeed have an obligation to regard their economic policies as being of common concern. It shows how far we have already travelled on the road, not just to budgetary harmonisation but towards broader economic harmonisation. "It continues in the eighth paragraph, to say that it is the objective of Euro-area states and of other member states to incorporate this agreement into the Treaties on which the European Union is founded. "Well, it appears that this is the objective of twenty-six member states but not yet of the twenty-seventh, the United Kingdom and until it is incorporated it remains a private agreement. However, it must be remembered that Mr. Cameron's objections were pragmatic - to protect the interest of his rich friends in the City - and not principled. "In the tenth paragraph, it states that the European Commission, when reviewing and monitoring the budgetary commitments under this agreement, will act within the frame work of its powers under Articles 121, 126 and 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. "Does the Commission have the power under those Articles to monitor, review and possibly even enforce the provisions of a treaty that is essentially a private agreement between seventeen or possibly twenty-three countries that happen to be EU members and is not an official treaty of the Union? It appears that while Articles 121 and 126 apply to all member states, Article 136 applies only to Euro-zone states. "In paragraph eleven, it states the agreement will in conformity with Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union. "Does this article of the Treaty cover private agreements between some but not all member states? "In paragraph twenty-four, it states that a contracting party that believes that another contracting party has failed to comply with Article 3(2) of the Agreement may bring the matter before the European Court of Justice. "Does the Court of Justice have the jurisdiction to rule on and perhaps enforce private agreements between some but not all member states? "It appears that this Agreement is like a law that can be enforced only with the consent of the lawbreaker.
Background It will be remembered that at a meeting of the European Council (heads of government or heads of state), held on 8th and 9th December, David Cameron, in response to France and Germany saying that they would not make the City of London exempt from greater regulation, said that he would veto any treaty between the twenty-seven to impose budgetary harmonisation on the seventeen members of the Euro-zone. The Euro-zone countries (possibly plus another six countries) said that they would make an agreement between themselves, outside the auspices of the European Union, imposing budgetary harmonisation. My argument is that this is a private agreement that has no validity in EU law and that therefore EU institutions should not be used to monitor member states under it or to enforce it.
22nd November 2011: This morning at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons MEP made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on the relationship between the European Parliament and institutions representing national governments (the Council, the European Council and the Eurogroup).
"I share Mr. Lamassour's concern about the speech made by Mr. van Rompuy in January 2010 in which he said that he was not responsible to the European Parliament following meetings of the European Council* of which he is the President). Perhaps he is using the word responsible in two different senses and treating them as though they were interchangeable. It is clear that the President of the European Council is not responsible to the Parliament in the sense of being accountable, of being capable of being removed by it. However, that should not prevent him from being responsible in the sense of being answerable to it. "If his position had existed, but with responsibility to Parliament, when the Lisbon Treaty was still being ratified, we might have been able to ask him about the status and validity of Protocol no.30** (devised by the European Council), which we were discussing yesterday, that was supposed to affect the relationship of the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic and Poland to the Charter of Fundamental Rights. He might also have been able to explain the extent to which the European Council's assurances given to Ireland (about abortion, taxation and military neutrality) were of any worth or value at all."
* The European Council comprises heads of government of each member state. It is presided over by Herman van Rompuy as its President. I was not (and still am not) in favour of the European Council having a separate President from outside of its number. However, if the position exists, I believe that the holder should be answerable to the European Parliament. I would not normally favour a body comprising heads of government of member states being answerable to an EU institution. However, the European Council is responsible for driving forward the European Union Project and its activities must, therefore, be exposed to view.
** Protocol No.30 and the protocols affecting Ireland's concerns about the Lisbon Treaty were drawn up by the European Council, which is not a legislative (law making) body. It does negotiate the content of EU treaties but those treaties do not become legally binding until they are ratified by all member states. These protocols could be seen as appendices to the Lisbon Treaty. However, they have not been ratified by all of the member states and so would appear not to have legal effect. We now seem to have confirmation of this from the Syedi case. The secretariat of the European Council must have known or suspected this to be the case and the governments of the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Poland and Ireland must also have known. These 'protocols' would be better described as thoroughly dishonest assurances.
22nd November 2011: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons contributed to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on a proposal to create a Pan-European Constituency of twenty-five MEPs. He said: "The proposal to have twenty-five MEPs elected on a Pan-European list sounds modest enough - a short lesson in Pan-Europeanism or Post-Nationalism for those of us outside the Political Class. "However, it raises the question of which of the two systems, each electing a different category of MEP, is superior and which is inferior. "If the Pan-European list system is the preferred system, why restrict it to twenty-five? Indeed, Amendment No. 21 seeks to raise it to 10% or 75. If 75 is the chosen number, why not all 751! "The words, "thin end of the wedge" come to mind. The eventual goal will be to have all MEPs elected on a transnational list. "Elections for a Pan-European list clearly favour parties with a full-hearted Pan-European perspective and disadvantage those parties without such a perspective. Furthermore, those among the electorate who are enthusiastic about the European Union Project will be motivated to vote. "Those indifferent about, or hostile to, the Project will find it bewildering or irrelevant, however mistaken that conclusion might be."
22nd November 2011: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons addressed MEPs in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on a draft protocol purporting to derogate the Czech Republic from the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The British National Party MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber said: "I understand that the Czech Republic signed the Lisbon Treaty, on condition that they would have a different relationship with the Charter of Fundamental Rights. To reject the Czech request (for the draft protocol to be accepted) would be a breach of faith by the European Union. I do not know whether the Czech equivalent of 'opt-out' was used in the protocol. Of course, it not for us to tell the Czech people to go ahead with the application for the protocol if there differences of opinion among the Czech people; that is a matter for them. "The UK's relationship with the Charter of Fundamental Rights was certainly described as an 'opt-out' by the British Government. Andrew Duff, the Liberal Democrat MEP for the East of England, has corrected me in the past for using that term. He has said that it was not an opt-out but he conceded that the British courts were impeded in their ability to enforce it in cases involving the rights of individuals. However, that would presumably not prevent the United Kingdom, as a state, being taken to the Court of Justice if our primary law were to be inconsistent with the Charter. "We cannot have a situation in which the validity of such an important document as the Charter is shrouded in uncertainty."
In his response, Mr. Duff, the Rapporteur, confirmed that the position was still unclear. However, he reported that the Court of Appeal had applied to the European Court of Justice for an opinion in an asylum case. The Advocate General had dismissed the relevance of the Protocol in respect of the case in hand and said that British courts were free to deploy the Charter. It is for the full European Court of Justice to deliver the judgment in the case. However, the preliminary ruling of the Advocate General is usually followed.
Andrew Brons then spoke about the concerns of the Irish people about the Lisbon Treaty (also relevant to the above debate on the Charter).
He said: "The Protocol in relation to Ireland's concerns about the Lisbon Treaty was apparently drawn up by the European Council (heads of government - prime ministers) and not by the Council (one minister from each member state). "The European Council (as distinct from the Council) is a negotiating body but not a legislative (law-making) body, so were the Protocols on Ireland's concerns and on the Czech Republic's, the United Kingdom's and Poland's relationship with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, followed by subsequent legislation? "If they were not, they would not be legal instruments."
In his reply Spanish MEP, Mr Méndez de Vigo a Co-rapporteur of the report on the Treaty of Lisbon, said that neither Protocol was followed by legislation and that they were not legal documents but political statements.
5th October 2011: Andrew Brons made his views very clear on the proposed changes to the rules for electing MEPs when the issue was debated at the meeting of the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) this afternoon. The MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber told his colleagues: "I too am opposed to paragraph 2 relating to the election of twenty-five MEPs in a Pan-European Constituency. Democracy means Government by the People - a singular noun referring to a cohesive whole with a single identity. It is not government by an arbitrary collection of persons. Mr. Duff probably hopes* and expects that there will one day be a Pan-European identity; others might differ. However, it certainly does not exist currently. A Pan-European election with Pan-European parties, without a preceding common identity will simply be incomprehensible to many electors. Moreover, it will favour parties with a Pan-European approach and disadvantage parties without that approach." * Andrew Duff, the Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament for the East of England, said that he did not favour a Pan-European identity but a Post-National identity.
5th October 2011: Andrew's second contribution of the morning came during a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on Citizens' Initiatives. This is what he said: "The Citizens' Initiative has been referred to as a participatory instrument - even participatory democracy. However, it is a regulated and constrained participation. It must not be frivolous - something that none of us would want - but that is potentially a subjective judgement. It must not be in conflict with so-called European values. However, these are currently agreed values but this is an attempt to bind future decisions and debate in the EU. The Commissioner, Mr. Sefkovic, added a third condition that it must not be contrary to the interests of the European Union. This is the most subjective judgement of all. This would rule out not just expressly anti-EU opinions but would also rule out (say) anti-globalist proposals, because they were opposed to the neo-liberal policies that are currently in favour. Regulated, constrained democracy is not democracy at all. It is orchestrated applause. The idea that ordinary citizens, unconnected with parties or large sectional interests will organise themselves spontaneously in several countries and number one million people is . . . . I can think only of the words, touchingly innocent."
5th October 2011: In his first contribution of the morning, Andrew Brons spoke during a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on amendments to the rules of procedure relating to a code of conduct for MEPs in respect of financial interests and conflicts of interest. He said: "I might not be the first to rush to the defence of the European Parliament's reputation but it is important to ensure probity and honesty in all elected positions whether or not I approve of the particular institution. However, it is important that the rules distinguish between Members who are consciously corrupt or consciously in breach of the rules and those who break the rules through lack of thought or because of ambiguity of those rules. This is particularly likely in the area of conflicts of interest. Amendment 9(e) mentions a minimum amount of the declarable interest (5000 Euros) but amendment 9(c) refers to any remunerated activity however small. This could apply to some tiny investment with even smaller returns from a half-forgotten building society account. Amendment 9(h) refers to any financial interest that might influence the performance of a Member. This is completely subjective and any rogue could place his hand on his heart and deny that he would be influenced by a particular interest. The ambiguities could be removed by specifying exactly what is included and what is excluded. There could be a supplement of very specific and precise questions, so that it would be impossible for anybody to deny awareness and understanding of the rules. It would be dangerous if we established rules that were hidden trap wires that anybody might inadvertently break and could be used as a politically motivated ambush of a Member."
29th September 2011: Yesterday evening Andrew Brons contributed to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) on a proposed amendment to the regulation regarding public access to EU documents (transparency) The MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber said: "It is all very well to allow people generally, 'the public' to take the initiative to look for documents. In practice, it will only be informed people: pressure groups; academics; and journalists who will avail themselves of this right. Even these might not know that there was a document to look for. "In the Short Justification of the Rapporteur's (Former Finnish Prime Minister, Anneli Jäätteenmäki) Draft Opinion, she said, 'the rapporteur stresses that transparency is not only a matter of passive reactions by EU institutions but how it also requires a proactive approach'. Does this mean that the European Parliament should take the initiative to bring documents to the attention of interested parties?" Mrs. Jäätteenmäki replied that it would be a good idea to have a register (of documents) but that (the European Parliament) was not ready for that yet.