Monday, September 29, 2014

Is our EU membership ultra vires?

Dr Richard AE North is a distinguished blogger and writer, but I do not entirely share his distaste for UKIP, of which he was once (like Professor Alan Sked) a key mover and shaker.

It seems that like many others, Dr North finds constitutional objections to EU membership as irritating as a gadfly. Here's a recent exchange:

[from the main body of his post] To this sad, dysfunctional crew, the EU treaties are "illegal" and those who signed it are "traitors". Any idea of negotiation or agreement is an anathema. They would sooner see the British economy crash and burn than accept a deal with Brussels.

[Me] Bit tendentious. I do indeed argue that UK entry into the EU in 1973 was ultra vires. Why that should make me sad and dysfunctional I'm not quite sure...

[Dr North] This is exactly what I mean .... apart from the fact that we didn't enter the EU in 1973 (or the EEC for that matter), the entry was in accord with our constitutional arrangements. Why does it matter so much that you need to assert that it is "ultra vires"? It isn't...

[Me] But we did enter the EU and didn't know it. We were told it was simply a trading arrangement and didn't know about the commitment to "ever-closer union". But Macmillan, Heath and others did know, because they got legal advice that told them of the constitutional implications. And we do have a constitution, one that very specifically forbids ceding any sovereign power to anyone outside the country. So yes, it was and is ultra vires. The referendum didn't validate the change because again the prospectus was false. If this seems like a boring legal point then let us have done with law - which is a trend I see here and elsewhere.

Constitutional argument is currently raging - among those who read, rather than play computer games - in the USA also ("Washington's Blog" is a good place to start). For example, under the US Constitution - at least as it used to be - Congress declares war, not the President.

It is a bit odd that a passionate democrat like Dr North, who espouses the direct-democracy "Harrogate Agenda", should dislike those who point out that here as in the US, constitutions - the foundations of legislation and power, the source of their legitimacy - have been snipped through like the string on a child's balloon.

For all its many faults - and no human institution is free of fault, as doubtless Dr North will discover if ever the Harrogate Agenda should come to be implemented - UKIP is gaining support because people are becoming aware how radically disenfranchised we have become, and how money and power are clearing away the last obstacles to their unrestricted global rule.


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Martian said...

I stopped going to Richard North's page because his main aim, now, seems to be to denounce his rivals, rather than to attack his enemies. He is a purist, and suffers the paranoia that purists tend to suffer.

hatfield girl said...

I'm not sure I would stand and fight on constitutional grounds any more. For example, when the Italian PD wanted to exclude Renzi from the premiership of Italy they set up constitutionally correct but utterly dishonest criteria for being able to access the vote (for Party leadership and for their newly installed notion of Leader as prime ministerial candidate.) So Bersani was installed as Leader and candidate for premier (as we had all been prevented from voting, twice) and then the President of Italy chose and installed Enrico Letta as prime minister.

Unconstitutional? Who cares when the time scale for settling the issue is so much longer than that of political change? Renzi got rid of Bersani, then Letta and it only took a year; the constitutional court hadn't even got its robes on.

And enfranchisement? Not sure I believe in that, in its standard, received form, any longer. Rampant fraud seems to be the order of the day.

A K Haart said...

I no longer visit North's blog. He writes well and does his research but is far too dogmatic for me.

"[Me] Bit tendentious"

That's putting it kindly. I know where North is coming from, but his comment was absurd.

Sackerson said...

HG, it may be a battle fought for honour rather than victory, but no less worthwhile for that.

James Higham said...

Politics is a lot more rough and rollicking than RN accepts - he thinks negotiation might get somewhere. No it won't, they're not letting go of this power for anything.

It's not even a case of attacking the EU, just of ignoring them and going our way.

And yes it is possible increasingly so in the unstable atmosphere.

APL said...

"And we do have a constitution, one that very specifically forbids ceding any sovereign power to anyone outside the country."

I think the point now is, that should be 'past tense' we no longer have a constitution.

Parliament is unrestrained, the executive has usurped the remaining powers of the Monarch, whoever commands the largest mob in Westminster gets his way.

I agree with you about the original entry of the UK into the EEC, but it's now irrelevant. The political class have gone right off the reservation.

The only way to get back control is to get rid of them and their cursed parties.

To my mind a fairly straight forward means to the end is simply to refuse to vote for *any* official Tory or Labour candidate.

Yes, I was a bit surprised and a little sorry to see North write that.