Sunday, 29 August 2010

Training in Brussels

Last week I was in Brussels to take part in a 'Summer School' of training events for MEPs’ assistants. I attended the training with fellow parliamentary assistant Eddy Butler. Three local volunteers also joined us on the trip.

I always try and attend any educational and training events that I get invited to as these can often turn out to be very useful, though this is rarely obvious in advance. This one was good as it included a very in depth look at the Lisbon Treaty and the effects it has had on the functioning of the European Union.

One interesting section in particular in this part of the course was a discussion of the differences between the Lisbon Treaty and the Constitutional Treaty that preceeded it (the one that was killed off by the voters of the Netherlands and France). Here once more it was clearly demonstrated that the differences between these two treaties are relatively minor ones, e.g. the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs being renamed the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and suchlike, and the basic thrust of the Constitutional Treaty remained intact. This was also apparent in the speed with which the Lisbon Treaty was created following the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty. A genuinely different treaty would have taken far longer to create from scratch.

Why is this even important? Well firstly it is an interesting example of the way in which EU enthusiasts are quite open about the fact that these two treaties are basically the same, and this view has obviously filtered right down to the European Parliament’s training unit.

But it is also important insofar as it once again exposes the duplicity of the former Labour government of the UK, who claimed that it was not necessary to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty as it was in no way related to the Constitutional Treaty.

If people want to see more powers being passed to the EU then they are entitled to that view. It is not a view that I share, but I respect the right of others to hold such a view and argue in favour of it.

I have no respect whatsoever for snivelling Labour or Tory politicians who try and claim one thing about the European Union (e.g. Labour’s claim that the Lisbon Treaty did not merit a referendum, or the Tory nonsense about wanting to repatriate powers from Brussels) when the opposite is demonstrably the case.