The Labour Movement for Europe has today uploaded a document [PDF here] that it claims is from the FCO that aims to rebut the myths about the EU Reform Treaty as stated by the eurosceptic think tank Open Europe. The document is very comprehensive, but is ludicrously defensive. Worst of all it uses arguments that are so strongly against the spirit of EU cooperation that I feel depressed reading it. The UK opt-in on Justice & Home Affairs areas is listed as a justification to rebut claims 16 times!
The lines about the Charter of Fundamental Rights are worst of all:
Open Europe: The Charter does create some new rights
FCO Paper: No. The Charter sets out existing, legally enforceable rights – rights that are already enforceable in every Member State through, for example, the European Convention on Human Rights or existing EU law. The Charter also sets out some new principles. These are mainly social and economic. Principles are not legally enforceable. The Charter is explicit on that. They are there to guide the EU institutions in policy making. There are no new, legally enforceable rights.
So we’re so sure about that then? Well, let’s overdo it a bit more!
FCO Paper: A new legally-binding UK-specific Protocol to the Treaties will put beyond doubt that Charter will not extend the powers of any court â€“ whether in the UK or on Europe â€“ to strike down UK legislation. And it will not create any new enforceable rights in the UK.
There is only one paragraph that is remotely positive – on Energy Policy:
Open Europe: End of veto over energy
FCO Paper: This is an extension the UK supports concerning measures to ensure the functioning of energy markets, security of supply, and energy saving and the development of renewables. This provision will make it easier to open energy markets and promote energy efficiency to help the EU move towards becoming a low carbon economy.
We need more arguments like that; the government needs to develop a discourse about what is good about the Reform Treaty. It’s good for the whole EU and for the UK too, and the vocabulary used should say as much – it’s not about the UK just fighting its corner. Using words that imply as much do harm to the pro-EU and pro-Treaty case.
Here are a few ideas of how to present things differently… The two and a half year Presidency of the European Council will help coherence of EU Foreign Policy, and that’s good, as EU countries need to cooperate on things like reconstruction of the Balkans. On voting: the UK is less often outvoted on QMV dossiers than other large EU Member States, so more QMV is good for us – and it would even help us to reform the Common Agricultural Policy. Abolition of vetoes can be in UK interests, and we should say so. Also, why are we scared of an ECJ role in JHA issues? It will mean Member States are more likely to stick to their commitments – and that’s good.
Michael Bruter makes a good stab at developing some better discourse at Open Democracy.
Absolutely Jon: Pro-Europeans are fighting the debate on the parameters set by the anti-Europeans. It’s poor strategy; and worse, I fear many of us cannot see the problem in the first place. I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way out is to simply not engage with the anti-Europeans, and even some pro-Europeans, for that matter. Instead, we must simply try to forge comprehensive and positive arguments that will hopefully in due course drown them…
Defensive? I’m sure it is. But it’s the biggest problem that we pro-Europeans face. I’m not sure what the alternative to ‘responding to negativism’ is.
The arguments ‘for’ are not really arguments that purely apply to Europe though. You argue for positive European reform by arguing for a particular model of policymaking, of representation, of international relations. In a way, they are the arguments that we *should* be making (and we’d be joining the cleverer tories in doing so), but they are boring ones that concern a gradual change of our political culture.
I know it sounds naff, but the best way to argue the pro-EU case is to argue about how we should be represented, how policies should be made, and how the European model of liberal democracy and civil society can be made more sustainable.