Maastricht paper aimed at doubters

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT yesterday began its summer campaign to reassure Tory doubters over the Maastricht treaty by issuing a briefing note to MPs.

The 14-page document, prepared by the Foreign Office, says that the treaty will help to check the growing powers of the European Commission in Brussels.

It says this will be achieved by embodying the principle of 'subsidiarity' under which member states are free to take their own decisions, unless they should be decided at European level. It counters the assertion of Tory opponents that subsidiarity will not have any legal backing.

'Some people have suggested that the principle will prove impossible to interpret in the European Court of Justice. There is no reason why that should be so,' it says. 'The concept . . is clear and amenable to legal interpretation.

'The legally binding treaty will, above all, help to change attitudes within the Community to prevent over-regulation and unnecessary interference in national practices.

'It is the first time in 35 years that a Community treaty has pointed away from the assumption that, when in doubt, the Court should presume in favour of closer integration.' The commission and the Council of Ministers will report to the Edinburgh summit in December on proposals for putting the subsidiarity principle into practice. John Major hopes this will allow the Danes to ratify the treaty with a second referendum.

The document makes clear that Britain intends to ratify the treaty, and underlines the Government's opposition to the abolition of EC border controls. It says Britain will continue 'light touch' checks on EC nationals. As reported yesterday in the Independent, Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, believes the commission will not take Britain to the European Court of Justice over the issue.

A spokesman for Martin Bangemann, the European Commissioner for the internal market, last night confirmed that he spoke briefly with Mr Clarke in June. The aide said they only agreed to set up a meeting to discuss the border control problem in London on 1 September.

'Bangemann . . . does reserve the possibility of going to court on that matter,' the spokesman said.