The Giscard euro constitution: eight myths debunked

Click to follow
The Independent Online

We would be a small province in a new superstate with an unelected head.

Mostly nonsense. Britain would be one of six large countries in a European Union of 25. Such a large union could never be forged into a super-state even if that were the objective.

It is true to say that, under almost any arrangement likely to be accepted, the EU's most senior figure will not be directly elected. But the president of the European Council proposed by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing would be appointed by (elected) national governments and approved by the (elected) European Parliament. Fantasy rating: 9

We wouldn't be able to fight a Falklands or Iraq war without the approval of 24 other countries, some of them pipsqueaks on the world stage.

Total nonsense. Defence and security is certain to remain the preserve of national governments.

Britain is concerned about the possibility of a pioneer group of countries forging ahead to try to create an EU defence force without links to Nato. But no one is suggesting that British soldiers would be forced to take part, or that decisions on war and peace should be taken away from national capitals. Fantasy rating: 10

Our Government would not be able to set tax or mortgage rates, nor could it determine public spending or borrowing.

Untrue as things stand, and only partly true if we join the euro.

Members of the single currency surrender the power to set interest rates to the European Central Bank made up of central bankers from participating countries. National governments continue to determine spending and borrowing but agree to do so within the rules (some of which already apply to the UK) to keep budget deficits below 3 per cent of gross domestic product. Even then, three nations have already exceeded that ceiling. Fantasy rating: 9

British legislators would be allowed to consider only those matters allowed by Brussels.

A distortion. The fine print of which powers should stay at national level and which should be EU competences is still being thrashed out and the devil will be in the detail.

At present anything from 50 to 70 per cent of national law originates in the EU, but this has to be agreed by national governments and MEPs. This proportion might grow, but the fundamental picture will remain the same as now. Fantasy rating: 8

Entering the euro is a necessary part of signing up to the new constitution.

Total nonsense. Those countries expected to agree the new constitution include Denmark (which has rejected the euro in a referendum) and Sweden (which is holding its vote in September) as well as 10, mainly ex-Communist, nations that join the EU next year. They will not even be permitted to try to enter the single currency until 2006 at the earliest. Fantasy rating: 10

We would lose our right to decide our own policies on asylum and immigration.

A distortion. The Government says that it is willing to give up its veto in justice and home affairs, which means that, in theory, it could be outvoted on an asylum policy, for example.

The thinking is that refugee movements need to be tackled at an international level and it makes little sense for different countries to take different measures. But the Government still has a vote on these issues. And this will be no new paradise for asylum-seekers: all EU states want to tighten immigration controls. Fantasy rating: 5

Britain will lose its seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Untrue. Negotiations are still continuing on text that would commit members of the Security Council to adhere to EU policy. But the Government says it will block such moves (even though it argues that, for example, its policy on Iraq was consistent with positions it had signed up to in Brussels).

The EU will gain a "legal personality", making it easier to sign treaties and sit on international bodies. But neither the UK nor France is about to surrender its seat at the top table. Fantasy rating: 10

Britain would lose the identity that makes it stand apart from Europe and the rest of the world.

Pretty absurd. The British are no more likely to start wearing berets and carrying strings of onions than are the French to develop a passion for cricket.

The EU's constitution is about legal powers and the relationship between Europe's complex network of institutions. Not the sort of stuff to shake the timbers of the Dog and Duck. Fantasy rating: 10