Letter: Amendments to the Maastricht treaty

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The Independent Online
Sir: Two points are neglected in the absorbing debate about the Social Protocol. First, the UK government has a moral, legal and political duty to try to get the treaty in force. This means not only beating off the opposition in this country, but also helping the Danish government to do so there. On 18 May, what the Danes will vote on is the original Maastricht treaty with the UK opt-out on social policy plus the Danish 'set of arrangements' of Edinburgh.

The Danish political parties are trying to convince themselves and a sceptical public that renegotiation of Maastricht is impossible at this stage. Were the UK to force a renegotiation, it is almost certain that the delicate party compromise in Denmark would fall apart. Therefore, those pro-European Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs who are minded to vote for the essentially destructive Amendment 27 would be wise to get their sights on the consequential renegotiation of the treaty taking place only once the existing treaty has come into force on 1 July. Such a constructive objective should even attract the support of several pro-European Tory MPs - who have been rather quiet.

Second, on the matter of the Crown prerogative, the Maastricht Bill itself is not a ratification measure. Indeed, only three of the seven titles of the treaty are included in the Bill anyway. The transfer to the European union of sovereignty in the fields of foreign, internal and external security policy is not deemed to have consequences in domestic law.

The amendment of the EC treaties, on the other hand, certainly requires Westminster legislation in order to become directly effective in the United Kingdom, not least because of earlier UK EC Acts which stipulate constraints on the growth of the powers of the European Parliament.

As Maastricht does enhance the power of the parliament significantly and substantively (though inadequately), the current Westminster palaver is certainly necessary. Any attempt to bypass the Commons would be a political outrage and a constitutional anachronism - and would be immediately challenged in both UK and EC jurisdiction by some enterprising (and rich) citizen- elector.

Yours faithfully,

A. N. DUFF

Director

Federal Trust for Education

and Research

London, SW1

15 February

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