The European Union has a number of features that make it more typical of a federation than of a traditional inter-governmental organisation, and many of these were willingly accepted or enhanced during Conservative terms of office: majority voting (extended by the Single European Act under Mrs Thatcher and the Maastricht treaty under Mr Major); the primacy of European law over national law (accepted when we joined under Mr Heath); a supreme court of justice (given the power to impose fines on member states by Maastricht, under Mr Major); a directly elected parliament (first elected in 1979 under Mrs Thatcher); an executive commission independent of national governments (whose independence was reinforced by Maastricht under Mr Major); and its own budget revenues (increased in 1984 and 1986 under Mrs Thatcher and in 1992 under Mr Major).
Rather than campaign against what they themselves have helped create, the Conservatives would do better to address the real issues of the European Union, namely how to manage our economic and environmental interdependence in a way that balances effective action with the diversity of the member states. That is what federalism is really supposed to be about and the sooner we drop the rhetoric and face up to reality the better.
RICHARD CORBETT MEP
(Merseyside West, Lab)