Treaty of Lisbon (No. 7)

Part of BUSINESS OF THE HOUSE (LISBON TREATY) (No. 6) – in the House of Commons at 4:46 pm on 26th February 2008.

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Photo of Jim Murphy Jim Murphy Minister of State (Europe) 4:46 pm, 26th February 2008

The fact is that, if we were to repeal the European Communities Act 1972, it would be an invitation to leave the European Union. The hon. Gentleman has me at a slight disadvantage, in that I am not an expert on French legal and constitutional arrangements. Perhaps, however, I shall have to brush up on them as we progress through our proceedings, the second half of which we have reached today.

After 2003, following the collapse of communism and the enlargement involving the central and eastern European countries, the EU reformed its institutional and voting systems. Today, a Europe of 27 countries—with more to come—faces the challenges of globalisation, defending and extending free and fair trade, climate change, energy security, migration and terrorism. The EU has the potential to deliver for our citizens on these challenges but, to do so, it needs strong, effective and accountable institutions. The Lisbon treaty introduces reforms to help to achieve that. As the Law Society guide to the Lisbon treaty says:

"Institutional change is the key driver behind the Treaty of Lisbon. The need for transparency, better democratic accountability and enhanced judicial scrutiny has led to some important improvements in the EU's make-up".

I would like to set out the reforms that the treaty actually makes—the facts, rather than the fictions that have been peddled.

There are two sets of reforms. The first involves those that will allow the existing EU institutions to function more effectively and with more accountability to the member states. The new full-time president of the European Council replaces the current system in which presidency of the European Council rotates every 26 weeks. The European Council is the body through which the leaders of member states steer the political direction of the EU, and it is in our national interest to ensure greater continuity.

We have heard allegations from the Opposition that this will mean the creation, over time, of a US-style President. That is a ludicrous assertion. The President of the US is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. All Executive functions are vested in him—or perhaps, shortly, her. The President appoints judges, makes treaties and can veto legislation. The president of the European Council, on the other hand, will do none of those things. He or she will have no legislative or Executive functions.