Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I apologise. I am happy to retract that statement.
To our Government's credit, they have attempted to prevent the ratchet clauses with the referendum lock. That is a seemingly elegant solution that, as I said, will give power back to the people. However, if we look at the Bill more closely, we will see that there is plenty of wriggle room. I, for one-there are obviously many others-am unhappy with that. The lock is entirely bogus. A referendum will be triggered only if Ministers believe what their civil servants tell them and agree that the subject is significant. If they do not consider it to be significant, there will be no referendum and the matter will become law.
In areas where primary legislation is required but that are not considered significant enough to put to the people, we are asked to take the matter on trust. We are asked to trust that our masters will ensure that no further powers are transferred away from the UK during the next Parliament. This would be easier to swallow had we not already allowed the EU to roll us on our backs on five occasions in the past six months. We have had the European External Action Service. What action-to take our money? We have had the European arrest warrant. I have a constituent, Michael Turner, who has been in jail in Hungary for 115 days with no charge. His crime, allegedly, is that he left creditors owing about £18,000 when his business closed in 2002. There has been an endless pursuit by the Hungarian authorities to find an offence with which to charge him and a colleague. The investigation was dropped because they could not find enough evidence to get him, and now they are mounting another one-but there is still no charge. Then we had EU regulation over the City, EU oversight over our national budgets agreed to, and finally, our contribution to the EU budget increased despite our objections. May I ask what happens when we really do roll over?
The truth is that not a single one of those transfers of power would have been halted as a result of the referendum lock proposed today. Nor are the accession agreements affected, so new countries joining can do so, as Mr MacShane said, without the EU asking our citizens. I can see why they would not be asked. We already have 27 countries in the EU and hundreds of thousands of people are able to move freely within it. That was practicable when the EU was a smaller organisation, but it is not practicable any more.
There are constitutional questions hanging over this legislation that have tested far greater legal minds than mine. Suffice it to say that one five-line passage-clause 18-does not enshrine our sovereignty adequately. Professor Adam Tomkins has said that the Bill
"goes out of its way to invite litigation".
His main concern is that it does not establish which of the two competing legal systems now operating in this country has supremacy: English law or EU law. He says that taken to its conclusion, ministerial decisions could be challenged in the courts. We have seen enough of that already, with our courts and judges overruled by European judges.
Our independence was hard-won over hundreds of years, yet we are seeing it trickle away as we are increasingly subjugated by unaccountable, unelected bureaucrats. A torrent of legislation threatens to submerge our identity. No fewer than 3,000 new laws passed in this Parliament last year were related in some way to the EU, and you can bet that none of them would have triggered a referendum. We have been giving away our right to govern ourselves, and we must take it back. Toothless legislation that gives the impression of protecting our sovereignty while doing nothing of the sort will simply hide the rot a little longer.
When I was elected, many of my constituents made it clear that the power-grabbing EU was one of their primary concerns. I would be serving them badly if I were to pretend that this Bill would do anything concrete to protect the country they love. I will not be supporting the Bill.