Four months after the Irish rejected the Nice Treaty in a referendum that upset the leadership of the EU, Britain surged ahead to approve it.
A small group of only 50 members of Parliament embraced the Nice Treaty on behalf of the British people. The six-hour debate witnessed their speeches echoing off empty benches. As the Scotsman observed, “What had been defeated with a bang in Dublin had been passed with barely a wimper in London” (Oct. 18).
The Nice Treaty, drafted last December, was designed to simplify the European Union’s voting system to allow decisions to be made without bureaucratic paralysis as the Union prepares to receive up to 12 more members. For Britain, this means surrendering its veto over 43 areas of European policy. This is just the continuation of a process that began with the loss of 38 vetoes through the Treaty of Rome, 37 in the Single European Act, 41 at Maastricht and 19 at the Treaty of Amsterdam.
This willingness to place Britain under the authority of unelected officials in Brussels foreshadows difficult times for British citizens.
Consider the incipient pan-European legal system based on corpus juris—a system already in place in much of continental Europe. Unlike Britain’s present legal system (under which one is innocent until proven guilty), Europe’s rules say the burden of proof lies with the accused rather than with the state.
This occurred recently in the case of British football fan Mark Forrester, who failed to overturn his conviction of being a “football hooligan,” because he could not prove to the state that he was not a hooligan.
“[T]his Napoleonic approach to law is based on a radically different conception of the individual and the state from that which we understand. All ‘rights’ come from the state, and the state is more important than the individual. The law does not serve the public, but the public serves the law” (Critical Journal, Sept. 2001). The European police force, Europol, will already be able to operate on these principles within British territory as of next year.
One vital veto remains—at this point—which still presents an obstacle. The Nice Treaty must be ratified by all 15 EU nation-states, which means it should fail if the Irish refuse it in a second referendum.
However, shrugging off democratic process has become acceptable in the EU. As EU Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen stated following the first Irish no vote, “The outcome of a referendum in one country cannot block the EU’s most important project” (www.eubusiness.com, June 8).