Article 34 – Treaty on European Union
1. Member States shall coordinate their action in international organisations and at international conferences. They shall uphold the Union’s positions in such forums. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall organise this coordination. In international organisations and at international conferences where not all the Member States participate, those which do take part shall uphold the common positions.
2. In accordance with Article 24(3), Member States represented in international organisations or international conferences where not all the Member States participate shall keep the other member states as well as the High Representative informed of any matter of common interest.
Member States which are also members of the United Nations Security Council will concert and keep the other Member States and the High Representative fully informed. Member States which are permanent members of the Security Council will, in the execution of their functions, defend the positions and the interests of the Union, without prejudice to their responsibilities under the provisions of the United Nations Charter.
When the Union has defined a position on a subject which is on the United Nations Security Council agenda, those Member States which sit on the Security Council shall request that the High Representative be invited to present the Union’s position
I draw your attention to the above, which relates to how EU states are bound by Treaty law to represent the EU’s common position in every international organisation, conference and forum in the world. At every “top table” of the world at which Britain sits, it does speak with an independent voice. If we vote to remain our authority and influence on the international stage is under threat as the EU seeks to upgrade its status and increase its influence in every body in which its member states are present.
We know that remainers are keen on saying that if we left the EU we’d still have to obey all the rules but have no say in them. Well, it is true that we will have to obey many rules, but they are global rules which are formulated at an international level and are designed to solve common global problems and develop a global single market. The rules are the product of working groups, NGO’s, corporate trade associations, various industrial representatives, lobbyists and governments.
This is global governance and it has been developing rapidly over the previous two decades, growing massively in size and scope; it touches upon just about every little thing imaginable. In all of the major global forums that make up the global regulatory system the EU has observer status and through a process of majority voting decides what the EU position is, and because we are in the EU we are forced to vote for the common EU position with no opt outs or right of reservation.
One size does not always fit all. That’s why it is important to have our own say on the laws we adopt. We need an independent voice and veto to protect our national interest. Unsuitable regulation can be extremely damaging; it can destroy businesses, industries and damage the environment, This is not because all regulations are bad; the majority are beneficial. It may well be that we already have a superior standard and the new regulation we are made to adopt would represent a lowering of standards. It could just be that there is something unique to our environment or industry that renders the regulation potentially detrimental. That is when we to be able to influence it as source and opt out if necessary. That’s why we need to represent ourselves.
Norway is often used as an example of a country that has no say in the rules, but on every single global forum we find Norway in at the top securing opt outs and negotiating better rules long before they get anywhere near the EU. Norway has a massive energy sector which gives it clout, backed by a large academic and industrial pool of expertise. Because it is not aligned with the EU in all matters it has its own agreements that the EU could not secure, such as cooperation agreements with Russia on energy and the environment. If Norway can, so can we.
Since the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has its own legal identity and power to make agreements with international organisations in its own right. It is gradually seeking to upgrade its role as a global actor.
But, while it is a founder member of the WTO and has become a voting member of the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) – and has signed up to a new strategic partnership – it lacks the right to submit items for consideration on the agenda. This is the source of much frustration.
Similar restrictions apply to the EU in respect of its dealings with most other international organisations, which means that the greater powers are still held by Members States. And, while the treaty requirements of “solidarity” and “cooperation” require Member States to agree “common positions” with the Commission, and to vote in support of them, the Member States are still able to decide the agenda. At this point, therefore, they can still force change on an reluctant Commission.
Currently Members States do have a considerable level of residual power – especially the UK which is a full member of a great many international bodies, to which the EU is only an observer, with very limited rights. This makes a mockery of the idea that Britain would be isolated and would have no means of exerting influence on the international stage if we voted to leave. We are well placed to a major player in an increasingly globalised world and could help lead in the development of the global trading system. We will continue to exert influence in Europe and beyond.
The risk of remaining in the EU is to see further salami slicing of our sovereignty and for the EU to continue its aim to take on the powers of a de-facto state. If we are concerned about the extent to which we have lost independence now, then we must leave before we are usurped and marginalised in every global forum in the world. We still cling to the vestiges of nationhood but if we don’t represent ourselves and have the ability to act on the international stage then we have truly become a vassal state in every sense.
The writing is on the wall.
Through what is known as the Barroso-Ashton Strategy (see also Annex 1), intervention by the Council, and multiple interventions by the ECJ (including this one) the EU is seeking gradually to trim the powers of Member States at international level, and extend its own.
In the longer term, therefore, the UK – along with other Member States – will progressively lose its ability to influence the agenda, becoming even more subordinate to the EU institutions.
It is important to realise that most regulation is benign and would be kept whether we are in or out of the EU. What really matters is our ability to influence the legislative agenda at global level. We need to be able to shape it, to be able to get rid of that which is bad, and to improve the mediocre as well as supporting and extending the good. In this process Britain has a wealth of expertise to offer which enhances our influence.
The point is that, to an extent, as long as we retain our residual powers, we can still do this. But our powers are on the wane, and the longer we are in the EU, the weaker we will get. The only way we can maintain (and extend) our power at the global level is to leave the EU.
Ben is the Conservatives for Liberty Online Director. Follow him on Twitter: @TheScepticIsle
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty