The Spectator

LIVE: Cameron’s Europe speech

Text settings
Comments

16:05: So, how does Cameron intend to make British law supreme?

16:06: We cannot hold a referendum to stop this treaty any more than we can stop the sun rising in the morning.

And now Cameron lets rip. He points out that the betrayal was Blair's and Brown's, ably supported by the LibDems. The Conservatives have been consistent.

16:08: The Tories will reform the European Communities Act to ensure that such a betrayal never happens again. Every treaty and European reform will be placed before the people. Here is Cameron's Lincolnian paradign, that dominated his Confernece speech again - power for the people is his mantra. It confims his avowed Euroscepticism without declaring war on the EU. There is however doubt about the need for further treaties post-Lisbon.

Now you might think these preliminary comments would ensure a referendum in his first parliament. Cameron disagrees. Then would not be the time for an artificial, meaningless referendum called without reference to a specific treaty - the Lisbon treaty no longer exists, it will become an act. He cites the economy and broken Britain as his immediate priorities.

16:12: Here he explains how the Sovereignty Act will work - our unwritten constitution allows us to make this change, in line with other European systems - such as the German Constituional Court, which says the highest point in matters legal is the sovereign German Court. This will put an end to the so-called 'ratchet' clauses by subjecting each of Lisbon's self-amendments to a parliamentary vote. Sovereignty would thus be protected, though it is not clear which court would be supreme in the British case, or whether a British supreme court could apply its writ retrospectively on EU law, as Bill Cash seemed to imply earlier on this afternoon. So it's thumbs down for that for the time being.

16:15: Here are the repriation aims:

1). On laws that limit our financial competitiveness - a nod to the supremacy of the City of London, the EU budget and the CAP.

2). A proper opt-out from the Social Chapter

3). Limiting the judicial encroachment of the ECJ and the ECHR  - presumably through a UK bill of rights and the Sovereignty Act; though this seems less about repatriation and more about prevention of further losses. Though Cameron says that Hague will detail policy later and mentioned the practice of initiating criminal proceedings in Europe at the first instance as a specific target.

The principle is clear - European integration should not be a one way road. This requires co-operation and understanding between European partners. These are specific to British interests and are therefore achievable, he argues. Hmm?

16:19: Europe is a secondary issue to repairing the mess left by Labour; these changes will be introduced over the course of the next parliament. This is designed to re-assess Britain's role in Europe, not to demolish the European Union - future co-operation on immigration, energy security, climate change and poverty are all important aims for Cameron and his EU partners. This includes opening the market, being globally outward looking and further integration eastwards, particularly the Balkans and Turkey, but the cirumstances must be right and the union remains an association, not a federal union. Cameron pledges that his proposals are credible, achievable and believable - the exact opposite of Labour's promises and any non-specific referendum in the short-term. It remains to be seen whether Brussels will allow him to do this, or if it's even possible.

What if Cameron fails and Europe continues heading in the wrong-direction? Then Cameron will re-visit the subject of renogiation through referendum, though, as James wrote earlier, this would wait for a second term.