Merkel’s Letter Could Change the Course of the War

This is how our code-breakers at Bletchley must have felt when a fully operational Enigma machine fell into their hands. After months of guesswork, we finally understand the enemy’s intentions. This single providential discovery could, my friends, represent the turning point of the entire campaign.

I am clutching in my hot, trembling hands the most extraordinary document I have come across in eight years of Euro-politics. It is a letter from the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to her fellow EU heads of government. In it, she proposes a scheme to bring back the constitution under a new name – or, as she artlessly puts it, “to use different terminology without changing the legal substance”.

Now this, in itself, is not surprising. Many of us have suspected all along that the Eurocrats would try to bring back the constitution surreptitiously: I have written as much in these pages. What is shocking is the brazenness. Mrs Merkel flagrantly admits that she wants to preserve intact the content of the European constitution, making only “the necessary presentational changes”.

These changes mainly involve dropping paragraphs which the voters don’t like, and which are in any case unnecessary because they restate what is in the existing treaties. Thus, Mrs Merkel suggests excising the reference to the primacy of EU law. Since this concept has been part of EU jurisprudence since 1964, she reasons, there is no point in rubbing people’s noses in the fact by spelling it out.

She also proposes scrapping the reference to the EU’s symbols. Again, not a single twelve-star flag will be hauled down as a consequence. The bands will still strike up Beethoven’s Ninth, bringing a lump to Euro-enthusiast throats (I’m afraid that that stirring tune now has the same effect on me as it has on Alex in A Clockwork Orange and for the same reason – bad connotations). The change will be, as Mrs Merkel puts it with such admirable frankness, presentational.

Similarly, she has a clever wheeze to “replace the full text of the Charter of Fundamental Rights with a short cross-reference having the same legal value”. And so on.

The leaking of this letter is calamitous for the Euro-federalists. Their whole strategy depended on obfuscation, complexity and – consequent on these things – voter fatigue. The electorates of Europe might sense that their leaders are up to no good but, so far, they have not been able to hang their doubts on anything specific. Now, though, they have it in black and white: they are to get the same constitution as before, but without the promised referendums.

Think, for a moment, about how scandalous this is. After all, Labour’s commitment to a plebiscite did not come as an afterthought. It was central to that party’s election strategy.

There was a time, back in 2004, when it looked as if Europe might again dominate British politics, greatly to the disbenefit of the governing party. People could see that Brussels was engaged in a huge power-grab. They could see, too, that other countries were offering their peoples referendums. In Britain, the Tories and the Lib-Dems were making similar demands.

Tony Blair feared, with good reason, that if he did not allow a referendum, voters would treat the 2004 European election and, worse, the 2005 general election as a surrogate referendum. Returning back from the Caribbean, tanned fit and lean, he suddenly announced that he would, after all, let the people decide.

We Tories were left opening and closing our mouths like Appalachian yokels. Blair’s announcement deprived us at the last minute of what was to have been our main argument. I remember, as a Euro-candidate in 2004, having to pulp whole forests of redundant campaign literature. We were left with almost nothing to say, and duly went down to the worst defeat the Conservative Party has ever suffered – worse even than the catastrophe of 1832.

Having promised a referendum in two manifestoes, and having won office on that basis, Labour will find it pretty awkward to explain why now wants to rat. The publication of the Merkel letter makes it impossible to pretend that the new text is substantively different from the old one.

No doubt ministers will try, essaying all sorts of sophist arguments to the effect that treaties are different from constitutions, and that the EU is already doing most of the things that the sceptics complain about. None of it will wash, though.

I hope I never have to give an interview like the one poor Geoff Hoon gave to The World At One on Friday. His own mother, had she been listening, would have thought him a terrible fibber. “What was different about the Constitutional Treaty,” stammered the hapless Europe minister, “was that it altered the basic relationship between the European Union and the member states, and therefore it was appropriate to have a referendum.” How painful to re-read those words in the context of the Merkel letter.

Let us be clear: the European Constitution amounts to a constitutional revolution, perhaps the most far-reaching since the civil and religious upheavals of the 17th century. This revolution is taking place, not as the result of popular insurrection or foreign occupation, but because the governing party is abusing its majority.

Labour may get its way, in the narrow sense of ramming the new treaty through without a referendum. But it will pay a heavy price in damage to its reputation, as will the Euro-integrationist cause more widely. “Vencerán, pero no convencerán,” said Miguel de Unamuno to the Nationalist leaders at the beginning of Spain’s Civil War: you’ll conquer, but you won’t convince.

Parliament is not the owner of our freedoms, but their temporary and contingent custodian. If Labour MPs want to give those freedoms away in perpetuity, they should have the decency to ask us first.

If they win, I promise to accept the result with as much good grace as I can muster. But if they go back on their manifesto promise, they won’t deserve to be forgiven.

Recap # 7

@ Schaveiger


Sad to say, you are poorly informed.

1)  Take your first point.   Every serious 'western' constitution describes - I repeat for the umpteenth time - the 'organisation of political power (or the institutional setup of the political sytem).  This INCLUDES specific provisions that proscribe how the constitution can be changed.  These provisions set a difficult hurdle for changing the constitution, to ensure that the changes are 'widely' acceptable to the population, not just to a simple (and temporary) majority, unlike 'ordinary' legislation.  These provisions differ in different countries (and certainly differ between centralised and federal systems).  In Belgium, they include for instance a formal declaration of the authorities about proposed changes to the constitution and making parliament a 'constituante'.  In practice that means that an election is held specifically on the proposed constitutional changes.   As far as I know, this constitutional provision has been respected in past changes to the Belgian constitution.  If the current Belgian government wants to change the constitution (i.e. superimposing an EU constitution) it should declare parliament a 'constituante' and give people a chance to vote on the new constitutional provisions.    

2)  I have no idea what you are trying to say under your second point. 

3)  I have no idea what you mean by my "side".  Is speaking up for the constitutional principle of freedom of (political) speech "a side"?


My conclusion is that you do not take seriously the ongoing violations of the current Belgian constitution, especially as regards freedom of political speech and of (political) association.  Probably, because like many people you cannot separate fundamental principles from emotions about immediate specific personalities (politicians), parties, and popular 'ideologies'. 

As is often the case, future generations will pay a heavy price for the 'kopindegronderij' of the current generations.  

@ marcfrans

Agree I'm not a specialist in law matters but I know that holding referenda are not a constitutional right in Belgium.

1) If with the parliament acting as a "constituante" this can be changed, why was this not done since long ?.

2) We obviously are not surfing the same wave.

3) It's a side when this principle of freedom of speech claim comes always out of the same corner.

We've a watchdog for the violations of the constitution and they are doing their job. If, as you state it so emotionally on every occasion, the freedom of speech or political associations were a violation then you would be the first to seize them and they would have acted in consequence.
I have surely no emotions on political individuals nor parties. In fact I'm very suspicious about all of them and I only judge them on their deeds, never on their words.
"Kopindegronderij" is more applicable to those who are not considering the results of the last opinion polls in regard to the future of this country. That's for sure the main reason why they don't insist on referenda.

Recap # 6

@ Schaveiger


I think we are making slight progress in clarifying differences and misunderstandings between us, although I must say that - from my perspective - you seem to be blind to important current realities in Belgium and in the EU.  So is much of the public, obviously, which illustrates the failure of the major media and the education system to accurately and objectively inform.


1) I do not understand what you mean by my presumed "preference".  Ordinary legislation and a constitution have different purposes.  It is not a matter of "preferring" one over the other.  We both agree that ordinary law (made in parliament, and easily changeable) is necessary for the functioning of any society.  Whether a constitution is necessary, that is not so clear, and is debatable among serious people.  A constitution is the 'basic law' of a political system.  It should describe the organisation of political power (or the institutional setup) AND spell out fundamental individual rights (essentially as a means to constrain political power, i.e. to safeguard the individual from abuses by the 'ruling' politicians of the day).   Thus, a major purpose of a constitution is to give the highest court of the judiciary (Supreme Court) a yardstick to judge the 'constitutionality'  of ordinary laws passed by parliament, and if necessary to force politicians to go back to the 'drawing board' and revise their laws.  

Your comments about the people not being "skilled" enough to make decisions about the constitution, illustrate a fundamental philosophical difference between us about "democracy".   Yes, in a parliamentary democracy the people send representatives to parliament to represent them and to make complicated decisions about things like criminal law, economic policy, etc... They did NOT send them to parliament to change the basic nature of the political system without their express agreement.  The people would be very foolish if they would let a small ruling elite change the very 'nature'  of theitr country.  Ultimately, 'sovereignty' must rest in the people, not in politicians, ruling classes or 'elites'.  So, when it comes to making a decision about entering a new or different political system, the proper democratic answer is to let the people decide (not the politicians).  Thus matters, like joining another country or countries, splitting up a country, changing the 'basic law' (the constitutional order) of a country, properly need to be decided by the people themselves.  It is thoroughly depressing that contemporary European elites seem to be digressing so far from what was long-ago gained in the cultural European 'Enlightenment' of several centuries ago.    The reason I brought up Japan as a current example, is that its current political class better seems to understand where democratic 'sovereignty' properly lies.  And they will not change their basic (constitutional) political order without EXPRESS aproval of the people. 

2) ??

3)  Try to remain honest, please.   You did NOT claim that there are "cultural differences within the EU".   You claimed that the history and the culture of Britain and of "the continent" were "totally different".   That is another incredible illustration of the terrible (and ideological) state of contemporary education in Belgium. 

 4) With regard to your comments about the "cordon sanitaire", in response to may complaint about the loss of democracy in Belgium, it would seem that the Belgian public seems to have lost a sense of proportionately about what is important and what is not.  From a long-term perspective, it is NOT important which particular politicians or parties 'win' or 'lose' succeeding elections, to make changing 'ordinary' laws about ways of tackling crime  or laws to implement specific social and economic policies.   By contrast, it is of the UTMOST importance, when a specific ruling class starts to violate the EXISTING constitution by passing ordinary laws that violate freedom of political speech and try to ban political opposition. And the Belgian judiciary did not stop them, i.e. did not perform its proper role under the (constitutional) separation-of-powers doctrine!  The Belgians are going to deserve in the long run what they are going to get, because they allowed their politicians to violate their own constitution.  It is an attitude of extreme shortsighted 'kopindegronderij'.     

@ marcfrans - re: recap 6

Sorry but I'm only replying to your 4th chapter because on the others we just turn around.

What's amazing about the meaning of democracy is that you only apply it when it suits your needs.

1) 25 years ago you never used the word "referendum" nor "democracy" when you altered the constitution from an unified country to a federalized one.

2) now you're aiming for a disappearance of Belgium and again, not a single mention to both.

So just knock off your moaning on democracy and people's choice, coming from your side it's nothing but phoney and ridiculous.

Recap # 4

@ Schaveiger


1) Where did I express a "preference" for ordinary law?  I simply observed that ordinary law can easily be changed, and is subject to the 'ballot box', whereas constitutions cannot easily be changed.  Hence, the constitution better be a 'good' one, before one should even think about signing up for it. 

No, I do not want more "flexibility" to change constitutions.  There should be very broad agreement within a polity before changing a constitution, and certainly before adopting one for the first time (as the EU one)!  A temporary narrow parliamentary majority would certainly not be sufficient to change the fundamental law (or nature) of a political system.  Moreover, when entering a new political system, the people should have a chance to express themselves on this through a referendum.  Have you noticed recently that Japan wants to change its postwar 'pacifist' constitution in order to 'legitimise' the role of its growing military (in view of growing threats from N-Korea and China)?  Well, yesterday, Japans' government announced that it is preparing for a referendum on proposed changes to its constitution.  One would hope that all these "constitutional scholars" in Europe would need no lesson from Japan in 'democratic' sensibilities.  But apparently many of them do today.

I gave you 2 specific examples of "nefarious laws" in response to your incredible claim or belief that there could not be such laws made in the "actual EU".  And, my second example had certainly very important constitutional implications.  How, on earth can you deny that certain 'ordinary laws' in Belgium that pertain to negationism, anti-racism, hate speech and the like, are not in conflict with Belgium's own constitution which supposedly "guarantees" freedom of political speech?   You seem to be part of a collective head-in-the-sand attitude that is now widespread in western-Europe. 

And your example of "freedom of language" in Belgium is completely incomprehensible.  What has that got to do with the discussion at hand?   Do you know of any person, or party, in Belgium that has been prosecuted for using somewhere a particular language?  As far as I know anyone can speak any language one wants in Belgium as a private person, and also in public.  Parliament can certainly proscribe the use of any specific language FOR SPECIFIC PURPOSES, for instance in dealings with government, or to 'organise' the public education system etc.... It would indeed not be reasonable for a Mongolian to demand to be treated in Mongolian when dealing with a Belgian bureaucrat in,say, Brussels.   What on earth has this got to do with 'fundamental' individual rights that the Belgian Constitution supposedly "guarantees"?   You do not seem to understand what the the purpose of a constitution ought to be.

2) The content of the EU constitution has been extensively covered elsewhere.  My biggest problem is that it contains 'ideological' language which opens the door to abuse.  It should focus on fundamental individual rights that government can - if it wants - "guarantee", like habeas corpus and freedom of speech.  It should not invent fake 'rights', eg. like full employment for instance.  First because governement cannot guarantee such matters, and second because specific social and economic policies of changing governments have nothing to do with fundamental individual human rights.  I repeat such matters belong to 'ordinary law' and should be fought over at the ballot box, not through lawyers in courts.  

3) The state of historical education?  Yes your statement was amazing.  To claim that the history and culture of Britain and the Continent are "totally different" shows great ignorance of particularly west-European history.   And certainly from a broader world perspective.  Let's just leave it and say that, for instance, historically the cultural link between the Netherlands+Denmark is much bigger with Britain than with, say, Spain or Austria.    

Finally, labelling your political opponents "extremists" is not a sign of democratic credentials. On the contrary. I repeat, the surest way to discern a 'democrat' from an 'extremist' is to see which one of them is willing to take measures (legal or otherwise) to shut up his political opponents. Now, I ask you, who is trying to do that in Belgium today? Can you give an honest answer to that?

Recap 5

1) If you are reluctant for a constitutional law, then you prefer an ordinary one (or none), don't turn around.
Isn't it primordial that to change a fundamental law a broad agreement is mandatory ?.
Sorry but I don't think that people is able to give a thorough judgment on a matter like this. The people , through the ballots, transmitted their power to what should be their "skilled" representatives at the parliament and it's on the latter ones to analyze and judge such complex matters (and let me bet with you that out of the people's representatives all over the EU, over 90% did not even read that constitution). Arguing only on hearsays is not the way to make credible critics.
I don't know why you pulled Japan in here, but with that example you only confirm that constitutional laws are changeable. That in such cases they call on a referendum is just a matter of democracy, because the people knows exactly about what it's speaks and are as such not taken for muppets.

Coming back to Belgium, which we both know best, how do you explain that the constitutional law of free use of language all over the country is jeopardized by regional ones ?. Why in this case you admit a violation of that fundamental freedom ?. And please don't come back with your Mongolian, we only speak about Belgians. A government has to be at the service of their citizens and not the other way around. Furthermore, how you explain the aim of Flanders to get their own constitution when you're so reluctant to it and will this also be submitted to a referendum ?.

2) Sure it has, but you didn't even read that one.

3) Sorry but I just can't follow you anymore. You're amazing because I state that there are cultural differences in the EU and then you confirm this by comparing NL/DK with ES/A.

As to the hassle in Belgium between the traditional parties and the extreme-right wing like VB, I agree with you that this is not very democratic. Personally I would have preferred to give the VB the opportunity to show the people their governing skills. On the other hand, the fact that the traditional parties created a "cordon sanitaire" is for a great part due to the attitude of the VB itself. And the success of the VB is merely due to the lack of good governance by the traditional parties.

Recapitulation # 3


@ Schaveiger



2) I have already here twice stated the essentials of a 'good' constitution.  What is the point to repeat it if you do not want to read or see it?

  Given that a constitution provides a blueprint for a political 'order' or system, in which all judicial processes in the end 'revert' upwards to a 'Supreme Court', it is amazing that you (and all those so-called "skilled constitutionalists of every country" would even dare to argue against the need for referenda (i.e. direct popular approval to a change in the constitutional order to which the people in the future will belong).  My gosh, even the presumed ex-communists of Chechoslovakia knew better when they changed their constitutional order a decade or so ago.

3) It is also amazing that you can claim that "the (cultural/political) history of Britain and the continent is totally different". I guess that depends on which parts of the Continent we are talking about. But, it is hard to think of a better example to illustrate the 'dire' current state of historical education on the 'Continent' (and probably in Britain too), where current popular ideology seems to trump even historical knowledge.


Finally, indeed there are (and always will be) "greedy guys and thirsty for power". That is one of the major lessons of human history. The best and SUREST way to recognize such "guys" (and women in the future) is when they start shutting up their political opponents by criminalising political speech, irrespective of whatever labels or fancy ideological words are used in that process of undermining genuine democracy.


1) If your preference goes to "ordinary" laws rather than constitutional, doesn't it mean that you want more flexibility to change them ?.
In your eyes this constitution is a bad one, like every nationalist party is claiming.

Don't change my words, by "parliamentary sovereignty" I meant the way it works in the UK won't work here. I can be mistaken but if I do just tell me why.

The examples of "nefarious" laws you mention have nothing to do with constitutional ones. The way world economics are evolving are not mentioned in any Constitution and no one can regulate this. As top your ever revolving argumentation on the freedom of speech is the very same as the constitutional freedom in Belgium for the freedom of language (you see what I mean ?). So drop your phobia on fundamental rights since they can change without revolution.

2) You have twice stated only generalities that the constitution is bad, lengthy and boring, never a specific "good" text from you in opposition to the "bad".
In fact, you've never read it.
That on later stage referenda could be held (all over and on the very same day !!!) for a revision of a part of the constitution is recommendable. But don't ask people to give their opinion on something they've never heard of nor understand.

3) What's so amazing on my statement ? Do you pretend that all states of the EU are the same of a kind ?. When you illustrate the "dire" state of historical education, do you mean, amongst others, the one were negationism is prohibited ?.

To end this sterile discussion, a community can't work properly without rules of decent behaviour against each other. What extremists are claiming for is no limits for themselves until they're ruling.

Recapitulation # 2

@ Schaveiger


1) Of course I am not leaning to the "anarchistic side".  That is the domain of 'Amsterdamsky' and other (culturally) naive-left Americans living in Europe, who generally have little knowledge of the historical development of western civilisation.  

And, of course, one should "not change the fundamental rules of a society by each government".  Did I say that?  Why, then, do you raise such a nonsensical 'strawman'.  So you don't have to deal with my arguments?   In fact, I said the opposite.  It is 'ordinary law' which is easily changeable (irrespective of wether a government changes or not).  And it is precisely because an established constitution is virtually impossible to change, short of 'revolutionary' means, that it has to be a good one.  Better no constitution, than a bad one, is my position.  

I note your assertion, or belief, that "parliamentary sovereignty would not work in the EU".   There is no room here to comment further on it, but it should act as a 'warning' to discerning readers.

Your belief that there could not be "nefarious laws" in the "actual EU" say the least...very naive.   Such laws exist virtually everywhere in the world, in different degrees, and I don't know where to start on that one.  Let's take a simple example, the high unemployment rate (particularly of youth) in SOME EU countries is a direct result from "nefarious laws" (governing labor markets) in those countries.  Or, to take another, the government-induced violations of freedom of political speech, say in Belgium, is a direct result of unconstitutional "nefarious (ordinary) laws" (nefarious in the sense of 'easily abusable' by intolerant nondemocrats) relating to 'negationism, so-called anti-racism, hate speech and the like'.   That you could think that nefarious laws would be impossible at the EU level is extremely naive, and a form of anti-historicism (i.e. the belief that people today would be fundamentally different from people in the past).   Indeed, in Belgium it is "the watchdog" (the judiciary) itself which is in large measure responsible for the loss of genuine democracy.  Fifty years ago there was genuine freedom of speech there.  For example, even then at a time when western Europe faced possible nuclear annihilation from the communist Soviet Union, one could openly profess to be a communist, sit in parliament as a representative of the communist party, etc....Today there is no longer freedom of political speech in Belgium.  There is now 'controlled speech' (under legislative and judicial intimidation) and the long-term consequences of that 'cultural change' will be very severe (just like they have been in the past).  One immediate consequence has been the importation of a sizable immigrant population of 'nondemocrats' over the past 20 years or so.   I repeat, you can only form and maintain a genuine democracy with 'democratic-minded' people, but it will take a while (probably a number of electoral cycles) for the remnants of the former democracy to disappear.  Freedom of political speech is usually the first thing to go.  And it has already gone in several major respects.    


@ Schaveiger Scotland the brave??

The other three main parties - Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour [who are currently the largest party in Scotland] are all committed to the Union. A majority of Scottish people however are not. That is why the separatist Scottish National Party will most likely win [ie form the largest party in the Scottish Parliament] tomorrow and why Scotland will have a referendum within 3 years.

What's in it for the Scottish people? The ability to determine their own future.  Personally I'm all for it. If Scotland break away from Britain then how long before England breaks away from the EU?



@Schaveiger - the Scottish 'question'

If the Scottish National Party become the largest party in the Scottish Parliament in tomorrow's election, then Alex Salmond will become First Minister. If, and likely when, this happens Scotland will hold a referendum on leaving the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland within 3 years.

Interestingly Great Britian celebrated 300 years of Union only yesterday. In another 3 years it could have been dissolved. Like I said in my earlier post, that's democracy for you. The people decide. Not political elites. The political class should exist to facilitate the will of the people. 

@ lancegrundy

"IF" is fear enough for me. But why this party has to organize a referendum, are the others less democratic ? And what benefits should the ordinary people get out of a separation with GB ?.


@ Schaveiger

1) Of course, every society needs laws and regulations.  What has that got to do with the matter under discussion?  You will find laws in the most 'libertarian/anarchistic'  of societies, and of course even more so in the most totalitarian of societies, and everywhere in between(***).     These laws will be used by the rulers to enforce their agendas.   If they have a 'democratic' agenda, so much for the better, and if they don't, then law becomes a nefarious instrument.  So far, are you still with me?

My main point was that 'ORDINARY LAW' can easily be changed, in reasonably 'democratic' cultures, because it only requires a parliamentary majority.  If such law becomes 'abusive' in the hands of the powerful (with a sychophantic or like-thinking judiciary) then democratic remedies are easily available through the 'ballot box'.   By contrast, CONSTITUTIONS are very difficult (nearly impossible) to change.  If they get abused then the remaining remedy is usually....revolutionary.   

2) So my position is very clear.  

First, say yes to a 'good' constitution.  Do I have to repeat again what "good" means in this context? 

Second, say no to a 'bad' constitution.

Third, the Giscard-constitution is 'bad', because it is riddled with ideology.  It does not limit itself to 'organisation' of political power and to 'fundamental' individual rights.   It is bound to be abused by the current ruling elite in the EU to cement their ideology, and to restrict freedom of political speech.        

Fourth, there can be no doubt about this future abuse at EU level, because it exists already in several major 'old' EU countries at the national level (persued by the same political 'elites').


3) I am very well aware that Britain is an island, and so is Ireland, thank you.  I was not making a military point, but rather a 'cultural' one.  So, you misunderstand the analogy of 70 years ago.  The point is that a totalitarian ideology did not arise in Britain, even though it did not have a 'formal' constitution.  By contrast, the presence of a constitution in Germany did nothing to prevent the rise of unfreedom there (even though that rise might have been in accordance with the popular will, a point that also Armor does not seem to grasp). And neither did the presence of a constitution in France do anything to preserve freedom or to ensure that the country took the necessary measures to preserve freedom in France. 

You must understand that, ultimately, the achievement and the preservation of democracy is not a matter of laws, but of 'culture'.  And the essence of democracy is closer to a concept of individual freedom than to a concept of majority rule.  Indeed, the latter can only be an instrument of democracy under conditions of freedom of political speech.  Without such freedom, all claims to presumed 'democracy' are a fraud.   And that is why Belgium today is no longer a genuine democracy.     




 (***) "This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down etc..."  said Thomas More already at the time of Henry VIII in Robert Bolt's "A Man for all Seasons").  


1) Glad to read this because your earlier argumentation supposed that you leaned to the anarchistic side.
That the "ordinary law" is more flexible than a constitutional one is a fact. But one should remind that you can't change the fundamental rules of a society by each change of government. The fact that the UK's Constitution is uncodified and based on the Parliamentary sovereignty works only there. You can't imagine this to work in the EU.
Furthermore, I don't think that in the actual EU there is place to have nefarious laws, as long as there remains sufficient political (and other) entities to play the watchdog.

2) The problem is that you didn't say yet what you call a "good" one. Nor you nor anyone of those critics ever submitted a "good" text to replace the "bad" one. And no one, including you, ever showed what article in the constitution was negatively overruling their national one.
The current ruling "elite", like you call it, has got approval by skilled constitutionalist of every country. Each concerned government hasn't made any objections to the text. Only a few wanted to go on referendum, not because they got suddenly more democratic than others but because they had no guts or not enough political strength to go against their opposition.

3) Don't go on by comparing Britain with the Continent, their history and culture are totally different. Their political landscape is reduced to 2 parties wherein very little leeway is available for extremists. Compared to Belgium or better, Holland, the UK is an ocean of quietness.
I don't know the Constitution of both Germany or France at the time they got their Nazi time and how they cooped with. But I don't think that this can happen again.
Of course the culture is one of the main components of democracy. The problem is that there are, because of the very same democracy, always greedy guys and thirsty for power to take advantage of it. That's why we need laws to prevent this. And make no mistake, those who scream for more democracy and freedom are exactly the same to ruin it.

(Thanks for the extract out of Bolt's "A Man for all Season's", which illustrates that mankind can't do without laws and regulations since the start).

Manual ?

@ Schaveiger


You must have really dark glasses on that prevent you from making observations.   How can you say that a constitution "guarantees" democracy"? Seventy years ago, the Brits had no constitution and kept their democracy.  The French and Germans did have constitutions, but lost their democracy.  

The current Belgian constitution states explicitly that there should be freedom of political speech.  Yet, TODAY people in Belgium are SELECTIVELY (arbitrarily) being convicted for exactly that!   And political parties in Belgium, Austria, and Germany, among others, are being 'banned' for SPEECH or ideas (not actions)! 

If you don't know history, and if you cannot make empirical observations, then you are condemned to repeat history, as the current young generations of Belgians are surely going to find out in the future.

There is nothing more 'common' (frequent) in human political history as the ruling classes declaring political opponents as "undemocratic", or "unislamic", or "un-Germanic", or "racist", or un-whatever, and proceeding to 'shut them up' with 'undemocratic' legislation (thereby often violating their own constitutions).


I don't really know who is wearing dark glasses here. 70 years ago the Brits did'nt loose democracy because they lived on an island and without the fierce resistance on the Continent and the stupidity of the German war strategy, they could have lost it too.

Of course a Constitution stands for guaranteeing the political, juridical, cultural and social freedom of a country, otherwise there would be no need at all for it.

I'm at stake when you talk about the negativeness of laws. Are you no more a fan of a party who flagged in the past "LAW AND ORDER" ?.

No community is livable without laws and regulations.
Besides this, somebody said that laws are made for breaking and I agree with you that it's mostly done by those who make them.


True enough. We weren’t offered a referendum on joining the EEC. On the 6 June 1975 we were, however, given one on whether or not to stay in. 17,300,000 voted to stay in. 8,400,000 people voted for withdrawal. Then, the EEC was essentially a free-trade area. What we have now is quite different. A referendum would serve to re-assert the authority of the euro-sceptical British people over that of the euro-fanatical political class.

If, in the referendum, my compatriots voted for “ever closer union” then I’d abide by that. We just need to be given the choice. It's called 'democracy'

@ lancegrundy

Over 60% were in favour to join the EEC in 1975. Now, more than 30 years later, not only you and I evolved but also the EEC. For some it seems worser, for others better but fact is that still some are eager to join.
I don't want to compare the sceptics with the fanatics because most of the time they use no neutral reasoning.
By the way, does the Scots regulary organize a referendum to stay member of the UK ?


Schaveiger: "By the way, does the Scots regulary organize a referendum to stay member of the UK ?"

I'm not sure if this is a rhetorical question, but the answer is No; there has never been a referendum on Scottish independence or whether to stay a member of the UK. There have been two referendums in Scotland, both on whether there should be a devolved parliament there. Both achieved a majority for Yes, but in the first the majority was below the minimum proportion of the total electorate (40%) set in advance by the UK government.

@ Bob Donney

Thanks for your explanation.
I confess that my question was a bit rhetorical, because claiming for referenda should not be restricted to one issue.

See were you land after you jump! #2

@ Schaveiger


You got it backwards.  After you jump it is too late "to see where you land".  The decision is made, and the consequences will perhaps be irreversible.  You better look before you jump. 

In any case, what is the haste, or even the need?   A 'Constitution' does not bring nor make a democracy.  Democracy is first and foremost a matter of cultural behavior patterns (rooted in deeply-held 'values').  Britain never had a 'constitution', in contrast with the 'formalism' of some other large West-European countries.  Yet, European history of the past 2 centuries clearly shows that Britain was better at safeguarding individual rights, and that it resisted better several (collective) totalitarian temptations, than France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc...did.  Better no constitution than a bad one.  Why?  Because, once it exists, a constitution becomes another instrument in the hands of the powerful (i.e. the ruling political class and cultural orthodoxy).  And they will use it!  If it is a 'bad' constitution, then it will easily be used for 'bad' purposes.  For instance to put "numerous political issues beyond the normal play of electoral politics".  Is that so difficult to understand?   To change 'ordinary law', all that is required is a change in parliamentary majority.  By contrast, constitutions are in practice very difficult to change.  Indeed, in Europe that has historically required 'revolutions' (which in themselves are indications that conditions must have gotten really bad under the previous constitutions).

I repeat.  The purpose of a 'good' constitution is the organisation of political power and its proper organs or institutions, AND to safeguard fundamental individual rights (like freedom of speech, of association, habeas corpus and the like).   Who threatens individual rights?  The man in the street?  No, only the powerful, i.e. those who govern, can threaten fundamental individual rights!  So, the last thing you want to do is to introduce (in a constitution) ideological terms that can mean anything, and therefore can be used by the powerful for any purpose.  That is were the Giscard-constitution fails.  Moreover, some leftists in Europe oppose the Giscard-constitution because it is supposedly not ideological enough (not "social" enough, they claim).   Needless to say, these people are no 'democrats'.  Their goal is precisely to put numerous economic and political issues beyond the normal play of electoral politics, and to misuse the judiciary in order to obtain what they cannot obtain via the ballot box.       

Even if you have a 'good constitution' that doesn't mean that you can save democracy.  The current Belgian constitution is supposed to safeguard freedom of (political) speech and of association.  Yet, in Belgium today, individuals are being prosecuted for political speech and parties are being banned for the same.  You may have an excellent constitution, but if the Executive violates it, and the Judiciary does not intervene (and actually cooperates in the violation) then you are in the process of losing your democracy.   Ultimately it is a matter of cultural behavior patterns at large. You cannot make, nor keep, a democracy with 'nondemocrats' (i.e. people who are willing to trample on fundamental individual rights of others). If you put me in jail because you want to 'shut me up', then you trample on my constitutional right of freedom-of-speech, and that would prove that you are not a 'democrat'. But, if you cannot find a job (say, because you are a drug addict, or special interest groups like trade unions have made labor markets so inflexible that full employment becomes impossible, what has this got to do with fundamental individual rights? Did I take away your job? No, either you did it yourself through your own behavior, or some trade union did it (but is now hiding behind a 'bad' constitution in order to be able to blame someone else).

Don't jump without reading the manual first ...

The need of a Constitution is obvious. It's not making democracy but guarantees it.
Don't compare the UK with the EU, there is a world of difference. The Britons have their culture and their political behaviour since centuries while the EU is a patchwork of newly gathered states with each their own culture and way of life. This needs to have a commonly accepted "red line" to which everyone has to refer for living together.
Don't blame a Constitution to be an instrument in the hands of the powerfull. It's just the opposite i.e. the fundamental protection for the weakest. When you call on "freedom of speech" which is guaranteed by the Constitution, that same article does'nt allow abusing of this freedom. When you refer to the so-called "cordon sanitaire", this has no mention in the Constitution. It's only an agreement between "democratic" parties for isolating a non-democratic one. Maybe it's not democraticly justified, for sure not in the eyes of the concerned party, but it's also one of the freedoms the others have. No one can (or will) withhold that specific undemocratic party to do the same.

At the end, who is getting the benefit of ruining the creation of a real EU ?.
The fact that Merkel's letter got public proofs that there are moles at work and on whose payroll are they ?.
Think on this before screaming with the wolves.


"...those who won't follow better step out."

Yep that's right. As soon as a British government [or the EU for that matter] gives us the option to leave via a referendum then "step out" is exactly what we'll do.

See were you land after your jump !

Sorry buddy but I never wrote that francophone or French or whoever are better than anyone else.
I agree with you that the "Giscard-made" Constitution is too long and too detailed. That's why it should never have been used on a referendum.
However, you should consider that they wanted to include the significant things of each national Constitution? The result of this was a lengthy and detailed exercise which had the advantage to squeeze out  individual claims but with the disadvantage that it had the size of a bible.
No one at this time has pinpointed any disadvantage of this Constitution against his own one and if you find any, please tell me.
If you consider that the latter is a "ridiculous listing of shallow and subjective rights", give me one example were one's own Constitution is not the same.
You're claiming the threat of  "sovereignty" of the people, can you show  the article that confirms this ?. Do you really think that Giscard (as a French and God knows how eager they are on their sovereignty), along with his fellows, should have tempted to do such a thing ?.
I would rather suggest you to read and re-read that (lengthy) Constitution over and over again and compare it with our own,  instead of copying the arguments of those who want to turn us back to the middle-age.

@ Schaveiger

"(...) organizing a referendum to approve matters of such complexity has nothing to do with democracy but is a blow in the face of the citizens."

 That word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

look before you jump

@ Schaveiger

You got one thing (implicitly) right, i.e. that De Gaulle correctly foresaw that Britain would prevent 'Europe' from becoming an arm or extension of narrow French foreign policy and interests (as it largely was at the time of Britain's joining).   There is no evidence that the French (people) are better capable at "being  a single member of a union" (unless thay are at the center of it and effectively 'control' it) than Brits, or Poles, or Italians etc... If francophone Belgians prevented the development of the Benelux into something of 'consequence', why do you blame other Europeans for having difficulty with subsuming their identity into a larger political system that would threaten their ultimate sovereignty?  

The only "remarkable" thing about the Giscard-made Constitution is its absurd length and detail.  It certainly is, or was, not focused on the organisation of political power and its proper organs, nor on the  essence of fundamental ('constitutional') individual 'democratic' human rights.  Instead, with its endless ridiculous listing of shallow and subjective 'rights', it was a ridiculous attempt at 'cementing' current fashionable ideology into constitutional law, in order to curtail the sovereignty of the people and to put numerous issues beyond the normal play of 'democratic' politics and of 'ordinary' (i.e. easily-changeable) law. It did not represent 'progress' when compared with typical 19th century constitutions of some European nation states. 

It is not "the meanness of nationalism" (Whose? That of the French?) that 'explains' the need for a European constitution.  Rather, it is the absence of sufficient consensus about 'democratic values' among Europeans in general, that explains the absence of such a Constitution.  If they cannot even agree that freedom of political speech is the bedrock essence of maintaining 'democracy' over time, but rather waste their time on silly 'rights' like "full employment" and absolutely meaningless (in the sense of impractical constitutional law, and of being dependent on subjective whim) aims like  "social justice", how could there be a sensible European constitution? 

 So long as the practical choice on offer remains between  (1) being democratic-small (e.g. like Switserland or Australia) or (2) becoming a world super power with Chinese-style ideological constraints on political speech, then the first option remains better for Europeans.  Not only from an economic perspective, but more importantly from a long-term freedom perspective.

A Constitution and fast please !

It's a pity that you could not copy the letter from Merkel, so that we could have a better picture of the content.
The 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome had less impact on the citizen than the Carnival festivities. The reason is that Europe has an obsolete image in people's mind and our politicians are not keen to improve this. In fact, nationalism is ruling and there seems very little political will and courage to alter this.

At the start we had the BENELUX, considered as the embryo of the EU, but also restricted due the nationalistic behaviour.
Then, with already inside difficulties, the UK joined. At the time De Gaulle was not very enthusiastic (the least to say) by their membership and this has been proven right. In fact, the Britons are not sure being Europeans and, coming back as the ruling entity of their glorious Commonwealth era, they are unable to accept to be a simple member of an Union.
Lastly, the new member states from the East, who were for half a century dominated by the USSR, have the same difficulties to be restricted in their newly acquired freedom. Poland is at the moment illustrating this at best.

Concerning the European Constitution, this document has been qualified as "remarkable" by skilled constitutionalists. However, the way it has been presented to the common citizens was a pity. One could imagine that they did it on purpose to make sure it was rejected.
Under such circumstances, organizing a referendum to approve matters of such complexity has nothing to do with democracy but is a blow in the face of the citizens.
Blair understood this too and the fact that the UK has no Constitution as such would make the exercise disastrous. We've seen in France how extremists of all sides argued with everything to jeopardize the referendum and they succeeded.
Democracy is not ruled by the street but lived.

In the meantime, the EU has still no president, no common foreign policy, no army… and is considered as a pussy by the USA and China, while the Russians are back on business again.

It is because of the meanness of nationalism that we badly need a Constitution and those who won't follow better step out.