Martin Schulz recently tweeted his intention to create a federal constitution that would bind the (once) sovereign nations of the European Union into a United States of Europe (USE) by 2025. This should alarm every one of us, Brexiteer or Remainer; socialist, conservative or liberal. But why?
I want a new constitutional treaty to establish the United States of Europe. A Europe that is no threat to its member states, but a beneficial addition.— Martin Schulz (@MartinSchulz) December 7, 2017
Schulz is a German politician, leader of the Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei), the second largest party in Germany at present. With only marginally less seats than Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (Christlich Demokratische Union) – whose position is becoming increasingly untenable following this September’s volatile election that still has not produced a working coalition for Germany’s government – Schulz looks poised to become a serious contender for the Chancellorship in the near future. Even more concerning, Schulz was President of the European Parliament until the beginning of this year; his influence is considerable. External to the inner workings of the EU (now), Schulz inevitably will have the ears of those in the machine itself, and with such obvious and public intentions there is no doubt that Schulz’s dream could become a reality.
What makes this worse is it was exactly what the Leave campaign warned against, and the Remain campaign promised wouldn’t happen – just like the creation of a European Army. I can hardly imagine those who campaigned to take us into the Common Market in the 1970s knew this would happen – if they did, they betrayed the British people, pure and simple. But I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The debate that will now be played out on whether such a constitution will be a good or bad thing is hardly new. 250 years ago, the American people experienced their own argument over the same issue and, context aside, the relevance of that debate cannot be overstated. Whereas the Federalists such as James Maddison believed a single Union, with a constitution and unitary government that respected States’ rights, enhanced the sovereignty of each member State, the Anti-Federalists were concerned that the unique character of each State would be eroded due to a loss of legislative sovereignty. Each side held valid concerns, and I think – with respect to context – it was the demands of realpolitik that forced the Anti-Federalists to submit to the creation of a federal government and a single constitution of the United States.
However, the significant difference is that the Anti-Federalists conceded conditional on the inclusion of the Bill of Rights; it is hard to imagine there being such a compromise this time around. Largely because the European Union already has a similar document: the European Convention on Human Rights. But, again, a significant difference lies in the two: the Bill of Rights, modelled on the British document of the same name, introduced the first Ten Amendments to the US Constitution, engineered to provide protection to States’ Rights in the new circumstance of the Union. Since, there have been 27 Amendments to the United States Constitution, each of which have required a super majority (66% in both chambers of Congress) to pass. But the European Convention on Human Rights offers no such limit – it is continually expanding as the European Court of Human Rights “discovers” more and more (conflicting) Rights.
This is inherent to, and emblematic of, the problem with a European Constitution. The European Union is built on Treaties, each of which have been (to quote Roger Scruton) “created in a situation that is gone, by people who are dead”. The fundamental problem with the European Union is that it is not only inimical to change, but actively hostile to it, but so far this has been an attitude, emerging from interpretations of Treaties that are impossible to repeal. Once, however, this attitude of the EU is enshrined in a legal document, States shall find what little power they have left confiscated. And therein lies, to me, the nub of the issue.
Take a cursory glance at the American constitution, and you will see there is no clause or amendment capable of allowing secession. Texas, the rebellious southern State, has always maintained that a right to secession should be included in the Constitution, but the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled such a right unconstitutional. Why does this matter? Well, given that Article 50 did not even exist until the Lisbon Treaty (2007), I highly doubt any clause would be included that could allow a member state to secede under any European constitution. The rebellious talk of seditious States such as Poland, Hungary, and Ireland at times, would be quashed permanently. And the only legitimate way to force secession – as in the American case – would be civil war, something impossible with a European Army.
Most of this is conjecture – but it is based on historical experience and simple reasoning. And I struggle to see where I could be wrong.