The Corner

Understanding the Zombie Constitution

John Bolton in the FT yesterday:

Successive UK governments have taken Britain deeper and deeper into the European Union, all the while proclaiming that nothing fundamental about Britain’s status was changing. Britain is not unique in this regard. Europeans advocating an “ever-closer union” continually reaffirm that they are not changing anything fundamental about their sovereign control over foreign and domestic policy. This attitude has been widespread, but the re-emergence of a European “constitution” – under whatever name – has brought Britain to a clear decision point. The long, slow slide into the European porridge has had few clear transition points. In the aggregate, however, the magnitude of changes in the status of the EU’s formerly Westphalian nation-state members can no longer be blinked away. Thus, saying that the UK’s “single most important bilateral relationship” is with America, but is not comparable with UK membership of the EU, is a clever but ultimately meaningless dodge. Drop the word “bilateral”. What is Britain’s most important “relationship”? Does Mr Brown regard the EU as a “state under construction”, as some EU supporters proclaim, or not? The answers to these questions are what Washington really needs to know. What London needs to know is that its answer will have consequences. For example, why does a “union” with a common foreign and security policy, and with the prospect of a real “foreign minister” have two permanent seats on the UN Security Council and often as many as three non-permanent seats out of a total of 15 council members? France and Britain may not relish the prospect of giving up their unique status, but what is it that makes them different – as members of the “Union” – from Luxembourg or Malta? One Union, one seat.Mr Brown cannot have it both ways (nor will President Nicolas Sarkozy), in part because many other EU members will not let the matter rest. Of course, the Security Council permanent seat itself is not the real issue – it is the question of whether Britain still has sovereignty over its foreign policy or whether it has simply taken its assigned place in the EU food chain.

Undiplomatic as always, but he understands that the constitution that will not die will, in the end, kill the “special relationship”.

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