The second great myth is that the new treaty is identical to the constitutional

The second great myth is that the new treaty is

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The second great myth is that the new treaty is identical to the constitutional treaty. I have some knowledge of that matter as the Europe Minister responsible at the time. Conservative Members tend to pray in aid their experience of the Convention. They make interesting historical points, but the main recommendations of the Convention presided over by Giscard d’Estaing were rejected by the intergovernmental conference that followed. The constitutional treaty that emerged from the process was, in turn, rejected by the voters of France and the Netherlands, and it was declared dead here, not so much by my party, but by Conservative Members. I remember well the hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) saying, “I am a doctor. I know death when I see it. This constitution is dead.” The less original Opposition Members referred to the famous dead parrot of lore. We all agreed that the treaty was dead, but for the purposes of anti- European argument, it has to be brought back to life. The pledge to have a referendum on which all parties agreed in their 2005 election manifestos related to that constitutional treaty, but it was killed barely a month after the election of the new Parliament, and those commitments died with it. At the end of each Session, any laws that have not been passed in this House die. Unless we are introducing a new constitutional innovation in the House that any pledge given in general terms on any issue has to be sustained throughout the eternity of successive Parliaments, I do not understand how Conservative Members can intellectually say that today’s treaty is identical to the constitutional treaty that was killed, even if much of the anti-European press make that argument. Mr. Harper: No one on this side has said that the treaty is identical— Mr. MacShane: Ah! Mr. Harper: No, we never have. All we have said, as most European leaders have said, is that it is between 90 and 96 per cent. the same—similar enough that the promise to have a referendum holds. That is what the right hon. Gentleman should be holding to. Mr. MacShane: I accept that the hon. Gentleman, many other hon. Members and many members of the public believe that. We can argue about and rattle around on whether something can be 90 per cent. the same as something else or 90 per cent. the same DNA —can someone be 90 per cent. a virgin?—but even as the hon. Gentleman says that the treaty is 90 per cent. the same he is saying that it is not the same.
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In two key respects, the new treaty is fundamentally different. It is much shorter in length, but we can leave that argument to one side. It does not contain references to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” or to the 11 Mar 2008 : Column 209 Council of Europe flag, designed in 1954, which was adopted as the European flag, but the most important difference is that it leaves all the other treaties in place. The constitutional treaty rolled all of the existing treaties into one giant document. It was a re-founding moment for the whole of the Common Market and the European Union.
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  • Fall '08
  • Finklerberg

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