They have taken to arguing that such things are now of little importance but

They have taken to arguing that such things are now

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again, the Government have not been straight with the country. They have taken to arguing that such things are now of little importance, but the truth is that they decided to give way on them rather than not have an agreement. What is worse is that the Government have also taken to arguing that certain concepts introduced in the treaty have been knocking around for a long time. The Foreign Secretary argued last Wednesday that “the provisions on legal personality have been around since Maastricht, which was pioneered through the House by the Conservative party.”—[ Official Report , 5 March 2008; Vol. 472, c. 1778.] Again, the implication is that nothing much is going on. In fact, the Lisbon treaty’s provisions on the EU’s legal personality, which are identical to those of the EU constitution, are a major change to the current situation. Since Maastricht, the EC has had legal personality, but the EU has not, hence the three-pillar structure. That is why the proposal at Amsterdam to give the EU a single legal personality merited this remark from Tony Blair at the Dispatch Box: “We have also ruled out other potentially damaging proposals. For example, others wanted to give the European Union explicit legal personality across all the pillars of the treaty. At our insistence, that was removed.”—[ Official Report , 18 June 1997; Vol. 296, c. 314.] If that was a “potentially damaging” change in the view of the then Prime Minister in 1997, it cannot now, in 2008, have been around since Maastricht. Part of the case against the Third Reading of the Bill is that a Government who have been through so many contortions, inversions of principle and twists of logic have emerged with a case in favour of the treaty so peppered with holes that they have shot themselves, and so accompanied by unsubstantiated assertions that the treaty should not be passed without the holding of the referendum that these Ministers promised. Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): My right hon. Friend mentioned the self- amending treaty. Does he think that it takes a bit of cheek for the Foreign Secretary to say that institutional change is not on the agenda for the foreseeable future, when the Government have signed up to a whole range of passerelle clauses that will make institutional change, which would at the moment need intergovernmental conferences, possible without such conferences and with little ado? Mr. Hague: My hon. Friend, who has played a frequent and excellent part in these debates, once again makes his point very well. He took part in the debate 11 Mar 2008 : Column 170 on the passerelle—or ratchet—clauses, about which I shall say more in a moment. They will open the door to further institutional change.
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Rob Marris rose— Mr. Hague: I give way to the hon. Gentleman, who has also played a frequent part. Rob Marris: What evidence can the right hon. Gentleman adduce that a better deal for the United Kingdom than that in the treaty would be possible—or would he prefer no deal?
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  • Fall '08
  • Finklerberg

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