The journey to vassaldom began in Maastricht in 1992

The journey to vassaldom began in Maastricht in 1992

There are many voices who are strongly opposed to a transition arrangement once we have left the European Union on 29th March 2019. It is feared that any such transition (the Government prefers the word “implementation”) period will simply turn us into a ‘vassal state’, having to abide by existing and new rules set by Brussels without us having any say in the matter. But the reality is that the United Kingdom has been a vassal state for many years and that successive UK governments have allowed this to happen.

A transition period where we cannot unilaterally decide matters for ourselves and must accept news laws from the EU will be nothing new. We have been doing that for years. Our parliamentary sovereignty and legal system were compromised when we joined the then European Economic Community in 1973. It was then only an economic project of course, or so we were told.

However, the real road to vassaldom started with the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. That was when the federalists first started to show their plans in plain sight. It was when the European Economic Community became the European Union. What’s in a name you might ask? Well, in this instance it was fundamental: the Treaty formally set the federalist ship afloat from its dry dock and exposed the Brussels project for what it was – not an economic partnership at all, but a political undertaking designed to subsume nations and national identities. It was this Treaty that created the ‘European Citizen’ and paved the way for monetary union.

Maastricht was not plain sailing of course. There was plenty of opposition both at home and abroad. The Danes rejected it in a referendum, only to be told to go back and vote again after some tinkering with the wording. A referendum in France backed it by the tiniest of majorities. In the UK, our doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty was the ostensible reason for denying us a referendum before ratification. It did get a rough ride through Westminster, though, and Conservative ‘rebels’ only conceded after the then Prime Minister, John Major, brought a motion of confidence before the Commons.

Further treaties followed. The Treaty of Amsterdam extended the scope and competencies of the EU, amongst other things. This was approved by Parliament in October 1997 during the early days of the Blair Government.

Then the Treaty of Nice made changes to the EU’s legal infrastructure to allow for eastward expansion. However, it was the changes in the voting system that made this treaty controversial. It was a clear sop to Germany and France, which wanted greater voting rights to reflect the size of their population. The Irish withheld ratification of the treaty on the basis that it gave the bigger countries too much influence. They were promptly dispatched back to the ballot box to vote again after minor assurances from Brussels. This time the Irish approved. However, once again, without the opportunity of a referendum given to others, the British people relied upon Parliament to represent their interests. It approved the treaty.

The Lisbon Treaty coming into effect in 2009 was the ultimate game changer. It was the ‘Holy Grail’ of federalism. Until that point, the UK could veto large parts of proposed EU law. The Lisbon Treaty massively extended ‘Qualified Majority Voting’ as of 2014, meaning that the UK could be more regularly outflanked by other EU countries after the opportunities to use the power of veto were diminished. The consequence of this was that we gave up our ‘safety net’ in many areas of competence: we could no longer unilaterally block laws which were not in our national interest. The UK Parliament voted to approve the treaty, having previously rejected a Conservative proposal to hold a referendum by 63 votes.

From Maastricht to Lisbon, successive UK Parliaments voted to reduce the power of Westminster and gave more and more control to Brussels, in what history will surely portray as the biggest dereliction of democracy in the modern era. A result of this succession of treaties has been to drastically reduce the UK’s ability to resist laws, rules and regulations imposed by Brussels.

But what might be a startling fact for many is that research has shown that during the period from 1999 to 2016 the UK Government has only voted against EU laws for 2% of the time. They voted ‘No’ to laws passed at EU level on 56 occasions, abstained 70 times and voted ‘Yes’ 2466 times since 1999. It could be argued that such statistical evidence is proof that the UK heavily influences the input into these regulations during negotiations with the Commission and that the need to vote against is therefore removed.

More likely, though, this is further proof that many UK politicians had long since given up the fight for autonomy and had been moving along with the federalist tide. Having meekly gone along with everything thrown at it by Brussels since 1991, they had shown little will to resist. That was of course until the electorate had their say in the 2016 Referendum!

Some of those politicians who capitulated so readily are still amongst us and we see evidence of their continuing influence every day. They hail the benefits of EU membership despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They ignore the will of the people; they want to stop us leaving and some even want us to hold a second referendum. There are so many of our elected politicians, both past and present, who led us to where we are now: having to extricate ourselves from totalitarianism. Do they really expect us to trust them in the future and do they really believe that the British people will embrace a federalist EU now the ‘cat is out of the bag’?

So, will the transition phase be any different from what has gone on before? Do not hold your breath. The only way we will achieve autonomy and regain our self-respect as a nation will be to finally rid ourselves of the undemocratic European Union. For me, that day cannot come soon enough, and unless our negotiating team refuses to follow in the footsteps of former politicians, then we will continue to be a vassal state until this transitional phase ends.

Photocredit: Shirley de Jong