An e-mail arrives in my in-box (from CommunicateResearch) reporting on another survey on Europe, this time of MPs at Westminster. 85 per cent of Liberal Democrat MPs supported a European constitution and the same percentage of Conservative MPs opposed it (we’ll come back to that). Among Labour MPs, support for a constitution runs at 58 per cent, with nearly a third opposed.
Another question asked was “Irrespective of its rejection, many key provisions of the EU constitution will be implemented anyway”. Well over half of MPs of all parties agreed with that statement, with around 15 per cent disagreeing. The commentary from the pollsters notes that this “supports the view of those who complain that the EU is undemocratic.” Well, actually, no it doesn’t.
First, many of the provisions in the constitution are actually either codifications of existing practice (as constitutional amendments often are) or easily introduced on the basis of the existing treaties already agreed by the member states. There is nothing undemocratic about implementing the law.
Secondly, the survey demonstrates the level of knowledge and/or opinion of MPs at Westminster. It is hardly proof of anything about the EU institutions themselves.
Returning to our Tories, it appears not to have occurred to them that the reason why there can be this unclarity on what might happen next is precisely because the European Union does not have a constitution. A set of rules, so we all know where we stand, is just what we need.
There is no reason why a clear and simple set of rules for how the EU should function should necessarily lead to more integration (if more integration is something you do not want to see). What it would do is make clear who does what. We pro-Europeans are confident that the more people know about the EU and what it is capable of, the more they will want to see it fulfilling those capabilities. That’s not to say it is perfect: the pro-European case has always been a reformist case, too.