Not for the first time a senior member of the Conservative party has demonstrated he does not understand how the European Union works. Worse, the Conservative in question, Andrew Lansley, the Leader of the Commons, is now favourite to be David Cameron’s choice as Britain’s next European Commissioner.
Lansley was on the BBC Daily Politics last week when the presenter Andrew Neil wondered: “If asked, would you serve?”
Lansley replied: “My general approach is if the Prime Minister asks me, I want to say yes.”
Then the muddle started.
Lansley: “My record will say I have taken positions against entry to the euro. I have been very much against the idea of ever closer union and constant integration.”
“I’m hoping the prime minister will get, whoever he sends, somebody who reflects the interests of this country, that’s what it’s all about.”
Wait. That’s what it’s all about?
No one with any grasp of the European Commission — what it is for, what it does, what it requires by treaty law of its commissioners – would ever say such a thing: a commissioner “reflecting the interests of Britain” is exactly what it’s not all about.
A commissioner is bound by a solemn declaration made before the European Court of Justice to act in the interests of the EU first, last and always.
Neil, who is smart enough to have seen Breitbart London‘s coverage of this often overlooked point in April caught out Lansley on that. “You’re not allowed to do that, you have to sign an agreement.”
Actually, more than an agreement: a new commissioner has to stand in front of the European Court of Justice and make a “solemn declaration” established in treaty law.
In it, he gives his word to respect all the treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the fulfilment of all his duties.
He undertakes to act “in the general interest of the Union.” He undertakes not to take any instruction from “any Government or from any other institution, body, office or entity,” meaning not from the British Government, the British courts and certainly not from the British voters.
That’s what a commissioner has to do to obey the law, keep his word – and get £230,000 a year in basic pay plus fabulous perks.
Most crucial in the solemn declaration are the legal obligations of a commissioner to uphold the principles and values enshrined in the EU treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights “in the fulfilment of all my duties.”
These values include a commitment to build “an ever closer union” and to protect the “four freedoms,” meaning the free movement of goods, capital, services and – as anyone in eastern Europe could tell Lansley — people throughout the EU.
Any British commissioner who goes to Brussels to “reflect the interests of Britain,” in Lansley’s phrase, and fails to uphold every closer union and the free movement of people is breaking both his word and treaty law — and endangering the million pounds plus he is going to earn over the five year term, which is why it doesn’t happen.
Lansley, in his muddle, fell back on what sounded like a statement prepared for him by Number 10: “Happily in the next period we have the interests… of the European Union are best served by the continuing membership of Britain in the European Union.”
“Anything else would be bad for Britain, bad for Europe, so actually we have a coincidence of between British national interest to secure reform in Europe and our continued membership on that basis and the European Union’s collective interest.”
Lansley, or whoever writes this stuff in Number 10, doesn’t realise that an increasing number of people in the EU don’t think so.
Just last week the former prime minister of France Michel Rocard said Britain should get out of the EU, while Nikolaus Blome, a member of the editorial board of Der Spiegel wrote in the Financial Times that now “is a good moment to serve Britain with a simple message: it is time to decide whether you are in or out.”