Thursday, 14 February 2008

Lisbon Treaty: UK Parliament must submit to EU if and when EU acts first

The Lisbon Treaty has formalised the idea that Member States competences will be limited once the Union has acted. In particular, one Article – Article 2C (TFEU) – concerns areas of shared competence between the Union and the Member States. The present areas of shared competence are not explicit in the current Treaties. Under Article 2C, the areas of shared competence will be the following: internal market, social policy, economic, social and territorial cohesion, agriculture and fisheries, environment, consumer protection, transport, trans-European networks, energy, area of freedom, security and justice, common safety concerns in public health matters, for the aspects defined the Treaty, research, technological development and space and development cooperation and humanitarian aid. Energy and space policies are new Union competences. A vast range of activity, which should be under the remit of the UK Government, will be handed over to EU control.

It is of substantial concern that the Member States will only be allowed to adopt legislation if the Union has not exercised its competence. National governments would only be able to do what the EU has decided not to. It is not a “shared competence” with the Member States but an assertion of the primacy of Union activities over those of the Member States. In this sense, it is possible to argue that these policies are the Union’s exclusive competences (and not shared competences). The Member States are not allowed to legislate in these areas if the Union decides to act. If there are severe doubts, the European Court of Justice will decide. Obviously, the ECJ will have a major role in the interpreting and deciding on the competence boundaries and it will do so in name of the uniform application and effectiveness of EU law.

If the EU exercises competence in a shared area, the Member States will simply be left unable to act. The list of areas that fall under the “exclusive competence” and the supposed “shared competence” include a substantial number of policies that will massively affect the everyday lives of the citizens within the Member States. It is unacceptable that such a provision be imposed upon UK citizens since it surrenders their sovereign right to be governed by the UK Parliament on those matters.

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