The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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A Bad Constitution - Bad for Europe and Bad for America

Sally McNamara


Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the democratisation of Central & Eastern Europe, American foreign policy has celebrated European "integration" as a potent symbol of what we can achieve together, acting in diplomatic and military unison. But that deepening integration of European Member States now requires further reflection. The EU Constitution proposes a European Union far removed from the previous Nation-State model that helped win the Cold War. And ultimately proposes a Union in conflict with American interests.

Unlike the American Constitution, the European Constitution is elaborate in detail, guaranteeing all sorts of employment, social (and Socialist) rights - such as the right to strike, the right to limited working hours, to paid leave and so on. While these "fundamental" rights might sound like a good thing, such lengthy and intricate prescriptions have no place in a Constitution and will invariably translate into complex legal challenges - to be interpreted by the notoriously interventionist and centralising European Court of Justice. The ECJ has the sole aim of "ever closer union," and its judgments have consistently found in favour of more, not less, EU governance. For American companies operating in Europe, the EU Constitution will mean more government interference and more judicial activism.

But there is a whole host of other reasons why America should be concerned about the EU Constitution. The implications of military structures outside of NATO, together with a European satellite navigation system that will be available to strategic American antagonists, poses a potential threat to the organisation which has underpinned peace for the past half century. A common European foreign policy would severely impede the ability of key allies - like the UK - to gather support for joint military action with the United States.

Pressure to protect some industries, already a major factor in Transatlantic trade disputes, will grow stronger as Member States' economies suffer under the burden of excessive regulation. The EU Constitution is a blueprint for an inward looking, rigid Europe that will attempt to rival the United States, not partner it.

The Constitution also embodies everything that is bad about the European social model and threatens to legally formalise it. The think-tank Global Britain calculate that the EU Single Market has been even more beneficial for America than it has been for European Member States. So it's in America's interest to preserve economic dynamism in Europe. The EU proudly announced at the Lisbon Summit in 2000 that it would be the most dynamic, competitive, knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010. Half way into that deadline, little or no progress has been made. To his credit, new Commission President Jose Manual Barroso is trying to breathe new life into this process, but his reformist agenda is beset on all sides; not least of all from highly-regulated, highly-taxed, big government Member States. Until there is real understanding of the necessity for structural reform of Europe's flagging economies, and the political will to drive it, the Lisbon goals will remain a pipe-dream for everyone concerned.

That is why a No vote against the EU Constitution should be viewed as an opportunity, rather than a worry. While the EU's political leaders may have agreed the Constitution, there are eight referendums coming up around Europe and there is a good chance that in at least one country people will say No. As it stands, if even one Member State of the European Union votes "No" to the treaty, then legally, the Constitution can not progress.

Indeed, many countries may have problems ratifying this Constitution, not least of all the UK. Polls consistently show reluctance on the part of the British people, and increasingly British business, to approve the Constitution. As a major Member of the EU (and a net contributor), a British "No" vote would have huge implications and force the EU into a real re-think. Barroso could easily claim a mandate for reform and push through fundamental structural reform; Europe could once again concentrate on what it needs to be doing.

It is a fact that America and Europe will always do business, regardless of whether there is a European Constitution or not. But trade is not a zero sum game and if government should be doing anything, it should be working to improve the environment for businesses to grow, people to get jobs and the economy to steadily improve. But the EU Constitution threatens all that, and threatens to make Europe's current problems irreversible. It threatens the foundations of Transatlantic peace and threatens the possibility of future cooperation. It is a bad Constitution - bad for Europe and bad for America.