On May 3rd, it was announced that the EU had achieved an enhanced status at the UN. It had enjoyed observer status since 1974, but as a result of this new resolution, it obtains, for the first time, speaking rights in the General Assembly. And the new resolution had been co-sponsored by, inter alia, the British government.
We Conservative MEPs had already been whipped to vote in the European parliament in favour of the creation of an EU diplomatic service, the EU External Action Service. Now we saw our Conservative-led government actively promoting the transfer of new diplomatic powers to Brussels.
Accordingly, I wrote to Foreign Secretary William Hague and Europe Minister David Lidington to express my concern. I received a reply dated May 31st from Henry Bellingham MP, Minister for Africa, the UN, Overseas Territories and Conflict Issues. I will quote his reply:
"The effect of the resolution is limited to the General Assembly, including committees etc. It does not affect the rights or status of the EU or Member States in any other UN body or international organisation".
That was May 31st. Today, June 20th, the Daily Express reports:
"Lady Ashton and her EU foreign service have overridden British protests and enlarged their representation and speaking rights at the UN from just its New York general assembly to 61 other UN bodies, including the politically-sensitive human rights council".
So much for the government's reassurance that we needn't worry, that the salami slice is really quite thin. Surely we know by now that we offer an inch and the EU takes a mile? Surely Hague and Lidington can see that the plan is progressively to replace EU member states at the UN with the EU institutions? I never thought I'd say so, but it seems that Baroness Ashton has, for once, played a blinder, and made the Coalition's EU policy ridiculous. Lidington adds insult to injury by claiming that this is "just a technical change".
This is a Conservative-led government. The Conservative Party's policy, clearly set out in our 2010 Manifesto, was to start repatriating key powers from Brussels. Instead we are transferring new powers to the EU faster that the previous Labour administration did. Eurosceptic Conservatives — who form the majority of the Party's rank and file — are entitled to be appalled by the Coalition's EU policies.
We are accustomed to reassurances that the latest Brussels power-grab is really quite limited, and we are accustomed to seeing such assurances overtaken by events, and shown to be worthless. But surely we are not accustomed to seeing that happen in less than a month.