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Portugal: creating the withdrawal clause

2013-08-06 06:13:25

000a Jerónimos_April_2009-4.jpg

Well, we're here in Lisbon staying in a hotel literally just round the corner from where the Lisbon Treaty was signed, at the historic Jeronimos Monastery (pictured above). That is why we are here, of course – to do the filming on the Lisbon Treaty and Article 50. The film crew joins us later today and yesterday we did our reconnaissance.

I took loads of photographs but owing to a small disaster last week when I lost my camera, it was on new equipment that Mrs EU Referendum had to rush out and buy. The new camera has a larger SD card and, to my horror, I find my computer will not read it, so I cannot upload my pics from here. It will have to wait until I get back.

Thus you have a stock picture from the Monastery, and what is also missing is the pic of the plaque set in the pavement in the street outside, with the names and facsimile signatures of all the signatories on that fateful 13 December 2007. But at least we had the joy of walking all over Gordon Brown.

It seems an awful lot of bother going all the way to Lisbon just to talk to camera about Article 50, but Peter Troy felt that we needed some really powerful images to help bring the subject alive. Talking heads on their own won't cut it. It wouldn't matter so much if so many people hadn't made such a fuss about this new exit provision, with even people like Tim Congdon taking his bat home.

It is a pity that those people who have been so opposed to this Article have not taken the time to explore its origin, and in particular the European Convention where in April 2003 the debate on a withdrawal provision was launched.

Many of the objections that are brought up now were rehearsed then. But, from reading around the subject, and from a knowledge of the wishes of the father of the European Union Treaty, Alterio Spinelli, it is very clear that the EU needed a withdrawal clause as much as we wanted one.

Spinelli was adamant that the EU could not seen as a "prison of nations", and had to have an exit provision just to show that all its members were there voluntarily, and remained in the Union willingly. In effect, in the eyes of its advocates, the EU needs an exit clause to confer legitimacy on the Union.

One of the best defences of the withdrawal clause during the European Convention came from Mr Henrik Hololei, representing the Government of Estonia. I know the possibility for voluntary withdrawal from the Union sounds like a sacrilege to some of you, he observed. And, "as all of you, I hope that this clause will never be used", he added, then going on to say:
But it is important to have an option like this in the Treaty. And not only because such clause formally existed even in the Soviet Union and Yugoslav constitutions and I do not want to answer to my people when they ask if SU and Yugoslavia were more democratic in paper than EU? Having not this article in makes it difficult to defend the new Constitutional Treaty in my country.
And so it is that, nearly seven years after Mr Brown signed the treaty that brought the withdrawal clause into being as Article 50, we are just around the corner from the venue, preparing to defend it anew. Never in my widest imagination did I ever think I would be doing this, or that it would ever be so necessary.