Resolved to continue the processes of creating an ever closer union among the people of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. (from the preamble to the Treaty of Lisbon, 2007)
David Cameron has made much about the fact that he has wrung a concession from the rest of the EU leaders over the phrase “ever closer union” applying to the UK’s dealing with the EU. This has made me think what the phrase actually means and if, by making it not applicable to us in the UK, Cameron has, rather than freeing us from an over bearing requirement, he has actually taken away rights from us and left us, the people of Britain, worse off.
Let’s look more closely at where the phrase occurs in the Treaty of Lisbon and the context around it. It is written in to the preamble (which gives the principles behind of the Treaty) rather than its provisions. So it is an idea to guide where the European Union is heading rather than any change in the rules.
Also, what comes after the phrase “ever closer union” is just as important, perhaps more so than the phrase itself. The part “among the people of Europe” shows It is not an ever closer union between the nations of Europe but between the people. The idea being that the Union is about us, the ordinary people far more than the national Governments.
Finally, and again just as important is the second part of the sentence ,”in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity” we get to the part that Cameron really want not to apply to the UK, the principle of moving decision making down as afar as possible so we, the people, have real control over our lives.
The word “subsidiarity” in this context[i] does not mean that we will decide on the future of the Trident replacement in Parish Councils, just those areas where local councils can make the decisions, like local public facilities, local planning, local investments, larger councils decide more strategic areas, transport, education, planning, etc. So all decisions are made as locally as possible.
It is this that Cameron and most UK governments hate. For the last 40 years we have seen more & more power taken away from local councils and centralised to Whitehall. They simple don’t trust people to make decisions and they don’t want subsidiarity here.
So when you here Cameron and other politicians talking about saving us from “ever closer union”, what they really mean is stopping you and me having a say in controlling local decisions. If we could apply the full paragraph, it would weaken Central Government in the UK and they (and all the Whitehall apparatus) hate this idea.