In 46 years the UK electorate has been allowed 2 votes on EEC/EU matters.
Over the same period, the EU has changed beyond recognition. Here are just some of the things no-one voted for.
No-one voted for the UK to leave EFTA in 1972. EFTA dis not affect agriculture or fisheries and did not operate external tariffs. Countries were free to establish individual customs duties or FTA.
No-one voted for the UK to join the European Economic Community in 1972. There were 4 countries in the Accession Treaty and the other 3 were given a referendum. Denmark and Ireland voted yes while Norway voted no.
No-one voted for enlargement of the Community which resulted in the Accession Treaty of 1979 whereby Greece joined the EC.
No-one voted for further enlargement of the Community which resulted in the Accession Treaty of 1985 whereby Spain and Portugal joined the EC.
No-one voted for further enlargement of the Union which resulted in the Accession Treaty of 1994 whereby Austria, Finland & Sweden joined the EU. All 3 had a referendum as did Norway who again voted No.
No-one voted for further enlargement of the Union which resulted in the Accession Treaty of 2003 whereby a further 10 countries joined the EU. The Treaty also included changes to voting weights and qualified majority Voting.
No-one voted for further enlargement of the Union which resulted in the Accession Treaty of 2005 whereby Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU. qualified majority voting (QMV) was used in the EU parliament and no-one voted for that mechanism either.
No-one voted for further enlargement of the Union which resulted in the Accession Treaty of 2011 whereby Croatia joined the EU. Croatia had a referendum though and Slovenia’s objection to the Accession was bought off to the tune of approx €170m.
No-one voted for the proposed further enlargement of the Union whereby Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Turkey are recognised candidates to join the EU. Serbia and Montenegro are expected to join before 2025.
No-one voted for the Single European Act in 1986. This paved the way for the introduction of the Single Market in 1992 and was the first major revision of the Treaty of Rome 1957 which no-one voted for either.
No-one voted to give the European Parliament an increased role in decision making nor for the change from unanimity to QMV in 12 policy areas. The Single European Act allowed both.
No-one voted for the UK to sign up to an external economic and monetary policy via the Exchange Rate Mechanism in Oct 1990. The UK crashed out less than 2 yrs later with £ devalued by 17% & interest rates increased twice in one day from 10 to 12 to 15%. It is estimated the govt spent 40% of our city reserves trying to prop up £ and the total cost in lost GDP, jobs and businesses was £700b. You’ll recognise the names involved — Major, Heseltine, Clarke, Hurd.
No-one voted for the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. Most Tory MPs hadn’t seen the Treaty before being forced to sign it by the govt. Douglas Hurd, our chief signatory, admitted he had not read it before signing it. Maastricht gave birth to the European Union and reinforced the irreversibility of the progress towards ‘ever-closer’ political union. The Treaty paved the way for the introduction of the Euro and also further economic union.
“Economic” was removed from the EEC’s title, fundamentally changing the Community’s approach to the Treaty and the ideals of the EU. The European Parliament’s powers were increased again by the introduction of co-decision with the Council. The Social Chapter was tacked on to the Treaty & would enshrine the commitment of Member States to the separate Social Charter of 1989. This gives the EU Commission powers to impose social legislation. The UK secured an opt-out despite Labour’s opposition.
No-one voted for the move to qualified majority voting (QMV) of a further 30 new and existing articles. This brings the total to 42.
Three referendums were held on Maastricht. Ireland yes (69.1%) France yes (51%) Denmark no (50.7%). Despite the margin of victory being almost identical in France and Denmark, inevitably only Denmark was forced to vote again. Portuguese Foreign Minister reacted by saying “there is something rotten in the state of Denmark” and “only donkeys don’t change their minds”. Inevitably Denmark voted again and this time 56.7% voted yes. This is a pattern that will emerge.
No-one voted for the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997 whereby Member States devolved to the EU, powers in immigration, civil & criminal law and foreign and security policy. Institutional changes were also introduced to prepare for adding new member states. No-one voted for the Schengen Agreements to be admitted into EU law. And no-one voted to allow our opt-out from the Social Chapter to be given up but Labour allowed it anyway. 24 more areas moved to QMV making a total of 66.
There were 2 referendums held in Ireland (61.7% yes on 56.2% t/out) and Denmark (55.1% yes on 76.2% t/out). Neither were asked to vote again. No-one voted for the Treaty of Nice in 2001. The institutional structure of the EU was reformed to enable expansion into Eastern Europe. The weighting of votes in the EU Parliament was changed and the number of seats was also increased.
The size of the Commission was reduced and the UK was one of 5 countries to give up its 2nd Commissioner. Another 46 articles were changed from unanimity giving a new total of 112 areas under QMV. “Closer” became “enhanced” co-operation.
As is now the norm Ireland had a referendum on the Treaty. To the surprise of the elite, the previously compliant Irish stayed at home and the majority who voted said No (53.9% on t/out 34.8%). As is now the norm the Irish were forced to vote again. In the 2nd ref, Ireland voted 62.9% yes on t/out of 49.5%. That was good enough for the elite but Ireland did win a guarantee that the state would not enter an EU mutual defence pact and therefore preserved its neutrality.
No-one voted for the Draft Treaty Establishing The EU created by Altiero Spinelli, an Italian Communist, in 1984. It was passed by 78% of the EU Parliament but did not pass into law as it was rejected by the Council. The treaty is in effect a draft constitution and is arguably one of the most influential docs in the development of the EU. It formed the basis of negotiations for the Single European Act in 1986 and Maastricht in 1992. Some of the principles included in later treaties up to and including Nice: the creation of the EU & EU citizenship; subsidiarity; investiture of the Commission; co-decision between Parliament and Council; European Monetary System. Other main principles not included in Nice were later incorporated in Lisbon (which no-one voted for either). More of that later.
No-one voted for the draft Treaty establishing the Constitution for Europe in 2004 although Tony Blair and Jack Straw saw fit to sign it on our behalf. 4 referendums were held with Spain & Lux voting yes and France & Holland voting no (54.7% & 61.5%) The ratification process ended and further referendums, including in the UK, were cancelled. This is not the end though. Many of the main objectives miraculously re-appear in Lisbon. Peter Hain’s tidying-up exercise would not be swept away easily.
If the Constitution had been passed, 2 principal and 5 accession treaties (which no-one voted for) would be repealed and consolidated into a single document. A new EU with legal entity status and legal personality would be formed. EU law would have *primacy* over that of the Member States. Charter of Fundamental Rights would have been included in the main text and given legal status. The formal introduction of EU symbols: flag, currency, anthem, motto & Europe Day.
A new Minister of Foreign Affairs; accession to the European Convention on Human Rights; a newly *appointed* President of the Council who would be in post for 2 1/2 years; laid out the distribution of powers between the EU and the Member States.
Defined areas of policy where the EU would have *exclusive* competence & those where competence would be shared with the Member States. Despite these very major changes, (“tidying up”) Tony Blair signed up without any consultation with us. Onward to Lisbon.
No-one voted for the Treaty of Lisbon in 2007 although Gordon Brown and David Miliband saw fit to sign it on our behalf. The purpose of the Treaty was to finish off what was started by Amsterdam/Nice and to continue the debate on the failed Constitution.
The 3 pillar structure introduced in Maastricht (1. Economic Community 2. Common Foreign & Security Policy 3. Justice & Home Affairs) was removed and with the exception of pillar 2 now come under the legislative procedures of the Union. This means pillar 1 & 3 (renamed Area of Freedom, Security & Justice) are now, only with certain restrictions, justiciable in the European Court of Justice (which no-one voted for)
There are 71 *major* amendments included in Lisbon. 39 are new provisions but crucially 32 were introduced in the failed un-ratified Constitution of 2004 but transposed into Lisbon anyway. Giscard D’Estaing, President of the Convention that drew up the failed Constitution said “the institutional proposals of the Constitution are found complete in Lisbon, only in a different order. “To my surprise and in truth, to my great satisfaction, the 9 main points are repeated word for word in the new project. There is not a single comma that has been changed”
Major areas transposed from the failed Constitution into Lisbon. Explicit statement that Member States confer competence to the EU; Union would accede to European Convention for Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Number of MEPs defined as min 6 and max 96 per MS; *Appointment* of President of the Council for 2 1/2 years, renewable for 1 term; Defined QMV as at least 55% of MS representing at least 65% of the population (UK 73 MEPs = 9.7% and population = 12.5%) No. of Commissioners reduced to 2/3 the no. of MS; EU will have legal personality and becomes a separate legal entity; move towards changing method of ratifying treaties from unanimity to QMV; distribution of competences or powers between EU/MS defined.
Measures introduced for cross-border health issues, space policy, energy policy, tourism, civil protection; increase in power of the EU Parliament in passing legislation through co-decision; 46 areas now QMV under co-decision. Only 12 provisions in the failed Constitution were not transposed into Lisbon. And most were not in the main text, rather were declarations or protocols. New provisions in Lisbon: The Union replaced the Community; measures incl on border controls, asylum, immigration & crime; Charter of Fundamental Rights given legal force, becoming EU law with equal status to treaties but is *not* inserted into the text.
European Central Bank now an institution of the Union. Provisions for QMV in Council; Declaration that EU Law has *primacy* over that of Member States; symbols of the Union acknowledged by 16 states. And still, no-one voted. Despite the magnitude of the changes introduced, a number of UK redlines & the Treaty being almost a mirror image of the failed Constitution, the text was agreed by Heads of State, including Gordon Brown, in less than 3 months. A miracle in EU terms.
The next step was to ratify the Treaty. In 2004 Tony Blair offered a UK referendum on the Constitution. Despite Lisbon being almost a carbon copy of the failed Constitution, Gordon Brown reneged on Labour’s election promise to hold one. A High Court case was brought. The court agreed with the Govt in its assertion the referendum was only promised on the Constitution and Lisbon was only a treaty. A further appeal also failed. Still, no-one had voted.
All references to the Constitution were removed in the Treaty to make it look like it had been abandoned. MS who had previously rejected the Constitution via referendum also decided to not have another one. France and Holland signed up this time. As is now the norm Ireland had a referendum on the Treaty. As is now the norm the Irish rejected the Treaty (53.2% no t/out 53.1%). As is now the norm the Irish were forced to vote again. Irish Govt concluded voters had a lack of knowledge. Ring a bell? So as is the norm Ireland voted again and this time said yes (67.1% yes t/out 59%) but also secured guarantees on abortion, taxation and military neutrality. Perhaps it wasn’t lack of knowledge after all. Power to the people.
In fairness to the EU, not everything in Lisbon is bad. The Treaty introduced Article 50 which defines voluntary withdrawal from the EU of a Member State. 17.4m of us voted to trigger it in 2016, YAY and thrice YAY. No-one voted for the introduction of the Euro as single CCY of the Union. Maastricht obliged MS to replace their CCY with €. Of 12 MS at that time three had a referendum, UK & Denmark opted out meaning the other 7 replaced their CCY without asking.
No-one voted to abolish the Purchase Tax and replace it with VAT. This was a condition of our entry into the EEC and was achieved via the 1972 Accession Treaty & the 1972 Finance Bill which no-one voted for. Lots of things we did not vote have you noticed? The Purchase Tax was introduced as a ‘luxury tax’ during WWII & applied to items like jewellery, china, porcelain, fur, silk, lace, cosmetics, etc. The VAT was applied to a much broader range of items & also businesses and services including many essentials. Examples: clothes & footwear; electrical goods; fruit juice; prams; fuels; water; sweets; alcohol; CDs & DVDs; nuts…The VAT is an indirect tax and is now the 3rd largest source of govt revenue. We are subject to EU law whereby the standard rate of VAT *cannot* be lower than 15%. Also, the EU Council must approve any temporary reduction in the public interest. Even though no-one voted for it we pay over €3.6b in VAT to the EU every year. In 1975 Referendum pamphlet, Govt used as justification for Remain that Britain had a new deal which would see us receive £125m back from EU funds w/out mentioning what we would pay. Between 2010–16 our *net* contribution was €80b. No-one voted for that either.
The Govt also said we “would not have to put VAT on necessities like food” But it didn’t say what it would be put on. “We have also maintained our freedom to pursue our own policies in taxation… No-one voted to hand over control of our fishing grounds to the EEC. Council Regulation 2141/70 was drawn up by the original 6 members just hours before applications to join were received from the UK, Ireland, Norway and Denmark in 1970. This ensured the issue became part of the negotiations on the Accession Treaty in 1972. The UK first refused to accept the rules but gave way and signed the Accession Treaty anyway. Norway refused and therefore did not join the Community at all.
No-one voted for the Common Fisheries Policy which sets quotas for the Member States. Quotas are based on 1970s hauls and as Britain fished extensively outside EU waters up to 1976, arguably our quota is lower than it should be. No-one voted to allow policy and decision making to be shared with the EU. It is estimated Britain provides 13% of the water in the EU but is only allowed to catch 30% of the fish in that water. Norway’s total quota is 2.5× larger despite being non-EU.
When the UK joined the EEC in 1973 we had 36/198 seats in what is now the EU Parliament. That’s 18.18% of the vote and the same as Germany. Due to the multiple Accession Treaties, which no-one voted for, the UK’s vote has been reduced to 76/751 seats or 9.72%. That’s a reduction in voting power of 47%. Over the same period, Germany’s vote has been reduced to 96/751 seats or 12.78%. That’s a reduction of the voting power of only 30%. And no-one voted’
The UK is 2nd highest net contributor to the EU budget with 3rd most voting power. Poland is 2nd highest net *recipient* with 5th most voting power. Spain is 3rd highest net *recipient* with 4th most voting power. EU fairness in action.
No-one voted for a system of Proportional Representation to be used to elect our MEPs. This is at odds with our FPTP system but is a rule mandated by the EU (note AV was rejected in a UK-wide referendum in 2011)
[House of Commons Library] [EU Commission]