Wednesday, December 02, 2009
We woke up in a different country today. Alright, it doesn’t look very different. The trees still seem black against the winter sun; the motorways continue to jam inexplicably; commuters carry on avoiding eye contact. But Britain is no longer a sovereign nation. At midnight last night, we ceased to be an independent state, bound by international treaties to other independent states, and became instead a subordinate unit within a European state.
Yes, a European state. Take a quick dekko at the definition set out in Article One of the1933 Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States: “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.”
Until yesterday, the EU qualified on grounds (a), (b) and (c). Now it has ticked the final box. Under the Lisbon Treaty, which came into force today, it acquires “legal personality”, which gives it the right to sign accords and treat with other states. Nor is this right simply theoretical: the EU now has a foreign minister, a diplomatic corps (the European External Action Service) and 160 overseas embassies.
Until yesterday, the EU could not annex additional policy areas without a new treaty, which needed to be ratified by all its constituent nations. Now, it has the so-called “passerelle” clause, or self-amending mechanism. Parliament, in other words, no longer has the final say on extensions of EU jurisdiction. The EU derives its authority, not from its 27 members, but from its own foundational texts.'