MAASTRICHT IS NOW UP FOR GRABS

Tribune leader, 12 June 1992
The result of last week’s Danish refer­endum on the Maastricht treaty has killed the treaty in its present form. Of that there can be no doubt Maas­tricht took the form of an amendment to the Treaty of Rome and all amendments to the Treaty of Rome must be endorsed by all member states. A few thousand Danes put paid to that.
There is therefore no point, at least at this stage, in calling for a referendum on Maastricht or in wasting parliamentary time discussing ratification of Maastricht: Maastricht has fallen.
But this is not the end of the story. Al­though no one is quite sure yet of the me­chanics of the operation, it is certain that Maastricht will be resurrected in some form, probably by way of amending part of the Maastricht deal but possibly through some more thorough renegotiation, per­haps including changes to the Treaty of Rome to remove its awkward insistence on unanimity.
The British government, which holds the EC Presidency from next month, is do­ing all it can to ensure that only minor changes to the Maastricht treaty are agreed before another attempt is made to get the Danes’ assent. It is easy to see why. Maastricht without any changes is the best tike Government can hope for from a treaty on European union. It makes the fight against inflation the overwhelming priority in European macro-economic poli­cy. It allows Britain to opt out of common policies on employment rights. It empha­sises the role of the intergovernmental Council of Ministers in overseeing the European Commission, gives few new powers to the European Parliament, says nothing about “federalism” and makes much of the principle of “subsidiarity”, interpreted by the Tories as meaning that as much EC business as possible should be thrashed out behind closed doors by representa­tives of national governments.
The British government’s particular fear is that, if Maastricht is subjected to a more thorough renegotiation, Britain will be forced to accept measures to reduce the “democratic deficit” by granting substan­tial new powers to the European Parlia­ment. Far better, think John Major and Douglas Hurd, to opt for a quick fix, first adding an “explanatory memorandum” to the existing treaty emphasising the impor­tance of “decentralisation” and then get­ting the Danish government to hold an­other referendum later in the year.
This strategy is fraught with danger for the Tories. There is little support for the British position among the other 11 EC Governments (although what the others actually want is unclear). At home, anti-EC Tory backbenchers al­ready see an opportunity for wrecking any possibility of European federalism, with a parliamentary majority of only 21, Mr Ma­jor’s position is extremely shaky.
So how should Labour respond? It is clear that it cannot continue simply to tag along with whatever the government does: at the very least, Labour must insist that the government drops the Maastricht bill and submits another after amend­ments to the treaty have been agreed by the 12. But it would be foolish for Labour to leave it at that. There is a real possibili­ty of putting the government under seri­ous pressure on Maastricht, particularly on the Social Chapter and, more impor­tantly, on the crucial question of making the EC democratically accountable. Labour must not let it pass.
After this week’s meeting of the Par­liamentary Labour Party, it is clear that there is the potential for a consensus among Labour MPs to vote against Maastricht unless, first, the gov­ernment reverses its decision to opt out of the Social Chapter and, secondly, the treaty is made more democratic.
Here, decentralisation, although desir­able, is not in itself enough: it must be ac­companied by measures to democratise the EC at every level, especially at the cen­tre. Labour must argue consistently and loudly for a massive increase in the pow­ers of the European Parliament to rein in the Commission and the Council of Minis­ters. If it doesn’t get what it wants, it should do all it can to bring the govern­ment down.
Kaufman goes: good riddance

It is remarkable how quickly political reputations can change. During the gen­eral election campaign, Labour’s Shad­ow Foreign Secretary, Gerald Kaufman, was so invisible that he became an object of ridicule among political journalists. Last week, just a couple of months on, the same journalists greeted his announce­ment that he was retiring from the Shad­ow Cabinet with hymns of praise for his political skills.
There is no doubt that Mr Kaufman will be missed by Labour, and even those who have disagreed with him cannot deny that he has had his good moments in debate. He has even taken distinctive and princi­pled stands on some of the great issues of modern international politics, notably South Africa and Israel/ Palestine.
But it is unlikely that the history books will be as kind to him as his political obit­uarists. Mr Kaufman will be remembered as the man who got Labour to ditch uni­lateral nuclear disarmament and adopt a policy of keeping nuclear arms for as long as anyone else has them – a move com­pleted just weeks before the final collapse of Soviet communism which destroyed for ever any rationale for the British nuclear deterrent.
On Europe, Mr Kaufman’s deep-rooted Atlanticist hostility to the EC has been a major factor in denying Labour any coher­ent vision of the future of the continent. On Hong Kong after Tiananmen Square, he adopted a stance less principled than Paddy Ashdown’s. During the Gulf crisis of 1990-91, he meekly followed the govern­ment’s line. His pronouncements on eastern Europe were consistently timid and ill-informed before the collapse of commu­nism and have not improved since. He gave the impression that the leaders of last year’s coup in Moscow were people with whom the west could do business. And so one could go on.
Labour must replace Mr Kaufman with someone whose approach is governed less by considerations of Realpolitikand more by principle. It would also help if he or she had a worked-out idea of what Britain’s place in the world ought to be. Absence of vision has been at the root of most of Mr Kaufman’s many failings.
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