There is much ado about Boris Johnson and others referring to the Benn Act as a Surrender Act. We must recognise that this Act is not the surrender Act.
Boris Johnson is way off the mark. The question we should be asking is that by design or fault? After all, it would not fit his new role as Tory prime minister defender of the people if the people realised that the surrender Act as been a series of surrenders by Tory prime ministers and Tory governments.
No, the Benn Act is not a surrender act! The Benn Act is much worst it is a confirmation of our capitulation.
Julius Caesar said, “We are just merging our sovereignty.”
So did William the Conqueror.-Tony Benn
The Benn Act requires Boris Johnson to seek a further Brexit delay if he cannot get a new deal with the EU.
On the surface that seems reasonable yet scratching that surface reviles the rushed through legalisation. The Benn-Burt Extension Act imposes a statutory duty upon the Prime Minister (if the relevant conditions are met) to request and accept an extension of the withdrawal negotiating period under Article 50(3) TEU.
But the pitfall is in the fact that the EU get to set the extension period.
When Boris Johnson talks about the “surrender bill”, he is referring to the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act, also known as the Benn Act after Labour MP Hilary Benn, who introduced the legislation to the Commons.
The act – which became law earlier this month – stipulates the prime minister will have until 19 October to either pass a deal in Parliament or get MPs to approve a no-deal Brexit.
Once this deadline has passed, he will have to request an extension to the UK’s departure date to 31 January 2020 from the EU.
If the EU responds by proposing a different date, the PM will have two days to accept that proposal. But during this two-day period, MPs – not the government – will have the opportunity to reject the EU’s date or in the case of this remainer Parliament to accept any date given. Any Act that seeds power to a foreign power even the EU is an act of surrender.
These acts have been called exactly that by socialist for fifty years.
This is a series of surrender Acts has been an ongoing process for the last fifty years.
The original surrender Act was The Treaty of Accession 1972, this was the international agreement which provided for the accession of Denmark, Ireland, Norway and the United Kingdom into the European Communities.
Edward Heath the Tory prime minister took the UK into the EC without a referendum the Irony that it was another Benn, Tony Benn that warned us that in doing so it would lead to the loss of sovereignty and more so democratic sovereignty does not go unrecognised.
Tony Benn stated:
“The third principle of British democracy was that national sovereignty belonged to the people.
We lend it to our representatives to use for five years at a time. … Any Government or MP pretending to give away these sovereign powers without the explicit consent of the people is acting unconstitutionally.
Laws that pretend to take away these powers permanently have no moral authority. … [Heath’s government] will fail because they are trying to act contrary to centuries of British tradition.
The people will not have it. But the resistance that is building up is not, in any sense, revolutionary.
Benn later said of Edward Heath and the Liberal (Lib Dem) leader Jeremy Thorpe:
“who sold out Britain’s interests to the Common Market and gave our sovereignty away without our consent—with support of Mr Thorpe and the Liberals—is not entitled to wave the Union Jack to get himself out of the mess.”
The Maastricht treaty
The Maastricht Treaty (officially the Treaty on European Union) was signed on 7 February 1992 by the members of the European Communities in Maastricht, Netherlands, to further European integration.
The treaty founded the European Union and established its pillar structure which stayed in place until the Lisbon Treaty came into force in 2009. The treaty also greatly expanded the competences of the EEC/EU and led to the creation of the single European currency, the euro.
The Maastricht Treaty reformed and amended the treaties establishing the European Communities, the EU’s first pillar. It renamed European Economic Community to European Community to reflect its expanded competences beyond economic matters. The Maastricht Treaty also created two new pillars of the EU on Common Foreign and Security Policy and Cooperation in the Fields of Justice and Home Affairs (respectively the second and third pillars), which replaced the former informal intergovernmental cooperation bodies named TREVI and European Political Cooperation on EU Foreign policy coordination.
Only three countries held referendums (France, Denmark and Ireland – all required by their respective constitutions). The process of ratifying the treaty was fraught with difficulties in three states. In Denmark, the first Danish Maastricht Treaty referendum was held on 2 June 1992 and ratification of the treaty was rejected by a margin of 50.7% to 49.3%. Subsequently, alterations were made to the treaty through the addition of the Edinburgh Agreement which lists four Danish exceptions, and this treaty was ratified the following year on 18 May 1993 after a second referendum was held in Denmark, with legal effect after the formally granted royal assent on 9 June 1993.
In September 1992, the referendum in France only narrowly supported the ratification of the treaty, with 50.8% in favour. This narrow vote for ratification in France, known at the time as the ‘petite oui’, led Jacques Delors to comment that, ‘Europe began as an elitist project in which it was believed that all that was required was to convince the decision-makers. That phase of benign despotism is over.’ But the reality was despotism was not over.
Opponents of Frances further integration into the EU included the French Communist Party (PCF) and far-left parties such as the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) or Workers’ Struggle (LO), who opposed what they considered as an advance of neoliberalism.
The result of the referendum, known as the “petit oui”, along with the Danish “No” vote are considered to be signals of the end of the “permissive consensus” on European integration which had existed in most of continental Europe until then.
From this point forward issues relating to European integration were subject to much greater scrutiny across much of Europe, and overt Euroscepticism gained prominence. The deeper you look the more was found to dislike.
Jeremy Corbyn recognised the ceding of democracy and sovereignty TO THE EU
Jeremy Corbyn branded the formation of the EU as creating an “unelected legislative body” that threatens nations’ “democratic accountability”.
Jeremy Corbyn also said: “The Maastricht Treaty does not take us in the direction of checks and balances contained in the American federal constitution.
“It takes us in the opposite direction of an unelected legislative body – the [European] Commission – and, in the case of foreign policy, a policy Commission that will be, in effect, imposing foreign policy on nation-states that have fought for their own democratic accountability.”
On another occasion, he made the argument for why a left-wing Government would not want to be part of such a supranational body.
He said: “The whole basis of the Maastricht Treaty is the establishment of a European central bank which is staffed by bankers, independent of national governments and national economic policies, and whose sole policy is the maintenance of price stability.
This will undermine any social objective that any Labour Government in the United Kingdom – or any other Government – would wish to carry out.
Jeremy Corbyn, then a backbenches, also challenged a fellow MP’s comparison between a federal Europe and the United States, reminding him that the “brutal” establishment of the US was a “mixture of colonial rebellion against an imperial power and the genocide of the Native Americans”.
Jeremy Corbyn voted against ratifying the Maastricht Treaty, but as usual was outnumbered by Europhiles in Parliament.
These are quite clear statements that define the loss of sovereignty and democracy from the British people. It removes the ability of self-government a principle of socialism along with the right to self-determination.
Again this second surrender Act took place under a Tory Government and prime minister without the consent of British people or a referendum that would determine their opinion.
John Major another Tory europhile prime minister had wrestled the leadership from Thatcher who at one time was a leading europhile and campaigned vigorously for the UK to remain in the EEC however Thatcher eventually turned her back on the EU when she said:
“We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level”;
Major was determined that the UK would step deeper into EU integration. On becoming Prime Minister, Major had promised to keep Britain “at the very heart of Europe”, and claimed to have won “game, set and match for Britain” – by negotiating the Social Chapter and Single Currency opt-outs from the Maastricht Treaty, and by ensuring that there was no overt mention of a “Federal” Europe and that foreign and defence policy were kept as matters of inter-governmental co-operation, in separate “pillars” from the supranational European Union.
These moves towards greater European integration met with vehement opposition from the Eurosceptic wing of Major’s party and his Cabinet, as the Government attempted to ratify the Maastricht Treaty in the first half of 1993.
This blatant loss of sovereignty was too much for the right-wing but more so for the Left-wing and the Socialist stalwarts like Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn, Dennis Skinner, Peter Shore and many more.
It was Shore’s unshakeable belief that democracy and socialism were inextricably linked and it was his awareness of the threat that unelected transnational bodies, representing the interests of finance capital and big business, posed to democracy, which lay behind his unrelenting hostility towards the EEC and later the EU. “I did not,” he said in 1973, “come into socialist politics in order to connive in the dismantling of the power of the British people.”
Tony Benn that stalwart of socialism The Labour party and democracy made it known that by signing the Maastricht treaty we were giving up not only sovereignty but democratic sovereignty.
Tony Benn speech to parliament:
“Tonight’s vote on Third Reading will have a pre-set majority. But not one hon. Member has the legal or moral authority to hand over the powers that they borrowed from their electors last April to people who will not be accountable to those whom we now represent. Not one of us put the Maastricht treaty before the electorate last year, because it was not then published in English.
We offered them no choice—the Labour party, without any conference authority, decided to support the treaty. I know that the Labour party had no authority, 419because the Maastricht treaty was negotiated after the conference, which intervened before the manifesto was written.
The problem for those who are passionate about Europe is that they cannot offer this country to Europe. Only half the seats in the Chamber are occupied for tonight’s debate and the Opposition intend to abstain in the vote. If I were a passionate federalist—which I am not —I would feel more concerned about tonight’s vote than anyone else. If others in Europe say that ‘we have supported them, it is not true. The House of Commons, under the Whips, the patronage, the discipline and the disillusionment, has supported them, but not the British people.
A democracy consists not merely of a mechanism of becoming elected and passing a law. It contains the responsibility of gaining the continued consent of the electorate. At the next election I shall have to say to the people of Chesterfield, “Vote for me and I shall fight for you, but do not vote for me to deal with your agricultural, environmental, trade or even foreign policy, and certainly not your economic policy.” We are handing over the British people, without their consent, to a system that has replaced parliamentary democracy, which we have been told is the justification for what we are doing tonight.
Would the House have been entitled to take Britain into the United States of America, join the Warsaw pact or invite in Soviet troops without a referendum? Of course not—nobody would believe that for a minute. We have experienced a coup d’etat by a parliamentary elite, not only in this country, but in the whole of Europe. They have abandoned their tasks as representatives and become the managers of Europe.” LINK FULL SPEECH
‘Slowly, slowly catchy monkey’
Many Socialist have seen this surrender of UK sovereignty and more so democracy for the last 50 years. It has been a soft gentle take over, designed to cause the least resistance. This surrender is what brings both Left and right together in our opposition of the EU. The reality we all understand is that the loss of sovereignty and democracy ensures that no matter our differences, our views, our political and agendas it will not be in the ultimate power of our government to achieve without self-government we are subject to a distant Brussels.
For the Left any socialist agenda will be subject a capitalist trade bloc that works against public ownership and gives only lip service to workers rights while allowing the imbalance of wages throughout to work in favour of the bosses while exploiting migrant workers.
Again Tony Benn stated in his famous speech on democracy and the UK :
“I recognise that, when the members of the three Front Benches agree, I am in a minority. My next job, therefore, is to explain to the people of Chesterfield what we have decided. I will say first, “My dear constituents, in future you will be governed by people whom you do not elect and cannot remove. I am sorry about it. They may give you better creches and shorter working hours but you cannot remove them.”
I know that it sounds negative but I have always thought it positive to say that the important thing about democracy is that we can remove without bloodshed the people who govern us. We can get rid of a Callaghan, a Wilson or even a right hon. Lady by internal processes. We can get rid of the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr Major). But that cannot be done in the structure that is proposed. Even if one likes the policies of the people in Europe, one cannot get rid of them.
Secondly, we say to my favourite friends, the Chartists and suffragettes, “All your struggles to get control of the ballot box were a waste of time. We shall be run in future by a few white persons, as in 1832.” The instrument, I might add, is the Royal Prerogative of treaty making. For the first time since 1649 the Crown makes the laws—advised, I admit, by the Prime Minister.
We must ask what will happen when people realise what we have done. We have had a marvellous debate about Europe, but none of us has discussed our relationship with the people who sent us here. Hon. Members have expressed views on Albania and the Baltic states. I have been dazzled by the knowledge of the continent of which we are all part. No one has spoken about how he or she got here and what we were sent here to do.
If people lose the power to sack their Government, one of several things happens. First, people may just slope off. Apathy could destroy democracy. When the turnout drops below 50 per cent., we are in danger.
The second thing that people can do is to riot. Riot is an old-fashioned method of drawing the attention of the Government to what is wrong. It is difficult for an elected person to admit it, but the riot at Strangeways produced some prison reforms. Riot has historically played a much larger part in British politics than we are ever allowed to know.
Thirdly, nationalism can arise. Instead of blaming the treaty of Rome, people say, “It is those Germans,” or, “It is the French.” Nationalism is built out of frustration that people feel when they cannot get their way through the 335 ballot box. With nationalism comes repression. I hope that it is not pessimistic—in my view it is not—to say that democracy hangs by a thread in every country of the world. Unless we can offer people a peaceful route to the resolution of injustices through the ballot box, they will not listen to a House that has blocked off that route.
There are many alternatives open to us. One hon. Member said that he was young and had not fought in the war. He looked at a new Europe. But there have been five Europe’s this century. There was the one run by the King, the Kaiser and the Tsar—they were all cousins, so that was very comfortable. They were all Queen Victoria’s grandsons, and there was no nonsense about human rights when Queen Victoria’s grandsons repressed people. Then there was the Russian revolution. Then there was the inter-war period. Then there was the Anglo-Soviet alliance. Then there was the cold war. Now we have a Boris Yeltsin who has joined the Monday Club. There have been many Europes. This is not the only Europe on offer.”
Boris Johnson was wrong the Benn Act is not a surrender Act!
We surrendered a long time ago and now both for the sake of democracy and self-determination we must pursue a different course and assert our rights to charter our own course outside the EU.
If democracy is destroyed in Britain, it will be not the communists, Trotskyists or subversives but this House which threw it away.
The rights that are entrusted to us are not for us to give away.
Even if I agree with everything that is proposed, I cannot hand away powers lent to me for five years by the people of Chesterfield.
I just could not do it. It would be theft of public rights.
Therefore, there is only one answer. If people are determined to submit themselves to Jacques Delors, Madam Papandreou and the Council of Ministers, we must tell the people what is planned. If people vote for that, they will all have capitulated.
Julius Caesar said, “We are just merging our sovereignty.” So did William the Conqueror.-Tony Benn
Jeremy Corbyn expressed the argument in 1993 when he spoke out against the Maastricht Treaty which established the European Union and moved towards economic and political union. He made no bones in his condemnation of the forming of the EU and where it would take the UK.
The treaty, Jeremy Corbyn said, “takes away from national parliaments the power to set economic policy and hands it over to an unelected set of bankers who will impose the economic policies of price stability, deflation and high unemployment throughout the European Community”.
Speaking in the House of Commons, January 13, 1993
“The whole basis of the Maastricht treaty is the establishment of a European central bank which is staffed by bankers, independent of national Governments and national economic policies, and whose sole policy is the maintenance of price stability. That will undermine any social objective that any Labour Government in the United Kingdom—or any other Government—would wish to carry out … The imposition of a bankers’ Europe on the people of this continent will endanger the cause of socialism in the United Kingdom and in any other country”.
“Will my hon. Friend [Peter Mandelson] tell us how he proposes to influence a European central bank that is composed of bankers who are appointed for eight years, who are answerable and accountable to nobody and whose policy objective has been set down? How does he propose to influence them when there is no mechanism to allow that to happen?” House of Commons, January 13, 1993
“If the principle by which the European economic policy is to be run is that capital will find the home that is most suitable to it, any social policies relating to housing, unemployment—or employment—and the environment are bound to take second place.” House of Commons, January 14, 1993
He voted against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, and in one article on his website, said the EU had “always suffered a serious democratic deficit”.
Jeremy Corbyn warned about the threat of “a European empire” and said the EU was creating “a military Frankenstein”, revealed in this video.
In a tirade against a key EU treaty in 2009, the now Jeremy Corbyn urged people in Ireland to vote against moves towards further European integration and criticised the influence of the Nato military alliance.
He condemned the “militarisation of Europe” and described the impact of Nato as “malevolent”.
“Under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, Europe will become subservient to the wishes of Nato and the aims of Nato…What it does is create this military machine, this military Frankenstein, which will be so damaging to all of us.”
European empire of the 21st century
Jeremy Corbyn warned of ‘European empire’ and said EU treaty would create ‘a military Frankenstein’
Corbyn said a vote in Ireland against the Lisbon Treaty would be “such a boost to people like us” who “do not want to live in a European empire of the 21st century.”
“I obviously hope and believe that the Irish people will vote no,” he said.
Mr Corbyn also suggested the EU would make Irish voters “keep on voting until they get the result they want.”
Mr Corbyn told a Durham gala rally in 2010:
“They, the world’s bankers, International Monetary Fund, European Union, they are utterly united in what they want. Utterly united in deflation, suppressing the economy, and creating unemployment. Utterly united in that.
“We need to be equally united, not just across every union in this country and every community in this country and every social demand in this country, but all across Europe and internationally to show that the voice of those campaigning for peace, justice and socialism.
“We will not be silenced by these people. We will win through. We will defeat them and we will win that decency that we want in this world.”
Jeremy corbyn pointed out this year that EU austerity opens the door to the far right.
Jeremy Corbyn urged Europe’s Socialists Friday to challenge the political establishment and team up with like-minded leftists to check the rise of “fake” right-wing populists. LINK
EU support for austerity and failed neoliberal policies have caused serious hardship for working people across Europe,” Corbyn said in a speech to the annual congress of the Party of European Socialists in Lisbon.
It had “damaged the credibility of European social democratic parties and played a significant role in the vote for Brexit.
There are countless examples the LeFT leave voters can draw upon and often do and why not! All the wise predictions and cautionary warnings have materialised. The EU is no place for socialism, not even a form of socialism whose intention is diluted that its only intention is to rebalance the dominant monopoly capitalism, Is it any wonder that the LeFT leave contingent holds their position on leaving the EU.
The fact is nothing as changed, all that was said of this neoliberal construct that makes up the EU has come to pass and the words of socialist from the past like Attlee, Nye Bevan, Tony Benn, Barbara Castle, Peter Shore and Dennis Skinner still echo in the thoughts and minds of the Labour Heartlands voters who predominantly and historically have always been Labour voters.
These same Labour Voters who are now questioning the very party they created to represent the working class, the poor, and the vulnerable in society.
The only sovereignty that matters is the ability to make all our laws in the UK.
And if that’s what sovereignty means, it’s difficult to see how it can be achieved while the UK remains part of the EU.