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Friday, 7 February, 2003, 09:34 GMT
Anger over federal EU plan
EU flags
Eurosceptics are infuriated by the draft
British politicians say draft plans for the future European Union being run "on a federal basis" are unacceptable.

The president of the convention on the future of Europe, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, unveiled the constitution's first 15 draft articles on Thursday.

But the UK Government has raised concerns about the use of the word "federal" and suggestions that the EU should have sweeping economic and foreign policy making powers.

A Europe fit for the 21st century should be more democratic, accountable and decentralised

Michael Ancram
Shadow foreign secretary
British officials privately described the draft as bizarre and claimed it had no chance of forming the basis of a final treaty.

Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, the government's lead minister in the convention negotiations, said the draft was contrary to the wishes not just of the UK, but of most EU governments.

"This does not reflect the consensus of people on the convention," he said.

"A lot of representatives are wondering whether the people who drew up this document have been going to a different convention."

Mr Hain told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the UK would not get an inferiority complex.

Peter Hain
Hain says the UK position will win through
He was "relaxed" about what was a first draft and "confident Britain's position will win through in the end".

"There is absolutely no chance of a Brussels federal superstate being erected on the back of this," said Mr Hain.

Progress for the UK's arguments had been made on such areas as giving national parliaments checks on proposals made in Brussels, argued Mr Hain.

The European Convention brings together 105 representatives of the 15 EU governments, legislatures and institutions.

Guidelines

The aim is to draw up a new framework for the EU ahead as the union prepares to welcome 10 new members.

The draft, which is a new definition of the EU's aims, has been drawn up by the 13-members of the convention.

Article One of the draft says the constitution "establishes a Union within which the policies of the member states shall be co-ordinated, and which shall administer certain common competences on a federal basis".

On the economy, the draft text says the EU would "co-ordinate the economic policies of the member states, in particular by establishing broad guidelines for these policies."

However the draft is not all negative from the UK government's viewpoint.

The original Treaty language vowing to forge an "ever-closer Union" has been dropped.

The draft also states that member states would remain in charge of many policy areas.

Failure

Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said the draft was "a blueprint for a federal European state".

"It tragically underlines Labour's failure to promote an alternative vision for Europe," he said.

"Labour has abdicated British leadership in the debate on Europe's future.

"A Europe fit for the 21st century should be more democratic, accountable and decentralised.

"Instead, this constitution sets out a European Union that takes even more powers from its member states and is still more centralised and distant from its peoples."

Former Irish Taoisech John Bruton, who is on the praesidium of the convention, insisted the proposals did not propose a federal basis for the EU.

And he said there had been a "big misunderstanding" by British spokespeople about the foreign policy proposals.

It was saying foreign policy decisions should come through unanimity among EU ministers, added Mr Bruton.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Stephen Sackur and Norman Smith
examine draft plans for the future European Union
Former Irish Prime Minister John Bruton
"We are not saying that the Union is a federal institution"
Welsh Secretary Peter Hain
"We need to get this in proportion"

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See also:

06 Feb 03 | Europe
26 Feb 02 | Europe
28 Nov 02 | Politics
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