Our freedom costs less than a Mars bar
By Boris Johnson
(Filed: 15/05/2003)

What price freedom? What price democracy? I'll tell you exactly. The
price of freedom and democracy in this country is less than a Mars bar.

You could easily buy a Diet Coke, or a couple of ginormous rock cakes in
the Commons tea room, for less than the price of 1,000 glorious years of
parliamentary sovereignty. The price of freedom, in short, is about 50p
per head.

All I am asking of you, ladies and gentlemen, is 50p to save the
independence of your country. And as you reach for your wallets, let me
explain how.

We all know that Tony Blair is not going to call a referendum on the new
European constitution. We can tease him as much as we like. We can dance
around him singing "cowardy custard, you big girl's blouse" and so on.

It won't do any good. He and his ministers might tangle themselves
trying to explain the logic of their refusal. But he will not, repeat
not, consult the people on this wretched document, because the people
would tell him to go and stick it up his jumper.

Mr Blair will not hold a referendum on the euro or any European
question, because he is a great quivering jelly of terror. Yes, the
victor of Kosovo, the lion of Afghanistan, the hero of Iraq is afeared
of the populace. Deprive him of the assistance of the Pentagon and he is
frightened, my friends; he's frit.

He just hasn't the guts to put this to the proof of the electorate, for
the very good reason that he has probably at least skimmed those parts
that are comprehensible, and the vestigial lawyer in him knows it is an
infamous document.

There is something to be said for an EU constitution that tried to
address the democratic deficit in Europe. If there was a way of
reforming the EU, so that people felt they were genuinely represented,
or that national parliaments really had a say in forming EU law, that
would be a fine thing.

This is no such document. It expressly creates a single country, called
Europe. It turns us all into European citizens. It gives the European
Union a legal personality for the first time, so that the European Union
will be a member, for instance, of the UN and other bodies. At several
places in the text, it enjoins that citizens and member states of the EU
should show "loyalty" to one another.

Freeborn British people, for the first time in their history, are to be
given a detailed written constitutional account of how they are to
relate to each other, and what rights, freedoms and duties they have,
not just in this country called Europe, but, a fortiori, in the region
called Britain.

The whole thing has been cobbled together by Giscard d'Estaing, the
former French president, and were it not for my natural good manners, I
might call it a flaming impertinence. Never mind that the British people
will now be constitutionally bound to build a "common future on a
federal basis" with other European countries.

Our new grundgesetz tells us how Giscard sees the point of our
existence. If you have ever worried about the objectives of life, never
fear, for here are the objectives that Giscard has given us: "peace and
well-being, sustainable development, balanced economic growth and social
justice, full employment, high levels of competitiveness and living
standards, economic and social cohesion, equality between men and women,
environmental and social protection, scientific and technological
advancement, including [wait for it] space discovery".

Whatever the arguments in favour of space research, or indeed sending
Giscard on a one-way trip to Alpha Centauri, does it really need a
constitutional avocation?

Do we need some collection of largely superannuated European politicians
to tell us that we have a constitutional duty to "respect the rights of
the child". There are some bits of the constitution that are simply
laughable, such as Article 14, which implores member states "actively
and unreservedly to support the Union's foreign and security policy in a
spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity". You only have to think of
recent disagreements over Iraq to see how far removed that clause is
from reality.

Then there are the bits that are pernicious. The Charter of Fundamental
Rights is to be incorporated into the EU constitution, presumably giving
the Luxembourg court jurisdiction over an entirely new area of law.
Above all, the constitution eliminates the inter-governmental
co-operation that was such a feature of the Maastricht settlement, and
puts asylum, immigration and other home affairs issues squarely in the
remit of the Brussels commission.

A few members of the Giscard convention, notably David Heathcoat Amory,
have fought a valiant battle. It has not worked.

The Labour Government has defended the British position with a mixture
of feebleness and delusion: the chronic British delusion that it's all
fancy federalist rhetoric, and the others don't really mean it. They do
mean it, and a disaster impends. This time round, it would be outrageous
if this constitution - which effectively annuls the treaties of
Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice - were just rammed through the Commons.

We need a referendum, even if Blair won't give us one. Giscard himself
has called for a referendum on the question; Alain Juppi, the former
French prime minister, has said it would be unthinkable not to consult
the people on a question of this magnitude. We cannot take no for an

We need to shame the Prime Minister, and show him that even if he
doesn't care about our liberties and constitution, we do. That is why a
great magazine (whose name I will spare you) three weeks ago launched a
campaign for an independent referendum. It would take organisation. It
would take money.

The Electoral Reform Society says that to canvass all 40 million
electors would cost about #20 million. But that is only 50p per head, as
I say. And it would be worth it, just to show Tony that he cannot count
on our apathy. And on this issue, he will neither receive nor deserve
our trust.

Boris Johnson is MP for Henley and editor of The Spectator