EU will take Britain's UN seat, says Hague
By Bruno Waterfield in Brussels
William Hague has attacked a "shocking" Government concession that will give a new European Union "foreign minister" the right to speak from Britain's seat on the United Nations Security Council.
'It is a big step towards a United States of Europe'
The British government had claimed that powers for the EU foreign policy supremo, rechristened a High Representative, have been reduced and his UN role stripped from the new treaty.
However, an EU official confirmed:
"We retain, except for the name of the minister, the Constitutional Treaty text of 2004 including the provisions on the UN.
"There is a provision which provides for the representative of the EU to state the position of the EU at the UN Security Council."
The Government had insisted that negotiations on the treaty had ensured that the British presence on the Security Council would never be replaced by an EU representative. However, the text provides for the British seat to be occupied by an EU minister when the bloc has a united position on issues.
Mr Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, has criticised Gordon Brown for allowing "one of the most damaging and important provisions in the rejected EU Constitution" to be resurrected after referendums by the French and Dutch two years ago voted against it.
"It would seriously compromise the independence of our foreign policy," he said. "It is shocking that the Government have yet again let this through and it totally destroys their claim that their so-called red line on foreign policy is effective."
Provisions, drawn word for word from the old constitution, giving the EU "foreign minister" speaking rights from Britain's and France's UN seats will be included in a draft treaty to be presented to a meeting of foreign ministers on Monday, diplomats have confirmed.
"When the Union has defined a position on a subject which is on the United Nations Security Council agenda, those member states which sit on the Security Council shall request that the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs be asked to present the Union's position," the text states.
Unlike Europe's current foreign policy representative Javier Solana, the new "minister" will also be vice-president of the European Commission overseeing an EU diplomatic service, weakening direct control over the post by national governments.
"It is a big step towards the federalists' end goal: a United States of Europe in which we would be represented at the UN not by a British ambassador on the Security Council but by the EU foreign minister, which this new treaty has also taken from the constitution," said Mr Hague.
Speaking in Brussels this week, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the architect of the old constitution, mocked presentational spin over the "minister".
"The High Representative for Common Foreign and Security is one and the same as the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs," he said.
The issue is set to become a major stumbling block for efforts by Mr Brown, the Prime Minister, to deny a referendum on the EU Treaty.
"With provisions like this, there can be no question but that the new treaty would fundamentally transform the EU and is in effect the EU constitution in all but name, as Gordon Brown has admitted," said Mr Hague. "So the British people must be allowed the final say in the referendum they were promised.