2011 年 2011 巻 31 号 p. 148-167
What was British role in the making of the Lisbon Treaty? Is Britain still “an awkward partner” in the European Union? This article aims to examine British policy towards the European Union from the failure of the ratification of European Constitutional Treaty in 2005 to the signing of the Lisbon Treaty in December 2007.
Soon after the failures of the Treaty ratification both in France and in the Netherlands in June 2005, British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared to introduce “a period of reflection” to freeze the process of ratification. From the next month, Britain had hold the presidency of the European Council. Due partly to his domestic stalemate on the ratification, Blair exploited this opportunity to postpone difficult ratification of European Constitutional Treaty.
This difficulty originated in Blair’s decision for a referendum on the ratification of the Constitutional Treaty in April 2004. European Constitutional Treaty which was signed on 29 October 2004 caused a big political debate in Britain. Both the Conservative Party and Eurosceptic medias represented by Rupert Murdoch criticized the government for its intention to further transfer political power to Brussels. Having faced with this serious political difficulty, Blair naturally was “off the hook”. He simply felt “the waves of relief”.
Blair’s task was two-fold. First, he had to find a solution to this political stalemate as he would soon preside the European Council. Second, he was necessary to sell a new treaty to British people. To avoid a referendum, the British government needed to find a device which indicated that a new treaty was not “constitutional” one. In other words, a new treaty had to be a “reform treaty” without any new transfer of sovereignty.
A new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, supported Britain to advance towards a “reform treaty”. Both French and British governments were contended with omitting any symbol of “federalism” or “constitution”. Within British government, it was generally agreed that Britain needed to defend the “red line” which prevented further transfer of power to the European Union. After having persuaded Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, Britain successfully secured the “red line”, and this meant that British government did not have to go into a national referendum. With this “success”, the EU could reach an agreement on the drafting of the Lisbon Treaty which would become signed in December 2007.
After the referendum crises of 2005, British government led the argument on the future of failed Constitutional Treaty. The answer was to save the essence of it by abandoning “federal” and “constitutional” features of the Treaty. This British policy was basically motivated by its own domestic rivalry on the future of Europe. Although Britain might be “an awkward partner” within the EU, the Labour governments tried to find out a way to go out of the crises of 2005 by abandoning some of hopes and wishes that people dreamed.