Global Policy Forum

MEPs Split Over Possible UN Security Council Seat

After a vote in the European Parliament indicating “overwhelming” support for a European Seat on the UN Security Council, opposing MEPs have voiced their concerns about what repercussions a European seat could have. The most vocally opposed were British members of the European Parliament, who saw any possibility of the EU seeking a Security Council seat as a direct threat to the UK and France’s seats on the Council. 

By Martin Banks

May 16, 2011

A furious row has erupted over possible plans for the EU to have a permanent seat at the UN security council.

It comes after MEPs voted overwhelmingly at last week's plenary in Strasbourg in favour of a security council seat for the EU.

A spokesman for Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, denied there were any such plans by the EU.

The spokesman told this website, "There are no plans at all for a seat at the security council. Absolutely not."

However, both UKIP and Tory MEPs insist the vote was the "first step" towards the EU being given a UN seat, possibly at the expense of UK and France.

UK Tory Geoffrey Van Orden said, ""Conservatives fought long and hard in opposition to the Treaty of Lisbon. Its consequences were particularly damaging for the UK in the area of foreign policy where the UK has historically had a distinctive and leading global role.

"The appointment of a nominally powerful 'EU foreign minister' and the appearance of glossy EU embassies in over 120 countries, well-funded at our expense, can only be detrimental to our national interests and influence.

"Lisbon also requires the UK and France, and any other EU states with seats on the UN security council, to give a seat to the EU to present agreed EU positions.

"We all know that the EU operates according to the Monnet philosophy of 'small steps' - it always wants more. The EU ambition is to create a state called 'Europe' and every move is a step in this direction.

"We need to be constantly vigilant and active to prevent this. The UK seat on the UN security council is recognition of our historic power and influence as a nation, of the great contribution that Britain has made to our modern world, and of our continuing influence in world affairs.

"Allowing others to speak on our behalf at the UN would be recognition and acceptance of continued decline in the world - instead of rolling over, we need to act to reverse this trend."

His concerns are shared by fellow Tory Charles Tannock, who said, "UK Conservative MEPs oppose such a move and voted against it in plenary as it would be a loss of UK sovereignty in the key area of foreign, security and defence policy which are non negotiable and define Britain's independence as a nation.

"This does not mean when appropriate, and when there is an established CFSP common position, that the UK or France cannot invite the high representative to speak on behalf of the entire EU in the UN security council, but this is something the UK can opt into at its discretion which is entirely different from relinquishing the UK's power as a veto wielding permanent member of the UN security council (UNSC).

"Nevertheless, we do support reform of the UNSC and in particular it should be expanded to include the new major global players such as Brazil and India and there is also a strong case to be made to give Japan and possibly Germany permanent seats on the UNSC."

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said, "Why does this matter, you might ask? It is because this is the next step along the road to Britain being deprived of its permanent seat and its voice at the UN security council.

"Lib Dem support for the EU taking an UN security council seat is a gross betrayal of Britain's influence on the global stage.

"Britain was given this seat as a recognition of its influence on the world and its immense sacrifices during WWII. For years I was laughed at when I suggested that the EU wanted to take a UN security council seat, either as an addition member or taking the seats of France and the UK together.

"The Lib Dems have become so wrapped up in creating a greater EU, that they are now willing to compromise British influence. This is a disgraceful act which will in the long-term only weaken British foreign policy."

He added, "The clear logic of that is that the UK and France will have to surrender their permanent seat at the UN and yield it up to the EU.

"So, on great occasions, it will no longer be William Hague sitting there theoretically fighting Britain's corner, but the second-rate used politician the European political class raised from considerable obscurity to be its foreign minister - none other than baroness Ashton."

Meanwhile, UK Liberal deputy Andrew Duff explained why his group voted in favour of last week's report calling for an EU seat.

He said, "We voted for this because it is right to give the EU a single voice at the UN when and in so far as the EU has agreed on a common policy. That is what the Lisbon treaty says. Baroness Ashton will already speak for the EU when a common EU line has been agreed. It is logical that the long-term goal is for an EU permanent seat in addition to a UK and FR seat.

"Farage is a nationalist. I am a federalist. That is why we oppose each other on this and on much else besides."


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