Opinions of the British monarchy are now somewhat mixed, but the Queen enjoys the respect of many of her subjects. The monarchy has re-invented itself before; I think it is now time for the monarch to become the ‘defender of democracy’. While it is no longer appropriate for the monarch to be partisan, I see know reason why the Queen cannot speak out in favour of democracy. British (and Canadian and Australian) Prime Ministers have far too much power. There are too many decisions that ministers make in the Queen’s name without Parliament getting a look in. Of especial concern at present are the massive trade treaties being negotiated in secrecy through the European Union. Member states will have the opportunities of ratifying the treaties (or not as they choose). In most members states the parliament has to approve. This is not the case in Britain. I have therefore written to the Queen (see below). If she will not speak out, why should we keep the monarchy?
Her Majesty The Queen
London SW1A 1AA
2 September 2015
The Ratification of Treaties
In his remarks in the run up to September 9th, Dr David Starkey refers not only to your “”record of unimpeachable integrity and simply keeping going”, but also your lack of power. I cannot help but thinking that he, along with many others, underestimates your potential influence for good. Such influence has of course to be non partisan. The normal way of ensuring this is to act on the advice of the Prime Minister, someone you appoint as being the person most likely to command the support of the House of Commons. However I believe that there is one area in which a Prime Minister’s advice should not be trusted and that is the extent of his or her executive powers People who seek such positions will never willingly agree to limits to their powers.
Each year you approve a great many Orders in Council, the majority of which are of relatively little significance. There are two areas of much greater significance, deployment of the Armed Forces and ratification of treaties. Although there will be occasions on which the Armed Forces may have to be deployed without delay, Parliament has now insisted on having some say in such decisions. It has not however done so over treaties. This seems odd to me and to reflect very poorly on the integrity of most Members of Parliament. Treaties currently under negotiation such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are likely to have more influence for good or ill on life in Britain than half a dozen Acts of Parliament concerned with merely domestic matters. It seems to me inexcusable that Parliament has so far failed to insist on its right to decide whether they should be ratified. Although the mainstream media have signally failed to cover the issues properly, many people believe that the destructive consequences of such agreements would dwarf the alleged economic benefits.
It would of course be impossible for you to say that the UK should not ratify TTIP, but I do suggest that you could ask that Parliament pass its judgement before you approve. Hopefully this would shame MPs into doing their duty to their constituents. It might be argued that in saying that you would be partisan. I dispute this; it was Mr Brown’s government that last reviewed the working of the Royal Prerogative and made no significant change in how treaties should be ratified.
‘I have the honour to be, Madam, Your Majesty’s humble and obedient servant’.
David H Smith
I have to inform you that your presentation, “The Ratification Process in EU
Member States: A presentation with particular consideration of the TTIP and
CETA free trade agreements “, found at
is misleading in relation to the United Kingdom. I attach a note from the
House of Commons library setting out the current position. Basically, though
treaty texts are laid before parliament, because the government controls the
order of business of both Houses, it can and does prevent most treaties
being debated. There is one exception, namely when it is very clear what
domestic legislation is required in order that the UK can honour the terms
of the treaty. European treaties fall into this category but trade treaties
such as TTIP, CETA and TISA do not.
I am not surprised you are confused. The UK should not be called a
democracy; officially it has been called a ‘constitutional monarchy’. More
accurately it has been called an ‘Elective Dictatorship’.
I believe that Prime Minister, David Cameron has already decided to advise
Her Majesty to order ratification of whatever comes out of Europe – never
mind the details. So member states opposing the deal cannot expect help from
the UK. The situation is not helped by the fact that the Labour Party (‘ Her
Majesty’s Loyal Opposition’) is tearing itself apart.
keep up the good work , and yes, some of us in the UK are trying to educate
the public over TTIP.
David Smith, Weymouth, UK
Letter to Dorset Echo 1 Aug 2015 (letter to Richard Drax MP follows)
Many people are extremely worried about a treaty between the EU and the USA
known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Many
more would be if there were more coverage in the national media. We believe
that it is a treaty designed to protect huge trans-national corporations at
the expense of the peoples of Europe and the USA. It is being negotiated in
the utmost secrecy and so we do not know the details, but what we have
learned is not reassuring. Before it comes into force the finalised
agreement will have to be sent to EU member states so that they can agree
it – a process known as ratification. In most countries the parliament will
be able to in effect to accept or reject. This is not the case in the UK at
present. I have today written to Richard Drax MP to request that the
government do allow Parliament to vote on the treaty.
For those worried about TTIP, be in Weymouth Town centre from 11 am on Sat
David Smith, Weymouth
9 Old Station Road, Weymouth, DT3 5NQ, tel: 01305 815965 day or evening
From: David Smith
Sent: Saturday, August 01, 2015 6:55 PM
To: Richard DRAX
Subject: Ratifying the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
Dear Mr Drax
I am asking that before the above treaty is ratified by the UK, the
government grants a parliamentary debate to decide whether ratification can
Treaties are ratified by use of the Royal Prerogative as I am sure you are
aware. In general, although they are laid before Parliament in accordance
with the Ponsonby Rule (now enshrined under the Constitutional Reform and
Governance Act 2010), there is no vote by either House on whether the treaty
should be ratified or not. The government does not generally grant such a
Exceptions are made when domestic legislation is required in order that the
UK can honour the treaty. In such cases the convention has been established
that the legislation is passed before ratification. In effect Parliament has
approved the treaty. Examples include all European Treaties and the
Extradition Treaty with the USA in 2003. The Extradition Act was passed
before the UK ratified.
Trade treaties have not been subject to parliamentary scrutiny (except for
the odd ill informed adjournment debate). This is unsatisfactory. It was bad
enough that the Marrakesh Agreement of 1994 was not subject to proper
scrutiny. It has had a massive and largely unacknowledged impact on the UK.
Now we are threatened with an even more potentially dangerous treaty which
will, if ratified, bind us for 30 years. This treaty is designed to remove
‘non tariff barriers to trade’. What this means is that trans-national
corporations will be able to sue governments in secret courts if any
necessary and sensible regulation reduces their expected profits. Risks for
investors are removed, but risks to the welfare of the peoples of Europe are
There have been vague assurances, largely from the European Commission that
for example it is not intended to threaten the NHS. Many politicians seem to
believe these assurances; otherwise negotiations would have been halted by
now. They are naïve. Negotiations are being conducted in unprecedented
secrecy. The only motive I can see for this is to deceive both politicians
and members of the public. I do not believe that even members of Her
Majesty’s government know the detail. Both Canada and Australia are now
beginning to experience the downsides of treaties of this nature signed in
the early 1990s. The pace of corporations’ claims against states is hotting
up as they become more confident and ruthless.
Many people see the dangers; that the majority do not as yet, is down mainly
to the lack of coverage in the media.
Bearing in mind it is surely imperative that when the final agreement is
sent to nation states for ratification it receives rigorous scrutiny, and
that if necessary it is sent back for redrafting. Each nation will need to
ensure that its interests are protected. As things stand in the UK this will
be down solely to the government; there will be no effective parliamentary
scrutiny. This is intolerable in the 21st century. If the government is
short sighted enough to deny proper scrutiny in order to avoid its will
being challenged, and things go wrong, it will never be forgiven. The
Conservatives will lose power for a generation or until the UK becomes a
I have three lovely grandchildren, but the outlook for the future looks so
bleak that I have come to wish they had never been born.
David Smith, 9 Old Station Road, Weymouth, DT3 5NQ
There is plenty of opposition to TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) but very little to the Trade in Services Agreement which is even more secretive and which presumably includes ISDS. It would for example prevent FOREVER nation states taking money creation out of the hands of private banks which have caused us so much grief. See for example, https://wikileaks.org/tisa/ and http://www.nationofchange.org/2015/06/14/fast-track-hands-the-money-monopoly-to-private-banks-permanently/
I am one of those who greatly fear the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). If passed it would represent a massive surrender of sovereignty to transnational corporations. To my mind the worst single aspect of TTIP is ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement), as Canada is now realising to its cost since ISDS was incorporated in NAFTA. How on earth can the judgement (which is not subject to appeal) of cabals of corporate lawyers sitting in secret be deemed fairer than the legal processes of the USA, the UK and European nations? The trouble is of course that developed nations have imposed ISDS on scores of ‘lesser’ nations. The last time I enquired, the UK was party to 94 bilateral agreements incorporating ISDS.
Our fears are of course stoked by the unprecedented level of secrecy around the negotiations. What leaks there have been have indicated that assurances about the NHS environmental protection etc. are entirely bogus. If when the negotiators had agreed a final text, it would be exposed to adequate public and legislative scrutiny before any nation ratifies the agreement it would be one thing; I guess a nation is entitled to freely and knowingly surrender irreversibly to corporate domination if it wishes. This is very far from the case of course.
The USA, which has traditionally been very protective of its sovereignty and its citizens, nevertheless in 1974 passed the Trade Act which established the fast track negotiating authority for trade agreements which is the authority of the President of the United States to negotiate international agreements that Congress can approve or disapprove but cannot amend or filibuster. Also called trade promotion authority (TPA) since 2002, fast track negotiating authority is a temporary and controversial power granted to the President by Congress. The authority was in effect from 1975 to 1994, pursuant to the Trade Act of 1974, and from 2002 to 2007 by the Trade Act of 2002. Although it expired for new agreements on July 1, 2007, it continued to apply to agreements already under negotiation until they were eventually passed into law in 2011. In 2012, the Obama administration began seeking renewal of the authority. Fortunately it has recently failed to secure the necessary 60% senate majority, but obviously this only gives us a short breathing space. It is understandable that if Congress were allowed to amend the agreement, the whole negotiating process would have to go back to square one; no trade deal would ever be concluded. However under fast tracking Congress has just 90 days to scrutinise, debate and agree an agreement it knows hardly anything about beforehand. Given the processes involved it is clearly impossible for Congress can scrutinise the agreement adequately. They have to trust the administration.
If the US arrangements are unsatisfactory, those in Britain are appalling; treaties are ratified by authority of an Order in Council. The Queen is asked to approve and by convention always agrees. There is the Ponsonby Rule by which the treaty text is laid before Parliament 21 sitting days before ratification. The only consequence of this that has ever arisen is that there may be an adjournment debate (in which MPs do not vote on the subject under discussion). The last instance of this that I am aware of is when the Marrakesh Agreement was ratified in 1994. Amongst other things this established the World Trade Organisation and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The Hansard record shows that the MPs participating in the debate did not have the faintest understanding of the issues involved. Just one consequence of GATS is the creeping privatisation of the NHS, something which subsequent governments have worked hard to conceal.
The use of the Royal Prerogative to ratify treaties may have made some sense in the 19th century in the days of Empire and gunboat diplomacy, but democracy aside the boot is now on the other foot. If Cameron, who can decide on a whim to accept or not accept a negotiating position, is facing Merkel or Obama both of whom have to satisfy their legislatures, who has the stronger negotiating position – surely not Cameron?
The authority of the monarch has become eroded over centuries, not by Act of Parliament, not by popular referendum, and not by any formal contract, only by convention. But conventions can change; new precedents can be created. It would be inconceivable for the Queen to refuse to ratify a particular treaty, but would it not be possible to say of TTIP for example, “This is such an important decision that I will not give you an answer until my parliament has delivered its verdict.” ?
It would of course be very unwise of her to spring this on the Privy Council at the point at which a decision is sought; she would have to announce her intention in advance. The Government would of course do all it could to head her off, but I am sure the Palace with care could forestall these attempts.
The biggest hold the establishment has over the Royal Family is finance, whether it be the size of the civil list or taxation; but it ought not to be a stranglehold. The Royal Family could well afford to economise drastically without hardship. In any case the establishment has an interest in retaining our ostentatious style of monarchy to distract attention from the reality of elective dictatorship. If the Queen really cared enough about the interests of her subjects, as I believe she did at the time of her coronation, she would not allow herself to be blackmailed by financial considerations.
Regrettably I believe she is most unlikely to take this course of action. She is too much conditioned by her upbringing and dependent on the advice of her no doubt highly conservative advisers. However if this could be sufficiently publicised, many more people could be alerted to the dangers of TTIP and the government, whose mandate depends on 36.9% of the vote (about 25% of those entitled to vote) might just listen.
If TTIP goes through Britain will no longer in any real sense be a sovereign nation. Does the Queen have to passively preside over this? As things stand the decision for Britain to ratify is made by Order in Council. Ministers ask; the Queen to approve; by convention she always says ‘Yes’. It would of course be unacceptable for her to say ‘no I don’t want TTIP at any price’; but what if she said, ‘This is such an important decision that I decline to give you an answer on this or any other trade treaty until my parliament has given its verdict’ ? She would have to announce this publicly before the government had time to spin it or censor it, but it could be done.
This in itself would not stop TTIP but it would alert all those who have ignored the issue so far.