Thursday, 25 October 2007

The Conservative Party Must Debate Europe in Pushing for a Referendum

Whilst David Cameron is right to continue pledging a referendum, he must debate the real issues reflected in the UK electorate and the Conservative Party in order to move forward on Europe. The best start that can be made on ‘acknowledging Europe’ after the publication of the European Scrutiny Committee’s highly-critical report is for the leadership to fully endorse the Early Day Motion signed by nearly 50 MPs.

In particular, the Conservative leadership must realise in this Motion:

That this referendum must be on all the existing Treaties, since “the Reform Treaty is a consolidation of the existing treaties into a merger of the European Community into a European Union involving substantial, fundamental, constitutional and structural change by the Government's own criteria for a Referendum”. Given that the Treaty is not an isolated text, this referendum concerns all the existing Treaties and a successful ‘No’ vote on a referendum covering all the existing Treaties would enable Britain to renegotiate its position with Europe. The current economic and political model of unquestioned European unification around a centralised government does not work – it does not work for trade, it does not work for free business and enterprise, it does not work for governance, and it does not work for the various peoples of Europe.

There must be an opportunity for the Conservative leadership to offer a post-ratification referendum, as stated in the Motion. As it was said last night by one MP who has signed the Motion, there was “a perfectly good precedent” for the post-ratification referendum in the one held by Harold Wilson on EEC membership in 1975, and he added that “I don't have a problem with it.”

The European Court of Justice will acquire powers to decide on matters of vital national interest (including the unsustainable red lines) if this Treaty is not stopped. It is written in the Motion “that the Prime Minister said that he will reject the Reform Treaty if the Government's Red Lines are not guaranteed on 18th October, but (following the European Scrutiny Committee examination of the Foreign Secretary on 16th October) that these Red Lines do not satisfy UK vital national interests and that the European Court of Justice will determine these matters, not this House.” For example, the European Court of Justice has turned its back on our claimed exemption from the Working Time Directive and our own national judiciary overturned the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 as being inconsistent with European law. Let’s be frank – if people want to be governed by Europe, as they have been and will continue to be in an increasingly aggressive manner, then let them decide through a national referendum.

1 comment:

The Huntsman said...

“There must be an opportunity for the Conservative leadership to offer a post-ratification referendum, as stated in the Motion.”

If one takes what Mr. Cameron wrote in the Sun on 26th. September in the Sun, I would contend that the Conservative Party has already made such a promise:

"Today, I will give this cast-iron guarantee: If I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations.
No treaty should be ratified without consulting the British people in a referendum."

Mr. Cameron was writing at a time when he could not have known with any degree of certainty when an election might be held, although we can now time it more accurately to May or June 2009 at the earliest. Given that he might, when he wrote these words, have become PM next month, pre-ratification, or in June 2009 i.e. after the Constitution of the Union has come into force, this promise must and can only be read as promising a Referendum regardless of whether the Treaty was still pending ratification or had come into force.

It is this promise upon which he is now clearly trying to renege.

This is, I am sure, because Dominic Grieve or some other legal luminary has pointed out that once the Treaty comes into force non-ratification ceases to be an option.
That only leaves renegotiation or derogation.

The former is unrealistic: the Union elite has not spent five years hard work to get to this point only to let one of the 27 members unravel the whole deal and, in any event, they have been expressing their clear resentment of the very minor pin-pricks inflicted upon the process by the so-called (but laughable) ‘red lines’ negotiated by Brown. So renegotiation is a non-starter.

Derogation implies that we would seek to withdraw from the whole Treaty. As this is now de jure and de facto The Union Constitution, this in turn implies that we would either leave completely or have some other lesser relationship with the Union. It is this realisation, I believe, that has caused Cameron and Hague to do a rapid back-pedal in recent days.

I take the view that Cameron’s attempt to weasel out of his promise of 26th. September is every bit as dishonest and dishonourable as is Brown’s reneging on his manifesto promise and will do considerable harm to the Conservative party once people understand what he has done and the realisation that negotiating any sort of change to our relationship with the Union is not going to happen under the Conservatives.

What they seem not to be willing to admit is that if the Treaty is abhorrent to the British National Interest and it should not therefore be ratified, it does not cease to be abhorrent to our interest the moment it comes into force.

I have blogged (probably excessively, but I am annoyed by this) on the topic here: