Friday, 21 December 2007

Corby – Where is Our EU Lisbon Treaty referendum?

James McConalogue (European Foundation, London): In the not so distant past, on 8 December 2003, the elected Labour MP for Corby, Phil Hope, told the House of Commons that “…in drawing up a constitutional treaty for the European Union, the UK Government have throughout been a leading advocate both of ensuring that subsidiarity is properly enforced and of strengthening the role of national Parliaments in Europe.”

Whilst I must congratulate Mr. Hope on his honesty to espouse essentially pro-European ambitions and views as he thinks fit (although I disagree), I wonder if he still supports the same view now that the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary European Scrutiny Committee has concluded that this Reform Treaty is “substantially equivalent” to the Constitutional Treaty, that subsidiarity is not properly enforced and if anything, the Treaty places a legal obligation onto national Parliaments, including Westminster.

The solid democratic case for a referendum is based on the underlying fact that this Lisbon Treaty fundamentally alters the constitutional nature of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Having realised the errors of those previous statements, will the MP for Corby now admit that the case for a referendum is compelling? I am concerned that he will not.

Given the need for him to maintain his small (1517) Labour majority at the next election, I realise that the elected Labour MP for Corby must now feel compelled to remain silent on the EU Reform Treaty – and of course the wholly negative impact this will have on his constituency. However, as an elected Member of Parliament, can Phil Hope not see that by refusing to let the people of Corby have their say through a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty (which fundamentally alters the nature of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union), the call for democracy in this constituency and across the country will be sunk beneath the authority of unelected European officials. This is clearly undemocratic.
I can only assume, on his own terms, that the Treaty does not withstand the criteria he had previously set for it and that the case for a referendum in the interest of British democracy is compelling. Better still, he could vote against the Treaty given its detrimental consequences for the democratic future of Britain. Any action to the contrary would surely make Phil Hope unelectable at the next election.

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