Friday, 21 December 2007

Oxford East – Where is Our EU Lisbon Treaty referendum?

James McConalogue (European Foundation, London): Five years ago on 24 January 2002, the elected Labour MP for Oxford East, Andrew Smith, told the House of Commons in a debate on the euro: “The five economic tests are clearly set out, and, as we have said time and again, it is our policy that it must be clearly and unambiguously in Britain's economic interests before we would recommend entry to Cabinet, to Parliament and in a referendum.”

Whilst I must congratulate Mr. Smith on his honesty in appearing to defend “Britain’s economic interests” and the need for parliamentary debate and a referendum to achieve agreement, I wonder if he would now support the democratic case for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty which is clearly and unambiguously not in Britain's economic interests.

As with joining the single currency, this Treaty fundamentally alters the nature of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Since this Treaty will change the nature of our relationship with the European Union – and even gives a definite provision for the future obligation that “the Union shall establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro” [Article 2] – why is it now impossible to see that there must be a parliamentary debate, concluded with a public vote by national referendum, in order to decide whether this Treaty will take effect in Britain.

Given the need for Mr. Smith to maintain a small Labour majority of only 963 votes at the next election, I realise that the elected Labour MP for Oxford East must now feel compelled to remain silent on the Lisbon Treaty and the impact that it will have on his constituency. However, as an elected Member of Parliament, can Mr. Smith not see that by refusing to let the people of Oxford East have their say through a referendum on the Treaty, the call for democracy within the 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 case for a referendum remains in the interest of British democracy and our national economic interests and to put it right, he must push for a referendum or better still, vote against the Treaty given its detrimental consequences for the democratic future of Britain. Any action to the contrary would surely make Andrew Smith unelectable at the next election.

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