Thursday, 28 May 2009

Redwood - To referendum or not to referendum?

John Redwood could be using his normally independent blog as a sounding board for a very important Tory policy today. It's all to do with one of David Cameron's leading problems - the Lisbon Treaty. I've posted on why this is so difficult for David before, so I won't go over it all again.

John Redwood is putting forward an idea which is an attempt to mollify those who are demanding a referendum, whether the Lisbon Treaty is ratified or not. Obviously if it has not been ratified by the time we have a Tory government, then there is no problem. But if it has, then it will be extremely awkward for Cameron. It will be a foreign policy nightmare to remove ourselves from a Treaty we are already signed up to.

So what John Redwood is suggesting is a clarification of what Cameron has said all along. John suggests that if the Treaty has been ratified by the time Cameron is PM, then the government will renegotiate some powers back to the UK from Brussels. This has always been Cameron's position ("I won't let it lie there"), but what is new, is that once the powers to be grabbed back have been outlined, they should be put to a referendum.

John says:

I think it best to have a renegotiation, and then to put the results to the people. It is high time the people could express a view on the value of our relationship with the EU. We might get that on Lisbon, if it remains unratified and there is a change of government. If not, let’s have a referendum on any renegotiation. That will concentrate Brussels minds on the need to give us real power back, if the people are going to judge the outcome. As a minimum we need full control of our social and employment policies, taxation, foreign and defence policy, and of Home affairs.
I agree with what John has to say. It's the only realistic option available to Cameron. I want a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, but I also understand how difficult that will be after ratification. So if John is sounding out the grass roots on behalf of the party, then his suggestion has my approval for a start. It's not exactly what I want, but I think it is the most I can sensibly expect.

Of course, we could avoid any future clash with the EU, if only Gordon Brown was a man who kept manifesto promises.


The Boiling Frog said...

Personally I don’t think it matters too much whether the treaty is ratified or not, the outcome will be essentially the same.

In the event of it being ratified, the Lisbon Treaty gives so much power to the EU it’s hard to see what Cameron can renegotiate, that won’t eventually be over ruled by the EU anyway, unless we take the difficult option of ‘undoing’ the Treaty.

All Cameron can achieve, realistically, is negotiating possible further opt-outs, but we all know most of those get adopted eventually anyway. Even the four red herrings (sorry I meant red lines) agreed by Labour on the Lisbon Treaty would, according to the Labour dominated European Scrutiny Committee, ‘leak like a sieve’.

As you point out, the only small glimmer of hope is that there’s a General Election before the Treaty is ratified i.e. before the Irish are forced to vote again in a referendum. According to Guido’s latest post this is quite likely if the EU and Council elections are bad for Labour, and subsequently Brown is deposed.

But say this scenario happens; a GE is called before Lisbon ratification, the Tories win the GE, they then have a referendum, win that, result: Lisbon Treaty is dead, everyone’s happy?

Er…not quite.

Failure of the Treaty will only mean we’re still stuck in the same position as now i.e. most of our laws are still made by the EU

Then, crucially, up to 90% of the Lisbon Treaty can still be implemented via existing treaties - indeed many of the departments created by the Lisbon Treaty are up and running now - the other 10% or so will be added onto the treaty that admits Croatia into the EU, which is expected in 2010.

The sad fact is all three main parties are happy to be in the EU (and that inevitably means more integration) and let’s not forget it was the Conservatives that gave most of our power away, under the treacherous Heath, Thatcher (Single European Act) and Major (Maastricht).

Voting for Cameron, in my view, will not make a blind bit of difference in our relationship with the EU, and whether the Lisbon Treaty is ratified or not, it’s still ‘game over’ unless we take the ultimate decision.

Daily Referendum said...

All good points. But I would argue that while the Conservatives do want to be in the EU, it is with less, not more integration. I do believe that they want to claw some power back from Brussels and are laess likely to give any away then the other major parties. It's a matter of trust I suppose. Cameron is saying he will do it and we will hold him to account. No one will be more critical than the Tory membersip/blogoshere.

View from the Solent said...

"I do believe that they want to claw some power back from Brussels"
And when Brusssels says "no you can't"?

Daily Referendum said...


We will follow Gordon Brown's advice from PMQ's last week and ask them again.

On a serious note,

There are exit mechanisms in all EU Treaties (so we are told by the pro-EU lot) so we threaten them with full withdrawal unless our terms are met.

Sue said...

If the treaty is ratified, we're pretty much done for. We will have very little power left to control our own country. The only choice is to tear the sodding thing up and renegotiate.

Many of the freedoms we have been promised in the Tory Manifesto are reliant on the treaty NOT being ratified.

The database/surveillance state is an EU policy. Hence, all Cameron's promises of cancelling the ID scheme will also be non negotiable.

I still think Cameron's conning us, sorry!

Daily Referendum said...


I'm not sure about the ID Card scheme being scrapped he seems pretty certain on that. I'll try and find out.

I find myself wanting to believe Cameron. What other hope is there? Brown and Co will only drag us in further. I'm sure the bastards see the EU as a second career after they get kicked out of this one. And it's a much bigger gravy train.