Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain towards the end of January 2018 for about a month
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Britain and the EU - and the "Lisbon Treaty" non-referendum

The UK was promised a referendum on the now-defunct "EU Constitutional Treaty" at the 2005 General Election by all the major UK political parties. Since then the "EU Constitutional Treaty" has been rejected by both France and the Netherlands in referenda and superseded by the "Lisbon Treaty" which is said by its fervent supporters to be something very different from the rejected constitutional treaty, but by everyone else is said to be almost the same and to copy more or less verbatim much of its text.

I remain, despite everything, a strong supporter of the UK remaining an active participant in the EU, but at the same time it sticks in my craw, in a major way, that the British people have been denied any say in whether we should have ratified the Lisbon Treaty or not. Today the 27th country, the Czech Republic, finally ratified the treaty so it will become law effective 1 December 2009. End of ... (as they say)

Tomorrow it is expected that David Cameron, Conservative leader, will announce what will be the formal reaction of his Party to this fait accompli by our sad excuse for a Government, the Labour Party and its Leader and our current Prime Minister Gordon Brown. In advance of this the Shadow Foreign Minister, William Hague, has said that with the Czech ratification and entering into force of the Lisbon Treaty that the campaign to have a referendum on the matter is no longer possible or relevant and that the Conservative wish to hold a referendum ended today:

"What has happened today means that it is no longer possible to have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

"We have campaigned for that referendum for many years, we believe passionately that there should have been a referendum so that the British people could be consulted.

"But now that the treaty is going to become European law and is going to enter into force, that means that a referendum can no longer prevent the creation of the President of the European Council, the loss of British national veto.

"These things will already have happened and a referendum cannot unwind them or prevent them - and that means that our campaign for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty therefore comes to an end today. We think that is a bad day for democracy.

"Gordon Brown and the Labour Party promised people a referendum at the last election and people have never been consulted in a referendum or a general election."

The actual Foreign Sectretary, David Milliband, is quoted as saying:

"So much for David Cameron's cast-iron guarantee to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

"But he is still not being honest with people. The fact is you can't simply opt out of treaty obligations because to do so you need the agreement of the 26 other member states.

"David Cameron's position on Europe is false and dangerous. He is willing to risk Britain's standing and the rights of British people because he is still not prepared to stand up to the right of his own party."

That's the "fait accompli" I referred to earlier.

We must wait to see what David Cameron comes up with tomorrow (in the "we won't let the matter lie there" strand), but meanwhile I have a few questions of my own.

Granted that this country generally observes the terms of commitments it enters into, unlike many of our fellow EU-members (who seem often to 'nuance' their legal commitments to suit their own convenience) what can realistically be done? I have a suggestion. A new Conservative government, assuming one is elected next year (as seems highly-probable), should simply declare it is withdrawing our ratification of the Lisbon Treaty pending a referendum of the British people. What, in practice, is the EU going to do about it? I would submit - nothing! Naturally, there would be a great deal of huffing and puffing, but beyond that very little. Are they going to send an army across the Channel to thwart the will of a newly-elected British government? I very much doubt it! And in any case, no country in Europe (other than the British or perhaps the French) would be capable of mounting an operation, and I don't think the French (who are nothing if not pragmatic), if push came to shove, would even consider participating in such an operation. I reiterate, I am basically strongly pro-EU (I am in no way a 'euro-sceptic'), but I just don't believe that if the British people decide they don't want to be, and won't be, bound by a treaty over which they have had no say, that anyone is going to take any practical measures to stop them/us. And I remind any sceptics that this country is one of the major net-contributors to the EU budget. In practical terms threats against us are just so much bluff. This country stood up, alone, against much stronger odds in 1940 so I do not see how or why anyone should be overly-concerned with what a bunch of pampered Brussels bureaucrats in 2009/2010 might come up with. Bring it on, I say!

I will observe with interest what my namesake David Cameron has to say tomorrow. I hope he will demonstrate the resolve and courage the situation requires.

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