Friday, January 10, 2014

On the EU referendum Bill

Great article here by Michael Dobbs who is introducing the Referendum Bill in the Lords.

Michael describes the manouverings of those Labour and Lib/Dem Peers and MPs who want to stop the public having a say on Britain's membership of the EU, but who want to kill the referendum bill behind closed doors so that, quote,

“What they don’t want to do – I don’t think anyone wants to do – is have their fingerprints on the dagger that kills it.”

He compares these tactics with those of his fictional villain Francis Urquart (F.U.) from "House of Cards."


Jim said...

lets just take one paragraph.

"David Cameron’s approach is different. He wants real change in Europe, a new deal in the EU and then an In/Out referendum by 2017"
exactly what is he intending to change, anything major as i now feel like a parrot having to repeat it so many times, needs a treaty change, which cant happen before the end of 2017 even if (and that is a very very big if) all the other 27 member states say oh ok then. As you are no doubt aware we are already looking at a new treaty in the making for circa 2018-2019 and that is bang on schedule, it really was most dependent on the German elections, but they are history now.

"so that people can have their say once and for all" oh i see thats it then, if we vote once thats it, ok, its just mr cameron seems intent it should be the people who decide this issue, but this is the same man who not so long ago released a 3 whip to ensure the government voted to ensure the people did not.

He’s already made a start. He has been the first prime minister to veto an EU treaty

when, come on, when did he veto a treaty? when? you will find he never has although you then say "He has secured a cut to the budget, stopped Britain being part of the bail-out fund, and much more. He wants to carry on doing all this, and then give you a vote." this is not a treaty veto, the biggest giveaway here is the fact there was not a treaty to veto. So come on when did he veto a treaty??????

"We last had a plebiscite on Europe in 1975"

no we didn't, the only one i can find a record of in 1975 was about remaining members of a common market known as the EEC (European Economic Community)

"No one below the age of 56 played any part"

Wow, amazingly enough this bit is actually true !!!

yet Europe has changed beyond imagination since we joined a Common Market

No it hasn't, its still that land mass above africa and beside aisa, not so much has changed about Europe really, well i guess the roads may look a bit different and there are some new buildings in places, but hardly beyond imagination that is it?

now if you had said the EEC which became the EU has changed beyond imagination, i you would have a point, though not beyond the imagination of its founders, what you are seeing now was always the plan for the EU "the united states of europe" a political entity not an economic one.

Jim said...

So if the article by Michael Dobbs is "great", then it would be really really interesting to see a bad one.

this is the key point to the current problem in politics, its not "voter apathy" thats to blame.

Its the fact politicians and the political class have some how moved them selves from servants to masters, without ever so much as asking. its the fact that they cant even address the public without actiting like they are asking a question to a toddler. The public apparently cant make a decision so even that has to be dumbed down.

take the last referendum, do you want a first past the post election system, most of the public thought they would like PR, so they got a choise of shall we replace FPTP with AV? of course the public said NO. this is because they wanted PR, its not difficult to ask the people politicians are there to represent "which voting system shall we use?"
AV -
AV + -
PR -
Other - (state) -

The only reason to limit a question is to get the answer you want.

to make it blindingly obvious I could ask you "the current plan is to convert all christian churches into housing flats, should we convert them to muslim mosques instead?"
Yes -
No -

Chris Whiteside said...


I respect your opinions but forgive me, sometimes I think there is no pleasing you.

A couple of years ago, before either I or David Cameron had come round to the opinion that we should have a referendum on British membership of the EU, you used to regularly post here and suggest to me in person that this would be a good idea.

Since we have been persuaded that you were right, and not just adopted the policy you used to recommend but have been bending over backwards to make it a reality, you constantly find reasons to criticise whenever I spell out what we are doing to try to implement it.

To answer some of your other concerns.

* You know perfectly well that David Cameron did veto a treaty. The effect of this was not to stop the other countries of the EU from applying it to themselves, but to stop it applying in Britain. Yes, almost all the other EU members states signed it anyway as an agreement between them. And that's up to them. If they want the rules concerned to apply to their countries, good luck to them.

What DC's veto did achieve was to stop that treaty applying to Britain, and he successfully defended British interests by doing so.

There are dozens of different types of Proportional Representation and even if there is a majority in favour of PR in principle it would be highly dangerous to try to implement this until it was clear that there was also a clear majority in favour of a specific system of PR.

There are two opinions about whether AV is a form of PR at all - I personally rather agree with you that in many circumstances it isn't - but it wasn't a mistake to present the electorate with a clear choice between the status quo and a particular system whose supporters thought it was more democratic.

I don't believe politicians should be either the masters or the servants of the rest of the electorate - they are themselves members of the electorate who happen to be standing for office, are entitled to their views, and should both treat and be treated by other voters with respect.

Jim said...

Chris - there has not been an EU Treaty since the treaty of Lisbon.

Yes a couple of years ago i said a referendum on our membership of the European Union would be a good idea. I stick to that opinion, what is not a good idea is to pretend that the EU can be reformed inside an impassible time frame, without stating exactly what will be reformed, Pretnending a veto was used on a treaty which does not exist. You know full well there was no treaty to veto, there was a budget to sort but no treaty was used to sort it. There will be a new treaty more about finaces in the Eurozone and further political intergration, and as i said you could expect that to be all the rage from the EU in around 18 -19. In 14 there is the parliament to be elected, in 15 a commission (expect shultz to become the next barroso here) then they can get down to the IGC's and things the new treaty requires, then seek member states agreements in around 18 - 19 (which in at least 2 states, UK and Ireland) will require a referendum.

I fail to see the other members or indeed the council or commission (old or new) wanting to negotiate a change in the existing treaties during that time frame.

the only way to force negotiation is to activate article 50 of lisbon, thus for 2 years (can be longer with agreement) negotiation on the EU and the UKs future relationship with it legally must take place. Would the EU hinder us here, well hardly, why would they cut ties to one of the eurozones largest export markets?

Jim said...

some words of sense were spoken
hansard tells us -

10 Jan 2014: column 1818

Lord Kerr:
I want to add only two points that I genuinely think have not been made so far in this debate—one on timing and procedure and one on perceptions. On timing, the big point is the one made by the noble Lords, Lord Hannay and Lord Owen. You would be plumb crazy if you seriously thought that the right year to bring to a climax a renegotiation of the terms of British membership of the European Union was the year of a French presidential election and a German federal election. You would be mad if you thought that the last thing Mr Hollande would like to do before he seeks re-election is make concessions to the British in order to, in his judgment, increase his electoral chances. You would be mad if you thought that the SPD in the German coalition which will be in office for the first half of 2017 would be likely to agree to the changes to, say, the human rights or social elements of the treaty, or to the free movement of persons, all of which government spokesmen have told us in the past four weeks are to be elements in our renegotiation strategy. The noble Lord, Lord Owen, also made the important point that it would be quite a good idea, if renegotiation were intended, to start now defining what we want rather than going with whatever the Daily Mail suggests this week is the right element to be in the renegotiation.

Our foreign friends greatly enjoyed the Bloomberg speech and admired a lot of things in it, but they are very puzzled that, in the year that has passed since the speech, no papers have been produced and no attempts have been made to secure allies. Indeed, in recent weeks it has rather looked as though we have decided that it is essential for domestic reasons that we have a major row with the Poles, the Romanians, the Bulgarians and all eastern Europeans."

I turn to the issue of procedure. I do not know why we want to amend the treaty. Mrs Thatcher secured the rebate after five years’ hard work, as my noble friend Lord Armstrong reminded us, without any


Jim said...

10 Jan 2014 : Column 1819

treaty change. However, if we have decided that it is really important that the reforms we need are changes to the treaty, we have to go through four stages. First, we have to secure a simple majority. That means that we need to find 14 member state Governments who agree with us. We have not started that task and it looks as though we are not going to start it until after the election. Secondly, we have to get a consensus in the necessary convention. The last convention took 18 months. The third stage is that we have to get unanimity in the intergovernmental conference—Maastricht took a year—and the final stage is ratification.

This Bill tells us that the referendum will happen in 2017. Even if renegotiation finished in 2017, would we really want to have our referendum before we knew whether everybody else could sell the deal in their countries? Supposing that we have our referendum and the Latvian or Luxembourg referenda go the wrong way. What would then happen in this country? What would happen to our position in the European Union and the world? All four stages have to be gone through and it is crazy to lay down a deadline now, in advance—a point which I think is almost bound to come back in Committee.

I turn to my point about perceptions. This concerns what foreigners think. I do not know what all foreigners think but those whom I meet—I am sorry but from time to time I do meet some—find this all very puzzling. They are waiting for the British proposals. They are sorry that the British seem to be slightly out of the game and will clearly be staying out of the game for another 18 months. It is their treaty too and they all need to get ratified whatever changes we secure. We need to buy their consent and they need to get their publics to buy it. They find it very odd that this Bill appears to be slightly slanted towards producing a no vote and that it appears to lay down a deadline which they know—because they are going to be in the IGC and the convention—is impossible.

They are beginning to wonder about our motives and about why the Prime Minister, in the year since the Bloomberg speech, has not filled out the speech or produced anything to follow it up. They are beginning to find it very sad that the party of Peter Carrington, Alec Douglas-Home, Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher is behind this kind of Bill, which they find, as a minimum, surprising. They suspect our motives. This has an immediate effect. I am talking not merely about the future but about today and our negotiating clout in Brussels. Eleven months ago, Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, came to London and made a speech at the Guildhall in which he warned us about the effect of our present position on our negotiating clout in Brussels. He asked us:

“How do you convince a room full of people, when you keep your hand on the door handle? How to encourage a friend to change, if your eyes are searching for your coat?”.

He was right. This Bill is not just nugatory; it is also noxious because it increases that perception abroad