Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Kevin Beaty and David Cameron write on the EU referendum issue

Labour leader Ed Miliband announced his position today on whether the public should have a vote on Britain's EU membership.

He will not guarantee any such vote. However, he might hold one if the EU wanted significantly more powers, which he thinks is "unlikely."


But when you look at the detail of what he is promising it is interesting to say the least. The current coalition government has already passed a law putting on a referendum lock which means that power cannot be passed from Westminster to the EU without a referendum on those proposals.

Miliband appears to want to replace this with a different type of referendum lock whereby you have to have an in-out referendum if the EU wants more powers.

This appears to be a replay of a trick Tony Blair and Nick Clegg tried nearly a decade ago, particularly at the time of what was called the constitutional treaty (later known as the Lisbon Treaty). They know they could not win a vote on the treaty, despite having promised to hold one, but thought they could win an "In or Out" referendum vote, so they offered that instead.

If that is Ed Miliband's game, and he tried this policy as Prime Minister, I think there is a real danger that he might fall foul of the law of unintended consequences.

Kevin Beaty, number three on the Conservative ticket for the North West of England in the European elections has some thoughts on the subject which you can read here.

David Cameron also has some thoughts on the issue and he writes as follows:

Our relationship with Europe isn’t working and it needs to change.
Last year, I set out a clear plan – seek a new settlement for Britain in Europe, and then put it to the British people in an in-out referendum by the end of 2017.
Today Ed Miliband has made his position crystal clear – there will be no referendum under Labour.
Only the Conservatives will guarantee and deliver that referendum. It will only happen if I am Prime Minister.
Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats won’t stand up for Britain, while UKIP simply can’t deliver on anything they promise.
If you believe that the British people should decide our country’s future in Europe, share this graphic on Facebook and Twitter.

Only the Conservatives will guarantee and deliver a referendum.
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Jim said...

Spot on analysis Chris, thats exactly what red ed has done. Tried to turn the status quo to his advantage if in government. No longer is there the safe "no to the new treaty but in the EU" its either yes to the treaty or leave the EU.

This means of course that rather ironically a ukip vote is likely a vote to remain in the EU. And the only way to prevent this is in fact to hold your nose and vote Tory.

This does of course depend on there being a new treaty in the next term, though that is looking very likely and is bang on schedule.

the likelihood of us having a 2017 referendum under the Tories is as remote as us having one under Labour. What matters is whether the "colleagues" go for a new treaty. If you think there will be a new treaty, then there may well be a referendum - although it won't be in 2017. And for that, we now need the Tories in office.

However that said, if there is no new treaty in the next election then all goes out of the window, we wont have a referendum no matter who is in office.Mr Cameron's 2017 referendum, based on the outcome of treaty renegotiations, is as much cloud cookoo land pie in the sky as it has ever been. And in that event, you might as well vote UKIP, for all the difference it will make.

Chris Whiteside said...

I agree with much of what you say, except that I think Cameron has promised so clearly that if he wins there will be a referendum that he could not possibly back down from that position if he gets a majority.

Personally I am not wedded to the 2017 date - I strongly support a referendum during the next parliament, but would prefer it to be at whatever date within that period enables the British people to make the best informed choice. The 2017 date was envisaged in the Wharton Bill, but we will have to see what dates appear in the manifesto.

I think Miliband is trying to be all things to all men and may find that he has outsmarted himself.