On the rights and wrongs of a Euro referendum

A very insightful piece in the Economist today about the arguments concerning whether we should have an in/out referendum on Britain's membership of the E.U.

I am old enough to remember that about thirty-five years ago Britain did have a referendum on E.U. membership and it produced a two-to-one majority for staying in. This was then used by the advocates of closer union as "proof" that Britain wanted a much greater degree of integration than I suspect many of those who voted "Yes" thought they were voting for.

Two thirds of referenda in Britain produce a vote for the status quo. I know that there are a lot of people who think that it's time for another vote on the issue, and they are entitled to that opinion, but I think it is worth those who support any given referendum asking themselves exactly what they are trying to achieve.

I know exactly why I support referenda being reqired for certain things. I wanted one on the Lisbon treaty because it was a bad treaty and I am convinced that British voters, like those in France and Holland when they were originally given the chance, would have voted it down.

More generally the reason I think that anyone who wants to change Britain's constitutional arrangements, including our relationship with Europe, should have to win a referendum is to make it difficult, but not impossible, to make such a change. The burden should be on those who want to change things to make an overwhelming case for that change.

Bagehot in the Economist makes some interesting comments about concerns on the Tory right. Some the concerns of those MPs, and their wish for a referendum on Europe, reflect views which I know are shared by many - not all - members of the party and many - not all - Conservative voters.

Bagehot's comments conclude as follows:

"Many on the right are convinced they are more in tune with the public than Mr Cameron’s cautious, languidly metropolitan inner circle. They are only half-correct. In some areas—crime, immigration, fuel prices, a broad hostility to Europe—the right’s arguments have populist appeal. But, often to its credit, the British right is not as populist as it thinks. It is a complex animal, but defining causes include free trade, deregulation, cutting taxes and welfare, and shielding City banks from EU rules. This is not reliably rabble-rousing stuff.

"The real danger from the right lies elsewhere. Because a showdown over Europe would split his party, Mr Cameron is left nagging EU leaders to do what it takes to save the euro, so long as they do not expect Britain to pay, sit at the table or help shape deeper integration. Still, the Tory right is disgruntled. Judging by the referendum motion before MPs, many want to tie the government’s hands still more tightly, with a utopian mandate to demand a free-trade relationship. They ought to realise that in a fast-moving crisis, their country needs more room for manoeuvre, not less.

You can read the full article here.


Tim said…
Something that costs £10 billion per annum to be a member of and could cost up to £112 billion per annum in terms of lost trading activity etc is something we should not be part of.
Jim said…
Lets just look at the country at the moment.

With constant Euro bail outs, ever more money being sent to bail out a currency we were one of the few countries sensible enough not to join. An ever increasing bill, bailing out greece, ireland, portugal, and the whole euro zone. whilst people are being overtaxed and cuts are being made all over the place.

We have people protesting against capitalists across the world. In the UK the EU is simply seen as a large bank, dedicated to saving a currency that has no economic credibility, only political wants of ever closer union to back it up.

At the moment to most of the British people the EU is about as popular as a f**t in a space suit. Most referendums go with the status quo, true. Isn't that why we joined the common market first and then asked should we stay in now?

Lets take the AV referendum as a first, had the question been phrased "should we switch to a proportional representation system?" would the result have been the same?

the referendum on the EEC (the common market) can not be used as evidence the majority of british people wish to remain in the EU.

At very best it can be said "most of the people aged 54 or over, at one time, wanted to remain a part of the EEC".

Thing is you know the options as well as I do, we have many options EFTA/EEA being one.

The sad thing is the politicans all know this, but they wont inform the population as they may lose their gravy train.

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