Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Yes, we can have a vote on Europe: it's called a General Election.

There has been a lot of talk about both an early general election and a referendum on the July 2007 revision to European Union treaties.

For what it's worth, I believe that the Labour Party's coffers need to refill before it can consider fighting a general election. (The Conservatives are also in debt; Liberal Democrats and Plaid - with its legacy - are best placed financially at present.)

Of course, Gordon Brown can take up the explicit offers of help from some affiliated trades unions. But what would be the price of such help. Some TU officers might demand plum jobs in the next administration - Bob Crow as Minister of Technology, anyone?

If Gordon Brown does decide to hold a general election soon, there will clearly not be time to debate the July 2007 revision of the European Union treaties. This will be down to the incoming House of Commons.

Thus, an October election will effectively be a referendum on Europe.

I hope that the House will endorse the Treaty. It has been shorn of the trappings of the super-state which disfigured the draft constitution, but includes the progressive measures from that document.

In particular:

"Article 35 Voluntary withdrawal from the Union
"1. Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
CIG 1/07 36 EN
"2. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article [III-325(3)] of the Treaty on the Functioning of the Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament. "

At present, the treaties oblige all nations of the EU to remain within the Union. There is no legal right of exit, except by means of another treaty.

AND

"1. In order to promote good governance and ensure the participation of civil society, the Union institutions, bodies, offices and agencies shall conduct their work as openly as possible.
2. The European Parliament shall meet in public, as shall the Council when considering and voting on a draft legislative act."

Too much of what is agreed in our name by the Prime Minister and a few other key ministers is, at present, secret.


- Frank Little
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