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.


"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


Tristan said...

You should know as well as everyone else that a general election is not a referendum. People rarely vote on one single issue (unless its to get rid of a particular MP/PM or they're obsessed with the issue).

Most people won't even read manifestos before deciding who to vote for. Something which is made clear when governments go against manifestos with just a murmur from the opposition.

The only thing that will be a referendum on the treaty is a proper referendum.

Gavin Whenman said...

Using a General Election as a mandate to do whatever the hell you want for the next four/five years is wrong on principle, especially when it comes to the constitution. Why?

"GB: I'm appointing myself Dictator of all that you see.

People: You can't do that.

GB: But you elected me, therefore I have my mandate, and I have the whip to enforce my rule."

Of course, our constitution has been called an "elective dictatorship" before.

Anonymous said...

In last General Election all three major parties promised a referendum on possible EU constitution. If they don't keep their promise now, why would they keep it after the next General Election?

Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats said...

How refreshing it is to see named comments in here!

All right, the headline was a bit of a troll. I believe that the treaty should be decided by our elected representatives, and that they should be chosen by us on our assessment of their good judgment on a range of issues, not just on the EU.

I also believe that Labour has a philosophical attachment to big government and centralised control. This is reflected in their attitude to Europe, among other things.

One of the few consistent features about David Cameron's Conservative platform is withdrawal, in whole or part, from the EU. He made it a major plank in his leadership campaign, and it looks like being a major part of the Conservative manifesto. So the Tories will see the next election as being about Europe.

If most people don't read manifestos, they don't read the small print of referendums either. Opinion research during and after the French and Dutch referendums on the Constitution indicated that what the "no" voters objected to was the supra-national nature of the European Union, which had been brought home to them by the publication of the draft Constitution. What they didn't realise was that this was built-in to the existing treaties, and that the Constitution would have given more access to ordinary people to the processes of the union.

It's also an indication of how much continental Europeans were kept in the dark by the founding fathers!

Another trouble with referendums is that they are often used by the voters as a stick to beat the current government with, without regard to the subject of the referendum.

- Frank Little

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the welcome

Norfolk Blogger said...

So you are saying I should vote Tory then because they will let us have a referendum on this ?

Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats said...

Norfolk Blogger, if all you want from the next government is out of Europe, then by all means vote Conservative.

You cannot be certain what other policies you would be getting, mind.

- FL

Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats said...

It doesn't help Norfolk people, but Plaid Cymru has just voted at its Llandudno conference for a referendum on the 2007 Treaty.

The Nationalists are not, in the main, Europhobes. They would prefer to have a direct line from Cardiff to Brussels, with no English intervention.

GaffaUK said...

As much as I dislike the Tories - it is a plain falsehood that the Tories are trying to take the UK out of the EU. It was the tories who took us into the EEC (without a referendum), it was the famous Eurosceptic Thatcher who signed the Single European Act (without a referendum) and Major who signed Maastricht (again - without a referendum). So using the Tories as the bogeyman is a red herring. They play the Eurosceptic and are happy to vote in closer integration when they are in power.

Beyond UKIP - we don't get a say in the General Election on the Treaty as so far Labour and now the Lib-Dems have broken their promise on holding a referendum. No doubt the Tories would follow if they get elected.

I am so disappointed by Ming's U-Turn and appalling fudge on this issue that I have resigned from the party. Obvious the pro-Europe lobby is simply afraid they would lose a referendum. How can we claim to uphold democracy when we so patronise the voting public?

Aberavon & Neath Liberal Democrats said...

gaffauk wrote:

>I am so disappointed by Ming's
>U-Turn and appalling fudge on this
>issue that I have resigned from the

Europe is surely only one part of policy? There are more compelling reasons for being a Liberal Democrat.

And what about staying in the party and using its democratic processes to change the policy? Ming made his statement as a result of a meeting of parliamentarians. MPs and their Lordships are not the whole party. I know of other members (Europhiles, even) who want us to offer a referendum.

- Frank Little

GaffaUK said...

I agree - Europe is one issue but is has also been the last straw. There has been very little, if anything, which has inspired by Ming's leadership. He is simply not leadership material. Even if I am liberal - I don't want to automatically campaign and support a political party which is fast losing it's way under it's current leader. If I am not inspired then how can I expect to persuade others?

With Europe - I don't consider myself a Eurosceptic. But I fear there are some who are very pro Europe and never seem to have a bad thing to say about it and are also desperate to avoid a referendum because they fear they will lose.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we took the arguments for having this Treaty to the British people and convinced them. Then we would have the backing of the British for further political integration.

I believe that staying in the party would only be banging my head against a wall. Walking out is also a democratic and heartfelt reaction.

Finally and it comes down to this key principle. A promise was made and a promise was broken. Although divided I am sad to see that there are so many Liberal bloggers who seem to think that this is okay.