Rowing Back on a Referendum

Serious Tory rowing back on the issue of a referendum about Lisbon. Even Daniel Hannan, whose whole raison d'etre is to be a voluble euro-sceptic, is resisting any criticism of the new Cameron policy on Newsnight. William Hague announced the row back earlier - despite lots of huffing and puffing about the need for a referendum, now that comrade Klaus has ratified the Treaty for the Czechs, being the last to do so, Lisbon becomes law, and there is no going back. So no referendum. Which is of course the pragmatic policy, but is there more to it? Why is the situation over Lisbon not the same as the original decision to join the EEC, subjected to a retrospective referendum in 1975?

Some possible answers -

1. David Cameron is secretly relieved that he can drop the whole referendum idea. Lisbon is not actually a game-changing treaty (the Single European Act - signed by Margaret Thatcher for the UK - and Maastricht were more significant) and squabbling over its demands would have demeaned Cameron as a world leader. Now, he doesn't have to.

2. The Tory Party senses victory in Britain and even the euro-sceptic loons don't want to rock the boat at the moment. Cameron has an unprecedented hold over his party, desperate to return to power, and providing he continues making the right rhetorical noises on Europe, he can expect his nut-case tendency to basically keep quiet. Substantively, he won't deliver much for them, but we await his statement tomorrow with interest.

3. With the Lisbon Treaty written into European law, it is not possible to retrospectively to refuse to agree to its terms without actually pulling out of Europe - and no major party wants to commit to that, not even the Tories.


MaxD said…
Whilst I have no sympathy with the Eurosceptics I would like to defend the tories to some degree in this issue. From the discussions I have heard on the radio, news and private study room I would say people are painting the tories as weak, scared and ineffectual about their U-turn on this issue. I would like to simply add that whilst I disagree with policy U-turns I would say that referendums are not the sign of strong, confident and effective leadership; rather there are the fallback for party splits and indecisive leaders. We elect leaders to lead and they should do just that, by lauding them advocating their responsibility we promote the demagoguery that plagues modern politics. Politicians must be put on the spot about policy and shouldn't be allowed to hide behind the aegis that is referenda.
Anonymous said…
someone's sorted for unit 1 democracy and referenda topic!

It is my opinion that David Cameron had already made it clear that if the Czech's ratified the treaty he would continue his bid for a referendum. However, his sovereignty bill sounds unusual given that the factortame case of 1988 affirmed the primacy of EU law and no doubt badly received across the continent.
Comrade Major said…
Hooray for good old-fashioned Tory U-turns on Europe. Shouldn't have mentioned the referendum at conference anyway, should have had the foresight that Klaus would snap.

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