I am afraid that I have to respectfully disagree with my BUCF colleague Ryan Castle in a blog posted below (25 Feb). I have issues with his central point; that Nick Clegg is headline grabbing in calling for a referendum on our position in the EU as opposed to Cameron who is promising one only on the Constitutional Treaty.
In my opinion it is only Clegg that seems to be facing the truth and giving the people a right to reflect on our position in the Union (what a vile word..) over the past 30 years.
The Cameron option seems to be the only headline grabber; what is realistically going to happen if we vote against the Constitutional Treaty? Nothing. We’re just going to look silly. The referendum vote will surely be inferred as a ‘No’ vote on Europe anyway but it won’t give the government of the day the legal mandate to pull out of the treaty.
We don’t even need a referendum to do that anyway, but one would give public legitimacy. If the Government wants to pull out of a treaty, any treaty, all they need is to vote on it in the Commons and repeal the Act that made it law. No Parliament can bind its successor, thus we can vote out of the treaty without any referendum what-so-ever.
Our party is not engaging with this issue in the way it should. Cameron is in a tough position. He is constrained by the fact that if he opens up the issue with a bold statement he risks tearing the party apart. I suspect that this may be the reason why Clegg has given this promise. There’s something mischievous about it.
Ryan is right to say that it’s unrealistic to expect the U.K. to pull out of Europe any time soon. But that doesn’t stop this county, me among them, being sceptical of the European project. It seems to be some creeping leviathan that won’t stop until our individual identities are little more than historical footnotes.
Europe passes around 50% of our laws yet we are largely unaccountable to the people who do that because the people we vote for only have limited competence to challenge legislation. The European Parliament is little more than a talking shop for the hundreds of Regulations, Decisions, Directives and Opinions that have a direct impact upon us every single day of our lives.
Also, disturbingly, democratic accountability seems to mean very little to the mandarins at the EU. In 2006 the author of the treaty, Valery Giscard d’Estaing, made her view on any ‘No’ vote in a referendum clear when she said , ‘“People say ‘We cannot vote again.’ What is this joke? We have to vote again until the French see what the stakes are.” She’s not alone, in 2005 the Luxembourg Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker said, “If it’s a Yes, we will say ‘on we go’, and if it’s a No we will say ‘we continue.”
Is it any wonder people are skeptical of Europe when they hear this? It renders any referendum campaign pointless. They’re planning to beat us down with attritional war.
Well luckily the British have proven themselves quite adept at attritional war in the past.
The blood that was spilt on the fields of Flanders should surely be enough to demonstrate our commitment to Europe. And too large a sacrifice was made between 1939 – 1945 to think we can simply hand over our liberty so we become slaves to a bureaucracy that to us is faceless
As David Hume once said, ‘It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once’.