Europe, a pointless debate?

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’.


8 thoughts on “Europe, a pointless debate?

  1. As myself and Jimmy were discussing yesterday the problem with the european project is there is no clear direction… where are we going? Further to this I believe whilst the British people have no problem with trading with Europe and being economically co-operative… the problem we have is what we see as an encroaching bureaucratic bog threatening to destroy British identity. What strikes me is how many ordinary, non partisan British people spit feathers at the prospect of say losing the pound. British people, whilst not overly patriotic, are quitely proud of their heritage and hell will freeze over before they sign anything more away to Brussels.

    I should also point out Valery Gisgard D’Estaing is a man and former President of the French Republic… which leads me on to my next point… In regards to europe we will never be in a strong a position as France or Germany… they have been consistently at the heart of the European project we are the little outsiders.

    So if you don’t mind I want to keep my pound (stronger than the euro anyway with London being the financial center of the world) aovid a mini recession (which would occur as was the case when Ireland joined the Euro) and stick it to the French one more time :P WERE DOING PRETTY WELL AS THINGS STAND

  2. Andy, I point out in my blog below that I think the Lib Dem’s commitment is in fact headline grabbing.

    However, this is certainly not a practical or sensible approach for either Labour or the Tories to take. The Lib Dems know they are not in serious contention for office, and therefore have both the room and need to be more cavalier.

    The Tories on the other hand, on account of the political reality of opposition and the party’s recent history on the European issue, has to be far more careful. Our equivalent to the Lib Dem’s commitment is a demand for a referendum on the European treaty. This is as far as the Tories can practically go.

    You say, “Our party is not engaging with this issue in the way it should.” I would argue that nobody wants the Tories to engage on this issue. They have witnessed Tory engagement with the European issue before, and they watched the party pull itself apart. We can however, remind people of Euro-scepticism from time to time, as with our opposition to this treaty.

    I would add that the Tory’s demand for a referendum on the treaty is far less headline grabbing than the Lib Dem policy. The former is largely motivated by genuine Euro-scepticism, while the laters’ motives are purely head-line grabbing.

  3. John, In regards to us doing “pretty well as things stand”….I must (and have always) commend New Labour for their acceptance and continuation of Thatcherite economics. So yes you can quote me… just get the context right!

  4. It really doesn’t matter whether we have a referendum or not as the EU parliament will just vote to ignore it as they have said they will with the Irish one. See below:-

    Ireland is the only EU nation which guarantees its citizens a vote on the Lisbon Treaty / EU Constitution. However, the EU Parliament has just voted to ignore the results of the Irish referendum.
    499 Euro-MPs voted against the amendment which would “Undertake to respect the outcome of the referendum in Ireland.”
    Only 129 voted to respect the will of the Irish voters. 33 abstained, including most British Conservative MEPs. Most UK Independence Party Euro-MPs voted to respect the Irish vote, the British Labour and Liberal Democrats effectively told the Irish where to shove their referendum.
    Nuff said. Time to go methinks

  5. Dan – I largely agreed with what you said in your blog. I didn’t actually notice it until I had put mine up because I was in a rush!

    When I say that our party is not engaging with the issue, I do mean that. But as i point out in my blog i also understand why – we have torn our selves apart in the past.

    I think that Clegg was being utterly tactical when he announced what he did. One could say that this type of behavior is headline grabbing. I would probably say it was politics. I think essentially we disagree on interpretational issues – but doesn’t the whole of our party.

    I would disagree with you on Cameron being headline grabbing over Europe. Personally I think he wouldn’t mind if he put as much distance between that issue and himself as possible.

  6. I would like to suggest that the conservative party announces a 2 year open debate about europe, hosted by Ken Clark and William Hague. : )

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