Europe has reared its ugly head yet again for the Conservative Party. With the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, David Cameron’s ‘cast-iron guarantee’ to provide us with a referendum on the treaty is now null and void. Clearly it is ridiculous to have a referndum on it now which would more than likely be at least 6 months after it had come in to force.
There is, I believe, an opportunity here for the Conservatives to push their European agenda; namely to get back many of the powers we have given away. Fraser Nelson has just predicted that in 5-6 years there will be an ‘in or out’ referendum. I think that such a question is too clear cut. Most people fall in the middle and would be unrepresented by such a vote, confused as to how to vote. So there is an opportunity here to be seized.
Talk of a ‘manifesto mandate’ is not adequate in this instance, largely because we must be realistic in acknowledging that many voters are opposed to Labour than supporting the Conservatives. That is another battle we must fight over the next few months. But we are talking here about re-negotiating Britain’s role in Europe, and everyone deserves their voice to be heard loud and clear on this issue. Cameron will also have more leverage in Brussels if he can point to large support not only for him, but for his stance on Europe.
I am at this point reminded of Toby Ziegler castrating Will for coming in with “half a thing” in that I have no real conclusion here. Should there be a referendum, I think yes. But what should the question be? Should it be split in to sections for different powers that we might want to reclaim, or should it be a more general, single, question. There is a balance to be struck here between being specific enough to be useful, and broad enough to cover everything that needs to be covered. Where that balance is found I don’t know. Hopefully someone more important than me is looking for it.