A renegotiation and referendum for what – a “line to take?”

by Kevin Meagher

So was it really worth the wait? There’s been less speculation about the second coming than there has about David Cameron’s Europe speech over the last month.

To be fair it was carefully crafted and fluently delivered. And half of it could have been said by any mainstream Labour or Lib Dem politician. Yes, the EU needs reform and must focus on competitiveness and address the democratic deficit. Amen to that. shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander was quick to point out as much on his tour around the broadcast studios this morning, calling, specifically for reform of the common agricultural policy and EU budget.

And three quarters of Cameron’s speech could have been delivered by Iain Duncan-Smith, Michael Howard or William Hague. There was not much new, with heavy emphasis on John Major’s call, two decades ago, for “variable geometry” in reshaping the EU.  So a trip down memory lane and a restatement of that peculiarly Toryish view of Europe with the promise of a renegotiation and referendum bolted on?

But, of course, there’s a baser consideration about today. It’s about giving Cameron political cover up to and through the 2015 election, addressing internal Tory antagonisms about Europe and giving his troops something to deflect UKIP’s steady advance. One hour of verbiage and weeks of speculation to produce a line to take.

Any prospect of renegotiation is just that – a prospect. Cameron had no explanation of whether, if unsuccessful, he would then, logically, back a no campaign. His hope is that a referendum puts a demarcation between “responsible” Euro-sceptics and the more full-bloodied variety who want a referendum not on the outcome of any renegotiation, but from first principle. Next year’s elections to the European Parliament – always used as a protest vote – may see Cameron’s hope dashed if UKIP’s support surges. As Nigel Farage puts it today, “the genie is out of the bottle” about now leaving the EU.

How will Labour and the Lib Dems respond? Begrudgingly, but both have been flirting with an in/out referendum, so it’s not a big jump to sign up too. Labour’s line about a referendum being a distraction and sending out the wrong signal to business will eventually accede to the hard politics of today; with Labour accepting a referendum but arguing strongly for Britain’s role in Europe – something the Tories simply will not do. And despite the bluster, the British public will vote for the devil it knows, as it did in 1975.

If all parties are, to varying degrees, on board it denudes Cameron of an important point of difference. However it does something else too. It allows Labour to speak not only for workers set to lose their protections under the social chapter – one of the age-old Tory demands for repatriated powers – but to speak for an anxious business lobby too.

The psychodrama about Britain’s place in Europe has just cranked up another notch but this might provide a practical example of Labour’s claim to the one nation mantle.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut

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5 Responses to “A renegotiation and referendum for what – a “line to take?””

  1. swatantra says:

    Ed was right to say that Labour is NOT in favour of a Referendum at PMQs, but didn’t go so far as to say Labour will fight the GE on a NO REFERENDUM ticket.
    Dave was just going back to Hagues famous quip of Being in Europe, but not run by Europe’. No change there then in the Tory Party. And do you know, Labour won that GE. So Lets see some guts from the Labour Party which should be leading public opinion not following it.

  2. Nick says:

    So no vote for the electorate.

    Two fingers to the voter.

    Yep, sums up Labour and the Tories. The lib dems promised one in their manifesto and they lied.

    Treaty changes? Well lets rebundle, call it something else, and then sign up. The electorate are too stupid to notice being Labour’s line.

    Meanwhile we get twaddle about no democratic mandate for the cuts, but your prepare to stick it to the voter on other things with no mandate there.

    So come on, what have you got to be frightened about a referenda? If the public vote out, its democracy and who are you to say the electorate are wrong, or do you just want to dictate to others?

  3. bob says:

    Treaty changes, remember Brown, sneaking in the back door to sign the Lisbon Treaty, treasonous cowardly man. There again, cant really call him a man can you.

    Politicians of all strip resent the people having power that they have to make a change. If the electorate vote to come out of the corrupt entity that is the EUSSR, think of all those gravy trains that will come off the tracks. Sometimes the Swiss model of democracy is the best allowing the people a voice in the direction of the country.

    The UK has over its history has stood alone before on its own two feet and hopefully will again. before the old and tatty canard of the EU has kept peace in Europe is a threadbare idea as we have had NATO since 1948 doing that with 500,000 American and Canadian troops in Europe until the fall of the Berlin Wall. France for a long time were not even members of NATO and has only just rejoined in recent years. The EU/UN hardly covered itself in glory during the civil war in Yugoslavia allowing massacres to take place whilst its mission was paralysed by ineptitude and only when NATO arrived did anything really happen to calm things down.

    A supposition, if you owned or invested in a company, as a lot of your pension and local authorities do, and you had no audited accounts signed off at the end of the year, you would expect either HMRC or the police to take action against the directors. The EUSSR has not for a considerable number of years had its accounts signed off by auditors, would you invest in such an organisation. The Santer commission was shown to be corrupt and we as a nation as a gross contributor to that organisation are subsidising that corruption.

    Trade, do you think that the EU states will stop trading with the UK, some hope, traffis and barriers work both ways, and most trade is governed by the WTO rules.

    I was, in 1975, lied to by the politicians of the day, I don’t intend to be lied to again, read the Monet doctrine of a federal superstate. If the UK votes hopefully to leave, how many others would join the stampede to the exit. If the UK leaves the EUSSR will implode, possibly into violence and civil was as people realise they were lied to. I will be voting to leave !!!!

  4. After a year of hype, The Speech was drivel. Serious people, unlike David Cameron, require legislation now, next week if possible, with six simple clauses. If playing about with the succession to the Throne can be rushed through both Houses in two days, then so can this.

    First, the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and its use to repatriate agricultural, industrial and regional policy while also reclaiming our historic fishing rights (200 miles, or to median line) in accordance with international law. Secondly, the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the United Kingdom, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them.

    Thirdly, the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meet in public and publish an Official Report akin to Hansard. Fourthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons, the High Court of Parliament.

    Fifthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons. And sixthly, since apparently we must, the provision for a referendum on the question, “Do you wish the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union?” The first five would come into effect at the same time as this provision, and would not be conditional on that referendum’s outcome.

    Over to the Opposition Front Bench. Clearly, no one else is going to make the move.

  5. bob says:

    Even easier repeal the original treaty and all subsequent legislation by a one line Act of Parliament. Then you have the UK supreme in its Parliament and a Supreme Court which would be the final arbiter of any and all laws in the UK. All borders closed unless there is a reciprocal agreement with another country otherwise a visa is required, deportation to the previous country entered of all asylum seekers who have passed through a country that is deemed safe ie France Belgium Holland and Spain all come to mind.

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