Thursday, September 13, 2007

Where's the quack?

James Graham writes of the EU Treaty and quotes the old phrase: “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck…”

Look, I am just muddling through here. I am quite prepared to stand up and say I am wrong. So please tell me which provisions of the proposed EU Treaty result in transfers of sovereignty from the UK to the EU significant enough to warrant a national referendum and to justify the title "constitution". Please list those provisions.

I am not a political scientist. I didn't study any form of politics at school or university, aside from history. I have, however, taken the trouble to read the US Constitution and, peculiarly, found myself enjoying it. Yes, of course, it doesn't have a flag mentioned in it, though its provisions do form the basis of the flag in the sense of the membership of the states in a greater union (the stars on the flag representing the current number of states, the stripes representing the original states). What the US Constitution does have are some fairly hefty items: Senate, House, President, Supreme Court.

What does the EU Treaty in question have?

Er....extend the term of the President from six months to 2.5 years...have a EU High Commissioner for foreign affairs...extend from 6 to 8 weeks the period in which country parliaments can consider a law....

It's a revising treaty! It's not a constitution. If you want a referendum on the EU constiution (as James, I think, implies he accepts with his point about the EU constiution being the series of treaties since Rome) you would have to have a referendum on all the treaties since Rome - i.e a wider referendum on EU membership as Ming has suggested.

I certainly don't accept, indeed violently reject, the point made by non-referendumers like Andrew Duff, that the treaty is too complex for the public to understand. Could someone kindly sit on Mr Duff?!

The public is excellent at processing complexity in the right way. "Trust the people"...etc

The point is not that the Treaty is too complex. It is that it is too inconsequential to be put before the public and would lead to a dangerously misleading decision if it was, because it would follow a "proxy" debate.

The big problem is that the pro-referendum movement, or more correctly, movements, are creating a "proxy debate" in two ways (and counting). From the Cameron/UKIP angle this is not a debate about the EU treaty, it is a debate about EU membership per se. From the TUC angle, this is not a debate about the EU Treaty (an opt-out for the Charter of Fundamental Rights means that the UK can also opt-in if it likes - you don't need a referendum on something where the UK government can exercise its own choice), it's a complaint against their own Labour government, who they pay for through their weekly pay packets, for not behaving like a Labour government and implementing working standards conventions which other countries are taking for granted.

As for tactics. Ming's decision is actually a clever move tactically, just as Brown's decision not to go for a referendum is actually deviously clever, as you would expect from the BCF (Big Clunking Fist).

Brown is boxing Cameron into the same corner as Hague got boxed into. At the next election, a major plank of the Camster's manifesto will be "we need a referendum on a EU Treaty". Just as Hague's "we want to keep the pound" campaign failed in a general election, so will Cameron's "Referendum for a EU Treaty" campaign. So Ming is very clever, tactically, to help increase the danger of this happening for Cameron.

Jeremy Hargreaves has written brilliantly on this subject. He strongly makes the same points as me, but with the added advantage of clearly knowing what he is talking about!


  1. Paul, it is 96% the same as the last EU constitution, if the old one needed a referendum, and i think that was the party line, then why doesn' this one. the line that goes "if a beefburger is 96% beef, it is still a beefburger" applies here.

  2. I come back to the fact that the treaty is only a revising treaty. I have not compared the "constitution" to the "treaty".