Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why Ming is right on the EU treaty

LibDem Voice reports that Ming Campbell has said that a referendum is not necessary on the EU Treaty.

I am going to go out on a limb and say that I agree 100% with Ming.

If you look at the items in the treaty, the idea of having a meaningful referendum debate on them is absolutely absurd:

-Double majority voting needing 55% of member states representing 65% of the population from 2014, extended to 40-50 new areas
-National veto will be maintained in the fields of foreign affairs, defence, fiscal matters, and social security and culture.
-EU President will have 2.5 year term
-EU High representative for Foreign affairs, who will be Vice-President, controlling aid budget
-Countries can still have their own foreign policy
-Reduced commission size, with rotation representation on five year basis
-Legal status for EU as a "person" but can't act beyond "competancies conferred by member states"
-Parliaments have eight weeks to examine legal proposals, instead of six
-Countries can demand re-examination of laws they feel take away their rights
-EU solidarity in the event of energy shortages
-New entrants will need to commit to promote EU values
-Right to revise treaties

Then look at what's not in the treaty which was originally envisaged for the preceding ill-fated "constitution":

-The treaty sits alongside other EU treaties rather than replacing them
-The treaty talks about "regulations" or "directives" rather than "laws"
-No flags, anthems or mottos
-UK is not part of Charter of Fundamental Rights

Come off it! The treaty is all anorak stuff. The fact that William Hague is bleating on about this speaks volumes. The treaty is detailed bureaucratic fiddling and revising.

To have a referendum on the treaty is completely nuts! Wake up!

But Ming has introduced a very sound point. A "yes" / "no" referendum on UK membership of the EU is a good idea. That would be a proper referendum. I am glad Ming has introduced that comparison in order to demonstrate why the treaty is not fundamental enough to require a referendum.

But a referendum on the treaty would be a false referendum. It would actually be turned into a referendum on EU membership but without having the correct degree of consequences if people vote "no" to membership. The result would therefore be dangerously misleading.

The reason such a referendum would be turned into something else, is because, simply, you cannot have a referendum debate with the British people on things like "Do you want the time the UK parliament considers laws to be increased from six to eight weeks?" It's far too nit-picky for a proper public debate.

People's eyes would glaze over when they see the detail in the treaty. A referendum on the treaty would be a waste of money.

Well done Ming for having the sense to reject David Cameron's ridiculous red herring of a referendum on the treaty. It is quite clear to me that the provisions of the treaty are quite obviously not fundamental enough to be called a "constitution" and therefore not fundamental enough to need, or indeed be relevant to, a referendum.

I believe Ming has been statesmanlike and mature in making this decision, in contrast to David Cameron who, in campaigning for a referendum on this bag of bureaucratic tiddly-winks, is being opportunist, ill-judged and unwise.


  1. Just imagining the apoplexy at their masterwork being called 'tiddly-winks'.

    It is a brave call on Ming's part, one where we will be seen to be out of step with public opinion and will reinforce our reputation for being uncritically pro European. Bobbins, of course, but trying to nuance an argument make hacks wittle brains hurt.

  2. This does show him to be out of step Paul. It gives ammunition to our politicla eneemies and serves no purpose.

    grown up he may look, but also detached, aloof and lacking judgement, political judgement that the real streetfighting Lib Dem activist has in spades.

  3. Out of step with who? A few bloggers? He is actually showing what is known as leadership. As I said in my later post, this is a smart tactical move because it boxes Cameron into a corner.

  4. So if the European Treaty is not worthy of a Referendum now - can you please explain and defend Ming on why he did call for a Referendum on the European Constitution? What key difference for the UK suddenly make this unnecessary?

  5. Gaffa, sorry to hear of your resignation. See later posts, I don't defend Ming, on reflection.