Thursday, October 8, 2009

An injection of Klaus backbone required

After throwing a last minute wobbler, Poland's President Lech Kaczynski will now, as originally promised, sign the Lisbon Treaty on Sunday.

Leaving Vaclav Klaus on his ownio:
FOR years he has been one of the European Union's most vocal critics – now for like-minded Eurosceptics across the Continent, Vaclav Klaus, the president of the Czech Republic, has become their last chance to block the Lisbon Treaty.

Describing it as a "fatal restriction on national sovereignty that would lead to the creation of a European superstate", Mr Klaus has said he is in no hurry to ratify the treaty, despite it receiving the support of both houses of the Czech parliament.

This has infuriated the government, which has backed the treaty. Jan Fischer, the prime minister, yesterday told the head of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, that he remained fully and deeply convinced there is no reason for anxiety in Europe.

But Mr Fischer added that, while he was confident that Mr Klaus would sign up to the treaty eventually, he could offer no real assurances to European leaders.

Unlike Klaus, who is standing alone not only against the Eurocrats, but also his own government, David Cameron would have the backing of the majority of his party, the media and I’m sure, the electorate if he were to give a full unconditional pledge for a referendum on the Treaty in the UK next year. Yet still he dithers...

9 comments:

fair_deal said...

If he dithers on a test of principle and mettle on europe.....

andrewg said...

What do you expect him to do? He's talked himself into a corner. If Klaus signs within the next couple of months, Lisbon will come into force before Cameron gets into power. And Cameron knows this fine well.

He has three choices: either say "we're too late for a referendum, time to suck it up", which won't play well with the rank and file; unilaterally renege on the ratification, which will go down like a lead balloon in every foreign capital (including non-EU ones, nobody likes a welsher); or have a referendum on pulling out of the EU, which is a whole other kettle of fish.

No, I can understand him waiting to see.

O'Neill said...

Andrew,

This is what he said in May this year, less than 6 months ago:

http://www.conservatives.com/News/Speeches/2009/05/David_Cameron_Fixing_Broken_Politics.aspx

We will therefore hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, pass a law requiring a referendum to approve any further transfers of power to the EU, negotiate the return of powers, and require far more detailed scrutiny in Parliament of EU legislation, regulation and spending."

I've no idea if he was counting on the Klaus or even the Irish electorate to bail him out on this, but it's there in black and white. The fourth choice which you've omitted is to follow on from what he's pledged above, that's by no means a referendum on leaving the EU, simply giving the British public the same rights accorded to their Irish fellow EU citizens. If they vote "yes" to Lisbon all well and good, if they vote "no" then no British government should have the right to override that decision- but at the very base, the citizens should have the right to at least express their opinion at the ballot box on the matter.

andrewg said...

O'Neill,

At the time he made that statement, it was tenable (just) that he might have the opportunity to call such a referendum. He was, IIRC, regularly calling for Brown to resign. Once Lisbon comes into force, which will likely be early in the New Year, it's over. What possible benefit would it be to call a referendum on Lisbon after the fact? A No vote would precipitate a crisis of legitimacy which would paralyse his government, and perhaps the whole EU. I don't believe Cameron is that irresponsible - if he is going to call a referendum it will be on an issue that is relevant and which has manageable consequences. I think he has been rash in making unqualified promises in the past on this matter and is (belatedly) coming to realise it.

O'Neill said...

I'm not arguing the problems it might cause for him or even the practicalities, more the morality behind promising something and then reneging on it simply because events didn't work out quite the way you were relying on them to.

wildgoose said...

O'Neill's right. At the moment the electorate are seething at the untrustworthy liars currently ruling over us.

The Tories are going to have to make savage spending cuts to bring the Budget back into balance. They can only get away with that if the Public trusts them to be doing what is best.

If he reneges on this then he'll be seen as no different to Brown, a liar who says one thing (a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty) then does something else, (no referendum).

The public are in no mood for yet more untrustworthy politicians.

He'd be a fool to even consider it.

Mind you, I'll bet that is just what he does, and it'll come back to haunt him just like his speech extolling the "proud Scottish blood in his veins" and "standing up to sour little Englanders" will stay with him for the rest of his life.

andrewg said...

All commitments are dependent on events. I can promise to jump off a bridge tomorrow. If the river dries up overnight, do I still have to jump off the bridge?

O'Neill said...

"I can promise to jump off a bridge tomorrow. If the river dries up overnight, do I still have to jump off the bridge?"

If youre a politician, then yes!
A political promise is still a promise, if he had said it was made with conditions then that should have been stressed at the time.

andrewg said...

To be fair, on most of the occasions when Cameron promised a referendum it was prefixed by "If Lisbon remains unratified".

You're right that politicians should be held to a higher standard. But in matters of government policy, a potential Prime Minister takes the country with him when he jumps. In a sense, he promises to throw you off the bridge too. Still so keen?