Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why Lisbon may be the Euro-sceptics' Trojan Horse

David Lidington, the Europe Minister, speaking about proposals to amend the 1972 European Communities Act:
This Bill will make sure that never again will powers be transferred in a new treaty from Britain to Brussels without the British people having a say in a referendum."

And he added, "Our intention is that the British people will have the final say as to whether a new treaty is agreed or not. All of our European partners accept that it is the policy of the British Government. We see no reason to apologies for insisting on a bit more democracy than we've seen until now."

The Bill would increase democratic and Parliamentary control, scrutiny and accountability over EU decision making. No Government will be able to pass more powers to the European Union unless the British people have agreed that they can.
Bolting horses and unlocked stable doors immediately come to mind and, coincidence or not, his statement was made only several days after this YouGov Poll which disclosed that in Britain as a whole, if a referendum on membership were to be held tomorrow, only 33% would be prepared to vote for remaining within the European Union.

In the breakdown of regions and countries, only London voted to stay in the EU; Scotland voted 44-38% for leaving, West Midlands/Wales a whopping 49-34. Northern Ireland wasn't included in the sampling, but bearing in mind only the SDLP of the four major parties can in any way be described as Euro-enthusiasts (the DUP are downright hostile; the UUP sceptic; Sinn Fein fought tooth and nail against the Republic signing the Lisbon Treaty), I think we'd also be looking at a small majority voting to leave there too.

Liddington's promise and the opinion poll's results become a bit more noteworthy when they are considered together with Article 50 of Lisbon.

Prior to last year, the European Union could have been described as a bit like the Hotel California in that you could checkout any time you like, but you could never actually leave... or, at least, there was no solid legal provision to do so. Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty now offers that possibility.

Any referendum on future powers being transferred to the EU from Westminster would certainly deliver a big fat "No" and such a referendum result would inevitably, I believe, set the wheels in motion for a final withdrawal. I'm also convinced that it was for this very reason we were not given the opportunity by Labour government to vote on the Lisbon Treaty in the first place. If Liddington's bill does become law, then no future government will be able to deny us our democratic right in a similar fashion.

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