November 4, 2009

MUST, NOT COULD:

A referendum Mr Cameron COULD give the people (David Davis, 04th November 2009, Daily Mail)

What we should do is, in my view, clear. We should have a referendum, not on the treaty, but on the negotiating mandate that the British Government takes to the European Union.

This has many virtues. It allows the British people to express their view on the future of their nation. Most of all, it gives the Government a formidable negotiating weapon.

Referendums terrify the European Commission and the political elites who run Europe. They are clear statements of the popular will. They force issues to be stated in clear and unambiguous terms. They are impossible to ignore.

That is why the European reaction to referendums is to make concessions. Look at the history. After Ireland's first rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Council conceded legally binding protocols pledging to keep the treaty out of taxation policy, family and social issues (such as the right to life, abortion and euthanasia), and Ireland's traditional military neutrality.

Denmark has obtained similar opt-outs after a referendum, and the defeat in the French and Dutch referendums led to the rewrite of the original European Constitution.

So referendums are incredibly powerful weapons. What is more, they are necessary if a single nation is going to achieve any material change.

The Europeans are past masters at the permanent negotiation that makes up the federal project. They know all the tricks of isolation, pressure, delay, coalition, vague language, and institutional and judicial expansion.

They are entirely capable of repackaging rejected ideas over and over until they get them accepted. Lisbon is a good example of this. Indeed they are capable of retabling a rejected proposal five or ten years later, after the relevant national governments have changed.

So if we are to be able to manage our relationship with the European Union, let alone change it, we need to have a powerful weapon like a referendum.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 4, 2009 6:38 AM
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