Nick Clegg must prove we trust the British people on Europe

Whilst the Lib Dems news policy of a referendum on out continued membership of the EU might be inspired, it serves merely to gloss over the fact that we promised a referendum on the EU Constitution, and as has been shown by various reliably sources, the EU reform Treaty is virtually identical to the EU constitution. So shouldn't we support the referendum we promised ? Others I know feel the same way too.

I am not sure that Nick Clegg should be held to manifesto pledges made in the name of a party led by Charles Kennedy in 2005, but I do think we are as a party being led by the nose because of a clique of people, on high, who are so in love with the EU that they cannot bare to see it questioned.

The policy of a referendum is, as they know, a referendum they will win handsomely, which is why the party supports it. it will not take a lot of selling to convince the people of the UK that our continues membership of the EU is in our best interests. However, a referendum on the EU constitution is going to be much harder to sell. It will require pro Europeans to make the case, and work damned hard in order to get people to vote in favour of it. You'd imagine that pro Europeans would be up for this challenge wouldn't you ? But no. Obviously not.

We cannot pick and choose which things we do and don't trust the population on according to whether we will win or not. Politicians are held in low enough esteem anyway without politicians promising that the people will decide, only to change their minds when they realise the people will decide differently to them. What does this say for the future of the Lib Dems too. Will anyone believe our pledge to have a referendum on EU membership if we couldn't stick to our last pledge ?

I've been consistent in my support of a referendum, even when at the time I was being accused of being disloyal to Ming, but I think we, the Lib Dems, have a chance to prove we truly listen to the public on issues here, and we are gifting the opportunity to the Tories.

In 1993 we were suckered in to voting for the Maastricht treaty, even when it was turned in to a confidence vote in the House of Commons. It sickened me at the time that our MP's could be so easily duped in to supporting John Major's Tories in what he said would be seen as a confidence vote. i also remember at the time canvassing for a local election and was met with derision by people who saw us as not being a party they could trust. That did quickly pass, but it struck me as being a situation to avoid again and proved that as Norman Lamb said to Party conference some years ago, well before he was elected, "When it comes to Europe, we lose all critical faculties"

Come on Nick Clegg, prove that the Lib Dems trust the public and let's not appear to be running scared.


James Schneider said...

I agree. It'd be rather difficult for him now to call for a referendum unless he can spin that Ming's desire to have an in or out referendum was totally unfeasible. Its a strange call. So much of our activist base appears to favour a referendum.

Anonymous said...

As a humble footsoldier in a no hoper constituency, I too support a referendum, but I feel that the party leadership are not interested in this view, which I feel is the majority view of the Lib Dem membeship.

Paul Walter said...

"...it serves merely to gloss over the fact that we promised a referendum on the EU Constitution, and as has been shown by various reliably sources, the EU reform Treaty is virtually identical to the EU constitution. "

You only have to read the Reform Treaty to realise it is not a constitution. Compare it with the US Constitution and you will see what I mean.

The Lisbon proposal would have negated all the previous EU treaties and started afresh - stating the building blocks of the EU and their way of operating.

In stark contrast, the Reform Treaty does not negate any previous treaties, it merely adds some changes. It does not proscribe the structure of the EU as any constitution would do.

This thing about "various reliable sources" is where bodies have said the treaty is 90% the same as the Lisbon proposal.

The DNA of a mouse is 90% the same as the DNA of a human, as Ed Davey has pointed out. But that still makes them completely different.

As for the LD membership, like the public, I have heard no great clammer on this in the real world. Indeed, petitions and meetings for the EU Reform treaty referendum campaign have gone off like damp squids and the Sun lost sales of 20,000 the day it led with the campaign on the Reform Treaty.

Anonymous said...

The policy Clegg has adopted is a fudge.

It reminds me a bit of Trident...

Anonymous said...

Come off it , Paul, there is a significant public demand for a referendum but the problem is that coming on top of all the donation rows the u-turn by 2 of the 3 parties on the subject of a referendum is just making people absolutely fed up with politicians who carry on as if we ,the voter, did not exist. Our Party professes to be interested in the voter but time and time again its actions are in contradiction to this aim.

Anonymous said...

Technically it's not the Lisbon Treaty which would have virtually the same legal effects as the Constitution, it's the combination of the Lisbon Treaty and the existing Treaties that it would amend.

Once that had been done, it would be open to the Court of Justice to declare that the end result should be regarded as the EU's Constitution - a not unreasonable step, as the legal contents would be so similar to the previous Constitution, and in any case they have already described the Treaties as "the constitutional charter of a Community based on the rule of law.", back in 1991 - but to make it more comprehensible to citizens it should be tidied-up or "codified".

During that process of codification, the word "Constitution" which was noisily removed last year would be quietly re-instated, and as (according to the Court) that would have no material effect on its legal substance, it is doubtful whether it would be seen as a treaty change requiring ratification by the member states. A few minor bits and pieces, such as the flag and the anthem, could also be slipped back in at that time.

So, hey presto, the EU would have erected its Giscardian Constitution, by sleight of hand.

Incidentally, the Court of Justice has long claimed that the principle of primacy of EU law over national law extends to the relationship between EU law and national constitutional law, so that EU Constitution would be deemed superior to the British constitution.

And all that, without any attempt to obtain the consent of the British people, or the consent of any of the other peoples of Europe apart from the Irish, with the assistance of the so-called "Liberal Democrats".

You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Nich Starling said...

It is always interesting to read the honesty of an anonymous poster. They always seem braver when they hide behind a facade.

Although I do not support the Lib Dem line on this, the Reform treaty gives away less powers than the Single European act of 1985 (signed away by Mrs Thatcher) or the Maastricht Treaty (John Major).

Come be honest and post under your real name !

Anonymous said...

Comparisons with Maastricht and the Single European Act are irrelevant. Just as irrelevant as whether somebody posts a comment anonymously, or pseudonymously, or using their real name.

It boils down to this: the Liberal Democrats made an important manifesto promise, and now they are breaking it.

"A referendum on the constitution" would have been a referendum on whether to move from the present legal position, that laid down in the present treaties, to a new legal position, that laid down in the Constitutional Treaty.

"A referendum on the Lisbon Treaty" would also be a referendum on whether to move from the present legal position, that laid down in the present treaties, to a new legal position, that laid down in the Constitutional Treaty.

Bar a few minor differences, which could easily be adjusted afterwards, the legal changes are the same.

Previously the Liberal Democrats said that those legal changes were big enough to merit a referendum, and promised support for a referendum in their 2005 election manifesto - which, NB, was the manifesto on which Nick Clegg was elected, like all the other Liberal Democrat MPs.

Now having been elected on that manifesto Nick Clegg, and most of the other Liberal Democrat MPs, claim that almost exactly the same legal changes do not merit a referendum.