on the Treaty

When Ming Campbell called for a referendum, he was talking about a referendum on the question of being “in or out” of Europe – not one on the more specific question of the Reform Treaty (aka Constitution), even though the Lib Dems are-or-were seemingly in favour of a referendum on the treaty itself.

The I Want a Referendum people were quoted in the Independent the other day as saying,

“The Liberal Democrats want an honest debate so they must not try to force people into a false choice between giving even more powers to the EU and leaving altogether. The overwhelming majority of people in Britain want to co-operate in Europe but not give more powers away.”

On Radio 4’s Any Questions a couple of weeks ago, both these questions were put to the audience – admittedly not a rigorously random sample by any means, but from what I remember, a clear majority were in favour of being in Europe, but separately, a clear majority were against the treaty. If we held a referendum only on being in-or-out, and if the majority voted for “in,” it would be easy enough to claim that that would give a mandate for signing the treaty – easy, but wholly inappropriate. We need a referendum on the treaty itself, whether or not we’re also polled on ‘in-or-out’.

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6 thoughts on “on the Treaty

  1. But why on this treaty when it hardly gives any more powers away and the pass was sold long ago with the SEA and Maastricht? If we left the EU we could remain part of the EEA.

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  2. On this treaty partly because we were promised that there would be a referendum on the Constitution, and this treaty pretty much *is* the Constitution in all but name. Also because as I understand it’s a treaty which allows itself to be amended without requiring consultation among the member states. So we need to make sure that as a nation we affirm both (a) that we want it as it stands and (b) that we are happy to hand over this power too.

    For starters.

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  3. Hmmm…. Well the promise is a matter for the honour of the Labour Party rather than a substantive argument. It could be argued that the point of promising a referendum was the very fact that the previous version described itself as establishing a ‘constitution’ and included the trappings of statehood. Considered in itself the treaty was never of any great constitutional significance but was more of a codification exercise. If we think we don’t like supranationalism we should get out altogether if we are willing to work with it there is no point having a referendum every time there is a minor change. Arguably this will do more to undermine parliamentary sovereignty than the EU itself! On the other hand, your second claim is rather alarming. Where does it say it can be amended without requiring consultation among the member states?

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  4. Promising a referendum implies that whichever political party it is thinks the document is significant enough for the people to need to have a say – so backing down from the promise means that either they don’t know their own mind or they’re simply afraid of what the results might be.

    The self-amending bit was in the Telegraph:
    here, article dated June 07

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  5. But we all know that the reason Blair made that promise was because he knew that even if the treaty said nothing more than that the President of the Commission should have a pot plant on his desk the fact that it was called a Constitution would allow the Tories to whip up the electorate into a jingoistic hysteria at the election. He knew that the real (as opposed to symbolic) importance of the Constitution was far less than the SEA and Maastricht.

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