A Tory EU-turn?
So now, with the Lisbon Treaty ratified, David Cameron has ended up a little stuck in the mud. Realistically, he has only two options. He can break his ‘cast-iron guarantee’ and leave the Lisbon Treaty ratified without a referendum (with some token attempt at ‘renegotiating our relationship’ with the EU), in the process upsetting a large amount of his party. Alternatively, he could hold a referendum which would effectively decide whether Britain remains part of the EU or not. In the process this could further alienate him from the other EU countries, and put him in something of a lose-lose situation, in the long run.
The juxtaposition here, between the pussyfooting and dishonesty from Labour and the Lib Dems, and what I genuinely think was a sincere and well-meant promise from David Cameron is quite eye-opening. I’ve written before on this same point, but happily Patently Rubbish has written along similar lines with much greater eloquence than I managed:The only politician who has, throughout, kept to his promise that he would hold a referendum, is David Cameron. Every other party has dropped us in it. What is worse, they have dropped us in it so thoroughly, and so deeply, and so irrevocably, that they now actually dare to criticise Cameron for acknowledging that the promise he made is no longer deliverable.
For those parties, now, to taunt and tease Cameron and make him out to be the dishonest one in this situation, is just disgraceful. It is a showcase of British politics at its lowest, at it’s most venal an crass. All involved should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.
Quite so. David Cameron didn't really have any other realistic options as regards the
Douglas Carswell has called for a referendum on whether or not we should be part of the EU at all, which is something that I'd love to see. However, I do suspect that the British people would end up voting for EU membership—not only have people yet to understand just how much of their lives the EU controls, but also the amount of money thrown at the pro-EU campaign would be colossal.
I do have to take Douglas to task on one issue though, and that is over the Tories' tradition attitude to the EU.
We Conservatives opposed not merely the Lisbon treaty, but the transfer of powers made by Amsterdam and Nice.
Yeah, sure, Douglas. The trouble is that when the Conservatives were in power, they not only took us into the EEC through the 1972 European Communities Act, they also pushed through both the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty.
It's all very well to talk the talk in opposition but, frankly, the Tories have utterly failed to walk the walk when in power.
Which leads us neatly onto what Cameron has promised today. And instead of simply pointing out that what he has announced is—to use a technical term—fucking bullshit, I shall helpfully point out why. Now, Iain Dale has published the whole of Cameron's speech, so let's cherry-pick the words from the man's own mouth, rather than from the
The Lisbon Treaty has now been ratified by every one of the twenty seven member states of the European Union, and our campaign for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is therefore over.
Why? Because it is no longer a Treaty: it is being incorporated into the law of the European Union.
Erm... Well, sort of. The way that it works is that the Treaties are agreed and then the member states incorporate the law into their own legislative frameworks. So, we could turn around and stop doing that—although there would be ramifications, of course.
First, we will make sure that this never happens again.
Never again should it be possible for a British government to transfer power to the EU without the say of the British people.
If we win the next election, we will amend the European Communities Act 1972 to prohibit, by law, the transfer of power to the EU without a referendum.
And that will cover not just any future treaties like Lisbon, but any future attempt to take Britain into the euro.
We will give the British people a referendum lock to which only they should hold the key–a commitment very similar to that in Ireland.
This is a major constitutional development.
Look, you fucking numpty, the Lisbon Treaty is self-amending—there will not be "any future treaties like Lisbon", as I have pointed out quite frequently and EU Referendum has done explicitly.
But I believe it is now the only way to reassure the British people that powers cannot be given away without their explicit approval in a referendum.
It is not politicians’ power to give away–it belongs to the people.
Riiiiiiight. So, could you please remind me, Dave: what about the power that you and the other corrupt politicos have already given away? It's fine for these powers to remain with Brussels, but giving away any further powers is not on?
I call "bullshit" on your rhetoric. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.
Oh, and did I mention "bullshit"?
There is therefore a danger that, over time, our courts might come to regard ultimate authority as resting with the EU.
Um, Dave...? Are you aware of the Factortame case? In the areas in which it has competency—which is now pretty much everywhere, by the way—"ultimate authority" does rest with the EU.
Do you understand that?
So as well as making sure that further power cannot be handed to the EU without a referendum, we will also introduce a new law, in the form of a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill, to make it clear that ultimate authority stays in this country, in our Parliament.
This is not about Westminster striking down individual items of EU legislation.
It is about an assurance that the final word on our laws is here in Britain.
It will make piss all difference, Davey Boy, as my peripatetic Greek friend has pointed out to such good effect.
There must be plenty of lawyers in the Shadow Cabinet. If our media are truly the guardians of democracy that they claim to be, I assume they'll be asking them if they've heard of Factortame - as even the most hungover, unshaven, wearing-the-same-pants-for-the-third-day-in-a-row law student has - and whether they think it was Mr Cameron or the noble Lord that was talking out of his arse. I'm not holding my breath.
By way of postscript, I remember asking my European Law professor whether there was any way of overturning the decision, or otherwise reasserting the sovereignty of Westminster. "Oh, yes", he replied breezily. "All you have to do is repeal the 1972 European Communities Act".
But Dave isn't going to do that. So, what is he going to do...?
But people will rightly say that the Lisbon Treaty does not just transfer powers to Brussels today.
It allows further powers to be transferred in the future, because it contains a mechanism to abolish vetoes and transfer power without the need for a new Treaty.
We do not believe that any of these so-called ratchet clauses should be used to hand over more powers from Britain to the EU.
Furthermore, we would change the law so that any use of a ratchet clause by a future government would require full approval by Parliament.
The laws can already be voted through by Parliament. The problem is not that our Parliament cannot vote down these laws: the problem is that they don't.
So, Dave, what about the powers that you have already given away?
A Conservative Government will address some of these problems by negotiating three specific guarantees with our European partners guarantees over powers that we believe should reside with Britain, not the EU.
First, social and employment legislation.
Of course, Britain used to have an opt-out from the Social Chapter: but Labour foolishly gave this up.
And today, too much EU legislation in this area is damaging both our economy and our public services.
So we will want to negotiate the return of Britain’s opt-out from social and employment legislation in those areas which have proved most damaging to our economy and public services for example the aspects of the Working Time Directive which are causing real problems in the NHS and the Fire Service.
The second British guarantee we will negotiate is over the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
We must be absolutely sure that this cannot be used by EU judges to re-interpret EU law affecting the UK.
Tony Blair claimed that his Government obtained an opt-out from the Charter.
But what he got – as the Government have now admitted - was simply a clarification of how it works in Britain.
We will want a complete opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The third area where we will negotiate for a return of powers is criminal justice.
We must be sure that the measures included in the Lisbon Treaty will not bring creeping control over our criminal justice system by EU judges.
We will want to prevent EU judges gaining steadily greater control over our criminal justice system by negotiating an arrangement which would protect it.
That will mean limiting the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction over criminal law to its pre-Lisbon level, and ensuring that only British authorities can initiate criminal investigations in Britain.
I recognise, of course, that taking back power in these areas, or negotiating arrangements that suit the UK, is not something we can do unilaterally.
It means changing the rules of an institution of which we are a member – changing rules that Britain has signed up to.
If we want to make changes, we will need to do that through negotiation with our European partners, and we will need the agreement of all twenty seven member states.
And the chances of gaining their agreement...? Pretty fucking low, I should have thought. What happens if you cannot repatriate these powers?
I'm bored of this, I really am. I am just going to point you to EU Referendum's assessment which is pretty much spot-on as far as I can see.
On you go, Cameron-baby.