Shame that a couple of Labour MPs, who lost their ministerial jobs several years ago and are no doubt disappointed at not returning to ministerial office under Gordon Brown, have sought to embarrass him by calling for a referendum on the proposed EU Reform Treaty.
They made their calls in the Eurosceptic Tory press (Frank Field in the Sun and Gisela Stuart in the Sunday Telegraph), knowing that, there at least, they would obtain a headline or two. I somehow doubt Gordon will be impressed by such disloyal tactics, but there is always a danger that it might influence the odd party member, especially if they believe the nonsense that they wrote on the subject, which could well have been drafted for them by Bill Cash or UKIP.
Oooh, nasty. He goes on to say:
Frank Field even tells the outright lie that the new treaty would mean Britain giving up its seat at the UN Security Council.
Obviously, the constitutional treaty would not immediately mean "giving up our seat at the UN." But in fairness to Frank Field, in his piece he appears to be predicting that this will eventually happen, rather than saying that it will immediately happen:
It is true that in the first instance the European Foreign Secretary will be given a different title. But titles, to quote the Spanish Foreign Minister again, will be part of the wrapping. This decisive shift in power will all too quickly be followed by the EU taking Britain's seat at the UN Security Council.
And there certainly is a real problem for the Government here. The new version of the constitutional treaty states that:
"When the Union has defined a position on a subject which is on the United Nations Security Council agenda, those Member States which sit on the Security Council shall request that the High Representative be asked to present the Union's position."
Initially the UK Government (represented by Peter Hain) put down an amendment in the European Convention saying that this whole paragraph should be struck out.
Peter Hain wrote: "The UK cannot accept any language which implies that it would not retain the right to speak in a national capacity on the UN Security Council."
This was ignored, and so the UK then fell back to saying that it had to at least be changed, in order to remove the minister's seemingly automatic right to speak. In a second amendment the UK proposed a change to say that the Minister could only request to speak on its behalf.
"When the Security Council holds a meeting at which non-members of the Council are permitted to speak, and when the Union has defined a common position on a the subject of the meeting,
But again this was ignored. This automatic right to speak on issues where the Union has a common position is more significant given the simultaneous introduction of majority voting into so many areas of foreign policy in the new text.
Overall, it's pretty obvious that the Government would have preferred not to see this new power. But nonetheless, they have decided to go quietly, and avoided kicking up a fuss. Perhaps Richard Corbett will post a reply and tell us why? (Or turn on comments on his own blog?)