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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Cameron must pledge a referendum on EU reform

President Klaus has signed the Treaty and David Cameron is expected to make an announcement at 4pm tomorrow about what he will do next.

There's zero chance he will call a referendum on the now-ratified Lisbon Treaty (to come into force by 1 December), but he must still pledge to hold a referendum on reform of the EU. A referendum on future treaties simply will not cut it, since Lisbon allows for EU integration to take place without the need for further treaties, and a mere 'manifesto mandate' to EU reform is woefully inadequate - poll after poll shows the vast majority of voters from all parties want to be consulted.

Yes, it was Labour and the Lib Dems who got us into this mess by reneging on their promise of a referendum, but the Tories must now do the right thing and give the British people a say on what is feasible and realistic - a package of reforms which they could seek to lever in using upcoming negotiations on the EU budget.

If you haven't seen our press release today, here's our take in a nutshell:

Following President Klaus' signature of the Lisbon Treaty today, Open Europe calls on the British Conservative Party to now pledge to hold a referendum on reform of the European Union.

The potential election of a new Conservative government will coincide with the opening of EU budget negotiations, where discussions will be held about how much each country should pay into the EU over the period 2014 to 2020.

The UK has a veto over these negotiations, and should be prepared to use it to fight for a package of reforms which must be fleshed out between now and the election.

This Reform Package should be put to the British people in a referendum, with a question along the lines of: "Are you in favour or against withholding agreement to the EU budget until the European Reform Package has been adopted?"

Tomorrow, Open Europe will publish the first in a series of papers looking at which policy areas the Conservatives should propose to tackle, and how. The first paper will look at EU social and employment policy, which currently accounts for a staggering 25 percent of the total cost of regulation in the UK.

Open Europe Director Lorraine Mullally said:

"Now that Lisbon is a done deal, the Conservative Party must pledge to hold a referendum on EU reform. They must not follow Labour and the Lib Dems and go back on their promise to give people a say on the future of the EU."

"The public are crying out to be consulted. The Conservatives should now announce a referendum on a package of meaningful EU reforms which they should draw up carefully over the next weeks and months. Linking their ideas for reform to the EU budget, a Conservative government could be in a strong position to work with key allies in Europe for a better, more democratic and modern European Union."

"A simple 'manifesto mandate' for these things will not be enough - people want their long overdue say, and the Conservatives should give them it. A strong mandate from the people will strengthen the Conservatives' position in Europe when the time comes."


Anonymous said...

Elsewhere, Richard North said...

The power of the budget "veto" is grossly overstated. In the event of a lack of agreement, the current budget settlement is simply carried over and maintained until agreement is reached.

Clearly, the author has in mind the Fontainebleau "handbag" strategy adopted by Thatcher, but the current situation is not in any way comparable. Then, the Community was going broke and needed new mechanisms for funding, which gave Thatcher the leverage to demand a rebate (i.e., a technical adjustment) to the funding package - which did not require a treaty change.

The "reforms" to which the author refers would require treaty amendments, which would require an IGC and then the unanimous assent of all 27 nations, plus of course ratification by 27 member states.

To assert that Britain could exert enough leverage to demand even an IGC (much less a new treaty) on the back of budget negotiations is sheer fantasy.

Open Europe blog team said...


What do you / Richard North suggest instead?

Anonymous said...

Language defines how you think. The EU is a French construct and it thinks in French.

The rest of the world speaks English; they will think differently from the French.

The EU will switch to English and that will change it.

Just how remains to be be seen.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that Mr Brown, an unelected minister can sign away our countries future forever without asking the country with a referendum.
Surely there must be some way of raising and contesting this issue legally.