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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Behind the rhetoric is Clegg preparing the ground for accepting an EU referendum?

Nick Clegg in a speech today sheds some light on his party's Europe policy and more specifically on his thoughts on an in/out referendum. He says:
We are no longer asking if Britain will have a referendum on continued membership, we are asking when Britain will have a referendum on continued membership.
The parties differ on the timing. The Conservative party want one in 2017, regardless of what’s happening in Europe at that time: it’s a date chosen for internal party management as much as anything else. The Liberal Democrats believe it will be far better to have the referendum when a serious change to Europe’s rules, affecting the UK, next arises. But we all agree that it will happen at some point or another...
If you want to know my position, it's very simple: yes to staying in Europe; yes to reforming the EU and improving our relationship with it; yes to a referendum when the time is right.
On the face of it that is not a change. The Liberal Democrats have in the past promised in/out referendums on the EU to be held at the next treaty change. Cynics would point out that when the last major Treaty change came, on the Lisbon Treaty, the Liberal Democrats were less than enthusiastic on having a referendum. But, the wording here looks like a change in emphasis, opening up the possibility of future support - in turn perhaps also opening up for another coalition with the Tories.

What else is new? Nick Clegg has also made some welcome moves in other areas. For a former MEP and supporter of the Lisbon treaty's transfer of powers to the European Parliament he is refreshingly honest about the need to reinforce the powers of national parliaments in the EU decision making process. He says:
I want to see a much more active role for national parliaments in scrutinising EU decisions and policing the principle of subsidiarity. We're still not fully exploiting the provisions made for this under the Lisbon Treaty.
Beyond this his speech has some of the normal party political aspects. For instance he accuses the Conservatives of wanting a "unilateral renegotiation of Britain’s relationship with the EU", when what most are suggesting are EU-wide solutions - but he does rather half heatedly admit that:
Of course a future British Government will be able to cobble together a package of reforms with Germany and other member states with likeminded views on European competitiveness and so on.
 Good, that is a start, so lets get on with it...


Rollo said...

Clegg has no principles other than his own advancement. If that makes an EU referendum necessary, of course he would go for it.

Rik said...

Two things clearly bite each other in the timing of a referendum:
-practical stuff around a reneg on one side;
-patience/demands of the UK electorate on the other.
The former makes 2017 likely a bit early. The latter makes 2017 borderline acceptable.

Basically Cameron imho made the right choices in this respect. A reneg when given its time might take a decade or more. Which would make it totally unacceptable for the UK electorate. Furthermore as it would be possibly 2 governments further not only woud defer the referendum but also would erode the likelyhood and credibility in general of it.

On the other hand leaving now leaves a lot of open questions on crucial issues with huge consequences for the economy when they go wrong. Simply a very risky move, which as I see it none of the Out-people simply understand. It is all assuming things will happen and things that more realistically might drown in a forced and speeded up exit process.
Next to it being a complicated issue that has to be properly explained to the public. A lot of business still thinks that it will include a freetrade zone exit. While the Out public basically think that the fretrade zone is not an issue. Both look misinformed.
Combine the 2 and you end up with something like 2017. Certainly seen the extra complication that there is simply no majority for a referendum in the present parliament.

Basically Clegg has the same problem as Cameron on a referendum. Simply his credibility. Both hardly look good seen the promises they have mede before (and at least from an electoral pov simply reversed. It might have been seen more legally correct, but this is politics. Break essential promises and yoy have a severe problem with your voterbase. Just ask George 'read my lips' Bush. Or more in the present Merkel's CDU if they would accept a taxincrease to be able to form a new government.

Seen from that angle Clegg's views are a bit strange. As said he has a credibility issue. Good for him that allthough the mistakes he made were larger than Cameron's he is hardly as much attacked on it. Clearly his voterbase is much less fanatical than Cameron's on the issue.

Basically he has the same dilemma as Mr Ed. At the end of the day simply having problems with accepting reality.
You simply are very unlikely to get away without a referendum but on the other hand clearly personally not in favour of one. At the end of the day again as he simply doesnot trust his voterbase. Which again at the end of the day will hardly be a voter magnet (in the contrary).
Simply like Cameron accept that the rules of a democratic society demand a certain outcome and on a personal preference level simply swallow the political turd. The longer you keep it in your mouth the longer you have the bad taste of it.

Rik said...

Politics as a whole all over Europe has a huge credibility problem.
As I see it it is a simply basic marketing issue. The standard is all sort of empty promises before an election that will be reversed after it. Basically what UKs Osborne is doing now. And what is a large part of the reasons that Dutch government parties are now butchred in the polls.
Largely caused in a general sense therefor by the fact that traditional politics made and makes a lot of promises they were and are not able to deliver upon.
Also competence is an important issue. Simply doubted by a lot. Made worse by a lot of spin. 'The Euro is great' and 'we need those uneducated 3rd world landers and after a few years they will be just as us', kind of stuff. People see a polished turd simply still as a turd.

As said it is mainly a marketing issue. They hardly do anything right in that respect. It simply should change or the system is likely to collapse as the trend is now. Other parties rising but also eroding all platform for a lot of important decisions and even basics on which the European societies are based. Like at the end of the day the welfarestate.

Seen from this perspective traditional parties should start getting realistic.
And on different levels:
-no more empty promises;
-accept and recobgnise mistakes earlier made;
-and in this respect donot make promises on which you are not able to deliver.

The latter is important here. Some undefined time a referendum is a pretty empty promise with a lot of potential to be reversed (in the voters perception). And if reversed another nail in the coffin of traditional politics.
Say you are in the process of evaluating it. But not like Clegg here more or less indicate that this is the new line. He is in a process in which things are developing, say so. You are more honest and like Mr Ed donot have to change your political pov every 5 minutes. Makes you look like an idiot if you do it too many times (as now as a sort of standard procedure).

Anne said...

We are making sure we have a REFERENDUM Mr Clegg. We are using the General Election in 2015 as the REFERENDUM we have been denied and, as we know-without doubt-ALL THREE MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES want to remain in the EU-forever, we are only going to vote for any one of those Political parties or Organisation that want OUT of the EU. It matters not, if none have ever Governed before, for let us face facts, all those Governments we have elected since 1972/3 have only obeyed the orders of FOREIGNERS.

Anonymous said...

No he would hate a referrendum unless it goes his way when he will try to take credit for it.

christina speight said...

One thing at this moment is crucial. Right now the chances of getting an "Out" decision in a referendum now are most unlikely. Held after Cameron has tried and only got crumbs for his pains the outcome is much more favourable for quitting. It is noticeable that a flock of europhiles are feigning reluctance but backing an early poll. Don't be fooled!

Denis Cooper said...

Nothing new here, just the same old shite from a man who has no loyalty to his country, no scruples about it being swallowed up in a pan-European federation, and no respect for the truth.

jon livesey said...

I think christina speight has it right, and in blessedly few words, as well. Quality outweighs poorly organized quantity.

The thing the voter needs to know is what kind of deal Cameron can get. Only then can they make an informed decision.

I've said a few times that if the rest of the EU really consulted their own best interests, they would realise that the deal I think most people would welcome - the UK in the single market, but out of most of the federalising stuff, and no longer subject to the ratchet - really costs the rest of the EU very little, and is far preferable to an outright exit.

But there are some colossal egos in Brussels, and it's quite likely that they will dig in their heels, on principle. Then "out" it is.

Anonymous said...

Simple answer to the qeustion.....NO

Rollo said...

Who can remember Clegg marching all his troops out of the commons because he demanded an in-out referendum, only to avoid keeping his promise on a Maastricht referendum? And then getting his peers in the Lords to turn down this in-out referendum 2 weeks later? Why does the electorate tolerate this lying creep?

CrazyRev said...

How many people - real people, not those in the Lib-Dum bubble - really care about Clegg, or his rhetoric? The man (I use the term generically) is, like most of his fellow Members of the Westminster feeding Trough, a self-centred, self-advancing, self-aggrandising, sorry excuse for a representative of his constituents.

Anonymous said...

The simplest, cleanest mechanism for determining what the British people want is to regard the EUP 2014 poll as a de facto referendum on UK membership of the EU. It is divorced from the complex issue of electing a national govt but would provide Cameron and indeed Clegg, the information they must have in any negotiations with the EU, namely:

What do the people want?