A Tory referendum on the Lisbon Treaty would be futile, says Simon Heffer, but politicians can't hide from the real question forever.
I know it is bad of me, but I had hoped Tony Blair would become President of Europe. The prospect of his goading and provoking a possible Tory government for a few years seemed irresistible: not least because it might have been the final straw needed to convince the Tories about just what a lost cause Europe is.
The Lisbon Treaty is a great betrayal of the British people. The Labour government's reneging on its promise – made by Mr Blair – to hold a referendum on the matter will stand as the most unprincipled and dishonest act in our politics since Ted Heath took us into the Common Market nearly 40 years ago.
The notion that the treaty as it now exists is materially different from the original document vetoed by the French and the Dutch – the excuse given for breaking the promise – is preposterous. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the former French president who drew up the document, has said as much. So we have lost more of our sovereignty, and our democracy has gone into reverse, thanks to a blatant act of deceit by Gordon Brown.
Dave has made all the right noises about being unhappy with this, and I don't doubt that he is. However, short of the nuclear option – asking the people not whether they like Lisbon, but whether they think we should stay in or get out of the European Union – there is absolutely nothing he can do about it. Lisbon cannot be reneged upon without reneging on the Treaty of Rome itself. Once ratified by the Czech Republic, Lisbon will be consolidated into the original treaty. So any talk of post-facto referendums is simply drivel, and that is why Dave has not committed himself to one.
The other bad news for him is that Europe threatens to become a toxic issue in his party once more. On the one hand, the ratchet effect of Lisbon will lead to further cessions of sovereignty over the next few years without any consultation with Westminster: at which point the fundamentally anti-democratic nature of this process will become even more apparent. The Right of the Tory party will become more and more angry. Our ability to govern ourselves will diminish.
We shall be especially aware, I expect, of an EU foreign policy (especially if it is executed by little Miliband, with or without his banana) that is done partly in our name, but which may well be at odds with that of Her Majesty's Government. However, at every bellow of rage from the Eurosceptics, there will be loud, attention-grabbing rebukes from federalist dinosaurs such as Lord Heseltine, "Chris" Patten and the rest. It has always been a boil and, believe me, one day it will have to be lanced.
Still not quite grasping how bad things are, some Tories say they will seek a referendum anyway on the need to have a renegotiation of the treaty. Apart from being expensive, this would be futile. We know the result already. And when Dave, armed with a mandate from that small fraction of the electorate that could be bothered to vote in such a pointless exercise, told Europe he wanted a renegotiation, Europe would tell him to get lost. It may take two to tango, but it takes all 27 to reopen the Pandora's box of rebuilding the EU constitution. The other 26 simply won't do it.
For good measure, the completely undemocratic Commission is on the record as having said there will be no inter-governmental conference for at least 10, and possibly 15, years, because Europe has had enough of them.
Which brings us back to the only question, therefore, that it is meaningful to ask: do we stay in, or do we get out? Dave wouldn't dream of offering to ask it now. But one day he, or a successor, will simply have to.
Saturday, 31 October 2009
Posted by Stuart Parr at 15:14
Daily Telegraph: We must give in to the EU - or give it up
Daily Telegraph|EU Constitution|European Empire|LISBON TREATY|