Friday, October 19, 2007

There should be a referendum on the EU treaty

Both Lib Dem leadership candidates have rejected a referendum on the new EU treaty within the last 24 hours. I can't help feeling that they are making a mistake.

However limited the terms of this particular treaty, there is a wider problem of democratic legitimacy surrounding the EU. Even if we blame the Sun and Daily Mail, we have to deal with the reality. The EU is all too easily portrayed as a conspiracy political insiders and wire-pullers against the wishes of the public.

It is surely time that pro-Europeans in all parties turned round and confronted their opponents. It would be far better than the present course, which seems to be to snigger privately about how UKIP-types are all bonkers and to avoid talking about Europe publicly if at all possible.

A day of reckoning on Europe cannot be indefinitely postponed. Nick Clegg has said that this is a "modest" document that does not need a referendum. Chris Huhne said much the same thing on television last night. But it's very modesty is why pro-Europeans should want a referendum. This is the best chance for a "Yes" vote to prevail. If the public can't be persuaded to vote for something so innocuous then that must be faced up to not dodged.

I can well imagine that if the Tories were in power, they would have ended up negotiating a very similar treaty and also that a Labour opposition would pander to populism and called for a referendum to destabilise the Conservatives.

In short, no progress can be made on the evolution of the EU without the public having their say and endorsing a way forward. This treaty is surely the best opportunity Europhiles will get for a referendum victory.

So I would encourage Nick and Chris to think again and quickly. Supporting a referendum would be both the correct and the popular position for the Lib Dems to take.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

See Mike Moore in New Statesman