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Divorce is not simple

Mark Mardell | 10:54 UK time, Monday, 29 October 2007

I am on leave this week so won’t be blogging much, although I hope to post my regular Thursday article.

I also hope I will return from Britain with a better feel for the way the domestic politics around the Lisbon Treaty is developing.

One of the wonderful things about the internet is that whether I am in Latvia or Lisbon I can read the British papers.

But nothing beats actually having them in your hands - the Telegraph smeared with thick-cut marmalade and a muesli-stained Guardian - for taking the pulse.

It already seems that I have to confess I am wrong on one point. I always thought it was wishful thinking on the part of Labour strategists that as soon as Europe became a hot issue it would automatically reignite the Conservative civil war.

The troops are gathering before our eyes.

A matter of trust

David Cameron is being pressed to promise that if he became prime minister, there would be a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, even if it had been voted through by the House of Commons.

David Cameron and Iain Duncan SmithHe is reluctant to concede. This is very dangerous territory for a leader who has made the case for a referendum a matter of trust.

What’s he got to worry about? Well, wrecking his chances to be a popular PM before he’s even started.

The assumption throughout Europe and the British political classes is that Britain would vote “No” to the treaty, if people were given a say. Presumably a newly-elected Conservative government would actually be campaigning for this “No” vote. So the assumption is of an easy victory.

Still, politicans can’t take victory for granted.

No newly-elected prime minister would want take even a slight risk of an authority-sapping defeat.

So, a financially drained, physically exhausted Conservative party - the first Conservative administration for more than a decade - eager to get on with its exciting new plans, would be plunged into a new campaign almost immediately.

Who knows, a demoralised and defeated Labour Party under a younger and more pro-European leader might even feel buoyed-up by a chance of a bit of guerrilla warfare? Many would feel it was a distraction.

A detaching treaty

But supposing Prime Minister Cameron held and won such a referendum. Would that be that? Would his troubles would be over?

Not quite.

The leaders of France, Germany, 24 other states and the European Commission would be incandescent with fury.

They certainly wouldn’t abandon the treaty, if they had all endorsed it by that stage. Britain would have to negotiate some separate deal. It’s unlikely a few more red lines and opt-outs would satisfy Mr Cameron’s party - or be on offer from the rest of the EU.

The options would range from full withdrawal, which would probably mean negotiating 26 new treaties with our ex-partners, to some semi-detached relationship with the EU itself.

The exact course the government should follow would be eagerly debated by Europhiles, Europhobes, Euro-realists, semi-detachers, re-negotiators, Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

Being Norway or Switzerland might prove of great benefit to the UK. But becoming Switzerland or Norway would be painful and a long-drawn-out process.

Ministers who had hoped to turn their backs on Brussels would find themselves spending even more time there, negotiating changes to the common fisheries policy, disentangling themselves from the common agricultural policy, working out what would happen to trade negotiations without Commissioner Mandelson at the helm, and so on.

And of course, as we all know, there can be no institutional change under the Conservatives without a referendum. So ministers would be gearing up for another time-, effort- and money-consuming referendum on a new treaty.

Instiwatsit?

Incidentally, for some reason the political classes have decided that Gordon Brown’s promise to block further institutional reform is the same as a promise to stop any further integration.

This is almost certainly either falling for spin, or a desire to hold the prime minister to a promise he never made.

Or it may just be confusing two words, which after all are quite long and both begin with the letters “i” and “n”. So, ladies and gentlemen, what were the incontestable, incandescent, inconsolable, insistently instant instructions from our prime minister?

What he said was that he would oppose further institutional changes, and suggested this would hold good at least until 2014.

Of course, institutional changes can mean further integration, but they are not the same thing.

It’s a bit like someone saying they’re cutting out lunch, and others taking it to be a promise never to have a sandwich, because people often have sandwiches for lunch.

dixon203.jpgTake an example. If the European Union proposed that all police in Europe should wear the British bobby’s helmet, emblazoned with the words “Evenin' All” in golden European stars, this would seem to me to be a significant act of further integration.

But it could be done under existing rules, if everyone agreed – or, under the new rules, by majority voting. It doesn’t require institutional change.

So Mr Brown’s words are indeed a blow to those who love navel-gazing. (Why navels are singled out as a metaphor for self-absorption, I don’t quite know – it’s not a fascination I have ever come across in real life.) But few think any further institutional changes are required, because “ever closer union” doesn’t require them.

He won't do it

But I digress. Back to Prime Minister Cameron’s first term and the new relationship with the European Union. While some will say, “It’s simple, just walk away,” divorce, separation, or even sleeping in different rooms, is not simple.

Other states might veer from wanting to punish Britain, to being merely stand-offish, but they wouldn’t be helpful and would probably adopt a stance that would highlight the difficulties of disentanglement.

The whole process would be top of the news half the time and absorb much of the prime minister’s attention.

powell_203.jpgAnd the cry, “What about schools?” “What about hospitals?” would go up. A Conservative MEP who wants a very different relationship with the EU volunteered that it would take something of a granite-willed monomanic like Enoch Powell to achieve this.

He concluded such beasts no longer existed in British politics, or at least didn’t get to become party leaders or prime ministers.

It might be morally correct, historically far-sighted and extremely popular to give a referendum on a treaty that had already been ratified, but it would dominate Prime Minister Cameron’s first term. And that’s why he won’t do it then, any more than Gordon Brown will do it now.

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 11:37 AM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Christopher wrote:

fantastic blog !! and very true but I do wish that Brittan would leave the EU, so the rest of us could get on with life.

I am English but live in Berlin, quality of life on the continent is so much better why should Brittan water down the EU. I wish that France and Germany would politely ask the UK to leave should it not ratify the treaty.

  • 2.
  • At 11:44 AM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Paul McGlade wrote:

One quite likely fallout of any determined distancing of the UK from the EU driven by Westmister such as that being discussed by certain elements of the Conservatives is a strong counter-reaction from at least Holyrood, and possibly also from the Senedd and Stormount.

It would be ironic if those wrapping themselves in the flag of Great Britain in a campaign against external forces interfering with the UK would turn out the ones who finally separated back out the elements that flag, and split the country once and for all.

Excellent article - and I suspect bang on the money. Incidentally, 'navel gazing' derives from the Byzantine orthodox method of meditation, whereby one would stare fixedly into one's navel and contemplate the divinity of the Christ. Just thought you might like to know.

http://partyreptile.blogspot.com/2007/09/entirely-irrelevant.html

  • 4.
  • At 12:05 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • christopher boote wrote:

It's quite amazing, that any country which votes AGAINST further integration (e.g. Eire with the Nice Treaty, France with the Constitution) is given a chance to re-vote to 'get it right' with no problems at all
But should any country wish to hold a vote to UNDO some EU legislation, they are warned by the thoroughly 'gone native' Mr Mardell of the difficulties ahead
If voting only allows one-way progress, where is even the semblance of democracy?

  • 5.
  • At 12:12 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Sean Schneider wrote:

One slight correction to your entertaining article Mark. You say that a referendum would dominate Mr Cameron's first term. I believe you will need to replace that with the words "only term".

  • 6.
  • At 12:14 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Matthew Faithfull wrote:

It would indeed be "morally correct, historically far-sighted and extremely popular to give a referendum" on the treaty. I'm glad you agree. The fact that a fully and newly mandated British Prime Minister would have insufficient political clout to do so is simply an admission that integration has already gone too far. The choices are simple, in or out and as you effectively admitted we would be better off out. The argument is over now it's a matter of how and when. Do we simply sack Mandleson or arrest him?

  • 7.
  • At 12:29 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • A Dilbert wrote:

I think you are spot on Mr Mardell. The Tories are just trying to embarrass the government politically and won't offer a referendum if and when they regain power, precisely for the reasons you outline. I have stopped listening to their objections as they can't be taken seriously.
However, an interesting spin off is that, given the precedent that our elected masters can sign us up to anything without a referendum is now well established, should an anti-federal EU party ever gain power in the UK couldn't they simply pull us out without a referendum? Sauce for the goose....

"[a] Conservative civil war"? - a little mischief making on the part of Labour and its supporters in the media, I think.

Most people can see that there would be little point in having a referendum on this treaty two years or more after it has been formally ratified. For us hoi polloi, this is a non-issue.

Europhobes huffing and puffing from the sidelines don't constitute a threat of "civil war" - no matter how much certain sections of the media talk up the so-called "insurgency".

  • 9.
  • At 12:34 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Jamie Taylor wrote:

Whoopee! For once, someone has really talked about the painful almost nihilistic process that would have to be gone through to extract Britain from the EU. Well done Mark.

I'm wondering at how much ankle biting the 'bulldog breed' will give you over this though - you're going to have to buy some cycle clips.

The last thing they want is to have to 'think' about what the process would entail if they got their wish. I agree with you that we'd have to find a leader obsessional to a point where they excluded almost every other agenda so as to extricate the UK from the EU. Also that to become what so many of the Eurosceptics yearn for; a nation like Switzerland or Norway would be a very expensive process in more ways than one. I can't imagine many Tory tax payers liking that one - paying for a better society for all isn't one of their top priorities by any means it seems to me. But thanks Mark - you've made my day!

  • 10.
  • At 12:49 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Malcolm Dunn wrote:

Mark, are you saying because it would be 'time consuming' and 'difficult' and other nations wouldn't be 'helpful'that Cameron should just lie down and except 61 vetoes are gone forever?
This view makes as much sense to me as those who say we shouldn't 'bang on' about our relationship with the EU because people find it 'boring'.
If a British Prime Minister won't stand up for British interests who will?
That said I hope Cameron fights this treaty tooth and nail through Parliament exposes Brown for being the duplitous charlatan that he is and only after the Conservatives have won an election promise a referendum on this treaty.If other nations don't like British democracy, too bad.

  • 11.
  • At 12:54 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Ronald Grünebaum wrote:

I am just reading Paxton's "Anatomy of fascism" and it is absolutely clear that the underlying evil is nationalism, i.e. the belief that your nation is better than any other. The evil root was planted in the 1880's, it led to WWI and WWII.

This belief is not compatible with the EU, but it is the elephant in the room in the UK.

As long as the British do not start to accept other nations as equal, they will not be at ease with the EU.

But given that Britain has almost become a synonym for "loser" (remember the other weekend's failures in Rugby and Formula 1?), one really has to wonder what it takes for the British to come to their senses. Even travelling hasn't helped as Brits only prove Oscar Wilde's quote that "travelling narrows the mind".

The empire is long gone, but the delusions of grandeur persist. Maybe the education system is to blame, but that's one thing that will rather go backwards under Cameron.

  • 12.
  • At 12:57 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Lots of 'if's.

The most important thing at this time is to prevent the ratification of the new treaty. This requires an incessant demand by the public for a say in the matter by referendum. No relaxing. No relief of pressure. No distractionsabout what may happen if Dave, Enoch or Uncle Tom Cobley becomes PM. Just a referendum - Now.

  • 13.
  • At 01:30 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • David H wrote:

Some people claim the new Lisbon treaty is 95% the old rejected treaty. The exact number seems to vary. To make the analysis and discussion simpler and quicker all we need to do is produce a document containing only the ~5% changes and red ink. As everyone seems to be willing to admit that the old treaty is dead why are they wasting time discussing it? Let's only discuss these new proposals.

  • 14.
  • At 01:53 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • MDV wrote:

I found this blog very amusing.
Also perhaps 'Dave' (the rave) Cameron realises that jumping off the EUropean boat amounts to shooting oneself in the foot. What happens when the international firms located in the city decide to move into the area encompassed by the (more integrated) EU. Also surely the Tories arn't going to surrender a slice of Britain's international clout for some warped ideal of independence in a globalised world.

  • 15.
  • At 02:11 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • John wrote:

What do you expect from populist like D. Cameron?

The question for Britain is simple have the BNP OR UKIP way, same thing actually, or the European Way?

A question for all those populist extreme far right winners including the sun and their multipassport Owner in Chief, "What abour a referendum on Iraq ?
Come on show your true colours!

As a true conservative I only feel shame about this party! Sadly they decide to ally themselves with UKIP and the rest. If they think they are going to win elections that way let them hope, simply we wont let them have it for sure

  • 16.
  • At 02:18 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

What a disappointing coward Cameron and the Tories turned out to be. For a party which is down and out on its luck at the moment, the next election could become a de-facto debate and referendum on complete withdrawal from the EU. This would give the Tories a fighting chance to win a majority and form a government while giving the British nation a chance to make its voice heard clearly once and for all. It would ignite the entire political life of Britain and give everyone a say in what Britain's fate will be. Instead of shying away from it, Cameron should embrace it. It's his one big chance.

"The leaders of France, Germany, 24 other states, and the European Commission would be incandescent with fury." Perfect. All the more reason to do it. It would upset their entire applecart, their plans for the European superstate. An end to their dream of one centralized power authority and the abolition of all European nations states.

"negotiating 22 treaties with ex-partners." What's wrong with that? Too complicated for Britain's government to handle? This would give Britain the flexibility and power to deal with them as individuals instead of as a group. It could tweak its trade and foreign policy so as not to compromise with one nation, which displeases it in order to have a treaty with the rest. It could tell other nations to keep their factory fishing fleets out of British waters. Who knows, in another generation or two, it might still be possible for Brits to eat fish and chips because there will still be fish left to catch.

"all police in Europe should wear the British bobby's helmet emblazoned with the words "Evenin' All." in golden European stars. This would seem to me to be a further act of significant integration" Orwell and Freud combined could hardly have invented more ingenious irony. Only one minor detail Mr. Mardell, you meant "Even-in-all" meaning all of Europe reduced to the lowest common denominator, the safety of uniform mediocrity in preference to the risk of losing for a chance to be a winner, the end of excellence in preference for perpetual muddling. One homogeneous bland gray society "even in all," all things, all laws, all life, and all thought. An anthill, the European Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

So after more than a thousand years of bloody wars fighting off domination by one invader after another from the Vikings to the Germans and Soviets, Britain finally surrenders to a bunch of gray suited faceless bureaucrats voluntarily without a peep. What a quiet way for a once great nation to die. General Patton said the British and Americans were destined to rule the world together. That's because he never dreamt of the EU. Good-bye Britain, it was nice knowing you while you were still alive.

  • 17.
  • At 02:23 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • D R Roberts wrote:

The sooner we get out of eurodisney the better.
They need us more than we need them. We as an independent country have managed to trade globally for hundreds of years.
We can continue to do so, there is scope to expand trade with commonwealth countries, & also the US.
The germans & french have as their primary goal, control of the UK and all it's assets along with total judicial control.
In my opinion the eurotopian ideal is a sinister, coerced undemocratic beast.
There are people working within the eussr that are actively seeking a bloodless socialist revolution, that will ultimately destroy the UK.
Cameron will do Nothing.

The future is RED, the future is a complete merger of corporation and politics, facsism, socialism, or the third way which our esteemed leaders love, "The Chinese Model".

We have and continue to be, sold down the river by corrupt, treacherous, invertebrates with the integrity of polecats.

We need a political Giant to save us from the meat grinder which is steadily eroding Britain as an entity and as a people.

We are in the midst of an undeclared cold civil war.

  • 18.
  • At 02:35 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

Mark,
I find it strange that you think a British no vote to the Lisbon treaty would definitely be considered a no to the whole EU and therefore mean instant divorce. Surely if the Republic of Ireland were to vote no there would not be the same uproar. Or is your argument simply pointed at the UK and the Conservative party in particular, as you believe it is ultimately the latters manifesto to get us out of the EU altogether? I think that making such a statement is unfounded partly because the Conservative's are not demanding withdrawal from the EU (although i am sure there are plenty of party members who would like to) and because the Conservative's would implode even before such a referendum could be held. My (perhaps simplistic) view is that Cameron is playing to the public's desire to vote on a treaty that appears to be taking more decision making power away from Westminster and into Brussels. What they are not asking for is a vote on the EU as a whole because that is a fundamentally different question and one that, quite rightly, you think they could lose. If people were asked to vote on withdrawing from the EU many will question whether or not their jobs would be at risk from being outside the single market and many of the 2 million or so UK citizens with homes abroad will be asking if their assets will be at risk. Many more will want to know if their planned retirement in Spain or hopes for second homes in France and Italy will also be dashed. Cameron, i am sure, is well aware of this and fears not only antagonising the voters but also British business which may line up against him.

  • 19.
  • At 03:51 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • John wrote:

Good to read an article on here of some relevance to Britain after the long sequence on Russia, a country with an economy only a little larger than Holland’s and the fastest declining population in the world.

The British Prime Minister is leader of the party commanding a majority in the House of Commons as elected by the British people. He is not the representative of Continental leaders or the EU institutions in Britain no matter how ‘incandescent with rage’ they might become should he or she act in the manner desired by the settled will of a majority of the British electorate.

Following the last two EU summits it should be clear that the EU cannot be satisfactorily reformed. The only reform on the table is the same old “more EU” agenda leading to an undesired and undemocratic multinational federation imposed on us and others even when it has been decisively rejected by referendum. No sooner have the political elites agreed among themselves to foist the rejected Constitution on us than they are now deciding to form yet another council of “wise men” to decide the next steps on the road to ever closer union. My conclusion from the events of 2007 is that the British debate must now change to working out a fresh vision for the type of international co-operation that WE would like to see independent of the Brussels super-state. For me this should be a world of democratic nation-states each with free access to the emerging global market and co-operating VOLUNTARILLY on political issues of mutual interest through supranational institutions which cannot change the law we live under against the consent of national electorates (except in very limited areas to protect the people of one country from the harmful actions of others) or bind future generations of voters. But whatever the alternative vision it will not be the project of a single Parliament to implement and EU withdrawal – while becoming increasingly necessary - will not be the first step towards it.

Assuming EU reform is impossible, the essential pre-requisite is that a majority of Britons see clearly what the EU is becoming and vote to reject that future. We need a new political consensus within at least one major British party to build a better future than the throwback to the enlightened despotism of multinational empire that is on offer in Brussels. Immediate popular projects towards this end could be taken in a Conservative first term while still remaining in the EU. For example nothing would prevent that Britain, the USA and other English-speaking countries agree among themselves to an automatic right for their citizens to reside and work in one another’s countries. NATO and ANZUS should be joined and the NATO membership of those nations advocating EU defence should be called into question. The UK should encourage existing plans for the formation of a NAFTA/EU free trade agreement because this would allow Britain to enjoy free trade with Europe in future outside the EU (such as Mexico enjoys today) via NAFTA membership. The time will come to unhook our carriage from the EU train, but Cameron’s immediate goal should be to get elected because nothing is possible without a new government. Promising a post-ratification referendum on the Reform treaty is no more difficult than the 1975 referendum on ratification of the 1972 European Communities Act but a piecemeal approach is not enough. The Conservative party need to be doing serious thinking about our national future and developing a series of popular interlinked steps to be executed over multiple terms to get us there.

  • 20.
  • At 05:14 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • john s wrote:

Why should the UK have to negotiate a "semi-detached status" ? That's the situation it already is in, no euro, no Schengen and plenty of "red lines". A no vote would be interpreted by the EU as a vote for a "fully detached" status. But Steve should not worry, "Her Majesty's subjects" who own second homes is Norway or Switzerland are not worse off than those who own them in the EU, except that they have to obtain a rsidence peermit if they want to live there most of the year.
So, if you vote no, enjoy it. We bloody continentals certainly will

  • 21.
  • At 05:15 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

It's not true that governments of Great Britain, Netherlands, Denmark, Portugal, etc., don't want referenda.

They simply don't want citizens of those countries to say "NO".

If they had been reasonably certain those citizens would say "YES", they would have organized referenda in a New York minute.

  • 22.
  • At 06:45 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Torsten wrote:

What could be the reason I am so tired of British press? Could it be the constant moaning about all and everything? I do not care whether the British say no or yes to the European Union but what makes me mad is its membership in the EU and at the same time fighting everything the Union does. It is time to decide what you want, full membership or leaving the Union, the present situation is an insult for us all, for you as well as for us.

  • 23.
  • At 07:00 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Carlos Patricio wrote:

I will never understand Britain’s obsession in becoming American poodles over being European leaders. Abandonment by Britain from the EU would probably precipitate an independent Scotland and an approximation of England into the American sphere of influence. The irony of the old master colonizer becoming a 51st state of the old colony…

  • 24.
  • At 09:40 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Mr Huber wrote:

The idea of a British (or any other national) referendum is simply absurd. Just imagine Malta (population: 400000) would hold a referendum - and would vote "no". That would mean that less than 0,5% of the EU electorate would be able to block a Treaty which might be supported by a large majority of all EU citizens. I am in favour of the protection of minorities, but this would not be a democratic decision.

  • 25.
  • At 10:26 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • Matt Jones wrote:

"Being Norway or Switzerland might prove of great benefit to the UK."

The Europhobes and the BBC love trotting this out. Would somebody like to explain why moving from democracy - albeit flawed - into dictatorship, being obliged to implement huge amounts of law with no say over its creation, is supposedly in any way a good thing?

  • 26.
  • At 10:30 PM on 29 Oct 2007,
  • David Ewing wrote:

Mark, On the subject of Europe and the topic of withdrawl, I have a question which you may be able to get some sort of answer to:-

What would EU withdrawl do for the very many thousands of Brits who now live and work/or are retired into the EU?

Are we talking repatriation? And how much might that be likely to cost? (I for one would be inclined to sue the British government were I forced to 'come back').

Or is the supposition that, in the event of British withdrawl, the rest of the EU would turn a blind eye to those non-EU Brits living in their borders?

I'd like to hear an answer from someone, some day, as I think it could have a bearing on any debate.....

And what about a EU without Britain?
Maybe that would be a better happier entity?

  • 28.
  • At 01:56 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Bruce Pfeifer wrote:

Mr. Mardell,

I am an American so I do not fully understand all the intricacies of the EU (does anyone). It seems that the conservatives are in an untenable position. While I do pay attention to British politics I am left with many questions. As a new, young, vibrant leader of the conservatives it would seem that David Cameron would have a more nuanced view of EU membership. I would have expected his views to have moderated as concerns the EU. His stance on the environment is not what I would consider to be a conservative point of view (maybe my American orientation clouds my judgment on this point though) so I would have thought that Cameron would have had a more qualified EU stance. To what extent is the conservative position on this issue there to satisfy the older generations of the conservative party? Is this actually what Cameron feels or is it a posture taken for ensure his political viability in the conservative party? If the conservatives were to win an election and did force a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and if the Treaty was voted down and if the UK pulled out of the EU, what would be the status of all the integration that has taken place this far. I understand that the economic and regulatory integration could be pulled apart but what about the people, both the UK citizens in Europe and the continental citizens in the UK that have taken advantage of the freedom of movement that the EU provides all (almost all I should say, that is unless you are Eastern European)the citizens of Europe. What will be their status if the UK withdraws. It seems to me that withdrawal would be an entire waste of all the resources over the last 50 years poured into a project that has, in my opinion, lead to a far more dynamic society in Europe as a whole.

  • 29.
  • At 08:39 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Anthony wrote:

Mark, you wrote the truth when you said:"The assumption throughout Europe and the British political classes is that Britain would vote “No” to the treaty, if people were given a say. "
Well, I think that it is a good Treaty and that we should ratify it. However, to do so over the heads of the electorate is profoundly undemocatic.
I want to have a referendum even if my own opinion is voted down. Democracy means more to me than a European Treaty, however useful or significant it is.

  • 30.
  • At 09:05 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

Steve,
I think the point here was about having a vote on the treaty after it had been passed in the UK parliment and everwhere else. Everyone in the EU claps each other on the back about the successful ratification of the treaty - but then there is a change of government in the UK and followed by a referendum and the UK voters vote 'no'. What then?
This is a completely different scenario from a possible referendum held now.

  • 31.
  • At 10:29 AM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

Mark says that 'full withdrawal' from the EU 'would probably mean negotiating 26 new treaties with our ex-partners'.
Well, no. The new Article 35 of the Reform Treaty lays down a procedure for a country to withdraw from the Union, and it is much simpler than that.
So it is a user-friendly treaty containing something for everyone, including critics. All that needs to be done is to ratify it.

  • 32.
  • At 01:18 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Cllr. Paul V. Greenall (Con) wrote:

Dear Mark,

I am one of those people calling on our Party to hold a post ratification referendum, please see:

http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2007/10/paul-greenall-l.html

I do not therefore agree with your conclusion, as I feel such a promise would not only help put the Conservatives into power, but it would help to define our Party as one that trusts the people and puts them and our country first.

  • 33.
  • At 02:39 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Andrew Sobol wrote:

Bloggers At War

While the world thunders forward and Government’s and politicians fight, squander and argue with and amongst each other, a new type of warfare has emerged within the realm of cyber space – ‘war of the words’. It is a war that includes professionals from all spheres of life to the ordinary individual. Your opinion is voiced and heard and an expected reply (retaliation) is given. History (so often twisted and distorted) is at the heart of most issues being discussed and where conflict amongst readers and writers arises. The comments and arguments (real debate) that arise offer far more entertainment than current day television or journals. It makes fascinating reading as it becomes more global with many different perspectives and angles included. Politicians should take note.

How refreshing it is to see arguments being presented in such articulate ways. One does not have to be an intelligent person to always post the most impressive comment; in fact the non native English speakers often present the best cases. I often find myself reading the comments from Mark Merdell’s Euro blog (BBC) as his post generally hit a cord and ignite passionate and heated responses. Not only is it a great history lesson, it also provides the reader with what the general populace is feeling towards today’s current political issues.

I hope this little blog will inspire more people to read and actively be involved in what is proving to be a popular form of international debate.

Indeed, the pen is mightier than the sword.


Andrew Sobol- Kyiv, Ukraine

  • 34.
  • At 02:59 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Mark Mardell wrote:

Just a quick not to Steve - maybe I wasn't clear enough but you're missing my point. I'm not talking about a referendum now on the treaty.

This is more war-gaming than crystal ball gazing. My scenario assumes the treaty is voted through the House of Commons in the next few months and in other EU countries by next June.

If this happens, the treaty would come into force January 2009. Then imagine a spring election and David Cameron becomes Prime Minister. That is his dilemma - a referendum on a treaty that is already in force.

  • 35.
  • At 03:00 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Anthony wrote:

"the next election could become a de-facto debate and referendum on complete withdrawal from the EU. This would give the Tories a fighting chance to win a majority and form a government"

"The germans & french have as their primary goal, control of the UK and all it's assets along with total judicial control."

Self-awareness service: if you agree with these statements, you are (a) the granite-willed monomaniac that Enoch Powell talked about and (b) entirely unqualified to give strategic advice to a politician who might one day want to win an election.

  • 36.
  • At 03:02 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Doug wrote:

As usual, people want to complicate what is really a very simple matter - do the people of the United Kingdom live in a democracy or don't they? Are elected representatives ever permitted to destroy the democratic institutions they have been elected to? Or is that ultimate power reserved to the citizenry? Any refusal to have a referendum makes a sick joke of democracy in Britain.

  • 37.
  • At 03:47 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

at #18,

"Other English-speaking countries"?? does that include China as there are more English-speaking people in China than the US or do they need to have the right accent? Aslo if you are planning to sell some tea to the Americans they rejected that idea some 200 years ago! Back to the issue at hand, it is obvious Cameron will try and get as many votes as possible out of the new treaty issue and then when in power do nothing about it, because the new treaty makes sense!

  • 38.
  • At 03:52 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Sean Schneider wrote:

To answer David (post 25). There are currently hundreds of thousands of British Citizens that live in other Member States in the European Union. Without the Treaty right of free movement many of these people would not have the right to live where they currently do. This is especially true for the large amount of retired people in Spain or France.

The problem is that no one really knows what will happen. I have moved around Europe and seen what immigration officials are like. They give misinformation and sometimes even lie to people about their rights (even in the UK). With this background in mind I would indeed envisage mass repatriation, especially as many governments will be really upset with the UK. Don't forget that most likely the bulk of the EU Citizens living in the UK will be expelled as well.

People may say I am scaremongering but this is the simple answer to what will happen if there is no system to replace the current one based on free movement, especially since 2003 when free movement was changed to be primarily on the basis of citizenship.

As to your notion of suing the UK government; there are strong academic arguments that suggest that withdrawal and the interference in individuals' private lives would be a violation of Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, so to complete a withdrawal the UK would probably need to leave the Convention as well (a 2 for 1 success for UKIP here). This is even more ironic when one considers that when the Convention was written in 1950 it was largely written by the British government effectively trasposing the Common Law notion of individual liberty on the rest of Europe because such violation of individual liberty was seen as a major catalyst of the Second World War.

The question then becomes, is a Britain that is so insecure and introverted that it must forcibly repatriate its citizens and shut itself off from its closest partners a Britain that is worth living in?

Just to respond quickly to those that suggest either a US trading equivalent or a Commonwealth one:
A) Not going to happen. The US does not even have its own functioning internal market and would find the idea laughable,
B) Do we seriously think it is better to be economically tied to Namibia instead of Sweden?

  • 39.
  • At 03:55 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Mirek Kondracki wrote:

Mark Mardell wrote:

imagine a spring election and David Cameron becomes Prime Minister. That is his dilemma - a referendum on a treaty that is already in force.


Isn't it a little like holding an election in Russia next year when its results are already known? ;-)

  • 40.
  • At 04:02 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Charlie wrote:

Mark,
You say:

"But supposing Prime Minister Cameron held and won such a referendum. Would that be that? Would his troubles would be over?

Not quite.

The leaders of France, Germany, 24 other states and the European Commission would be incandescent with fury."

And? Are we supposed to care if they are? I that's their reaction to the result, well, that is then their problem, not ours!

  • 41.
  • At 04:50 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Mike Dixon wrote:

As a Brit who has lived in Spai for the last 10 years I must be missing something. I can understand any Government wanting to be 'King of its own Dung Hill' but I cannot understand why all political parties in the U.K. are so anti tne European Union. U.K. industry could gain enormously by joining the Euro and so, in my opinion, would the British people. Why do they want to 'cut off their noses to spite their faces? Why not fully join the family insteas of being the difficult in-law?

Perhaps you can explain Mark on your return from holiday Mark.

  • 42.
  • At 05:01 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Chris wrote:

Navel gazing comes from an obscure christian sect that existed, along with many others, around the time of Constantine the Great.
They belived that if you meditated by sitting cross legged staring at your navel you would eventually see, the divine light I believe it was.
It was groups like this that caused Constantine to call the council of Nicea, and formalise christian doctrine.
Just FYI.

  • 43.
  • At 05:50 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Telling stuff from today's BBC online news:

'The new EU Reform Treaty is effectively the same as the constitution it was designed to replace, according to a leading architect of the constitution. The treaty differs from the abandoned constitution in "approach rather than content", says former French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing.'

So once again I ask our government, in the imortal words of your esteemed colleague from Newsnight: "Why are these lying bastards lying to me?".

  • 44.
  • At 06:06 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • K King wrote:

Mark, you've coined a great term for the kind of relationship most in the UK want with the EU but few could have expressed so well: semi-detached.

That term also sums up the increasingly frayed links between the signatories of the Lisbon Treaty and the electorates in the UK, France and the Netherlands. The UK was promised a referendum on what Giscard d'Estaing today states is effectively the Constitution, while the Dutch and French have had their no votes treated with utter contempt. It would seem that 'ever closer union' represents 'ever less democracy'.

  • 45.
  • At 06:12 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Michael Walsh wrote:

David Ewing highlights the core problem Britain would have if it were to choose to withdraw from the EU. As far as the freedom of movement provisions go Britain would have two choices, either:

A. Withdraw from the freedom of movement provisions, leaving thousands of Brits abroad to the wilds. The UK could then decide to deport anyone they wanted to, but EU member states could do the same thing. The Spanish might, for example, just decide that they could do with having less British retirees.

Or,

B. Stay in the freedom of movement provisions, like Norway, and be required to implement all EU legislation in the area without having any say in the decision making process. This legislation would also probably be more integrationist with Britain out of the picture. It would still be almost impossible to deport EU nationals from the UK, and it could become even more difficult to do so.

The same applies to a wide range of policy areas. This is why the Swiss and Norwegian governments are (for the most part) keen on joining the EU, even if their people aren't.

  • 46.
  • At 08:14 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • Marcel -NL- wrote:

@ Huber (23)

according to the Financial Times a majority in EVERY EU member state demands a referendum.

Who are you to deny us one? What is this tiny minority who think they can just go ahead ignoring the electorates?

We are the majority and we demand a referendum. And in line with your theory we should get 27 referendums!

Referendum now!

Giscard sez: it's the same thing!
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7069181.stm

  • 47.
  • At 09:09 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Anthony (28): I applaud your democratic spirit. Equally I would accept a majority verdict of the British people to ratify this treaty even if I personally do not want it. But I will not accept it be imposed on us against a likely majority of the electorate by a government elected just 2 years ago on a manifesto commitment to put the issue to referendum.

Mr Huber (23): You appear to be suggesting that it is democratically legitimate for large nations to annex smaller ones if a majority of their combined populations want it even when a majority of the smaller nation does not. In 1938 there was a majority of the combined populations of Germany and Czechoslovakia in favour of the invasion of the latter. I assume you therefore believe this invasion could be democratically justified? Democracy does not exist at the supranational level because the majoritorian principle – decision-making by a majority of population – cannot be squared with the equal rights of nations large and small.

Mr Grünebaum (10) gives up on rationale argument completely and descends into calling those who disagree with him ‘fascists’. Can I ask him why I am a fascist for wanting the laws I live under to be decided by elections of my fellow countrymen and not by unelected bureaucrats with a monopoly on changes to law superior to any other for 500 million people but who we cannot replace through our votes and who are under no obligation to listen to any of us? Or for wanting the government that we elected two years ago on a promise to put this Constitution to a referendum to abide by that promise? You claim that we Britons are not ‘at ease’ with such a state of affairs not because it is wrong but because we believe we are better than others. Well, Britain was instrumental in creating the United Nations Charter as the supreme body of international law which is based on the EQUAL RIGHTS of nations large and small and defines these to include a right of national self-determination. My dictionary says that “Fascism rejects liberal ideas such as freedom and individual rights, and often presses for the destruction of elections, legislatures, and other elements of democracy”. Perhaps rather than calling Britons who defend their democracy ‘fascists’ you might want to ask on which side of this debate are those saying (see post 23) that ‘referendums are absurd’, or demanding that powers be transferred from national legislatures to unaccountable supranational institutions or who claim that the right to self-determination of small nations can be denied (in the name of democracy!) by larger ones.

  • 48.
  • At 10:57 PM on 30 Oct 2007,
  • W. Wright wrote:

Wouldn't a common monarch and language be the best way to integrate Europe? The British Crown has been looking for an empire ever since it lost India. Why not Europe?
And as far as language, is any other than English even remotely possible?

  • 49.
  • At 12:23 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • MDV wrote:

Mark (of post #15)
I fail to see how integration with other European nations will create a homogeneous gray cultural mash. Shakespeare will still be as English as Wagner is German. The rolling countryside of Britain will roll on. Anyway, we are and always have been part of a common European culture (with undeniable local variancies)- and this is a certified truth. Also please point to a beurocrat with a face outside the EU. I also seriously hope you don't think that Britain - that 'great' nation you speak of (and as much an artificial construct as the EU {and any nation for that matter}) - would, if it weren't for the EU, be running the world with the US. Please do look out across the channel and see the shape of the world.

  • 50.
  • At 08:21 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • christopher boote wrote:

re: #13
"What happens when the international firms located in the city decide to move into the area encompassed by the (more integrated) EU"

We were warned this would happen when we pulled out of the ERM, and again when we didn't join the EMU, and again when we didn't sign up to the Euro, and even when Gutless Gordon turned down the chance to join later.

International firms don't pay exorbitant removal fees to go somewhere more 'integrated', They stay in London because that's the best (=cheapest) place for them to do business

And why should an American, or Japanese, or increasingly an Indian or Chinese company care whether or not the UK has ever closer integration with (or indeed submission to) the EU?

Being out from under the thumb of constant threat of EU Tax 'harmonisation' allows the UK to offer tax breaks & other incentives to these International companies to ensure that they want to stay in London, and not move to hyper-regulated, efficiency-stifling Frankfurt

  • 51.
  • At 08:34 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • christopher boote wrote:

re: #23
Mr Huber has, unwittingly, exposed the great fallacy of EU 'democracy'

If a small nation, such as Malta, had a referendum, and indeed, DID vote 'No', there is NO MECHANISM in the EU to cope with the wishes of a sovereign people!

This is the problem with the 'one size fits all' EU approach, it REMOVES democracy by making any nation's voice insignificant, and renders the desires of its citizens "absurd" (Mr Huber's own description)

Surely the citizens of any Nation have the right to determine the future of THEIR nation, but their nation ONLY?

I agree with him completely that 400,000 Maltese should not be able to determine the future of the whole EU, but in the same way, surely the votes of a few tens of millions of Frenchmen or Germans or Belgians should not determine the future of Malta either?

  • 52.
  • At 09:47 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Bernard wrote:

and Is till find it hilarious how certain brits claim that their country hasn't got a say about the laws the EU makes.
these people most certainly haven't been paying attention.
The UK has just as much to say about the laws the EU makes as everyone else. Probably a bit more (like Germany, France, etc.) due to it's size.

  • 53.
  • At 10:06 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Dan wrote:

If the next most likely date for a UK election is June 2009 alongside the Euro elections, a Cameron Premiership is not going to come in before then and the best result the Tories can realistically aspire to is a hung Parliament, so is this the first major issue they should be using to get support for a Tory - Lib Dem coalition.

If the polls suggest Brown will lose he can hang on till June 2010.

So Cameron does not want to commit himself to a referendum which would be as potentially late as 2011, on a Treaty which would have been in force since 2008-9.

We then vote no and what happens?
The treaty includes the division of seats for the European Parliament for an election which will have happened by then, the High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs will already be in post etc etc.

  • 54.
  • At 11:08 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Luke Rogers wrote:

The pro-EU lobby do amuse me. "It's too hard to extricate ourselves now, so lets just go along with it" ,seems to be their argument. I wonder if they were all living in France during the early 1940's?

  • 55.
  • At 11:21 AM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Young Mr Grace wrote:

As a Brit living elsewhere in the EU and one who is keen on further integration I possibly shouldn't be suggesting this but......
When the new treaty is placed before the commmons is it not possible fo rthe Tories to table an ammendment calling for a referendum or else can a Tory MP table a private members bill to that effect? The vote would attract huge media interest and embarass Gordon Brown. I'm sure the motions would not be carried but it would allow the Tories to force Labour MPs to vote against giving the people the say Labour promised them. Opposition parties could then "name and shame" Labour MPs in their constituencies at the next election.
Whilst supporting the treaty I do think it's important that govt's keep promises esp if the promise is to consult the will of the people. Red lines may make the treaty different from the constitution but surely the people should be given the opportunity to decide if they make it different enough.

  • 56.
  • At 12:14 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Rodrigo Calvo wrote:

I think this is a very astute point, Mark. A referendum on the treaty, once the treaty is in force, would indeed be a referendum on staying in the EU. There is no mechanism for saying: "Oh right, we signed and ratified it, and now we want to deratify it and go to the statu quo ante". It would be either leaving the EU altogether, or negotiating yet another new EU treaty for all member states (with, as you point out, yet another referendum afterwards). It does not take much imagination to guess that the other 26 countries would be far less accommodating of UK requests that they have been in this round of negotiations.

Many called the treaty a poisoned gift to Gordon Brown from Tony Blair. In fact, this gift is far from poisoned: once it is in force, Europe and the treaty will be lost as campaign issues for all but the most virulently anti-EU Conservatives. No wonder that the British anti-EU activists are crossing the Irish channel to try to stop it in Ireland. A pity for them that the Irish are not known to be particularly fond of posh, uppity British types, or of the Conservative and Unionist Party, for that matter.

I must also wonder why British "Eurosceptics" always seem to believe that, once Britain left, the EU would be so ready to grant them some kind of association or membership of the EEA on their own terms.

  • 57.
  • At 12:19 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Nathaniel Kent wrote:

Another excellent column from Mark, with some real insights! Mark is, of course, spot-on - the Tories have nothing to lose from pushing for a referendum now, but would cripple their government if they put it to a referendum later.

As things stand at the moment, if there's no referendum then Labour appears dishonest and undemocratic, benefitting the Tories. If there IS a referendum, Labour will be on the losing side, benefitting the Tories. Since the institutional changes can't go through without ratification by all 27 EU states, the only cost of a failed referendum at this point would be to irritate Britain's EU partners, which the Tories can presumably live with. The EU would continue to muddle through with its current institutional framework.

But later on, it's a different story. Once all the institutional changes are done, it will be politically impossible to go back to the situation as it stands now. The turmoil resulting from a British no would probably see the UK having to negotiate a significant withdrawal just as Mark predicts.

The amusing thing to note is that Conservative euro-populism would come right up against the (far more important) Conservative pro-business positions here. The EU creates a shared regulatory environment with consistent rules across all its members, and the single market is a key economic unit. By far the most likely outcome for any government trying to negotiate an exit from the EU's political framework would an agreement to safeguard Britain's access to the single market, which would, naturally, mean continuing to abide by EU economic regulations.

So, the upshot of withdrawal would be a choice between permanent economic damage to Britain or continued adherence to vast tracts of EU law without the ability to shape it any more in the future. Just as with Switzerland and Norway, the latter option would inevitably prevail, and Britain would find itself having to accept EU regulations anyway. The only change would be that the other EU countries would be able to ignore British interests when drafting them. What a great achievement that would be!

(I once heard somewhere that Switzerland and Norway actually have to contribute to the EU budget in exchange for access to the single market - does anyone know if this is true?)

So at the end of the day, Brown won't give a referendum because he would lose it, and Cameron won't hold one either because it would mess everything. Since neither man is an idiot, this treaty will get through.

The only possible scenario in which it doesn't get ratified would be if the Tories took power before all of the other EU states had ratified it. How long is the ratification period? 18 months? Treaty opponents had better hope for a change of government sharpish... or perhaps they could just calm down and look on the bright side? It's not as bad as all that, really!

  • 58.
  • At 01:10 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Will wrote:

I love Europe, having travelled all over it, but i have nothing but contempt for the EU. It is a disgraceful that so many people in France and Netherlands are ignored.
We don't want closer integration or expansion - this is not the opinion of a few Europhobes but practical common sense and the views of the majority. Laws that are sensible for one country do not necessary apply to another, cultures are too different, these people running the EU are too distant, not accountable to us, its not democracy. No good has come of it, Britain has been treated terribly, why should we put up with it. I have become totally disillusioned with our political leaders and this disingenuous way they've forced this constitution down our throats. I am disgusted by the labour party, I will never support them again and all my friends think the same.

  • 59.
  • At 01:22 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

It seems to me those who would join the democracy of European states have rejected the democracy of British citizens. Why are they afraid of a referendum to allow the entire population to decide for itself what its future governance should consist of? Are they afraid that in a free and fair debate, they will not persuade a majority of their countrymen to tie their fate to the European superstate? Funny how people demand democracy except when it appears their side will lose, then they insist on jamming their views down everyone's throat because they know what medicine is best, the will of the people be damned. The lack of a referendum demonstrates that Britain is not a truely democratic nation at all, not where it counts most. (It seems we here in the US may confront a similar possiblity of a North America superstate. This could precipitate a second American Revolution with Washington DC as public enemy number one if that's what the government has in mind.)

How can anyone assert that Britain is America's poodle and expect credibility? In the war in Iraq, the US was going to invade no matter what, even if it had to invade alone. Prime Minister Blair had come to the same conclusions as Bush and the Congress of the United States but persuaded the Bush Administratoin to hold off while they worked together for six months to get one more UN Security Council resolution to give Blair domestic political cover. The dodgy dossier that persuaded Blair and possibly contributed to the CIA's conclusions was a British invention, not an American one. If anything, it would seem the other way Around, the US did it Britain's way. Will it continue? Yo Brown!

  • 60.
  • At 01:48 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • JulianR wrote:

The sad fact is that the UK already is semi-detached from the EU . I travel widely across continental Europe and Ireland, and it is so striking returning here from any of them from the moment one joins endless queues at passport control (no Schengen). Only from Ireland can one theoretically enter without going through this pantomime, absent from the whole of Western Europe including Iceland and Norway – to which the British Government’s response is to end the passport free travel zone with the one country we have that privilege with effect from 2009, a crazy decision when we have a land border with that country, and totally at odds with what has been happening across the rest of our continent.

The insistence on carrying on with the Pound rather than adopting the Euro, the fact that all road signs still use miles rather than kilometres and the fact that our public buildings rarely fly the European flag, all make the UK is look increasingly backward.

The “red lines” in the Lisbon Treaty will accelerate this process – what other electorate would voluntarily forgo a Charter of Fundamental Rights for instance? There are many in the UK are angry at the UK’s involvement in the EU and the process of ever closer union. There are also those of us in the UK who are angry and frustrated at the fact that we are denied many of the benefits of full membership of the EU.

  • 61.
  • At 01:58 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Simon Green wrote:

Very interesting report Mark...

Right now i am thinking that suppose the UK leaves the EU.. what will it look like for us in 10 years time? As you said it would be a very long process to create all these treaties with all member states and in order to be like Norway and Switzerland will take decades.. They were never in the EU and i think the EU would be very reluctant to allow the UK back into other treaties such as the free market for example. Britain needs to integrate in order to ensure lasting economic stability. Also British people seem to forget that we as EU citizens have certain extra rights that we wouldn't otherwise have.

Also British farmers would lose the subsidies they get from the EU and as they are already having a hard time now, surely this means it will be even worse for them in the future??

  • 62.
  • At 02:26 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Tony Maher wrote:

The British public consistently opposed every treaty extension of EU powers but this opposition doesn’t count because the public doesn’t dislike these changes enough to vote in a Eurosceptic party. The much cited election is ’97 when (rhetoric notwithstanding) it was New Labour who promised a referendum on joining the Euro and the Conservatives who didn’t. This shrewd strategy delivered the Eurosceptic vote to Labour and not to the Tories. It also placed an insurmountable political barrier to joining the Euro and thereby provided sceptics with their only unequivocal victory over “eurocreep”.

There is no argument that historically (and in common with the public at large) most British eurosceptics were and are pro Europe – that is why they are sceptics not rejectionists. However the notion that an underlying support for Europe provides a mandate for ever increasing power transfers to the EU is wholly false. “If you don’t want more you must want out” is an argument of breathtaking political dishonesty. It was never deployed against the French or the Dutch whose public actually did reject the Constitution. Their rejection has also brutally exposed the “All the others want it so we must put up with it” line as a complete myth. Scepticism wins votes not just in Britain but in the euro heartland also.

So now we are down to bottom of the barrel arguments – the stupidity of the electorate, the unearthly and malign power of the Murdoch press, the economic sky falling in (didn’t we get that one about the Euro? - Unconvincing at the time and complete nonsense in retrospect), and now we have the insurmountable political difficulty of leaving. These are arguments which themselves pose the greatest threat to Britain remaining in the EU. Telling the British electorate that they mindless morons under the spell of press barons and that they owe their jobs and prosperity to the EU and that leaving is too hard so they’ll just have to lump it is hardly likely to win massive popular endorsement. Obviously therefore, winning a popular endorsement is not what this project is about – it is about ignoring public opinion entirely.

The repeated exercises in bad faith (such as dressing up the mutton of a Constitution and re presenting it as Reform lamb) and the deliberate denial of the public’s right to decide will, in and of itself, create the winning rejectionist platform. “Better off out” will be the majority view after this breach of promise. The subsequent whipping through of Parliamentary ratification for this unpopular treaty will probably be the decisive stage in the destruction of any residual public support for the EU.

There will eventually be a referendum and it will probably be to an “in or out” proposition. The assumption is that “in” will win because of the “difficulties” of withdrawal is fantasy.

  • 63.
  • At 04:31 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Sean Schneider wrote:

To Nathaniel (56),

Yes, Norway and Switzerland do contribute to the EU budget. The EFTA/EEA (Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland) contribution to the EU budget for the year 2007 is 2.7 billion euro. This figure is supplied by the EFTA Secretariat.

Seems like a lot of money to pay and get no Commissioner, no seat at the Council of Ministers and no MEPs...

Well, Carlos (#22) The answer is simple: Britain has never been able to forget American treachery in being so revolting as to turn against its parent country and become the nasty precocious little monster that it has become without us.

So Britain (after many years of practice with old fun-loving enemies in europe) has developed cunning plan to admit it has long been the secret 51st State of the US. Once this is made public the UK can then start negotiating with its US masters regarding red-, white- and blue-lines, opt-outs, fill-ins, fall-outs, ex-national exceptions and preconceptions -plus other filibustering techniques until they all go crazy and accept total UK domination of US, NAFTA, NATO and any other acronyms we can think of.

Once this has been achieved, Britain will have total control of all major social networking software companies plus the new Microsoft non-Operating System. Thus armed, the UK can declare open war on the EU before regaining its old colonies and once again teaching the world the meaning of civilisation.

Finally, we will show the world that Britain still rules the permanant waves.

So watch this space....

Hip hip hurrah!


  • 65.
  • At 06:13 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • MDV wrote:

Nathaniel Kent (#56)
You are spot on. Cameron is not that stupid (though he is irritating). Also I too have heard that Switzerland and Norway have to pay to trade with us. My Slovenian friend insists that the roof to the apartment block in which he lives we partly paid for by Norway, via the EU.

  • 66.
  • At 06:16 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • MDV wrote:

Post # 53,
Hmm, another EUrosceptic drawing parallels with WW2. When will you a)accept the thouroughly different nature of modern day circumstances with that of the past and b) move on generally?

  • 67.
  • At 06:48 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Neil Basset wrote:

Re the Malta question and the fact the minority should be scarificed for the good of the majority. What a marvelous idea ! I seem to remember it was the French, among others, who rejected the treaty originally, not the U.K. We should have ignored that vote, the majority must prevail.

Interesting in the other countries that did have the original referndum most are not being given a chance to vote again. I quite agree, they may vote no, we cannot risk that. After all our politicians (or as I prefer to call them our masters) know best. Promises made in manifestos are just for the election, no one seriously thinks they mean something do they ?

The voters are so lacking in intelligence they cannot possibly understand the intricacies of the treaty. We need to leave that to our betters.

Democracy is so inconvenient, perhaps we should do away with it all together. No need for a referendum as we do have a parliamentary democracy after all.

  • 68.
  • At 08:13 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Steve wrote:

Mark,
Thanks for your reply to my comment. I understand the point you are trying to make that an attempt by the Conservatives to 'unratify' a ratified Lisbon treaty by referendum after it has passed through Parliament would be a legislative nightmare and would do immense damage to our relations with our European partners.

However, I believe my point is still valid that we should not confuse the Conservatives attempt to put the Lisbon Treaty to a referendum and a no vote as the same as saying no to the EU. I believe that it would be political suicide for any of the main parties to now seriously pursue Britain's removal from the EU. Asking voters to say no on Lisbon is much easier than asking them whether we should be outside the EU for the reasons i made regarding jobs and the opportunities it has created for people to live abroad. Also, the full extent of the pro-European lobby has never really been known - those that speak up tend to be euro-enthusiasts who want to pursue a fully integrated EU - but that does not necessarily include a very powerful business lobby that would be demanding the UK remains part of the EU single market. A Conservative government in opposition to UK business now that really would be something.

  • 69.
  • At 08:15 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • John wrote:

I have some news for Rodrigo Calvo (55) who wonders why the EU ‘would be so ready to grant’ the UK EEA membership should we leave the EU. Britain, having signed the EEA Treaty, is a member of the EEA already and would continue to remain a member should we leave the EU.

http://secretariat.efta.int/Web/EuropeanEconomicArea/EEAAgreement/EEAAgreement/EEA_Agreement.pdf

We may of course choose (like Switzerland) to negotiate something better but EEA membership would be the ‘default’ situation post-EU. Mr. Mardell may also want to review his claim that 26 new treaties would be necessary as this has not been the case with Switzerland. Perhaps he assumes that only 2 countries may sign any one international treaty? Divorce is simpler than you think and the savings (which would amount to about 2/3 of Council Tax revenue) would make it possible for a Conservative government to put some very attractive policies to the British people.

  • 70.
  • At 09:34 PM on 31 Oct 2007,
  • Mike Dixon wrote:

The reason why the Treaty is effectively the same as the proposed Constitution is to allow those countries which have already voted in favour to approve it through their respective Parliaments. A looked the English version of the Constitutions of Spain, Denmark, France, Ireland, and even Russia in that well known Encyclopeadia on the Internet shows quite clearly when a Referendum can or must be held in the Respective country. Any dispute on the matter can be taken to the Constitutional (or Supreme) Court for a ruling which is binding on the Government. As far as I can see, it is only in Great Britain that the decision on if and when a Referendium is held is made by the Government of the day.

In answer to Luke Rogers (No.53) in the 1940s I was a kid in London with German bombs raining down on owr heads.In the 1930 by Spainish friend Paco was in Barcelona being bombed by the Italians before Franco with German help conquered Catalunya. The first reason for the E.U. is to stop such madness ever again happening in Europe. That is why Paco and I are 100% in support of the E.U. and what it stands for.

I do enjoy this blog, Mark. Being 'blessed' [sic] with being a USA citizen by birth, where under Dubyaism & disabled at age 60 I now have no hearth coverage whatsoever after working as a government worker nearly all my life, I am fascinated by UK folks raving about the EU - while putting up with the UK's continued participation in the Iraq War. This phenomenon seems to me to hie back to Ronald Gr:unebaum's, to me, correct insights as to the still ongoing continuum of UK colonialist obsessions. To follow this line of thinking further: why is it okay for the UK still to have UK soldiers being blown to smithereens in Iraq and/or blowing "collateral damage" Iraqi civilians to smithereens, but it's so deadly for the UK to be having to learn to NEGOTIATE policies with its own neighbors within the EU? I also appreciate another blogger's comments about Ireland's folks being a bit more sage regarding membership in the EU. Having myself stayed a bit in Ireland, in Irish homes, and seen the happy plans going ahead for the next/upcoming vacations in Spain/etc., I would hazard a guess that Irish folks have many reasons for care with hanging onto the best of their relationship with the EU - be that quick, easy trips to Amsterdam and/or Spain - or EU grants. Whereas, if the Cameron types have their way & engineer some isolationist break from the EU - and align themselves even more with the USA as the result - then consider this: USA's overseas tourism is in decline & USA's ever-rising national debt blooms brighter and stronger than the brightest poppy fields in Afghanistan this past growing season. If I were a Brit in the UK I'd frankly be more upset by the fact that so many Champions League football teams are being bought up by Yanks!! Now THERE'S a horror I myself would definitely want a change to vote against!

  • 72.
  • At 08:47 AM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • michael brimacombe wrote:

I am sad and so angry over this lack of a referendum.Maybe those Labour MPs will look at themselves in the mirror and force Brown to give the nation what they promised.I some how doubt that this sleaziest of leaders ( Brown )will even let his MPs have a free vote.
My late father and many reletives are turning in their graves.They laid their lives on the line for our country and for what?
Maybe we should of let Hitler have it in the first place.Hang on there a second -- he was a dictator and besides it would of not been democratic !!!!!!!!!!!

  • 73.
  • At 03:11 PM on 01 Nov 2007,
  • Mark Jones wrote:

As somebody who is by instinct pro-European and pro-EU I think that we should have a referendum, not on the Lisbon Treaty but on our continued membership of the EU. The current situation of semi-detached pseudo-commitment is increasingly untenable and undesirable.

When we voted the first time, we voted in favour of joining the 'ever closer union' of European states but ever since then we have opposed and fought against almost every attempt to put that ever closer union into effect.

If we didn't mean what we said when we signed up then we shouldn't have done it, no wonder some in continental Europe see us a stooge of the USA determined to block any attempts by the EU to create more unity and rival the economic and political hegemony of the Americans. Personally I don't believe that we are but I can understand why our partners are so frustrated with our half-hearted engagement in the EU. Every summit seems to generate no positive proposals from the UK, only talk of 'red lines' and blocking.

If after the referendum, Britain voted to stay in, we should proceed to join the Schengen area, adopt the Euro and get rid of all of our special arrangements within the EU. If we voted to get out, we should negotiate a free-trade deal with the EU and other nations around the world and make the best of being an internationalist trading nation like a giant Singapore or Hong Kong. I don't believe that the EU would be so short-sighted as to 'punish' us for leaving as this would also punish their own economies and citizens. As I have said, my instincts are pro-Eu but democracy is more important and you cannot drag an unwilling public into a union by denying them a say and not expect there to be trouble in the future.

What we absolutely should not do in the latter case is allow ourselves to become dominated by the USA as this would be much more stifling than the EU, at least we have votes and influence in Brussels, in Washington we have none as proved by Iraq, Kyoto, International Criminal Court etc.

  • 74.
  • At 05:17 AM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • Donna wrote:

I really enjoy your blog Mr. Mardell. It gives great insight into European politics and life.


Thanks for a good read as always !

  • 75.
  • At 07:40 AM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • Natalie wrote:

Fantastic blog, very amusing scenario, Prime Minister Cameron...

Those who think UK would be better off outside the EU are absolutely dreaming and are so cut off from the rest of the world I actually find it depressing. Do you really think we would have any political, economic or environmental clout outside the EU?

Thanks to Chris for his enlightening comment on naval gazing. Highly informative.

  • 76.
  • At 10:48 AM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • Neil Basset wrote:

There is a vocal minority of people either pro E.U. or anti E.U. The pro group wants an ever closer Union, the anti wants us to get out.
My position, is probably similar to that of the majority in this country, I want to stay in the E.U. but there does need to be some changes.

There are some issues which are a constant cuase of irritation, some of these are small and their effect is disproportionate. But if we are to assuage public opinion on the E.U. we cannot ignore them.

For example Article 48 allows free movement of persons across the E.U. I am basically in favour of that. However the recent publicity given to the issues of convicted murderers and other criminals and the inability to deport them because of Article 48 and the Human Rights Act is having a negative effect on the E.U. image. It appears to protect the right of criminals, above that of victims.

I do not believe if there was sufficient political pressure, any country would object to an ammendment. For example Article 48 will apply unless a criminal offence has been commited in the host country, in which case that country can deport them to their country of origin in line with their domestic law.

Another issue is harmonisation of tax laws. Why do we insist Cyprus has to raise it's V.A.T. rate in line with the E.U. If they want to keep it low, let them. If it gives them an advantage over other countries, they can choose to lower their rates. If it is a disadvantage to them, that's their problem.

There are more difficult issues, such as the Commom Agricultural Policy, because of vested interest we are unlikely to get any realistic change and we will have to live with it. We should however try and ensure we are not causing problems for developing nations because of it.

Another issue we should do something about is the riddiculous spectacle of the E.U. Parliament moving whole sale between two countries. It makes no sense economically. Perhaps a smaller point is that it also undoubtedly contributes to climate change and is a waste of valuable resources.

There are other pinch points which can be dealt with and relieve the growing pressure on the E.U.
People on both sides of this discussion need to realise this is not just a U.K. issue. Many other citizens of other countries are starting to question the whole concept, we need to act now to deal with real issues for people.

Neil

  • 77.
  • At 11:03 AM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • J McKinley wrote:


The argument here by many pro-europeans seems to be that any form of disagreement with the EU project (as determined by what might be described as a self-appointed EU elite) indicates a desire to leave the EU completely. Using contradictory arguments, they argue that the use of referendum is in fact anti-democratic, even in those cases where no straightforward electoral case is put to the voters.

Being 30 years old, I have never been granted an opportunity to voice my opinions on our membership of the EU, and if we were to follow the arguments here, I will never have such an opportunity, but will simple be taken further and further down a road I may never wish to go.

For the record, I would vote against ratification of the new treaty, not because I wish Britain to leave the EU (which I strongly believe would be a serious mistake), but because I believe that a treaty which is puportedly designed to improve the internal functioning of the EU should be understandable by its members. Any treaty written in such a complicated and convoluted form, deliberately designed in parts to be incomprehensible, and with attempted opt-outs which may later prove to be unenforceable cannot be considered to be worthy of ratification.

If the design of this treaty is truly to improve the internal functionings, then it should make this clear from the start. It should spell out clearly the divisions in responsibilities at different levels of government and the respective roles - the important thing here being that these be spelt out clearly, which not even the most ardent supporters can claim.

I could raise further points about self-governance or what I believe to be the deceit of promising a referendum then reneging on this, but unfortunately I have no doubt that any such arguments would only lead to some of the standards insults being thrown my way - 'little englander', 'facist', 'loser'. It is interesting that the role of sensationalists has moved from euro-sceptics (who are not innocent of this charge either) to the euro-enthusiasts - but claiming the sky will fall on our heads if we do not agree with you does not make your arguments any stronger.

For the record, I live and work in Luxembourg and have not worked in UK for several years.

  • 78.
  • At 12:00 PM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

JulianR writes: "The insistence on carrying on with the Pound rather than adopting the Euro, the fact that all road signs still use miles rather than kilometres and the fact that our public buildings rarely fly the European flag, all make the UK is look increasingly backward."

No real British person, however EUrophilic, would say such things. JulianR is obviously an agent provocateur for UKIP.

  • 79.
  • At 03:31 PM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • G Manson wrote:

#73
We did not vote for ever closer union as you suggest. I take the following quote from BBC on this day website;

"Faced with the referendum question, "Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market Britons voted "Yes" in most of the 68 administrative counties, regions and Northern Ireland. Only Shetland and the Western Isles voted against the EEC.

Where does it mention any ever closer union.

I have no doubt that is what the continental governments meant, as more than likely did Heath and his mob ( we have been lied to to constantly on this type of issue), but the fact is they declined to mention it to "joe public".

I have never met one person who thought they were voting to stay in anything other than a free trade area with some rights to go on holiday easier or to work abroad.

Nobody envisaged such simple things as whether we can work the hours we choose would be dictated to us nor did they imagine that European laws would stop us deporting foreign murderers and other undesirables.

By all means we should have a referendum on the whole issue but with every aspect properly discussed and not just the usual scaremongering over jobs etc.

  • 80.
  • At 06:00 PM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • Malcolm wrote:

Mark,

You may think that leaving the EU will be painful and difficult (I disagree with both assertions by the way)but it will be nothing like as difficult or painful as trying to sort out the mess once it collapses if we are still members when it does. The strains on the Eurozone caused by the absurdity of a common currency which can never serve every country well at the same time are already appearing. When the rapidly approaching world slump arrives it will disolve in flames. At least we should be spared the pain of being a "Euro" currency when the dam finally bursts.

The EU may have had a sensible purpose when it was first created (as the EEC) but it has long since ceased to have any logic as it grows beyond manageable boundaries, seemingly unable to resist continual expansion, swallowing eveything in sight like a gigantic political black hole. I suspect that its days are already numbered as it struggles under the weight of its own absurdity. It is only the dogged pursuit of the political dream (or is that political self-interest?), in the face of steadily advancing reality, by European politicians and bureaucrats that holds it shakily together. We need a British politician who has the courage of the small boy in the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes, and tells it like it is. Why stand inside a house that you know full well is going to fall down?

  • 81.
  • At 09:35 PM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • JohnM wrote:

This blog attracts fascinating people. Apart from the American spectators, most of whom claim some weird link to the continent and offer patronising views on the old world, it brings forth people with very crude views on politics and political life.

"Me!" is for most of the commentators the index of political reality. Obviously, there is a sense which it should be so, and can hardly be otherwise, but at the same time, it is also a nonsense. The very nature of a polity, and the sensible conduct of political discourse, is one where there is modicum - at the very least - of 'transpersonal' (read 'social') consideration.

I'm not a historian, but I have a strong intuition that the isolationism of Tory-sympathisers is a kind of fantasy of being a small, contained island...that happens to run the world's largest empire. By all means retreat to being a small island, but without the Empire...it's going to be very different from the fantasy. It will be insecure, incrementally slipping down wealth tables, and an extremely particular target for old grudges and new.

What is it with the frost-bitten intellects that whinge about referenda lost, and the liberation supposed to come forth from an exit from the EU, that enables them to avoid the obvious reality that Britain, nay, England since that is the true lens through which they view the world, is just not ready for the 21st, globalised, century on its own?

I am not a Labour Party member, and I have direct professional experience of the irritating diffusion and over-scale of the EU. But hysterical whingeing about either of these is not a remedy. One solid reason why neither insitution - Labour or the EU - is really top of its game is that the debates and critiques are so crummy. Gordon Brown is 'sleazy' according to one poster here...what?! He can't be both dour and controlling and sleazy at the same time.

Swallow a little bit of frothy hatred and think about how a polity in a global world really ought to work.

  • 82.
  • At 09:38 PM on 02 Nov 2007,
  • christos mouzeviris wrote:

well,after reading most of the contributions here,i think i will add mine...
if UK leaves EU,and supposelly stays in EEA/EFTA....as somebody already said, EEA/EFTA members are already paying a large amount of money into EU,through EEA....so you don't get away the financial "burdon"...i will add that EEA members states,have to follow EU legislation if they wish to do business with EU...in fact EEA states are 80% EU members,,they just don't have representatives in EU parliament.so you don't avoid following laws comming from EU either.EEA/EFTA don't avoid immigration from EU,since they are in schengen....in switzerland people voted yes to expand their schengen membership to the new EU states too....or a new kind of racism hit UK after accepting the indians,the blacks and the pakistanis,they don't like the poles or the latvians now..??and why do you complaint about immigration from europe,while as part of the commonwealth non-europeans can easily migrate to UK..??are you just alergic to anything that comes from europe?

leave all EU/EEA/EFTA,and you'll the prices of your imports from all EU members highrocketing....french and german will be the major laguages in EU,thus european youngsters will have to Learn those languages..?do you know how much money has to pay someone to learn english language and have an oxford/cambridge certificate in english..?? multiply that in millions,and make the sums...it will hit your economy hard..it might not collapse,but definatelly you won't have money to invest in destroying other people's countries like iraq....

the trouble is that britain wants world domination...prefers to be the 51st state of USA,than the 7th of EU....your alliance with USA may give you some prestige power and money,but lets see how many more british soldiers have to die in iraq,and how many more bomb attacks in britain have to hapen to realise that following USA will only do you harm....

all the best in your future britain...
cheers
christos

  • 83.
  • At 08:02 AM on 03 Nov 2007,
  • Lucy wrote:

Separation and divorce as soon as possible if you ask me and other ordinary citizens. We are fed up with poles and other East Europeans and our Brown & Co want to draw Turkey in.

  • 84.
  • At 04:08 PM on 03 Nov 2007,
  • Graham wrote:

I'm not sure a referendum would be the best tool for the job in this situation anyway - surely referendums are better suited to simple yes/no questions where the options available are less complex. I might be accused of insulting the intelligence of my fellow voters, but I think we all know that if voting in a referendum was conditional on sitting and reading the treaty and demonstrating understanding of its contents, turnout would be extremely low.

I don't want to live in some Athenian style democracy where we all troop down to the marketplace to take part in forming legislation. Our MPs are elected and paid to represent us, read the legislation, debate the fine points, and make informed decisions on our behalf. Like it or not, the electorate has ceded this decision-making to Parliament. If you don't believe this, watch and wait for the mass demonstrations demanding a popular voice through a referendum. Just don't hold your breath.

  • 85.
  • At 10:03 PM on 03 Nov 2007,
  • Mike wrote:

Why doesn't England leave, and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland stay in?

Seems an ideal solution to me, England could then join the EEA like Norway & Iceland - then the EU could just fax all the new laws to London for implementation without argument.

Scotland et al could also join Schengen and actually stop criminals etc from coming in as we would have access to the Schengen Information System.

Or is all that just too simple to work?!

  • 86.
  • At 03:04 AM on 04 Nov 2007,
  • Marco Borg wrote:

I would believe in the EU if they could make some attempt to control the Islamisation of Europe ie invasion by immigration, families and village, then having on average 4 children, and then acting in collusion with the idiots and/or the bribed to build mosque places, and then Islamic towns within cities of the "recepient countries". It is especially undemocratic and against the wishes of their own citizenry when they obligingly grant them citizensh
If the EU can't even control its own borders, what kind of Europe is this.

  • 87.
  • At 10:57 AM on 04 Nov 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

Graham (84) says: "Our MPs are elected and paid to represent us, read the legislation, debate the fine points, and make informed decisions on our behalf."

Absolutely corrrect. The British people grant sovereignty to our elected representatives in Parliament. But it is important to note that they are obliged to return this sovereignty to the people every 4-5 year and stand for re-election. They have not been mandated to cede this sovereignty to others (be it the EU, the UN, or Uncle Tom Cobley). Hence the need for a referendum.

To Mike (85). In the furtherence of British intersts, I'd rather remain in the EU - as a free trading zone - and to confound moves towards 'ever closer union'. Much as I would like it, the EU hasn't the guts or the wherewithal to 'expel' the UK. They are dependent on the billions of Euros we pay in contributions. I'm not sure that other serious nett contributors like Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden would like to shoulder the added burden just to keep Luxembourg in profit and the obscenity of CAP rolling along unhindered.

As for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland going their own way, I'm sure the average English taxpayer wouldn't mind too much. (And there is, of course, the bonus of ensuring that New Labour - shorn of it's Scottish and Welsh MPs - would probably never be in power again in Westminster).

  • 88.
  • At 01:18 PM on 04 Nov 2007,
  • Excaliber wrote:

Mark,
The Times has taken up the issue of the number of immigrant workers in the UK, offering revised statistics which suggest that not our useless current government's figure of 52 percent, but more than 80 percent, of the jobs created in the past 10 years have gone to foreigners.

The figures also show that in the past five years the number of foreigners in work in Britain has risen by nearly one million, while employment among the UK-born population has dropped by almost 500,000.

The number of foreign-born workers in Britain rose from 1.904 million in mid-1997 to 3.269 million in the middle of this year, an increase of 1.365 million. Over the same period, there was a rise in working-age employment among UK-born people from 23.638 million to 23.948 million, a rise of just 310,000.

Since 2002 the number of foreigners working in Britain has climbed by 964,000 while UK-born employment has dropped by 478,000.

The Times also has a leader that notes that the willingness of employers to take on foreign labour is a reflection of our dire education system. This has produced an "underclass", where a conservatively estimated 10 percent of young people are "Neets": not in education, employment, or training.

"Faced with the choice between an unreliable, unskilled, and unqualified British 17-year-old and an enthusiastic and skilled eastern European, probably speaking better English, whom would you employ?" the paper asks. We have created a "lost generation" of young people.

Successive governments, & their allies in the politically correct-obsessed ruling elite, have betrayed Britain again. Just like they did in the 1930's. The country was saved at Dunkirk then. What will happen this time?

  • 89.
  • At 02:23 PM on 04 Nov 2007,
  • Dan wrote:

We had a referendum in 1975 about staying in the EEC, which included abiding by all parts of the Treaty of Rome 1957, which includes the important phrase "an ever closer union". By 1972 before we joined it was already an accepted principal that European Law overruled domestic law, and by 1972 the European Council was committed to Monetary Union which was supported by PM Heath at the first European Council we were entitled to attend before we gained full membership.

The idea that we were joining or staying in a mere free trade club is a myth, EFTA was a free trade club that we had set up in competition with EEC and that we were leaving by joining the EEC. Either the entire population of these islands were incredibly stupid 32 years ago or we had the debate and the large but vocal minority have been trying to re-write history ever since.

The big issue of expelling "foreign" criminals is one of the latest myths. If they are EU citizens they are as much citizens as citizens of Glasgow, Belfast or Cardiff, if they commit a crime they should be locked up and if serious they should be kept there if necessary for ever, but once let out we are saying they are no longer a threat to the community so why the nonsense about expelling them, if they are still a threat to the community why are we releasing them??

I would like to get to the position of Denmark, which had 4 opt-outs from the time of Mastricht and once Lisbon has been ratified and implemented wants to have a refferendum on giving up the opt-outs.

A UK fully engaged in the EU, joining Schengen whole heartedly, joining the Euro, agreeing to the Charter of fundamental rights.

  • 90.
  • At 11:57 PM on 04 Nov 2007,
  • John (UK) wrote:

It seems Sean Scneider (63) & Christos Mouzeviris (82) have a strange idea of what EEA or EFTA membership means or would cost relative to EU membership.

1. EEA: Members (e.g. Norway, Iceland etc.) accept the obligation and cost of complying with EU regulations related to the single market but not in other areas. EEA countries have the right to be consulted on single market regulation but not to vote. They are not bound by most of the EU’s social & employment legislation, and not at all by the common agriculture, fisheries, foreign, security, justice/home affairs policies, etc. The Swiss government estimated the financial cost of EEA membership to be about 1/7 of EU membership. All EU countries are also members of the EEA so leaving the EU defaults to this.

2. EFTA: This option is used by Switzerland. It is similar to EEA but gives more freedom to reject single market regulations in conformance with the Swiss tradition of direct democracy. The Swiss are not subject to any of the social and employment legislation from the EU. As with EEA members, Switzerland pays a small amount to the EU budget estimated to be 1/9th the cost of EU membership.

The Swiss estimates for the annual cost to Switzerland of alternative relationships with EU in the 2007-2013 period are as follows:

Continue Bilateral Agreements ………. 557 (million Swiss Franc per year)
Join EEA ……………………………… 737
Join EU (net contribution) …………… 3400
Join EU (gross contribution) …………. 4940

The full cost/benefit analysis from the Swiss Federal Departments of Foreign and Economic is available (in French only) at http://www.admin.ch/ch/f/ff/2006/6461.pdf.

Both EEA and EFTA options allow free trade agreements with 3rd-parties that are not possible for EU members. Experience in the most developed European countries shows that when people are given a choice they vote for EEA or EFTA membership and not for the EU.

Naturally either EEA or EFTA alternatives are only of relevance if their associated costs are lower than the costs (mainly tariff barriers) we would face if we were outside the EEA completely. In 2002 the total UK customs duties collected was just £1.9bn. These duties were collected on the volume of our trade (40-45% of the total) with non-EU countries and this revenue was handed direct to Brussels anyway. Outside the EU we would keep this revenue on non-EU trade for ourselves. Since UK trade with EU members is about 55-60% of our total the tariff barriers we could expect (as a non-EU country) to pay on our exports to the EU26 would be little more than the current £1.9bn collected today on our trade with non-EU countries. And if the EU26 were to apply such tariffs on imports from Britain we would more than cover them by equivalent tariffs on the greater volume of trade in the reverse direction. While I support free trade with Europe it is hardly free today when we are obligated to accept the progressive hollowing-out of our democracy in return for it. In 2007 EU politicians crossed the Rubicon by imposing measures rejected in referendums and (in the UK) going back on the manifesto promises they made to get elected. It is time in my opinion to see clearly what the EU is becoming and for Britain to work out better alternative arrangements.

  • 91.
  • At 01:05 AM on 05 Nov 2007,
  • Nick wrote:

I am usually in favour of the EU and think that leaving it would be bad for our trade and economy. However, I think the current attempt to foist the treaty on all of Europe (not just the UK) without verification smacks of cowardice and a failure of nerve on the part of politicians. If the treaty is such a good thing, let them persuade us to vote yes and give it moral legitimacy. This brazen attempt to smuggle in what is just a rehash of last night's dinner (the old treaty rejected by France and Netherlands) is bad for democracy and for the EU.

  • 92.
  • At 09:13 AM on 05 Nov 2007,
  • Marcel -NL- wrote:

@ Mike (85)

are you pretending member states have influence on laws? Well this is not the case, the laws in the EU are made by unelected Brussels politicians and bureaucrats who are not subject to any form of democratic scrutiny and also cannot be removed from office by any democratic means.

If a country is no longer in the EU it would have 100% control of its laws as it used to be.

I gather you support transferring lawmaking powers from elected national politicians to unelected EU politicians?

  • 93.
  • At 09:18 AM on 05 Nov 2007,
  • Marcel -NL- wrote:

@ Graham (84):

the problem is that most (national) politicians are hopelessly uninformed about how the EU really works.

And more importantly: national politicians do not have a mandate to transfer lawmaking powers to Brussels. Sovereignty lies with the people and national parliaments cannot give it away without the peoples express consent (ie a referendum). And even if the people consent it has to be temporary and conditionally.

Politicians of the mainstream parties have a vested interest in cozying up to the EU in order so some in their party can secure an EU job (ie better pay, and no income tax to be paid).

Sovereignty is too important to leave to the politicians.

@ McKinley (77):

to the EU-philes the EU is sacrosanct. In their eyes its existance cannot be questioned and its laws must be blindly obeyed without argument. Its sort of a Third Reich mentality: do not question ze orders!

They have completely blotted out from their minds that there are countless other ways of cooperating, and cannot accept endless political integration and harmonization might not be a good thing. They completely fail to realize that harmonization more than anything else is what killed the USSR. Harmonization means: no competition. They won't listen to reason.

If we dissolve the EU and revert back to the original EEC without political integration, would we be worse off? Absolutely not, we'd be better off and we'd have the sovereignty and democracy of our countries back instead of quisling-like politicians giving the sovereignty away to Brussels whilst lying to the public about it.

  • 94.
  • At 10:08 AM on 05 Nov 2007,
  • PeterS wrote:

The comments on this blog are on the whole more rational than many other forums. Any mention of the EU gets the usual letters to newspapers, teletext, BBC have your say etc. with the usual line that the EU is a conspiracy by Germany and France to defeat us in revenge for winning WW2

Well, WW2 ended 62 years ago, time to move on don't you think? But wait, what's this, a mention of Napoleon, yes the French are still after vengence for defeat at Waterloo 192 years ago!

The Germans are against us for defeating Hitler and the French for defeating Napoleon. Simple! But the Germans were on our side against Napoleon and the French on our side against Hitler. But hey! they are both against us now! The Spanish are of course still smarting from the Armada and Gibraltar and the Danes from the Battle of Copenhagen

The rabid anti EU letters will still pour into our newspapers from expats living in the sun. "An Englishman has a right to live anywhere he likes don't you know, that's what these wars were all about. It's just that johny foreigner dosn't know his place anymore. It's not that I'm against foreigners, some of them are pretty good waiters, but they really should stay in their own country." Unless we need cheap labour of course

The EU may or may not be a good thing. It may be (probably, well certainly is)inefficient and corrupt,but one thing I do believe. It is not a conspiracy with the sole purpose to defeat England ( I deliberately say England rather than the UK) in revenge for Hitler, Napoleon etc.

This blog has the more sensible writers (myself excepted) but I'm sure you have all seen the sort of letters I refer to. "I didn't fight in two world wars etc. etc. " No you probably weren't even born!

  • 95.
  • At 12:03 PM on 05 Nov 2007,
  • Mark Jones wrote:

To G Manson who said

"We did not vote for ever closer union as you suggest. I take the following quote from BBC on this day website;

"Faced with the referendum question, "Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market) Britons voted "Yes" in most of the 68 administrative counties, regions and Northern Ireland. Only Shetland and the Western Isles voted against the EEC.

Where does it mention any ever closer union."

What we were voting on was to stay in the European Community, the treaty which our government signed to become a member was The Treaty of Rome, this contained the basic principles of what the EUropean Community meant and what its goals were.

In the very first part of the treaty, the preamble, The treaty makes it clear that signatories are committing to an "ever closer union among the peoples of Europe", it couldn't be clearer.

If the British people were not made aware of this, then the blame has to lie with the British political establishment for not telling them or indeed with the public itself for not informing themselves about the issues (maybe a good example of why referendums are not always a great idea). The EC has always been quite open about 'ever closer union' being the goal of the organisation

  • 96.
  • At 12:38 PM on 05 Nov 2007,
  • Lars Torders wrote:

Re: "...why navel gazing?"
I was informed that the reason that fakirs meditate on the navel is that but for the separation of the child from the mother at birth by cutting the umbilical cord, the whole of the human race would be joined together (and I guess if we go back far enough, the whole of the mammalian kingdom.)Wading through such a spaghetti to get to the pub would be like trying to find the truth about our role in the EU.It feels like we are the turkeys being asked to vote for Xmas.

  • 97.
  • At 03:49 PM on 05 Nov 2007,
  • Luke Rogers wrote:

Ah yes, I forgot, how silly of me. As your responses would have it,the break up of the EU will inevitably lead to World War 3? Perhaps then, your chief argument for the EU is to actually protect the UK from European agression?? All we have to do is nod when told to, sacrifice our democratic principles of freedom and self-determination, and cough up the annual fee eh?

  • 98.
  • At 04:05 PM on 05 Nov 2007,
  • Big Al wrote:

Re Mark Mardell's comment on becoming like Switzerland or Norway:

It strikes me that "painful and a long-drawn-out process" sounds more like a description of Britain's ongoing sinking into the EU mire.

The important thing is to be going in the right direction. Once you're doing that, time will take care of the rest.

  • 99.
  • At 12:03 PM on 06 Nov 2007,
  • Neil wrote:

It is probable that most people in most countries wish to stay in the European Union. However there is a significant minority in most countries who have strong reservations about staying in the E.U.

More worrying is a larger group of people in most countires who are growing increasingly frustrated with Europe. Do not be deluded into thinking this is just a U.K. issue. For example there are strong reservations within the French population as to what they see as the Anglo drive for free market economics.

In Germany a feeling that they are paying a disproportionate share of the bill for the E.U.

In the new Eastern Europe accession countries that they are not benefitting from full mebership of the club. Also a perception that the E.U. is medling in matters that do not concern them, such as equality in respect of sexual orientation matters.

Netherlands (along with France) voted against the new constitution.

There are other issues in other countries, which for brevity I will not go into here. We would be foolish to try and say the only resistance to the E.U. comes from a small number of 'little Englanders'. People who believe the UK is the only nation showing disquiet to me demonstrate the worst kind of prejudice and ignorance.

Some of these tensions and concerns are competing and even diametrically opposed. They are not capable of resolution in a highly centralised Europe. They can be tolerated within a looser union based on economic freedom, within a secure and peaceful Europe

Neil


  • 100.
  • At 07:36 AM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • michael wrote:

In reply to letter ( 81 johnM )who says someone has called brown sleazy and others dour and controlling.
He says you cannot be all three.
I can tell he has not met many people in power or he is very niave. Just because someone is dour (harsh,obsternet,determined) does not mean they cannot be sleazy!

  • 101.
  • At 05:41 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Paul J Gies wrote:

Over here in the US (the state of Maine, actually), regionalism runs high; Texans detest New Yorkers and are detested right back; suspicions rage about factories moving, not just to the third world, but from Northern states to Southern ones; even our common language separates us (ayuh, y'all!). Individual states have their own discontents, with California, Maine and the Dakotas, among others, harboring secessionist movements.

Yet almost no one (outside of the state of Maine, of course) imagines any state leaving the States. No one pretends for a moment that Arizona or Michigan (or Maine) would do better, economically, politically, or security-wise, as a separate country.

So my advice is: Stay in the E.U. It gives you something to complain about, which is good for your sanity, and meanwhile I have no doubt that you are better off in many more substantive ways inside than you would be outside.

  • 102.
  • At 05:48 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • christos mouzeviris wrote:

john, why do you state here only the cost of switzerland's entry,and not the benefits..??it seems that you know a lot about economics,but please state what will szitzerland gain from joining,NOT only financially but in other sectors as well...switzerland's application is "on ice" or open at the moment as they call it,and they will take probably the steps of norway..
their leaders want to join,but they have to listen to the people,a nice example of democracy i say in europe....but a reason of a rich country joining EU is not just financial....finances may apply in poorer countries...influence (political or other) over europe or european matters is also an issue...investing in a smaller poorer country,is not like giving your money to the "freeloaders" as you call them in uk...but you actually have long term political and financial influence over this country,and eventually financial gain...it is like buying a barn and turning it into a hotel...some people see a barn,and won't buy...others see the potentials and go for it,and eventually they see the fruition of their investements....
you in the UK have for so long practiced that...don't tell me that you believe you joined the iraq war to free the iraqis and all those lives and money that you lost are in vain....if everything goes according to your plan,britain will gain from all that mess...poor iraqis...

regards
christos

  • 103.
  • At 08:26 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • christos mouzeviris wrote:

neil,in ALL countries there are eurosceptics..in greece for example the KKE (greek communist party) is openly anti-EU...but the story with UK is not only the proportion is much larger,but they are being misled by their leaders but blame EU....UK can't stand a european superpower right next to it's doorstep,especially one that they will have NO influence over,if UK pulls out of EU,and ESPECIALLY because then the french and germans will take over and take europe where they want....the brits can't live with that,and can't live without it...so all this arguing and debating is actually only for UK's politicians to decide what stance they want to have towards europe...cooperate with the french and germans and lead europe to a new era of prosperity,or discard europe an stick to USA and dominate asian/african countries....it's actually an internal affair...

and about democracy in EU....did the british or any other country that followed them to the war in iraq actually gave a referendum to it's people if they want to go on war...??did italy,did poland,did holland,did denmark,did spain,did bulgaria...??despite that the majority of the europeans were and still are against this war....so it's not EU who is undemocratic,it's our leaders....do't forgett,EU is not a body far away that dictates the rest of europe,it is actually alll our leaders and their goverments put together.....everytime that you oppose to a law comming from brussels think that it may come from an MP of your country in brussels,or the leader of your country and his goverment aproved it

  • 104.
  • At 08:33 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • christos mouzeviris wrote:

to marco borg...:
most western european countries,notably UK,france belgium and holland were multiracial,multicultural and multireligious since the '50's ,loooong before EU even excisted....the mess in european countries,lies not only in EU,(EU is responsible for immigration mostly within europe/EU,and some stupid projects of family re-unification of bogus immigrands) but on the national goverments...There's no agreement in common immigration policy yet,and especially UK is opting out from that TOO...some 5% of EU population has migrated to another EU country,so the immigration still of EU nationals is still very low...each national goverment is responsible for immigration rules,integration procedure or levels of it's immigrants,and EU so far has no say over that...

  • 105.
  • At 08:48 PM on 07 Nov 2007,
  • Sean Schneider wrote:

Just a quick note to those that do not seem to understand the constitution of the United Kingdom. The British people have no "right" to ceed sovereignty, or claim it for that matter. This privaledge resides with Her Majesty the Queen.

If you do not like this idea then perhaps it is time to become a republic. Then we could genuinely say that the sovereign rights belong to the people...

  • 106.
  • At 05:21 PM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Paul J Gies #101
I don't know what America you live in but it isn't the same one I live in. I've lived in five states and been in nearly half of them at one time or another. I have never felt unwelcome or not at home in any of them from Alaska to Florida, from Maine to Southern California. And by the way, I was born and raised in New York City and I'm told I still have a New York accent. And yes I have been to Texas. We kid around about these states and their regional accents and quirky customs but that's as far as it ever goes. What's the proof? When there's trouble, people flood in to the problem area even at their own expense from anywhere in America to anywhere else. Texans were there to help New York City after 9-11 just as New Yorkers ran to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. People whose homes were destroyed were put up by strangers all over the country. When the chips are down, there is only one America and if anything, there are countries like Puerto Rico and even Provinces of Canada who would like to get in. Nobody except for a relative handful of individual "nut cases" really wants to leave.

  • 107.
  • At 09:12 PM on 08 Nov 2007,
  • John wrote:

To Paul J Gies (101): You should never compare US ‘states’ with European states. US ‘states’ are not states, but merely administrative regions of the large nation-state that is the USA. European states, like the USA itself, are real states which may only ever wield legitimate power by allowing a distinct people to realise their natural desire for self-governance. If Lincoln’s fear that government of the people, by the people, for the people is not to perish from this earth then the nation-state must remain the ultimate form of government to which we aspire even in a globalised world.

To pursue your point further, I do not believe the inhabitants of any one American state would seek independence from the USA whenever they perceive they might ‘do better’ as an independent country. So long as the inhabitants of each ‘state’ identify themselves as part of the American nation they will always desire to remain within the USA. This is very different from Europe where there is no European nation. A better North American example would be to ask if the people of Mexico would agree to be governed as part of the USA. It may well be the case that Mexicans would ‘do better’ under such arrangements but Mexicans are highly unlikely to accept such governance because they identify themselves as a distinct people with a right to determine their own destiny independent of Americans. Similarly we in Britain will not accept to live under an emerging EU state where we would frequently be compelled to live under European law & policy that we disagree with when outvoted by a tyranny of the qualified EU majority.

All that is needed at international level is a common market which ideally should encompass the whole world. Politics should then be decided democratically within each nation-state subject only to a minimum of supranational laws preventing one nation from acting in ways harmful to another. (Such ‘harm’ may range from protectionist trade barriers, to environmental damage, right up to aggressive war itself). Everything else should be decided within the nation-state, the only arena within which ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ is possible. All the EU’s problems can (in my opinion) be traced to overstepping this limit using powers inappropriate for any supranational organisation to impose decisions upon the various nations of Europe that these distinct peoples will only ever accept as legitimate when agreed to by a majority of their fellow countrymen.

Chrisos (102): You say that rich European countries should be happy to be in the EU because we get ‘influence’ to decide the law of other less-affluent countries. But the law that you live under in Greece is no concern of British voters unless it affects us adversely in some way. You should view the EU Commission and Council of Ministers as a cartel where the politicians of Europe agree to run each others countries in the way they want while disenfranchising the voters the supposedly represent who can replace just 1 of the 27 members of their emerging collective government leaving the other 26 free to do to us as they will to us irrespective of how we vote in any one country.

As you yourself say only two types of country calculate membership of an EU political union to be worthwhile (i) poor countries in search of more money than the price they attach to their democracy and (ii) those with hegemonic ambitions to control the EU and use it as a basis in a bid for world power. Recognising that Britain is neither poor nor dissatisfied with the World Order you suggest that Britain must still be in the EU because we could not stand a Franco-German controlled “super-power” on our doorstep. But somehow I doubt the “can’t fight / won’t fight” tandem of France & Germany - with their sclerotic economies and (in the case of Germany) steep demographic decline - can ever be a superpower. The real question is not if Britain will ever be at the heart of a Federal Europe, but whether France & Germany can (like Britain) reconcile themselves to mere supporting positions within a loose civilisation alliance of the Western world in which the fast-growing USA is the principle player.

  • 108.
  • At 06:13 PM on 09 Nov 2007,
  • christos mouzeviris wrote:

....and something last...the rich western countries,notably britain germany france and italy,OWE that money that they may spend to the east..it was for their stupidity,arrogance and interests to start 2 wars that wrecked europe, and gave the opportunity to the soviets to rise and dominate in the east....remember poland,lithuania and hungary were very prosperous and powerfull before the wars...and it was CHURCHILL who sat down with the russians and americans and cut the cake called EUROPE in crimaia,excactly as they pleased or it was convinient to them....
western countries dragged the rest of europe to that mayhem and chaos of WW2...so it's time now to rebuilt and make amends...i am not anti-west, rather i'd say pro-west but i feel some issues have to be overcomed and put to the past and learn from it...

as for the future of europe,i really hope it is prosperous and well planned this time...we can achieve a lot together,but we all loose when we let biggotry among us....

thanx for reading...
regards
christos

  • 109.
  • At 03:12 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Densua wrote:

A lot of you debating here seem quite well educated about the EU, which tells me most of you are also in the minority. Like someone here mentioned before, chances are the vast majority of people want to stay in the EU - they just don't know why. Many also hate the EU and want to leave - but they still don't know why. In essence, my point is we need EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION!

A referendum is the right course since the citizens of the EU were never asked for their consent to be classed as such (nor can we claim the EU came about through a historical revolution of the people). However at no point will this referendum be truly democratic unless the people KNOW THEIR OPTIONS. Don't mistake a simple yes/no vote for true democracy. Voting in ignorance is almost as bad as not voting at all - you still don't know what you're getting.

So, first there should be intense informed media debate for the general population, more politicans answering challenging questions, more of an idea of where the EU is heading, more expert opinion in the public field, more understanding of the economic, political, and social benefits and drawbacks, more understanding of the institutions, more transparency, just more of the stuff we really haven't been getting. I'd recommend doing this for years rather than months because the EU is complex and we want time to digest all the different views. Only then can we have a referendum. If Britain decides to leave after having made an informed choice, then that is the correct choice, because the assumption is we are prepared for the consequences. This would also allow our political leaders to gauge what the likely outcome would be and to prepare accordingly for the consequences.

The truth is, the EU deals with important issues individual nations could not handle on their own. It adds an extra layer of effectivness to otherwise cloutless nations in a context of US-led globalisation. Being elite-led initially was fine for the EC because the issues it addressed were so removed from citizens at home (citizen input would probably have been useless or downright detrimental). Now that its policies are hitting citizens directly, citizens should get far more of a say. But people are still ignorant, and being kept ignorant by their political leaders, and that makes our arguments on the whole pretty crap.

As for me, if Britain filed for divorce, I'd leave. My family signed up to be British, not American.

  • 110.
  • At 10:51 PM on 19 Nov 2007,
  • Bobbin wrote:

Lots of arguments for and against to this Major question, understandably, in this more wary, selfish and 'on-the-edge' world we all inhabit.

However, from personal on-going experiences, what is the actual point of a Treaty (perhaps, aka Constitution) that certain countries (inc. the UK) would, albeit reluctantly, bring comprehensively into local law and enforce, in comparison to the ever increasing number of countries who ... simply put ... may, after postponement and don't!

European unity or appreciation (of individual economies, cultures, histories, politics and faiths) is important to distinguish between by each and every one of us. For any type of success, it means pulling together fairly in all senses of the word, not pulling over! For more and more, unity is an impossible (and ultimately, unwanted) objective hence, where do the compromises lay and the 'real strengths' (of Europe) originate, fair trade is certainly one!

  • 111.
  • At 02:48 PM on 20 Nov 2007,
  • chris wrote:

john...

i will refer you again to the british attempts to influence greek internal affairs during the greek civil war....britain took active roll because USA did want the uprise of the communists in greece to succeed...after the WW2 greece enter the american/british sphere of influence so a fall back to russia and communism wasn't favourable.greece was always influenced by foreign powers,both west and east,and your country was one of them..so to conclude i am telling you that you do care about what is happening in other countries of europe,and i brought that as an example..
i don't believe that germany's population decline will have terrible effects in germany,or europe at all..there are ways to combat this,if they act now....so if europe unites in reality,it will become a major player in world politics and economy...

but that's my view

  • 112.
  • At 08:38 AM on 22 Nov 2007,
  • Michael wrote:

To Densue (109)
I am sorry you feel that way but maybe you should leave! You say you and your family signed up to be British. So i take it that you are not British by birth.
You say you do not want to be run by America but by your attitude you are happy to be run by the EU.
Well this may come as a surprise to you but many true British folk do not want to be run by either.
You may have to pack your bags sooner then you think!

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