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Hague makes new Euro policy?

Nick Robinson | 17:11 UK time, Monday, 12 November 2007

William Hague - speaking in the Commons Queens Spech debate - appears to have just made a new commitment to his party's Euro sceptics.

He was asked once again whether his party would promise a referendum if the Tories come to power after the EU Treaty (or what they insists is still the EU Constitution) had been ratified. The Shadow Foreign Secretary went through the usual list of "ifs" implicit in that question - if there's no referendum, if the treaty's ratified elsewhere, if there's an election after that process is over - before going on to say that if all those "ifs" came to pass "We could not let matters rest there".

In other words Hague is saying that the Tories would not accept that ratification by the Commons and by all other EU nations put an end to the debate. They would insist, presumably, on either a post ratification referendum or, if that were not possible, a re-negotiation of Britain's membership of the EU.


  • 1.
  • At 05:48 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Mr A Hershko wrote:

Dream on. If that's what he wanted to say, he would have said so.

If the Tories actually run on that platform, they will lose. And they won't.

  • 2.
  • At 05:50 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Bernard from Horsham wrote:

appears to other words... presumably....
Why not ask him yourself!

  • 3.
  • At 06:09 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Charles E Hardwidge wrote:

So, what William Hague, a well tuned business consultant, is saying is that Broken Britain needs to adjust its relationship with other European countries like, um, a failing business has to go upsetting its major partners? Sure, that will put us on the fast track to somewhere, I suppose. I can't support this cost-cutting, asset-stripping, and out-sourcing mentality the Conservatives are welded to. The Prime Minister's emphasis on better goals, partnerships, and long-term success looks like the better option so I'll stick with that. Thank you.

  • 4.
  • At 06:10 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • John Constable wrote:

IMHO, the two main parties are guilty of political cowardice with respect to the EU.

They simply lack the desire to explain any of the benefits of belonging to us English.

Which I find rather strange.

After all, when it is about 'persuading' us over justification for a war, they merely ask for time to 'shape their public' (ala Jack Straw/Iraq).

Maybe there is a hidden agenda, there usually is when politicians are involved.

This is quite clearly a good thing as Blightly is obviously loathed to further EU integration - resisting the Euro and scepticism over the "constitution" are just two examples. If we did amend our treaties with Europe I think those on the other side of the channel would be relieved as they could continue creating an even closer economic and political union. I daresay most on this side would breathe a sigh of relief.

  • 6.
  • At 06:45 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Jon wrote:

Strange, as I thought Cameron was actively trying to wriggle his way past making such an explicit promise. Perhaps Hague is thinking along the lines that there will not be a tory government for sufficient time for that promise to be forgotten?

Of course, I doubt the Tories truly wish to withdraw from Europe, in spite of their headline grabbing soundbites. Politically and econmically it is far better to have a foot in both camps, one with Europe and the other with America. Just depends when either decides the UK is not worth the trouble and jettisons us.

However, were the UK ever to withdraw from the EU, I would happily brush up on my French, and attempt to learn Spanish and German, and try and settle on the continent. Unless Scotland is independent and in the EU, of course...

  • 7.
  • At 07:30 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Justin wrote:

Wouldn't it destabalise the EU if it's largest financial contributor (Britain) asked to re-negotiate it's position?

  • 8.
  • At 07:49 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Neil Small wrote:

Hague is no fool. It's not so much as membership of the EU in general, but immigration. The layman's view is that since allowing countries such as Poland and Romania to join the EU, the UK has been swamped with immigrants.

The ordinary person does not have time to study politics or facts about immgration, they see foreign workers - and beggars - in their towns and cities, all within a short space of time.

This is dangerous, and Hague knows it. He is trying to grab the initiative now, before parties such as the BNP do so. Brown bottled the election, and has possibly allowed the BNP the opportunity it has been looking for. The Conservatives are now fighting fire with fire, and using the EU as it's tool. If the BNP gains a single seat at the next election, the Conservatives will have failed.

The Conservatives need a major policy to attract back all the voters, having fiddled about with almost every other area until now, with little success.

I think the Conservatives will maintain this pressure for some time now, especially since it is likely some EU directive will be detrimental to the UK in general, and allow them to say "we told you so", while at the same time not committing themselves to any future policy.

  • 9.
  • At 08:56 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Mike Hanlon wrote:

Oh Nick. I know the joy of blogging adds pressure to find something to talk about, but ...

You must know (hopefully, in your lofty position?) that it's a long-time Cameron policy to repatriate the Social Chapter elements of the EU's powers.

That will quite obviously involve a renegotation of the existing EU treaty, requiring the agreement of all other member countries.

How did you imagine that might happen?

So the prospect of a Tory government seeking such an event simply isn't news.

I'm sure Hague realises that the negative implications of the revised Constitution Treaty - if ratified - could easily be reversed at the same negotiations.

Explains their current stance entirely.

  • 10.
  • At 10:07 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Max Sceptic wrote:

And if the wretched Treaty were to be ratified, cannot a sovereign country chose to renegotiate? If the thought of this causes some consternation to EUro-federalists (aka 'ever closer union-ists') then this is an added bonus.

  • 11.
  • At 11:51 PM on 12 Nov 2007,
  • Paul Owen wrote:

If that is what Hague is hinting then he is quite right. The Conservative line should be that Labour has no mandate to push through this treaty without a referendum and so they reserve the right to renegotiate it when in government. That is a perfectly reasonable and rational position to take given that Labour seem determined to ignore public opinion, a determined newspaper campaign and their own manifesto commitment.

  • 12.
  • At 09:26 AM on 13 Nov 2007,
  • KKing wrote:

Great informative blog, Nick

Could Labour not be persuaded to also steal THIS policy from the Conservatives?

It's heartening to hear Hague reinforce the principle, as also elegantly put by my local MP, that elected representatives must not give up the powers they were elected to exercise without asking the people who elected them. Even if ex post, it is the morally right thing to do.

  • 13.
  • At 10:33 AM on 13 Nov 2007,
  • Dave wrote:

Given that EU membership has so many benefits, not least to the Tory party's constituency among business people, this is just another populist gesture and concession to keep the right wing onside.

Maintaining this pantomime through some kind of staged re-negotiation demands would be an excellently futile waste of any future conservative government's energies...

  • 14.
  • At 10:42 AM on 13 Nov 2007,
  • JOHN PARFITT wrote:

As a member of a species almost unrecognised by the BBC and the politico-media-establishment [PME] generally [ie a eurosceptic whose eyes are not on stalks]let me have a go at the way the argument is being dished up. The PME says we live in a parliamentary democracy and so to blazes with referendums: that surely means that if Parliament does not like what is in front of it never mind how and when it got there it is entitled to change it: isn't that what 1689 was all about? Which leaves Messrs Hague and Cameron with an open goal if they wish to shoot, doesn't it? It also means that we shouldn't be spending public money without House of Commons approval which was what 1911 was about yet we have just allowed the EU in effect to raid the DEFRA budget of £305 million by administraive fiat while the flood-closed main road from my villge to the nearest town remains unrepaired for months. In darkest Glos we feel a bit like Kipling's toad beneath the harrow. These are the issues we should be debating and you Nick [I'm a fan by the way] should be prodding the pundits. You might start by looking at the German 1993 opt-out from the ECJ' supremacy and asking them about that; now that would put the cat amongthe pigeons

John P

  • 15.
  • At 11:07 AM on 13 Nov 2007,
  • Quietzapple wrote:

He did not promise a referendum and Nick Robinson's interpretation of Hague's words is unduly generouss.

Hague did not say what Nick says he means.

Hague knows they will lose and that he will most probably be Tory leader, albeit rather reluctanty, in a few years time.

He doesn't want to be still campaigning for a referendum of still less relevance to the UK or public opinion of his party.

  • 16.
  • At 11:54 AM on 13 Nov 2007,
  • Sally C wrote:

I have looked at his words and I think you have read too much into them. It is the usual we need a vote now and we will do "what we can" afterwards.
I was interested to hear Diane Abbott say there was no appetite to help this Gov and that all the significant pro-Euro Tories had stayed away from the Chamber in a recent debate so as not to have anything read into what they might sa.
Some Tory Homers, according to their website, would have liked it to mean more but are not holding out any real hope it meant any more than has been already said.

  • 17.
  • At 01:49 PM on 13 Nov 2007,
  • chris boote wrote:

Here's a tongue-in-cheek question for you to ask any EU official, Nick

In 1919, the Treaty of St. Germain forbade the newly-created Austria from entering into any Military, Political or Economic alliance with Germany, without the express permission of all members of the League of Nations

When was that permission ever given?

  • 18.
  • At 03:38 PM on 13 Nov 2007,
  • DaveH wrote:

Hague, I seem to remember, ran a 2001 campaign based on "3 weeks to save the Pound" (in Rory Bremner voice). He lost by nearly as much as John Major and the Sleaze Crew did.

I just wish someone (Step forward, Nick) would ask this fool whether his agenda is to cosy up to the US? After all, their currency is doing so well....

  • 19.
  • At 04:50 PM on 13 Nov 2007,
  • Gary Elsby stoke-on-Trent wrote:

For me to take either David Cameron or William Hague seriously regarding anything they have to say on Europe, they are going to have to say publicly that Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher and John Major were completely wrong on each and every issue.


  • 20.
  • At 08:20 PM on 13 Nov 2007,
  • Craig wrote:

I have to say, I think the Tories have missed a trick here. The fact is that, once the treaty is ratified, it could be extremely difficult and potentially costly to extricate ourselves from it, which would make a referendum on the treaty after ratification pretty pointless. This is precisely why, if the public desires it, a referendum on the treaty must be held before it is ratified.

If the Tories took this line, they could portray Brown's refusal to grant a referendum as anti-democratic, and railroading the public into an agreement they may not want. This portrayal would, in turn, make a referendum more likely.

  • 21.
  • At 08:36 AM on 14 Nov 2007,
  • KKing wrote:

Gary Elsby Stoke-on-Trent rightly notes that before Brown, Conservative leaders have signed up to a closer relationship with Europe.

This Treaty is monumentally different.

It is deemed to bring such a radical shift of power to the EU that under its former name of Constutition – virtually the same document with the same UK opt-outs – that Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems were united in believing it should be put to the public. The shift in power covers criminal law, civil law, foreign policy, immigration, asylum and tax, just to name a few. The European Court of Justice will have jurisdiction over justice and home affairs over the first time. Once an EU law is passed, even if the UK voted against it, EU law automatically overrides UK national law.

But don’t take my word for it. Brief or in-depth summaries on the changes can be found below.

BBC’s Q&A on the Treaty:

A brief BBC summary with main issues:

How European experts see it (pdf, download for free)

In-depth analysis – a full guide:

  • 22.
  • At 10:43 PM on 14 Nov 2007,
  • Quietzapple wrote:

KKing misleads by ignoring the fact that this is an amending treaty, called the Reform Treaty, which is why no Referendum is to be forthcoming.

reform |riˈfôrm| verb [ trans. ] 1 make changes in (something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) in order to improve it : an opportunity to reform and restructure an antiquated schooling model.

amend |əˈmend| verb [ trans. ] make minor changes in (a text) in order to make it fairer, more accurate, or more up-to-date : the rule was amended to apply only to nonmembers. • modify formally, as a legal document or legislative bill : did she amend her original will later on? | pressuring Panama to amend its banking laws. • make better; improve : if you can amend or alter people's mind-set. • archaic put right : a few things had gone wrong, but these had been amended.

I hope this clarification will prove useful.

  • 23.
  • At 07:12 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • michael wrote:

Gary (19) You cannot put Thatcher in the same company as Heath and that wimp Major.Thatcher found out late what was the real EU agenda and when she started to put the brakes on her party dumped her.
Quietzapple(22)You miss the point and like a politican you try and play with words.I know the difference between reform and amend. So does Valery Guscard - former French President and the mastermind of the original Constitution.He has said the treaty is the same but some words have been altered to avoid certain countries needing to hold referendums. I wonder who he could mean ??????

  • 24.
  • At 07:53 AM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • michael wrote:

we need a referendum

  • 25.
  • At 07:19 PM on 16 Nov 2007,
  • Quietzapple wrote:

michael 07:12 AM on 16 Nov 2007, wrote:

"Quietzapple(22) You miss the point and like a politican you try and play with words. I know the difference between reform and amend. So does Valery Guscard - former French President and the mastermind of the original Constitution. He has said the treaty is the same but some words have been altered to avoid certain countries needing to hold referendums. I wonder who he could mean ??????"

If you want to take the word of the architect of the rejected Constitutional treaty on its Reform successor then you might look at his motivation before accepting it and the barrel of salt required to swallow it.

The new treaty is a small fraction of Giscard's one, I bet that hurt too!

Mrs Thatcher was defenestrated, btw, because she would have lost the 1992 election and in those days tory turkeys tended to vote against Christmas, not because she was going to reverse her approval of Maastricht.

I found that quite funny - it was like watching Dr. Jekkle turn into Mr. Hyde. Suddenly the moon was too full for our William and he had to reveal the beast. I hope Fionna has a word with him and reminds him that he lost that battle some time ago.

  • 27.
  • At 08:27 AM on 21 Nov 2007,
  • michael wrote:

Reply to Quietzapple (25)
In my final letter on the subject i believe you are wrong about the Treaty and on the subject of Thatcher.
We will have to agree to disagree.
The people who veiw this page can read my letters ( 23 and 25 )and yours and let them decide which is to be believed.

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