From The Times September 21, 2009
Rule Britannia? Not if the EU gets its way
We should have the referendum we were promised, whatever the result of the Irish vote on Lisbon
Early in the election campaign of 2001, I was asked to write a couple of regional reports for The Times. I visited seats in the West Midlands, and another group in Scotland. In the West Midlands, one of the Labour women candidates was outstanding. Gisela Stuart was already a junior minister in the Department of Health. When I interviewed her I was impressed by her intellectual approach, perhaps derived from her German upbringing and early education.
At the election, she held Edgbaston, her Birmingham seat, quite comfortably, but had the misfortune to be present when Tony Blair, campaigning in a local hospital, was upset by an angry woman complaining about the poor treatment her partner was receiving for cancer.
Mr Blair seems somehow to have blamed Miss Stuart for this hitch. In his post-election reshuffle she was dropped, a loss to the Government.
She was subsequently appointed to an important role in European politics, becoming the British representative on the Presidium of the Convention on the Future of Europe, with the ex-President of France, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, in the chair. The Presidium produced its draft for the European Constitutional treaty. That treaty was rejected in referendums held in France and the Netherlands.
Miss Stuart and her Conservative colleague on the Convention, David Heathcoat-Amory, had fought to introduce a modicum of democratic liberalism, but were overruled. President Giscard was not interested in cranky English notions of habeas corpus or electoral accountability.
After its rejection, the treaty was rewritten in a bureaucratic dialect, and resurfaced as the Lisbon treaty. Britain had been promised a referendum on the Constitutional treaty by all three parties in the 2005 general election. The Labour Government and the Liberal Democrats did not honour these commitments when it came to ratification by Parliament.
One could reasonably describe this change of policy as dishonest and shameful.
Britain is now waiting for the result of the repeated Irish referendum on October 2. In their first referendum, the Irish voted “no” to Lisbon, but now they are being asked to overrule themselves, and may do so. If this happens, there do not seem to be any further obstacles to the monstrous fraud of Lisbon being trundled past the winning post by its dubious acolytes.
Last week Miss Stuart warned of the potential constitutional consequences. She said that the Lisbon treaty puts the future of democracy in Britain at stake, that it would allow the European Union to launch power grabs unchecked, that it would leave a “democratic deficit”, in which the EU’s leaders would be accountable to no one, and that it would breach the democratic principle that voters can get rid of those in power. All of these criticisms are true and important. They would have been true of the original Constitutional treaty, which Miss Stuart and Mr Heathcoat-Amory fought to amend, and they remain true of the Lisbon treaty.
Lisbon would in effect repeal all the main legal safeguards of British liberties. The European Arrest Warrant has already repealed habeas corpus; Lisbon would repeal Magna Carta and the sovereignty of Parliament. The EU might as well have inserted a clause repealing “Rule Britannia”, and particularly the assurance that “Britons never, never, never shall be slaves”. We are already much less free than we once were.
There is also an immediate threat. The Lisbon treaty contains a proposal to create a European president, who might well be Mr Blair. Like the Mayor of London, the president of Europe will be tempted to interpret his powers so as to expand his jurisdiction. How can those who object to Mr Blair becoming president of Europe give any expression to their opposition? The Europhiles always rush to explain that the fears of Eurosceptics are mere bogies.
I would put a question to them.
How can I vote against Mr Blair as my president? Who will provide me with a ballot paper on which I could vote for some other candidate, preferably one who has not helped to trick Britain into the Lisbon treaty, without a referendum? To that question there is no answer. Mr Blair cheated the British out of a referendum; if he becomes president, there will be no referendum on that.
This faces David Cameron with a dilemma. If the Irish vote “no”, the Conservatives would undoubtedly call a referendum, but if they vote “yes”, as they probably will, the Lisbon treaty could become law before the next British election.
The constitutional issues are so serious that the Conservatives should promise to hold a referendum even if the treaty has already become law. The EU countries have known throughout that the British electorate was promised a referendum by all three parties. They were co-conspirators in the deception. They can scarcely complain if a referendum is in fact held.
If Britain were to withdraw from the Lisbon treaty because the British electorate had voted against it, that would be a healthy challenge to Europe. It is possible that the EU would then break up, but it is unlikely. The trading Europe is too valuable for Britain and the other EU countries to wish to lose it.
The Commission and Mr Blair himself might be annoyed by a British declaration of independence but Lisbon is deeply flawed, as Miss Stuart has shown. Europe, as well as Britain, would benefit from a new and more democratic approach.
David Cameron appears to have already committed to a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty; unless he changes his mind we are guaranteed the opportunity to vote on the matter - hopefully once and for all.
There remains the not insignificant matter of how The Question is worded.
I suggest that this must form part of the Conservative Manifesto.
"The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything"?
42 will be there somewhere.
David Cameron: Fixing Broken Politics Tuesday, May 26 2009
"We will therefore hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, pass a law requiring a referendum to approve any further transfers of power to the EU, negotiate the return of powers, and require far more detailed scrutiny in Parliament of EU legislation, regulation and spending."