Four reasons why Cameron’s EU Referendum gamble may not work


7:40 am - January 23rd 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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So, David Cameron will state the entirely expected today:

The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament. And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice to stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum.

Legislation will be drafted before the next election. And if a Conservative Government is elected we will introduce the enabling legislation immediately and pass it by the end of that year. And we will complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next parliament.

The consensus in Westminster is already that disaffected UKIP voters will come back and this is Cameron’s big moment.

I’m not quite convinced by this for four reasons:

For one, Cameron has explicitly said he will campaign to stay within the EU. This means the proportion of UKIP and Tory voters who absolutely loathe the EU will not want to vote for Cameron at the next election anyway. They’re not going to listen to vague promises of repatriation – they absolutely loathe the EU and want out. Why wouldn’t they migrate to UKIP now?

Second, rather than bringing unity within the Tory party, personalities such as Daniel Hannan MEP and Douglas Carswell MP, who have been hung out to dry, no longer have an incentive to be loyal. They would somehow have to justify to their constituents that they’re staying loyal within a party whose leader wants the opposite of what they’ve been banging on about for years. Not easy.

Third, this further legitimises UKIP. Almost every newspaper admits Cameron’s stance was forced on him by UKIP. That makes him look weak and makes UKIP look less like a fringe party. In other words, more splintering.

And lastly – promising a referendum in five years is pie-in-the-sky, especially since voters have very little faith in politicians making long term promises. Cameron has given ‘cast-iron guarantees‘ in the past that he has reneged on, and anti-EU voters will remember that. Most of the comments underneath the Telegraph’s article are very negative towards Cameron. They don’t trust him.

Don’t get me wrong – I think the positive press coverage will bring Cameron a bump in the polls. But I don’t think this will be as big a boon as many Tories think it will.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


This is a terrible piece. One thinks you were desperate to write something negative but couldn’t think of what to write. Pointless post.

If it poses a problem for Cameron (who was in a very difficult situation with both eurosceptics and europhiles both within his party and the coalition) what kind of problem does it pose for Labour, given the public opinion is more anti-euro and certainyl pro-referendum?

3. Chaise Guevara

“Most of the comments underneath the Telegraph’s article are very negative towards Cameron.”

Telegraph commenters have a marked tendency to be weird conspiracy theorists. I wouldn’t use them as a bellwether for anything.

Been arguing for at least 3 years that a referendum is inevitable and supporters of EU need to think about how one should be won, rather than argue against the principle.

This announcement also boosts Yes campaign in Scotland, so supporters need to think in winning the argument in England more than anything.

Ed Milliband also bottled being the first one to call it. Should have listened to Crudas.

The public certainly isn’t anti-Europe (how many MPs has UKIP got?). And the public doesn’t really like referendums. Look how the AV one got drowned in a wave of annoyed cynicism.

They’re not going to listen to vague promises of repatriation – they absolutely loathe the EU and want out. Why wouldn’t they migrate to UKIP now?

Because they want an in/out referendum, and that’s what Cameron’s promising.

Second, rather than bringing unity within the Tory party, personalities such as Daniel Hannan MEP and Douglas Carswell MP, who have been hung out to dry, no longer have an incentive to be loyal.

No, because what they want is an in/out referendum, and that’s what Cameron has said they’ll get. Far from hanging them out to dry, they were shown the speech before it was given, and have had v positive things to say about it. D Carswell “Well done! Historic day, historic speech”

Third, this further legitimises UKIP. Almost every newspaper admits Cameron’s stance was forced on him by UKIP. That makes him look weak and makes UKIP look less like a fringe party. In other words, more splintering.

Legitimises/shoots their fox. What are UKIP for now exactly?

And lastly – promising a referendum in five years is pie-in-the-sky, especially since voters have very little faith in politicians making long term promises.

Nope, there’s no wriggle room left on this one. Labour were able to pretend that Lisbon was different from the constitution, the Tories were (more justifiably) able to say that a referendum on Lisbon could logically only happen before it became law and not after. But a standalone in/out referendum is within the power of the Govt, and the pledge has been very publicly made.

It puts Labour in a very tricky position…

This speech was drivel.

Oh, well, a warm welcome to the Conservative Party as the third party out of three to support a referendum, not that there is any real need for one, or for renegotiation, rather than for plain and simple primary legislation. Unlike the other two, the Third Party, which based on the Rotherham by-election result may also be called the Fifth Party, is still entirely closed to a referendum on the real issue.

But, like so many other things, it only counts when the Tories say or do it. Everyone else does not exist. Apart from UKIP, obviously. Fleet Street’s and the BBC’s beloved eccentric uncles who are therefore saturated with affectionate, wholly uninquiring coverage.

But for serious people, unlike David Cameron, legislation now, next week if possible, with six simple clauses. If playing about with the succession to the Throne can be rushed through both Houses in two days, then so can this.

First, the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and its use to repatriate agricultural, industrial and regional policy while also reclaiming our historic fishing rights (200 miles, or to median line) in accordance with international law.

Secondly, the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the United Kingdom, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them.

Thirdly, the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meet in public and publish an Official Report akin to Hansard.

Fourthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons, the High Court of Parliament.

Fifthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons.

And sixthly, since apparently we must, the provision for a referendum on the question, “Do you wish the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union?” The first five would come into effect at the same time as this provision, and would not be conditional on that referendum’s outcome.

Over to the Opposition Front Bench. Clearly, no one else is going to make the move.

More from the “hung out to dry” Douglas Carswell:

“This is the speech I have waited all my adult life to hear from a Conservative leader”

I think history will determine if this is an historic day with an historic speech.

On another point, is there any way that the comments system can be made to work? Commenting on here is like conducting a conversation by telegram.

I’d rather have a referendum on the government’s austerity/deficit reduction strategy to be perfectly honest. This EU referendum only pleases those who still pine for the Empire… and, of course, the xenophobes.

For many conservative-minded folk, the goal of exiting the EU is rather like the quest for the Holy Grail in the ancient Authurian legends – try Thomas Mallory on: Le Morte d’ Arthur (1485). The quest of the knights of the Round Table was impelling and endless. It was ultimately doomed but no matter. It was something to do and news of the quest diverted attention from Lancelot carrying on with Guinevere.

There were later resonances. That ever popular alternative national anthem, Jerusalem, starts: And did those feet in ancient times / Walk upon England’s mountain’s green . . We seldom now inquire as to the meaning as we sing along but at a time some really believed that England was eternally blessed above other nations. So it is with the foaming Europhobes and Cameron has to recognise the looming threat to the Conservative party vote at the general election in 2015. Something has to be done.

“So it is with the foaming Europhobes”

You mean people who value democracy and self-determination surely?

14. Robin Levett

@David Lindsay #7:

Why bother with the first five clauses – taken together they amount to us leaving the EU anyway, and individually things like your second or fifth clause would, if reciprocally enacted by the other member states, mean that for example the single market would go. Why not a single clause bill withdrawing?

On the other hand, someone who considers that any legislation relating to the ECHR is in any way relevant to the EU, or that ECHR rulings are directly applicable in the UK, doesn’t seem to understand the issues anyway.

Apart from the deranged Party faithfull, is there a voter left in Britain who believes a word that any politician utters?
If there are, they keep it pretty quiet.
A local Motor Factors runs a poll (hardly scientific I know), included in which are several questions on life in GB, one of which is:
Do you believe a promise made by a politician?
The ‘NO’ votes were in the several hundred.
The ‘YES’ votes, yet to record a single hit.
And they wonder why people are disengaged from politics.
Maybe, people just don’t have a very high opinion of those who become our masters while pretending to be our servants.

“For one, Cameron has explicitly said he will campaign to stay within the EU.”

…on condition that the EU is reformed according to his wishes, yes. If that doesn’t happen, he has implicitly reserved the right to campaign to leave.

“This means the proportion of UKIP and Tory voters who absolutely loathe the EU will not want to vote for Cameron at the next election anyway.”

No it doesn’t. They may very well still judge that voting Tory is the best way to secure the in-out referendum they want.

“They’re not going to listen to vague promises of repatriation – they absolutely loathe the EU and want out. Why wouldn’t they migrate to UKIP now?”

Because splitting the pro-referendum vote might mean they don’t get the referendum they want.

“Second, rather than bringing unity within the Tory party, personalities such as Daniel Hannan MEP and Douglas Carswell MP, who have been hung out to dry, no longer have an incentive to be loyal.”

Their incentive to be loyal is to secure a Conservative majority at the next election, and therefore an in-out referendum.

“They would somehow have to justify to their constituents that they’re staying loyal within a party whose leader wants the opposite of what they’ve been banging on about for years. Not easy.”

It’s easier than justifying their loyalty to a party whose leader was both in favour of EU membership, and opposed to an in-out referendum, which is the position they’ve been in up till now.

“Third, this further legitimises UKIP. Almost every newspaper admits Cameron’s stance was forced on him by UKIP. That makes him look weak and makes UKIP look less like a fringe party. In other words, more splintering.”

OK, so maybe it makes him look weak. But it also makes UKIP far less relevant.

And the suggestion that bringing hitherto ‘fringe’ positions into the tent of a major party means ‘more splintering’ makes no sense at all. It means the opposite – greater unity. (If Labour adopted key Green Party policies, would that mean ‘more splintering’ on the left? No – it would mean different factions of the left were moving closer together.)

Cameron could have made it more interesting by running the Europe in/out referendum along side the 2015 general election. That would have saved time and money !

Guess we are not going to really see an in/out referendum on Europe. To much to lose.

@14, no, you are the one who does not understand,, or more probably does not want other people to understand.

It is a great Europhile myth, which they (you?) know to be false when they propagate it, that the ECHR is nothing to do with the EU. It most certainly is.

And good riddance to Thatcher’s Single Market. Which other aspects of her record and legacy do you defend?

@ 17 Mr Grunt

In all likelihood the electoral commission wouldn’t have allowed a referendum on Europe on the same day as the GE, as it raises the question of the legitimacy of such a referendum if there is a new administration….so Cameron could really have only gone for pre-election in 2014 say, which leaves little time for re-negotiation/campaigning as well as the timing still being well within the Eurozone crisis, or in 2017 after a GE.

“You mean people who value democracy and self-determination surely?”

Except when it comes to Scotland and Wales ;-)

So we get a vote on whatever Cameron can negotiate, but not what we have now? So much for democracy.

He’s opened a can of worms and stands to lose us much more than we might gain. We’re already in a silly position due to the Tory europhobes, had we been more involved the Euro might never have been created, let alone the stupid fudge it is. Also we would have had influence to share with like-minded governments to resist the power of France and Germany to dictate EU policy. Instead we obsessed over in/out and remained semi-detached.

While the CBI might carry on as the new-right think tank it has become I suspect that many in business will be dismayed at this idiocy and Cameron will find himself having to answer awkward questions from normally loyal supporters.

22. Richard Carey

@ 10 Tim J, lol

A tout le monde,

the fight is on for independence. I’m no xenophobe. I don’t hate foreigners. It’s the traitors in our own country which caused the problem.

7. Bit of a windbaggy post saying I want ut of the EU.

Your clauses are laughable.

Get real.

24. Robin Levett

@David Lindsay #18

It is a great Europhile myth, which they (you?) know to be false when they propagate it, that the ECHR is nothing to do with the EU. It most certainly is.

Explode the myth then; what is the connection between the ECHR and the EU? And (because you don’t mention this) when did ECHR decisions become directly applicable in the UK?

25. domestic extremist

What is the current debate about the EU really about? It is:

1. Partly about a split in the ruling class on the issue of whether further empowering the UK capitalist class against ordinary working people, transferring yet more wealth to the former, and protecting the interests of the City, can be better achieved inside or outside the EU.
2. Partly about the Tory party’s aim of manipulating its way back into power after the next election by neutralising its UKIP rival.
3. Partly an attempt to create a distraction from the latest crisis of capitalism and the social consequences of the policy of attacking the living standards of ordinary people and even of the most vulnerable in society, while protecting the interests of big corporations, bankers, speculators and tax-evaders.
4. Partly a ludicrous attempt by one party (the Tories) which toadies to the hyper-rich to marginalise another one (Labour) by posing as the unlikely champions of grass-roots power. To that end it is brandishing one of the favourite weapons of authoritarian regimes, a referendum. This latter is of course to be called at a time to suit the electoral timetable of the ruling party, and the offer of it is intended sufficiently to impress ordinary people with the Tories’ entirely spurious “democratic” credentials to win their votes.

A properly democratic referendum, of course, would be one called by ordinary people, at a time of their choosing, on a proposition they had freely devised. It would not be one planned behind closed doors by a self-serving political class, and timed to suit its convenience. Nor would it be a one-off. The whole point of properly democratic referenda would be to allow the people to overrule the political class, which is notoriously liable to be captured by the wealthy and powerful and to serve their interests. In practice in capitalist democracies, however, referenda are in the main proposed solely at the convenience of the political class and to serve its own interests, as in the present case. The last thing ruling classes want is that the power of calling referenda should be exercised by ordinary people.

26. Chaise Guevara

@ 24

“A properly democratic referendum, of course, would be one called by ordinary people, at a time of their choosing, on a proposition they had freely devised.”

Sounds nice on paper, but how would that work in practice? You sound like you want the whole country to decide what to vote on and when, which would require a referendum to determine the nature of the referendum. And it’s turtles all the way down.

27. domestic extremist

@ 5. Chris: the public doesn’t really like referendums.

How do you know? When was it given the chance to call one on a proposal of its own devising, rather than being left resenting the way the political class calls referenda devised to suit only itself, and deliberately omitting the most popular option, proportional representation ?

28. domestic extremist

@ Chaise Guevara: Let’s not divert this thread into a debate on referenda, but there are examples of countries where, once sufficient signatures have been collected, a referendum must be called on a popular proposition. If you set the bar reasonably high, you won’t have to vote every other week.

It leaves eurosceptics between a rock and a hard place. All but the fruitcakes, nutters and closet racists will know that a vote for UKIP can have only one outcome, to increase the likelihood of a Labour government to 2020. As Ed M has stated that there will be no In/Out referendum that means that a vote for UKIP will mean that there will be no opportunity for the British public to vote on EU membership until some time in the 2020 Parliament at least.

On the other hand, supporting Cameron means that they will get this choice. Were he to renege on the promises in today’s speech after winning in 2015, anyone going back to the Tories with “nosepegs” just because of these promises would be in no worse a position than if they voted UKIP or Labour.

30. white trash

@de 24

Your first two points are very sound imo.

Unlike Sunny, stm that Cameron’s crew are being quite clever and crafty with this. IF their gamble pays off a savage renegotiation could be undertaken, with EU partners having a gun put to their heads “either you give us what we want or we leave (and start those dominoes falling)”. That way the British Establishment could get to keep the Single Market trade advantages that they want, but they could slough away all those annoying social policy protections that are all that stand between ordinary folk and our rapacious masters here in England getting to use us however they want.

At the end of it, all that people would be left with to vote on would be a spurious choice between a skeletal laissez faire EU membership and a laissez faire non-membership. There’d be no way of getting back to what we’ve got now.

Either way us at the bottom would be screwed.

And trebles all round for them at the top!

Or, maybe I’m just not wearing the correctly rose-tinted glasses.

An act of political irresponsibility possibly as damaging to the UK as Labour’s Iraq/ under-the-table immigration policy, although at least to Cameron’s credit he as actually given the voters a say.

Expect five years of hysterical anti-EU propaganda, a definite drift of investment to the Continent and I would bet an eventual departure, possibly decided by some petty “Mrs Bigot” (or maybe Madame) event the day before polls open.

Blow-back – Cameron has also torpedoed the pro-Union people who play the Scotland out of the EU scare card, so in more ways than one he may have damaged the UK.

That’s presuming the Tories are re-elected of course, but would you bet your house on…

- them not getting in
- the British won’t vote to leave the EU

No, I didn’t think so.

Cameron’s froth over the EU referendum to be held before the end of 2017 creates a convenient political diversion to blot out this in Tuesday’s news:

“Sterling on the slide as triple-dip recession and loss of AAA credit rating loom in 2013″

http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/markets/article-2266460/Pound-slides-triple-dip-recession-loss-AAA-rating-loom.html

@16 GO

“For one, Cameron has explicitly said he will campaign to stay within the EU.”

…on condition that the EU is reformed according to his wishes, yes. If that doesn’t happen, he has implicitly reserved the right to campaign to leave.”

You misunderstand him.

The referendum would only happen IF he succeeds in renegotiating the terms of the UK involvement.

If he fails to renegotiate there will be no referendum because he would never have the balls to take the risk that enough euro-sceptics swung the vote and force him to be the PM that led the UK out of Europe.

@24, submission to the ECHR is a condition of EU membership, as you know.

35. Robin Levett

@David Lindsay #34:

Before I deal with that, deal with the other issue as well; when did ECHR rulings become directly applicable in UK law, ie without UK legislation?

Cameron telling porkies again. Pretending he is doing this for all of Europe. Pretending he has some grand vision when we all know this is all about short term tory politics. Stopping his batshit insane backbenchers from mounting a leadership challenge, and getting back UKIP voters for the next election, and keeping Murdoch on side.

If he doesn’t win the next election he is finished anyway. So he must shore up his base, and keep the newspapers (sorry right wing propaganda rags) sweet. It stinks of dishonesty, but then this man will uses his dying son as a prop to pretend he supports the Nhs. So he will say anything

It will be funny if the tories end up destroying the so called free market across Europe in a bid to get back power so they can screw over British workers. The Lie Dems must be so proud being in govt with these con men.

Here’s a thought for Cameron: if only the British government had renegotiated that 1939 defence treaty with Poland, we could have avoided getting involved in WW2 altogether.

Imagine, just imagine, that Cameron pulled this one off. Imagine that we arrived at a point where the two options on a ballot paper were a renegotiated settlement acceptable to his lot, and outright withdrawal.

It would unite the Left on the EU like nothing since a section of it first inexplicably decided that it was a bulwark against Thatcherism (several years later, Thatcher herself even more oddly seemed to begin to agree with them), as there have always been a few people on the Old Right who have thought of it as a bulwark against Americanism.

For if the only alternative were whatever can be sold to the remains of the Conservative Party, then the only viable option would be whatever else was on offer. Namely, withdrawal.

As would then be advocated in the strongest possible terms by the whole of the Left. It would be the Thatcherites who were campaigning to stay in. Well, of course. It was ever thus.

A week is a long time in politics and a referendum in 2017 is years away.

All this froth is about deflecting attention from the current woeful state of Britain’s economy, when most intended public spending cuts have yet to materialise, and to protect the Conservative vote in the general election in 2015.

Always priceless seeing the deluded tory trolls trying to claim they are for democracy and freedom.

Some one should point out to them the only reason their tory masters want this power back is so they can give it away to American multi nationals. Cameron should hold another referendum on whether we want to become the 51st state of the US. A lot of his bacbenchers would love to join the $

@ 33 Kathy

“You misunderstand him.

The referendum would only happen IF he succeeds in renegotiating the terms of the UK involvement.”

What a bizarre interpretation of his position.

First of all, it just makes no sense to say to voters: ‘I’m going to try to get you a better deal, and then I’m going to let you decide whether it’s good enough. But if I *can’t* get you a better deal, I’m just going to assume you’re happy with the one we’ve got now.’

Secondly, it makes no sense to say to other EU member states: ‘If you give me what I want, I’m going to hold a referendum and the UK may end up leaving the EU. If you dig your heels in and refuse to budge an inch, though, there’ll be no referendum and you can be sure we’ll stay in the EU on your terms’. Hardly a gun to their heads, is it?

Cameron is a liar he gave us the now infamous cast iron guarrantee then went back on it

This is just more of the same from a proven liar only the tory faithful and gullable sheep will fall for it.

43. Dick the Prick

The meeja coverage and the Tory narrative regarding the migration of Romanians and Bulgarians has just been thrust front and centre. It’s almost as if Lynton Crosby has just started work early.

44. Robin Levett

@David Lindsay:

Still waiting…

Cameron is a liar he gave us the now infamous cast iron guarrantee then went back on it

The use of the “cast iron guarantee” meme is a sure sign that someone is either arguing in bad faith or is remarkably stupid.

46. Chaise Guevara

@ 28 domestic extremist

“Let’s not divert this thread into a debate on referenda, but there are examples of countries where, once sufficient signatures have been collected, a referendum must be called on a popular proposition. If you set the bar reasonably high, you won’t have to vote every other week.”

That allows them to instigate the referendum, but I bet they still don’t decide the date or the wording. Which is probably a good thing, but it means your criteria are not met.

Cameron is like a desk fan. His face constantly moving One way then another.

So after yesterdays Ukip voter love in he now says…….” BBC Breaking News UK PM tells Davos meeting his #EU speech was “not about turning our backs on Europe – quite the opposite”

Watch the tory maggots on a hook wriggle.

It seems that the whole motive for a referendum is obvious to most people.

http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showpost.php?p=58855315&postcount=313

Sorry for adding a link in – but cutting and pasting the whole comment would be huge. Basically it boils down to this: the tories are falling apart with parties within their party. A referendum gives a target after the election that will let those factions pull together. Unfortunately for Cameron the referendum is a bit like Clause 4 was for Labour: toxic.

49. Tubby Isaacs

@David Lindsay,

I don’t follow. You seem to say Cameron’s speech is drivel because he doesn’t have a totally different policy to the one he does have. It’s not his policy to leave via a vote in Parliament. It’s to do so, if at all, after a referendum.

What on earth has the European Communities Act got to do with that?

And as I understand it, Britain can leave the ECHR without leaving the EU. It’s a requirement for new members, I think.

50. Tubby Isaacs

@Tim J,

I’m not sure if it’s a big problem for Labour. I think their position is logically OK- approve or not via the General Election, and look what Cameron wants to get rid of, look at what X the big exporter thinks…

Don’t know how that would stand up to a big onslaught.

Read this in today’s news to see why Cameron needed to float proposals for an EU referendum to create a powerful distraction:

Britain’s coveted AAA rating came under further pressure today after official figures showed another leap in public sector borrowing.

The figure, excluding financial interventions such as bank bailouts, was £15.4 billion in December, compared with £14.8 billion in the same month the previous year.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/borrowing-rise-threatens-britains-aaa-status-8461330.htmlbritains-aaa-status-8461330.html

And this is another reason:

The IMF chief economist has told the BBC that Chancellor George Osborne should consider slowing down austerity measures in his March budget.

“We think this would be a good time to take stock,” said Olivier Blanchard, speaking to Radio 4′s Today programme.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21175407

Although it is a bit harsh on Ed Miliband (who does need to be kept on his toes), this – http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/128590 – comes from the only national newspaper to call for a No vote in 1975, from the only national newspaper to endorse an anti-EU list at the last European Elections, and from the only national newspaper to have held the line consistently at every point from before the former until now, after the latter:

What a bind David Cameron finds himself caught in. Trapped between his fat-cat friends who love the EU business-friendly policies and attacks on workers, and his party’s racist right who hate the EU out of blind nationalism. No wonder he’s reduced to wriggling and squirming and dodging the issue with a promise of a referendum in five years time. It’s a promise he has no intention of fulfilling – but almost certainly won’t have to with the Tories well on course for election defeat in 2015.

Divisions over the EU paralysed John Major’s government in the ’90s. It would be great news if Cameron and George Osborne’s war on working people were similarly hamstrung by infighting. But over on the opposition benches there’s not much to look forward to from a Labour government.

Ed Miliband’s statement that “we don’t want an in-out referendum” confirmed that despite his occasional left-wing posturing his vision for Labour has at its heart the same discredited neoliberalism touted by predecessors Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. We cannot hope for a Miliband government which stands up to the European Union. Not on EU-enforced austerity. Not on EU-enforced privatisation. Not on EU-enforced attacks on workers’ rights. Not on the EU transformation into a Nato-style military force.

And certainly not on the EU democratic deficit. The bloc has steadily tightened the noose on governments’ power to conduct their own affairs. It has grabbed more and more power for its own unelected officials to dictate national policy. Its war on democracy has gone as far as imposing unelected “technocratic” leaders on Italy and Greece with orders to enforce austerity by any means necessary. And neither the Tories nor Labour nor the hapless Lib Dems are willing to give us a chance right now to say what we think about British membership of this warmongering, undemocratic big-business superstate.

EU membership is too important to abandon to Ukip and the Tory right, who are on the right side of the debate for all the wrong reasons. Socialists and trade unionists should be bold in pushing for withdrawal from the EU. We must not let ourselves be chased off the battleground by critics trying to smear all Eurosceptics as racists and frothing Ukip extremists. We can make and win the case for EU withdrawal based on hope, not fear. A plan for a better world, not a retreat into Little England fantasy.

If Miliband’s Labour won’t offer that vision then it’s up to us to apply the pressure from below. The People’s Pledge campaign has already registered a series of overwhelming votes in favour of a referendum and momentum will only grow throughout 2013. A referendum on EU membership is fundamentally a referendum on what kind of Britain we want and who should run it.

The three main parties want a capitalist Britain to be run by the global elite. The Tory right and Ukip want a capitalist Britain to be run by the British elite. We want Britain to be run by the British people. We want a socialist Britain – and we can’t have that until we escape from the grasp of the Brussels bankers.

Now, when do we get to hear anyone on the BBC from the Morning Star, or from its large and growing Readers’ and Supporters’ Group in the House of Commons (including Shadow Ministers, PPSes and Whips – yes, Whips, one of whom, a new MP in his mid-thirties, spends much of his time campaigning for Departments of State to take it), or from Tribune, or from the Labour Euro Safeguards Campaign, or from the Campaign Against European Federalism, or from the Socialist Labour Party, or from that Son of No2EU, the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition?

Levett’s right. If we are to have a referendum, people need to understand the difference between the ECHR and the EU. There is no real connection between the two, and a referendum on one would not be a legal referendum on the other (although possibly a political one).

Strikes me that the issues that most bother eurosceptics are things like Qatada’s deportation and prisoner’s voting rights – decisions in the hands of the ECtHR in Strasbourg, unaffected by EU membership status.

Highly recommended in Monday’s FT:

Wolfgang Munchau on: Euro and trade will make the EU irrelevant
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e3c03460-664f-11e2-b967-00144feab49a.html?ftcamp=published_links%2Frss%2Fcomment%2Ffeed%2F%2Fproduct

He is saying the effective choice for the referendum may come down to joining the Eurozone or leaving the EU.


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