If the vote is lost, we can throw that one into the faces of the Conservatives (and others) who pretend that they want a solution to this problem beyond things staying as they are. (And, of course, the People's Pledge, which has achieved its biggest victory to date by running the rival EU Referendum Campaign out of business, will continue to receive its handsome subsidies.)
If, on the other hand, the motion is carried, Cameron will find it difficult not to have the necessary legislation for a referendum some time soon though it can be dragged out for a while. As we know (also here on Witterings from Witney), the proposed referendum will not be a straight IN/OUT one. They are not taking any chances though I am near certain that even that one would be lost by our side. No. As the great Douglas Carswell tells us:
This house calls upon the government to introduce a bill in the next session of parliament to provide for the holding of a national referendum on whether the united kingdom [sic]:Bearing in mind all the different forces, which of the three is likely to get most support from the media, so-called eurosceptic politicians, NGOs, almost all think-tanks, old Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all? Yes, that's right, the third one, which sounds just right: not extremist like those nasty withdrawalists (yes, yes, I know pulling out will not solve our problems but we cannot begin to address them while we are in the EU); in fact, very rational. It will attract many votes.
A) should remain a member of the European Union on the current terms;
B) leave the european union; or
C) re-negotiate the terms of its membership in order to create a new relationship based on trade and co-operation.
The only problem is that it is not possible without pulling out. If the clever-clogs of the
East European Furniture Polish People's Pledge and their supporters think that this is a wonderfully subtle way of getting round the problem ("they cannot renegotiate without pulling out so they will have to pull out in order to renegotiate and we have achieved it all by subterfuge" geddit?) they can think again. Our membership terms cannot be changed without the treaties being changed and that can be done only by unanimity. What shall we offer to the others to get their support? I know that many of the thirty-odd speakers at the Saturday victory conference will say that the others will be glad to get rid of Britain as it is the difficult member but that is simply not true. Britain is not a difficult member and has created no obstacles to the project for many years.
So, if there is a referendum and if the third option is voted through, we shall see a few cosmetic "renegotiations" and the cause of sane politics will have been set back by decades. We have done what the people really wanted will be the chant of the politicians and the eurosceptics will be shown up for being out of touch with popular opinion.
All in all, it will be better if the Conservatives obey their leader's command and ensure that the motion is lost.
ADDENDUM: Glancing through the great Daniel Hannan's self-congratulatory piece on the subject I noted something I missed before: the Motion, if it is passed, will call on the Government to introduce a Bill for that three-option referendum in the next session of Parliament. That is not about to start, something that most people have forgotten. The Coalition Government cancelled this autumn's State Opening of Parliament. We shall be lucky to have one next spring.