Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Stuck on stupid No. 2

Some time ago we noted on this blog and on EUReferendum [link in the posting] that the Conservatives were retreating from a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and chattering happily or not so happily about a "wider referendum" on repatriation of powers. Why, in the light of that, anybody was surprised by yesterday's developments is not clear to me.

The chatter is going on. I wrote about Open Europe yesterday. Today it is the turn of David Davis, the great hope, never realized, of the party's more libertarian right wing. His "eurosceptic" credentials are not in a particularly good nick, as he was a fairly tough Whip at the time John Major was pushing the Maastricht through against a good deal of Conservative opposition. (No, oddly enough, there was no referendum then, either, despite it being an enormously important document, constitutionally speaking.)

Subsequently he was Minister of State at the FCO with responsibilities for Europe. What we call demotically, Europe Minister. No worse than others, but certainly no better. Come to think of it, he must have taken a very big part in the negotiations that produced the Amsterdam Treaty.

The Guardian has a piece about him getting all stroppy again. It seems that the entire gifted political staff of that newspaper is incapable of grasping that we do not have a relationship with the EU. We are part of it. If we come out of it and it remains extant, we shall have a relationship.

David Davis's actual challenge is in the Daily Mail and it seems to me to be as much of a damp sqib as his infamous resignation and by-election turned out to be.
What we should do is, in my view, clear. We should have a referendum, not on the treaty, but on the negotiating mandate that the British Government takes
to the European Union.

This has many virtues. It allows the British people to express their view on the future of their nation. Most of all, it gives the Government a formidable negotiating weapon.
He then chatters on a bit about how much the EU hates referendums (unlike the Conservative Party, we assume) and comes to what might be called the substance:
The question should contain four or five specific strategic aims which clearly summarise our objectives.

The sort of things we might include are: recovering control over our criminal justice, asylum and immigration policies; a robust opt-out of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights; serious exemptions to the seemingly endless flood of European regulations which cost the UK economy billions of pounds each year; a recovery of our rights to negotiate on trade; exemption from European interference into trade in services and foreign direct investment rules; and an exemption from any restrictions on our foreign policy.
There's a nice broad selection of subjects to ask people about, all in different sections of the treaty and regulated by different constitutional (may as well use that word as it is accurate enough) rules. You can have a referendum on any or all of them to your heart's content. The question of how and with whom those negotiations should be conducted remains open. And yet Mr Davis, former Europe Minister ought to know the reality of those negotiations. Or did he simply lounge his way through his years at the FCO?

Just to be on the safe side, he does inform us all that it is not an in/out referendum and nobody should even think of that. Especially not the colleagues who must be laughing their heads off.

Nor is he suggesting that we should get rid of the supremacy of European law. Stuck on stupid, again.


  1. WitteringsfromWitneyNovember 4, 2009 at 2:59 PM


    One suspects this is just a 'sop' to his leader in as much as it demonstrates his 'euroscepticism' to the public whilst not annoying Cameron in the hope he, Davis, may get a ministerial post in a Cameron 'government'.

    It is also, unfortunately, exactly what I fear we are about to hear in approximately one hours time!

  2. I was confused by this section of Davis's piece:

    "… the European reaction to referendums is to make concessions. Look at the history. After Ireland's first rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Council conceded legally binding protocols… Denmark has obtained similar opt-outs after a referendum, and the defeat in the French and Dutch referendums led to the rewrite of the original European Constitution…"

    However, a few sentences later we get:

    "[the EU is] entirely capable of repackaging rejected ideas over and over until they get them accepted. Lisbon is a good example of this. Indeed [the EU is] capable of retabling a rejected proposal five or ten years later, after the relevant national governments have changed."

    Which is it? Do referendums in which the answer is "no" achieve concessions; or do a rejected referendum's ideas get retabled?

  3. It is a little confusing, I agree. But then what can one expect from David Davis or whoever writes his words?