We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to refrain from signing any
agreement to create a new European Union treaty without first holding a
referendum to ascertain the opinion of the British public.
The people who have signed this petition have now received a response from 10 Downing Street. It is several parapgraphs of well written, pro European prose, which singularly fails to address the question of a referendum raised in the petition, despite covering virtually every other subject. Here it is...
This Government believes strongly that it is in the UK's interests to be a leading player in Europe. EU membership has brought real benefits for the UK in terms of wealth, jobs, peace and security. Around 3 million British jobs are linked (directly and indirectly) to our trade in goods and services with other EU countries, and over half of UK foreign trade is with other EU countries. It is estimated that the EU's single market boosted total EU GDP by 2.2 per cent (around £150 billion) in 2006. And as a member of the EU, working closely with other countries, the UK is able to deal more effectively
with cross-border issues like climate change, migration, jobs and protecting consumers. These are issues that all our citizens care about. Recent EU initiatives to tackle climate change emissions and bring down mobile phone roaming charges have demonstrated the concrete benefits of membership.
To deliver the results that Europe's citizens want, we need to equip the EU to operate more effectively. This means reforms to improve the way the institutions operate now that there are 27 Member States. At the European Council meeting on 21-22 June, EU leaders discussed the basis for a new Treaty to make the necessary changes to the EU's institutional arrangements. We agreed a way forward that the Government is confident represents a good result for the UK and a good result for Europe. The EU will now be able to focus on the issues which will make a real difference to peoples' everyday lives - meeting the challenges and opportunities of globalisation, and delivering prosperity and security to our citizens.
Following the agreement at the European Council, the Treaty designed to establish a Constitution for Europe has been abandoned. Instead, a new Reform Treaty will be agreed by an Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) - representing
all Member States - in line with the decision reached at the European Council. The new Treaty should be finalised by the end of 2007. It will then be for Parliament to debate and vote on the contents of the Treaty. This ensures that the values presented in the Treaty are compatible with the UK's, and that any concerns that may be raised as part of the democratic process, by Members themselves or on behalf of their constituents can be fully addressed, as is only right and proper.
In preparation for discussions at the European Council, the Government identified four key areas of fundamental importance to the UK's sovereignty. In the subsequent discussions, the Prime Minister successfully defended these 'red
lines', protecting the UK's control over key policy interests. Specifically: there will be nothing in the new Treaty which challenges or requires us to change our existing labour and social legislation; our common law system and our police and judicial processes have been protected; our independent foreign and defence policy will be maintained; and our tax and social security system will be protected.
As the Prime Minister himself stated during a press conference with Chancellor Merkel, "We as a United Kingdom had a number of negotiating objectives, these included objectives in relation to the Charter of Rights, justice and home affairs, foreign and security policy, the social security elements of the amending treaty and national security itself. We are satisfied that in the document that was laid before us, our negotiating objectives have been met. We now look forward to the intergovernmental conference producing in detail the amendments and therefore the resolutions on which our parliament will eventually have to vote".
The agreed basis for the new Reform Treaty states "The constitutional concept, which consisted in repealing all existing Treaties and replacing them by a single text called 'Constitution', is abandoned." The Reform Treaty will be clearly based upon the existing EU Treaties, and will be a traditional 'amending Treaty', along the lines of previous EU Treaties such as Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice. The UK has never held referendums on amending treaties in the past.
So the new Reform Treaty will improve the efficiency of the Union and enable us to focus more sharply on delivering results for our citizens. It sets out what the EU can and cannot do. It ensures that foreign policy remains an issue for national governments. It will strengthen the voice of national parliaments in the EU. And it provides the framework for an enlarged Union of nation states to work together for mutual benefit.
Britain needs a more effective, efficient, coherent EU. The improvements contained in the Reform treaty will enhance the EU's capacity to act effectively to meet the shared challenges we face. As a result it is believed that the agreement reached in June represents an excellent deal for the UK's interests and for Britain's future within Europe.
I must have missed the parapgraph that explain why, when the current treaty is 96% similar in content to the old one, we don't deserve a referendum.