Wednesday, November 04, 2009

David Davis Suggests A Way Forward on Lisbon

When I wrote about the decision by David Cameron to change policy on a EU Referendum on Sunday, I suggested that, instead, there should be a referendum giving a new government a mandate to negotiate to repatriate powers from the EU. I wrote...
I can see a very strong case for a referendum with the aim of giving the British government a direct mandate to negotiate repatriation of powers, but it is equally possible to argue that this mandate would already have been given by virtue of the policy being included in a party election manifesto.

David Davis takes this argument one stage further in an article for the Daily Mail this morning, in which he proposes a double referendum - one to give a mandate and then one to approve what has been achieved by the negotiators. It's an interesting proposal, but perhaps it comes a bit late. You can't hope to influence a decision on the day it is announced. He writes...

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.

Referendums terrify the European Commission and the political elites who run Europe. They are clear statements of the popular will. They force issues to be stated in clear and unambiguous terms. They are impossible to ignore.


John Coles said...

Cameron reneges on his promise on a Referendum and the best that you can manage is this tortured joke?
Have you lost sight of what is going on? Or should we prepare for more discussion on your daily aspirin intake?

Paddy Briggs said...

Best news for weeks. Cameron will announce that there will be no referendum if the Tories win. Quite right too. Let's hope that the rest of his speech is equally statesmanlike. But it gets better. David Davis seeks to take on Cameron by saying that there should be a referendum - so we have the Tory split on Europe firmly in the headlines again.

Oh and Iain you know that there is nothing that divides the Conservatives more than Europe. I wonder who the men in white coats will be coming for this time - not you I hope!

haddock said...

"mandate would already have been given by virtue of the policy being included in a party election manifesto."

just how stupid do you think the electorate is Iain ?

The whole rotten stinking mess has been brought about by the cavalier treatment of manifesto promises..... and you are saying trust Dave !

Hannan is tumbling down in the estimation of a great many....
he is UKIP by politics but Conservative by wallet.

econyonium said...

David Cameron should be a comedy writer - I suppose he is. Of referenda he says," They are impossible to ignore." Has he been in a coma? What about the ignored French, Dutch, Irish ones?

And Dave goes on, "But what should be the question in such a referendum? It should be a question that would result in a solid majority..." Yep that is vintage EU, ask the question the politicians want answered not the one the People want answered, and rig it so the answer has to be "yes".

Then, "Some fear this would become an 'in or out' referendum... It would be nothing of the sort. Killing this tired old canard is one of the reasons the referendum question has to be absolutely clear in language and intent."

Yes indeed the language must be clear - does the UK stay in or does it get out?

That is the option the People want to decide - they don't want politicians to decide it for them.

What exactly does Dave not understand about the People being fed up with politicians telling them what they WILL have instead of asking them what they want?

theprofromdover said...

A referendum in the right hands -is a very powerful weapon.
A badly-worded (or carefully-worded) referendum question -as they always are- isn't worth the paper it is written on.
Just another corruption of democracy.

Michael Heaver said...

This is basically what Davis promised during his leadership bid and in the view of many Tory members it didn't go far enough then, let alone now, hence Cameron winning the eurosceptics with his EPP withdrawal pledge.

The thing people like Davis conveniently forget is that the British people haven't given the green light on whether they even want to be in the European Union. Negotiating our terms of membership has got us nowhere (Tories have promised reform in every Euro Election manifesto they have) and is an utterly flawed strategy as anybody who understands how the EU works under its treaties and law of member state unanimity on all major issues.

Those angry should just vote UKIP. They'll feel much better than investing any more faith in this bunch of conmen.

albertmbankment said...

It was striking, yet hardly surprising, that the tenor of the BBC's reporting of the Lisbon Treaty was confrontational vis-a-vis David Cameron's promised referendum.

The consistent line was that voters would be disillusioned at his 'broken promise' that there would be a referendum, were he to become Prime Minister. Few reports conceded grudgingly that the promise was always conditional on the Treaty not having been ratified by the 27 states. Nowhere, by contrast, was there any reference to the 'broken promise' of Labour's 2005 Manifesto, to have a referendum on the EU Constitution. This was given the swerve, with typical Blairian casuistry, by maintaining that the replacement Treaty was not itself a Constitution.

Well, Tony m'boy and Gordon m'boy, you may believe that you haven't broken your promise to the country but there are precious few of the rest of us who believe it. Indeed, most people now wouldn't believe you, without checking for ourselves, if you told us that the sun rises in the east.


The story is not about Cameron welching on a referendum. You cannot have a referendum on a Treaty which has been ratified.

The real story here is the lying, duplicitous behaviour of Labour. So please do not be diverted by all the media hype trying to present this as a split in the Tory party.

The public are not stupid. They know that the culprit is Brown.

Brown is toast. French toast!

Now, let's get down to sorting out the financial armageddon that Boney Blair and McBroon n' Bust created.

Roger Dodger said...

For want of a bold speech on a single occasion DD could be our next Prime Minister.


Integrity not lacking there.

trevorsden said...

There is no point to a referendum if all the govt are doing is following up on a manifesto commitment.

However if there is some renegotiation then there is a point to having one on the results as either it draws a line under the issue or it rejects the solution as insufficient and tells the govt to go back and try again.

This is a bit like shop steward recommending a pay rise and having the workforce vote against it.

Despite the loony tune tendency frothing forth I think its clear that no one sees any point to a referendum on the treaty now its been passed.

'haddock' is being facile.
Is he saying every manifesto commitment should have a referendum attached?

The referanda have not been ignored - they have been run again (or in the case of Labour, sidestepped) based on a sleight of hand. It is the governments who have individually decided if they consult by referenda or not.
It seems quite likely that we will at some stage in the future get a referendum on 'in/out'.

A said...

I don't get the whole Stanley Johnson thing? Because he's Boris's Dad suddenly he starts having a media career. Why the hell do I care what he thinks about the European referendum?

Cleaning at Large said...

The referendum is not the issue here. The issue is yet another poitician saying one thing then saying the opposite, when things get tough.

Cameron will have lost a lot of trust, as have all politicians.

Denis Cooper said...

Pienomics, if you believe in the sovereignty of Parliament - some of us still do, for want of a better alternative - then you will recognise that Parliament can order a national referendum on anything it chooses, at any time it chooses, and that national referendum will damn well take place. It's complete nonsense to suggest "You cannot have a referendum on a Treaty which has been ratified" - of course we can, and in fact we did back in 1975.

Paul Halsall said...

Cameron behaved as everyone expected him to.

Meanwhile Davis misses the point.

Just have a YES/NO referendum. After an open campaign on that, I would expect the UK pop to vote as strongly pro-EU as in 1975.

Twig said...

I would never trust the Tories on matters relating to the EU.

The next referendum we have on the EU will be the General Election, and I hope the voters abandon the flip flop of the two party system by positive vote for the party that represents their views, instead of voting to keep the "other side" out.

The balkanisation of Europe

WV: porksled

Jon said...

Maybe. But there definitely be a two track approach: yes, keep up with efforts to wriggle out of Lisbon and further integration; but also use the democratic channels that are made available by Lisbon itself. See for example - an online campaign, Right2Bet - hoping to be the first to utilise Lisbon's "Citizens Initiative" provision. Grassroots campaigns like this can and will make a difference in the new Europe, of that I am sure.

Denis Cooper said...

This is the nub of the matter - do we really want to be part of a constant, remorseless, unlimited, irreversible, forced process of "ever closer union" with our neighbours, or not?

Ask a question like that in a referendum, and it's very likely that the majority of Britons would now decide that they didn't want their country to be further integrated with other European countries, as fast as possible, until there was simply nothing left to integrate.

But ask the same Britons whether they wanted to leave the EU and it's very likely that the majority answer would be "no", because they didn't want to be "isolated" from those other countries with all the dire consequences which would be threatened.

Herein lies the paradox and the problem, because the treaty commitment to a process of "ever closer union" is fundamental to the EU, and always has been.

It's in the very first line of the Preamble to the 1957 Treaty of Rome, immediately after the list of the six heads of state who were making the treaty:

"DETERMINED to lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe"

and re-iterated in the Preamble to the Maastricht Treaty on European Union:

"RESOLVED to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe".

And it will still be there after December 1st when the Treaty of Lisbon has come into legal force, as can easily be checked by searching for that phrase in the consolidated versions of the treaties as amended, here:

Note that while this "ever closer union" was to be "among the peoples of Europe" - and note, "peoples", plural - in 1957 the six governments agreed the Treaty of Rome without consulting their respective peoples, and in each case the treaty was approved by the national parliament without any serious thought that maybe they should ask the people directly whether they wanted to embark on this course.

There were no national referendums on the Treaty of Rome; the first referendums were not until some fifteen years later, when the peoples of Ireland, Denmark and Norway voted on whether to join the EEC, and the French also voted on whether those countries and the UK should be allowed to join.

In the event, the Norwegians said “no”. The first of two occasions when they have made that wise choice, to the great annoyance of most of their political class - who are still very keen to join the EU politicians’ “club”, so they can start to free themselves from national democratic control.

I shall listen with great interest to whatever Cameron has to say this afternoon.

If he says that we must stay in the EU but also call a halt to further integration and start to repatriate powers, then I'll have to ask myself whether he simply doesn't understand that under its founding treaties the process of "ever closer union" is inescapable while we remain in the EU, or he realises that and is just following half a century of Tory tradition by trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

Rebel Saint said...

Let's face it - the only referendum we are going to get is called the general election.

When people stop whinging on blog comments and actually do something about it at the ballot box then we might actually get something done. Voting for the usual 3 isn't going to make a blind bit of difference to the EU juggernaut.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Surely the whole of Davis's argument falls apart on one erroneous assumption: "the federal project".

No such "project" exists; nor could it, in the context of 27 individual governments, some exceedingly prickly about their national interests.

In any case, the term "federal" (which, as a framework for the UK, was acceptable to Churchill during the Third Home Rule Bill discussions) does not neatly translate across the EU's languages and differing polities.

You congratulate yourself that the explosive nature of the EU-debate within the Tory Party has somehow been contained. This show has yet a way to run.

neil craig said...

We have an absolute & "cast iron promise" from David Cameron of a referendum. If the Lab/Lib liars have prevented us having one in advance then there must be one afterwards. If the EU is not willing to scrap the treaty on our say so & I assume they aren't then the only options other than accepting it is either associate membership like Norway or entirely out. Personally I would prefer 1 multi-option referendum to 2 separate ones as being easier but no objection to either in principle.

Referenda are always popular with the electors - after all who is against being given a choice. It will also make the fact that the Lib/Labs deliberately lied in their last manifestos & thus cannot be trusted on any other promises an issue at the forefront.

If the bulk of the MPs & almost all the members want a referendum it is simply & I assume constitutionaly impossible to just ditch that promise & the party policy.

Jimmy said...

Davis is utterly confused. A referendum to negotiate? HMG already has a mandate to negotiate by virtue of being elected. What would be the consequence of a "no" vote? Would the government have to withdraw from Council meetings on the basis that the electorate has decided they don't trust the government to take part? Some real moonbattery in there.

It's very simple. As with the EPP, Lightweight made a stupid promise to keep the flat earthers on board. At least this time he's had the good sense to ditch it. Ultimately there is only one vote worth having: in/out. If the nutters want that then let them have it. They'll lose.

trevorsden said...

Davis is talking waffle. I have to say I think less and less of his judgement.

A referendum about what the govt should do in future? And this after saying what it would do in its manifesto?

Lets have referendums on everything then we can only blame ourselves (or the bloke next door) when things go wrong.

steveal said...

It seems strange that on a day when 5 of our soldiers die trying to enable democracy in Afghanistan, we get drawn further into the most un-democratic body in our recent history - the EU.

How can our politicians continue to support this Lisbon deal in the sure knowledge that most UK people don't support it?


Mirtha Tidville said...

OK peeps and lets calm down for a moment or two...I have no brief for `Dismal Dave` at all and even less for the corrupt mess that is called `Europe`..but we really need to see what `Dave` is going to offer us this afternoon before we go off the deep end. If its not feasible or is a clear betrayal then I`ll be the first to join you (and UKIP).

But, again, lets remember that the bigger enemy is Cyclops and we all need to do what is necessary to get rid of this anti British bigot....Cameron I`m afraid, love him or loathe him is the only option we have....

Yes its hold yer nose time...

haddock said...

"Is he saying every manifesto commitment should have a referendum attached?"

no, he's saying a manifesto commitment to a referendum should have a referendum attached

Did a court not rule that we should have no expectation that a manifesto commitment should actually be a commitment ?

DespairingLiberal said...

When you watch or read any debate on this subject, you hardly ever get any exposure to the detail of the treaty or what it actually means. Or you get misleading statements about it, generally from the likes of Tory bloggers, members of the Bruges Group, etc.

If you just followed media accounts and the postings of the above, you would think that Lisbon is some sort of grand giveaway of powers from nation states to an unelected bureacracy in Brussels.

So let's start with a simple element of the treaty. I quote from Wikipedia, which will have been heavily contested between the various parties:

"The Commission will have to submit each proposed budget of the European Union directly to Parliament, which must approve the budget in its entirety."

So here's a starter question. Can one of you anti-Lisbon people please explain in equally clear language why it is so terribly undemocratic and bad that the much-reviled budget approval now has to come to the EU Parliament?

Paddy Briggs said...

What's going on? I suspect that as is often the case Peter Oborne gets it right:

Carl Gardner, Head of Legal said...

David Davis's list seems a bit strange to me - some of those things we already have a total veto over (foreign policy) or a complete opt-out (crime, asylum and immigration) so repatriating power would make no difference. Nothing can be done to us without our consent. Perhaps he means we should opt back out of asylum etc. measures we've already opted in to - fair enough, but I would have thought that could be achieved by negotiation without a referendum.

His point on "a serious exemption from the flood of regulations...." is just too vague to be useful at all. That simply sounds like a total opt-out from the single market. If he means that, you might as well say "better off out". Not the actual Tory position.

I'd have thought a much better negotiating aim would be to strengthen the national parliaments procedure to a "red" card, so that a certain number of national parliaments could actually block an EU measure if they, national parliaments, thought it infringed subsidiarity. Under the new Lisbon procedure the Commission will be able to carry on regardless.

The points about trade are more serious. I'm not sure what if anything can sensibly be done about trade in goods - wanting out of the common commercial policy again seems to me more like a "better off out" position.

A good target for the Conservatives though might be the concept of "exclusive external competence". At the moment the Commission can prevent any bilateral agreement the UK is interested in that falls within an area of EU competence, even if it doesn't affect any other European country and even if it's consistent with EU rules. What would make more sense to most people, and genuinely restore power to member states without destroying EU fundamentals, would be a rule change (an amendment to what will be article 3.2 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the Union) to make clear that member states can negotiate any agreements they like with other countries so long as they don't actually contradict EU rules.

Twig said...

Does this mean from 2011 Brussels will set VAT rates for us?:


quietzapple said...

Without a referendum on In or Out a Chameleon Government - if such a monstrosity came into being - would become unworkable quickly..

Remember what Tory friends used to call "Poor John"?