Labour and others will accuse David Cameron of reneging on a referendum promise, but Eurosceptics should not fall for their black propaganda. As Tim says...
DAVID CAMERON PROMISED A REFERENDUM ON AN 'UNRATIFIED' LISBON TREATY, NOTHING ELSE. In doing this, some will say that Cameron will have broken a “cast iron” pledge – made to Sun readers - to hold a referendum. That’s unfair. The sentence from that Sun piece that is always quoted is the penultimate sentence; “Today, I will give this cast-iron guarantee: If I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations." But the final sentence (my emphasis) is just as important: “No treaty should be ratified without consulting the British people in a referendum.” It is also important to remember when the pledge was made. It was made 26 months ago - crucially weeks before Brown was considering holding a 'honeymoon election' - and clearly referred to the ratification process.
DAVID CAMERON DESERVES THE CONTINUING SUPPORT OF EUROSCEPTICS. Political opponents of the Conservative Party and Eurosceptic diehards will unite, of course, to deny David Cameron the benefit of any doubt in what he does next. I believe Cameron deserves the trust of grassroots Conservatives and voters, more generally. On Europe, in particular, he has delivered. He said that he would take Tory MEPs out of the European Peoples’ Party and he has. He has done so in the teeth of concerted and very nasty (yes, I’m talking about you Mr Miliband) opposition from the pro-EU establishment.
David Cameron must and will spell out exactly "how he won't let matters rest" in the manifesto or before. I suspect we will get some details once the Czechs have ratified the Treaty.
Let no one pretend that a referendum after the treaty has been ratified would be anything other than expensive gesture politics. What would it achieve? Nothing. I am sure the country would vote NO, but it is fanciful to pretend a Conservative government could somehow 'unratify' a treaty. What we want from the next Conservative government, and what we should expect, is a firm commitment to introduce a law which pledges any future government to hold a referendum on any change in our relationship with the EU.
I think there will be growing pressure from Europhiles for Britain to look at joining the euro in the next few years. This pressure must be resisted. If you give up your currency, you effectively give up your right to govern. Government is all about saying what you're going to do and how you're going to pay for it. If your currency is controlled by a foreign central bank, you forfeit that. Look at Ireland as a perfect example. It knows what it has to do to rescue its economy but is prevented from doing so by its membership of the euro.I've e already made clear my position on the euro - that I would never vote for Britain to join it. But that case is going to have to be made all over again in the not too distant future. Tim is right when he says...
A Prime Minister Cameron will also lead a country that is becoming more Eurosceptic with every passing year. What is needed is a much stronger Eurosceptic movement. Business for Sterling and the 'No campaign' changed the terms of European debate in this country. They were hugely successful but were retired in order to allow the Conservatives more breathing space. They need to be restored so that the party does not have to carry all the water in this debate.
Those of us who believe in a Europe of nation states are going to have to argue that case ever more strongly over the next few years. But at least we will hopefully have a government which really does intend to not only say 'this far and no further' but also to repatriate some of the powers we have given away over the last twenty years.
I can see a very strong case for a referendum with the aim of giving the British government a direct mandate to negotiate repatriationof 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.
Some of my more fundamentalist eurosceptic friends and colleagues will no doubt argue that there should be a referendum on Lisbon come what may. I respect that viewpoint, but as I argue above, it would achieve nothing beyond making a gesture.