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March 06, 2008

Comments

David Duff

"the *alleged* metamorphosis of the EU." [My emphasis]

You mean that the EU we have today is the one that Edward Heath described when he sold us the idea prior to the original referendum? Well, blow me down, I must have missed something at the time because it doesn't look, or smell, that way to me now.

Simon

It's Gisela Stuart, rather than Gisela Stewart.

David Boothroyd

It is telling that the principal, and often the only, justification given by those who argue for a referendum is based on an identification of the Lisbon Treaty with the Constitutional Treaty. This is a weak point which is dismissable based on a single fact. A far stronger potential argument would be that the Lisbon Treaty provisions are of major importance; that would require taking on all of the parts of the Lisbon Treaty to argue their importance, and would be a great deal more difficult.

In fact those arguing the identity of the Lisbon Treaty with the Constitutional Treaty are entirely barking up the wrong tree, because the reason there was to be a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty was because of its status and not because of its contents. The truth is that the Lisbon Treaty is a fairly mundane treaty.

David Duff is likewise on to a loser in his argument. It was made clear in 1975 that the Common Market was not just a free trade area but had a political dimension.

Oliver Kamm

Gisela Stuart: of course it is. And I know her as well as respect her. Heaven knows what I was thinking of when I wrote this post. I'm terribly sorry to her, and grateful for the correction. Will speedily alter the post.

dirigible

"the constitution was intended to replace the Treaty of Rome whereas Lisbon merely amends it"

Drip, drip, drip...

Cleanthes

David Boothroy,

"It was made clear in 1975 that the Common Market was not just a free trade area but had a political dimension."

Sorry, but that is complete cobblers.

Here is actual text of the pamphlet.

I quote the key message:
"'I believe that our renegotiation objectives have been substantially though not completely achieved.'

What were the main objectives to which Mr. Wilson referred? The most important were FOOD and MONEY and JOBS."

This was a trade area at the time and was sold in 1975 as a trade area. That the underlying intention was to move to a political union was - and has always in this country been - very specifically denied.

It is monstrous for you to suggest otherwise.

David Duff

'Cleanthes' saves me from the embarrassment of admitting that my memory of *exactly* what was said in 1975 is less than clear, a state of affairs due entirely to my relative youth at the time, several subsequent years of consuming too many dry martinis and my current state of elderly decrepitude. However, I do retain a very clear *impression* of what was said and the link provided by 'Cleanthes', which is well worth reading, brings it all back. I was particularly struck by these quotations:

"Membership of the Common Market also imposes new rights and duties on Britain, but does not deprive us of our national identity. To say that membership could force Britain to eat Euro-bread or drink Euro-beer is nonsense.

Fact No. 2. No important new policy can be decided in Brussels or anywhere else without the consent of a British Minister answerable to a British Government and British Parliament."

I can only assume, in mitigation, that Mr. Boothroyd's detailed memory of events is as rocky as mine but hopefully for more elevated reasons!

David Boothroyd

I'm afraid you are quoting out of context. The Labour manifesto of February 1974 pledged a renegotiation of the terms of British membership of the EC, followed by a referendum to decide whether membership could continue. The renegotiation objectives were the "food and money and jobs" referred to in the pamphlet; the fundamentals of the Community were not subject to renegotiation, as the Prime Minister always made clear (see Hansard HC 5ser vol 889 col 824).

I am afraid you are being ahistorical. If you actually read the debates at the time of the referendum, it was those advocating a 'No' vote who pressed for membership of a free trade area, and those who supported a 'Yes' vote who pointed to the fact that this arrangement was not enough and membership of a political organisation was necessary. I can point you to clear expressions of this view should you desire help in informing your memory.

David Duff

Mr. Boothroyd, this week of all weeks is hardly the time to be holding up Labour party manifestos as an example of anything other than perfidy! Instead I shall return, courtesy of 'Cleanthes', to the *official* pamphlets issued at the time, of which the following stands as a perfect example of the Euro-agitprop of 1975, and I hope from the vantage point of 2008, you will enjoy the irony as much as me:

"There was a threat to employment in Britain from the movement in the Common Market towards an Economic & Monetary Union. This could have forced us to accept fixed exchange rates for the pound, restricting industrial growth and putting jobs at risk. This threat has been removed."

David Boothroyd

Mr Duff, you do not seem to have engaged with anything I wrote. I will do you the courtesy of addressing your points and I wish in return you would acknowledge that it was the 'No' campaign in 1975 which called for a European free trade area with no political dimension, and the 'Yes' campaign which contended that a proper political structure was needed.

The Labour Party manifesto of 2005 made no reference to the Lisbon Treaty because the Treaty did not then exist. The reason there was to be a referendum on the Constitutional Treaty was because of its status: it was a constitutional approach scrapping all existing treaties and starting again. It was not because of its content. The Lisbon Treaty lacks this status.

The economic and monetary union of the early 1970s based on the Barre Report of 1969 was indeed scrapped. It is out of context to regard what Wilson wrote in 1975 as a pledge for all time; to do so would be like accepting a pledge not to introduce a minimum wage from John Major in 1992 as binding on Tony Blair's government after 1997. Politics and administrations change and new proposals constantly arise. In any case I would point out that the Pound is not presently part of monetary union and has a floating exchange rate with the Euro.

David Duff

Mr. Boothroyd, we are "engaged", if not betrothed! I am happy to be reminded of what I already knew, that the 'No' campaign favoured only a free trade area, but I do not accept your remembrance of past times that the 'Yes' supporters urged us to accept a new political structure - indeed the very documents issued by the government of the day, which 'Cleanthes' has brought to light, show the very opposite. I haven't the time, or the inclination (too, too depressing), to spell out every piece of wilful ignorance, half-truth and downright lies contained in the pamphlet entitled "Will Parliament Lose its Powers?" Suffice to say that were they still alive I would hesitate to even borrow, let alone buy, a used car from that fine old firm, Messrs Wilson & Heath!

Alas, Mr.Boothroyd, your argument that "I would point out that the Pound is not presently part of monetary union and has a floating exchange rate with the Euro" adds nothing to your case, indeed it detracts from it because, of course, the pound is only 'free' *despite* the heartfelt desires of the pro-EU fanatics, not *because* of them. Perhaps, whilst we are on this subject, you would care to "engage" with the fact that our present prime minister was one of those monetary union fanatics himself! He, and you, might wish to forget that unfortunate circumstance but I do not.

stephen

What I find interesting about this whole debate on Lisbon/referendum is that it is practically impossible to find any commentator who is supporter of a referendum and opponent of Lisbon who is able to put forward any concrete ideas as to what should then happen to the EU. They nearly all want the UK to leave the EU and see the voting down of Lisbon and the resulting anarchy as a means of engineering that withdrawal.

I have yet to hear any constructive ideas as to how the EU might be restructured if Lisbon were to be rejected. I don't see any attempt to build the political alliances across Europe that would (quite rightly) be necessary to develop a new consensus. Over the past two years when all the EU states were putting together Lisbon - were they proposing any alternative models/ideas?

What is somewhat strange is that the position of remaining within the EU - but opposing Lisbon is the official position of the Conservative Party - yet the leadership and most of the business backers of that Party seem to be proposing absolutely nothing in order to make their stance workable. Doing nothing, and staying with Nice, is not in anyway a sustainable option as it would be unacceptable to the vast majority of member states, especially among the new joiners.

The leadership of the Conservative Party is clearly still in thrall to the assortment of zealots, geriatics and Tory boys that make up its membership - and does not yet look ready to move on and accept the EU and work with others to develop support fro an alternative structure.

There are plenty of people across Europe and the political spectrum who recognise that there is a democratic deficit with the EU - and that reform is needed but at present they appear to being ignored.

David Duff

"They [opponents of the Lisbon treaty]nearly all want the UK to leave the EU and see the voting down of Lisbon and the resulting anarchy as a means of engineering that withdrawal."

Stephen is entirely right. Happily, 'I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of the Tory party' and so I can only plead guilty, I suppose, to being one of his three categories, that is, "geriatric".

Stephen is, I suspect, a perfect example of that cheery breed who, Python-like, 'always look on the bright side of life'. Thus he recognises "that there is a democratic deficit with the EU - and that reform is needed" (you can say that again!) but prefers not to dwell on the fact that we have been in this Euro-swill for *35 years*! He, presumably, is unlike Mr. Boothroyd and myself who, back in 1975, had to peer into the misty, murky future whilst being bombarded with blandishments from the political establishment; now, however, we can all look back on 35 years of reality, and "oh, what a falling off was there". I can only pose Stephen the age old, well, 35 years old, question: "How long, oh Lord, how long?"

Ross

"What I find interesting about this whole debate on Lisbon/referendum is that it is practically impossible to find any commentator who is supporter of a referendum and opponent of Lisbon who is able to put forward any concrete ideas as to what should then happen to the EU."

Why does anything need to happen to the EU? I don't see any major crises arising at present because of the way the EU is currently structured so rejecting the not-a-constitution-honest would simply maintain the status quo.

"The leadership of the Conservative Party is clearly still in thrall to the assortment of zealots, geriatics [sic] and Tory boys that make up its membership"

This just about sums up the sophistication of the Eurofanatic arguments. Let's assume you're right and the Tories are in thrall to tiny unrepresentative cliques, why not throw open the question to the general public? I suppose the British public also consists of zealots, geriatrics and Tory boys.

Tony Maher

Oliver,

There are those, like you, who think that the that the Lisbon treaty is significantly different from the failed Constitution and who claim that this treaty is no more than a technical amendment and that there is "nothing to see here" much less anything that requires a plebiscite.

There are those who disagree, like Constitution drafter Gisella Stuart, Giscard and panjandrums various from throughout the EU.

But there are also those who, although they support the treaty, make no bones about it's seriousness:

Michael Connarty , the Labour Chairman of the Commons European Scrutiny Committee, said that compared to Maastricht, "the Lisbon Treaty represents a more significant point in our relationship with Europe", and that the "[Lisbon] Treaty is the tipping point". Mr Connarty , who supports the new Treaty, noted that it "will take the centre of power away from this Parliament to Brussels. There is no doubt about that." He also added that under the Treaty "the role of national Parliaments will be massively diminished."

That is a view so widespread throughout Europe that the reassurances of europhiles fall on deaf ears.

But whatever the arguments about the significance of this treaty the point that everybody takes away from this squalid episode is that public ratification is rejected.

Unquestionably the EU has turned its back on popular consultation or consent - the inevitable corollary is that the public will turn its back on the EU. There is only one possible outcome of that development.

With this flagrant (Europe wide) exclusion of the electorate the EU is the turkey that just voted for Xmas.

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