Tuesday, 31 May 2011

An 'In/Out' EU Referendum

Edward is one of my regular readers and contributors.  He offered this preview, which I am pleased to share with you, of an article that will be published next month in the Euro Realist. If you would like to receive a copy of the publication please email eurorealistnl@aol.com.

Thinking It Through

This is a critique for quiet consideration within the pro-independence movement . An “in/out” EU referendum may well be part of the mechanism by which Britain eventually leaves the EU but we know that the EU protagonists regard “in” votes as final and binding and “out” votes as merely provisional. For some idea of the likely forces of manipulation which would be available to the “in” side, I ask people to refer to the Eurofacts Document “How they swung it in the early Seventies” and to the Anthony Royle report, now released under the Thirty Year rule, of the press and public relations campaign waged by HMG to influence public opinion in favour of EEC membership at that time.

1. Firstly I acknowledge the contribution which the Democracy Movement has made to the pro independence cause. I have distributed many of their leaflets, arranged meetings at which they were represented and have been very grateful for their input over the years. The DM has been the prime mover of the People's Pledge campaign for a referendum.

2. My main concerns about an “in/out” referendum are set out in my September letter which appeared in “The Euro Realist” and they apply just as much to the People's Pledge campaign as to any other.

3. Before writing that letter, I consulted Dr. Anthony Coughlan of the Irish National Platform who has experience of both winning and losing  referendum campaigns concerning the EU. I did not put the question to him directly but he did not mention receiving any approach from British referendum campaigners (which he surely would, if he had). I am sure our country's foes will have learned the Irish lesson of what wins and what loses a referendum and was rather surprised that the independence campaigners had not thought to do so.

4. Dr. Coughlan gave his opinion that the weight of outside money and influence rather than the information for and against the referendum proposal, which used to be produced by the Referendum Commissioner before the poll, was what decided the result. In a time of economic uncertainty, it was the fear of the people, not the will of the people which determined the result. Whilst he was careful not to try to tell us what to do, he gave his opinion that an “out” referendum could only be carried with any certainty by the whole-hearted support of the party in government, using all its many influences. If a referendum campaign were to be fought, he believed it would be wiser to campaign for the referendum on the Lisbon treaty (promised by all parties) or (say) The European Arrest Warrant or the Common Fisheries Policy (from which the Conservatives once promised our release). A favourable vote in such a referendum would (I paraphrase) throw such a spanner in the works as to come close to an “out” vote. Yet, if lost, it would merely be a lost battle and not a lost war - which would certainly be the case if an “in/out” referendum resulted in an “in” vote.

5. To fix wholly and solely on an “in/out” referendum is to declare the chosen means of fighting to an enemy who will have the advantage of making the dispositions of his far superior forces of money, influence and persuasion well in advance and of fixing the time of the engagement to his best advantage. It will not be a fair fight. Most of it will take place long before the immediate campaign before the poll - without rules and with all the advantage to big money and entrenched influence. Reports of the way in which this was done in the Seventies are available but I have seen no evidence that they have been taken into consideration by any pro-referendum campaigner. The responses I have heard or had  reported to me are “Public opinion is moving our way” (equivalent to “we hope something will turn up”) and “That is a completely separate issue” (to actually getting a referendum).

6. Now, I think that a referendum - or pressure for one - may well be part of the mechanism by which we leave the EU - but it is not essential nor the only one. A parliamentary majority of one would be sufficient. As far as I know, nobody has given thought to an American-style write-in campaign to MPs, maintained and sustained over time. All eurosceptic organisations have urged their members to speak and write to their MPs but there has never been any serious organisation to build a disciplined core of (say) 2 dozen people in every constituency to keep the issue before MPs and media perpetually. Individuals have written, gone to see their MPs, asked a question at a meeting and usually got a dusty answer. Then they have retreated to the comfort zone of like-minded eurosceptics to complain about it and the MPs (for the most part) have heard nothing more. So they can say with all truthfulness (or as much as can be expected) that “Europe” is not an issue which troubles their constituents.

7. I am writing this personally and not as a
 view of CIB but I can assert this. CIB has for years 
issued invitations for the Democracy Movement to 
attend its committee meetings. They have always 
been declined. 
Perhaps this is unfair, but I get the 
impression that they feel that we volunteer 
provincials are beneath consideration though 
worthwhile summoning as spear carriers when our 
betters have decided what we should do. 
Nonetheless, if I had thought the campaign was the 
right thing to do, I would have supported it to the hilt immediately.
CIB also tried repeatedly to arrange discussions with the other main referendum campaign but appointments were either refused or cancelled after having been made. I was horrified to hear of the attempt of Daniel Hannan and Douglas Carswell, in front of press representatives, to bounce the Better Off Out Campaign into disbanding and joining with Keith Vaz, Caroline Lucas and other choice europhile specimens in a “Better with a Referendum” campaign. Whilst the Better Off Out campaign does not commit its members to any binding course of action, MPs who join it know that they do so at the cost of forfeiting any prospect of promotion. With the commitment downgraded to merely demanding a referendum, that might no longer apply. If pro-independence MPs were persuaded join the government, they would be lost to the movement. The Pledge campaign makes no distinction between MPs and candidates who are committed to EU withdrawal and those who believe deeply in EU membership and think that a referendum is a good way of locking us in. It will therefore promote rabid federalists as being equally as desirable candidates as solid sovereignists. Similarly, Keith Vaz is such a known careerist that he would not have offered his support to the People's Pledge without clearing it with the top leadership of the Labour party. One of the Democracy Movement's best leaflets was in the style of a detergent advert - “New miracle Vaz won't  wash”! He still doesn't. I think it possible that Labour may use the campaign to show “Tory splits” on Europe. Mr Cameron might then “do a Wilson” and call a referendum earlier rather than later to lance the boil of Tory euroscepticism - and he could easily win. He nailed his colours to the EU mast on Al Jazeera.

8. A referendum has beeen held on the”Alternative Vote” system. The Electoral Reform Society funded the “yes” campaign massively with money and with the loan of staff. This is a straw in the wind. The society has a commercial subsidiary which offers “electoral services” to public authorities. My own council uses it for part of the registration of electors. It is highly
profitable and would get massively more so, if a more complicated voting system were introduced. There are hundreds of such “Third Sector” organisations (as officialdom calls them), now with greater freedom to promote political objectives thanthey had under the old Charities legislation. Many are lavishly funded by the EU. As far as I know, there has been no attempt to list, quantify and evaluate the electoral pressure which such organisations could apply in an “in/out” EU referendum - on either side. It is worth noting that there are moves in the EU parliament to allow EU funds to be used in referendum campaigns within member states and that the proposals for pan EU political parties are quite well developed.

 It is worth noting that there are moves in the EU parliament to allow EU funds to be used in referendum campaigns within member states.

9. Neither, as far as I know, has anybody  considered institutional bias in the electoral process  itself. The postal voting system is known to be demonstrably corrupt, especially in culturally enriched areas. The few cases that have come to court are probably just the tip of an iceberg. There is a widespread feeling that the process of voter registration may have been compromised by outsourcing to private companies. Private Eye identified one such company with close links to the Labour Party. Then there is the Electoral Commission itself. There is a statutory requirement in the Elections Political Parties and Referendum Act for the Commission to “inform” people about the institutions of the EU. That can be interpreted in various ways and anybody who has received the reports of the Irish National Platform on the extreme partiality of the Irish electoral authorities would feel uneasy about the possible behaviour of this archetypal New Labour quango in a crucial referendum.

10. In my opinion, anybody starting out with the intention to win a referendum to get us out of the EU would have begun by dealing with such considerations as a first priority before even thinking of campaigning for a referendum. It is the elementary duty of any commander, who means to win, to “appreciate the ground from the enemy's position”, work out what forces the enemy may reasonably be expected to have and to assure himself of having at least local superiority to defeat them decisively. If he hasn't got that, he may fight a spoiling action or retreat - but that is not a possibility in a referendum campaign which is a win or lose, frontal assault. On present showing it could easily turn out like the Charge of the Light Brigade. As a French general remarked of that occasion “C'est manifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre”. We cannot afford such an heroic failure, however magnificent.

11. None of the proponents of an “in/out” referendum appears to have given any thought as to how the process of disengagement from the EU would be carried out, if an “out” vote by the electors were achieved but the government in power remained composed of “old style” politicians who were reasonably comfortable with life under the EU and not passionately and totally committed to leaving it. Even with a firm political commitment by a majority of MPs to independence, the degree of stubborn inertia in government departments and official bodies would be enormous with huge numbers of civil service apparatchiks and quangocrats able to ambush even an enthusiastic government into repeated pitfalls and disasters. With a less than enthusiastic government and parliament, the situation would be a happy hunting ground for functionaries of the “Yes, Minister” type to wrongfoot their nominal political masters repeatedly in the highly intricate business of disentangling constitution and administration from the EU web, which has been woven for over fifty years to prevent any such thing from happening. We now have politicians and officials who look like us and talk like us but whose
main loyalties have been elsewhere for decades. The present situation could not have occurred without them. 

The inertia of vested official interests in (say) the Foreign Office would be enormous. The extent to which long-established official attitudes within departments can frustrate even a determined government with a large majority has been demonstrated repeatedly over the years. To take a  domestic example, the Thatcher government set out to reverse declining standards in state education with the idea of insisting on a basic national curriculum to ensure that, at least,  the “Three Rs” were taught in schools. The “progressive” educational establishment was able to ambush this simple idea and turn the national curriculum into a complicated, prescriptive, jargon-laden  monster which is  now a major part of the problem. The doctrinaire educational establishment was able to divert and defeat the attempt to raise standards and to deceive not very bright politicians by “rising standards”, manufactured by making the exams easier. How much greater is the opportunity for that sort of obstructionism in untangling a project like the EU which affects so many departments of state and entrenched official interests? A referendum victory would be entirely hollow without MPs or government committed heart and soul to making independence a success and willing to confront and, if necessary to sack, obstructive officials - even if they are Permanent Secretaries. 

12. If a referendum is called, whether soon or late, you can be assured that CIB will strain all its energies and use every available penny provided by the generosity of our members, living and dead, to achieve a vote for independence but that alone will not deliver independence. It will only be the beginning of an almighty struggle, amounting to revolution against the new system of government, created in the last forty years. 

In the meantime, I believe it is best to continue our efforts to influence opinion in favour of independence - both within Parliament and elsewhere, taking every opportunity from the increasingly desperate and ultimately unsustainable crises to which the euro currency will be subject. We should also seek help from our members and the wider movement to develop a positive vision of an independent Britain and its place in the world. 

This is a plea for a pro thinking campaign not an anti referendum one.  The independence movement has not thought strategically or tactically.  It is perhaps personified by that rather splendid crusader knight of  the Daily Express, standing on the white cliffs of Dover. Our enemy is not across the Channel but here amongst us in our own political and official class. It is only by their actions and policies that the EU has any sway over us at all. It is against them that the knight must wield his sword.

Edward Spalton is vice-chair of the Campaign for an Independent Britain (CIB)


Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Rosa -I'd urge you to send this on to the SNP.

It's absolutely on the nail both as an analysis of establishment strategy to maintain the EU membership and conversely their intention to negatively influence Scotland's referendum on independence.

The EU issue is the one policy I'm totally against in the list of SNP aspirations. One made all the more bewildering by their choice not to make clear the reasons as to why they consider Scotland would be better in than out.

On the matter of royalty, while I disagree with it on principle I can understand the thinking of appealing to a broad church. But on the EU I believe the general opinion is one of more disinterested contempt than that of traditional content.

Apogee said...

Hi SR.Fascinating preview which details the problems of getting an honest referendum about leaving the EU. It should also be required reading for anyone wanting Scottish Independence as most of the same problems will be seen before a Scottish Independence referendum.
Every possible reason against leaving the EU and UK will be promoted in every possible manner, honest and dishonest, the people will have to keep alert.

subrosa said...

Crinkly, I'll send a copy of this to the SNP but I doubt if they'll take notice.

But nothing ventured nothing gained.

subrosa said...

It is fascinating Apogee I have to admit. Excellent piece by Edward.

Anonymous said...

Damn! I should have known that you would have some really, really serious matter under discussion! But may I spread this idea:

I am popping this idea around the sites that I frequent. I am sorry if this post is not 'on topic'.

On 29th May 2011, the Independent published a blatant, propaganda attack on Tobacco Companies. I must say immediately that I have no personal involvement with Tobacco Companies whatsoever other than buying cigarettes.
In the article, it was stated that a study by the Office of National Stats shows that more people are going to pubs. In fact, the study shows nothing of the sort. It shows only that, of the people surveyed, some said that they THINK THAT they go to pubs more often. Also, the same survey showed that women especially feel inclined to go to pubs less, as a result of the smoking ban. It is very obvious, therefore, that the findings of this survey in no way justify the claim that more people are going to pubs, which is what Tobacco Control claimed. In any case, pub closures affect the people in the immediate neighbourhood of that pub. Even if it were true that more pubs are opening than are closing, it does not mean that the opportunities for people to meet together are not, in a large part of our country, being decimated by Tobacco Control. On this basis, I have complained to the Press Commission about the misuse of the Office of Nat Stats statistics in this article published by the Independent. I claim that the Independent should ensure that the facts stated in the article are correct.

When I found out about this article (via....sorry, I do not remember), I made various comments at the Independent - albeit rather late. But what is really important is that I decided to make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission. I have done so. I have complained about the misuse of the ONS statistics. I have complained that the Independent should check that the ONS statistics are being correctly interpreted. I have complained that the Independent has not checked the facts stated in this article (an article which is promoted by the Independent) before publication.

This thought then popped into my mind: how much more likely to succeed is a complaint to the Press Commission as compared with a comment on a newspaper article in the newspaper's comments section? I asked this question elsewhere, and someone said, " Should we not also be applying this idea to the Charities Commission (words to that effect)?"

I agree.

We must ask ourselves about the efficacy of complaints to the Press Complaints Commission and the Charities Commission. I propose that 100 complaints to those organisations are worth 10 000 comments in newspaper articles. I am therefore proposing that we make as many complaints as possible to these bodies. But, of course, the complaints must be real and genuine and factual. Do not make make complains based upon emotions (stinks, for example).

I believe (with no evidence whatsoever except gut feeling!) that organisations such as the Press Complaints Commission and the Charities Commission are the Achilles Heel of Tobacco Control and Alcohol Concern and other such special interest groups. Complaints to MPs and to Newspapers do not instigate a process, whereas complaints to commissions do. One could also complain to the Health and Safety Executive, it you can figure out how to do it.

There are thousands of us. If we all complain to the appropriate COMMISSION, sensibly, about what ASH et al are causing to be published, then 'the authorities' will be forced to take note. We must complain as often as possible and upon every subject where 'freedom' is being eroded.

I commend this idea to everyone.

As I said, I am going to spread this idea around. I hope that people do not mind. I hope that it bears fruit.

Sue said...

The only other way to do this (and I know this is generally a horrible idea), is to get known celebrities involved.

There are already a few like John Gaunt and people listen to them. With the public being so obsessed with fame, a few big names wading into the fray, we might just stand a chance.

Sue said...

You've started me thinking now. I tend to faith in Britons to stick to their guns despite the propaganda machines going into overdrive but the only way to beat this monster, is to play it at it's own game.

It's obvious that any negative publicity that is published has a phenomenal effect on the markets and the Euro. We need to do the same thing but slowly and quietly so they don't realise it's happening. The trouble is, the MSM is under the governments thumb and not going to be co-operative.

So the question remains, how to we get to the masses without incurring huge costs?

subrosa said...

Ah Sue, now that's a great point. Worth having a round-robin post about it or some way of harbouring bloggers. EURef should be involved somehow too.

Edward Spalton said...

Thank you to those who have taken the trouble to read through this necessarily long post.

I think most readers will know that I do not share the views of the gracious chatelaine of this blog on the break up of the United Kingdom which has been the aim of every would-be dominant European power since its inception. So, I am grateful for the kind hospitality afforded.

Sue, John Gaunt is a tremendously media savvy, inspiring speaker. Yet it was hearing him that first set my alarm bells ringing about a referendum. He demanded one very passionately and said (approx) "I want my say and I don't care what the result is!".

Now, I understand the frustration of the Eurosceptics in their failure to make any dent on Westminster (the only place that matters for the whole UK in this). I have spent more than twenty five so far fruitless years in this cause and it would be nice to think there was a magic bullet and to cry "We want a referendum!" and hey presto! But, I thought that , on its own, this is a demand for a reckless gambler's throw of the dice - and I was not prepared to see all that slog ( and that of many others) thrown away on a project which is so easily manipulated by people whose trade is manipulation and deceit, successfully continued over forty years.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

ES -though I suspect we stand separated by the complete political -though not humanitarian - spectrum, i for one enjoy your posts.

That said the establishment you speak of is the one that has moulded Westminster into the sham democratic entity it is today.

Can you not then understand the need for an egalitarian people to get out from under it. And the possibilities that may present for a better democracy to take effect throughout these Islands.

Edward Spalton said...

Dear Crinkly & Amp,
having a Scottish wife and family North and South, I would rather we lived in one country than two.

There are strong geopolitical reasons for this too and not just those of family and sentiment.. I have just been reading Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Papers where he is persuading the citizens of New York state to subscribe to the new US constitution. There were people who thought the individual states should go their separate ways or form three or four separate countries.
He drew very heavily on British history to argue against this.

Coming very much from the middle of Middle England, I have never understood all this whingeing about class and equality . It has always seemed to me an unreal, unhealthy preoccupation (fit for luvvies, agitators and provincial academics) , as we have had the most socially mobile society in this country for centuries. Even a non public school Scotsman got to be Prime Minister! And that was a long time ago.

I do give credit to Mr Salmond for believing in something. A man who believes in something will beat a man who believes in nothing any day of the week. The trouble is that the EU consensus has so hollowed out the main UK parties that none of them now believes in anything distinctive , apart from their entitlement to office. It is a sickness of the body politic which, I hope, may be cured without cutting it up.

Yet Mr. Salmond is a true believer in the EU and "global governance" as witness his belief in "climate change" and mania for wind turbines which can never provide a reliable source of power for any nation's economy.

It is a paradox and the circle hasn't been squared yet.

God save us all!

DeeDee99 said...

You make a very cogent argument and I agree completely that the fight isn't against 'the foreign hordes' it is against the quislings who lied and signed the UK up to EU servitude and who still exist in our Parliament and Civil Service. (It is reported that when the LisbonConTreaty was signed by Gordon Brown, staff in the F.O cheered).

In this evenings online Spectator it is reported that Heathite Lords, including Geoffrey Howe, are attempting to water-down the effects of the EU Referendum Lock to render it worthless when it is already not much better. THESE are the people we must fight; but goodness knows how we do it.

I have been writing regular letters to my MP, Sir Paul Beresford on the subject of the EU and I get curt, dismissive and arrogant responses. Until or unless we get primaries to select constituency MPs I don't see how we are going to change the system where MPs enter Westminster and immediately do the bidding of the Government, not the people.

Meantime, I vote and campaign for UKIP and support The People's Pledge because I don't know what else I can do. I want my country back; I will never accept servitude in the EU and I hate with a passion all the politicians and grandees who have betrayed this country. If a revolution took place, I'd be at the site of the guillotine cheering as each traitorous head fell.

Temporary said...

Excellent piece, ES. I think that the pursuit of an in-out referendum is an almighty unforced error. We really are no further forward than 1975. Thank you for your comment on my piece on EU Ref. I tried to private message you but it kept bouncing back. All the best and good luck. "Clarence"

TTC said...

"It is perhaps personified by that rather splendid crusader knight of the Daily Express, standing on the white cliffs of Dover. Our enemy is not across the Channel but here amongst us in our own political and official class. It is only by their actions and policies that the EU has any sway over us at all. It is against them that the knight must wield his sword."

Agree with that entirely... but I think some of us are one step ahead already.

Many of us in the blogosphere are spending our time talking not of an EU In-Out referendum...

...but of the need not to have one as the Bill of Rights 1689 and other constitutional documents AND the treason laws say we do not need a referendum. The politicians had no right signing away sovereignty that was not theirs to gift.

Indeed, the upshot of what we have been saying is that the word 'treason' has had a ripple effect.

Look at the comments under any MSM report on a related topic and you will see umpteen people laying the charge of 'treason' publicly.

Have a nose around here: http://www.acasefortreason.org.uk/


Edward Spalton said...

Dear Talking Clock,

I am well acquainted with "a case for treason" and discuss matters quite frequently with Albert Burgess who has done so much excellent work.

The problem is that the law is what you can get a judge to say on the day and it will take a revolution (such as I mention in my article) to get one to
interpret it in the plain way in which we understand it.

Nonetheless the site and its work is an excellent witness to the treachery we have suffered and what we can have, if we are determined enough to get it.

DennisA said...

Excellent piece from Edward Spalton, the most clear thinking analysis I have read to date. Like him I think it is sad that Blair succeeded with his devolution agenda, because Scotland and Wales think they can gain advantage from the EU. In Wales they constantly talk of money from the EU, They do not see it is their own money re-cycled, after deductions. The whole thing was designed to fracture Nationality and replace it with a love for the EU (Big Brother).

As an aside, when I look at the political map of Scotland above, post-election, it seems we should just move the border above the band of blue and red, no more arguments.

subrosa said...

Edward, you know you're always most welcome as a contributor here. We don't have to be on the same political side to share a stage.

James Higham said...

None of the proponents of an “in/out” referendum appears to have given any thought as to how the process of disengagement from the EU would be carried out, if an “out” vote by the electors were achieved but the government in power remained composed of “old style” politicians who were reasonably comfortable with life under the EU and not passionately and totally committed to leaving it.

Yes we have. For it to be put anyway, enough politicians of influence must have brought pressure to bear, so an in/out is actually the better option. It's cleaner and easier for people to understand.

If we're leaving, then EU regulations simply cease to have any effect under English law. Those now in place are then gradually reviewed and the good are kept in place.

There are too many complications dreamed up by the "well I'm not quite sure" brigade, when it is quite simple really.

However, any sort of referendum at all is not going to happen while Cameron is in charge. He's too in the pocket of Brussels to make a change, as has been seen by his reneging on his promise.

The grounds for him to act, even by his own lights, are well and truly there.

The aspect which is distasteful is that, to call for an in/out, one is somehow extremist, whereas, to be less clearcut, IMHO, is to scupper the chances.

James Higham said...

Subrosa, if the tone of the last comment was a tad terse, forgive me. Here just some of the reasons why it must be an in/out:

In the very act of not putting referenda, precedent has therefore not been set in a national UK context, whilst at the same time, precedent is being set at an alarming rate in an EU context and thus, in a court of law, as precedent is the essential source, any national argument is progressively weakened by failure to ascertain the will of the people, except in the context of a General Election which, as you know, has zero to do with mandate, especially in the context of a hung parliament.

Furthermore, because the Lisbon Treaty is a self-amending text, there is serious reason to suppose that an attempt to unwind amendments made within the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty will be subject to challenge in the courts, unless of course the Referendum was expressed to be “notwithstanding the European Communities Act 1972” with an obligation on the judiciary to construe the Referendum Act accordingly.

This “lack of specific provision” has been and still is an enormous impediment to non-referendum supported withdrawal.

Let’s start with David Davis, from 4th November 2009:

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.

That is why 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 pledging to keep the treaty out of taxation policy, family and social issues (such as the right to life, abortion and euthanasia), and Ireland’s traditional military neutrality.

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.

So referendums are incredibly powerful weapons. What is more, they are necessary if a single nation is going to achieve any material change.

The Europeans are past masters at the permanent negotiation that makes up the federal project. They know all the tricks of isolation, pressure, delay, coalition, vague language, and institutional and judicial expansion.

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

We are not operating on a level playing field but are engaging with an enemy which is hellbent on subsuming powers for the EU for purposes outside the scope of this article to go into.

Ann Winterton MP:

“Although no Parliament at Westminster can bind its successor, the European Union operates differently and has no reverse gear. The United Kingdom is propelled into ever deeper integration against the wishes of its people. Leaving is the only way to stop this process.”

Temporary said...

David Davis - who, let's not forget, brutally whipped the Maastricht Treaty through the Commons - was talking rubbish.

I haven't time to fisk it all but Ireland's opt-outs are not legally binding, and she voted on exactly the same text the second time, in 2009. The Dutch and French no votes did indeed lead to the Lisbon Treaty - which was even more ambitious than was the Constitution. Some victory...

My argument against an in-out referendum is here:

Wildgoose said...

An excellent and cogent piece Edward - you've given me plenty of food for thought.


James Higham said...

Temporary - I've looked at those arguments and they simply don't stand up. You say you have no time to fisk it because it ... er ... can't actually be fisked.

The legal opinions on the issue maintain that it is line ball, should it come to a challenge but the main error you seem to make is in completely underestimating the manner in which the EU has its proposals adopted in this country.

I heard the arguments at the conference about clawing back powers and not allowing any new ones and yet we have allowed them and are in the middle of that as we write.

Though an in/out referendum is the only way, the truth is that there is no one to invoke it because Cameron and deputies are firmly pro-EU, despite their rhetoric.

That's the dilemma we have.

James Higham said...

Temporary - I plan to use my other material plus yours:


... to put together the reasons why the anti-referendum case doesn't stand up. Like you, I'm also working so that's pencilled in for Sunday.

By the way, the general election did not act as a referendum, as you suggest because it was an election where only the big three had a platform and all three agreed on the EU.

That's one thing.

The other is that, even if it gets pretty willing, this disagreement, we apepar to be on the same side or, as you wrote:

If they’re prepared to do that, they might as well just vote to repeal the European Communities Act; they know that that’s the real wish of most of those calling for a poll.

The tone of the piece you wrote is that you indeed want us out of Europe. We're just disagreeing on the method.

Therefore, despite all, we need to remain allies and keep the eyes focused on that goal - to get us out of the EU, either by revoking the ECA or by referendum.

Edward Spalton said...

Dear James Higham,

You are right on two points

(1) An Act of Parliament could nullify the effect of EU legislation in this country. It would not, of itself, nullify the external effects of the various treaties. These would have to be abrogated/renegotiated within the terms either of the international Vienna Convention or the terms of the EU treaties themselves and of the World Trade Organisation. There would have to be reasonable notice to allow an orderly reorganisation. The last thing needed is disruption of trade -although we hold the whip hand, as we buy so much more from the EU than they do from us.

(2) The European Central Bank produced an interesting paper, considering (a) whether they could expel a country from the EU (eg Greece but they didn't say so)
(b) whether a country could just leave.

Now there is a procedure for leaving in the Lisbon Treaty but it is deliberately designed to be so penal and humiliating that no country would go that way.

The ECB listed all the many restrictions and ended by saying that there was no power on earth which could stop a politically determined country from leaving BECAUSE THE EU HAD NO MEANS OF COERCION.

Because of the way the EU operates there are now at least hundreds of British Acts of Parliament and tens of thousands of statutory instruments (having the same effect as Acts of Parliament) on the statute book which have been made as the result of EU Directives BUT THE ACTS AND THE CLAUSES IN ACTS ARE NOT IDENTIFIED AS EMANATING FROM THE EU.

So unpicking them will be an intricate business. Some will be highly technical things to do with trade standards and quality of goods which are unexceptionable - and in any case, businesses have spent billions of pounds complying with them and may need to keep to them if they want to trade within the EU and internationally.

So it's not just as straightforward and gung-ho as you might think. Many departments of state (like what used to be the Ministry of Agriculture, most of the regulatory agencies like the HSE etc) have, in fact, been operating as branch offices of the EU for up to 40 years. So they are set in their ways and will take a great deal of changing.

I do not think the sheer gut-lugging detail and force of political will required to drive this through should be underestimated. As a young man, I saw some of the cage being put in place. It has grown stronger since then and will require a great deal of strength of purpose and cunning to demolish.

Sue said...

Of course, the other way of doing it is to invite the electorate of each council and/or district to elect an independent longstanding resident of that area to stand in the next bi-election. There are a few towns/villages that have done just that in Spain. You find once those people are in power, they are likely to remain so while they are representing the majority of that town/area.

It's starting small but is probably the only way we are going to reclaim our democracy.

subrosa said...

Unfortunately it's expensive to stand as an independent here Sue. The cost is a real deterrent.

James Higham said...

Subrosa - my apologies for breaking netiquette here and I don't usually do it but my more complete answer [thanks, Edward too - good points] is here:


If I put all that text here, it would hog your comments thread, Subrosa so I did it this way. Thanks for the thread.

Sue, good to see you here too.

Edward Spalton said...

Sue - A cautionary tale

About twenty years ago in the discontent which brought about the formation of UKIP
about five of us were discussing what must be done about the increasingly baneful effects of the EU.

"We should have a proper advertising campaign" said one of our number.
"I entirely agree" I said "Will you be responsible for raising the funds?".

Now, I am still friends with that chap but he didn't like the suggestion! When you start something of this sort, the ONLY significant resource you have is the time and energy which people are prepared to give to it. If your committee or group has more doers than talkers, then you are very fortunate. What you can do will surprise you. But it doesn't often happen like that.

subrosa said...

James, I'll put your response on this week's Take Your Pick just in case some miss it here.

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