Saturday, June 30, 2012

To hold an EU Referendum - and what Question.

Much discussion about an EU referendum flying around at present. In my opinion, this is all going to end in Eurosceptic tears. I recall the last such referendum in 1975. Biggest losers were those antis who made most noise demanding it. I was one of them. In general, I have a policy of learning the lessons of history. Be warned Eurosceptics. An EU referendum will lead to a green light for greater integration.

Anything but an In/Out referendum will not be good enough to satisfy the baying voices clamouring for a vote. Now, I should admit that I have no great fear of life outside the EU - and could see the sense of a referendum if I thought a potential UK Government would actually be prepared to open negotiations to withdraw from the EU if there were to be a Yes vote. No mainsteam party (and I still include the Lib Dems) has ever said that. References to an In/Out vote usually assume that the public would vote to stay in, or that the public's opinion would be ignored if it backed withdrawal. This is the unspoken truth - which is why I, a Eurosceptic, am deeply suspicious of the current debate. Even worse for me, a vote to stay in would be a massive boost to EU integration - as it was in 1975.

So all that's realistic is a referendum on some sort of 'renegotiation'. And it would have to involve quite significant changes to the relationship between the UK and the EU. We are already committed to a referendum if there's any further transfer of powers from the UK - so it has to be more than that. And I really don't think it would wash to go into an election promising to seek a renogotiation followed by a referendum. It would carry no traction with sceptical public unless a significant renegotiation had already taken place - so that there was something solid to take a view on.

Having written the above, I can see a momentum when it's in front of my nose. There are so many 'nods and winks' that we're approaching a position when it could become difficult to draw back from a referendum. No doubt it would inject some life into UK politics. Certainly needs it with the prospect of Lords Reform threatening to mire UK politics in glutinous treacle for months. Its just that I think it will end in tears, particularly for Eurosceptics.

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