Sunday, November 10, 2013
Last Word on EU Referendum til 2017
Shared an interview with Peter Hain on Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement this morning. Not sure what reach the programme has, but its my favorite to appear on. Vaughan Roderick, a sort of Radio Wales Paxman without the sneer is most knowledgeable journalist I know in Wales. Always asks the one question you dont want him to - and very politely which makes it worse. Anyway, this morning's discussion was most odd. I couldn't for the life of me understand what Peter Hain was on about. Now Peter is a serious politician to tangle with. Crafty as they come, and been around a long time. So I was waiting for the 'killer line' - which never came. Seems he was demanding that David Cameron does pretty well what David Cameron has said he's going to do. The subject under discussion was an EU Referendum (again) - a subject designed to drive readers away from any blog that opens discussion about it. But its taking up so much Parliamentary time, and exercising some of my colleagues to such an extent, that I should set out what I think about where we have come from, where we are and where we are going - at least as far as I'm able to. It will be this blog's last word until 2017. I have always tended towards the Eurosceptic - driven by libertarian and anti-statist instincts. In 1975, after developing in YFC confidence to speak in public, I campaigned a bit for the 'Out' side. When the debate at that referendum started out, my side thought we could win, but as the campaign wore on, we were soundly trounced - an experience that some current politicians would do well to note! Today, I sense that the people feel that the EU interferes more than it should in matters that are properly affairs of the nation state. I also feel that the people of the UK want another referendum to establish whether they wish to remain members of the EU. It also seems to me that politicians across the EU are realising that Europe is losing competetiveness with other parts of the world. You might even say losing ground in the 'Global Race'. David Cameron seems to take the same view, and has developed a pragmatic policy to address all of these issues. In his Bloomberg speech last January, the Prime Minister announced that if he were to be elected as leader of a Conservative Gov't in 2015, he would immediately open discussion with our EU partners about what changes could be made. I suspect some EU leaders, notably Angela Merkel share some of the Cameron concerns. And then when we know what the result of all this discussion is, the British people will have their referendum in late 2017. Personally, the Bloomberg speech was good enough for me. I was happy to leave it at that. But not for all my colleagues. Some of them want to legislate in an effort to bind any future Gov't to holding a referendum in 2017. Its this which is swallowing up MPs time, and making meaningful engagement with constituents almost impossible. 3 Fridays at Westminster in November. Sometimes I do reflect how much easier it would be to be a Lib Dem MP. Sometimes, I'm aked which way I will vote in 2017. How on earth do I know. It depends what the negotiations produce. If there were to be no change at all, I could well vote to leave the EU. If there were to be substantive change I could well vote to stay in. There is absolutely no point whatsoever in being committed to a renogatiation with a closed mind. It would be good if this were to be my last word on this subject. It is my intention. But EU discussion is a bit like Bruce Forsyth - keeps coming back week after week.