A referendum on the EU treaty: bad idea

The (London) Times, being a Murdoch newspaper, naturally argues for a referendum on the EU treaty — and if the government were to agree to hold one, no doubt the Times, like the Conservative Party, would campaign for a No vote.  So a modest bouquet to the Times for publishing today my letter which argues against holding a referendum at all:

The Times, October 24, 2007

A vote to stay in
To reject a treaty regarded as sound by all other EU governments would make us pariahs

Sir, You say that anything more than administrative changes in the EU treaty “must require a referendum and therefore a referendum is required” (“Cold Calculations”, leading article, Oct 23), and the Tories taunt the Prime Minister with the accusation that his reason for refusing a referendum is his fear of losing it.
In fact, that’s one, although not the only, perfectly rational and honourable reason for not holding a referendum. Not only the Tories but much of the Europhobic press would exploit the worst kinds of anti-European xenophobic prejudice to secure a “no” vote, not out of any genuine opposition to specific provisions of a treaty whose main purposes you yourself admit are necessary after EU expansion, but in the unacknowledged hope of bringing about Britain’s eventual exit from the EU.

If that is their aim, they should come clean about it: a referendum on British membership, as now advocated by the Lib Dems, could be a healthy way to lance the boil.

But for the UK, probably alone of all EU member states, to reject a treaty regarded by every single EU government as sound and necessary would make us the pariahs of the union, and may[1] well result in our expulsion from it, an outcome that only a minority of the electorate seems to want.

Brian Barder
HM Diplomatic Service, 1965-94
London SW18

There are other reasons for not holding a referendum on this treaty.  It's not an issue on which even the most sophisticated electorate can reasonably be asked to make a decision, given its phenomenal complexity.  Most of the few who manage both to read and to understand the treaty (a minority which doesn't include me) will dislike some elements of the treaty, or have reservations about them;  some will conclude that the bad outweighs the good and that on balance it should not be ratified;  some will take the opposite view, and will support ratification on the grounds that the administrative and institutional reforms in the treaty are not just desirable but urgently necessary following the substantial expansion of the EU's membership, and that for the UK to refuse to ratify it would leave the EU in a very serious and disabling quandary.  If this were to happen as a result of a referendum here, the other 26 EU member states would be unlikely to shrug their shoulders, accept the British veto as the end of the affair, and try to make the existing structures, designed for a Union of half its current size, work as best they can.  Why should they?  They would be much likelier to find a way to go ahead without the UK, perhaps not formally expelling us, but in effect making our continued membership impossible.  It's no exaggeration to say that this would be a catastrophe for Britain.  Once a referendum was conceded, we would be half-way down a slippery slope from which there would almost certainly be no rescue.

Ratification of the treaty is also unsuitable for another reason.  The treaty is itself virtually unreadable, or, if read, unintelligible.  To cast an informed vote in a referendum on it, we would all need to hire teams of research assistants to explain to us what it's all about.  To take an example completely at random, what are we to make of this (PDF)? —

48) Article 27 shall take over the wording of Article 17, with the following amendments:
(a) the following new paragraph 1 shall be inserted and the next paragraph shall be renumbered 2:
"1. The common security and defence policy shall be an integral part of the common foreign and security policy…."

Or this:

50) Articles 29 to 39 of Title VI of the EU Treaty, which relate to judicial cooperation in criminal matters and to police cooperation, shall be replaced by Articles 61 to 68 and 69e to 69l of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; they shall be amended as set out in Article 2, points 64, 67 and 68, of this Treaty. The heading of the Title shall be deleted and its number shall become the number of the Title on final provisions. 

And there's much more that's even more impenetrable. 

Tony Blair, as prime minister, was hustled (reportedly by the inimitable Jack Straw) into promising a referendum on a quite different document: a brand-new constitution for the Union.  It's beyond dispute that the reform treaty reproduces much that was in that draft constitution, but it's explicitly a different document, not a constitution but an amending treaty of the kind which we have seen several times before.  This argument, although formally valid, can be — and is being — represented as jesuitical and evasive, which to an extent it is.  Much better to acknowledge that whatever the rights and wrongs of an undertaking given by a previous administration, a referendum now would be unacceptably dangerous for Britain, not because the government can't trust the British people to make a sensible decision but because the outcome would be vulnerable to the lies and misrepresentations of the fanatically Europhobic and unscrupulous tabloids, and similarly unprincipled elements of the Conservative party, whose real objections are not to the small print of the treaty but to British membership of the European Union.  The prospects of a referendum result that reflected a mature weighing up of the overall pros and cons of ratification, after exhaustive analysis and discussion of the issues and the likely consequences of non-ratification, would be almost nil, given the poisonous atmosphere which would be created for the referendum campaign by the Europhobic rottweilers in Westminster and the media.  This is a decision that in a parliamentary democracy should be made by the government and parliament, not by the electorate, which will be free to punish the government and its MPs at the next election if its decision has proved wrong.  It's an essential feature of a democracy that a government, provided that it has the support of parliament, should be able to take decisions that may be unpopular at the time but whose results can be judged by the people at election time.

No responsible British government should think for a moment of taking such a risk  with Britain's future in Europe and the world as a referendum would entail, and there's no reason to be afraid to say so.

[1] The words "may well result" in the last sentence of my letter as printed contain effectively the only editorial change made by the Times in the text that I submitted.  The fastidious reader will guess, I hope, that I wrote "might well result". 

Update (26 Oct 07):  I wrote this (including my letter in the Times) before I had seen an admirable article in the New Statesman of 18 October by Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, which makes exactly the same point:  that if Britain alone were to reject the treaty in a referendum, the other EU countries would be highly likely to go ahead without us, making our continued membership of the Union effectively impossible.  None of the three biggest parties wants that; no serious newspaper wants it; and I doubt whether any significant section of UK public opinion would want it, at any rate if confronted by the dire consequences of our expulsion.  Britain isn't Norway.


20 Responses

  1. John Miles says:

    Why do you think "only a minority of the electorate seems to want" us to be expelled from the EU?

    I'm a Europhile myself, but I can't help feeling it's people like you and me who are in the minority, and that most people just want out.

    Brian writes: I have seen several opinion polls over the years showing a clear majority in favour of continued UK membership of the EU, and I don't remember ever seeing one with a majority in favour of leaving it.  But there may have been such results in recent polls:  can anyone supply chapter and verse if so? 

  2. I couldn't disagree more – okay, you say that the 'treaty' is regarded as 'sound' by the majority of the other EU governments – what about the people of those countries Brian?  They are opposed to this 'treaty'.  I'd agree that plebiscites can be very dangerous and have historically been the tools of despots, but our current despots promised one and to say that this is a substantially different document when the leaders of those other governments (who think it is all hunky dory) say it's pretty much the document rejected by the Dutch and French voters.  As far as I can see, this is the policitical elite circling their wagons and consolidating a super-state.  Then we can all look forward to having Blair back as EU President.  Oh happy days.

    Oh yeah, and what happens to English Common Law when this is all ratified?

    Brian writes:  Ratification of treaties is pretty clearly a matter for governments, not mass electorates.  If democratically elected governments get it wrong, the electorate knows what to do at the next election.  I haven't heard of public opinion in other EU countries agitating for a referendum (leaving aside those where it's required by their law).  The agitation here is largely (although not entirely) stoked up by those who are opposed to UK membership of the EU on any terms, and oppose anything with Europe written on it, regardless of the merits.  I know of nothing in the treaty that looks like 'consolidating a super-state':  giving a more significant role to national parliaments, for example, would be a funny way to do that;  and anyway it would be difficult to 'consolidate' something that doesn't exist.  Are your criticisms of the treaty so fundamental that you would accept the likely consequence of the UK alone refusing to ratify it, i.e. the UK's exit from the European Union?  Is that what you favour anyway, regardless of this treaty?  That would be a perfectly tenable and respectable point of view, of course.  But let's be clear about its implications. 

  3. Martin says:


    You write

    "There are other reasons for not holding a referendum on this treaty.  It's not an issue on which even the most sophisticated electorate can reasonably be asked to make a decision, given its phenomenal complexity." 

    With the greatest respect, HMG should not be signing up to a document which cannot be understood. That way lies chaos.  

    Brian writesI hope I didn't say that it couldn't be understood.  But it's obviously the case that even the most sophisticated electorate as a whole would be most unlikely either to read it, or, if they did, to understand more than a fraction of it.  In any case, in our parliamentary system the electorate shouldn't normally be called upon to make decisions of this kind: that's for the government and parliament, both of which are held to account for their decisions at election time. 

  4. Peter Harvey says:

    If this is 'pretty much the document rejected by the Dutch and French voters', why, one might reasonably ask, are those same voters not now complaining that they have been duped and agitating for a second referendum? They aren't. Times have changed and they have changed with them. Many people on the (thoroughly confused) French left later realised that they had made a ghastly mistake in opposing it.

    It is also worth mentioning that the reasons why the French and (mostly) the Dutch voters rejected the original Constitutional Treaty were nothing to do with the desires of British Eurosceptics. They were the exact opposite in fact!

    Spain, which did approve the Constitutional Treaty in a referendum, is rather cross that it went through a process that has now proved futile. The original version was approved by two thirds of the member states with no rioting on the streets of the countries that did so in their parliaments.

    Brian writes:  In my view one of the many arguments against a referendum on this treaty is that referendum results tend to be determined by so many and varied extraneous factors, not by the pros and cons of the text on which the referendum is held.  Tim Garton Ash said in a recent Guardian column that the reasons for the French vote against the original constitution were the diametrical opposite of the reasons for the Dutch vote against it. As you rightly say, if there had been a referendum in Britain on the constitution and a majority had voted against it (as seems likely), the underlying reasons for that outcome would have been different again from those of both the French and the Dutch!

  5. John Miles says:

    Let’s hope you’re right to think we Europhiles are in the majority.

    If you are it’s difficult to see what the fuss is all about. It’s a fair bet that we Europhiles, all but a very few, would support the treaty.

    But if I were Eurosceptic I’d feel very hard done by.

    I’d think our government is trying to wriggle out of its commitment on grounds which are as tranparently phoney as those on which it said it changed its mind about holding a snap election. Even you have to admit that its arguments are "to an extent" jesuitical and evasive.

    It can’t be right to behave like this, and none of us ought to aid and abet such skulduggery.

    If  our government really thinks it was wrong to make this promise it should be honest enough to admit it, apologize and give us the real reason why it  proposes to break it.

  6. john sankey says:

    Dear Brian,

    Congratulations on taking up the cudgel for those of us who think the Telegraph campaign for a referendum is a total nonsense

    Best wishes, John

    Brian writes:  Thanks, John.  Glad to be of service — even to readers of the Daily Telegraph! 

  7. Smith says:

    "and may well result in our expulsion from it, an outcome that only a minority of the electorate seems to want."

    Sorry but thats bonkers – The vast majority of British people want out of the EU – completely.

    The government has lied to the people.

    Brian writes: The most recent opinion poll that I can find had 29 per cent of those polled voting for complete withdrawal from the EU — less than one-third, not exactly a 'vast majority', although too many for comfort.  Opinion on the EU has been very volatile over the years since the clear two-thirds majority in favour of the UK staying in, in the referendum of 1975.  Much depends on how vigorously the government of the day publicises the benefits of membership and on how vocal the Europhobic weirdo wing of the Conservative happens to be at any given time.  Results also tend to be skewed in one direction or another by the way the question is phrased and the options offered.  Not much significance ought to be attached to poll results in which significant numbers of people are said to favour completely unrealistic policies, such as staying in the EU but negotiating to keep more powers in the UK and fewer in Brussels, or staying in the EU but not taking part in any further political changes (neither of which options is even remotely likely to be on offer).  If there were to be a referendum in the near future on whether Britain should stay in or pull out, the Labour and Lib Dem parties would of course campaign energetically for staying in, and the Tories would be divided but with the current leadership and parliamentary mainstream almost certainly also campaigning to stay in.  In such a situation, despite the gibberings of the xenophobic tabloids, my guess is that there would be a healthy majority for staying in.  You evidently disagree, and of course you could be right.  I would however be interested to know on what evidence you base your opinion. 

  8. John Miles says:

    If you're right  – and I hope you are – to think we Europhiles are in the majority, then why not have the promised referendum? Obviously the way the question is put would be decided by the government, so they can hardly use that as an excuse if we lose.

    If we win there's a chance the Sceptics will begin to accept they don't have the rest of us behind them.

    If we lose we lose.  Disappointing, but you can't win 'em all.

    Do you, or does anybody, really want to drag England into the EU against its will?

    Brian writes: You may remember that I said in my letter to the Times, quoted in my post above:

    Not only the Tories but much of the Europhobic press would exploit the worst kinds of anti-European xenophobic prejudice to secure a “no” vote, not out of any genuine opposition to specific provisions of a treaty whose main purposes you yourself admit are necessary after EU expansion, but in the unacknowledged hope of bringing about Britain’s eventual exit from the EU.  If that is their aim, they should come clean about it: a referendum on British membership, as now advocated by the Lib Dems, could be a healthy way to lance the boil. [Emphasis added here.]

    I emphasise 'could'.  It would be a risky gamble and the stakes would be extremely high.  If there were to be a two-thirds majority for leaving the EU, the consequences for Britain would in my view, and that of very many others with a much better title to an authoritative opinion than me, be utterly catastrophic;  the damage would be irreparable;  and future generations of Brits would curse us for our insanity.  I am not exaggerating.   

    But I'm puzzled by your query as to whether I or anyone else "really want to drag England into the EU against its will".  Our Scottish, Welsh and northern Irish compatriots and fellow-Europhiles might ask what England has got to do with it: and it's difficult to see how any country can be "dragged", willingly or un-, into an organisation of which it's already a member.  Moreover I don't think that the answer to the implied question is at all obvious.  The result of a referendum on membership could only be a snapshot of the opinion of those who bothered to vote on one specific day, inevitably influenced on that day by all manner of transient factors:  a desire to snub the government of the day, the impact of a lying and unprincipled campaign by a number of tabloids and some barmy or malevolent politicians, the failure or success of the leaders of all the political parties to make the case for a yes or no vote effectively in the run-up to the referendum, even the precise wording of the question put to referendum, and so forth.  Would it really be in Britain's interests to entrust its future for a generation to come to the result of a referendum whose outcome might well be completely different if held six months or a year later when many of those transient factors might have changed?  Realpolitik probably suggests that a referendum would be a good idea provided that the opinion polls at the time virtually guaranteed a healthy majority for staying in.

  9. Peter Harvey says:

    It is possible that Scotland might not wish to be dragged out of the EU against its will and that any move in London to leave could lead to independence in Scotland so that it can remain. And what would that lead to?

    Brian writes:  An intriguing thought!  But I think we have agreed in earlier exchanges that on becoming independent Scotland would probably have to apply to [re]join the EU, rather than being able to assume that membership as part of the UK would automatically continue.  Anyway it looks as if Scottish independence, if it happens, will happen before the rest of the UK leaves the EU, if it does.  I devoutly hope that neither contingency will arise. 

  10. Brian,

    Even if there were to be a referendum that produced a healthy majority in favour of our continued membership, the idea that that result  could lance the boil is, I'm afraid, fanciful. Unless of course you mean by could -an insignificant possibility. In the same way I could really understand quantum physics.

    Brian writes:  Tony, I mean 'could' as in 'a significant possibility, even likelihood'.  The pro- and anti-EEC debate in the early 1970s following UK accession became, you will remember, very toxic and divisive.  Harold Wilson, master tactician as always, correctly read the tea-leaves and decided that a referendum would probably result in a vote to stay in the Community (as it then was).  And so it proved:  the 1975 referendum delivered a two-thirds majority for continued membership, and this did indeed lance the boil for, probably, a decade or more:  it enabled the doubters and sceptics to justify acceptance of UK membership by reference to the will of the people, and effectively removed the issue from politics for a considerable time, enabling successive British governments to consolidate the UK's position in Europe.  I see no reason why something similar shouldn't happen again now. 

  11. Brian,

    Surely the debate is now so skewed, a majority of the media so anti EU, that even after a stay-in vote it's difficult to see the Murdoch press, the Mail  the Express and the Telegraph suddenly experiencing  concurrent Damascene conversions.
    My recollection  of the post  1975 press was that it lacked the bilious anti-EU ravings we have now.

    Brian writes:  Alas, you may be right.  But I would hope that the slightly more sane and moderate anti-EU voices would have the decency to shut up out of respect for the voice of the people, if the people had made it clear by their votes that they wanted to stay.  Actually I think that before the 1975 referendum there were equally bilious voices — at that time as much in the Labour Party as among the Tories — clamouring for us to get out of Europe and prophesying that if we stayed in we would be sucked irretrievably into a ghastly superstate.  The Michael Foot/Wedgwood Benn tendency, IIRC, equated the EEC with rampant capitalism with which we should have no truck.  Of course some would say that they were right!

  12. John Miles says:

    You're quite right, I shouldn't have said "drag" into the EU." Perhaps "lock" would have been better.

    I'm not too sure about Wales and Northern Ireland, but the Scots are getting so uppity these days – and who can blame them? – that I feel a bit diffident about inflicting my views upon them. Theye're quite capable of making their own decisions, if that's what they want.

    They seem, after all, to be able to run their own country much better than they run ours.

    You say that a referendum is only a "snapshot of the opinion of those who bothered to vote on one specific day."

    Surely that's just as true of any election you care to mention?

    Brian writes:  Thanks.  Just two points in reply:  (1) There has never (so far, anyway) been a majority of Scots wanting full independence from the UK in any of the numerous opinion polls of past years.  (2)  True, a general election reflects the mood on a particular day, but it isn't an expression of an opinion on various alternative options, like a referendum, leading to an irrevocable decision such as that the UK must leave the EU: an election is a choice of a representative in parliament who can be called to account by his constituents throughout his four or five years in the house of commons and, if a majority of his constituents don't like what he has said and done and the way he has voted in the House, they can boot him out at the next election. The same goes for the government elected into office at a general election.  If the UK is forced out of the EU by a single referendum vote, it won't be open to us, when the electorate subsequently realises that it has made a catastrophic mistake, to go back in in four or five years' time.  The difference therefore is very significant. 

  13. Richard Need says:

    I'm intrigued by the idea  – which would be insulting if it weren't so funny  – that our politicians are capable of understanding things which are too difficult for the rest of us.  Where and when did those mental plodders in Westminster suddenly acquire this intellectual ability?

    If Gordon Brown does not give us a referendum he will live to regret it.  When the new President starts throwing his weight about, when the EU foreign minister starts meddling in foreign affairs, when the EU starts signing treaties on its own account whether we like them or not, when there are more changes to the Constitution without the need for any more treaties (yes, that's what it says!) and when we find ourselves caught out in those 60 areas where we have surendered our veto, Brown will find his nose rubbed in it.

    Brian writes: I haven't suggested that politicians are 'capable of understanding things which are too difficult for the rest of us', only that politicians, unlike the vast mass of the electorate including me, receive advice from officials and legal advisers who have been involved in the treaty's drafting and negotiation from the beginning, have actually ploughed through the verbiage of the treaty, checked its references to other documents and analysed the practical implications of every clause.  Most of us have better things to do;  we elect our ministers and MPs to do this sort of thing for us.  I don't (obviously) share your fears about what the treaty will do to us if and when it's ratified and brought into effect.  The EU would be unmanageable in its new and expanded form if every one of the 27 member states had a veto on each of a huge raft of subjects:  it would make it impossible for any British or other government to secure any positive changes in the future if every proposal could be vetoed by any one of 27 governments.  As long as Britain is participating in the Council of Ministers (at its various levels) and coordinating its EU policies with its major EU partners, it's most unlikely that we'll find ourselves the victims of EU policies that are harmful to our interests as you seem to suggest. 

    But the principal objection to what you say is that you don't consider the consequences of what you propose.  The treaty will be ratified by all the other member states and will come into force whether the UK has a referendum on it or not, and whether or not a referendum were to come down for or against ratification by the UK.  If the UK alone failed to ratify (because of either a referendum or a change of government), the end result would inevitably be our forced withdrawal from the EU.  We would then have no voice at all in the formulation of EU policies, many of which would powerfully affect us whether we were in the EU or out of it.  The idea that the rest of the EU would happily then agree to let us have a free trade agreement with them which would look after our vital interests is pure fantasy.  For a government which helped to negotiate the treaty, and is satisfied that it protects and advances our national interests, then to agree (unnecessarily) to a referendum that would be more likely than not to have these disastrous consequences for our country, would be irresponsible madness.  Do you seriously think that Britain's interests would be better served by our ejection from the EU and its councils than by our accepting the treaty and participating in the effort to make it work?  

    PS:  Richard Laming, Director of the Federal Union, has produced an extremely useful analysis of the main features of the reform treaty in the context of the assertion that they require a referendum before the treaty can properly be ratified.  The analysis and argument are in three informative documents here, here and here (PDF file). 

  14. Brian,
    I've not read all the comments here, but what sticks out like the proverbial is that the Treaty WILL be ratified by Parliament. It WILL  pass into our law. End of story.
    Is Cameron really  offering the electorate a referendum on the ratified Treaty ? What does he think a no vote in such a useless exercise would mean?
    Once the Treaty is given the Royal Assent- the referendum issue evaporates.

    Brian writes:  I hope you're right that once parliament has approved ratification, the whole issue of a referendum will evaporate.  But a vocal section of the Conservative Party is pressing D. Cameron to promise that even if the treaty is duly ratified without a referendum (as it obviously will be), the next Conservative government will "repeal" that ratification.  The legal and practical ramifications of that suggestion are mind-blowing and it's no wonder that Cameron is wriggling frantically to avoid giving such a lunatic commitment;  but the argument may serve to keep the issue alive even after ratification.  (Incidentally I'm not convinced that ratification requires the Royal Assent at any stage:  as I understand it, the procedure is for the government to lay an Explanatory Memorandum and the text of the treaty before parliament for 21 sitting days, and unless parliament formally objects, the relevant minister deposits an 'instrument of ratification' with whichever authority is required under the treaty to collect such instruments and report them to the other signatories.  According to the FCO paper here (PDF file), "It is depositing the instrument which constitutes ratification."  So it's not clear that ratification can be 'repealed', since it isn't an Act of Parliament:  the question would be whether the treaty concerned contains provision for withdrawal from it by a state which has ratified it, and whether such withdrawal after the treaty has come into effect would be compatible with continued membership of the EU.  On the face of it, it wouldn't be.  UK withdrawal wouldn't affect the continued operation of the treaty as part of EU law.)

  15. Richard Need says:
    • I'm pleased to say that I don't share Tony Hatfield's defeatist view that when it's all done and dusted we should just shrug our shoulders and accept it. 
    • The doom-and-gloom predictions as to what would happen if we left the EU are a reminder of the scaremongering about what would happen if we didn't join the euro. The forecasts about how our economy would suffer have turned out not just to be untrue but to be the reverse of the truth.          It's about time that Europhiles started backing up their dour predictions with some evidence.  They'll get no help from Switzerland or Norway, two highly successful and prosperous countries which have 100% access to the Single Market without any obligation to join the EU, or from Greenland who left with no ill effects whatsoever.   And the idea that we would not be given similar Market access is absurd.  It is traders who decide whom to trade with, not politicians.
    • Brian points out the difficulties the enlarged EU would face if it were to stick to the present admin system and let us keep our vetoes – all of which shows that the EU idea was  misconceived in the first place, or at least the enlargement.  What manager of any ability would make major changes to his organisation and only then start working on the admin needed to support those changes?  Now we are being asked to surrender more and more of our sovereignty (making us less and less of a democracy) to get the EU out of a mess of its own making.   Or rather, we are not being asked!

     Brian writes:  Dick, your new comment prompts two questions:  (1) Do you acknowledge the reality that preventing this treaty from coming into effect and retaining the status quo is not an option, since the rest of the EU is going to go ahead with the changes that it introduces, either with us or without us?  (2)  Are you in favour of UK withdrawal from the EU altogether?

  16. Richard Need says:

    Brian, answering your two very fair questions:

    (1) If this new version of the constitution does not require unanimous support as the earlier version did, then, yes, I accept that it would be ratified by all countries except those whose people had been given, and had taken,  the  chance to vote No.  But why would that matter?   The rest went ahead with EMU while Britain, Denmark and Sweden opted out and the sky did not fall in.

    (2) Yes, and for two good reasons.   Firstly, as a child I asked why we were giving away our Empire and I was told that the separate peoples within it wanted self-government; to be ruled only by laws passed in their own parliaments by their own elected representatives. Democracy, I was told it was called.  I thought it a splendid idea and still do.   Now, nearing the other end of my life I am told that such pure democracy is old hat, that I should be perfectly happy to be governed partly by my own elected representatives, partly by a European Parliament only about one-tenth of which we have elected and to an even greater extent by a European Commission which is the antithesis of democracy in that it has not been elected by anyone.    But pure democracy is not old hat, as the USA., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, et al demonstrate.  I want to return to that pure democracy of which I have always been so proud.

    Secondly, I have no respect for the EU.  MEPs open admit that they fiddle their travelling expenses and maintenace allowances so as to make thousands of pounds extra every year, helped by their lunatic trek between Brussels and Strasbourg every month just to placate the French.  The width and  depth of fraud and corruption in the Commission was revealed by Paul van  Buitenen in his horrifying book Blowing the Whistle and nothing has been done about it.  Kinnock was supposed to sort it out but all he did was fire two more whistle-blowers whose only crime was to point out that the auditing system was such that fraud and corruption could not be detected!  And the EU blithely accepts that the auditors have refused to sign off the books for the twelfth year in succession…

    The thousands of millions of pounds we pour into this overblown bueaucracy every year is totally wasted since the only advantage – the Single Market – can be had without membership.

    Brian writes:  Thank you for these frank and honest answers.  I think they help understanding of your other (perfectly reasonable) comments.  Incidentally, my understanding is that in strict legal theory the reform treaty now awaiting ratification by the 27 member countries does require ratification by all member states before it can come into effect, but it seems to be generally agreed that if the UK were to be the only country refusing to ratify (e.g. because of the result of a referendum that went against ratification), in practice the other 26, having both signed and ratified, would not simply accept the UK decision as a veto and tear up the treaty:  they would find a way to go ahead and bring the treaty into effect, probably by putting the UK in a position where we would be obliged to withdraw from the EU altogether.  Hence the widespread suspicion that those advocating both a referendum on ratification and a UK refusal to ratify the treaty take these positions not, or not so much, out of objections to specific provisions of the treaty, but actually as a way of bringing about the UK's eventual exit from the EU altogether.  And hence my second question to you and my welcome for your frank reply.  

  17. Richard Need says:

    Yes, I think you're right.  It would be quite typical of the EU to ignore its own rule regarding anonymity [unanimity? — BLB] once it had counted against them.

    Anyway, let's leave it there. I have made it clear that my attitude to the EU arises from my high and passionate regard for parliamentary democracy.  What drives Europhiles is still a mystery to me.    Very best wishes.

  18. richard thomas says:

    There is growing certainty that the EU Treaty will destroy the United Kingdom.  Fear seems to be increasing in England, particularly with those who have the most to lose.  I am receiving private reports that the Crown and the Military are VERY concerned.  This concern has grown to the point that there are reports of very private meetings between the Queen and the Army leadership.  The subject is to consider inserting power on the Commons to force a Treaty Referendum.  Can anyone confirm these reports?  Most might reject these reports out of hand.  However, a look at the history of the country shows that the English have risen for lesser reasons!

    Brian writes:  The idea that the Queen and the army might conspire to destroy our parliamentary democracy and overthrow our elected government by force or the threat of force, on the issue of a referendum on the EU reform treaty or indeed on any other issue, is so ludicrously far-fetched, and betrays such a lack of understanding of both the Queen and the army leadership, that it seems hardly worth taking the trouble of discussing it.  I'm in two minds about the cases for and against allowing such seditious speculation to get an airing on this blog.  On balance I suppose it's less harmful to expose it to the ridicule it deserves than to try to suppress it, thus allowing it to grow and prosper deep in some Ohio bog (Ohio being, I suspect, where the author of this comment lives — correct me if I'm wrong, please, Richard).  From the distance of Wooster (no relation to Bertie, I suppose, although come to think of it….), Ohio, this notion may appear quite plausible.  It's not.  Over the years the Queen and the army have swallowed much more indigestible political fodder than this without obvious complaint, and I trust that they will continue to do so when necessary for many democratic years to come.

  19. John Morton says:

    The Lisbon treaty is a FASCIST treaty, aimed directly at disolving the sovereignty of the entire European continent, in favour of a "tower of babel" soup of liberalized "economic areas" and regional governments. We are talking about a DICTATORSHIP, not some old boys club.

    Opposing the European Union and the globalist agenda does not make one a racist, or a europhile, but a patriot and citizen who understands that a threat to representative democracy in Europe is a threat to peace, liberty and security of the entire planet.

    As if to underscore that, the treaty will enforce mandatory re-militarization of formerly neutral countries, like Ireland, in preparation for the great Eurasian war that we are being softened up for.

    How anyone can be blind to these facts is truly astonishing.

    Brian writes:  Well, thank you for that!  But please bear in mind the golden rule that CAPITAL LETTERS on the Web are like SHOUTING, which is BAD MANNERS. 

  20. Peter Harvey says:

    In Lisbon they remember what fascism really is.