Liblink… Greg Mulholland calls for referendum on EU membership

eu_flagThe Daily Mail is reporting Greg Mulholland’s call for a vote on EU membership without waiting for a treaty change.

Even the huge changes that have taken place in Europe over the years – we’ve moved from EEC to EC to EU – have not led to a public vote. And it is not a little ironic that at the times there was a significant and constitutional change – in 1984, 1986 and 1992 – the then Conservative governments did not give the British people a say. The same happened under Labour.
I am pleased that this Coalition Government has legislated so that any future treaties involving transfer of powers to Brussels will be automatically subject to a referendum. Yet it is surely also time to agree to give people the vote that many really want, which is whether we should continue to be a member of the EU.

This contrasts with the government position of holding a referendum on a renegotiated settlement with the rest of the EU, sometime in the next parliament, and the subtly different Liberal Democrat policy of holding an in-out referendum next time there is a treaty change that transfers powers to the EU, now enacted in law.

Clearly there is uncertainty surrounding Britain’s future in the EU, our future seat at the table where the single market rules are agreed, and our ability therefore to influence bilateral trade treaties joining the EU Single Market to the rest of the world. This uncertainty is bound to affect investment, growth and jobs. The question for us is whether certainty can be restored by a referendum vote to stay in the EU, whether the risk of an “out” vote is too great, or whether the increased uncertainty in the run up to a referendum would outweigh the uncertainty we currently face.

The difficulty with holding a referendum too soon and separate from any treaty changes is that the EU is in a state of flux, and it may be unclear what exactly an “in” vote would be agreeing to. The Eurozone is likely to become more tightly integrated over the coming years. This will be a lengthy and difficult process, but we British underestimate at our peril the political will to make the Eurozone work.

There are huge difficulties too facing the policy of holding a referendum on a new settlement, not least negotiating for special exemptions with people who have more important things to worry about, some of whom would be quite happy to see us leave. At its best, such a policy would seek to reform Europe rather than ask for favours, and would horrify the Eurosceptics. For now, the policy is ambiguous and perhaps the cracks in the Conservative Party can continue to be papered over.

Nonetheless Greg goes on to demand a new settlement

My own view is that we are better off in the European Union, but that it needs reform and so we should seek to influence things from within.
… Lib Dems believe in subsidiarity: that where appropriate, decisions should be made as close as possible to the people affected by them.
… There are things that the European Union does that it should not.
… I want to take the fight for Europe, to Europe. Yet we have more chance of doing that if we make clear not only that we need reform, but must have reform.
Without that, the British people may well say they don’t want to be a part of it any more.

Does this reform come before or after the in-out referendum, I wonder?

* Joe Otten was the candidate for Sheffield Heeley in June 2017 and Doncaster North in December 2019 and is a councillor in Sheffield.

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5 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 15th Jul '13 - 12:37pm

    We need this if we are to be an inclusive party. The more inclusive the party the stronger it will be.

  • One of the benefits of UKIP entering the debate, is that all the three parties that were previously (and cynically), dragging their heels on the referendum issue, have at least now been pushed, kicking and screaming, into the,… ‘it’s not IF but WHEN’, camp.
    But the Westminster ‘set’, are taking a gamble. By trying to push the referendum towards 2017, the hope is that by then, the economy will have gained sufficient traction, that the population will begin to enter ‘feel good’ territory, and the issues (and angst), around the EU will fade into the history of those ‘horrible austerity years’.
    I think this gamble will fail. Indeed, even though I want the referendum, I am quite sanguine about it being some time away from implementation. This is because, despite government attempts to manipulate stats, to try to show some economic recovery, I do not see any evidence that the economy is in fact improving anytime soon. (Either here in the UK, or EU). The net effect, will be that time and lack of growth improvement, will shift the decision to exit, ever more obvious, even more than it is now.
    So yes, let’s have an EU referendum, but by all means let’s ‘drag our heels’, because time is on the side of the ‘out’ vote.

  • I suspect we’ll start to see more MPs trying to carve themselves out a a niche of distinction from the main party line (on a range of issues not just Europe).

  • Julian Tisi 16th Jul '13 - 9:34am

    I’d be against supporting a referendum now because I think it’s going to be a tough call, despite all the evidence, to overturn decades and decades of anti-European bile and misinformation, in just a couple of years.

    Instead we should turn our guns outwards and take on the UKIP band and really start standing up for why we believe we should stay in the EU and do so with passion, gusto and if necessary some bile of our own.

    But all we’ve so far had from Nick and our leadeship is wishy washy managerial platitudes about how we’re on balance better off in. We need to up our game and be far more explicit and contraversial. We seem to be afraid of upsetting anyone – we need to actively try to upset some people.

  • When politicians say “Leaving The EU would be a disaster for Britain”, what they really mean is “My support for the European Project trumps your right to a say.”

    Julian Tisi, You needn’t worry about trying harder to upset people. For two decades now the Lib Dems have been upsetting anyone who cares about democracy. They have done a fantastic job of denying the people a choice and doubtless will continue to do so given the chance. After all, who wants a referendum when they are afraid of the result?:Words like turkeys, Christmas and vote spring easily to mind. One final thought: The party name: Liberal DEMOCRAT. I think it needs changing. It so gives the wrong idea.

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