Lib Dem MP Martin Horwood socks it to the Tories over their “dramatic flip-flopping” on in/out EU referendum

martin horwoodWhile most of the country was enjoying yesterday’s sunshine, the Tory party indulged its own carnival of (to coin a phrase) banging on about Europe.

James Wharton’s private member’s bill legislating for an in/out referendum on the European Union to take place by 2017 (a pledge David Cameron has already conceded to his rebellious backbenchers, who don’t believe him) passed its second reading in the Commons by 304 votes to zero.

Only one Lib Dem MP made a speech: Cheltenham’s Martin Horwood. It’s a punchy tour de force which details the Tories’ “dramatic flip-flopping” on the whole subject of Europe and whether they’re for or against referendums.

“Ah, but…” (I hear the cries of critical commenters rising) “… what about the Lib Dems’ own flip-flopping? What about that 2008 Clegg leaflet promising a referendum on Lisbon? Eh? Quisling EUSSR-ophiles, the lot of you!”

Well, I’ve dealt with that at least a couple of times before: here ‘The surprising truth about that Lib Dem in/out EU referendum leaflet*‘, and here ‘The flagrant consistency of the Lib Dems’ position on an in/out EU referendum‘. The Lib Dem position has not changed for at least the past five years. As Martin Horwood re-iterates:

I have already spelled out very clearly our position, which is exactly the same one as we took at the time of the Lisbon treaty and of the last election: at a time of treaty change, fundamental change or a transfer of power from the British to the European level, we would want an in/out referendum, and we would legislate to make that possible in the event of our having a majority in Parliament.

Quite. The one, single, sole and only change that has occurred in Lib Dem policy on Europe in the last five years is that, when negotiating the Coalition Agreement in 2010, we accepted the Tory leadership’s wish not to legislate for an in/out referendum!

Compare the Lib Dem consistency with the Tory inconcistency. Here’s David Cameron, just 18 months ago in the Commons, responding to a Tory MP demanding an in/out referendum:

The Prime Minister: I wondered how long we would take to reach that issue. I believe that this is the most important use of a referendum: if there is a proposal for this House of Commons, or any Government, to pass powers from this House to somewhere else, we should ask the British people first. That, for me, in a parliamentary democracy, is the right use of a referendum. However, as we are not signing a treaty, I think that the whole issue of a referendum does not arise.

David Cameron was right 18 months ago. He’s wrong now. He was right in 2006 to chide his party for always ‘banging on about Europe’. He’s wrong now.

Anyway, here’s pretty much the full and unexpurgated speech Martin Horwood gave yesterday. It may be long, but it’s well worth a read — and not just by Lib Dems.

As a Liberal Democrat, I like referendums—and we have been consistent supporters of them. We supported all the referendums on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We were quite happy with the referendum on the European Community in 1975, and we even went along with the referendum on AV—the alternative vote system—although we obviously cannot win them all. At the time of the Lisbon treaty, we alone supported an in/out referendum for this country—not at four years’ remove, not for some future Parliament, but at that time. We got absolutely no support from the Conservative party at that stage.

I am afraid that that was the completely consistent position through to the general election of 2010, and it is more or less our position now. The Deputy Prime Minister has set out our position, the only difference being that in the meantime we have passed the European Union Act 2011, which rather watered down the Liberal Democrat commitment to an in/out referendum and adopted—[Interruption.] Conservative Members may laugh, but they have obviously not read their own manifesto of 2010. What is in the European Union Act 2011 is precisely the basis on which Conservative Members fought the last general election, which was the idea that there should be a trigger relating to the transfer of power. The Conservative manifesto stated that in the event of a transfer of power from the British level to the European level, a referendum on that transfer would be held. That is exactly what went into the European Union Act in 2011. We will quite happily use that to trigger—that is fine—but we are still committed to an in/out referendum, and I am still going to argue for one. …

The consistent position the Liberal Democrats have taken is to be in favour of an in/out referendum either at a time of major, fundamental treaty change or at a time of a transfer of power, which also has to happen under treaty provisions. That is the consistent position we have taken, and that is the position we still take today. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Member for South East Cornwall (Sheryll Murray) want to point out when we have said anything different? She does not; I thought as much.

The Conservative party, by contrast, has taken a bewildering variety of positions on referendums. I think it was the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound), who is no longer in his place, who pointed out that Margaret Thatcher opposed the original European referendum and she quoted Clement Attlee saying referendums were a device of demagogues and dictators. At that point she was a supporter of European Union membership, which at that stage was already identified as a discussion about social and political union as well as about access to an economic common market. That is clear from the literature produced in that referendum campaign. It talks about the new regional fund, the social fund, bringing the peoples of Europe closer together and promoting peace and freedom—so even the defence and security aspects of the EU’s work were already being debated. Margaret Thatcher said that for the Labour party the proposal of a referendum was

“a tactical device to get over a split in their own party.”—[Official Report, 11 March 1975; Vol. 888, c. 306.]

I think history might be repeating itself now. … In the 1990s John Major was in favour of a referendum, but only on membership of the euro. By 2001, that had changed and then we had an evolution of a policy that was really about—

Tim Loughton rose—

Martin Horwood: I had better not give way repeatedly, but I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman for one final time.

Tim Loughton: I am sorry that the leader of the hon. Gentleman’s party was not able to flip a few lentil burgers last night to entice more of his colleagues to take part in this important debate. Will he just clarify his position? In the highly unlikely event that we have a Liberal Democrat Government after the next election, and this Bill, as is most likely, has been passed in this Parliament, would they abolish the undertakings that this Bill would give to tie us to a referendum, and thus give the British people a say at last?

Martin Horwood: I have already spelled out very clearly our position, which is exactly the same one as we took at the time of the Lisbon treaty and of the last election: at a time of treaty change, fundamental change or a transfer of power from the British to the European level, we would want an in/out referendum, and we would legislate to make that possible in the event of our having a majority in Parliament.

The Conservative position has flip-flopped dramatically. The position in the Conservative manifesto was enacted in the European Union Act 2011, yet within a year and a few months the Prime Minister was expounding a completely different position. Even that has changed between his speech and this Bill, because the question has changed from whether to remain in the European Union to whether to be in the European Union. …

The chances of the Conservative party getting as far as 2017 without changing its policy again are pretty slim. Let me reinforce that point. Only 19 months ago, the Prime Minister said:

“That, for me, in a parliamentary democracy, is the right use of a referendum. However, as we are not signing a treaty, I think that the whole issue of a referendum does not arise.”

He continued by saying that

“there is a role for referendums in a parliamentary democracy, but that comes at the moment when a Government or a Parliament proposes to give up power, rather than at other times.”—[Official Report, 12 December 2011; Vol. 537, c. 535-549.]

That is precisely the Liberal Democrat position and has been for some time.

We are not going to oppose this Bill, but we are not content to support it because there is a long list of problems with it. Legislation already in force—the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000—is supposed to lay down the procedure under which we hold referendums and, for example, the role of the Electoral Commission in helping to determine the question. This Bill is pre-empting any decision by the Electoral Commission and it does not even appear to comply or be consistent with the 2000 Act. I do not know whether the draftsmen had forgotten that that Act existed. …

The Bill also needs to deal with a problem relating to the franchise. Some 1.4 million British citizens reside elsewhere than in the UK, but according to the terms of the Bill the referendum will be based on the Westminster franchise. As far as I can tell, that has only about 19,000 registered overseas voters, so more than 1 million Britons, whose lives will be fundamentally affected by this change—they are British passport holders resident in other parts of the EU—will be disfranchised in this referendum. By this formula, the Bill will give votes to Cypriot and Maltese citizens living in this country, because under the Westminster franchise Commonwealth citizens have the vote, but it will not give the vote to French, Italian or German citizens. So there are a lot of inconsistencies, and this issue has not been debated at all so far.

The House of Commons Library briefing also raised the question of whether or not the Bill is even legally binding. Even the hon. Member for Stockton South (James Wharton) has conceded that this parliamentary vote would not bind its successor Parliament and further parliamentary votes, probably on secondary legislation, would be required to give effect to the referendum in any case. …

The problems continue. The uncertainty that the Bill creates for business is clear, even if we make a number of big assumptions about the referendum process: first, that the Conservative Front Bench will not change its position between now and 2017, but having changed it three times in two years, that is a big assumption; secondly, that the timetable for the referendum does not have to be changed in any case, although we may find in 2017 that we are in the middle of a renegotiation or treaty change process resulting from changes in the eurozone, and at such a juncture, it would be nonsense to hold a referendum, as another referendum might be provoked in only a matter of months or years, so we would not really know what we were voting for in those circumstances; and finally, if the political landscape had not completely changed in any case we might have a different Government with different priorities and there might be a recovery in the European economy, and we may find votes for the UK Independence party subsiding and that Europe is not quite such a big priority—it is not a terribly big priority for most voters according to existing polls—so the idea of spending yet more hundreds of hours of parliamentary time banging on about Europe might not seem quite as appealing.

Even if all of that is true, and we move towards a referendum by 2017, that still condemns British business and British jobs to four years of uncertainty—what a message to send to investors. The CBI is quoted in the Independent newspaper, i, this morning, and raises the problem of the uncertainty caused for British business:

“British businesses don’t want to find themselves at the margins of the world’s largest trading bloc operating under market rules over which they have no influence.”

That is the prospect that we are going to live with, unresolved, apparently for up to four years. That is one of the problems with the Bill. This morning, The Daily Telegraph, I think, quoted the leader of the Norwegian Conservative party, who pointed out that the supposed solution of the UK trying to have a status more or less equivalent to Norway’s was worse than being in the EU. Norway pays hundreds of billions of euros to the European Union for access to the single European market, and finds out about the rules through so-called fax democracy.

There are many, many problems with the Bill, which does not really resolve the main question. It is, as we all really know—rather like Harold Wilson’s Bill in the 1970s—about papering over the cracks in the Conservative party itself. It will not really work. The Prime Minister has spelled out a reasonably modest set of ambitions for renegotiation that will never satisfy many of his Back Benchers, who clearly want to use a much more ambitious and unilateral agenda for negotiation as something that will provide them with an excuse to campaign for exit.

UK businesses have access to free trade in the world’s largest single market, worth nearly £11 trillion in gross domestic product, with over 500 million consumers. One in 10 British jobs are linked to the single market. Some £495 billion-worth of British trade is with other EU member states. …

Even if hon. Members do not listen to me, and even if they do not listen to the leader of the Norwegian Conservative party, or even the CBI, perhaps they should just listen to what the Prime Minister himself said in that speech. In the end he moved on to the main question, which is whether in an in/out referendum we would be campaigning to stay in or out. The Prime Minister said:

“Of course Britain could make her own way in the world, outside the EU, if we chose to do so. So could any other Member State. But the question we will have to ask ourselves is this: is that the very best future for our country?”

He went on:

“Continued access to the Single Market is vital for British businesses and British jobs…being part of the Single Market has been key to that success…There are some who suggest we could turn ourselves into Norway or Switzerland—with access to the single market but outside the EU. But would that really be in our best interests?

I admire those countries and they are friends of ours—but they are very different from us. Norway sits on the biggest energy reserves in Europe, and has a sovereign wealth fund of over 500 billion euros. And while Norway is part of the single market—and pays for the principle—it has no say at all in setting its rules: it just has to implement its directives.”

The Prime Minister obviously is not really willing to risk millions of British jobs by voting no. This is a delaying tactic to get us past the next election. The Liberal Democrats are not willing to risk millions of British jobs by voting no. Europe means jobs, and we should not put those jobs in jeopardy.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Kevin McNamara 6th Jul '13 - 12:14pm

    went in.

  • John Roffey 6th Jul '13 - 1:19pm

    There is no concrete proof that our membership of the EU is advantageous for jobs – probably quite the reverse. The fundamental point of having a referendum is that the only referendum that has been held was that on joining a Common Market – not handing over our sovereignty to a foreign power.

    The only way that we can resolve our job crisis is by being a sovereign nation once again – out of the EU – so that we can ban many cheap imports thereby allowing once major British industries to flourish once again – if only within our own borders.

    European or global free trade is only an advantage if you are producing competitively priced goods and services – this generally is not the case for the UK unless Osborne’s plan to reduce wage rates here reaches a point where they are competitive with third world nations.

    It is the politicians who want us in the EU because they like to stride the world stage like their forefathers did – not for them the mundane task of governing a now middle sized nation.

  • “I have already spelled out very clearly our position, which is exactly the same one as we took at the time of the Lisbon treaty and of the last election: at a time of treaty change, fundamental change or a transfer of power from the British to the European level, we would want an in/out referendum, and we would legislate to make that possible in the event of our having a majority in Parliament.”
    [my emphasis]

    As has been pointed out before, the 2009 Lib Dem manifesto for the European elections advocated an in/out referendum without making any reference to treaty change or transfer of power:
    “Liberal Democrats have argued for a referendum on whether Britain stays in or leaves the EU. We are the only party confident enough to put the pro-European case to the British people on the big issue facing us – and let the people decide. Britain will only win the case for a flexible, democratic Europe in Brussels if we settle our arguments at home on whether we should be part of the EU or not.”

    It’s simply not true to say that the Lib Dems advocated an in/out referendum only in the event of constitutional change. Obviously the party’s position has changed since it was soliciting votes in 2009.

  • There was a referendum in 1975 on whether we should stay in the European Economic Community (shortened by some to ‘Common Market’). I know, because I was an organiser for the Yes campaign. Then, as now, the majority at the start of the campaign was against remaining in the EEC was 2 to 1, but when the votes were counted it was 2 to 1 in favour of staying in.

    The Europhobes in the Conservative Party and in UKIP have never accepted that 1975 vote and have campaigned for another. If they lose the next referendum – whenever it happens – they will not accept the result and will keep on campaigning for yet another one.

    If we have another referendum I will be supporting the campaign to stay in. However, don’t kid yourselves that it will mean anything because unless the anti EU camp win the result will be denounced as fraudulant.

  • John Roffey 6th Jul '13 - 4:36pm

    @ Simon Shaw

    1. Well if you think there is – please provide a link. Since, for as long as I can remember, we have bought more goods from the EU than they buy from us – I will be interested to see what you come up with.

    Also, my main thrust on this issue is that we need to be out of the EU so that we can exercise a degree of protectionism to save and create real jobs – which otherwise will continue to be lost – unless UK wage rates are to fall a great deal further.

    2. From Wikipedia: “Britain’s wish to join the Common Market (as the European Economic Community was known in Britain) was first expressed in July 1961 by the Macmillan government … In the subsequent referendum campaign, rather than the normal British tradition of “collective responsibility”, under which the government takes a policy position which all cabinet members are required to support publicly, members of the Government (and the Conservative opposition) were free to present their views on either side of the question. A referendum was duly held on 5 June 1975, and the proposition to continue membership was passed with a substantial majority.”

    3. That is an interesting comparison! It has been calculated that 80% of our laws are now made by the EU – these are not laws that are put before the UK Parliament for agreement by our elected representatives in the HofC, but are the laws agreed by a group that are more than 90% foreign nationals the majority of which cannot be vetoed by our representative – that is a loss of sovereignty..

    Our membership obligations as a member of NATO: “The organization constitutes a system of collective defence whereby its member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party.”

    Since, as far as I am aware, there has not been any such attack since WW2 – they two are hardly comparable when UK citizens are hour by hour restricted or obliged to obey one EU law or another.

    4. Perhaps your history lessons omitted the fact that until the end of WW2 there was something called the British Empire.

    “By 1922 the British Empire held sway over about 458 million people, one-fifth of the world’s population at the time. The empire covered more than 33,700,000 km2 (13,012,000 sq mi), almost a quarter of the Earth’s total land area”

    I found your views interesting as well!

  • John Roffey 6th Jul '13 - 6:14pm

    @ Mickft

    Yes – and the ‘In/Out’ referendum only arose because it was seen as a clever device to justify abstaining from the vote on a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. [Using the rationale that if a referendum was held it should be on whether we should be a member of the EU – not on the Lisbon Treaty]. However, 13 brave souls rebelled against this nonsense.

  • John Roffey 6th Jul '13 - 6:15pm

    @ Chris

    Yes – and the ‘In/Out’ referendum only arose because it was seen as a clever device to justify abstaining from the vote on a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. [Using the rationale that if a referendum was held it should be on whether we should be a member of the EU – not on the Lisbon Treaty]. However, 13 brave souls rebelled against this nonsense.

  • John Roffey 6th Jul '13 - 6:28pm


    Sorry – this is my reply to your post.

    I am not sure why you believe that our membership of the EU should be set in stone. If we are a democracy, even if there is little sign that the main parties wish to be guided by the will of the people, surely it is healthy that our membership is kept under constant review.

    We as a nation have and will change over time – just as the EU has and will. That being the case the issue is likely to be contentious for many years to come – although the longer we stay in – the less likely it will be that the majority will want to leave.

  • The 2010 manifesto was unambiguous:

    The European Union has evolved signifi cantly since the last public vote on membership over thirty years ago. Liberal Democrats therefore remain committed to an in/out referendum the next time a British government signs up for fundamental change in the relationship between the UK and the EU.

    This extract seems entirely consistent with the position held at the time of the Lisbon Treaty and with the current position.

    Chris really is nit picking: his selected quotation accurately states what Liberal Democrats had argued (clearly in the context of the recent Lisbon Treaty) and does not specify when a referendum should take place. The 2010 manifesto does specify this.

  • John Roffey seems to require proof that the EU provides jobs. He admits in this discussion that he is a protectionist. Clearly the point to the EU is to create a single market with the democratic controls that ensure that it is fair and promotes both development and a sustainable environment.

    Perhaps John Roffey would not need his proof if he can provide clear evidence that protectionism works.

  • Martin

    This really isn’t complicated. What’s at issue is whether or not the party’s supported an in/out referendum as a good thing in itself, or supported one only in the event of constitutional change. Right?

    The claim above is that since Lisbon, it has supported one only in the event of constitutional change.

    But the 2009 manifesto expressed support for an in/out referendum without qualification – at a time when the Lisbon Treaty had already been ratified.

    The claim being made is simply not true. Or else, if you prefer, the paragraph in the 2009 manifesto was a cynical attempt to con the electorate by suppressing the qualification, and conveying a wholly misleading impression of party policy. Take your pick.

  • @John Roffey 6th Jul ’13 – 6:14pm

    Yes the shenanigans and blatant dishonesty of the then British government around why they refused to let the British people vote for/against the the Lisbon Treaty, when there was no real reason to, did greatly assist the EU ‘Out’ voices to call for an “In/Out” referendum; something that even Martin Horwood wants, rather than a vote on whether to accept a the treaty change that fundamentally changes or transfers power from the British to the European level.

    About the only thing that has come out of the vote, is that the Conservative party cannot now back track on holding a referendum, the trouble is that it has to be an “In/Out” one…

  • Stephen:
    ” At the time of those elections, the Lisbon Treaty hadn’t yet been ratified.”

    According to Wikipedia, British ratification of the Lisbon Treaty had been completed the previous year – on 19 June 2008.

    But even setting that fact aside, what could be more dishonest than trying to give electors the impression that the party supported an in/out referendum without qualification, if in fact that support would inevitably expire within the next few months? When I see people defending that kind of politics I despair.

  • John Roffey 6th Jul '13 - 9:03pm

    I am afraid that accusing the Tories of flip-flopping on an EU referendum of any kind is not appropriate from the Party – has this been forgotten in the few intervening years?

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Lib Dems abstained on Lisbon Treaty referendum because they thought it “would fail”

    One of the latest leaked US diplomatic cables has confirmed what many of us had suspected all along. The Lib Dems’ U-turn on their pledge to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty was not motivated by a principled preference for an ‘in or out’ referendum on EU membership but by a belief that a referendum on Lisbon would be lost.

    Here’s the relevant passage:

    A Very Bad Day: The Lib Dems and The EU Reform Treaty
    ——————————————— ———

    2. (SBU) March 5 marked the worst day for the Lib Dems since one infamous week in January 2006, when the party became the laughing stock of Britain after sex scandals involving two of the four candidates to succeed leader Charles Kennedy emerged one right after the other. This time around, the party imploded in the House of Commons over a Conservative Party motion to hold a nationwide referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The Lib Dems’ convoluted official position on the referendum was part of the problem. As Clegg sought to explain it to the public, the real issue for his intensely pro-Europe rank-and-file was not the Lisbon Treaty itself, but confirming UK membership in the EU once and for all. The Lib Dem official position therefore was to propose an alternate “in or out” referendum on whether the UK should remain in the EU, and abstain on the competing Conservative motion to hold a referendum on just the Treaty itself.

    3. (C/NF) This position left both the pundits and the public scratching their heads: why would the UK’s most pro-Europe party, whose new leader actually worked for the EU from 1994 to 1999, abstain on a vote on the Treaty? The answer, senior Lib Dems have confessed to us, is that the party leadership believes a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty would fail.

    Hmmm, we kind of suspected that was the motive. Or, actually, it was blatantly obvious as the Lib Dems flip-flopped like crazy on the Lisbon Treaty.

    All of this brings back some horrible memories…

    All of which seems to prove that ‘honesty is the best policy’ and if the Party does not wish to disappear without trace , having lost the ‘protest’ vote, after the next GE – it is very likely to have much greater hope by starting to be truthful and taking notice of what the electorate wants!

  • @Stephen Tall
    If you read the wording of the Euro Manifesto again it cannot be linked solely to the Lisbon Treaty. “Britain will only win the case for a flexible, democratic Europe in Brussels” is not talking about a treaty already negotiated but about future negotiations. The 2010 Manifesto is therefore a change of position in that a treaty (clearly the result of significant negotiations) that changes the relationship will be the trigger for a referendum.

  • Alex Macfie 6th Jul '13 - 9:11pm

    So WTF did our 2009 Euro election manifesto include a pledge on the DOMESTIC issue of the UK having an in-out referendum. Such questions do not belong in European election campaigns, which should focus exclusively on those issue that are discussed in the European Parliament and affect the EU as a whole. Otherwise we are just reinforcing the mistaken belief that the only possible positions on the EU are uncritical support or withdrawal.

  • I can’t understand what John Roffey is on about.

    We had a referendum in 1975, we voted overwhelmingly to stay in. Yet the Europhobes refused to accept this. They want to keep having referenda until they get the result they want, which is to pull out of the EU

    My own position is that we elect a parliament to make decisions on our behalf. If we don’t like what they do we can sack them at the next election. People only want a referendum when parliament doesn’t do what they want. If parliament voted to restore hanging and pull out of the EU the press and the europhobes would be delighted and there would be no call for a referendum at all.

    However, the Lib Dems are committed to holding a referendum whenever there is fundamental change in our relationship with the EU. They want people to be able to decide to stay in or pull out. So be it. At least in a referendum people would hear the pro EU case, which the press and the other parties refuse to put.

    In 1975 the anti EEC cause was confident of victory. However, when the British people got the facts they voted to stay in. I believe that would happen in a further referendum when or if it is held.

    The point I was making is that if that happens then the Europhobes will not accept the result, will claim it was rigged, will protest that the British people were deceived and will demand another referendum. It will never end.

    The 1975 referendum was supposed to end the debate. It didn’t. A 2017 referendum won’t end it especially if we vote to stay in. That’s the nature of referenda.

    That’s why I want to leave it to Parliament.

  • John Roffey 6th Jul '13 - 9:38pm


    It seems that point I made in my second post has been missed. The 1975 Referendum was clearly presented to the electorate as an option the join a Common Market – not an EEC of ever closer union leading, eventually, to the surrender of sovereignty. This has been acknowledged by a number of the key players. Had it been presented truthfully – there is little likelihood it would have been successful.

  • John Roffey 6th Jul '13 - 10:28pm

    @ Martin

    [I] John Roffey seems to require proof that the EU provides jobs. He admits in this discussion that he is a protectionist. Clearly the point to the EU is to create a single market with the democratic controls that ensure that it is fair and promotes both development and a sustainable environment.

    Perhaps John Roffey would not need his proof if he can provide clear evidence that protectionism works.[/I]

    A good straight bat Martin, but I suggest that it is for the Party to substantiate their claim that the EU provides jobs – since so much of their strategy is based on being part of the Union.

    Protectionism, which could only be achieved outside the EU, would be a significant departure from previous administrations approach. However, calculations of the impact would be significantly easier than from within a free EU and global market where anything can, and does, happen and the government have little ability influence events. As Cameron’s recent squirming over health tourists, Romanian Travellers and schools where high percentages can not speak English.

    It would also provide a way to obtain corporation tax from the global nationals – an issue kicked into the long grass by Osborne – and where it is likely to remain.

  • John Roffey 6th Jul '13 - 10:42pm

    @ Simon Shaw:

    “The starting point for my talk was the release under the 30-year rule last January of documents relating to Britain’s application to join the Common Market in 1970. What these papers revealed more starkly than ever before was just how deliberately the Heath Government and the Foreign Office set out to conceal from the British people the Common Market’s true purpose. They were fully aware that it was intended to be merely the first step towards creating a politically united Europe, but they were determined to hide this away from view.

    It may no longer be particularly shocking to see such clear evidence of a British Government’s dishonesty over our relations with ‘Europe’, if only because this is something which has since become so familiar. Scarcely a day now goes by when British politicians and civil servants do not make statements relating to the European Union which can be shown to be based at best on concealment of the truth or even on direct falsehood.

    The purpose of this paper is to explore the fundamental reason why our involvement with ‘Europe’ has introduced into our politics a culture of deceit which is quite new in our history, not least by obscuring the scale on which it is changing the entire way in which our country is now governed.”

  • Paul In Twickenham 7th Jul '13 - 7:25am

    Nigel Farage was on the BBC Breakfast sofa yesterday and made an interesting suggestion: he noted that 75% or more of UK law is now formulated in Brussels and suggested that MP’s salary should therefore be cut by 75%.

  • Jbt – I don’t understand your (?rhetorical?) question “this is not our gig?”

    I have read the digitised version of the booklet from 1975. I have always maintained, from my own memory of that time, and why I was motivated to vote “yes”, that it WAS a choice between a wider political Europe, represented by the EEC, and a narrower economic Europe, represented by EFTA (the European Free Trade Area). I do note references to other political development other than markets, but I also recognise the attempt to harp on about “Common Market” (always something that the Brits tended to focus on!) There was no reference at that time to democratic input through the European Parliament – which we nominated to up until 1979, rather than allowing people to vote! Direct voting commenced in 1979 in the UK, so I assume it was that Wilson – Callaghan Government which passed the right of the British people to vote. Had we been more positive (and nakedly political / democratic) among our establishment from the beginning, we almost certainly wouldn’t be in the total pickle about our central and political nature of our relationship with our neighbours now. As every year goes by the world becomes a smaller place, with more interlinking. This requires a strong role for supranational democracy. There were references in the pamphlet to the international problems caused by oil price rises etc – many of us on the “yes” side could see international issues, problems, even crises (the pamphlet refers to the continuation of peace within Europe) coming down the road. The case for a closer, political European Union was evident right from the beginnings of the ECSC etc, made by Monnet and other “founding fathers”. Those imperatives are more apparent now, not less.

  • Paul

    Why is that interesting? Puerile perhaps is a more accurate description

  • I concur with Tim13. I campaigned for a YES in the referendum (which was my first vote) and it was abundantly clear that this was for a political union. The contentious debate was whether the Community essentially social democratic or a rich man’s club (the Tony Benn line), though admittedly there were some absolutists who went on about sovereignty. The sovereignty line was much undermined by the evident experience of how international issues had buffeted the UK: the virtues of standing together for a more influential say were quite obvious.

    Referendums on lengthily negotiated treaties are daft. You cannot negotiate by referendums – it is simply a recipe for blocking any change in a changing world.

  • Paul in Twickenham 7th Jul '13 - 9:27am

    @bcrombie – why is it puerile? What is the role of parliament? Is it our democratically elected legislative assembly or is it a talking shop? If it is the former and it has abrogated its responsibilities to a 3rd party then what level of compensation should its members expect?

    I’m not saying that I agree with Farage but it’s an eye-catching line that can be considered to have merit (at least on superficial analysis) and your glib response that the suggestion is “puerile” is exactly the sort of high-handed answer that would rub many people up the wrong way.

  • I stand by what I say – it is puerile and simplistic – in fact typical of UKIP’s policies. You, yourself, say it is superficial

    and you say my response is glib – what does that make Farage’s?

    If you want an argument on the 75% claim then please provide more detail and we can have a better debate on the detail. Until then I will describe it for what it is – a puerile comment by Farage which is just there to provoke a reaction similar to yours. Would have thought, as a blogger on a political website, you would have had more insight

  • John Roffey 7th Jul '13 - 10:09am

    @ Martin

    That might of been your recollection of the referendum, but it certainly was not mine [although I was concerned that it might be the thin end of the wedge] – and I very much doubt the vast majorities.

    The referendum was on whether we should continue as members of the European Economic Community [generally known as the Common Market in the UK]. To my recollection ‘leading to ever closer political union’ was never mentioned in the campaign. It was the ‘Economic’ community – which does not imply political union and particularly so as it was known as the ‘Common Market here ‘- which has virtually no political connotations.

    If it was abundantly clear that it was for political union – I should be very interested in seeing a copy of a collection of documents or records of speeches from that time which demonstrates this abundant clarity!

  • Paul in Twickenham 7th Jul '13 - 10:20am

    @bcrombie – I describe your response as “glib” because you casually dismiss the suggestion but it has self-evident merit if we assume that the primary function of law-makers is to make laws and yet the lawmakers are not engaged in any part of the process of creating some large fraction of our legislation.

    As to the exact percentage – that is a number for which the House Of Commons Library concludes it is “possible to justify any number between 15% and 50% or thereabouts”. See for example So naturally UKIP boost that to 75% or 80%. So maybe we shouldn’t drop their salaries by 75% but a “number between 15% and 50% or thereabouts”?

    I do not in fact agree with the idea because a low salary would return us to the age when only the independently wealthy could afford to enter parliament and in any case the job is about a lot more than simply writing legislation, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting – it will play well in Middle England and keep the “anti-establishment” credentials of UKIP burning for another month or two.

  • John Roffey 7th Jul '13 - 10:24am

    Here is more of the Christopher Booker talk to the Bruges Group in 2001 – referred to above.

    The Strange Case of the Werner Report

    It is not often a British Prime Minister remains active in politics long enough to be caught out by secret papers released under the 30-year rule from the time he was in office. But such was the case in January 2001 when the Public Record Office at Kew opened the files relating to Edward Heath’s application to join the Common Market in 1970.

    The most striking of these documents were those reflecting the Heath Government’s reaction to something called ‘the Werner Report’. In 1969, the Council of Ministers had commissioned the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Pierre Werner, to draw up a plan to move the Common Market forward to full economic and monetary union. As luck would have it, his confidential report began circulating in Brussels in October 1970, just as Britain’s negotiations to enter the European Economic Community were getting under way.

    In the British Foreign Office, as we can now see, the Werner Report rang fearful alarm bells. A secret briefing note to Mr. Heath from Con O’Neill, the senior civil servant responsible for Europe, explained that, if implemented, Werner’s proposals would have enormous political repercussions. They envisaged “a process of fundamental political importance, implying progressive development towards a political union”. The long-term objectives of economic and monetary union, it was made clear to Mr Heath, “are very far-reaching indeed”, going “well beyond the full establishment of a Common Market”. The Werner plan could lead to,

    “the ultimate creation of a European federal state, with a single currency. All the basic instruments of national economic management (fiscal, monetary, incomes and regional policies) would ultimately be handed over to the central federal authorities. The Werner report suggests that this radical transformation of present Communities should be accomplished within a decade”. (PRO/FCO 30/789)

    Such a political and economic union, possibly also including a common defence policy, would thus involve a massive loss of national sovereignty, which would ultimately leave member states with somewhat less power “than the autonomy enjoyed by the states of the USA”. But what alarmed the Foreign Office was not the contents of the Werner Report. Mr Heath and his ministers did not throw up their hands in horror and say “good heavens, we had no idea this was what the Common Market is about. We could not possibly accept such a thing”. On the contrary, when Geoffrey Rippon, the minister in charge of our negotiations, went to see M. Werner on October 27, the minutes of their discussion show that Rippon went out of his way to congratulate him on his report, which he said “well stated our common objectives”. Privately, Her Majesty’s Government had no objection to the political union Werner was proposing. (PRO/CAB 164/771)

    The only real concern of Mr Heath and his colleagues was that this plan should not be talked about too openly in public, because this might so inflame public opinion that it would be much harder to persuade Parliament and the British people that it was in their interests to join what they were being assured was no more than a ‘common market’, intended to boost trade.

    It was vital, Mr Rippon urged on M.Werner, that this goal of political and economic union should be achieved only in a “step by step approach”, because “it was natural for people to be afraid of change” and “part of his problem in Britain was to reassure people that their fears were unjustified”. When these documents were released 30 years later, this was confirmed by a retired Foreign Office official Sir Crispin Tickell, who had played an intimate part in Britain’s Common Market negotiations as Geoffrey Rippon’s private secretary and was present at the meeting with Werner. In a BBC interview Tickell frankly admitted that, although worries over Britain’s loss of sovereignty had been “very much present in the mind of the negotiators”, the line had been “the less they came out in the open the better”. Here was chapter and verse to show how politicians and civil servants had been party to a quite deliberate attempt to hide from the British people what Britain’s entry into the Common Market was letting them in for. So successful were they at burying the Werner Report, indeed, that when 30 years later the journalist Hugo Young came to compile This Blessed Plot, his lengthy and detailed history of Britain’s relations with ‘Europe’, he did not even mention it.

    This is continued here:

  • Paul

    So you admit the number is rubbish and that he then uses it to glibly recommend a cut in salary, which even you say is a non-starter as an idea

    You seem now to be saying we cut the MPs salary by some unknown point based on an imprecise figure. The role of an MP is not all about creating legislation either – I am sure many of the LD MPs would agree that being a representative is much more than that

    I can’t be bothered arguing with you on this – are you here as a spokesman of Farage? You indicate you disagree with what he says, as I do, so why are you continuing to argue for it?

  • I also agree with Martin on this. The sovereignty argument WAS argued by a few Tory MPs, notably Teddy Taylor, and as you say jbt, was included as a section in this pamphlet. However, a point I was not making very well in my earlier post was that the Euro Parliament was still not accepted as a directly elected body for British people at that time, and so it was not yet possible to say that we had direct democratic input. Of course, because of the current principle of “co-decision” with the Council of Ministers, the concept of democratic input is shared between us as UK citizens (through the Council of Ministers) and as EU citizens (through the EP0. This more complex structure allows phobes to argue the “democratic deficit”argument, because statements are often made by unelected commissioners.

  • Sorry – mistype – should read “through the EP”

  • John Roffey 8th Jul '13 - 9:48am


    You are not actually agreeing with Martin – he stated:

    “I campaigned for a YES in the referendum (which was my first vote) and it was abundantly clear that this was for a political union.”

    To which I asked:

    “If it was abundantly clear that it was for political union – I should be very interested in seeing a copy of a collection of documents or records of speeches from that time which demonstrates this abundant clarity!”

    I am not saying the issue was never raised – so I think you are agreeing with me! Unless you can produce the collection I asked Martin to provide.

  • @Stephen Tall
    “I’m sure that you know the Treaty was officially ratified only when the process was completed by all member states – ie, November 2009. So the party’s 2009 Euro manifesto was still entirely consistent with previously stated policy, and policy stated subsequently.”

    That still does not explain the part about only being able to “only win the case for a flexible, democratic Europe in Brussels” after an In/out referendum. Unless of course you feel party policy is to not worry about a democratic or flexible Europe until after the next major change or you feel that Europe is flexible and democratic enough already.

  • John Roffey – I am not agreeing with you. I regarded it as perfectly clear that the EEC was moving ahead politically, and not just economically. In fact since the early days it had political aims. I am sure we can find plenty of material from that time which would show that – but don’t you know that already? Of course there is other material which seeks to downplay politics, and emphasise prices wages etc, and beneficial effects of EEC membership in that way (playing to the supposed conservatism of the British electorate, and attempting not to raise nationalist passions etc) If you are speaking from a position similar to UKIP, who are, I would contend, trying to rewrite history by accusing “Yes” politicians in the 70s of not mentioning political and supranational democratic and legal aspects of the EEC, then I would say that was at least partly the fault of their nationalist forebears. Those things were mentioned, they were discussed, but from the beginning (Cabinet papers from the 50s etc) it has always been the view of the then “Establishment” that the British people were not “ready” for this type of political development. As a result, they were downplayed. I am sure you can find those references yourself if you are genuinely interested. If you are NOT approaching this from a quasi – UKIP position, and are genuinely open minded on this, I would ask you to go into this in a spirit of enquiry, not having a predetermined position – but I, and I would suspect, Martin also, have more important things to do than searching around for old and obscure references! If I happen on anything, I will let you know, via the (no doubt) future discussions about the EU.

  • John Roffey 8th Jul '13 - 1:57pm


    Did you read my 10.24am post of yesterday? It provides details of the approach of the government – from papers released under the 30 year rule. It concludes:

    “Here was chapter and verse to show how politicians and civil servants had been party to a quite deliberate attempt to hide from the British people what Britain’s entry into the Common Market was letting them in for. So successful were they at burying the Werner Report, indeed, that when 30 years later the journalist Hugo Young came to compile This Blessed Plot, his lengthy and detailed history of Britain’s relations with ‘Europe’, he did not even mention it.”

    The voters were deliberately deceived by the politicians about what was intended – the referendum was corrupt and therefore worthless. [No I am not a member of UKIP]

    The Party would gain some much needed credit if it called Cameron’s bluff and agreed to an ‘In/Out’ referendum at the time of the next GE.

    This might be from the Sun, but see the comparison at the end of this piece are stark:

    Given that the Party will no longer attract the protest vote, its reputation for dishonesty and its position in the polls, if something significant is not done that is in tune with the peoples wishes – it could disappear virtually without trace after the next GE!

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jul '13 - 11:42am


    If you want an argument on the 75% claim then please provide more detail and we can have a better debate on the detail.

    Exactly, and if this EU legislation is having such a fundamental effect on our country, perhaps those we elect to be MEPs should do their job monitoring it and working on it – but Mr Farage is well-known as having one of the poorest attendance records in the European Parliament.

    If the EU were really this huge oppressive dominator its opponents tell us it is, surely that would be very obvious in this country. All of us would straight away be able to say how this EU legislation is affecting us. Instead, political discourse still seems to be very much dominated by what is being done in the Westminster Parliament, at least in England. In my own life I can feel very obviously the effects of what is being done in Westminster and in my Borough council, but I can’t think of any occasion where what I can do or can’t do is obviously affected by EU legislation.

    When attempts are made to tell us how the EU is dominating us, it’s usually the same tired old examples. Well, I’m sorry, but actually I DON’T feel oppressed by an international agreement to protect me from being forced to work ridiculous hours. Do you know what? I actually feel protected by this, it enhances my liberty. If you look at it, much of what the anti-EU people put forward as oppressive “red tape” turns out to be sensible international co-operation. It seems to me to be entirely sensible that countries need to work together to protect the environment and long-term future of the planet. It also seems to me to be sensible in the face of the big global corporations who play one country off against another to have international co-operation to even up the balance.

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