Sunday, January 20, 2008


The EU Treaty Should be Ratified

Ratifying the Lisbon Treaty, signed in the summer(see picture), will prove to be the first really big parliamentary challenge for Gordon Brown's government. Just as his recent travails have led to comparisons with John Major's avalanche of disasters in the nineties, so he is faced with a replay of Major's problems over the Maastricht Treaty way back in 1993 when he actually threatened a general election to counter rebels in his own party. Now Gordon has a much bigger majority- 66 to Major's measly 21- but there are rumours that Labour might have as many as 120 MPs-including 4 former ministers plus Jack Straw- who believe a referendum should be held on the treaty.

In the 2005 election all the main parties promised a referendum on the then draft new EU constitution. The defeat of the draft in the French and Dutch referendums, relieved Blair of a fight he would have lost at that time but the status of the redefined version of the constitution, lies at the heart of the current problem: is it 95% the same as the earlier draft, as so many claim or is merely an 'amendment' of existing arrangements? It would seem the former is almost certainly the case and that Labour has a moral duty to offer the vote to the nation. The Labour controlled Foreign Affairs Select Committee will conclude just this in its report today.

Listening to Europe minister Jim Murphy MP on The World this Weekend, the government's case sounds unconvincing: there are no major changes proposed and the majority will be healthy as in previous cases with the EU. But he waffled and talked over the interviewer as if trying to use up time to minimize embarrassment. The Lib Dems, however, have come to the rescue by abandoning their position and deciding to abstain on the issue. We also learn from The Observer article, linked above, that:

Ministers are confident they will defeat the referendum calls, even when the treaty goes to the Lords, because they have embarked on a lengthy lobbying campaign to explain to MPs and peers how the measure will benefit the environment, international development and children's rights. Jim Murphy, the Europe minister, told The Observer the ratification process would highlight how the Tories are more marginalised in Europe than they were under Margaret Thatcher because no EU government or official opposition party shares their rejection of the treaty. David Cameron has suggested that as Prime Minister he would re-negotiate the treaty, a process that can only be launched with the agreement of 14 member states once it has been fully ratified.

I suspect Murphy is being deliberately bullish and that the arithmetic is much closer than he says. Despite Labour's promise and its unconvincing blandishments, I hope the treaty is ratified at the end of what will probably be a bitter parliamentary fight. The world faces huge problems like global warming, the exhaustion of its finite resources, terrorism and international crime. The only way to deal properly with such problems is via international action and the EU represents a sign of hope that such action is not as impossible as history would suggest. If Labour has to forego its manifesto pledge on a referendum to ratify the treaty, then it would be worth it purely in terms of advancing internationalism, let alone protecting the viability of a government,which, for all its faults, much superior to the Conservative alternative.

You should read this, the Huntsman makes a very valid argument don't you think?
Yes, it's a good post and well argued. But I fundamentally disagree with its main thrust: that the EU is a 'rotten tyranny'. Of course it has acquired powers but there are needed to coordinate and regulate to a degree, the economies of 27 countries. It's tosh to call it a 'tyranny'; where is its evil intent? The Huntsman is one of those slightly manic alarmists who sees all things bad residing in Brussels and who does not realise that some form of international control is essential to save the planet
I beg to differ! It is a 'rotten tyranny' also unelected and very undemocratic to boot. There is no need for a constitution and no matter how the story is spun, an election manifesto promise was given by all parties. The only reason there will not be one is because our current leaders know that the vote would result in a resounding no! I am a committed European and do not want Britain to leave the Common Market (that's what we signed up to). We are sleepwalking into a Federal European State and I believe we should vote on it. Let the people speak, not our spineless MP's!
The EU is a rotten tyrany.
It is unelected.
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