Friday, 24 December 2010

Pro Europe

I believe any referendum is an abdication of responsibility by our elected representatives. The proposal in the European Union Bill that any further shared sovereignty with the European Union should be subject to a referendum is clearly populist nonsense designed to tie the hands of British negotiators and stifle the development of the EU itself. This extract from the Christmas Newsletter of Peter Luff, chair of the European Movement, puts the matter well:.

As the Guardian editorial of 21 December put it extremely well: “It remains, as ever, a tragedy that we are led by government who insist that British interests are served by distance and disengagement in Europe – when in reality the reverse is true.” So, when people ask “what is the purpose of the European Movement these days”, the answer is that – more than ever before – we need to be the voice of sanity in explaining that the EU remains our best hope for security and prosperity in the future and that anything that could bring about its collapse would have a massively damaging implication for everyone, including the citizens of the UK.

Despite its occasional descent into anti-European rhetoric designed, above all, to pacify some of its neanderthal back benchers, the Coalition government has taken a generally moderate position (for the UK!) on most European issues. Nevertheless, the proposed EU Bill, which seeks to trigger referendums in the UK before any changes to existing EU legislation can come into force is a piece of populist foolishness that may well be challenged legally as incompatible with the UK’s existing treaty commitments. Keeping the Coalition government sane and sensible in its broad European strategy will be a key test of Liberal Democrat influence.


  1. Hi Mr W, just dropping in briefly after a spell away for Christmas!

    Surely whatever your views in the European Union (and I'm very firmly in the anti-EU camp, for reasons of full disclosure!) we ought to have a safeguard on elected representatives giving away our sovereign legislative powers, when they are not theirs to give away? I'm fine with Parliament using its loaned sovereign powers to enact any legislation it wants; but if it wants licence to hand those powers over to another entity, I think it ought to ask if we're okay with that.

  2. Salut Chris,

    Hope you enjoyed your Christmas break.

    As John Donne so aptly put it: "No man is an island entire of itself;" and that applies to countries, even if they are islands. We live in an international community and every time we sign a treaty or join an international organisation such as the UN or the WTO we limit our own freedom of action, ie our sovereignty.

    If my reading of the British Constiution is still correct, even parliamentary approval is not needed for international treaties, and that is wrong. I think Gordon Brown changed things so that parliamentary approval is required before we go to war, so even that is quite a recent, though very welcome development. To go further and ask for a referendum on every foreign treaty is going much too far. Ours is a representative democracy and what we need to do is reform the system by why our representatives hold our governments to account (and, for course, reform our electoral system so that our representatives become more representative!)