The welcome demise of the referendum bill

Coalition squabbles seem to have led to the demise of the bill that curiously sought to bind the next government (but not this one) to hold an in-out referendum on EU membership, even if it is elected on a pledge to focus on other priorities. This failure is to be welcomed for at least four reasons.

  1. Because it’s wrong for one parliament to try to bind the next in this way. The electorate has the right to vote for any party on the basis of its manifesto, including a party opposed to a referendum, if it so chooses. If this bill had become law, the Tories would effectively have taken away that choice from the electorate, by binding an incoming Labour government to carry out a Tory policy, no matter what was in the manifesto on which it was elected.
  2. Because ‘in or out’ is the wrong question. The real question is how we change and improve the EU, how it will evolve, and what its priorities should be. This is a multifaceted issue. A simplistic ‘in or out’ question misses the real point, especially when it’s a false choice because the ‘out’ option is economic suicide.
  3. Because we are a parliamentary democracy, so that the nuances of multifaceted problems can be addressed in detail by our elected representatives.
  4. Because an obligation to hold a referendum in 2017 would have been a massive distraction from an incoming Labour government’s — and the country’s — priorities: not least the economy, the cost-of-living crisis, saving the NHS, and security. Indeed, a referendum that evoked the prospect of exit from the EU, even if such a result is unlikely, would have worsened the economic situation as investors held back until the outcome is secure.

Frankly, it’s high time for the government to focus on real issues instead of parliamentary gimmicks. Had they done that before, they might for instance have noticed what their civil servants had been telling them since May about Britain’s EU budget contributions.

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One Comment

  1. Regarding TTIP
    ~Monbiot

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/04/british-government-leading-gunpowder-plot-democracy-eu-us-trade

    “When David Cameron and the corporate press launched their campaign against the candidacy of Jean-Claude Juncker for president of the European commission, they claimed that he threatened British sovereignty. It was a perfect inversion of reality. Juncker, seeing the way the public debate was going, promised in his manifesto that “I will not sacrifice Europe’s safety, health, social and data protection standards … on the altar of free trade … Nor will I accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU member states is limited by special regimes for investor disputes.” Juncker’s crime was that he had pledged not to give away as much of our sovereignty to corporate lawyers as Cameron and the media barons demanded.

    Juncker is now coming under extreme pressure. Last month 14 states wrote to him, privately and without consulting their parliaments, demanding the inclusion of ISDS (the letter was leaked a few days ago). And who is leading this campaign? The British government. It’s hard to get your head around the duplicity involved. While claiming to be so exercised about our sovereignty that it is prepared to leave the EU, our government is secretly insisting that the European commission slaughter our sovereignty on behalf of corporate profits. Cameron is leading a gunpowder plot against democracy.”

    Any comments on TTIP Mr Corbett ? UKIP are quite into it I’ve heard.

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