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"David Cameron [... ]has publicly called for powers to be repatriated from Brussels to the UK..."

Which powers specifically, and how exactly does he intend that a Conserative government would reclaim those powers once elected?

Great idea to bang the drum about this, but how exactly does he intend to do it?

John Leonard

My anger at Labour's betrayal stops me from expressing my full feelings on this issue.

As Louise suggests, The Conservative Party would be wise not only to promise to repeal this abhorrent treaty but also list the rest of the powers that they will no longer take instruction from Brussels over.

Then we must wipe the putrid stain of Brown's Labour off this green and pleasant land for once and for good.

Tony Makara

Gordon Brown has shown over this issue that he is a bona fide politburo politician. He rules by directive, he does not take council. He is certainly hoping that this issue is going to fade from public consciousness and its down to all of us to make sure that doesn't happen. We must keep this issue alive, that is alive and kicking. The promise of a repudiation referendum would certainly resonate with voters. Gordon Brown has to understand that this issue is far from dead in the water.


Nothing that this cynical self serving government does anymore surprises me, but this move makes me very angry!

Excellent article Louise, and I agree with your views. But I have one concern, and that is the Parliamentary party's ability to join together and decide their own achievable red lines on Europe. We have the BOO brigade, but I think that like myself, most of the British public are more reflective of the "in Europe, not run by Europe" brigade.
I want an achievable and viable solution that gives us a good working relationship with Europe and retention of our sovereignty, I don't want to be bullied into the either In or Out option offered by a few on both sides of the debate.

Malcolm Dunn

Well I hope you and Ben Brogan are right Louise? It will make for an interesting election campaign and should ensure that we have the Murdoch press onside for once.

Gordon Hetherington

Mrs Thatcher would never hold a referendum. It is a cop out and shows extremely weak leadership.

Simon R

But the problem is, Europe is a total turn-off for the voters, and for most, it will be until someone called Pierre with a bunch of onions round their neck comes up to them, punches them on the nose and steals a fiver -tangible, irrefutable proof that the E.U. exercises a malign influence over their lives. Added to which, it is most people's instinct to stick with the status quo, especially if someone is telling them that the alternative is dangerous.

Add these factors together, and it's very easy to see how our political opponents can paint us as a) obsessed with a marginal political issue, and out of touch with the concerns of the majority of the public and b)willing to endanger the security and prosperity of the country on an outdated patriotic whim. And this is without any substantial party division on the issue.

Personally I'm in favour either of some kind of friendly associate membership or failing that, total withdrawal from the E.U., but it would be foolish to make this a major plank of any election campaign for the reasons outlined above. I don't think we should deny our Euro-skeptic credentials, but just deal with things on a case by case basis instead of tackling 'Europe' as one huge umbrella issue.

Oliver J. S. McMullen

This mantra has been trotted out by the Tory party again and again before in various guises. It is essentially the "in Europe but not run by Europe" line. And I for one don't buy it. What if the "colleagues" simply refuse to negotiate? What bargaining chips would a Cameron led Conservative government actually have or be prepared to use? Or, which is more likely, what further concessions would he make for the sake of a face saving formula? And what earthly use is a Eurosceptic stance within a system that is completely beyond reform?

Louise says: "... we are not quite withdrawalists" This is a bit like saying: "I'm not quite a Nobel prize for literature winner." No credit is deserved for not quite getting there I'm afraid. And in any case who is this "we"? Louise tells us that the Europhile wing of the party is no more. Can I see the death certificate please? Or better still the body with a stake of holly through its heart?

Louise also says: "Sovereignty strikes at our heart." If this is not empty rhetoric then what does it mean? I define sovereignty as: indivisible powers of self-governance within the geographical boundaries of a nation state. Such powers include defining one's own laws, foreign policy, economic policy, immigration control, agricultural and environmental policy. Assuming you have no better definition how do you square continued membership of this country with a transnational institution which: aspires to be a state itself, and which either already has competence in, or aspires to growing control over all the areas mentioned above?

I ask my questions in the vain hope that someone in this little Westminster bubble world will wake up and see sense. So long as we remain in the European Union then it is for the whole journey all the way to eventual full political union. For whatever concessions are granted (like Gordon Brown's red lines) they will only ever be a temporary respite/expedient. Ever closer political union is the only deal on the table, implemented by slow degrees and with infinite patience and cunning. It is either that or we leave. Take your pick but please stop this tired old third way type charade of "in Europe not run by Europe" there never was such a choice, is no such choice, and there never will be.


For Simon R's reasons, Louise is right and Hetherington badly wrong. Promise a referendum. Those to whom it matters will be motivated. (this is a larger number than Simon R supposes). Others will not care but by offering democracy not a policy it will not be possible to paint us as obsessed, merely concerned.

I don't think DC has it at heart to do this. It would require very great guts to play with such serious and high politics. He'd have to be very desperate.

Moral minority

ToryJim asks a very pertinent question. Louise, like John Leonard and Scotty, reveals her lack of knowledge of EU issues.

Once the Treaty is signed, it cannot be repealed. All the other 24 states would have to agree to any repatriation of powers to UK. Hague's slogan is outdated now. If you are in the EU, you are run by the EU. After tomorrow, the EU Superstate Project will be virtually complete.

The only realistic strategy is to leave the EU, under the terms of the new constitution, and negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU as a member of EFTA.

Cameron should therefore press the New Lib Dem leader to honour Campbell's policy of a referendum on EU membership. We had a referendum in 1975 on joining the EU, now is the time for another on leaving.

We now have a simple choice, The EU Superstate or withdrawal. IMO, We are BETTER OFF OUT!

Patsy Sergeant

Tony Makara and Scotty I absolutely agree with both of you.

Something that has just occurred to me, in the newspaper today it said that the French have decided to make things as difficult as possible for the English rugby fans to get to Paris at the weekend! Irrelvant? Well I am not so sure, the ordinary Jo or Sean who is stuck or struggling to get to the stadium, WILL remember, and equate it with the EU's attitude to us - a source of money and nothing else!

Tony Makara

Gordon Hetherington, how can you possibly say that a referendum is a cop out? Consulting our people on a major issue of national sovereignty is living democracy. I'd like to see regular refrendums on single-subject issues.


A welcomed piece from Louisa Bagshaw, but actions will speak louder than words and the man with the golden tonsils is going to have to prove that he really means business if the assertions and promises made by Louisa Bagshaw are to hold water. The way to keep this issue in the mind of the public is to publicise every piece of legislation handed down by Brussels that adversely affects Britain.
Ms Bagshaw needs to have a word with David Davis and point out to him that we also have to open our borders to immigrants from the EU (he seems unaware of it) at great cost to our social, housing, educational and NHS. And as someone else has commented, we will need to know how Dave, the man with the golden tonsils, is going to retrieve our sovereignty from the grip of the EU. Has he also got a golden touch?
Are we going to see Broon, leader of the Revenge for Thatcher/Culloden Party going to be that stupid in not giving us a referendum? Is this the Man with Vision?

Posted by: Dontmakemelaugh | October 18, 2007 at 12:08 AM

Henry Mayhew - Ukipper

All good clean stuff Louise, especially the spitting on the electorate bit, but you may have to answer Peter Sutherland's point in his article in yesterday's FT that Europe must be able to develop without Britain's constant negativity. The treaty is going to happen and it is going to be enforced. The idea that significant powers can be repatriated in risible, he says.

Why oh why can't you be upfront about the choice that has to be made? J'accuse that you are either attempting to con the public that you can be in Europe but not run by it (which I don't believe you are trying to do), or you have a problem with reality (er, yes).

Once you make your mind up that, frighteningly, our politics must always be that of an offshore island, we can all move on. Until then there is a political battle to be fought between us, because a few tens or hundreds of thousands of Britons will not accept being part of a continental empire. I don't accept that your proposed policy holds water and suspect that Labour and the BBC will shred it in short order. On that, Clarke and Heseltine are quite correct.

Please either go for it within Europe as a pro-EU party, or pull out. Being a participating sulk is a waste of time.

Louise Bagshawe

The trouble with "in Europe, but not ruled by Europe" was that nobody believed it. If you were in Europe, you were ruled by Europe. Brogan suggests the party may take steps to substantiate that slogan; a manifesto offering something neither the wildly Europhile LibDems nor Labour can - a promise to remain in Europe but to jettison those archaic and sclerotic parts of the arrangement that act against our interest, eg the Social Chapter, CFP, CAP.

We already have such an arrangement in regards to the most important thing of all, the Euro. When Gordon Brown, the ultimate Europhile who loves to dress in sceptics' clothes, was cheerleading passionately for the ERM, we were warned that staying out was impossible, would amount to withdrawal, wreck relations with our European friends etc.

But Chicken Licken was wrong. The sky did not fall and compared to the Eurozone our growth and employment benefited. We remain full members.

There is no reason at all to suppose the principle that powers can flow two ways, from the center as well as to it, will be unpopular or unworkable. David Cameron said as much in a speech some months ago, and my friend Dan Hannan MEP welcomed it then, remarking that the only strange thing was that the ideal of a more flexible EU should be seen as radical!

Chad Noble

"David Cameron [... ]has publicly called for powers to be repatriated from Brussels to the UK..."

Why has he not called for the power to control our borders to be repatriated?

Cameron wants a border police, he wants controls, he wants repatriation of powers, but then remains silence on the call to repatriate full border control.

Based on Cameron's stated objectives, his silence on this issue makes no sense at all particularly as I am sure it would be very popular with the public as well.

Henry Mayhew - Ukipper

Look, Louise; If you can get the EU to agree that should the Tories win the next election, Britain can leave the CFP the CAP, and the Social Chapter, then not only am I a frenchman, I will be applying to you personally to sign me up as a member of your organisation.

I can't wait for you or Mr Cameron to write to them to check that will be OK. Please tell us of their reply, minus expletives. You may have come up with a break-through I hadn't thought of!

Louise Bagshawe

Henry, as I said, such an arrangement already exists as regards the Euro. We retain the power to veto and disrupt business. Frankly, all that is needed to drop the Constitution is the will to do it.

We are a major EU trading partner; they need us. Should the British public vote, as Brogan suggests the Tories may ask them to, to repatriate powers, then it will happen. With the amount we are worth to the EU all that is required is that we insist.

There was similar naysaying over Thatcher getting her rebate and on us staying out of the Euro. "You can't", "in or out" "don't stay and sulk" etc etc.

Sure we can. And armed with a govt mandate from the public on just such a question, we would.

Yet Another Anon

David Cameron is the only party leader in the UK, present or future (do you hear me Nick Clegg?) who has publicly called for powers to be repatriated from Brussels to the UK.
IDS and William Hague talked of it, indeed Michael Foot led Labour on a platform of withdrawal from the EU, previously Harold Wilson had initially advocated withdrawal from the EU, but by 1974 switched to backing remembering a member.

If you count UKIP certainly withdrawal from the EU has always been policy as it has with the DUP, UUP, UKUP and some other parties.

I fully expect that in 11-17 years time that a British PM will withdraw the UK from the EU and I think that barring EU reform beyond what really seems possible looking at how things stand in the EU that if the Conservative Party or Labour don't do it then UKIP or some other party will be elected to do it, because the EU is locked into a liberal mindset that does not allow terrorism or social problems to be properly dealt with, the EU is part of the problem and withdrawal is a vital part of the solution.

As for future leaders, I hope and expect that within

James Maskell

Milibands recent performances in front of Parliamentary committees show that Brown will need a tightening up of the language in respect of the four red lines. Miliband has been savaged twice over them and itll be a bloodbath when it comes to ratification if the language cant be sorted out properly.

Chad Noble


Has Cameron formally laid out his power repatriation intentions to the EU?

It would be highly irresponsible not to do this before a general election as their response will be critical to Cameron's ability to deliver his manifesto pledges.


Louise Bagshawe writes a very entertaining article.

I do hope she and Brogan are right and that Cameron will announce that the Tories will promise a repatriation referendum. I also hope that the announcement will be soon to keep the heat on the Prime Macminister.

He is a weak man, an indicisive man who believes that moves, like today's shows him as a strong leader! I ask you. He certainly does not understand the English.

Simon R

Every successive government thinks they know how to handle the EU. Thatcher wanted to develop the common market whilst guarding against excessive hand over of powers, Major had 'subsidiarity', Blair thought we could benefit by cultivating 'good will'. Every approach has been a failure, with Thatcher's the only one to gain a notable trophy -the budget rebate, which was won the only way anything is won in Europe, by credible threat of disruption. But even the Thatcher period saw a vast increase in EU meddling and bureaucracy.

However, I suppose it is Cameron's right to have a try. We have several cards in our favour. I certainly don't think withdrawal should be in our next election manifesto. It would be a gift to our opponents and remove all negotiating power with the E.U. when we did get into power, because we would have to fulfil the commitment, so there would be little point in them giving us inducements to stay, or favourable terms of exit.

Withdrawal is something to be looked into after we get into power, and when other options have failed.


I departed from the Conservative Party when Major refused to give us a referendum over Maastricht, I also threw my efforts and support behind the Referendum party, so I am no EUfanatic, but if the Conservatives are going to demand a referendum over the Constitution then they have to support their demand with an argument as to why there should be a referendum.

Yes the Conservatives win a big gold star for hunouring their manifesto commitment to hold a referendum, but one has to be realistic how far that goes with the majority of the people who are politically apathetic. So far we have heard a great deal from Labour about THEIR red lines, making it appear that they have neutralised the Constitution, but we have heard nothing from Conservative politicians why these Labour red lines aren't sufficient, what powers Labour are giving away, what areas Parliamentary democracy they are hollowing out by giving away those powers, and so disenfranchising the electorate.

The Conservatives saying they will give us a referendum isn't an argument, its just a statement, the Conservatives need to get out there and argue the case in where the dangers in the Constitution lie and why Labour's red lines aren't sufficient.

Moral minority

Could Louise please give examples of powers being repatriated from Brussels to Westminster? Opt-outs are the retention, not repatriation of sovereignty. Louise also needs to demonstrate how she would stop only one country vetoing the repatriation of powers after a referendum. The EU must much smaller when Thatcher secured her rebate.

I would have more trust in Cameron if he had not shown himself to be ignorant of EU treaties. Dave promised to retain Britain's opt-out on the social chapter. The opt-out, however, no longer existed and the social chapter was redundant, its measures having been enshrined in the Amsterdam and Nice treaties.

Frankly, Louise, Cameron and the rest of the Eurosceptics are deluding themselves or deliberately evading the issue. Enlargement has increased the number of EU member states with vested interests. The Commission has bought the new members off. If one out of 25 members vetos the required new treaty to repatriate powers, that treaty is dead. All the Commission has to do is to use its financial and politicxal leverage to twist one country's (even one as small as Malta) arm to deliver the necessary veto.

A referendum on the repatriation of powers is therefore intellectually and politically dishonest. The British public will see through it as a diversionary device and the Party's reputation would be in tatters. The Conservatives must either accept the Super-State or get Britain out. We BETTER OFF OUT of the EU!

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