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Typical Rifkind. Don't forget in the Commons in the 1970s he was arguing for a United States of Europe.

He wants to deflect attention from his own delinquency by allowing the tribal instincts of some Tories to overrule their political common sense."

So Malcolm of the Europhile Tribe, gives him what he wants.......

Factually incorrect (Cameron dropped support for fisheries repatriation in June 2006) and insulting.

So the one and only area that Rifkind can manage to single out as current Tory 'repatriation' policy is completely wrong!

This is just a lazy rushed rant from a rattled eu-phile.

Re Gordon Brown's tactics I think Sir Malcolm is 100% right. I do think he could have been a bit more circumspect in his choice of language though.
Please let's not play Brown's game and split yet again over our relationship with the EU whilst in opposition. Let us win the argument for a referendum (I think that's a formality) and then if and when we win the election then let's have this post ratification argument assuming Parliament has voted to ratify.

So, Rifkind has detected that Brown's cunning strategy is to let the Tories attack each other over Europe - which he cunningly avoids by, er, attacking another group of Tories over Europe. Nul points, Sir Malcolm.



"Sir Malcolm is hardly bridge-building when he talks of "Europhiles" and "posturing", however." Shouldn't that be "Europhobes", Editor?

Sir Malcolm is right about the value of a post-ratification referendum but wrong to dismiss its supporters with such language. Critics of the EU are not Europhobic, i.e. fear or hate Europe. They are standing up for our Parliamentary democracy. Like Roger Helmer, Eurorealists Love Europe but Hate the EU.

We should be REPATRIATING this SCOTTISH MAN back to his HOMELAND in return for our ENGLISH CASH.

what happened to Gisela Stuart? Does Rifkind think she is posturing too? Or what about Tony Benn or the 120 Labour MPs who have expressed opposition to the abandonment of the referendum?

Does he think only Conservatives posture and are europhobic?

He's being prejudicial against his own side. Labour MPs are 'posturing' in greater numbers.

Thanks Moral minority, I've corrected my silly error.

Sorry Ed, then edit out the abusive bits and re-pub

Moral Minority has the body of the point. People would not worry quite so much if they felt that they had some democratic hold over the legislation coming out of Brussels.

Sir Rifkind seems to think that it is a good idea to allow a group of people, most of whom are failed, or worse still tainted, politicians, who cannot even account for the vast amounts of money they receive, to dictate the lions share of our legislation.

That is what people object to, not Europe per se, just the unaccountable and unaccounting Brussels Quangocracy.

Just another point, Why is Sir M opening up this rift again? if we are going to have a fight over Europe can we at least have it on some grounds that make sense?, like the complete lack of accountability shown by Kinnokio, Mandy and their pals in Brussels.

No wonder the eu-philes have sudden broken their silence, they suddenly fear the people really will get their voice heard.

To date, Cameron's call for a referendum has been like WWE wrestling. For all the shouting and grapples, we all really know the result in advance (ie Labour and the LibDems will vote the treaty through).

It is easy politics to create a toothless and meaningless temporary demand to prevent the loss of powers etc if you will not seek to return those powers when you actually have a chance.

Of course Cameron can call a referendum after ratification.

It doesn't have to be a 'withdrawal' one or specifically about this treaty, simply him putting to the people the list of powers he would like to be repatriated to ensure the people are firmly behind him when he goes to the EU to make his demands.

The whole future of the Tory Party's 'repatriation of powers' claimed aim rests on Cameron's decision.

No wonder the Spectator describes it as his 'Clause 4' moment.

Malcolm, totally agree with your on this issue.
Tim, I must take issue with you on your comment about learning the lessons of grammarsgate.
The very fact that those 40 MP's have gone off and signed Bill Cash's EDM (I was not surprised, just disappointed at the ability of some in the party to take what was a difficult issue for Brown and turn on Cameron) is exactly the same kind of posturing and individual kite flying which opens up the party to claims of divisions and splits that led to our problems over the grammar school mess, a row IIRC you fed and fanned for two weeks on this site without respite.
You might like to think that the whole thing was down to a couple of words such as "delusional" and engaging in a "pointless" debate." but some us remember the chain of events rather differently. This is a political party and it should not be run by a bunch of mavericks who can turn on their own leadership in preference to the government.
The ordinary voter does care about grammar schools or on the whole about the EU, they just know that they don't like parties that fight among themselves.
We have to warn people about Brown's blatant broken election manifesto promise and the dangers of what he is signing away in this treaty.
If the headlines end up being about Tory infighting and dissent, then we lose not just the argument over this Treaty but also the one about us being ready to govern.
Stop whinging about a couple of words issued by Cameron when I remember just how intemperate the language the rest of us used was at that time!

Brown is trying to set up an 'elephant trap' on discussing our plans after post-ratification.

We should restrict our arguments to the broken manifesto promise and lack of trust in Brown.

If we split again on Europe, all discussions on all policy will be hypothetical as we will spend the next generation in opposition. 'Those who ignore the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them'

Sorry George (15:37) - I overwrote the whole thing.

You'll have to resubmit please... or give up!


Calm yourself. This is far from a clause four moment. All polling shows that Europe falls very low on the scale.

Cameron and the shadow cabinet are putting forward a comprehensive package presently, outflanking Labour on all issues of tax, finance and education. We won't get embroiled in Europe as in the past.

So let me see if I have understood Rifkin correctly.

The Government reneging on the manifesto commitment it made to the electorate is ‘foolish’ not an outrage, but just foolish!

To try and fulfil the obligations the Conservatives made to the electorate, to hold a referendum is ‘silly’.

Its ‘unnecessary & unrealistic’ to even bother thinking about trying to repatriate powers from Brussels, in other words full steam ahead to greater unification

…and its not ‘common sense’ to want to restore the Sovereignty of this country and so Parliamentary Sovereignty.

How would I summarise Rifkin’s stance? Patronising and complacent, and as someone who has played a major role in deterring the mess we are currently in with the EU, part of the problem not the solution.

From what I've read, Sir Malcolm supports a referendum BEFORE the Treaty/Constitution is ratified. It would not be practical, either constitutionally or politically, to call one once all 27 states have signed it.

If the Conservative Party starts to bang on about Europe, as in previous elections, David Cameron will crash and burn - and rightly so! We must no fall into Broon’s trap. Let’s concentrate on our public services, the environment and localism.

Why has William Hague not sorted this out?

He knew about the EDM but does not seem to have acted to resolve the matter.

Also the Chief Whip is again found to be wanting. Yet some folk praise him when the evidence speaks to the contrary.

Hi Michael,

LOL. I had to laugh when I saw that stat. EU is low (4%) but immigration is to. That's not a lack of interest, but a lack of communication!

Cameron has pledged to repatriate powers.

After we have been robbed of the pledged referendum, what could be more healthy and democratic, than Cameron putting his declared repatriation aims into a simple referendum that is not about 'in or out' but about redefining our relationship with the EU as Cameron claims to want?

That way, a loud and democratic message of the British people would have been sent to the EU before Cameron even steps into his carbon-offset jet to Brussels with his repatriation demands.

When Mrs Thatcher got her budget rebate she did not worry about it being retrospective and nor should we worry about a retrospective referendum on the Treaty. No parliament can bind its successor.

although i am eurosceptic, in fact i think we should pull out of the EU, rifkind has a point. there will be little point holding a referendum once the treaty has been ratified and passed through parliament. people would consider the tories to be wasting time. cameron could not accept a no vote because of the effect it would have on our future dealings with the EU and therefore holding the referendum would be an almighty waste of taxpayers money - we either need to get our referendum now before it is ratified or we don't get one at all. if cameron wants to look seriously at what to do afterwards if parliament wont give us the referendum, then he should consider a referendum on what britains future relationship with brussels should be.

Rifkind is right, tactically, although I don't trust his motives and deplore his language. It's crazy for good Eurosceptics to be splitting the Tory Party at this time.

If - IF - we win the next election it will be fair and proper to demand of David Cameron a properly thought-through approach to repatriating powers from the EU. The precise scope and nature of these powers can be determined at that time and the package agreed in Cabinet should be put to the voters in a referendum. We would, of course, win that.

If the EU refused to accommodate the clearly expressed wishes of the British people it would be taken as a 'like it or lump it' gesture from Brussels.

At that point the UK will withdraw from the EU. End of story.

Once again we see that europhiles believe that they themselves should be allowed to say whatever they want however offensive or divisive, whilst sceptics are continually told to shut up in the name of "party unity".

And what does "unrealistic demands for the repatriation of EU powers from Brussels" mean? All we have to do is pass a law saying we're not going to observe EU law on our chosen issues. What are the others going to do, re-launch Operation Overlord backwards?

The very fact that people are attacking Rifkind here for having a free mind on the EU and for being Scottish, shows how far you have to go to be either serious about power or, indeed, truly Unionist.

So assuming the Government does not give us a referendum, and they whip Labour MP’s with an inch of their lives to get the treaty through, and we win the next election (a lot of if’s, but not improbable one). What is Malcolm suggesting we do? We would have an arrangement with the EU to which the vast majority of the Conservative Party, and the general public when they thought of it, was highly antipathetic. Do we simply work with it, making the best of a very bad case? This is probably what Rifkind would actually like. But such a position, effectively ignoring the wishes of the majority of the populace, would further foster the deep cynicism that is already too great a factor in our political system. What we need is a position which recognises that retroactive repeal of the treaty is difficult, but so is living with the treaty.

If the government does not give a referendum, the Conservative Party should pledge to do so. Our referendum would not be on the treaty per say, but it would spell out which powers we would like to have repatriated. It may be that not every element of the Constitutional treaty would have to be repatriated, but most surely would. This would become the platform for negotiation with the rest of the EU. If we made a hash of the negotiations, we could expect to be punished electorally, if we made a success, plaudits all around.

Sounds like Sir Malcolm, that colossus of the Major Years, has been fed his lines by Ken Clarke and Chris Patten, who are of course Cameron's foreign policy advisers.

I think we have as a Party to commit ourselves to a referendum on whether we stay in the EU or not. All that happens at the moment is that we endless, protracted debates on issues that will be forced through whether we like them or not by the other member states. The greatest lie of a political slogan was our own under Hague: In Europe, not run by Europe. You cannot be in Europe WITHOUT being run by Europe, it's the whole bloody point of the thing.

Let's have the referendum on in or out. Personally, I strongly favour out and will campaign for this. However, if my side lose, then we should accept it and also accept that the EU model is one that requires us fully to sign up and engage rather than always argue back. Why join a club if you don't like the terms of membership? Personally, I'll long since have gone to live outside the EU by then, but it's time for a bit of maturity and we can lead the way in that.

HF, why not criticise the people who have signed this EDM for deliberately trying to publicly bounce their party into this possible quite divisive position? Has it occurred to you that this is a typical form of public blackmail often used by a small group within the party, so put the blame squarely where it belongs.

"A typical form of public blackmail often used by a small group within the party." You wouldn't be thinking would you, Scotty, of the numerous unsolicited "contributions" in the national media over the years from the likes of Ken Clarke, Chris Patten, John Bercow, Francis Maude and Michael Portillo?

James Sproule's comments about this issue and Rifkind strike me as pretty perceptive.

Rifkind is wrong. Camerloonism does not support withdrawal from the CFP, indeed Ted Brocklebank MSP resigned over the issue earlier this year:

"Earlier this week I made a decision to resign as Scottish Conservative Rural Development and Fisheries Spokesman and to step down from the Scottish Shadow Cabinet. It was not something I wanted to do and leaving a job I loved was very hard. Let me say at the outset that my resignation has nothing to do with the leadership of Annabel Goldie or David Cameron; both of whom I admire and support. My determination to push the Conservative cause is stronger than ever. Â

The reason I have reached this decision is that I cannot accept the Party’s present policy of pulling-back from our commitment to withdraw from the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

I have been heavily involved in fisheries long before I came into the Scottish Parliament. As a journalist and TV producer I covered Brussels summits for many years. I have long campaigned against the policies of the CFP and how they have failed in their primary objective of conserving fish stocks. I have been particularly critical of the resulting devastating impact on the Scottish whitefish fleet and the communities dependent on fishing.

The CFP has been responsible for creating ghost towns in once thriving communities such as Peterhead and Fraserburgh. Only ten years ago we had almost ten thousand Scottish fishing jobs; today it is less than five thousand. Drug and alcohol addiction are rife in places which were once bustling fishing communities. I am sure the social breakdown in some of these places is directly attributed to the collapse of fishing as the main industry.

I care passionately about what is left of the fishing industry and that is why I have taken the decision to resign both my spokesmanship and as a member of the Shadow Cabinet."


4% is low and that falls even greater with Labour/Lib Dem supporters. In a yougov poll for marginals in 2005, only 2% of labour supporters felt that Europe mattered most.

We will only win the next election by convincing current Lab/Lib Dem supporters to vote Tory. Europe is not the issue to do that with.

Hmmmm. The unavoidable logic of that approach, Michael, is that (a) the Tories acquiesce in an even bigger democratic deficit; and (b) the Tories become yet another centre-left party. So remind me what the point is of voting Tory?

I wonder if Mr Rifkind would be so brave were he in a south coast constituency with a majority of 500 and a diminishing small fishing fleet.

Michael Mcgowan, I think you're wrong to link Sir Malcolm with Ken Clarke. Clarke does not want a rerendum, Rifkind does. This article from Sir Malcolm if I understand it correctly is more about the tactics he thinks should be adopted by the Conservative party than anything else. I wish , as I stated before he had been much more careful in his use of language.
The Labour party caused such a huge problem for Major by being absolutely and completely united, if the Conservative party falls into fighting with itself we will lose the Parliamentry ratification vote and then probably the next election too.

Whilst I agree with some of what Rifkind has said , as some of the posters here suggest, I am not convinced that his motives are the same as many including myself.

I think David Cameron is right. Now is not the time to start talking about what happens post ratification should the treaty be ratified. We should continue to fight for a referendum now.

That said should the referendum be denied and the treaty ratified, David Cameron must provide a clear outline of how far he is willing to go in repatriating powers and how he is going to achieve it. This is a question that must be answered before the next General election or I fear it will damage the parties chances of defeating Labour.

Malcolm, up to a point I agree on the tactics but the underlying reality is that the Tories remain irreconcilably divided on Europe. Labour is not: like the left of the Tory Party, Labour and the Lib Dems see a federal Europe as the way to make permanent the high-tax statist social democratic model by bypassing electorates and imposing that model by judicial and bureaucratic fiat. The current approach of the Tory left is to go through the motions of opposing the constitution now, knowing that their chances of defeating it are slim at best, and then acquiesce after the event. That is the Clarke approach, the Rifkind approach and indeed the Cameron approach. The Tory right know that. Any pretence of unity now is at best just that: a pretence.

If we want the UK or England to survive in anything resembling their historical form we need to leave the EU. We should be campaigning for withdrawal.

Rifkin is fully signed up federast; completely willing to sell every bit of Britain's sovereignty to the EU. He does not believe in the nation-state. Quite how he can call himself a Conservative is really beyond me.

Michael Hewlett:

The 'It's not the most important issue' is as tired and spurious an argument as the 'Well we we didn't have a referendum for Maastrict' argument.

Neither stand up. The ICM poll tracker which asks which is the most important area of policy is hardly representative of what decides how people vote or what they think important. Using simplistic expedient polling methods as a justification of an issues relevance is an insult to the voter. It's pretty much meaningless.

I suspect most people will decide to vote based on a number of policy areas and other considerations. Certainly I do and would probably list up to 10 areas. My top 5 (in no particular order) for example at the moment would be Economy, Health, Crime, Education and EU & Immigration. The latter is combined as Immigration cannot be properly managed unless we do something about the EU.

If you want to quote opinions about the EU use the recent Populous poll on the EU which addresses the issue specifically and says.

73% want a referendum
62% want EU power limited to trading in a common market
67% say the EU is important in deciding their vote at the next election

Cameron should not go overboard on the EU but what he must not do is drop the issue. It's important to a lot of people both inside and outside the party as the Populus poll suggest.

Rifkind is wrong on the CFP - Cameron wants to focus on getting rid of the social chapter instead (far more damaging to far more of the UK).

Rifkind is however right on the madness of demanding a commitment now to a referendum on the Treaty post-ratification. Firstly, it allows Brown off the hook of having a referendum now - he can argue that it ought to be an election issue when the election comes. Secondly, as seems to being acknowledged here by people like Chad, no such referendum could actually take place. You couldn't offer the option to repeal the Treaty because no such option exists unless the rest of the EU agrees (not least because the Treaty will be setting things like the size of the Commission and the Parliament). Thirdly, what people are now seeming to ask for is a glorified opinion poll on which powers we would like Cameron to ask for back. Will this just be a list of powers with a Yes or No question? Will it be list of potential powers and we'll vote in some sort of STV-like system for which powers we would most like to have repatriated? What if we had the referendum but when Cameron went to Brussels he could get back the Social Chapter opt-out but the CFP repatriated - would that fulfill the referendum demand or not?

It's madness, and the only explanation is that some of our MPs are so stupid they ought to be relieved of their seats, or so determined to have a good rant they've stopped caring about whether the Treaty goes through or not.


Yes, I agree, but you missed my point. The *highest* concern at 40 odd % was immigration, which is of course a directly eu-related issue.

This is what needs communicating more.

Imagine if Cameron presented a list of powers to be included in a Tory 'repatriation referendum' and in that list was repatriating full control of our borders (and thus immigration).

Do you think only 4% of the people would vote for such an 'eu' issue?

Of course not. The people have simply provided a finer definition of their concerns, even though to actually solve many of them, it effectively becomes an 'eu issue'.

If the Conservative party bangs the drum so loudly about the EU treaty being such a violation of national sovereignty and then makes no provision to call for a post-election referendum on the treaty it will make the party look weak-willed and contradictory.

It is also worth bearing in mind that calling for a referendum now and post election provides ammunition to shoot at Brown, ammunition which questions his autocratic character, especially seeing as many Labourites support a referendum too.

"You wouldn't be thinking would you, Scotty, of the numerous unsolicited "contributions" in the national media over the years from the likes of Ken Clarke, Chris Patten, John Bercow, Francis Maude and Michael Portillo?"

Michael, I think that of anyone, or group within the party who try to undermine its own party line. I was no more enamoured with Ken Clarke's behaviour by standing on a podium with Blair and Co than I am now with this type of politicking which takes away the focus of the present day battle over this Treaty and makes it a possible damaging own goal for the Conservative party.
Brown like his predecessor must be sitting there laughing at this moment, members of our party have yet to disappoint them with their disloyalty whether they are Eurosceptic or Europhile!
Brown has got himself in a hole over his broken manifesto pledge, but not to worry, that has never stopped some in our party shooting the rest of us in the foot.
I warned about this very scenario on one of Louise Bagshawe's column threads, so don't turn this into a pro vs anti EU/ them and us argument, the stakes are too high.

Rifkind is absolutely correct that a post-ratification referendum couldn’t reverse the Treaty. In-fighting about this achieves nothing positive and simply does Brown’s dirty-work for him.

We members can turn this into “Grammarsgate” (helpful language from CH?) if we want to. Alternatively we can accept that, with so much else to achieve, a post-ratification referendum is a dead-end (and an argument mischievously made by the BBC).

BTW, my pro-EU arguments have won me far worse insults than “posturing”.

Scotty, agreed so far as it goes but what you ignore the central issue. The Tories are hopelessly divided over Europe, with different wings believing fundamentally irreconcilable things. So long as they are involved in public affairs, various retreads from John Major's last cabinet will use every opportunity to advance the federalist cause, as they have done for the last 10-15 years. The latest stealthy ploy is to use a united front as the pretext for kicking into the long grass any discussion of what happens if as is likely, the constitution is ratified. If and when that occurs, they will then argue that nothing can be done about it; people should stop "banging on" about Europe; only 4% of people care about the EU as opposed to skoolsnospitals, etc etc.

"Secondly, as seems to being acknowledged here by people like Chad, no such referendum could actually take place."

Um, not me Adam. I said Cameron could call *any* referendum he wants, whether it is withdrawal, on this specific treaty or about his own repatriation agenda.

Cameron is not bound by what Labour does in this Parliament. For those who argue otherwise, you are simply admitting that Britain has *already* ceded full sovereignty to the EU.

Once this treaty has been ratified. Cameron need only pledge a referendum on power repatriation, clearly stating that the referendum will be in the next parliament, with its contents not defined until the general election manifesto time, and he can put the EU issue to bed and focus on other areas.

He has nothing to fear if he genuinely wishes to repatriate some powers as claimed as such a vote would be both pro-EU, pro-Britain and pro-democracy!

However much you try, if you continue to refuse the people their voice on this issue, anger will build, and you will be punished.

I just hope this can be avoided, to prevent extremist parties filling the vacuum at the next euro vote etc.

Mark, you sound like Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne. Rifkind was a failure as a defence and foreign secretary, and his judgment on this is also pretty suspect.....unless you agree that a widening democratic deficit and government-by-lawyer is a good thing. I ackowledge that the Tory left does believe this.

Why is it that the elite persists in sticking their fingers up the nostrils of those who dare to question Europhile orthodoxy with phrases such as “Such a proposal is silly and wrong” and “ It is posturing to imply otherwise”?

Conservative party policy on 26th. September 2007 was this:

“Today, I will give this cast-iron guarantee: If I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations.
No treaty should be ratified without consulting the British people in a referendum.”

Now it seems to be otherwise with every indication that if the Treaty has come into force by the time Mr. Cameron becomes PM, there will be no such referendum as he promised.

Such would amount to a breach of promise every bit as dishonourable as that being perpetrated presently by Gordon Brown and the Liberal ‘Democrats’.

The rationale for a referendum now at which the Conservative Party would campaign against ratification is that so large a surrender of power is not in the British national interest.

That the Treaty has come into force does not for a moment change the fact that it is not in the British National interest and logically it does not therefore alter one whit the requirement for the Treaty to be put to the British people for them to give or to withhold their whole-hearted consent to it.

If the answer is against the treaty and that creates a difficulty with The Union, so be it: they must accommodate the democratic wishes of the British people, as must the government.

The promise was: “you shall have a referendum”, not “you shall have a referendum provided it does not rock the Union boat”.

That promise must be honoured.

John and Chad,

My point was that the importance that people within the 'Westminster Village' and indeed those who populate the blogosphere place too much emphasis on Europe.

I don't think that the Europe issue should be dropped but should be phrased in the lack of trust in Brown and the failed promise on the referendum.

Europe is not a vote winner, if we wish to escape the flatlining in the polls and extend beyond 30-33% we must expand our arguments.

The personal attacks on Rifkind and bringing up Clarke etc are not helpful.

Let's face it, with Tories like Rifkind we would go along with the European State thing.

God forbid!

If the Conservatives do not promise a post-ratification referendum on the treaty the demands for one on the grounds of democracy and legitimacy are vacuous. If we believe the Treaty wrong, we should have the strength and backbone to undo it. It is thus vital that a referendum is offered in the event of a Conservative government.

Stating that it is "silly and wrong" is, well, silly and wrong. If we refuse to give substance to our promises in opposition, the public are hardly going to believe us in government.

Also the argument that it will come into force if the 27 nations ratify it tells only half the story. What comes into force can be taken out of force. Britain rejecting the Constitution after ratification leaves us in exactly the same place as if only Britain rejected it pre-ratification (i.e. 26/27), just having arrived at that point the long way around. The EU would be forced to come to some agreement with us, but the situation is in no way either disasterous or unduly awkward.

Rifkind's language in this is truly badly chosen and designed to marginalise, stifle debate and claim moral superiority. The use of the word 'Europhobe' in particular is offensive.

Can Tory MPs please stay quiet for a change!

Michael, the EU is ONE in a wide ranging group of important issues we must fight the next election on.
There is a group of people within the party who seem to think it is the be all and end all of everything, and they damage us with that blinkered behaviour.
We tear ourselves up over it and we will lose the next election, where does that leave us with regard the EU, tax, crime, NHS, education and the mountain of debt that this Labour government is presently accruing with such wild abandonment?
Do I wish that this issue could stir up the kind feeling that the poll tax did with people marching up and down the country, you bet, but then no government would be signing that treaty and hoping to get away with it if that was the strength of feeling with ordinary voters.
Many don't even now realise the significance of this treaty or what it entails, sadly they will only realise when something that they thought was in the control of their government turns out to be the perfect excuse needed by a UK government when they say "sorry folks, not our remit anymore and there is nothing we can do about".
We have got a perfect window of opportunity to explain to the voters just why the treaty is such a bad idea. But if some of our own backbenchers continue to behave in this self serving and reckless maverick style, they help strengthen Gordon Brown's hand and deny the voters that real and honest debate on the issues while doing untold damage to the position of David Cameron and our party, end of.

Rifkind is not advancing a federalist cause. He is pointing out that talking about a post ratification referendum is pointless and stupid. Any Tories calling now for such a referendum can only be deliberately blackmailing the rest of the party by threatening to let Gordon Brown off the hook he has impaled himself on.

A fundemental basis of Brown's EU policy leading up to ratification is relying on Tory Europhobes to behave like idiots. Again.

The last thing closed elites, such as the leadership of our political parties, want is competition and scrutiny. That would threaten their jobs, perks and power. The Europhile wing of the Conservative Party is stuffed full of people whose contempt for the ordinary voter is plain to see. Minimising the influence of voters is music to their ears....and that is what the federalist drive in the EU is designed to achieve.

John Leonard, thank you for your use of tired and spurious to my earlier comments, very productive....

Whilst I agree that polling methods are far from perfect I have spent years canvassing over 2 different associations with 2 very difference demographics. Not once has the electorate discussed Europe as a deciding issue.

Whilst I admire the passion for which certain members of the party (who maybe more at home with UKIP) attack Europe. My concern is that we fall into the trap that Labour are hoping for.

If we publicly divide and fall back on the old arguments on Europe, we will never engage the public and move from the 30% flatline of the last generation.

We are successfully attacking Brown on the trust issue. The Europe debate should be based around Labour's failed manifesto pledge. This is surely a topic we can all rally to?

Brown knows what everyone knows: unlike Labour, the Tory Party is hopelessly split over Europe. So long as that split persists, Labour can play on it whenever they like: now, tomorrow, at the next election, whenever. Calls for a united front now are hollow. People like Clarke and Rifkind have always put their views on Europe well ahead of party unity. You cannot have a party which is credible on a key constitutional issue when its members are irreconcilably divided. Piping down now simply buries the issue until the next time.... when Rifkind will be vocally arguing that the constitution is a done deal and there is no going back.

Looks like Cameron is bottling now.I thought he had sorted this out in his Sun article weeks ago----more votes for UKIP though.
I note that the pro federal riff raff have very loose ties to England and I suspect only single generational ties to Britain.

"He is pointing out that talking about a post ratification referendum is pointless and stupid."

How can arguing that the people were solemnly promised a referendum, so if Labour refuses to honour that pledge, then the Tories will deliver, be pointless and silly?

It actually reinforces the need for a vote *now*, by putting the government on firm notice that if they refuse, the people can vote them out to finally get their promised say later.

Let's be honest, Rifkind knows the Government is going to force this through, and the last thing he wants is for it to actually get down to a public vote.

Michael, just for once set aside your prejudices against Europhiles and look at the big picture. Many of those Europhiles that you deride in both the Labour and the Conservative want a referendum now, that is the ace in our campaign. But I bet you it is the rabid Eurosceptics or BOO out Brigade that will destroy our campaign rather than a few Europhiles who are quite relaxed about what this Treaty entails.

Why does kensington and chelsea always bring us these people that insist on making unhelpful comments? Rifkind, portillo, clark!!

"...Europhile wing of the Conservative Party..."

"Europhile" and "Europhobe" are inaccurate and unhelpful pejoratives. Michael, what could the British government do to retrospectively repeal an EU-wide treaty?

Europe falls low C 4%.

Ask why it gains such a low rating. Could it possibly be because our parliamentarians refuse to acknowledge the pernicious and insidious effect that eu legislation has on every aspect of their daily lives?

Post Office closures for one.

"Ask why it gains such a low rating. Could it possibly be because our parliamentarians refuse to acknowledge the pernicious and insidious effect that eu legislation has on every aspect of their daily lives? "

Of course, for if the electorate did appreciate that 70% of our laws were made in Brussels they might just ask what the heck our politicians were doing to fill in their time at Westminster, and might just suggest that with this reduced responsibility should come a reduced pay packed, like a 70% reduction.

I feel if we did tie MP’s pay with responsibility, there would be no chance the Constitutional treaty would get through Parliament.

“What could the British Government do to retrospectively repeal an eu-wide treaty?” is asked.

I suggest if it (the British Government) cannot do anything then it is no longer a government and sovereignty is irretrievably lost.

Mark Fulford,

Cameron has pledged:
"That's why Britain must not stay in the Social Chapter."

How will he do that? Cameron either can or cannot renegotiate our relationship with the EU by changing ratified treaties.

If he cannot, the above pledge is a lie, if he can, then obviously it can apply to other areas too.

Which is it?

Scotty: my views stem from watching the behaviour of a number of well-known individuals over the last ten to fifteen years. I simply observe: it is their behaviour which means they are not to be trusted. The "big picture" is that these people are going through the motions, as Rifkind has done us the favour of making clear. The fact that you don't agree with my views doesn't make them "prejudices".

Mark: the UK Parliament could refuse to enforce the provisions of a treaty for which it had no democratic mandate. What better reason to refuse to do so? Your response will be that that is a breach of EU law? And? A number of well-known Member States who loudly proclaim their adherence to the European ideal when it suits them have also chosen to ignore EU law when it suits them....for less worthy reasons. So there is plenty of precedent. In any case, it is doubtful whether EU law can prevent Parliament modifying the 1972 European Communities Act.

Hold on a minute - feel free to use all the big words and sentences as you feel fit, but I have yet to meet a pro-EU Conservative activist. Do any exist?

Can someone with better knowledge than I specifically state as to whom the Conservative Party belongs.

Does the Conservative Party belong to the membership, if the answer is yes (I'm happy to be corrected) then the democratic view of the majority must hold.

As a last note, how many seats would the Conservative Party have won in 2005 were it not for UKIP...perhaps ten or more.

You can't one minute hark on about English votes for English issues, then roll over and accept more legislation from Brussels.

It's surely about consistency of message.

Michael, I can see how we could refuse to incorporate the Charter of Fundamental Rights into our law, but how on earth can our the UK Parliament refuse to enforce:

1. the President of the European Council,
2. the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy,
3. giving national parliaments a voice in making European laws,
4. reducing the size of the European Commission,
5. extending QMV,
6. increasing co-decision?

Is there to be a parallel reality where, for the UK only, the EU Commission is larger, QMV and co-decision are reduced and there's no President, etc?

Rifkind is concerned about "posturing".

I'm concerned about this party "treaty the public as fools".

Re Michael McGowan @ 19.27 - The Conservative party is not split on Europe as you would like to portray. The vast majority are Euro-sceptic and would like to concentrate on exposing the shameful way in which the accountability of our parliament to its electorate has been stealthily undermined by the EU. The best way to achieve that now is to show what the Treaty/Constitution would do and to fight for a referendum. Everyone can agree on that.

If he cannot, the above pledge is a lie, if he can, then obviously it can apply to other areas too. Which is it?

Rather than accusing the leader of our (sorry, my) own Party of lying (very un-Paliamentary!), what is wrong with focussing all our strength now on pushing Brown in to a referendum, or embarassing him if he doesn't? Of course there will be decisions to be taken later, some of them legislative, that we need to plan for, on changing our relationship with the EU in line with the vision that DC, among others, has laid out on several occasions.

We need to keep pushing Brown on the trust issue - in case I have to remind you, he is the one who is breaking his referendum pledge from the last Labour manifesto.

One step at a time, rather than letting UKIP-like (lite?) obsessives force the Party into capitulation on your own single issue agenda for your own reasons and poison the broader arguments we're putting forward on other policy areas. It's a little like those English Parliament people, who just can't see any political reality beyond their own obsession.

Let's see sensible, moderate Conservative eurosceptics putting the arguments now, and making the case for a referendum now before ratification, and talk publicly about the next phase later if that happens. Apart from anything else, it never helps your arguments in any debate if you appear to be more focussed on when you lose it than winning it.

"Realcon": I'm concerned about this party "treaty the public as fools".

And not about GB doing just that right now? I'm just concerned about some Conservatives doing (in Lab speak) "same old Tories, same old strident arguments that don't get heard". Keep it measured, keep pushing the trust and listening thing against Lab.

We *all* want to bash Brown on this shameful broken pledge Richard, but Cameron did also make a 'cast-iron' guarantee less than a month ago which he now appears to be backtracking on.

Far from obsession, it is simply, as you say an issue of trust.

We'll all fire our guns in the same direction, but only if we can trust Cameron to deliver what he personally described as a 'cast iron' guarantee.

Read his exact words. Do not read a different meaning or nuance into them, read exactly what he said and no more.

Cameron made the perfect pledge to enable even non-Tories to get behind and support him. Why then cause all the unnecessary confusion and splits now by backtracking?

Chad, reading your last post is like ground hog day over and over again with your obsession about Cameron, give it a rest.
At the moment one politician is breaking a clear manifesto pledge and will be signing away yet more powers to the EU without a referendum. That's the issue of trust that needs dealt with now, not lining up yet another petty attack on Cameron.

Read his exact words. Do not read a different meaning or nuance into them, read exactly what he said and no more.

Firstly, I'm obviously not in a position to speak for the Party leadership about their intentions.

Secondly, I'll nuance whatever I like without any instruction from you. The words of which you spoke were written, by the way, at a time before Chicken Saturday, when there was an expectation (not just within the Party) that there might be an electoral opportunity to be in a position to offer that directly pre-ratification.

Where has there been back-tracking, precisely? As I said earlier, you don't win a debate by publicly discussing your tactics for if you lose. If that causes splits, it is only with the likes of you who are looking for one. Can it.

Malcolm Rifkind is a highly intelligent and lucid speaker. He is absolutely right that Brown is allowing generous time in Parliament for this in order that our party might tear itself to pieces.

However while the debate maybe be vigourous and heated, the great majority of the party are now either strongly eurosceptic or eurosceptic. This is not an issue where we will divide. This is potentially a rallying call to the general public who over whelmling oppose further integration.

There's no point in bashing Brown for breaking his promise unless you thin k the issue at stake is important en ouigh to make a stand.

This treaty is not just another treaty it is the LAST treaty and contains its own in-built amendment system.

I am horrified at the lily-livered attitudes displayed above - very different from the robust ones on the thread after Cameron's press conference. It seems that many CH: readers don't care about our country being sold out like"a mess of pottage"

The bounce-back in the polls was occasioned by a more robust attitude from the leadership and some of us returned to the fold. With views like these above why should we bother ? Brown will win and that's curtains for Britain.

The treaty makes Britain weaker in Europe - Our voting power to block legislation is also cut by 30% - which could allow through a raft of EU laws we are currently blocking - costing us billions more.

Both the Tory party and Britain will sink giggling into the mire.

Rifkind should have the whip withdrawn forthwith.

Howard's fisheries policy that had been carefully worked out by Owen Patterson had had a hard time getting past Cameron, who was putting together the manifesto. As soon as he was leader, Cameron dropped it, thus proving that he does not care about the environment quite as much as he says he does, the CFP being one of the biggest environmental disaster around.

Cameron and Co. have "bottled it"

It would be exceedingly unwise to say now exactly which powers we want to repatriate. Not only would we be portrayed as obsessed euro-loonies, but we would have no bargaining chips once in power. When we are in power, we must commission a study into the costs and benefits of being a member of the E.U. with a view to leaving. With that aim/threat clearly established, we shall see whether the E.U. wants us to remain enough to offer a satisfactory settlement, or if they'd rather we just buggered off. Either way I'm happy.

We cannot just accept the EU ratchet now any more than Lady Thatcher accepted the socialist ratchet in the 80s.

If we do not want the consequences of this Treaty as a Party on principle, then we should oppose it and demand, as we have, a referendum. That promise only has validity if we repeat it for post a general election. If the referendum were carried then we would have to renegotiate the treaty as Lady T did our contribution in the 80s. Unless we offer a referendum now there will be no opportunity to do so after a GE as all subsequent changes do not require a separate treaty. After the GE, we need to lance the boil of the EU in our politics. The Tory Party and Britain in general is eurosceptic and does not want a United States of Europe. We need to move ourselves into the slow lane and semi-detach. Those renegotiations offer that opportunity. The polling figure for most important issue is irrelevant. No voter believes any Party has any intention of doing anything serious about the EU. If we looked like we were, the polling figures would change. I am so confident that the polling figure is wrong I am prepared to chance a referendum. Scotty and Mark Fulford are so sure the polling figure is wrong they are not prepared to chance one.
We have this last chance to halt the move to a USE and a promise of a referendum is the key. That is why Rifkind and the rest of the pro EU people on here are determined to prevent it by bringing up specious practical difficulties.

Ahh the usual range of kneejerk Europhiles who, having completely lost the argument on our descent into eurofederalism, attempt instead to strangle all debate on the totally spurious grounds of some alleged electoral damage that will consequentially occur. Balderdash!

I am getting rather sick of being lectured by the Scots.

Rafkind should be deselected and sent packing.

He should be told he is, very much so, yesterday's man.

So out of touch with reality. So convinced of his own self importance.

I have had enough of this failed politician.



If it is *so* important to focus on this issue now, and Cameron is focussing all attention on getting the referendum, in fact creating his own groundhog dog (he himself promised to keep going on about it being such an important issue), why did he not bring it up at PMQ's this week?

Silence. Not a word. How come?

- btw we're all to a man, sad little politico obsessives to be thinking we can make any difference venting our spleens on a blog. Perhaps we should all get out more ;-)

how on earth can our the UK Parliament refuse to enforce:

1. the President of the European Council,
2. the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy,
3. giving national parliaments a voice in making European laws,
4. reducing the size of the European Commission,
5. extending QMV,
6. increasing co-decision?

1. Simply make it clear that he doesn't speak for us.
2. Ditto
3. Meaningless part of the treay that allows parliments to talk about EU laws but gives them no powers - Who cares
4. Nothing we can do
5. Refuse to accept decisions taken in this way
6. Ditto

If you accept that we are no longer sovereign, then there is nothing that can be done. Simply pass a law that say that UK law has precedence over EU law, and anything is possible. Don't pass said law, and judges will overturn anything you try to do.

I'm not a sceptic - one who doubts.

I'm not a phobic - one who fears.

I'm an opponent - one who resists.

The ancient Greek for 'opponent' is POLEMIOS.

That makes me a Europolemicist, and my opinions Europolemic.

As for term 'Europhile', you could omit the 'h'. In many languages p and f are interchangeable.

Why not modernise the terminology of this debate, and make it more accessible?

You're a pile or polemicist. Sceptics and phobes are so.....Malcolm Rifkind.

I think Jim Tague and Matt Wright are right, the Conservative party is more united over its feelings toward the EU than it has been for many years. In your constituencies do any of you come across anyone who shares the views of people like Ken Clarke? The old Europhile wing of the party is dying with very few of the newer intake of activists or MPs being anything other than solidly Eurosceptic in my opinion.
The Tory 'splits' on this issue of the 1980's and 1990's are I think a thing of the past as one side now dominates the party. That doesn't stop a (very) few of the old guard making their views known to the media however.

Rifkind has a point. When the treaty is ratified (itll be ratified, dont believe the numbers about Labour's lack of support...they will find the numbers) we will be in a terrible bind. We are pledging a referendum on it but have no plan for action on the basis of a no vote.

Can a treaty that is ratified be unratified?

You can cut the legal/diplomatic arguments however you like (and as many people here have pointed out there are formidable points in Rifkind's favour) but it I think it basically boils down to this:

INTERVIEWER: So, why do you say Gordon Brown cannot be trusted on anything?

TORY HOPEFUL: Because he promised a referendum on the EU Constitution in 2005 and then reneged on that promise. He says one thing and then does the opposite - you simply can't trust anyone like that, can you?

INTERVIEWER: Well, your Party promised a referendum on the EU Constitution. Will you hold one if you get into power?

TORY HOPEFUL: Oh, of course not. That would just be Europhobic posturing etc etc blather blather.

TORY HOPEFUL: Of course not because, by then, it will be too late. The EU-wide changes will be irreversible by a single, belated No.

Scary to think that Justin Hinchcliffe and I are agreeing! Europe does funny things to people.

TORY HOPEFUL: Well all the integrationists are telling me it will be too late to do anything, so they must be right as I am sure they are not simply saying this to prevent us challenging the EU and threatening its superstate goals.

I am kind of questioning though how our party ever proposed to 'repatriate powers' if such an action is actually impossible once the treaty that took them has been ratified.

Methinks that Mr Rifkind is perhaps being a tad patronising to us old folk.

I would like a referendum so as to have a voice as to how we are governed in the future. I admit to being very lite on the EU experiment, mainly as it has been conducted by stealth over these last 50 years. If the whole EU project is so good why to we have to go through these constant battles with Treaties and the incremental stages of take over, with power consigned to Brussels.

Its like death by a squillion cuts, the constant drip concreting dissent.

Ah well, who said politics was the democratic process? lets have some anarchy!

Editor, do you not think the comment by DavisFan at 15:27 on the 24th is suitable for over-writing? That seems like personal abuse to me, and incitement to hated based on a person's nationality. Or is it the policy of this site that anyone born in Scotland should be "deported" from England?

If so, perhaps you should change the name of this site to ConservativeHate?

Sorry RKO, it's a silly comment but I think you're over-reacting.

I am kind of questioning though how our party ever proposed to 'repatriate powers' if such an action is actually impossible once the treaty that took them has been ratified.

Chad, you are over-simplifying the argument.

Some powers could be repatriated and there is certainly scope for a sensible countrywide debate to decide whether we should. However, with respect to the Treaty that we are discussing, it appears to me that six of seven functions can not be reversed unilaterally. For example, without use of drugs or an airbrush, can you explain how the UK can magic away the EU President?

"For example, without use of drugs or an airbrush, can you explain how the UK can magic away the EU President?"

Smoke and mirrors? ;-)

Seriously Mark, Cameron has not pledged to 'magic away' the Social Chapter (forget the arguments about it not actually existing any more for a moment) but to 'opt out'

So the answer to your question is to simply 'opt out' of letting the EU President speak on our behalf.

It's all quite simple really. It just needs someone strong enough to stand up to the EU.

If the Tories are *really* serious about the umdemocratic forcing through of this treaty, perhaps they should really turn it into a major issue of UK democracy by simply refusing to go into Parliament for the vote (or at all until Brown bends).

Imagine those pictures of a half-empty chamber beamed around the world and the damage it would do to Brown. Boycott the vote en masse, as if you are going to lose anyway, voting against is pointless.

Show the world that Brown is acting like a dictator.

..and plus with a complete boycott for the sake of democracy, one by one honourable Labour MP's who see the absolute need to deliver their manifesto pledge may join the boycott and build the pressure.

This could build, would cause enormous international interest and would mark the end of Brown.

Imagine "Day 6 of the boycott and now 230 MP's are refusing to go into Parliament" etc.

It's not as is Parliament is going to mean much anyway after ratification. Voting with Brown just legitimises his steamrolling of democracy.

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