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The offer of a post-ratification referendum would be a great hand to play at election time. Not only would it set clear blue water between the parties but would also portray the Conservative party as a being truly democratic and interested in what the British people have to say on Europe.

I haven't believed anything I've read in The Daily Mail for years.

I like your phrase 'tactical wording'. Basically, this is Dave's occasional sop to the right that never really amounts to a thing. The only real debate is in or out of the EU. The rest is irrelevant window dressing.

The European candidates' CV commitment to form a new group is similarly vague. Cameron is failing to make any firm policy pledges on EU issues. Even Howard's pledge to leave the Common Fisheries Policy was dropped by Cameron.

The Conservative Party has failed to educate on the contents of the Treaty. It has also failed to mount a serious and well-funded campaign for a referendum. The recent comments from Cameron and Hague suggest that the issue will be quietly dropped.

Cameron's private "foreign policy council" includes Hurd, Heseltine and Patten. Heseltine slammed the commitment to leave the EPP but has been silent on the referendum.

Quite frankly, I do not trust Cameron and Hague to deliver the promise the EPP exit or a post-ratification referendum.

Posters here should also bear in mind that Cameron and Merkel are setting up joint policy groups. Cameron wants more EU initiatives to combat climate change. Does he sound like a man who wants us to leave to leave the EPP and repatriate powers from Brussels? Not to me!!

The odds of a post-ratification referendum are a zillion to one.

If Cameron were to do this, it would effectively be a referendum on our EU status - the divisions would tear this country apart. He won't want that - so all this is just spin.

Withdrawal is NOT the only alternative to surrender to the EU Constitution. What most people (or so the polls say) want is a restructuring of our relationship with the EU to concentrate on Trade. This is only attainable after a referendum.

But reading the blog's assessment: the general message is “Forget your principles if they get in the way of winning an election”

If they do they can forget about winning the election too.

Editor, I think you are failing to factor in what "Euro-strife" really means. CCHQ will be well aware that 40 (?) MPs, 1/3 of the parliamentary party, signed Cash's EDM demanding a post-ratification referendum and more were in sympathy. They will also be well aware that as ConHome has blogged most PPCs in winnable marginals are also sceptics who will not be able to rest with the Constitution.

There would be a lot of parliamentary strife if the Constitution were not renegotiated or rejected, and I'm sure DC has no wish at all to get into that.

Personally I am heartened by Cameron's words and Hague's words and take them at face value. We will not be bound by this treaty if ratified.

I hope you are right, activist.

From your Parliament blog, what Hague said in answer to a question on what the Tories would do post ratification:

""If we did not succeed in forcing a referendum in this House, if we failed to win in another place, if all other EU member states implemented the treaty and if an election were held later in this Parliament—that is a lot of ifs—we would have a new treaty in force that lacked democratic legitimacy in this country and in our view gave the EU too much power over our national policies. That would not be acceptable to a Conservative Government and we would not let matters rest there; the right hon. Gentleman can be assured of that."

Ken Clarke rises, then in response

""Mr. Hague: I assure my right hon. and learned Friend that there will be no veering in any direction. I assure him that if all the things that I have listed happened, there would be wide consultation in the Conservative party as we decided how to proceed.

Even from their own point of view, it is a huge mistake by Ministers not to support a referendum, because a treaty passed without a referendum will not enjoy democratic legitimacy or acceptance in this country. That is the background against which we would have to set our future policy; let me make that very clear today."

Now that's pretty clear to me Ed and I wonder, you know Cameron would not have said what he said today lightly at all. Why do you think Cameron said it?

I go for Occam's razor: because he meant it, just as Hague meant it.

christina speight: Okay imagine if we do have the Constitution "Treaty" imposed upon this country and then a year down the line we win the next election. How is the EU going to respond to a referendum trying to turn back the clock? Are they going to say "well okay, if the UK retroactively repudiates the 'Treaty', we'll roll back to 2007"? Or are they going to say "this is where Europe has got to now; we can't keep waiting for each side in each country to have been in power; if you don't like the 'Treaty' don't be in Europe"?

It all depends on where Cameron actually stands on the EU. It is a given that he puts naked calculation of his electoral chances ahead of any other calculation and it is likely that he has indeed done a deal with Patten Clarke and Heseltine.

But this is old politics.

Patten was a Tory gain in 1992 and Heseltine in 1997 only Clarke persists as a vote. All three are more alien to the modern Tory party than Disraeli. And that is it; all the other federasts have b*gg***d off to the LibDems years ago. Sure there are plenty of people in CCHQ who don't want to allow the Party to go any further down the eurosceptic route but that is partly a question of internal party control but mostly a matter of timidity and excessive caution. It is why we are again 40% in the polls against a government that is becoming a national joke.

We can attack the government for not holding a promised referendum. It is a potent attack but it will only resonate with the electorate if we promise to let them have a referendum after another election. They already know why they don't want to vote Labour, they do not yet know why they should bother to vote Conservative.

It is not about the terms of the Treaty it is about trust in Government and trust by government in the voters. Welching and weazeling are equally disliked.

Yes if we had a referendum after the election it would inevitably become a vote on the EU itself and our participation in it. A last chance to stop the USE. Cameron has got to be pretty pro-EU to allow that possibility to put him off the chance of harvesting votes into 2009 by lacerating the government on its broken trust in comparison with our cast iron promise.

That's exactly the point, Tim. The EU receives net contribution from Britain and would be a joke without it. They need us far, far more than we need them, and will never want to expel us. The pro EU Giscard D'Estaing suggested, quite some time ago, a "two-speed Europe" with the UK on the slow lane - he did not want to lose the UK. Good enough for Giscard, good enough for the home-grown Euro-enthusiasts, surely?

Tim Roll-Pickering: '...are they going to say "this is where Europe has got to now; we can't keep waiting for each side in each country to have been in power; if you don't like the 'Treaty' don't be in Europe"'

Given our balance of trade deficit with the rest of the EU and the size of our contribution to the EU budget, if we had a government which was serious about renegotiating the terms of our membership it would be able to do so from a position of strength.

It's not about expulsion but rather the position we would be in. Will the EU seriously consider turning back the clock and undoing all the changes implemented by the "Treaty" or will it just regard it as a done deal and any further changes would have to be negotiated (and potentially put to referendums in other countries)? It's not about expulsion but rather about not allowing one member to arbitarily tear up rule changes. It would be for the UK to decide if it wanted to stay in the EU or not, but the EU is hardly going to rush to deintegrate just to keep us happy.

"Eurosceptics fear that some sort of deal has been done with Ken Clarke et al"

Oh for the love of......

The bottom line for the UK has to be that leaving the EU is preferable to accepting the treaty in it's present form

Activist and John Wilkin are right. Re: Tim R:-P: @ 1532 His response is the usual one from the europhile wing. But the "other partners" know full well that they would have one hell of a job replacing the NET contribution we make and that if they virtually expelled us the EU would fall to bits as we would not be alone.

We merely need the guts to say what we think and we will actually get the negotiations we want. What happens then depends on how skillful we are.

christina speight: I am not a europhile, I want to pull out of the EU! Nor am I suggesting we would be expelled - rather we would be in the position of either accepting the "Treaty" and being unable to reverse it or else accepting that the EU is not a club we wish to be in. Renegotation to reverse the tide of many years is not a realistic option. If the people of this country retroactively reject the "Treaty" then our position in the EU would be untennable. And that is how I wish it.

Ask (and keep asking until a clear-cut answer is given) our Leader and the Shadow Foreign Secretary one very simple question:-
Will they state unequivocally that, if and when Parliament ratifies the Euro Constitution/Treaty, they will not be bound by it but that, on winning the next General Election, will inform Brussels that that is the intention of Her Majesty's Government?

There is an uncanny echo of the goings-on in the C of E, around the controversy of women priests and bishops, and Michael Davidson's advice regarding the danger of holding a post-ratification referendum: don't stand up for maintaining what one believes in for fear of upsetting people. Anyone who has canvassed on doorsteps knows that some poeple get upset when one identifies oneself as Conservative or, nowadays, if the occupants are traditional Labour supporters, when they are asked for their opinions on Gordon's lot.

Advocates of reform should recognise that it would take only one country, e.g. Bulgaria or Malta, to veto a Treaty that repatriated powers from Brussels to Westminster. Some of the new member states are the most enthusiastoic supporters of the federalist Project.

Our trade deficit with the rest of the EU is seen by some as a bargaining chip. The other countries would rather that Britain left than derail the federalist Project. That what's a repatriation Treaty would do. The other large donor countriess would be willing to pick up the tab for Britain's net contribution as the price to be paid for keeping the federalist Project on track.

It's time that the so-called Eurosceptics got real. The odds on getting a referendum are now virtually zero. The choice is either to accept membership of the EU with its new constitutional powers or to leave.

The Eurosceptics cannot sit on the fence for much longer. They must choose whether to ally themselves with Heseltine, Clarke, Gummer and Patten or join forces with Helmer, Carswell and the other Better Off Out MPs.

When happy Harry Wilson formed the Labour government in 1974, one of his first acts was to potter around Europe with Sunny Jim Callaghan, 'renegotiating' the 'Common Market' treaty and terms to which Heath and Geoffrey Rippon had signed us up in 1973. Heath was furious (and, of course, as Heath was our man, so were all good Conservatives) accusing Wilson of losing the goodwill of the European leaders Heath had spent the previous 25 years building up. Apparently. As we had only been in Europe, or the 'Common Market', for a year or so and as only a twerp called Peter Shaw, a scarecrow (Michael Foot) and a madman called Benn were opposing our continued membership of the 'Common Market', the referendum to stay in the 'Common Market' was fairly comfortably won (67% for staying in).

Today it's different. We now have the experience of 40 years' membership to draw on. In that time we have lost the soverignty Heath assured us was never at risk (thus proving Shaw and Benn right) and financially the country has wasted billions on membership 'fees' alone, been bled white paying for politically inspired European white elephants such as the Eurofighter and Airbus (at the risk of our blokes' lives in poor equipment such as the snatch Land Rover in Iraq and Afghanistan) and fallen for the lies and tricks put over on our so-called Rolls-Royce brains in the Foreign Office.

The one country in the EU which can seriously promise to hold a post-ratification referendum and face the consequences of being threatened with expulsion from the EU if the referendum does not produce the correct answer (and a phrase including the words "uplands" and "sunny" springs inexplicably to mind if this were to happen!) is Great Britain.

Regardless of however many cross-border commissions with Angela Merkel we may be setting up, the country comes first - the Germans know it, the French know it and we know it.

The business with the EPP is still on the table but the crunch over that is coming.

I agree with John Wilkin. We can not accept just about anything from the EU, just for the sake of staying in the Union.

If a renegotiation of the Constitution must lead to a referendum over our EU-membership, then so be it.

It is depressing but predictable that this thread on Europe attracts more interest than the previous more important thread on national security and wider foreign policy. The Tory grassroots have no interest in foreign policy. Only in European policy.

TFA Tory " Heseltine, Clarke, Gummer and Patten" . Who are these people? Never heard of them! Are they some of Yesterday's failed Men?

And Umbrella Man - When will you learn that if all power rests in Brussels - as it would - " national security and wider foreign policy" would vbe there too.

As Humpty Dumpty said "It's a matter of who is master, that's all"

"The Tory grassroots have no interest in foreign policy. Only in European policy."

If things carry on the way they're going no-one in Britain will have an interest in foreign policy, because British foreign policy will be decided by a bunch of unelected second rate politicians in Brussels.

Here is Cameron writing in September:

“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.” The Sun (26 Sep 2007)

Cast-iron, eh, Dave?

I think there are wider issues here about democracy. We have MPs with less powers as those powers gradually get sucked in by Brussels, we have local councils with less power as those powers get sucked in by Westminster and the Assemblies. This is leading to power drifting further and further away from the people and a system that is almost broken. To actually get things done in the future these things have to be addressed.


There's nothing bankable here

But there were commitments made previously on:

Repatriation of powers (including and beyond this treaty)

Referendums for all future significant transfers of powers

I would be far more worried if those commitments were now being contradicted.

Furthermore, given that the treaty sets out for the first time how countries would withdraw from the EU, I am beginning to believe having a retroactive referendum specifically on the treaty after ratification might not only be overkill but futile and possibly illegal.

However, thats not to say that the Conservatives will not seek a mandate on their committed policies - referendums and repatriation of powers.

If they do what's the problem?

Question is why should Cameron do any deals with Clarke, Gummer ,Heseltine etc. They represent a very small proportion of the parliamentary party and the days when Heseltine and Patten had influence in the party are long past. With Hague, Davis and Cameron at leading the party I am optimistic that our party will take the right decision on the constitution and give the people a referendum if and when we are in a position to do so.
We are still far from a general election, Cameron is in my opinion playing a long and skilful game.
Happy new year to all the regular CH bloggers!

I dont see what else he could have said, getting out of a ratfied and implemented treaty will be nigh on impossible, the best we can hope for is a modification/unimplementation of some parts of it.
This will of course never appease the anti EU brigade who only want total withdrawal. There are 2 things that are never going to happen 1, The UK will never leave the EU 2, Margaret Thatcher is not going to ride up on a white horse to save you.
I am not a Europhile just someone who takes a practical point of view of life.
happy new year.

Back in 1934, I'm sure one could confidently have predicted that the UK would never enter an alliance with Soviet Russia.

"Never" is not a word one should use in politics.

There'd be no point and no need for a referendum if we had just won a General Election. We should just renegotiate.

People freqently forget that we could leave the EU and remain in the free trade area like Switzerland or Norway.

It would save a fortune in money being handed over to Brussels for squandering, and allow us to continue within Europe.

The reason why the politicos dont want to excercise this option is so many of their pals have jobs in the "Euro Industry"

We the people should have a say

I suspect that a really robust campaign by a British government would be so emarrassing for the EU that they would be inclined to do a deal. We read about Kenya etc and feel smug but the EU is not much better, indeed the democratic accountability is being demonstrated as so minimal it probably is encouraging dictators round the world. Apart from all the well known details Britain is in a unique position to highlight the anti-democratic and fundementally corrupt nature of the EU, we could even be seen to ask ourselves if this shameless mess is what we intended to bring to the continent on D Day.

I suspect Cameron and Hague are up for it but that the majority of the Conservative party and the country don't want the hastle.

(There is the little problem though that Brown doesn't have to take us further down the road to be a banana republic before we would have little moral clout.)

C.Hope 18.15 - Cameron's words reported on Sept 26 2007 were in expectation of an Autumn Election, which Brown bottled. Ratification will not occur until 2008.So it would have been a promise of a referendum before ratification. See also Hague's speech with specific reference to this at the last Conference - probably still on Conservatives.com

I can see why this is an issue that has to be handled carefully, but at the end of the day I think we must promise a referendum on the treaty, or at the very least say that we will never sign any more power to Europe without having a referendum. I suspect that this what the vast majority of party members and supporters want, and leaves us less vulberable to UKIP attack (after all in 2005 a few hundered UKIP votes cost us our chances of crossing the 200 seats mark). However at the end of the day, whatever decision is taken, the most important thing is for all in the party to accept our policy, however grudgingly, and to not attack it publically. We have had enough division over Europe in the last 20+ years.

Perdix - "in expectation of an autumn election"

Those words did not appear in The Sun nor did DC repudiate his promise.

If as Dick says we will never leave the eu then I might as well give up political activism and prepare for the civil war that is almost inevitable.

Kenneth Baxter:

It cannot be a question of not signing over any more power for two reasons:-

1 Too much power has already been signed over (eg fisheries and agriculture)

2 The constitution contains the ratchet clause which allows Brussels to take whatever further power it wants.

We have to stand firm now.

Andrew Lilico @1930.. The point of having a referendum when we'd won an election would be very simple - We would have promised one! (and less importantly we could wave the results around in the capitals of Europe)

Kenneth Baxter - This Constitution IS the over the top already so "no more" is meaningless and as jonnyboy points out there will never BE another treaty. They've fixed that!

Cameron's real test will be when the Treaty Bill passes through Parliament and receives Royal Assent. Until then, he can spout meaningless platitudes.

When Brussels starts to grab more powers without the need for further treaties, Tory Eurosceptic MPs will realise that EU reform is an illusion. They did not go into Parliament to merely rubber-stamp legislation from Brussels. Then we will have the real debate on EU membership - in the EU Super-State or out.


Would we have promised such a referendum? When did we do this, and why? Why on earth would we promise such a referendum instead of just promising to renegotiate? Other EU leaders wouldn't care about the result of a referendum called under these circumstances - it would be our internal affair!

jonnyboy 19.59 - A lot of headbangers on here who claim to be offended by Tory policy obviously do not know what's going on.
Go to Conservatives.com - Hague's speech at Conference on Oct 2 07 : " So let us be clear, a Conservative Government elected this autumn will hold a referendum on any EU treaty which emerges from the current negotiations". Couldn't be clearer!

Perdix - "elected this autumn". That's the problem, this autumn is now in the past tense. it's over - gone - it's history

Perdix @ 23:07

Hague speaks for DC?

I was in the hall when William spoke. Once upon a time he spoke honestly and did not rely on weasel words.

Back to my original point DC has never denied or equivocated over the Sun's quote. Whenever he is elected his first duty is to put the constitution to the electorate.

Equally he must remove our MEPs from the EPP otherwise my vote for him (and the others who gave him a majority) was solicited on a false promise.

jonnyboy and christina speight.

Thanks for your comments. Don't get me wrong, I agree with you that the constituion gives far too much power away and I think we should promise a the public a vote. I also think that there are many other powers that we have given away to the EU since 1973 that we should seek to take back.

Yet, at the same time I do not want a return the civil war over Europe that nearly destroyed us in the 1990s, because Britain needs a Conservative Government ASAP. I trust David Cameron and William Hague to take time to reflect and come to a decision on a policy that is good for the party and good for the UK and sincerely hope that all our MPs can unite behind their choice.

Happy New Year to all.

If the thinking of CCHQ is accurately reported here, then that's bad news. This is all political tactics -- but if the Conservatives believe that the European Consitution-in-the-form-of-the-Lisbon-Treaty is a fraud, and is very bad for the country (which it surely is), then, once in power, the Conservatives must tear it up. We must fundamentally renegotiate our relationship with the EU and the next Conservative government is the one to do it, thus restoring the damage done to the British body politic by the last Conservative government's ratification of the perfidious Treaty of Maastricht.

If the next Conservative government will simply accept the EU with its new Constitution and obediently continue to do Brussels's bidding, then quite frankly it doesn't matter much whether there is a Conservative goverment or not.

Happy New Year...

Goldie`s closing words are spot on. If we stay in the EU it makes no difference what kind of government we have. I want out of the EU and a Conservative Government- IN THAT ORDER.

We can govern ourselves; we did it successfully for hundreds of years.

A comment has been made here to the effect that the referendum promise was only in the expectation of an Autumn election. I disagree. Remember the poster put out to mark the non election? It had the referendum pledge on it. He continues to use the pledge despite no election having occured. The pledge on the poster was "A vote on the European Constitution".

"Brown's broken promise on the referendum is working politically for the Tories but voters aren't worried about the content of the Treaty: "

That's because the Conservatives, notably Hague, have miserably failed to raise the issue of what powers Brown is signing away. If they made a more intelligent and cogent argument Brown and Labour would be paying a much greater electoral price for their manifesto dishonesty, of offering a referendum then reneging on the contract they established with the electorate, than they are.

I am afraid to say the whisy washy Conservative campaign on this ( if you can call it a campaign )sums up much with what is wrong with Cameron’s conservatives, where there is a lack of passion, application, and detailed argument, basically you feel they are lazy, and really don't have their heart in it.

Look Labour are reneging on a manifesto promise they made to the electorate, they are doing this in order to sign away powers to Brussels, powers the electorate would never support to give away, if the Conservative politicians can’t get fired up about this and be chaffing at the bit to hold the Government to account, Conservative politicians should really ask themselves, as a new year audit, what the hell they are doing in Parliament and whether that’s the place where they want to be.

One thought, if it would be such a terrible thing for the Conservatives to revisit the Constitution when they get elected in a couple of years time as the EUphiles claim, then Brown is signing away much more than he claims, and they are trying to bind the hands of future Governments, in making that argument the EUphiles are making the case for a referendum to be held now.

Dave's article for The Sun - in its entirety - is here:


There is no caveat about a (2007) general election. Also, let's not forget that Dave is William's boss, not vice versa.

And if you think the EU is a marginal matter, one that Tories should not waste time debating, here's one example plucked from thousands to prove that it isn't: think back to when Michael Howard, while campaigning in the run-up to the 2005 general election, tried to pledge to limit immigration, which was a concern on the doorstop.

The Lisbon Treaty matters. Especially as it is self-amending - a "blank cheque" for more and more power. Many of the posters here understand the stakes. The others need to wake up sometime soon.

(Michael Howard was, for those who don't remember, told by Mr Barroso, the EU Commission President, that he - Howard - could promise no such thing because immigration was almost totally determined by Brussels. Anyone still think the EU is an irrelevance?)

"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"

Thats a pretty tight guarantee.

Anyway, having a post-ratification referendum is the height of silliness.

This is what a grown-up party should do. Cameron should explain, in clear but firm terms, what is so bad about the Lisbon Treaty. However, it's silly to do that, and quite impossible as well, to defend the status quo ante. If Lisbon is bad, which it is, then so was Nice, and Amsterdam, and of course Maastricht. None of these treaties was in our national interest. And the EU as it has grown is nothing short of a disaster for this country. Cameron needs to say that and make a promise to the British people he will enter into negotiations with the EU-partners to fundamentally re-negotiate our relationship. The result of those negotiations, which will be a new treaty between Great Britain, on the one hand, and the EU, on the other hand, will be subject to a referendum.

That is bold, that is manly, that is, quite frankly, appropriate.

And it would for ever cure two of Cameron's biggest problems: 1. the notion that is an empty, focus groupped, poll driven PR man who will say anything to get elected but has no convincitions and 2. All internal Tory problems re: EU.

This move would settle the matter once and for all.

It's the only right way to go about it.

A conservative "government" that simply accepts the EU as they find it on day-1 isn't worth the trouble.

I see the debate area is full of people who think that somehow the UK's relationship with the EU can be 'reformed'.

I have a message for them: it cannot be reformed. Ever. And that is precisely the point of the whole 'project EU'. The idea has been right from the start in 1957 to render useless national parliaments and transfer all legislative powers to a new aristocracy (a class of unelected EU-elites). As we can see, national parliaments have lost more than 80% of legislative powers already, and these powers now reside with the European Council and their Commission friends.

There is no reform, there is only 1 thing to do in order to restore parliamentary democracy: leave the EU asap.

We must leave now and traitors like Brown, Blair, Clarke and Heseltine need to be put on trial (after the treason laws are reimplemented).

All those who support the EU, oppose parliamentary democracy. Therefore all EU-philes are enemies of democracy.

"A comment has been made here to the effect that the referendum promise was only in the expectation of an Autumn election. I disagree. Remember the poster put out to mark the non election? It had the referendum pledge on it. He continues to use the pledge despite no election having occured. The pledge on the poster was "A vote on the European Constitution"

Spot on James;

Hard copies and PDFs of that poster will be used in key marginals.

There is absolutely no chance whatsoever of a post-ratification referendum.

It's highly unlikely that the Tories even in government would even try to renogotiate our terms of membership, only affect any future changes. If they did try, they would fail.

This is a good thing. It means that a Tory government can't screw up our membership of the EU, or the treaty which increases the power of national government and shrinks the commission.

You can argue til you are blue in the face, but you have a choice between an electable party, or a Europhobic one.

So, if you seriously want to leave the EU or renegotiate, vote UKIP. I believe their members share many of your other views.

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