Tuesday, May 31

There will be a referendum in the UK

For the avoidance of any doubt I am of the view unequivocally that there will be a British referendum on the EU Constitution next year.

I stress this because comments made to me since my piece in The Northern Echo (31 May) have resulted a number of calls from 'fellow travellers' to check my position and query as to why I am stating the opposite to other eurosceptics; the reaction has been interesting.

As Churchill once said: ''I do not resent criticism, even when, for the sake of emphasis, it parts company with reality''.( House of Commons 22 Jan 1941)

Much of the past two days comment in the press and on the news and current affairs broadcasts is missing the key aspects of the 'fallout' from the French referendum result. Be under no misunderstanding, the decision to carry on with the ratification process is not one that can be made by any member state. Even Chirac knew that. It is "owned" by the European Council, which will meet on 16/17 June and then make its formal announcement.
As it stands, 24 of the 25 member states – the one exception being the UK – has already committed to continuing with ratification. And, as Thatcher found to her cost at Milan in 1985, a Council vote is carried by a simple majority.
On that basis, Blair will not submit himself to the humiliation of being outvoted and being instructed by the "colleagues" to continue with his referendum plans. He will therefore declare that it is his decision to carry on, in the "interests of democracy" after ''a period of consideration''.
That, in effect, will give him the moral high ground, because he will have decided to "listen to the people". It will give him "ownership" of the referendum, back footing the Tories who have been calling for it to be abandoned. Furthermore, a referendum on these terms could be winnable for the yes campaign!

Blair would simply say that, with the French out of the way, Britain could take the leadership of Europe. "Vote 'yes' for reform", would be the strong, and persuasive message.Perversely, that could also bring the French back on-side of the EU architects.
Under a new president in 2007, the message could be that the "Anglo Saxons are capturing Europe – we must get back in to rescue it".
For the moment, though, the managers of 'Europe' are looking to buy time, and the only option available to them, short of conceding defeat – which they cannot and will not do - is to continue with the ratification. That is why, even despite the expected Dutch "no" on Wednesday – which has already been discounted as not relevant - they will take this course of action.
Thus on 16 or 17 June, if not before, Blair will announce that the referendum will go ahead.Then the injunction given by Blair on 20 April 2004 to the House of Commons - as he announced his intention to hold a referendum - will really come alive: "Let the issue be put and let the battle be joined".

As those across the water, that have caused much of this dam problem, often say:
Liberte - Egalite - Fraternite.

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