Some thoughts on a EU referendum in the UK (scribbled down a couple of weeks ago – the debate is so annoying so I thought I should publish a couple of bullet points without turning it into a fully thought through article)
(1) First of all we should not fool ourselves: People that call for a referendum want to leave the EU.
I know there are people who argue differently and basically want to have ‘fresh consent’ for continued membership. But would they call for a referendum without the pressure from the ‘anti-EU’ camp? Why not call for a referendum on continued membership in NATO (it surely affects sovereignty)?
(2) Renegotiation will not please the Eurosceptics – precisely because it will be a compromise. If (1) is correct this is a non starter for many on the right. Plus the other 26 EU members do not want a renegotiation and the concessions that could be negotiated may not be enough to make the case for a “new settlement” – so promising a referendum on something you can’t deliver? Hardly a smart strategy.
(3) There is TEU Article 50 – so if you want to leave the EU why not initiate a vote in parliament. If parliamentary sovereignty is such an important constitutional feature of the country why not use it? Why a referendum?
(4) If you want to renegotiate your membership terms why don’t you just do it? Again, what about parliamentary sovereignty, why a referendum? Just because someone 10 years ago promised a referendum on a similar topic?
(5) British media and public debate will not allow a sensible debate on the EU – and that is a fact. No need to think otherwise. There is a constant anti-EU bias in most of the British media – and that also includes BBC. Nobody is interested in facts and in explaining how things work. And 2-3 decades of this sort of ‘debate’ has left the country in a state where a real debate is not possible anymore. And when even the government is too scared to publish a short note of congratulations on the EU’s Nobel Peace Prize – something is seriously wrong.
(6) There will only be losers: The outcome will be narrow whoever wins it. Imagine a 52% to 48% victory for the yes side – but what then? The debate will just continue. the “Eurosceptics” will work on another referendum or more opt-outs as it was a “considerable minority” and demand more special “safeguards” – and like any referendum in countries that don’t do referendums regularly there will be accusations about misleading campaigns, low turnout, campaign finances, media bias etc. Of course the same will be true if the no side wins it.
(7) What will happen to the EU referendum with an independent Scotland. Surely, a EU referendum cannot be held before Scotland votes on independence at the end of 2014. So why do we have this debate right now?
(8) So having established (7), there is a distinct possibility that it will be Labour’s call. And they seem to be utterly confused about the issue.
(9) I also agree with Nick (Clegg) here: Every step towards repatriation, renegotiation is a step towards the exit. But the key difference is that Nick is in government and I am not.
(10) to be continued…