The new European Treaty
On 2 August the new European Treaty was published in English and it will be evident that the Euro sceptics have been talking nonsense. In the past 35 years, since Britain, Ireland and Denmark applied to join, the European Union has grown from 6 members to 27. A club which grew that fast would be considered very successful and popular. It would almost certainly need to revise its rules; for the Union to function effectively and efficiently it is of critical importance. The Treaty is pragmatic and sensible and devised to deal with the current situation – a very British way of evolving. To suggest that a referendum is needed is simply a way for opponents of British membership to create confusion and delay the essential process of reform – a process increasingly vital to deal with global problems far beyond the capacity of individual states to resolve.
Referendum or not? Lady Thatcher, commenting on the 1975 referendum, said that referenda were not the British way of doing things. Indeed they are not or the whole raft of constitutional propthat have been put forward over the past decade, including the reform of the House of Lords – a constitutional matter if ever there was one – would have been subjected to referenda.
Two former Prime Ministers, Lady Thatcher and John Major agreed to much greater changes in the Single Europe Act and the Maastricht Treaty that are in the Treaty published today. It was, therefore, very surprising to hear William Hague, a former Tory leader, demanding a referendum on radio
What will the Treaty do for the UK? In fact this Treaty is good for Britain. It improves the functioning of institutions, and increases their accountability to the member states and to the elected European Parliament. Britain will receive extra votes in the Council of Ministers, and Parliamentary scrutiny of legislation will be enhanced. National Parliaments will be given prior information about proposed legislation and that should surely be welcomed in Britain, where Parliament has long argued for the chance to debate decisions before they are agreed inter-governmentally. The Treaty proposes that the cumbersome system of a six month presidency will be replaced by the much more sensible proposal to allow the heads of government to choose someone to chair their meetings for over two years.
Limits UK sovereignty? Britain belongs to a number of international organisations such as NATO, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank, all of which limit our sovereignty to a greater and lesser degree.
The fact is that the demand for a referendum on the Treaty is supported by a well funded organisation of Euro sceptics, which receives very little support at elections from the British public. Some of the media support them because they are viscerally anti-European, others run it as a good anti Government story that doesn’t need to be checked. But the British public should not be deceived by this. If the sceptics want Britain to leave the Union, they should say so. Arguing for a referendum is simply twisting reality for their own ends. It is our future and that of our children and grandchildren which matters and this Treaty is sensible and positive for Britain.