The silly stunt pulled by the LibDems in Parliament yesterday was the ultimate cynical manoeuvre. The LibDems wish to break with their election promise of a referendum on the Constitution. They think demanding a referendum on In-Out will get them off the hook. They call for it knowing that the Labour Government and most Labour MPs are against it, so they know it cannot happen. Their refusal to vote for a referendum on the constitutional treaty is born of the knowledge that with all Conservatives voting in favour and some Labour rebels there would be an outside chance of gaining one. Clearly the LibDems don’t want a referendum on the constitutional treaty because they know the public would be very likely to vote it down. As we know, Lib Dems want the EU to have more powers and are enthusiasts for the new Treaty.
The difficulty with an In-Out referendum at the current juncture would be deciding what you were voting on. Would you be voting to stay in the current arrangement or would you be thinking ahead to the rather different position if the Lisbon Treaty is implemented in every country? It makes much more sense to have a referendum now on the big changes that Europe is proposing rather than on a Europe in transition. Some voters would vote ‘Yes’ to the current European Union, but ‘No’ to Europe after Lisbon has been implemented. Some voters would vote ‘No’ to any version of the European Union. Some would vote ‘Yes’ to the original Common Market. What Briatin needs is to have a referendum on Lisbon first. Assuming the British people voted ‘No’ to Lisbon there would then need to be a renegotiation. Once all that was known, we might then need a referendum on the result, of the renegotiaiton. That would be a vote on “Do you wish to stay in the EU on the revised terms, or would you rather pull out?”
No wonder people have so little confidence in modern political parties. Both Labour and the LibDems have broken their word. The LibDems have now behaved childishly and cynically, seeking a referendum they know they will never get. The public has every right to feel cheated by all those MPs who promised a refernedum on the Constitutional treaty, and who now refuse to vote for one. I look forward to voting for a referendum, as I promsied in 2005.