A Mandate referendum for EU negotiations?

   On Saturday I spoke to Berkshire Conservatives at Englefield.

    The mood of the meeting welcomed Mr Cameron’s policy of negotiate and decide through a referendum, but many wanted him to go further. I suggested the Mandate referendum soon. It would ask voters “Do you want the UK government to negotiate a new relationship with the EU based on free trade and  political co-operation?”.

       I said I thought Conservative MPs could get it through the Commons if Conservative Ministers would join us. I doubt Labour would dare seek to vote it down, as iI suspect it would be very popular. The point of it would be to demonstrate to the  rest of the EU that they were dealing with the demands of the British people by substantial majority, not just the demands of the largest minority party in the Commons. It would be effectively binding on the next government, if negotiations had not been finished by 2015. It would make it difficult for Lib Dem Ministers in the Coalition to go on blocking renegotiation betwen now and 2015.

      I also explained that a group of Conservative MPs  are seeking to pre legislate the referendum on whether we stay in or out. I would also support that should it come to a vote.

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26 Comments

  1. Freeborn John
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I think the problem is that Cameron & Hague just don’t have any credibility left when it comes to the EU issue. The effect of delaying the ‘big speech’ so often, not following up in any way, making clear that Cameron intends to lead the ‘yes to eu’ campaign like some latter-day Ted Heath, and resisting even John Major’s urging to commence negotiations now with a statement that this cannot be done because the FCO are still conducting their ever-so-low review of EU competences, all adds up to a powerful signal that Cameron/Hague are long-grassing the issue until the next parliament when they will be heading up the wrong team alongside all the other EU federalists and drifters who allowed the EU takeover to go so far already. It is way too late for more gestures like a mandate referendum now. The patliamentary Conservative party need to ensure a real EU-sceptic is elected in 2015 prepared to lead the campaign to take Britain out of the EU. Otherwise you will lose the 2020 election just like 2015 and every other election since Maasricht.

  2. Dan H.
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    The problem here is that we’re not dealing with the people of the EU, but with a very small collection of lawyers at the top of it. The way to deal with lawyers is to examine the contract with a magnifying glass, and find the points in it where a deal can be forced.

    In the case of the Lisbon Treaty, we’re talking about Article 50. This specifies that the only way any renegotiation can take place is if an EU member state holds a referendum which decides to take that state out of the union. At this point, where the member state is metaphorically on the threshold on its way out, can renegotiations take place.

    Apart from this, no renegotiations can take place.

    Essentially this is definitely the way to go about things. Leave the EU in legal terms, then start negotiating with it from a default-deny position as a non-member state. This gives us the power; we can if negotiations falter simply say “Righty ho, we disagree. No deal. Bye-bye!” I strongly suspect that under conditions like this the EU will prove to be a pretty hopeless negotiator, simply because it won’t have the experience of talking to someone who can tell it to get lost if a deal isn’t favourable.

    • Nicol Sinclair
      Posted March 12, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

      Dan H. Oh! How much I agree with you. Article 50 sounds good to me.

  3. adams
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    lets have a referendum on a referendum on a r . . . . . . etc . now is not the time ,etc ,etc , etc Blah blah etc etc . Get out of the EU now . The LibLabCon clique no longer represent the British people . Only FPTP is keeping you people in Parliament John and even that is starting to unravel .

  4. Normandee
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I suspect you have a foot in 2 camps here, I accept that you are pro an EU exit, but I suspect this is a ploy to also support Cameron. Once again you, as are a huge amount of people, are stuck with loyalty to your party, and yet being keenly aware that this party might have to go under to achieve your first aim.
    Cameron has made it quite clear what he wants, and that is to stay in Europe, the promises and apparent changes before and since Eastleigh are purely to mollify people like you. He has lied before and he will lie again. This is all a blag to get him through the next GE then it will all change again, and all the time it’s time that is being eaten up. Distraction activity nothing more.

    Reply I am trying to find a way to mobilise the Eurosceptic majority I think does exist but which never wins elections.

  5. Fkc
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    In answer to the proposed question no no no . We just want out of the EU!

  6. frankie
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    We’re just pussy footing around as usual!

  7. Man of Kent
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    As someone pointed out the other day ,we are being offered a heavily constrained referendum to stay in by the PM, or a referendum to get out by many Tory Backbenchers and UKIP .

    There is a credibility gap with anything the PM promises ,so far as many of us are concerned.

    The only way to make the case is to vote for UKIP or Conservatives who are firmly in the ‘out asp’ camp .

    So ,were I in Bill Cash’ constituency [I am not] I would vote Conservative as I am in a Europhile Consevative constituency I will vote UKIP unless there is a change of heart.

    • P O Pensioner
      Posted March 13, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      So, the Europhile MP may well lose their seat due to Conservative voters either not voting, moving to UKIP or even voting Labour! Labour will be the winner in these seats and so the situation doesn’t change.

      I don’t think Europe will be the major concern amongst the majority of voters and therefore the defection to UKIP will happen but this will be predominently fed up Conservative members and other voters who would usually vote Conservative.

      The major issue at the next election will be the state of the economy as it always is. Labour certainly do not deserve to win the next election but a lot of people seem to think that Labour will be able to find the money to avoid cuts. Labour will look after their public service union friends and the state sector client voters. We could see a return to the problems Labour had in the seventies with public sector unions that led to the Labour Government going begging to the IMF and lead to the Winter of Discontent.

  8. David Saunders
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Cameron could never get this past the Quad, even if he wanted to, which is doubtful. The Quad gives Lib Dems 50% of the votes despite them having only 9% of electedMPs.

    Keep trying, JR, and good luck.

  9. Dan
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Keep it simple.
    We want a referendum, in or out, now..not four years time, maybe.
    That’s what’s I want you and your so-called eurosceptics to demand.

    If its a resounding no, we leave and take it from there.
    If its a yes, then we go, full hog into the EU.

    Reply We tried that – the British people did not elect a Parliament with a majority of that view.

    • Fedz
      Posted March 13, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      That’s why UKIP is now, so well positioned

  10. Peter Davies
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I think as Dan H points out no re negotiation from a member state is feasible – it sounds like someone buying time. The Lib Dems etc constantly moan about the UK not being democratic because the HOL is unelected yet they think giving the population a say on the EU is out of the question – these 2 positions just do not add up.

    Either you believe in democracy in which case you acknowledge that being dictated to by appointed lawyers and technocrats is anything but democratic or you just be honest and voice your belief that it is not a concept you believe in. Major did the same with Maastricht – it seems that they are all scared of the answer!

    • Peter Davies
      Posted March 12, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Get a grip of your junior partners and remind them of previous electoral promises to give an EU referendum which seems to have been omitted from their literature. Get them on side and this could be legislated for in this parliament or are we just waiting for the ship to sink?

  11. David Langley
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I think you will get a lot of posts on the practical impossibility of renegotiation. However, one could seek an interregnum of some kind whereby we are not bound by the contract we have signed eg the treaties binding us to the EU project. A time out where all outgoing funds are available for GB use only and no income from the EU is given. EU MEPs from GB would be paid and employed to work on the procedures for withdrawal and re establishment of those agreements specific to cooperation and approved by our Parliament in every detail. EU countries refusing cooperation because we have removed ourselves from the EU dynamic would I suspect be few. This time period would be not less than a year and could be extended if some procedures needed more time to be documented.
    All EU rules, directives and orders would be tabled but effectively ignored for the period of the Interregnum.

    All of the EU countries are aware of the special resistance to being part of a undemocratic and federal project GB is demonstrating. This relationship is seen as being antagonistic rather than a natural expression of our own cultural and historic values.

    There should be at the planned end of the Interregnum a referendum of the British people, who will have enjoyed a brief period of being “outside the EU”. The implications of a return to closed borders, the end of unrestricted movement both ways, and the business case (suspension of EU fishing rights, CAP etc) would have thrown up many realisations. The end of the effect of the ECHR which could be attached to the interregnum would also be examined and our own bill of rights published and compared. The return of security and our rights as a sovereign country enforced exclusively by our own government would demonstrate our fitness to return to our own democracy.

    There is no doubt that this exercise would be expensive initially, and would require hard work and cooperation by all parties. The decision to fully commit to EU membership would be examined and understood by all of us, as this real time out would bring the facts into every home in GB. Should we wish to return then so be it we have to fully enter and no more quibbles and lets get out policies. A full blooded membership with eager participation would be the order of the day. Otherwise we will continue to forge ahead setting our own targets and goals and aware of the real need to achieve them.

  12. Andy
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I am still not convinced that David Cameron will ever support an in out referendum. Like many Tory voters the more David speaks the more I believe he is not a Euro sceptic

  13. Timaction
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood isn’t this to little too late? How much longer can the LibLab Con continue with the charade when the vast majority of the public are sick to the back teeth of the EU, its costs, its immigration, its jobs lost to foriegners, its wage control through the back door, its fishing policies, its agricultural policies, its regulatory control freakery, free health, housing and education to millions of foreigners. There is nothing we need from the EU. The game is up, we do not need to be in the EU to TRADE with it. China, USA, Japan, Korea, the BRIC’s are not in it! It is and has always been about political closer union by stealth to create a superstate encouraged by the mainstream political parties to hoodwink the electorate. Please advise your leaders that the age of the internet stops their deceipt and allows parties like UKIP to bring truth and integrity into the debate.

    Reply But so far it has brought no UKIP MPs into Parliament. I have to work with the Parliament the people elect, not with a fictional parliament of different views that you like.

    • P O Pensioner
      Posted March 13, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      UKIP is a one issue party. When it becomes abundently clear to the two main parties that getting out of Europe is an election winner I think they will change their direction pretty quickly leaving UKIP without any USP.

    • Fedz
      Posted March 13, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      This is about to change……….dramatically!

  14. Tad Davison
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps if the Lib Dems were made to realise that they could do so much more for the people they purport to champion, namely the poor and the vulnerable, by coming out of Europe, they might see sense and vote the right way. As things stand, their position is incompatible with their stated objectives, and that goes for nearly all of the Labour party, and far too many so-called Tories.

    We need a firm policy on Europe that gives priority to the British interest. The one I most favour, is the only policy that will deliver that with absolute clarity and certainty – withdrawal. We simply don’t need to be the provider all the time, as in 39 of the last 40 years, and our businesses would do much better without the plethora of burdensome regulations the EU brings with it.

    Britain needs to compete globally to have any real future. Whilst all these protectionist EU laws and regulations might seem fine to some, it’s not exactly allowing us to compete on a level playing field in the grander scheme of things. Others are forging ahead. I have just bought a fantastic new camera, made in China. I would have preferred to have bought British, but we haven’t a hope in hell of ever competing with China because we are held back and restrained by the EU, the very thing that the Europhiles said would make us prosperous.

    Things have to give, because we can’t depend upon service industries and banking indefinitely. I am all for the emancipation of enterprise, and making our economy as broadly-based as it possibly can be, but that can’t happen whilst we are forced to swim against the tide with a millstone around our necks.

    To those who are still wedded to the belief that being a part of the EU is our only viable option, I say please reconsider. Show me the evidence, because thus far, you have roundly lost the intellectual argument!

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

  15. James Sutherland
    Posted March 12, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Forcing it to a vote – whatever the outcome – could be useful: the Lib Dems may be Europhile enough to discard their own commitment to a referendum lightly, but the Conservative party fell just 19 seats short of a majority in 2010; coincidentally, 19 Labour MPs defied their three-line whip and voted for a referendum last time, as did two others (1 Green, 1 LD).

    If the Conservative whip went the right way this time, even Labour repeating their three-line whip as effectively as last time (i.e. just 19 rebels) would cover the gap. If few Conservatives rebel *against* a referendum this time, it wouldn’t take much movement from the Labour side, even if the Lib Dems remain as vehemently opposed as last time.

    The last vote was really an empty gesture, given the leadership pressure in all parties, but many MPs still voted for it even against strong whipping. With higher stakes – i.e. a real possibility of winning the vote – wouldn’t more want to make a stand, whip or no whip?

  16. David Langley
    Posted March 13, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I am a little saddened that my post on an interregnum has been ditched. New ideas are better than none at all.

  17. David Langley
    Posted March 13, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    This is weird, as soon as I posted my little moan it appeared.

  18. David Langley
    Posted March 13, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Your comment on the fact that UKIP has no MPs is obvious and not a problem. The UKIP vote demonstrates that it is policies not parties that motivate our country and achieve the popular vote. The age of Tories, Labour, Liberal and yes even UKIP is over. The medieval structure of our democracy is failing.
    I would consider it an honour to be elected wage free to a new and smaller parliament where the governing body considered demands from Local government. Decisions would be ratified by new voting methods for the electorate who daily demonstrate that they are “Tapped in” through the array of social media. Little government from the centre is best, we can ditch the HOL and all the other useless committees and quangos. Strip the meritocracies down to bare essentials and use the released energy to drive our commercial sector upwards. Vast amounts of wasted money could be released to local government to drive local democracy and social structures now being dismantled under the banner of austerity. Why should after all these years the British public suffer from mismanagement by basically crooks sponging off us through “Working the system”. None and poor oversight through confusion and government obfuscation reigns.
    All the recent cases of crooked MPs etc reflect the smoke and mirrors mentality that pervades the structure of government.

  19. Posted March 13, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    ” We tried that – the British people did not elect a Parliament with a majority of that view.”

    Mr Redwood until your party do something about your leadership and change its clear policy of staying in the EU please do not blame the British people, as we can only vote for the things in the party manifestos.

    I for one will not vote for any party which stands on a platform of staying in the EU no matter what my local MP might say. The Conservatives have used up all the trust they are going get, and whilst we remain in the EU it really does not matter who sits in No 10.

    So I beg you please decide what your party stands for and then let us know.

  20. Duncan
    Posted March 13, 2013 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I, like just about all my friends, want an IN / OUT referendum soon – and certainly BEFORE the next election.

    In the meantime I now support UKIP.

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  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood has been the Member of Parliament for Wokingham since 1987. First attending Kent College, Canterbury, he graduated from Magdalen College, and has a DPhil from All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.
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