I welcome the Referendum Bill proposed in the Queen’s Speech and welcome Labour’s conversion to it. It is better to go forward with the support of parties that attracted 81% of the vote between them for what is a crucial decision and vote of the UK electorate. We knew already that the referendum idea was far more popular than the Conservative party in the General Election, and some people voted Conservative primarily to get that referendum.
The dinner last night between the President of the Commission and the Prime Minister was also an important stepping stone on the way to the vote. I think it is a good idea that the PM gives trying to negotiate the best deal for the UK his best shot. I urge people from all sides of the debate to support him in doing so. If as UKIP argue there is no willingness to negotiate from the other side, then it makes winning a vote for Out that much easier as undecided voters will be swayed by the unhelpfulness and unreasonableness of the rest of the EU.
If, on the other hand, the rest of the EU sees that the UK has no wish to be drawn into the emerging political union, and wants a trade and business based relationship where we can co-operate and do things together that suit both sides, then that may be the easiest way of achieving the new relationship.
My bottom line is the UK needs to restore her democracy, so where the UK voters and Parliament wish to make a change or to decide a matter we can do so without interference or override from the EU. Today electors have signalled very clearly they want the UK to settle its own migration and benefits policy. So be it. Tomorrow it might be our energy policy or our criminal justice policy. If you want a democracy then Parliament has to be able to respond to the public mood, and needs the powers to take action to do so.
Many of us are fed up with being told that we cannot change things for the better or as the public wants because we have some old treaty commitment or legal requirement from Brussels. By the back door a long forgotten Parliament binds its successors, by adopting an EU policy which we cannot change.
The EU’s latest crisis is not just the pressure in the UK for a new deal, but also the opposition of the Greek people and government to Euro austerity, the coming opposition in Spain on a similar basis, and the rise of the National front in France demanding more power for French government. UK Conservatives have no love of these disparate forces on the continent, but at the highest level they do spring from a common problem, the lack of democratic accountability of the EU to national electorates, and the unpopularity of various EU policies. This year’s elections so far in Greece and the UK have posed differing challenges to the EU establishment. Spain has just done so in local elections and may do so in national elections later this year.
The EU would be wise to debate a solution with Mr Cameron, as some of the others may have more extreme demands.