The European Union Referendum Bill

On Tuesday the Commons completed the Referendum Bill by accepting some of the Lords amendments and dismissing their wish to change the franchise from the General election one. I reproduce my speech below (from Hansard) as it may be of wider interest:

John Redwood: I put my name to the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) because I thought that Lords amendments 5 and 6 were ill considered and unwise, and that we needed to debate them for that reason.

Lords amendment 5 is easy to deal with and I have no particular problem with it, because it states the obvious—namely that, when the negotiations have been completed, the British Government should share their view of the outcome of those negotiations with Parliament and the people. Well, of course they will: it will happen naturally. There will be a statement, and I dare say there will be a written text as well. I therefore think that the amendment is an unnecessary addition to what was a simpler Bill before their lordships got hold of it.

Lords amendment 6 is far more worrying, because it is so sloppily drafted and because it leads to all sorts of arguments that are properly arguments for a referendum campaign rather than for good legislation to set up the referendum. The first part of the amendment says that the Government must publish information about the

“rights, and obligations, that arise under European Union law”

from our current membership. As has already been remarked, if that were done properly it would result in a very long book, given that we are now subject to so many legal restrictions and obligations as a result of an extremely voluminous consolidated treaty and thousands of directives. I think that to fulfil that remit properly, the Government would have to set out all the directives, and explain to the British people why there are now very large areas of law and public practice that we in the House of Commons are not free to determine as we see fit and as the people wish. While that might be a useful thing to do, I fear that the Government might fall short because they might not wish to give a comprehensive list of our obligations, and it is not good law to invite people to do things that they do not really intend to do.

I look forward to hearing the Minister clarify whether he will be publishing a full list of the thousands of legal restraints that now operate on this Parliament in preventing us from carrying out the wish of the British people, and also on the British people, who must obey these laws as they are translated into British law, or else obey the directly acting laws. Of course, all these laws, and our own laws, can be construed by European justice through the European Court of Justice, which, rather than this court of Parliament, is now the true sovereign in our country because we have submitted ourselves to the ultimate judgment of the European Court.

Sir William Cash (Stone) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend attach the importance that I attach—and the Electoral Commission itself has attached—to the fact that the reports proposed by Lords amendments 5 and 6 should be produced on the basis of both impartiality and accuracy? We remember the review of competences: it was a whitewash. If these reports were anything like that, we would be significantly misleading the public, would we not?

John Redwood: Indeed. That is why I share my hon. Friend’s concern about Lords amendment 6, and fear that the Government might fall short of the full remit. Will they spell it out to people that we cannot control our own borders, our own welfare system, our own energy system and energy pricing, our own market regulations, our own corporation tax or our own value added tax, because all those matters have been transferred to the superior power of the European Union? That should be the very substance of the referendum debate about whether we wish to restore the full sovereignty of Parliament for the British people, or whether we wish to continue on the wild ride to political union that the EU has in mind, which will mean that even more powers are taken away.

The second part of Lords amendment 6 states that the Government must set out

“examples of countries that do not have membership of the European Union but do have other arrangements with the European Union (describing, in the case of each country given as an example, those arrangements).”

I have not read or heard anything so woolly for a long time. The amendment refers to all the countries that are not in the European Union but have some kind of arrangement with the European Union without even specifying a trade arrangement, although the Opposition seem to think that it relates to trade.

The Opposition try to perpetuate the myth that our businesses and people would be able to trade with the rest of the European Union only if we resubmitted ourselves to some of the powers of that Union through some kind of arrangement like those entered into by Norway and Switzerland. Have they not heard that America is a mighty trading partner of the European Union that does not have one of these special trading arrangements, and certainly does not pay a contribution to the European Union in order to sell goods and services to it—nor does China, nor does India, nor does Canada, and nor does Australia— and have they not heard that some individual countries have free trade agreements with the European Union which are arguably better than the arrangement that we have as members of the EU, because they do not have to pay anything like the very large levies and contributions that we must pay for the privilege of trading from within the internal market?

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): My right hon. Friend is making a powerful point. On the basis of what he has said, the debate will be about how “arrangements” will be defined in the report, and, indeed, that could potentially be open to challenge.

John Redwood: That is another reason why I am very worried for the Government. I do not wish them to get into legal trouble over this sloppy drafting.

Those of us who have decided that we wish to leave the European Union have been invited to predict what the Leave campaign will announce when it is finally recognised and officially up and running. I think it would be pretty safe to say that we will not want to recommend either the Norwegian or the Swiss model, because, in our view, the United Kingdom is a far bigger country with a different set of relationships around the world, and one that will have senior membership of the world’s main bodies including the World Trade Organisation. We therefore think that there will be a British solution to our relationship with the European Union, which will not, for example, include paying any contributions to that Union in the way that we currently have to.

Peter Grant (Glenrothes) (SNP): The right hon. Gentleman has given examples of a number of countries that he would not want Britain to be like in the event of an EU exit. Will he give an indication of the countries that he would like us to resemble more? That might help the Government to decide which countries we should be compared to in the information that they publish. It is easy to say who we are not going to be like; will the right hon. Gentleman tell us who he thinks we should be like?

John Redwood: I have already done that. When the hon. Gentleman studies the report of the debate—if he is still interested—he will see that I have dealt with exactly that point with great clarity.

There will be a British answer, but it will be closer to the answer of those countries that trade very successfully with the European Union without accepting the need to pay money into the EU by way of special contribution, and without having to accept great legal impositions. Of course, anyone who trades with the European Union must meet its standards in respect of the goods and services that it wishes to buy, just as when we trade with the United States of America, we must accept its standards for the goods that we wish to sell to it. However, that does not mean having to enter into a common Government arrangement of any kind, and it does not mean having to pay special taxes in order to trade, because most of the world trades perfectly successfully with the European Union countries without having to do any such thing.

I hope that the Minister will appreciate that those of us who are on the Leave side have read the words that the Lords have actually written, rather than the words that the Opposition wish the Lords had written, and have noted their vagueness. It would, I think, be extremely foolish to specify the Norwegian example—which is not an example that anyone I know wishes to copy— rather than considering some of the larger countries, Commonwealth countries and others that have perfectly good trading arrangements. It would also be wrong of the Government, in answering this exam question, to confine themselves to the issue of trade, given that trade is mentioned nowhere in the draft law that is before us. We do need to consider the political arrangements that we have with EU countries, through NATO and so forth; we need to consider such matters as pipeline agreements, aviation agreements, and all those other arrangements that are clearly covered by this sloppily drafted piece of law.

My final worry with this clause is its asymmetry. The Opposition have shown us how they wish it to be asymmetric. They wish the leave side in the referendum to hypothesise about what our relationship with the EU will look like in two or three years’ time, whereas they do not seem to think it is incumbent upon the “stay in” side to similarly hypothesise. I would not mind betting that there will be even more change if we stay in, because if we vote to stay in, the rest of the EU will take that as an excuse to demand that the UK conform to many more parts of the Union than we are currently prepared to.

We know from the Five Presidents’ Report of the EU published this summer that as soon as our referendum is out of the way by 2017, they wish to press on with their move to capital markets union, full banking union and, above all, political union. We on the Leave side will be asking those who want to stay in to describe to us how Britain would relate to the political union and the very much stronger union generally which the euro members envisage. We should be in no doubt that the euro members wish to use the institutions of the EU as a whole for their own purposes, and it would be very difficult for Britain to be alongside but only half in—in the EU but not in the euro.

I would therefore like to see a symmetrical request. It is important to spell out what staying in looks like, as I believe that staying in is a wild ride to political union. That may not be possible or to the Minister’s liking when dealing with this clause and whether we leave it as it is, but I can assure him that it will be a very important part of the referendum campaign from the leave side.


  1. Lifelogic
    December 10, 2015

    Keep up the good work on this. Rather too much detail for me to have the time to study it and comment usefully.

    When is this referendum finally likely to take place do you think?

    Will it be before they finally give a go ahead to Heathrow. Yet more idiot, political and economically damaging dithering I see. Get on with one and Heathrow and Gatwick now please. I think we can be sure it will be well before Osborne ever keeps his £1M IHT promise as he shows no sign of ever keeping that promise to the electorate.

    1. Lifelogic
      December 10, 2015

      When (as is now abundantly clear) Cameron comes back with the nothings that he has asked for and (as look quite likely) the odds are the UK will indeed vote for Brexit will Cameron:
      a. Find a way to rat/delay on his referendum promise as he did with his Cast Iron promise – as would be true to form.
      b. Finally see the light and lead the campaign for Brexit or
      c. Lead the IN campaign and then resign when he loses.
      d. Lead the IN campaign, lose but not resign and but fail to act on the result perhaps holding another revised one after suitable new concessions?

      1. JoeSoap
        December 10, 2015

        a. has to be favourite, closely followed by d. as a fall back position.
        In the event of a NO there will of course be a re-re-negotiation and a new referendum where there are 2 options-stay in with the old arrangement or stay in with the new one.

      2. Leslie Singleton
        December 10, 2015

        One gathers that Cameron has said that he believes in the long term future of the EU. Is he extracting the urine or what? What a leader for leaving he would be. And apparently he is doing the rounds of the Eastern European countries (whatever they are) begging for his already risible requests to be granted, no doubt after even more dilution. God help us that we should have sunk so low as to have signed treaties allowing us to be so disdainfully vetoed, but billed in the last case by the likes of Peter Hain as just a tidying up. We deserve all we get.

    2. Ben Kelly
      December 10, 2015

      Keep up the good work on this. Rather too much detail for me to have the time to study it and comment usefully.

      Yet you still felt compelled to write and reply to yourself.

      This site would be much more informative if we could apply a filter to your postings. One a day containing all your musings would suffice @LL

      1. matthu
        December 10, 2015

        Better to recuse yourself than to comment at length without having an informed opinion.

        And by the way, I appreciate Lifelogic’s contributions which provoke debate and add considerable value to this blog.

  2. Richard1
    December 10, 2015

    Off topic but could we have a bit of focus in the BBC on ‘bullying’ in the Labour Party. A good place to start would be the hounding of individuals such as Lord McAlpine and Lord Brittan by Tom Watson MP.

    1. DaveM
      December 10, 2015

      R1, the BBC is too busy making the immigration crisis look like a triumphant, monumental piece of heroic history to bother with that.

      There are literally thousands of these poor people to interview, but they’re doing their best to talk to them all.

      I look forward to seeing the first interviews with natives of Lesbos and Munich.

  3. Mick
    December 10, 2015

    Good morning Mr Redwood can you please tell me if this is true “Peers have a final “nuclear” option available to them, which would be to refuse to pass the referendum bill at all, by passing a “motion to adjourn consideration” until the end of the parliamentary session.

    Such a move would see no amendments return to the Commons, and the entire bill lost.

    1. Dennis
      December 10, 2015

      Is this really a very silly question so that no answer is required? – even by one or two words?

    2. Denis Cooper
      December 10, 2015

      I think in that case the Commons would invoke the Parliament Acts.

      Page 5:

      “The Lords are deemed to have rejected a bill if they do not pass it, either without amendment or with such amendments only as are acceptable to the Commons. The effect of the Parliament Acts is that the Lords have power to delay enactment of a public bill until the session after that in which it was first introduced and until at least 13 months have elapsed from the date of second reading in the Commons in the first session.”

      Thereafter the Bill can be sent for Royal Assent without the consent of the Lords, which is reflected in a different introductory statement from the usual one:

      “Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949, and by authority of the same, as follows: -“

      1. matthu
        December 10, 2015

        I guess that would be the intention i.e. to make it clear that the whole referendum thingy has no support from within the establishment and the possibility of leaving the EU should not be seriously entertained.

        Unfortunately, further obstruction by peers would serve only to rile the electorate more: the elite have already fallen into disfavour and more so the longer they delay.

        1. Denis Cooper
          December 11, 2015

          The unelected legislators-for-life in the Lords are of course immune to the disfavour of the electorate, unless it gets the point where there is enough pressure for radical reforms to be forced through.

  4. rick hamilton
    December 10, 2015

    Excellent speech as always by JR.

    After decades of British governments handing over our sovereignty to the EU, I wonder what is wrong with our politicians on the ‘Remain’ side. Are they really so insecure and weak-kneed that they actually want to pay a massive annual premium for appointed bureaucrats in Brussels to order around our elected governments ? Don’ t they have the guts to stand on their own feet and run the country better than it is run under Brussels?

    I sometimes wonder if it is just too much trouble for them and their civil servants, too much wearisome paperwork, too much technical reading, too much attention to detail to face up to the reality of Brexit. Far easier to let Brussels agonise over the labelling of jam, recycling of cardboard, etc etc – and concentrate their own minds on playing the political game in the Westminster bubble.

    And by the way, how is ‘votes for children’ coming along?

  5. Mike Stallard
    December 10, 2015

    The point about asymmetry is outstanding. Well said! You are one of the very few commentators who has seen this and you need a pat on the back for that!
    “It would, I think, be extremely foolish to specify the Norwegian example—which is not an example that anyone I know wishes to copy— rather than considering some of the larger countries, Commonwealth countries and others that have perfectly good trading arrangements.”
    I wonder how you intend to leave though? We need to apply Article 50 which will prevent the negotiations dragging on and on (as they have done in the case of TTIP and also the Swiss) and Article 50 sets a 2 year limit on negotiations.
    During that time – and during that time only – surely we need to join EFTA and the EEA so that our trading and prosperity are not interrupted?
    I am so pleased to see that you are so clued up and that you really have a sensible and coherent agenda. All power to your elbow!

  6. alan jutson
    December 10, 2015

    All points well made.

    Thank you.

    Has the request/idea/proposal to allow 16 – 17 year olds to vote been squashed yet John ?

    Reply Yes

    1. Denis Cooper
      December 11, 2015

      But it is coming back, the Lords are planning another go at it.

      1. alan jutson
        December 11, 2015

        Dennis Cooper

        “…the Lords are planning another go….”

        Thats what I have seen reported, with Labours help.

        Me thinks The Other Place, is getting rather too big for its boots of late.

        1. Denis Cooper
          December 11, 2015

          They are entitled to propose amendments to Bills, and I have no problem with that. My problem is with their composition.

  7. Ian wragg
    December 10, 2015

    Its becoming increasingly clear that the pro EU (the majority) of MP’S wish to muddy the waters as much as possible before the referendum. Using FUD and outlandish assertions that it will be doom and gloom if we exit the EU.
    Nothing that Brussels touches works but still they cling to nurse like some demented being.
    When history is written I would like to know why particularly in Britain we attract such a low quality politician.
    listening to Liz Truss I was amazed at her assertions that everything bad was due to climate change and everything good was a result of her departments policies.

    1. forthurst
      December 10, 2015

      “When history is written I would like to know why particularly in Britain we attract such a low quality politician.”

      Obviously to be a member of this government requires either a low level of intelligence or low moral fibre or preferably both. The situation cannot change without a new fairer electoral system based on proportional representation, allowing higher calibre individuals to form themselves into newer parties which understand the needs of the English people and have the courage and nous to deliver.

      It is hard not to conclude that we have been governed at least for tweny years by outright traitors for whom, rather than the English people whom they were elected to serve, the interests of certain minories were made paramount, otherwise their foreign and domestic policies would make no sense.

  8. Old Albion
    December 10, 2015

    You don’t think that those who seek to ‘remain’ are trying to create a smokescreen do you?

    1. alan jutson
      December 10, 2015

      Old Albion

      The smoke screen you speak of seems to be blinding their own eyes to reality and fact.

      Surely they are not unaware of the huge number of Countries which trade with the EU without making any sort of financial contribution.
      If they are that blind, or unaware, then that would be a reasonable explanation of their total and utter incompetence and ignorance of the real facts.

  9. Denis Cooper
    December 10, 2015

    I happened to see your speech live, JR, and commend it for its usual high standard.

    However I am genuinely puzzled why the first amendment from the Lords to permit 16 and 17 year olds to vote was held to “engage financial privilege”, apparently meaning that the Commons were forced to either accept it or reject it on that ground of extra cost alone, and “not offer any further Reason, trusting that this Reason may be deemed sufficient” in their message to the Lords, while the other Lords amendments were not held to “engage financial privilege” even though the compilation of these various reports would obviously involve extra cost, and indeed I recall that Harriet Harman once brushed off a question from Douglas Carswell about the number of EU laws imposed upon us by simply saying that “This information could be provided only at disproportionate cost”.

    Commons Hansard, April 19th 2006, Column 698W:

    I understand that this is decision taken by the clerks, not by the government or even by the Speaker:

    but it all seems mighty peculiar to me, especially as the Money Resolution passed in June to approve expenditure on the referendum did not specify any sum or budget.

    As I have said, I am firmly against allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in this referendum, but just £6 million of extra cost is a really feeble argument against doing that.

    Reply Because as a financial matter it has privilege and the Lords cannot pursue it further.

    1. Denis Cooper
      December 10, 2015

      If allowing younger people to vote is to be treated as a financial matter then why is compelling civil servants to use public resources preparing and issuing reports not also treated as a financial matter?

      In 2006 Harriet Harman told Douglas Carswell that the work needed to establish the number of EU laws imposed on this country would entail “disproportionate cost”, but now the work needed to set out all the “rights, and obligations, that arise under European Union law” – a somewhat larger task, as you indicate – would apparently entail no cost at all, whether “disproportionate” or not, and so that does not “engage financial privilege”.

      And why does the Money Resolution passed back in June:

      to authorise the expenditure of unspecified sums “for the purposes of any Act resulting from the European Union Referendum Bill” not already cover any extra costs which might arise because the original Bill is amended during its passage through Parliament to become an Act, that “any Act resulting”?

      None of it makes much sense.

  10. Graham
    December 10, 2015


    Well done for politely pointing out the weak nature of the proposals. It does highlight just how little intelligent thinking has (is) gone into this vital matter by our so called rulers.

    Let’s hope that fact overcomes dogma in the home straight.

  11. Douglas Carter
    December 10, 2015

    ‘It is important to spell out what staying in looks like…’…

    Yes it is, and this has been a personal hobby-horse in the debate for some time. Among my paperwork close to hand somewhere is a reply letter from David Lidington on the matter of eight months ago or so. It’s also a corollary of a matter thrown up in the Scottish Referendum where Alistair Darling demanded of the ‘Yes’ Campaign that they publicise a ‘Plan B’, and were under an obligation to do so well in advance of the Referendum polling day. It was a sentiment which both David Cameron and George Osborne, and the Labour front bench at that time were prepared to endorse publically.

    The identification of what the EU will ( *WILL* ) look like after the Referendum day must be accurate, and must be presented before the electorate well in advance of the poll itself. If it later transpires the description to hand was inaccurate, or bereft of critical detail, or was subject to almost immediate transient measures subsequent to adoption, then this referendum would achieve nothing for the ‘remain’ lobby.

    It’s worth noting that once again, Labour are wheedling out of the debate. Almost absent from the debate in the HoC on Tuesday, their position publically is to remain out of the ‘reform\renegotiation’ aspect and want to highlight ‘the broader case for the EU’. In other words, a similar woolly ideal plucked from fluffy clouds, rather than engage properly and honestly with the detail. No matter how frequently Labour figures wish to ‘make the case for Europe’, when given the opportunity to do so, they quickly absent the Battlefield.

  12. Tom William
    December 10, 2015

    While I agree that the “Norway solution” is not where we want to end up, how do we actually manage departure from the EU, given the thousands of legal and international agreements to which we are now subject without massive disruption and/or legal penalties?
    Some people see the Norway solution as a stepping stone to later real independence. Others suggest the Owen Paterson solution of unilaterally leaving after invoking Article 50 but simultaneously adopting all EU legislation as the law of an independent UK and then, over time, repealing what we do not like.

    The actual manner of departure is as important in winning the argument as the destination.

    1. Richard1
      December 11, 2015

      You are quite right. People will only focus on this issue quite late in the campaign. They will be inundated with scares from the Stay campaign that leaving is a leap into the unknown and a threat to investment and jobs. Leave only have a hope of winning if there are clear and simple steps as to what will happen next and where that will take us. Otherwise Project Fear wins hands down.

      1. Mitchel
        December 11, 2015

        And no doubt the financial markets,which as we know are easily manipulated,will be used to further scare us if the polls suggest OUT in the run up.

  13. David Murfin
    December 10, 2015

    The EU Referendum debate frustratingly reminds me of the kinds of problems we were required to solve in our classical mechanics course when I did a physics degree some 50 years ago.
    Consider for example launching a marble with some specified speed and direction into a hemispherical bowl rotating on a turntable at a slowly decreasing rate. It is no mean task to predict the precise trajectory of the marble as it whizzes round, but on general principles you know full well it where it will finish up – still, at the bottom of the bowl.
    There are similarly predictable consequences if our laws are made by those we do not elect and who are separated from us at great distance both by geography and background. Some of these can be seen emerging in the way the EU is dealing now with issues about borders and migration.

  14. Denis Cooper
    December 10, 2015

    “and dismissing their wish to change the franchise from the General election one.”

    And also dismissing my wish to change the franchise to exclude all those foreign citizens – Irish and Commonwealth – who are allowed to vote in our general elections.

    Supposedly the purpose of this referendum is ascertain the wishes of the British people – that is what is repeatedly said – not the wishes of the British people plus sundry foreigners who happen to be living here at the moment.

    I am against allowing children to vote, but to be honest as a matter of principle I would rather give the vote to British citizens at an earlier age than give it to foreign citizens who have no duty of allegiance to this country or loyalty to its people.

    I expect, JR, that you will be aware of stories about the damage which would be done to the economy of the Irish Republic if the UK left the EU, and while there may well be no real foundation to those stories I think we can still guess which way most of the 345,000 (?) Irish citizens eligible to vote in our elections will be inclined to vote.

  15. bigneil
    December 10, 2015

    “The Referendum bill?” – – -It’s going to cost the taxpayer billions -in more ways than one – simple as that.

  16. acorn
    December 10, 2015

    The EU is currently in secret negotiation with the USA to implement TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) and Canada to implement CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). You will be aware that this is likely to contain the embryo for converting the planet from a collection of “Nation” states, into “Corporate” states, namely ISDS.

    “Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement (ISDS): Foreign investors (i.e. Canadian and US companies) receive the right to sue for damages if they believe that they have suffered losses because of laws or measures of the EU or of individual EU member states. This can also affect laws which were enacted in the interest of the common good, such as environmental and consumer protection.” (HT:

    The WTO is threatening the US with a $billion of sanctions for its “country of origin labels” on meat. The US will ignore this in the same manner as it does not recognise any supra national body or Court. In addition, the IMF has announced its new policy: “We only enforce debts owed in US dollars to US allies.”

    What was simmering as a Cold War against Russia, is turning into a full-blown division of the world into the Dollar Bloc (with its satellite Euro and other pro-U.S. currencies) and the BRICS or other countries not in the U.S. financial (i.e: IMF) and military (i.e: World Bank) orbit.

    JR; where would the UK government stand after Brexit on this matter? Will the UK end up in a Bugger’s Muddle, that is, out of the EU but not being able to tell the difference from staying in the EU?

    Also, I note there are some 5,000 pieces of primary legislation and about 75,000 pieces of secondary legislation, across the four countries of the UK. How long do you think it will take to review and re-draft that lot, to remove alien EU clauses?

    But, I may join you in the “Leave” lobby. I can’t see any politically possible way to re-engineer the Eurosystem, without one federal Treasury replacing nineteen; and, one federal Central Bank replacing twenty.

    1. Denis Cooper
      December 11, 2015

      I haven’t heard about that new IMF policy; please could you give a link?

      1. Mitchel
        December 11, 2015

        I don’t have a link but it concerns Ukraine and its outstanding debt to Russia due end of this month and the possibility of default.

  17. formula57
    December 10, 2015

    All the points you made are very sound and the Government should take them. Thank you for your efforts on behalf of us all.

    Why does the Government need tutoring in this way? Can it not find sufficiently competent ministers?

  18. oldtimer
    December 10, 2015

    Spot on.

  19. Bert Young
    December 10, 2015

    In any argument it is always best to consider both sides , so I was pleased to note that our host made this point very clear in the debate . As it stands we no longer have a democracy since we are completely submissive to whatever has been decided in Brussels . Our lives have become a mockery to bureaucracy ; its virtually uncontrolled tentacles have stretched out and lost itself in the morass of Europe .

    The Upper Chamber I always considered in the past to be a wiser head overview to the Commons ; I don’t think this way today . It is a cumbersome body mainly comprised of individuals who mis-use and abuse the terms of their membership ; turning up and claiming expenses but not significantly making any contribution to the debates is shameful . Above all , using the historical right to overthink the Commons is nothing more now than political jiggery-pokery . It has become a complete waste of public money and should now be disbanded .

    Public opinion has galvanised itself more than ever against our membership of the EU in the past few weeks ; opinion polls have provided this strong evidence . The benefits of Brexit are not just that of trading (in any case – not in our favour) ; the most important aspect is our independence . Our voice in world affairs will be stronger and more respected when it is not tainted by the strings to Brussels .

  20. Anonymous
    December 10, 2015

    And on it drags.

    And while it drags, all the changes that the EU wants carry on apace.

    By the time it gets here will there be anything left of Britain that an Out vote can save ?

  21. oldtimer
    December 10, 2015

    Alex Story of Business for Britain sums up the case for Brexit here:

  22. Anonymous
    December 10, 2015

    Of topic if I may. Fergus and Judith Wilson are to sell their £250, 000,000.00 Kent buy-to-let empire (possibly to overseas investors ed) stating “Property prices are so high in Kent because so little of it is for sale.”

    I’ll leave readers to ponder that statement. But is it right that a portfolio of British HOMES – which as at least party built on taxpayer funded housing benefit and (certainly) goverment immigration, interest-rate and banking policy – should be sold into foreign ownership, along with the financial futures of tenants too ?

    Reply If you wish to live in a relatively free market with high living standards you have to allow owners to sell their assets to whom they wish.

  23. Denis Cooper
    December 10, 2015

    And then there is the rather topical question of postal voting on demand, which we know will have the potential to more or less automatically deliver large blocks of votes to the Remain side, that no doubt being the side which the Labour party will officially take, and even though some of those people may have voted differently if they had been able to cast their vote secretly, in the privacy of a polling booth, rather than being subject to “undue influence” when they filled out their voting forms at home, or maybe even had their forms filled out ready for them to add their signature; and that is even before considering whether the greatly increased problems of electoral fraud associated with postal voting have been solved just by the recent introduction of individual registration.

    I read here:

    that postal voting in the AV referendum cost £10.6 million; so maybe the mistake the Lords made was not linking the reduction in the voting age, extra cost about £6 million, with restrictions on postal voting, thus saving some large sum, so that their composite proposal would have been at worst cost neutral and would not have “engaged the financial privilege” of the Commons.

    But of course they would not have done that, as the purpose of lowering the voting age was to help the Remain side, and postal voting on demand will also help that side, as will the government’s decision to allow maybe 1.5 million foreign citizens to vote on the future of a country which is not their country.

  24. ChrisS
    December 10, 2015

    An excellent contribution from two of the best-know and most respected members of what will ( eventually ) be the OUT campaign.

    Surely it would be preferable for our side of the campaign to select the ground and deal the first blow in the campaign ? An entirely factual report should be commissioned now, detailing all of the areas that are no longer under direct or even ultimate UK Parliamentary control. The facts are bad enough that the report would need no embellishment or speculation as to the future.

    With a clear and unambiguous report to hand, Sir Bill, as Chairman of the Common’s European Scrutiny Select Committee, could invite the Government and Europhiles to challenge the facts in the report which, of course, they will not be able to do.

    That would provide all the ammunition needed to demolish the arguments of the IN groups that Sovereignty and control are not a concern.

  25. Denis Cooper
    December 10, 2015

    Finally I would point out that as far as I know no MP has picked up on the provision in the Bill which gives the Lords the power to veto any date for the EU referendum which may be proposed by the government, and which could therefore be used by them to defer the referendum until beyond the end of 2017, thus defeating the central purpose of the Act and rendering the whole of it a dead letter.

    As it seems that foolish provision in Clause 6(2):

    “a statutory instrument containing regulations under this Act may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.”

    will now be part of the final Act I wonder how the government would react if the Lords did decide to be bloody minded and refuse to approve any such resolution.

    Or maybe it is not such a foolish provision as it seems, a cock up, maybe it is part of a strategic plan, a conspiracy?

    Apart from giving the Tories a pretext for flooding the Lords with new, Tory, peers, it could also be used as a pretext to support proposed legislation to remove the power of the Lords to veto secondary legislation even where MPs had previously agreed that the Lords would have that power of veto, that is when they passed the parent Act.

    A comment from David Davis is quoted here:

    “If Labour have got an ounce of sense it will be very difficult for the government to get that through. I would think at least a dozen people on my side would be against that.”

    But they might change their mind on that, if the price of opposing it would be to allow the Lords to prevent the EU referendum taking place.

    However that would just be getting the required Bill through the Commons, and it seems unlikely that the present Lords would willingly pass a Bill intended to deprive them of the power to veto secondary legislation where that power has already been granted to them through the parent primary legislation; so the government would have to allow enough time to invoke the Parliament Acts and by-pass the Lords, or failing that get the Queen to elevate a large number of Tory worthies, or unworthies, to the Lords.

  26. Shieldsman
    December 10, 2015

    Once again we have the Press speculating when the Referendum will be held.
    As your leader is a dyed in the wool Europhile he has to pick the time when he thinks the IN vote will succeed.
    Cameron is reported in the Telegraph as saying – The migrant crisis could push Britain out of Europe as it makes voters think “get me out of here”. Mr Cameron’s comments indicate that he has now abandoned hope of holding an early referendum next year and will instead delay the vote.
    His interview with the Spectator reveals his game ploy to stay in the EU.
    “I think the longer term reaction might actually be, well if they are going to have a single currency and they are on our doorstep and they are going to try and make it work, let’s make sure our relationship with them works and then we have safeguards, not least for our vital financial services industry so that the system doesn’t work against us.”

    1. Denis Cooper
      December 11, 2015

      He can pick a time, and he can probably get a majority of MPs to go along with whatever date he proposes, but it also needs the agreement of the Lords.

  27. PaulDirac
    December 10, 2015

    Re: Referendum issues
    If we vote to ‘Stay”, the game changes completely, Cameron can be “nice” to Germany and admit as many of the millions (by the time we get a vote) of migrants.

    Re: Noise from Heathrow
    If they build a third runway at LHR the noise level will grow by at least a third.

  28. brian
    December 10, 2015

    It has been reported that a Polish minister has said that Poland will not be ” victimised and humiliated” by Cameron’s demands. So what about our supposed sovereign nation being humiliated by not being able to decide who enters our country? That does not matter?

  29. ian
    December 10, 2015

    Coming out of the EU to join the one world government with climate change, refugees, TTIP and a whole host of other things, Climate change they say 65 billion a year for 15 years, India, china and rest say 200 billion a year, refugees, government reported to be buying up houses all round the country and converting into HMO for them, IDS stepping up taking away peoples money for mouths on end so they lose they houses for you know who.

    December 10, 2015

    Before any of this, Parliament should formally remind MPs that whilst it is most democratic that say an SNP MP should voice opinions regarding what they believe Mr Trump is opining,- to attempt by whatever means to silence Mr Trump who is behaving well-within UK and US law is unworthy of a Parliamentarian.
    I refer directly to one SNP who suggested Mr Trump should be banned from even having a physical presence in the UK. In Mr Trump’s book both figuratively speaking, and in actual terms of his Book : “Crippled America ” not one word of it— not one phrase of it is iffy in terms of our national security and well-being. Unlike, arguably, one or two other books, held in high esteem by some.

    1. fedupsoutherner
      December 11, 2015

      Yes, saw this MSP on television last night. She was not so keen to keep him out of the UK once the Turberry golf complex and the Aberdeen development was talked about. It would serve them right if he pulled out altogether and left it all in a mess. Trump was only saying that he thought a break in letting Muslims into the country until security was sorted out was the best option. He did not say he hated all Muslims and indeed went on to say that he knew many and many were friends of his. It is the minority they want to contain. I know many people in the UK that feel the same and I am glad his comments on no go areas in London were endorsed by some police men. There are many large cities in the UK where the police have to be particularly careful not to upset the ethnic minorities!!

  31. NickW
    December 10, 2015

    An excellent post.

    it makes it clear that if we leave, our destiny will be in our own hands; if we stay our destiny and our fate will be in the hands of others to a far greater extent than it is now.

    Further; those others will be emboldened by the cowardice of the British people in their failure to leave an abusive and one sided relationship, and they will pick the corpse of this once proud nation down to its bones.

  32. DaveM
    December 10, 2015

    It seems that the main idea in Westminster at the minute is to try and shape the future with the anticipation of an IN vote.

    Do politicians not realise this is all moot?

    There are 2 simple choices –

    1. Vote OUT and go your own way as an independent country.

    2. Vote IN, and sooner or later there will be one big EU. They won’t change course as they pursue their goal; all member states will eventually be subsumed and be forced to conform to whatever legislation they decide to impose. There will be no choice because, as you say Mr R, they will use all tools at their disposal to coerce all member states one way or another.

  33. Margaret
    December 10, 2015

    I notice that you state that the political relationship between the Lords and the commons is bicameral. That defines structure , but not the power and final decisions within that setting.

  34. Atlas
    December 10, 2015

    I am sorry to say that I’m finding the PM’s antics – which are being rebuffed in the EU at every opportunity – plain embarrassing.

    … but Lord Halifax would be proud of him …

  35. A.Sedgwick
    December 10, 2015

    Clear, concise and logical speech – traits your party leader could learn from. The prospect of Mr.Cameron leading a Brexit campaign, despite his posturing, are nil. I believe his EU counterparts, the five presidents(you couldn’t make it up) and innumerable other Brussels grandees know his failings and are probably relieved by his weak opening gambits. It is clear that he hasn’t a clue about negotiating and they know it and are going to exploit the dilemma he has created for himself to the limit and possibly end his tenure as PM earlier than he planned.

  36. Dame Rita Webb
    December 10, 2015

    JR how do I get a job as one of Dave’s foreign policy advisers? I could have told him straight off not to bother flying off to Warsaw. To do otherwise is absolutely naive. Is he really daft enough to think Poland is going to stop using the UK as a receptacle for its surplus labour and certain members of its criminal class? Let alone say no to the free money that comes home from our warped benefits system? The other week he was telling us to call ISIL, Da’ish because in his eyes it does not refer to Islam. This is despite most informed people knowing that the latter is just the Arabic translation of the former. FFS I would love to know what he is being told to do with Putin.

  37. Denis Cooper
    December 10, 2015

    Off-topic, just in:

    “EU Commission is willing to up its initial €500 million contribution to the €3 billion fund pledged to Turkey by €200 million in 2017 following calls from member states to have bigger share of the fund paid from the EU budget, Nadia Calvino, director general for budget told MEPs Thursday.”

    Our share of that increased contribution from the EU budget would be close to 10%, €70 million or £50 million, compared to £6 million for extending the referendum franchise to younger people which apparently is sufficient reason for MPs to say no.

    “€2.2bn still missing to fund EU refugee pledges”

    So far the UK has pledged €140 million or about £100 million:

    Which is about half the total money that has been chopped off the budget for improving flood defences over the past five years.

  38. A different Simon
    December 10, 2015

    Quote ” It is important to spell out what staying in looks like, as I believe that staying in is a wild ride to political union. ”

    A very astute demand on your part .

    How are you going to make them be honest about this when they have been lying and misleading since before we even entered the Common Market ?

    Here is another problem .

    If HM Govt tells the British people the truth , it may come as a shock to citizens in France , Germany and Italy .

    I am pretty sure their politicians have not told them what they have in store (let alone sought democratic authority ) .

  39. Richard1
    December 10, 2015

    It may be asymmetric and unfair but I don’t think the line that the Ins need to explain what will change if we stay in will fly. People feel they know – perhaps wrongly – where we are heading inside the EU. But given the prominence of voices arguing that leaving will place jobs and investment at risk, the onus will be on the Leave side to set out what sort of arrangements we might have and why that takes us to a demonstrably better position than we now have. Saving £10bn pa won’t cut it – people will feel c. 1/2% of GDP might be a worthwhile insurance premium against the unknown risks of leaving. Need some v clear arguments and a clear picture!

    1. Denis Cooper
      December 11, 2015

      The sad truth is that most people have little idea where we are with the EU now, and even less idea where we would be heading if we stayed in. I don’t blame them for this widespread lack of understanding, I blame the politicians and the mass media; but that is the reality, with which the Leave side will have to deal as best it can.

  40. Tad Davison
    December 10, 2015

    Most of us who contribute to this blog will know and appreciate the gravity of the fraud and the subterfuge perpetrated against us over the years by the pro-EU people, especially from the three main Westminster parties. We arm ourselves with knowledge and will actively fight against the push towards ever closer union. We absorb facts and figures, and make the case for withdrawal based on sound logic and evidence. The general public however might not be similarly disposed. Their eyes soon glaze over and the shutters come down the moment we mention the word ‘politics’ and more particularly, the EU. They only concern themselves with the barest details, and that is how the pro-EU con managed to go unchecked for so long, and why we are where we are, with Eurosceptics desperately trying to undo the damage.

    We have to put the case in the most simple terms if we are to get the message across that the EU is a clear and a present danger to everything we hold dear, especially our hard-won independence and our right to self-determination. It is NOT the political construct that will deliver peace and prosperity for all, as its exponents have always claimed – quite the reverse.

    This is an important and informative post, but more broadly, I am anxious that we might just turn people off unless we keep the message hard, but simple. Not to do so will have serious ramifications for our future, because the pro-EU camp will take advantage of it.

    We should be in no doubt. We are dealing with an enemy that will use absolutely any underhanded method to get what they want, even down to surreptitiously controlling the message emanating from our national broadcaster. Outside of this well-informed forum, let’s try to keep things simple wherever possible and thereby win support for our cause.

    Tad Davison


  41. Iain Gill
    December 10, 2015

    Can we have a post on how crap some NHS healthcare providers are? And on how bad some state schools are? And explain why patients and parents of school pupils should be prepared to put up with rubbish service and not be able to take their business elsewhere like they can in every other walk of life?

  42. Martin
    December 10, 2015

    Leave the EU and make decisions on our own?

    Mr Cameron and co have just ducked the Heathrow third runway decision.

  43. Lesley
    December 11, 2015

    If there is any suggestion of votes for 16 & 17 year olds, why can’t those who are ex pats continue to vote after 15 years of living abroard?

  44. John Bracewell
    December 11, 2015

    Both the Labour Party and Mr Cameron are on record as saying that the EU needs reform. Mr Cameron via his renegotiation and the Labour Party by staying in and reforming from within, an outcome which appears to be highly unlikely given the way the EU works.
    Since Mr Cameron’s renegotiation requests amount to very little compared to his previously stated aims, and he appears to be either having to compromise on those meagre requests or not get them at all, it would appear that the Stay or Leave referendum is boiling down to a vote for the status quo or a vote to leave. Since both Labour and Mr Cameron do not like the status quo, the logical point of view would be a vote to leave.

  45. The Active Citizen
    December 12, 2015

    ” Their eyes soon glaze over and the shutters come down the moment we mention the word ‘politics’ and more particularly, the EU.”

    Tad, how true. Our host made an important speech which I watched and enjoyed at the time. His speech deserved a far wider audience.

    However the nonsense during the debate from SNP Members and from Mr Lidington just reinforces your point. (All bar about two Labour Members were obviously busy elsewhere, plotting for or against Mr Corbyn, or sending Christmas party RSVP’s to dubious organisations, or something…)

    Judging from the parliamentary debates I’ve watched this year, it seems that the majority of our elected representatives aren’t up to the job of understanding much of the detail when it comes to the EU.

    If many of our MPs can’t even master the subject, how on earth do we expect the public to come to a reasonably-informed view? JR must despair of the ‘intellect’ displayed by a lot of individuals from some of the recent intakes to Parliament. In fact there are often far more interesting, intelligent, and informed contributions on this site and others, than in the current HoC.

    For many months I’ve been pondering the question of simplifying the various messages of the Leave proposition in order to have a chance of winning. The main two competing Leave campaigns have so far not made much progress.

    The problem is a little like the excellent point JR made about amendment 6, regarding the Government being required to publish information about the “rights and obligations that arise under European Union law” from our current membership:

    “… if that were done properly it would result in a very long book, given that we are now subject to so many legal restrictions and obligations as a result of an extremely voluminous consolidated treaty and thousands of directives.”

    To influence a successful Leave campaign, a possible way forward would be to create a small group to work on five key areas :-

    1. It would take a fine legal and political mind to get close to understanding the many thousands of EU-imposed rules affecting our way of life, our economy, and our form of governance. Aside from an educated MP like JR, a person with an encylopedic knowledge of the law would be very handy! Failing a top civil servant or EU-specialist QC being available, our fellow-contributor Denis Cooper always seems to post links to a relevant law in making his points.

    2. This understanding then has to be combined with an ability to distill and group the effects of these laws, directives, treaties, etc into manageable chunks.

    3. Then you need the political ‘savvy’ of people like JR, Sir Bill Cash, Bernard Jenkin, Kate Hoey or others, using their experience as lawmakers and opinion-formers. They would also ensure that the key messages won’t be twisted by the opposition and we need their experience in so many other ways too.

    4. Then we come to what I would describe as the ‘populism process’. We can forget the way in which the adjective ‘populist’ has been hijacked as a pejorative term by EU apparatchiks and the neo-liberal left. When it comes to arguments likely to appeal to millions of voters, populist is good.
    There’s no room for intellectual snobbery here – we need simple messages which can be oft-repeated. We need people capable of using language appealing to readers of the Times or the Mirror, but in either case the messages should be easy to understand and they need to resonate naturally in the minds of the voters.
    I doubt that the art of precis is taught any longer in our schools, but I’m sure that there are still enough of us around with those skills.
    I would add that those closest to the issue by virtue of their professional positions aren’t necessarily the best to work out these messages alone.

    5. Finally, there’s the media and its bias (sigh). Let’s face it, we’re never going to make the Beeb and other media outlets respect the concept of impartiality before we go to the polls. The majority of these journos and editors are implacably pro-EU and they don’t even seem to understand how biased they are.
    However that doesn’t stop us from developing strategies to do the best we can with what we face. It IS possible to embarrass our left-leaning, pro-EU journalists into providing more of a platform for our “pro-UK anti-EU” political spokesmen like JR, than they would otherwise get. We just have to be smart about it.

    In summary, I realise that any of you reading this will say that we can’t possibly affect the way in which the Leave campaigns conduct themselves. As far as I’m aware, none of us are professional politicians or lobbyists.

    However the possibility of the UK resuming its globally-facing and inspiring place in the World is of such importance that I hope you understand why I believe we must all do our best.

    I’m happy to offer one of our villas in the South of France for a long weekend brainstorm. But only if we could get a small caucus of people whose aim is to come up with smart and pragmatic solutions to the question of informing and persuading the public why they should vote for a safe, prosperous and independent UK. The idea would be for this to be used to try to influence the strategy of the selected Leave campaign.

  46. Lindsay McDougall
    December 13, 2015

    The government must publish ‘rights and obligations that arise from European Union law’.

    The mere use of such an expression carries the implication – and without doubt this is the intention – that all such rights and obligations would be abolished if we leave. Not so; we would be able to choose which to retain and which to abolish. That is the whole point of sovereignty.

    The Labour Party and other left wing parties use EU law to retain workers’ ‘rights’ [for which read restrictions on the labour market] that they know would be rejected by most of the UK electorate. This disgraceful conduct has not been entirely one sided. The Conservative Party of the late 60s and early 70s saw the EU as a force to get rid of some of the wilder aspects of Harold Wilson’s socialism.

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