August 24, 2007

Brown Government Reneges On EU Plebescite

Gordon Brown didn't take long to hit full reverse on his campaign promise to allow a national vote on the new EU constitution. Conservative MP Daniel Hannan notes in the Telegraph that while Brown makes it sound as if conditions have changed, the only change has been Brown himself:

Even by the Prime Minister's standards, it was an unusually hollow and perfunctory message: "I have been clear throughout that if we achieve, as we have achieved, our negotiating objectives, then I believe the proper way of considering this is through detailed consideration in Parliament itself."

Clear throughout, eh? That wasn't what your last manifesto said. Its language could hardly have been more explicit: "We shall put it [the constitution] to the British people in a referendum and campaign wholeheartedly for a 'Yes' vote".

In order to justify reneging on his promise, Mr Brown now has to pretend that the new text is somehow different from the old. But he knows, and we know, and he knows that we know, that the two drafts are substantively identical. Every other EU leader has said so. So has the constitution's author, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. So, indeed, has Mr Brown himself who, in a hilarious slip of the tongue following talks with Bertie Ahern, announced that they had been "discussing the constitution, and how to take that forward". (Officials quickly rushed forward to assure us that the Prime Minister had meant to say "discussing the 'Reform Treaty' ".)

Watching Mr Brown, in his dark suit and matching expression, I was reminded of a Brezhnev-era apparatchik, woodenly trotting out the official line without expecting to convince anyone.

Hannan deliberately uses the Brezhnev reference to underscore a point, more about the EU than Gordon Brown. The EU doesn't have much use for popular votes. Hannan notes that Brussels managed to ignore negative results in Ireland over the Nice treaty, and when the French and the Dutch voted against the previous EU constitution. The EU proceeded with its plans regardless.

This should worry the British, as should the reversal of Brown on a plebescite. Representative government could deal with this, but a nation surrendering its sovereignty would be better advised to have their electorate join in that decision. Otherwise, when events turn south, it helps to keep the few select people who surrendered it from being pushed up against the wall. If Brown believes that he can't get the British to give up its foreign policy to a European commission that barely recognizes popular votes as it is, the fact that he's refusing to offer the vote as promised should expose him as unfit to make the decision in the first place.

Will the British stand up and demand a voice in this process? Hannan remains pessimistic. Even though 80% want a plebescite and 70% want to vote No, he thinks the British electorate already feel defeated. He wants to change that -- and if the Tories can do that, it may give them some momentum to work their way back into power in the UK.


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Comments (10)

Posted by Doc | August 24, 2007 8:53 AM

As the sun finally sets on the British Empire ... John Bull, we hardly knew ye.

Posted by Roger Thompson | August 24, 2007 9:48 AM

One question. Does the EU reform Treaty allow for secession? Should the Tories get elected and decide that they don't want to surrender their sovereignty, or the people of Great Britain vote the Treaty down will their be a European civil war?

Posted by Alex | August 24, 2007 10:03 AM

Under British law, a subsequent Parliament can reverse the decision of a previous Parliament. Thus a Tory led Parliament could withdraw from this Treaty if it so desired. If the Treaty was affirmed by a plebescite, reversal would be harder and could not be done by Parliament acting alone.

Posted by Eg | August 24, 2007 10:09 AM

As pointed-out over at the EU Referendum blog:

...Matthew d'Ancona let slip in the Sunday Telegraph last weekend, the Tories have already decided not to engage with the European Union issue. The is no commitment to winning the fight for a referendum. As long as "Dave" comes out of the battle looking good, the strategy will have worked.

In fact, some Party strategists believe that losing the referendum fight could be beneficial to the Tory cause. In a general election campaign, the totemic value of Gordon Brown's signature on the new treaty could be used as a powerful weapon, to remind voters of how untrustworthy the Labour leader is.

It looks like all that remains is the crying and waving good-bye.

Posted by filistro | August 24, 2007 12:30 PM

Why, oh why can't we just get some DNA and make another Margaret Thatcher?

Personally I blame George Bush and his restrictive laws on human cloning.

Posted by AW1 Tim | August 24, 2007 3:15 PM


Once again, it is easy to see the distinction between citizens and subjects.


Posted by Mrs. Davis | August 24, 2007 3:54 PM

This is very sad, but apparently inevitable. Likewise, the decline in the British military has been shocking and they now appear to lack the political will to employ what little remains. The irony will be a rich vein indeed if the Mother country must ultimately be saved from EUrabia by its scorned colonies in the US, Oz and India.

Posted by John Adams | August 24, 2007 11:19 PM

Brown is a hard-left socialist, with the usual totalitarian tendencies. He will clearly take Britain back to the pre-Thatcher era of having the commie unions and other extreme leftist scum running the country. Good Bye, once again, to our briefly returned ally!

Posted by John Adams | August 24, 2007 11:21 PM

Brown is a hard-left socialist, with the usual totalitarian tendencies. He will clearly take Britain back to the pre-Thatcher era of having the commie unions and other extreme leftist scum running the country. Good Bye, once again, to our briefly returned friends, the British!

Posted by William Humbold Jr | August 25, 2007 4:28 AM

Amaze yourself and vote online about Europe. Open also for non-Europeans. Vote YES to Free Europe Constitution at!

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