May 2010 04

Napoleon famously wanted to know of his generals whether they possessed that rarest of all the qualities – luck. That commodity is equally precious to politicians. Judging by the latest revelations from Brussels, it appears that David Cameron owns the Westminster equivalent of a heather-bound horseshoe nailed to a leprechaun’s rainbow – if he plays the latest development from Brussels right.

After weeks of wrangling, it now transpires that the Lisbon Treaty is going to have to be put before Parliament for approval again.

As you’d expect from the EU, the reason is complex.

In order to rush the Treaty through in the first place, the current draft failed to sort out the vexed issue of the distribution of seats in the European Parliament. As a result, there are various imbalances in the number of MEPs held by each country – and there are several “ghost” MEPs who currently work in Brussels but don’t actually have any voting powers. To sort this out, the European Parliament is expected to vote this Thursday in favour of holding a new Inter Governmental Conference on 17th and 18th June. At that conference, part of the Lisbon Treaty will be rewritten – requiring full ratification again by the Parliament of each and every EU member state.

It has been widely assumed that the hope of a Lisbon Treaty referendum was dead and buried, but this development brings it back to the fore. David Cameron has always claimed that had he been in Government when the Lisbon Treaty passed through Parliament then he would have held a referendum. Will he now promise to hold a referendum on this new version of the Lisbon Treaty if he is in charge after the General Election?

The public remain overwhelmingly in favour of a referendum, and it would be a vote winner to promise one. Furthermore, it would be an opportunity for Cameron to challenge the Lib Dems and Labour to match his pledge – putting them in a very tight spot indeed.

The threat of a referendum on Lisbon is also the perfect bargaining chip to use against further EU integration, and to secure the repatriation of major powers. Without British approval for this new edition of Lisbon, the European Parliament would be caught in a bizarre limbo, and the Treaty itself would have been felled at the final hurdle.

Grasping this opportunity would be popular, strategically shrewd and – perhaps most importantly of all – honourable to the spirit as well as the letter of the Conservatives’ EU pledges. The failure to grasp it would not only be astonishingly shortsighted; it would be the final brutal betrayal of the pledges made to the British people in a general election – the election of 2005.

Mark is a writer and political campaigner, ardent libertarian and eurosceptic.


    A golden opportunity perhaps, but alas one which won’t materialise.
    Where is the evidence that Cameron is really, convincingly up for a fight on Lisbon? I doubt he would be foolish enough to dangle such carrots again – election or not.
    A nice daydream perhaps.

  • Nick Brazil

    Yes, I am afraid undhimmi is right. Cameron will come up with some weak excuse not to have what he calls “a Euro bust up” at the beginning of his time in No 10. But if he fails to honour that “cast iron pledge” a second time it wil cost him dear..

  • Kieran Marchant

    This hat to be put to David Cameron.
    This could decide the election one way or another. If he says no to a referendum you watch his % slide.
    Could we realey be this lucky and get to undo some of the anti British (English) Labour Governments errors!?!?!?!

  • Edward Huxley

    Even if Cameron did this, who would believe him?

  • Johnedwardss053

    This will put the cat amongst the pigeons in the general election campaign. Camerons Tories are split over the EU, Labour dont want a referendum, Lib Dems are pro Europe, UKIP well, we know about them, a one issue party. So what about the English Democrats, a fast growing party with ideas and plans that make sense. This could be the isssue that finally gives them recognition by the mainstream media.

  • WitteringsfromWitney

    Then I would ask that for goodness sake, lets get as many candidates signed up to the Albion Alliance pledge as soon as possible, so they cannot wriggle out of it.
    Few trust the parties to honour their pledges, so let get the candidates to make personal legally binding pledges.
    Interestingly, the biggest EU happening since the Lisbon Treaty was ratified and nothing in the MSM! Methinks they have lost their tongues!

  • Denis Cooper

    Of course this won’t happen.
    Firstly, just because the EU Parliament wants an IGC that doesn’t mean that there’ll be an IGC.
    Extracts from Article 48 TEU, starting on pdf page 41 here:
    “The Government of any Member State, the European Parliament or the Commission may submit to the Council proposals for the amendment of the Treaties.”
    “These proposals shall be submitted to the European Council by the Council and the national Parliaments shall be notified.”
    “If the European Council … adopts by a simple majority a decision in favour of examining the proposed amendments …”
    At that point the European Council would decide not to examine the proposed amendements; they would be put on one side, and the Parliament would be told to sort the problem out within the constraints of the present treaties.
    Incidentally, the above extracts are from the paragraphs laying down the Ordinary Revision Procedure, but that’s all that needs to be considered as the Simplified Revision Procedure could not be applied in this case.
    Secondly, suppose for the sake of argument that the European Council did decide to go ahead with an IGC, and a new amending treaty emerged.
    To solve the problem of “ghost” MEPs, the new amending treaty would only have to amend this part of Article 14 TEU, on pdf page 22, which sets the limit of the number of MEPs:
    “They shall not exceed seven hundred and fifty in number”
    without touching any other provisions of the present treaties as amended by the Treaty of Lisbon.
    In fact that could be done by agreeing and ratifying a short protocol to be attached to the treaties, a nice precedent for making incremental changes to the treaties without attracting too much public attention.
    However you can be sure of this – Cameron would not hold a national referendum on whether three surplus Germans should be allowed to keep their seats in the EU Parliament.
    I still want a retrospective referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, come hell or high water, but even I think that it would be completely barmy to have a full national vote on such a trivial matter.

  • Ken Adams

    I thought Cameron had already said these changes will not need a referendum — about 2 weeks ago I think.

  • Ken Adams

    Dennis: Is it not right that if any single part of the treaty is changed that is legally a whole new treaty?

  • Ross

    Cameron is a quisling. Not a chance he’d upset his EU comrades by giving us a fair chance to vote on Lisbon.

  • Denis Cooper

    Ken, I don’t think it’s quite like that.
    For example not so long ago Parliament approved a new protocol to be attached to the Geneva Convention, which amended the Convention. But I don’t think that would mean that it’s legally a whole new Convention, it’s the Geneva Convention as amended by that protocol. And at the same time, another protocol to amend a UN Convention.
    The Act is here:
    “An Act to amend the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 so as to give effect to the Protocol additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 done on 8 December 2005; and to amend the United Nations Personnel Act 1997 so as to give effect to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 8 December 2005.”
    I could imagine a similar thing being done here, and in fact the EU Commission document:
    says at the end:
    “… the Commission recommends opening an Intergovernmental Conference as soon as possible, remaining strictly limited to discussion of the Spanish proposal for a protocol amending Protocol No 36 on Transitional Provisions.”

  • Brian Mooney – New Alliance

    Much though I respect TPA’s work, I can’t agree at all.
    Any change will be incremental, and if Cameron is PM, he won’t want a confrontation with Europe, so will just push it through. He will be guaranteed Labour & LibDem support, don’t forget…
    Even in the extreme case of *any* referendum taking place and the public voting against the EU, we would still be under Labour’s ‘Europe of Lisbon’.
    Repatriation of powers? It can’t happen at all – EU case law (11/70) says that once powers have been lost to the EU, they are gone for good -so it’s either in or out!
    (Click the ‘name’ link below for reference. Incidentally, the guff in the Treaty of Lisbon about the EU ceasing to exercise competences is a con. Declaration 18 makes it quite clear that this is purely in the context of repealing an individual piece of legislation. Member states are still bound to work towards political and economic union!)

  • Hardeep Singh

    The scheming EU bureacrats would not allow ‘their’ precious treaty to go before any parliament without assurances that nothing will change. This may seem as if ‘we’ have a second chance but don’t hold your breath like a politician on the campiagn trail the average voter is not allowed to get anywhere near him/her. This treaty is no different, it’s quite simply guarded and you can either vote yes today or yes tomorrow and nothing else, frightening (makes me very angry).

  • Ian DuCane

    We will not be handed a referendum by any of the three main parties, !ever! we must keep on plugging away to have our voting system chsnged so that we will gain a government not fully controlled by the LibLabCon team, only then will we stand a chance of an EU pullout. Of course it is now looking more likely that the EU will disintegrate before this happens. If neither of the above come to fruition in the foreseeable future, I see the only end result as bloodshed on our streets when the English/British finally wake up to the reality that the EU is yet another corrupt totalitarian state in the making.

  • Anthony Bean

    Dear john edwards please take a moment and read UKIPs manifesto pledges and you will see they most certainly are not a one issue party, even though the main issue of not being governed by europe has wide spread implications if we continue to be.