Lee wrote here yesterday about the strong likelihood of the Lisbon Treaty coming back before Parliament for re-ratification in the next few months, and the opportunity that provided for David Cameron to renew his pledge of a referendum.
Understandably given the importance of the issue and the great public demand for such a referendum, the post attracted a lot of attention – loads of traffic, 162 comments over at ConservativeHome and so on. Cropping up within that were a few objections to the idea, which we thought deserved a response. Lee's currently in Sweden conspiring with other eurosceptics from across Europe, so you've got me instead.
The main query is whether reopening a portion of the Treaty really will require re-ratification through Member States' Parliaments.
As several commenters have rightly pointed out, the Lisbon Treaty features what is known as a "passerelle clause". Essentially this is an enabling clause which allows the Treaty to become self-amending, without the ratification of member states. This clause does exist and it is an anti-democratic abomination.
However, our understanding is that the passerelle does not apply in this instance, for three combined reasons.
First, it appears that this section of the Treaty is simply not subject to passerelle.
Second, even if it was, passerelle requires the unanimous agreement of every member state – and every state has the right to demand an InterGovernmental Conference and ratification instead. Britain would have a veto, and it would be in total conflict with David Cameron's new EU policy for a Cameron Government not to use it.
Third, even if this area was subject to passerelle, and even if the British Government failed to use the veto and demand an IGC, Spain has already demanded one. Furthermore, the European Parliament looks set to vote in Spain's support on Thursday, and the European Commission is in agreement too.
Beyond those technical, Brussels-derived arguments, there is also a compelling bit of evidence from an unlikely source here in Britain.
I spoke last night to Bruno Waterfield, the Brussels Correspondent for the Telegraph. He confirmed to me that he had checked the story with no less an authority than the Foreign Office, who had confirmed the need for Parliamentary approval of the new Treaty. The Foreign Office will not normally go out of their way to be anything other than helpful to the EU's progress, so if they think this is going to come to an awkward pass in Westminster, it looks likely that it will.