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Monday 5 October 2009

You Say You Want A Referendum (4)

A week, it has been said many times, is a long time in Politics, and the saying has been proved true over the last few days on the twin subjects of Europe and Referenda. Following the Irish Yes vote on the Lisbon Treaty, the Poles are showing signs of ratification, and the Czechs, whose President, Vaclav Klaus, got a personal letter from Young Dave recently, look to be also falling into line.

So, Dave, what’s a chap to do? After all, there he was promising a referendum, but only if Lisbon had not been ratified by all the EU member states. And now it seems that the Tory leadership has bowed to the inevitable. But London’s mayor, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, is suggesting that the electorate could still be “consulted”, and the Tories are making noises about “repatriating powers”.

As ever with the Tories and Europe, it’s a potentially explosive subject for the leadership. Cameron has been slagging off the EU for some time now, and this has had one effect – to raise expectations of not just a Referendum, but of the possibility of withdrawal. Now he has to continue to talk tough, but keep within the European mainstream.

However, the approach of “consultation” over “repatriating powers” has one potential snag: if there is to be any kind of vote, then there must be a prior campaign for or against the measures proposed. And any campaign will bring into the public domain something that has so far been missing from the Europe debate: information.

Once the Lisbon Treaty starts being discussed and debated on a factual basis, rather than being treated as a series of scare stories and screaming denunciations, the electorate might not remain so hostile. The same goes for the EU as a whole, and it’s interesting that the thoughtful Nosemonkey’s EUtopia blog has suggested that the Eurosceptic cause is actually damaged by the twin pincers of wild denunciation and proper information.

So, Dave, bring on your campaign. Let’s debate and discuss the issues, and do it through being properly informed.

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