The next referendum twist, for the Brits this time

Another twist I’ve just noticed in the Great Referendum Saga. It could take up to two years for the Irish to decide to hold another referendum or whatever, leaving the Lisbon Treaty unratified by the EU as a whole for all that time. In the meantime, a UK general election could well bring the Conservatives to power, leaving Cameron holding a very unwelcome European baby. For at that point, the whole idea of a British referendum would spring to life for the first time in the real world, to the glee of the euro-sceptics. Here is former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind speaking in the Commons after the Irish “No” vote, with William Hague on the front bench nodding agreement:

If the Irish Government were to propose holding a second referendum at some future date, it would, at the very least, mean a major delay before final implementation of the new treaty; that would be an unavoidable consequence of the Irish saying that they wished to hold a second referendum. It would be perhaps another year, a year and a half, or even two years before all countries could ratify. Before then, there will almost certainly be a United Kingdom general election. If that led to a change of Government, one consequence would be that even if the treaty had been ratified in the United Kingdom, if it had not come into effect because an Irish referendum had not yet taken place, an incoming Conservative Government could reopen the whole issue by calling a referendum. That was not true until last week. Even if we had ratified, we could de-ratify if the treaty had not yet come into effect.

That is a profound consequence of what happened last week.

In other words, a Conservative government could reverse Gordon Brown’s ratification. Can we imagine the Irish leading with one referendum and the British following with another – with different results, maybe? It’s quite a thought.

  • I hope this happens, but the reality is that the govt isn’t likely to wait 2 yrs to hold a 2nd referendum. The elites are aware of the threat of a Tory govt tearing up this Treaty so they will be in a rush to ratify long before then. They will try to fob us off with a few figleafs on abortion, neutrality, the Commission (perhaps) and taxation. However many of us will still vote no because of the unfair voting system and the self-amending provisions, as well as how the Charter of Fundamental Rights effectively turns of the ECJ into a Supreme Court of a European Superstate.

  • I thought they (the Irish) were given until October only to make up their minds on how to proceed. If – between now and october- they decide to hold another vote on the matter the latest date would be next April/May. That would certainly be within Rifkind’s time frame, making what is proposed a real enough but unlikely threat.

  • dodrade

    Given the “how dare you” attitude coming from the rest of the EU, can Cowen risk a second referendum?

  • Mark McGregor

    How does that work? Surely once it is ratified, it is ratified and the only thing that comes into play is the criteria for implementation?

  • Indeed, how does any future Conservative Government not have a Referendum on Lisbon or any future Treaty?

    And how could it possibly be “won”?

    And what happens then to the Conservative dependency on City money?

    Be careful what you wish for: you may get it.

  • Dave

    Well then Malcolm, strip out all that alters the fundamental constitutional, political and civil rights of the UK citizens from the treaty/rehashed EU constitution and let the British government ratify the rest as is the prerogative of government and treaties. The point of those rights is that they set limits on the action of government, protecting the people from abuse of power by the government. If you would have it that the government may alter the fundamental rights of the people as and when it wishes then you really don’t the purpose of a constitution.

    So, the Lisbon Treaty should be ratified because it will make a particular capitalist class that benefit from globalisation richer? That’s an odd argument for a socialist to imply, Malcolm – particularly when that capitalist class is serving its own interests and doing so at the expense of the working class, having secured the UK’s opt-out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Plutocracy or democracy?

    The reasons that a global business have for supporting or rejecting a treaty shouldn’t be confused with the reasons that other social groups – or other business classes – have, leading to the erroneous conclusion that because one group supports it that all groups should support it. For example, international corporations do not write non-profit considerations into their articles of association, so they don’t consider areas of the treaty that are not related to their own selfish interests – such as whether Britannia or Barruso rules the waves. Ergo, single markets make life easier for them, and that’s all they’re concerned about.

    In regard to a government ratifying a treaty because the political party of that government puts its selfish financial interests regarding the source of its funding before the interests of the people or the country, I doubt even the Tories are that morally bankrupt. Besides, there are as many City corporations against as there are in favour, so what is lost from one section will be made up from another. Principles still matter to the British Conservatives – unlike the unmitigated degenerates who comprise the left in that country.

    Unlike the dismal situation in Ireland, the British people, at least, have an opposition that is opposed to undermine the national sovereignty of the British people. How will the Irish people punish the government for showing contempt for the Irish constitution and for the will of the people if the election is re-run until a Yes vote is the outcome when the opposition is also corrupted by EU federal agenda? They may vote against the government at the next election, but what good will that do? As much as I detest Sinn Fein, I know where my vote will be going at the next election.

  • Professor Richard Wyn Jones, Director of the Institute of Welsh Politics at the Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University. has written a letter to David Cameron

  • Dave @ 02:06 AM:

    I’m not clear why I deserved that rant.

    For the record, my alter ego (and, boy! does he have an ego!) was involved as a bag-carrier in the ealy-1960s anti-EEC campaign in Dublin when Lemass was fudging the neutrality issue; and campaigned and spoke on public platforms against British membership in 1975. Curiously, the arguments then were not dissimilar to those Dave rehearses here.

    I suppose, grannies need repeatedly to be educated in ovivorous habits. But, heck!, it’s a quiet Sunday; and I’m invited to a booze-up.