Cameron will not be holding a referendum on Lisbon after all…

(Poster is courtesy of DizzyThinks) With the ratification of Lisbon by Ireland, Poland and the Czech Republic, frankly there is no point. The deal was done when the Irish people kicked the idea of further resistance firmly into touch last month. Most of the rest has been spin. And the pretension that the UK can ‘repatriate’ powers ceded under this and/or other treaties is just that, a pretension. Unless, as Dizzythinks (one of the few Tory inclined blogs to cover itself in glory at this time – everyone else – including my mate Dan – has hit the bunker/donned the blinkers), Cameron was prepared to up the ante and threaten a referendum on UK withdrawal:

…there is an option available on Lisbon that would allow for its “unratification” by Britain. There is withdrawal clause in the Treaty. The Treaty states anyone can leave, but in order to do so you have to tell the European Council and then negotiate your exit. From a pure bargaining position, what would the Eurocrats reaction would be to the opening of withdrawal negotiation? They’d be facing the potential of Britain’s EU budget contribution disappearing. I think they’d panic.

I suspect Dizzy’s right. But I also suspect 5/6 of the British Establishment would go into a blind panic too. Cameron has rather un-adeptly painted himself into a corner is now exiting the eurosceptic room by the quickest and most direct route possible: straight across the still wet and tacky floor.

In big ticket diplomatic terms it matters not, now Lisbon is dead as a containable issue (from a British point of view). If the UK had said No to Lisbon after an Irish No, then the political effluent would have flowed just one way, and Cameron would have been behind the eight ball.

If the UK were then to say No (and newly crowned PM Cameron would find it hard to lead a Yes campaign) now Ireland has said Yes, all the brown sludgey stuff can only flow back towards Blighty. Before, it was Lisbon: yes or no? Now it would resile to the Lib Dems preferred terms: EU: Yes or No? As a pragmatic politician Cameron is probably right to try to extricate himself from this messy situation.

Although it might have been less difficult for him with his own team if he’d not promised Eurosceptic opinion in his own party. I suspect it will do him little harm with that great swathe of liberal middle England that once voted so stubbornly for Tony Blair. Though it’s evidence of a degree of political incontinence when it comes to matters of Foreign Affairs. And – unlike Blair – a tendency to choose a path in the first instance which offers least resistance from his fundamentalist base, only to be forced to let them down at some point thereafter.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty