Thursday, January 24, 2013

In/Out Referendum - Now what?

So, David Cameron has fired the starting pistol on an In/Out Referendum.  He has indicated that he wants to re-negotiate the settlement that the UK has with the EU and so long as the UK gets want it wants, he will whole-heartedly work for a Yes/In vote.

I smell quantities of rats!

Firstly, the referendum is dependent on the Conservatives winning the next election.  The Lib Dems are dead-set against holding an In/Out Referendum.  Yes, I know that just a few years ago, as in just before the last election, Nick Clegg, their leader, was all for one but hey, this is politics!  We can't say what is the position of the Labour Party as it doesn't know - saying one thing one minute and the opposite the next.  I suspect that my dog may be socialist as she always pulls to the left but she too seems undecided.

Secondly, and most importantly what are we going to ask for?  What powers will we be seeking to have repatriated?  Most importantly, will these be known in advance of the 2015 General Election?  That is, in order to weigh the value of the Conservative position, we need to know what they will be re-negotiating.  For example, if they only wanted to re-negotiate the Euro arrest warrant, this probably wouldn't persuade me that the referendum had any merit.  Talking about the repeal of the Working Time Directive?  Now I am starting to get interested.  Did the Tories say that they are also going to tackle a whole raft of, named,  anti-business EU laws, regulations and directives repealed?  Okay, now I see you are getting serious and the In/Out referendum might actually mean something.  Keep filling out the subjects and I will start to see the breadth and depth of what the referendum might mean.

Thirdly, and linked to the above, will we have lines in the sand published in advanced?  I believe this is critical as it will stimulate this very important debate and will force the other political parties to say whee they stand.  For example, if the Conservatives say they will require that the Working Time Directive is repealed, then they can say why it should be and, will force the Labour Party  and Lib Dems to say why it shouldn't be.
 
Fourthly, and others have mentioned this, who will lead the Out campaign?  The euro-sceptics and those who want Out anyway and don't consider that any re-negotiation will satisfy them, need to come together very soon and coalesce around a respected leader.  The individual doesn't have to be UKIP or Conservative or Labour etc.  But a campaign leader does need to be appointed.  My vote would go for David Davis.

Fifth, what can we expect of that paragon of balanced reporting - the BBC?  That they are Europhile has always been very apparent, so how to get balance?  Maybe, we could just have Parliament pass a quick enabling law, prohibiting the BBC from reporting on anything about the debate or the European Commission?  OK, so that is extreme but maybe we could oblige them to put a warning strap across all of their stories?  You know, the one that always appears saying - Warning contains flash photography.  How about Warning contains pro-EU bias?

Sixth, how about we get the economic and trade arguments out of the way, at the start.  Put simply, the UK needs to continue to trade with our current EU partners now, during the debate and after any referendum.  Equally, those same partners need to continue to trade with the UK.  None of these economies can simply walk away from such large trading partners.  Any suggestion that the opposite is true is simply ignorant scare-mongering and puerile nonsense. 

Seventh, one of the major reforms that is needed is the establishment of democracy within the EU institutions.  At the outset, that means the abolition of the EU Commission - completely - and all of its attendant institutions which seek to rule without any democratic mandate.

No renegotiation can be seen as successful if the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy remain.  That must be a given.  These restrictive policies, must go.  Similarly, no acceptance of anything that doesn't require that audited accounts are published each year.

Of course any EU level budget can only, repeat only change, up or down, in line with the collective GDP position of the member states.  So if overall EU GDP grows by 0.5% so the budget can grow by that, if it contracts by the same amount, then the spending /budget must be reduced by the same amount.

All new members can only be accepted, if they are cash neutral as regards contributions.  They are neither a net contributor nor a net receiver of funds.

Within a reasonable time frame - ten years or at least not more than fifteen years, all contributors are net zero.
  
Finally and very importantly, any powers that are returned and so are part of the 'success' which prompts a Yes/In vote, must then remain with the UK Parliament and can never be returned to the EU without the express authority of the UK people - that is they have to have specifically voted for it not voted for a party that then decides to undo what has been 'won'.  We wouldn't want any kind of back-sliding or back-room deals such as - yes we will allow that power back and then in two years time, when Brussels issues a new directive, the UK accepts it and we are back to status quo ante.    

As I said at the outset, I smell rats.  I suspect that the Tory leadership consider this a good each-way bet.  If they lose the election, then they can say to their Euro-sceptic MPs - See, people just aren't interested!  If they win the election, then they can re-negotiate on unimportant issues - we managed to rescue the bent banana - and then present such 'victories' as meaningful and promote a vote for In, saying at the same time, this must close the issue, once and for all!

This one is a long way from settled.  Who said the 'devil is in the detail'?

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