Deputy PM Nick Clegg has conceded that a referendum on EU membership is ‘inevitable’.
In a speech today he urged those who are pro-European to start making the case for remaining in Europe, saying “It will not be enough to speak up on the eve of a referendum.” He has also written to business leaders and charities urging them to speak up in favour of EU membership.
The charges are those we’ve heard before – we’d be isolated, cast adrift, a nowhere nation on the edge of the world. They are arguments that we’ve shot down with hard facts before, and we can continue to do so. Above all, the British people want Britain to be a sovereign nation, with her laws made at home in Westminster. Only UKIP is speaking up for that viewpoint – all the other parties will be campaigning to keep us in.
But it also disproves the charge that Tories love to keep scaring would-be UKIP voters with: that the British people will only get a referendum if they vote Conservative at the next election. Toby Young, writing in The Spectator recently on the subject of a ‘Unite the Right’ campaign, said “This could be our last chance in a generation — possibly ever — to extract ourselves from the European superstate.” Clearly that’s preposterous. Does he really think that if our leaders take a referendum off the table, the British public will just roll over and say ‘oh well, we won’t have one then’?
UKIP has done amazing work in getting the leaders of the other parties talking about a referendum at all. But it is the British people who have said time and again that they want one. And they won’t stop wanting one if the Tories – who are against UKIP on grammar schools, HS2, cutting the deficit (really cutting it that is, not just talking about it) and a whole host of other issues – lose the next election.
That’s why it’s up to UKIP to keep making the case for withdrawal from the EU, and to keep putting pressure on for a referendum. It’s what the people of Britain want. And the other party leaders are starting to realise that.
By the way, Clegg’s speech was delivered at the London headquarters of Swiss technology firm Buhler group, presumably to demonstrate the idea that companies only invest in the UK because of our EU membership. But Switzerland isn’t even in the EU. Clegg might want to note that that country seems to do a fantastic amount of trade with other European nations despite being gravely disadvantaged in this way.