In June, 2015 it was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron that the referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union could (i.e. might) be held within the next year, with June 2016 pencilled in. But this date is becoming highly unlikely.
To start with, his letter of ‘demands’ (which contains little of importance) to the European Commissioner needs to be agreed which will take time. Secondly, the House of Lords has just voted for 16 and 17 year-olds to be eligible to vote in the referendum and redrawing the electoral register to include these youngsters will not be a quick process. Thirdly, a June referendum would see the campaign clash with the Scottish, Welsh, local and London Mayoral elections in May 2016. So it’s therefore not surprising that Downing Street has already denied that the referendum will be held next June.
This is not the first time there has been dithering about a referendum which the Government of the day really doesn’t want to hold no matter what their voters say.
In 2004 Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair said a referendum would be held on the ratification of the European Constitution but did not name a date for the poll.
In 2005 Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems all promised a referendum on whether to ratify the EU Constitution In their general election manifestos.
In 2007 the European Commission put forward a replacement for their proposed European Constitution which came to be known as the Lisbon Treaty. But the Labour government said it was a different document, amending not overwriting existing treaties and that therefore a referendum was not needed. On the other hand Conservative leader, David Cameron, gave a “cast-iron guarantee” to hold a referendum on any treaty emerging from the Lisbon process if he becomes Prime Minister. However —
In 2009, David Cameron admitted that he that would not be able to fulfil his pledge to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty because it had been ratified by all EU member states. But he said that, if elected, no future substantial transfer of powers would take place without the approval of the British people.
In April, 2010 in their election manifesto, the Lib Dems pledged to hold an “in-out” referendum the next time there is a “fundamental change” in the EU’s treaty arrangements.
On 24 October 2011 a motion calling for a referendum on EU membership was defeated in the Commons.
On 5 July 2013, Conservative backbencher, James Wharton brought forward a bill to enshrine in law his party’s pledge to hold an in/out referendum in 2017. It passed in the Commons but fell in the House of Lords.
On 22 January 2013, with UKIP now polling 10%, Prime Minister David Cameron said that if the Conservatives won the next election (2015) they would seek to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the EU and then give the British people the “simple choice” in 2017 between staying in the EU under those terms or leaving.
May 2015, the General Election was won by the Conservatives but, in spite of only gaining one seat, UKIP polled almost 4 million voters and David Cameron repeated his pledge to hold an in/out referendum by the end of November 2017.
Why the end of 2017? Two reasons.
Firstly, because in the second part of that year the British government takes over what is known as the Presidency of the Council and while the rotating Presidency is essentially a powerless position, the unelected Commission has sole right to propose legislation and it will allow for British ministers to grandstand. They will push the ‘Britain at the heart of Europe’ button and spin the conclusions of meetings hosted in the UK to announce that Britain has great influence in Europe.
The second reason is that on 31st March 2017 the second part of the Lisbon Treaty will come fully into effect. Britain and the other member states will completely lose the right of Veto on many important laws which will be transferred to the European Council and made subject to Qualified Majority Voting. Up till then, member states could still request to use the previous rule for qualified majority voting. This will mean that in no fewer than 43 areas of competence our own British Parliament will no longer be able to legislate for the British people. These include:
European Court of Justice
Freedom of movement for workers
As well as the most important one —
Withdrawal of a member state.
The Lisbon Treaty does include an exit clause, known as Article 50 whereby a withdrawal by a member may be negotiated and passed by the Quality Majority Voting. So Britain’s request to withdraw from the EU could be defeated. Even if it achieved that majority of votes and were allowed to leave the EU, it could take as long as two years to do so during which time the UK would continue to be subject to EU laws but would be unable to put forward any amendments or laws itself.
So, as David Cameron very well knows, after November 1st his idea of renegotiation to recover competence in any of these areas will be almost impossible and this includes our withdrawal from the EU even if it is voted for in a referendum in Britain.
And this is why, no matter what he says, David Cameron and his mainly Europhile Government will try to delay and deny the British people a legal choice as to whether we should leave or remain in a rapidly failing European Union.
There is no trusting the words of Cast-Iron Cameron.