March 3, 2008
I underestimated the British ‘‘I Want a Referendum’ campaign in my post of 26 February. The claim is that, in the selected parliamentary constituencies, 88% of those who voted in an unofficial poll favoured a referendum. A PR victory but a Pyrrhic one. There was an intensive ‘Yes’ campaign but the ‘Noes’ weren’t active. As the poll had no validity, those opposing a referendum had no incentive to ‘vote’. But all this is in any case irrelevant.
A referendum is an inappropriate mechanism for such a complex issue. There was no referendum to ratify the Single European Act nor the Treaties of Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice.
The Liberal Democrats are right that, if there were to be a referendum, the question should be whether or not the UK stay a member of the EU. All Member States agreed the Constitutional Treaty and the Reform Treaty on the basis that the enlarged Union needed a revision of a number of the existing provisions. If the question put to the French and the Dutch had been to say ‘Yes’ to the new treaty or ‘No’ but with the consequence of leaving the Union, the results would have been different.
It is reasonable to ask voters whether or not they wish to be EU members but not whether the new treaty provisions are needed. I do not believe that the British electorate would vote to leave the EU, if they understood that the UK would not be able to negotiate other than terms damaging to the UK’s economy.Author : Stanley Crossick