Seeing Keith Vaz on Newsnight proposing a referendum on Britain’s EU membership, gives the clue that this is Gordon Brown’s election strategy for the EU Constitution referendum issue. i.e. muddy the waters to confuse the dumbo eurosceptics.
Interestingly I heard the same idea from Patrick Cormack two weeks ago at John Biffen’s funeral. Are the europhiles now trying to sound as if they are going to offer something tastier to eurosceptics than a referendum on the Constitution – viz. a referendum on EU membership total?
This seems to be a ploy to sidetrack the issue. But it could also be genuine – made in the belief that the British electorate would not vote to leave the EU, given the stark choice of ‘in’ or ‘out’?
In the short term, it is probably an election ploy. In the longer term, talking openly about the viability of Britain’s EU membership might turn into a rope around Brown’s neck.
Cameron’s campaign – ‘don’t let Brown let EU down’ and the backing in The Sun could well have triggered this move by Brown. It would be enough to cover Brown’s back during an election period, and make it sound as if Brown was operating at a higher level on the EU, without him having to actually call a referendum on EU membership at all, or even promise one. He only needs to talk about the possibility of a referendum on membership to undercut the current campaign from cameron, which is only focused on The Constitution.
Brown might also be hoping to push the Conservatives into more openly eurosceptic rhetoric so he can brand Cameron as a Xenophobic, Little Englander etc etc. Or he would be hoping to get repeated statements of commitment to EU membership from Cameron, and then turn it round on him, saying that if we reject the Constitution, our EU membership would be put in jeopardy.
As Brown is biting on this issue, Cameron should follow up, and keep the pressure on Brown. Whatever else he must make this a hot potato for Brown, or he could allow him to appear as the better thought out on this topic. He should improve his slogan on it immediately into Stop Brown Betraying Britain, and keep Brown on the back foot. There is after all the issue of breach of promise by Brown, and that needs to be played for all it is worth.