Reading news media during a volcano-delayed return to the UK, arriving home at 2 am, I see every pundit wants to call the SP on what the Liberatories are up to. Yet reading their policy statements in detail does not yet reveal which beaches will be the ones where the real battle is to take place.
It’s too late to undo what has been agreed by Labour over Hedge Funds, and clearly this is not seen as a profitable way to expend political capital. As so often in the past, we are left reading words from William Hague to try to work out what course of action is intended, except of course this time, Hague is Foreign Secretary, and not Shadow. His words might have been labelled as insincere electioneering previously, but not now.
From Open Europe,
Writing in the Irish Times, Foreign Minister William Hague sets out the new Conservative-led Government’s EU policy, writing that the EU needs to improve economic competitiveness and that the Government “remains firmly convinced of the merits of further union enlargement.” Hague adds that the UK also “intends to play a leading role in discussion of the union’s external affairs”, calling for a “more muscular and demanding approach” in the Balkans in particular.
However, he argues, “British voters were denied any say over the [Lisbon] treaty, either at a general election or in a referendum and in breach of the last government’s election manifesto commitments. That denial has done grave damage in Britain to the EU’s democratic legitimacy, and that legitimacy is now in need of repair.”
Hague adds, “In a speech last November, Prime Minister David Cameron set out how we intend to do that – by domestic measures to make the EU more accountable and by negotiating for specific British guarantees on the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the operation of the EU’s competence in criminal justice and on social and employment legislation. We have been very clear that the purpose of these measures is not to frustrate or sabotage the operation of the EU but to put Britain’s role in the union on a more positive footing. We aim to achieve these guarantees over the lifetime of our newly-elected parliament.”
He concludes, “It is right that we should establish the principle that European integration is not a one-way street so that powers can be returned from the EU to its member states.”
‘During the course of this Parliament’ is not quite the long grass, and if he doesn’t perform in some form or other on these words, he will look none too good by the time of the next election, or sooner.
At the same time he must be alarming his opponents within the EU greatly by even coming up with this amount of verbal declaration of opposition.
But the key will be at what point does the Liberal part of Liberatory not like the sound of these words of intention. We need a few words from that quarter before we can really read the lie of the land.
Open Europe again –
EurActiv looks at the new Government’s agreement on Europe policy and cites Open Europe welcoming the commitment to hold a referendum on any future Treaty changes. Open Europe Director Mats Persson is quoted saying: “What cannot happen is for the new government to adopt the calculating, spinning, referendum-dodging approach of its predecessor in order to avoid facing up to the electorate and honouring its pledges, particularly on the transfer of powers to Brussels.”
In the Sunday Express, Julia Hartley-Brewer noted that, although the Con-Lib coalition has committed to imposing a “referendum lock” on all future treaty changes that transfer further powers to Brussels, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg “might have a different definition of what constitutes a ‘transfer of powers'”.
And then there is the alternative way that events could unfold, with the primary resistance coming not from the Shadow cabinet, but on initiation from the backbenches.
Meanwhile, the Mail reports that Conservative MP Douglas Carswell has revealed that he and other backbenchers will campaign for a referendum on changes to the Lisbon Treaty that would see an extra 18 MEPs take their seats in the European Parliament before 2014. Although the Treaty change will have to be approved by Parliament, a referendum would not apply to the Lisbon Treaty as a whole, which has already been passed into UK law.
Now don’t we wish there a few more of these hearty backbenchers, willing to open fire without fear or qualification? UKIP are endlessly voluble, but are only keeping Douglas ‘Robin Hood’ Carswell from having enough merry men.