Give us this day our referendum
Speaking of the imminent EU ‘Reform Treaty’, the Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon David Miliband, has said: ‘The constitutional concept, which consisted in repealing all existing treaties and replacing them by a single text called “Constitution”, is abandoned’. There is, therefore, no need for a referendum.
But Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the god-father, architect, and creator of the Constitution for Europe, has declared: ‘This text is, in fact, a rerun of a great part of the substance of the constitutional treaty… the public is being led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly’. He said that differences between the new treaty and the constitution ‘are few and far between and more cosmetic than real’. In comparing his role in drawing up the blueprint to that of America's founding fathers, he said the term 'constitution' had been dropped simply to ‘make a few people happy’.
Jean-Luc Dehaene MEP, the former prime minister of Belgium, noted that ‘95 per cent of the constitution was back’. He said it was no surprise that voters were confused: ‘We drafted a treaty with a constitutional content and form. Now we have a treaty with a constitutional content without the form. But both are a treaty and neither is a constitution. The ambiguous use of words has led to misunderstandings’.
Giuliano Amato, the former Prime Minister of Italy, has said that the revived EU constitution has deliberately been made ‘unreadable’ to help fend off demands for a referendum: ‘EU leaders had decided that the document to be drawn up by an intergovernmental conference should be unreadable… If this is the kind of document that the IGC will produce, any prime minister - imagine the UK prime minister - can go to the Commons and say “Look, you see, it's absolutely unreadable, it's the typical Brussels treaty, nothing new, no need for a referendum”... Should you succeed in understanding it there might be some reason for a referendum, because it would mean that there is something new.''
The three 'founding fathers' of the Constitution for Europe are in complete accord that the 'Reform Treaty' is nothing other than their creation. In its 2001 manifesto, Labour agreed that there would be a referendum on the EU constitution. The façade may have morphed into a ‘treaty’, but it is the assertion of its authors that the underlying character is completely unchanged. For Gordon Brown to insist with the pretence that it is just another ‘unreadable’ treaty is a lie.
At Westminster, there is emerging a cross-party campaign for a referendum. It is said to include as many as 40 Labour MPs, and two huge unions (The Transport & General and Unison) are joining the demands. As the Prime Minister glows in his two by-election victories, it is time to prepare for an autumn battle which even BBC bias could not supress. There will not be a general election, because the timetable for ratification of the ‘Reform Treaty’ would be imperilled. No, the battle must strategically orchestrated, and intensely focused on demands for a referendum, day after day, week after week. This is the time to be Churchillian.