The EU Constitution Show
No matter what they call this show – From Here to Lisbon, Around the EU in 80 days, Constitution Street, EUtopia Actually, A Referendum for All Seasons – the outcome is foreordained. The second reading of the European Union (Amendment) Bill begins today, and is allotted four weeks of debate. It is, of course, all about the
Both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition will find themselves skating on ice as they attempt to maintain unity within their ranks. Backbench mutinies are likely within all parties, and it is the Prime Minister’s hope that the spectre of Maastricht will return to haunt the Conservative Party, whom the media will then parade to the nation as riddled with division and unfit to govern.
And the hope is not vain. Mr Cameron has yet to fulfil his pledge to leave the EPP, and he has not said what his policy will be if, after the next general election, he finds himself in power and subject to a treaty which the overwhelming majority of the Party opposes. A retrospective referendum has not been assured, and even if it were, there is precious little that inclines one to believe that it would be granted.
There is no reverse gear on the acquis, and the Church of England has been complicit through its allegiance to the Soul for Europe programme. The EU accretes power through an inverse subsidiarity which negates the very definition of the concept. There is no opportunity to renegotiate, and so the only alternative appears to be secession. The ‘in or out’ referendum unnerves all party leaders, but Cranmer is bemused to know why. If politicians bothered to serve the people instead of presuming to lord it over them, the people might just be more inclined to trust them. The whole sovereignty argument has been massively exacerbated by the undeniable reality that the British people no longer possess it at any level: if a vote for a local councillor can no longer change the frequency of refuse collection, it is beyond belief that a vote in a general election could ever repatriate policies on fishing, agriculture, immigration, justice, workers’ rights, human rights…
Make no mistake about it, this is an issue of nationhood and sovereignty. And it is about time that this once-great nation had visionary leaders with enough self-confidence to win our country back. And still Cranmer wonders if Mr Cameron might be the man. For the Conservative Party’s Europhiles are a dying breed, and each general election brings in new blood which is overwhelmingly sceptical.
And Mr Brown’s hope for interminable and embarrassing ‘Tory splits’ may be short-lived as he underestimates their thirst for government. Indeed, Mr Brown’s yearnings for Conservative divisions may well prove to be cohesive and unifying for the Party. When one understands this reality, and observes that the EU’s own research shows just a third of Britons believe the country has benefited from EU membership and just a quarter saying they trust the EU, this is a mood which the Conservative Party must embrace. And if it does, Cranmer prophesies victory.
And in the meantime, why does Mr Cameron not exhort his ‘Democracy Task Force’ to evolve a few policies which will move the Conservative Party to a sure and certain foundation? The very notion of a ‘Democracy Task Force’ is, in any case, a fraudulent façade as long as the UK remains shackled to the fundamentally undemocratic EU. So Mr Cameron should forget his proposal for a ‘Bill of Rights’ – we have one already, and it has served us well for more than three centuries. How about a policy for English courts to regard English common law as pre-eminent and superior to Strasbourg law? English laws for English judges, if you will. The implications for the UK’s relations with the EU would be obvious.
Cranmer is burdened and yet elated by the feeling that the UK’s membership of the EU is heading for a very rough ride. Indeed, he believes with every fibre of his being that the UK is heading inexorably towards the exit; a fundamental renegotiation which will place the UK firmly within the trading bloc, and liberate the nation from the political curse of ‘ever closer union’. Whether it comes in one year, five, or ten, Cranmer does not know. No man knows the day or the hour. But it will happen. Rest assured. It will happen.