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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Topsy Turvy Times At Westminster

In the Telegraph, Mathew D'Ancona writes that the Second Reading of the Bill to ratify the EU Constitution (Lisbon Treaty) in The Commons is going to be a tough debate for both Brown and Cameron.

He sees the main problem as being for David Cameron though, keeping the Conservative side from appearing divided and overly hostile, and ensuring that Brown is not able to get away with sounding reasonable after abandoning his manifesto promise to have a national referendum. If the Conservatives sound overly anti-EU in the Commons, Brown would then easily portray the Conservative position as being the extreme one, and accuse Cameron of simply wanting to exit the EU.

As this danger is already being written about far and wide by many commentators, it is not likely that Conservative MPs will undermine their leader and oblige Gordon Brown in this way, just at the moment Cameron is at last in a commanding position in the polls. Events rarely comply with the prognostications of commentators especially when they are nearly all in agreement as to the likely outcome of events. Conservative MPs will surely behave themselves.

The more interesting part, to my mind will be whether Labour MPs will decide that this issue threatens their seats, and rebel. Labour survival instincts are more likely to take over, leading to a rebellion to force a referendum, than Conservative MPs are to jeopardise the strength of their current position. I think that Labour MPs breaking out against Gordon Brown's gameplan is a more likely scenario.

Just imagine the position if Labour MPs did rebel in sufficient numbers to force a referendum.

If the subsequent referendum were to reject the Treaty, the problem for Conservative sceptics would be that Gordon Brown or at least a Labour PM would be handling the renegotiation and not David Cameron. A renegotiation would be dressed up and sold back to Britain and repolled a while later. If Brown/Labour lost the first referendum, he might win a subsequent one, but whatever the outcome, Labour would be perceived as having traded fairly with the electorate.

Conservative eurosceptics would clearly do better to let Brown succeed in ratifying the Constitution through the Commons breaking his referendum manifesto pledge, and focus purely on winning power in 2010. They could then open up on the EU once in power, bringing all the issues to a head then while in a position of strength. Then it would be Cameron handling any renegotiation.

If Brown/Labour had already had a renegotiation, and succeeded in winning a second-time-around referendum, it would be far harder if not impossible for Cameron to open up on the core issues that he and Conservatives wish to address, as the Constitution would have been ratified openly and democratically.

It would be in Conservative eurosceptic interests to let Brown win for now, but pay a high price politically for doing so. It would, however without doubt be in Labour's best interests to ensure that he fails to ratify the Constitution in this way, that the promised referendum is held, and that they are seen not to have ratted on their referendum manifesto promise.

But will labour MPs act in their own best interests by blocking Brown and rebelling?

And will Conservatives act in their best interests by letting Brown win?

It's not often that both sides to a contest would do better by losing it.

Only Gordon Brown wants to see the Constitution ratified without a popular vote, breaking all his promises. It is because he is the supremely arrogant non-democrat that he is so unpopular. His unpopularity can only grow, the more arrogant and unwilling he is to face electors on any issue, whether it be his leadership, a general election or on this ratification procedure.

Meanwhile Cameron is remembering Napoleon's dictum - 'Never disturb your enemy when he's making a mistake.' Cameron must be patient, and wait while Brown weakens himself and his Party yet further. Conservative eurosceptics will have to be tied up and gagged for one month. Sorry, chaps.

A little debate might expose weak points in the government's and the EU's position, and those cards should be played. But unless the amendment backing the Referendum has a clear chance of passing with a big enough Labour revolt, Conservatives must not oblige Brown by venting their anger and frustration. If Conservatives win in 2010, they will finally get to sink their teeth.

9 comments:

SandyRham said...

Oi you b'stard!
You're saying that Brown and the EU should be allowed to win this round because in their arrogance the gloves will come off and they will really get in the public's face by 2010.
So we in this country should suffer for two years, while you swan around the Philippines.
Spoken with the reckless courage of the non-combatant I'd say. :P

tapestry said...

Yes. I am saying that.

At least that's the strategic situation.

The only hope of stopping the thing is a Labour rebellion. That is less likely to show its face if the Conservatives are in full cry.

If a large Labour rebellion opens up, then the situation would justify voting to support it.

Non-cambatant? As you wish! Cameron-truster and supporter......united we stand.

Anonymous said...

“They could then open up on the EU once in power”

Uh – how ? Could you maybe elaborate on what you see as the options once the Constitution is in place ?

Thanks.

ELF

tapestry said...

EU member states are not prevented from leaving the EU, as stated in the Treaties.

Neither can any Parliament bind a subsequent Parliament under British Constitutional law.

If Cameron were to take up a determined negotiating stance, backed up by a threat to quit the EU if the terms were not met, the other member states may prefer to agree to a new relationship for Britain rather than see her withdraw completely.

This situation would be new for Britain - although not for the EU, as I understand it. Other countries have withdrawn previously. I'll confirm which ones after checking the details if you are interested.

Iceland? Greenland?

Anonymous said...

"I'll confirm which ones after checking the details if you are interested"

Please.

tapestry said...

Apparently the Lisbon Treaty has the following -

49A, the first getout clause in any EU treaty allowing a member to quit.

Anonymous said...

Thanks.

It was the withdrawal of Iceland / Greenland that I was questioning. I had simply assumed that Greenland had just not entered in the first place – similar to Isle of Man / Channel Isles.

Anonymous said...

Thanks.

It was the withdrawal of Iceland / Greenland that I was questioning. I had simply assumed that Greenland had just not entered in the first place – similar to Isle of Man / Channel Isles.

tapestry said...

Greenland had joined but subsequently left. Iceland quote as follows -

it reached an agreement with the EU to adopt most of that organization's commercial regulations and to eliminate many of the remaining commercial and administrative barriers between the countries. Nevertheless, Iceland stopped short of applying for membership to the EU because of its concern that the EU would control its fishing resources.

(not unlike Norway's position).

Switzerland stays outside the EU also and manages to negotiate an acceptable relationship.

I'm sure that Britain would find the balance somewhere in a way that suited her needs too.

For a start we are outside the Euro. Cameron wants to quit the Social Chapter, the CAP and maybe the CFP too. (See Built To Last) It will take a tough negotiating stance.

He told Merkel that 'we would make better neighbours than tenants'. He has often made eurosceptic manoevres but cannot achieve much unless and until he's won power.