Pity the British Prime Minister – but only up to a point. In the midst of trying to come back with something he can sell to his Eurosceptic wing on the EU budget, he also embarked on his much vaunted bill to, as he sees it, protect British sovereignty.
I am quite honestly mystified at Cameron’s decision to take on Europe on two fronts in this way. Given the Tories’ vulnerability on all things EU, it strikes me as singularly daft.
No matter, Cameron is ploughing on with an increasingly sorry looking furrow. Despite promising the public that they would get to vote on any powers to be transferred from the UK to the EU, the proposed bill states that some powers will now be able to go to the EU without a referendum.
This I may add comes from the political party who relentlessly criticised Labour for not holding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
That most odious of Eurosceptics Bill Cash is, of course, on the case, pointing out that the commitment in the coalition agreement to subject any future transfers of power to the EU to a “referendum lock” has gone well and truly down the plug-hole. In typical hyperbolic fashion Cash has stated, “This bill is of historic significance and is the most important constitutional bill affecting the relationship between the UK parliament and the EU since the European Communities Act 1972,” according to the BBC. Cash is certainly upping the ante, shades of more to come, I suspect.
And the Eurosceptics are in one sense quite right to get upset. The coalition is breaking its promise, just as I predicted it would on this blog before the general election. The promise to put every single transfer of power from Britain to the EU to a vote in a referendum was quite simply not credible, as David Cameron, his coalition government and the Tory Eurosceptics are now discovering.
What is more, and must be especially galling for the Eurosxeptics in the House of Commons, the new EU bill says a minister will, in some cases, be able simply to state the transfer of power is not significant enough to merit a referendum. A minister indeed, and maybe even the Europe Minister who is not even in the Cabinet.
We have already seen the first transgression from Cameron when he made clear that there will not be a referendum on the treaty changes suggested by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to establish a permanent mechanism to protect the euro.
Yet not all Liberal-Democrats, silent partners on this issue, are keeping their counsel. MEP Andrew Duff has made his views known to the BBC in no uncertain terms, as follows: “The coalition government must respect the constitutional order of the European Union and should not impede the steady democratic evolution of the Treat-based rules which bind all EU states together in a deep and lasting interdependence.”
In other words, to paraphrase the Sun when it ran its pathetic campaign against European Commission President Jacques Delors – “up yours Cameron”.