Elmar Brok is a rotund German Christian Democrat MEP, who holds a distinguished position in the European Peoples’ Party — the parliamentary group with which British Conservatives (myself excluded) are still uneasily associated. On August 20th, Elmar offered some advice to Gordon Brown. The Daily Telegraph headlined it “Stop moaning or leave the EU”. Britain had “got what it wanted” on its red lines. It would be “very unfair” if we were now to put the issue to a popular vote. Brok asked “The UK got its various opt-outs, so what’s the problem?”. A fair question, Elmar, so let’s give you a fair answer:
1 The British government may have agreed to the Renamed Constitution, but the British people have not.
2 Repeated opinion polls show that 80+% of the British people want a referendum, and two thirds would vote NO (indeed with differential turnout, I’d be surprised if the NO vote was below 80%).
3 This Labour government (and some 98% of serving MPs) were elected on a manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on the Constitution. Brok insists that the Renamed Constitution is “substantially different” from the old version, but his own leader Angela Merkel has let the cat out of the bag, by describing it as “presentational changes but with the same legal effect”. We simply demand what we were promised: a referendum.
4 Brok says we got our red lines. But as he knows perfectly well, no one in Brussels thinks the British opt-outs will survive challenge in the ECJ. In any case, we had those opt-outs in the first draft Constitution. If they did not obviate the need for a referendum then, they certainly don’t now.
5 Given the choice, most Brits would prefer “Less Europe” to “More Europe”. By any measure, the Renamed Constitution means More Europe — lots more. We cannot let it pass unchallenged.
It is both farcical and disgraceful that European leaders constantly speak of “A Europe of values based on democracy”, yet they are running scared of the verdict of the people, as they continue to bulldoze through their integration project in the teeth of public hostility.