Prime Minister Gordon Brown is guilty of a Great Betrayal over his signing of the European “Reform Treaty”, which is no more than a re-named European Constitution. The Prime Minister signed the Treaty in Lisbon last night, and it now faces a ratification process in parliament probably in the first three months of 2008.
The Treaty creates a full time President and Foreign Minister for Europe, as well as an EU diplomatic service. It gives up at least fifty British vetoes, and gives Brussels sweeping powers in new areas including energy and immigration. The Prime Minister claims to have “Red Lines” protecting British interests, but the Labour-dominated European Scrutiny Committee in Westminster has described these red lines as “leaking like a sieve”. Leading European politicians in Brussels have already declared that they will challenge the British opt-outs in the European Court of Justice, where they may well be struck down. Some have been described in Brussels as “clarifications, not opt-outs”.
The Treaty directly threatens the sovereignty of the British parliament. For the first time in our history it places our parliament under an explicit obligation to foreign institutions. Worse still it contains its own amending procedure allowing further power transfers to Brussels without limit. If this Treaty is ratified, it is the last time that parliament or the British people will have a say on new power grabs by Brussels. In future, they will take place behind closed doors in the Council of Ministers in Brussels, and Westminster will be powerless to stop them.
The Prime Minister seeks to justify breaking his referendum promise by arguing that the Treaty is not the same as the failed Constitution. But while there are technical differences, the practical effect will be exactly the same. While Brown insists that this is not a Constitution, his Spanish opposite number José Zapatero insists “We have kept all the significant parts of the Constitution … this is a treaty of a foundational character for a new Europe”. The Prime Minister also argues that the Treaty is “too complicated” for ordinary voters to understand or vote on. But governing Britain is also a pretty complicated task, yet in our democracy we trust the people to choose who should run the country. We should also trust them to decide whether to pass more powers to Europe. The refusal to hold a referendum in the face of overwhelming public demand shows a huge contempt for the British people and for democracy.
In my own East Midlands region, the village of Broughton Astley in Leicestershire is holding an official village referendum on whether we need a referendum on the Treaty. This will take place in November 1st. Broughton Astley is England’s largest village, so this will be the biggest ballot-box test of public opinion so far. Several thousand people will have an opportunity to pass judgement on the referendum question.
Gordon Brown’s Labour government was elected in 2005 on a clear Manifesto Commitment to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution. Fully 98% of current MPs made the same pledge. This new Treaty is the same in substance as the Constitution. Brown’s insistence on denying the referendum he promised, in defiance of public opinion which is 70+% in favour, is a wholesale breach of faith. His decision to deny us a referendum, to hand over the people’s democratic rights and freedoms to Brussels in the teeth of popular opposition, is a Great Betrayal. Bottler Brown chickened out of a General Election. Now he’s chickened out of a referendum. His credibility is shot.
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