Conservative Policy on Lisbon

Yesterday (Nov 4th) I joined a phone-in programme on the Lisbon Treaty on BBC Radio Northampton.  I am well aware of public attitudes to the EU, yet even I was taken aback by the relentlessly hostile flow of comment about the Lisbon Treaty, and the way that it has been rail-roaded through in the teeth of public opposition.  It is clear that the EU has lost any claim it might have had to democracy and legitimacy.  Many speakers were also very unhappy about the withdrawal by the Conservative Party of its commitment to a Lisbon referendum.
The presenter turned to me in the forlorn hope that, as an MEP in Brussels, I might have an alternative view.  He was disappointed.
Like all Conservative MPs and MEPs, I was elected on an explicit Manifesto Commitment to a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.  Yesterday, David Cameron rejected that commitment and repudiated that policy.
I respect the view of those who say that you can’t have a referendum on a fully-ratified treaty, but I think they’re wrong.  Such a referendum would serve three ends: first we should be keeping our word.  Second, we should put the spotlight on the shocking betrayal of the British people by this Labour government.  But third, and most important, we should give a future Conservative government a rock-solid mandate for renegotiation.
Yet if those who argue against such a referendum win the day, we at least have an obligation to give the British people a say in some form, perhaps along the lines proposed recently by David Davis in the Daily Mail.  We have a clear duty to let the British people speak at last on this vexed issue.
Our new policy is confused.  We have said that now that the Lisbon Treaty is EU law, we are not in a position to repudiate it.  Yet we have made a series of proposals which repudiate significant parts of it, and run counter to EU law — for example the proposed Sovereignty Bill.  But as we all know, the supremacy of EU Law is explicit in the Lisbon Treaty.  If we accept Lisbon, we accept the supremacy of EU law.
A “Referendum Lock” will not work, because we have already thrown away the key.  Our policy fails to recognise the self-amending nature of Lisbon, with its passerelle clauses.  Until now, EU integration has been step-wise, Treaty by Treaty.  Now it will become a continuous process of daily attrition, successive salami slices.  That is, in large part, the main point of Lisbon.  It is designed to eliminate the problems and referenda defeats which successive Treaties have faced, and to provide for integration by stealth.   If we are not prepared to stand and fight on the enormity of the Treaty itself, we will scarcely stand and fight on the subsequent salami slices.
What we have is an essentially cosmetic policy.  We are installing a largely ineffective burglar alarm when the family silver has already been stolen.  But the British people don’t want vague promises.  They want the family silver back in good order.
I intend to continue to support the Party, and to work for a Conservative victory in 2010, since it is overwhelmingly in the best interests of my constituents, and of the country, to have a Conservative government under David Cameron, rather than the present failing and disastrous Labour administration.
But I can neither justify nor support our new EU policy.  In these circumstances, I have concluded that I can no longer continue to serve as a spokesman for the delegation.  I have accordingly resigned both my spokesmanships with immediate effect.
So have I given up in despair?  Not yet.  These developments are a set-back, but not yet a death-knell.  For years I have publicly supported the Better Off Out campaign (, and I will continue to do so.  You can only defy the will of the people for so long, and the longer you do so the angrier they get.  Transnational governments that fail to respect the identity and aspirations of the people cannot survive — consider Yugoslavia, or the USSR.  We have lost the hope of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, but I believe that I shall live to see the day when we have a referendum on EU membership, and Brussels is working hard, if unconsciously, to firm up the OUT vote.  I put my faith in the angry callers of Northamptonshire, and others like them up and down the country.

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10 Responses to Conservative Policy on Lisbon

  1. Malcolm Edward says:

    Cameron’s policy to renegotiate a few things with the EU is a total sham, because the EU will not agree to anything that furthers our national interest. Cameron’s policy, practically, is a de facto acceptance of Labour’s treacherous legacy, and he is taking us for fools if thinks we can’t see through it.
    To achieve the return of the large range of powers, and to protect our freedom of speech, we need to regain our sovereignty, it is clear that we need leaders who are prepared to unratify treaties and who will act unilaterally when we don’t get the EU’s agreement.

    In the ten constituencies where a private referendum on the Lisbon treaty was held (in early 2008), the Lisbon treaty was rejected by 89% of the respondents.
    Domestically a referendum would be very popular, a good rallying cause and would boost positive perceptions of the conservative party. So why isn’t Cameron going to hold one ?
    I am increasingly mistrustful of Cameron’s agenda and motivations.
    Having said all that, the New Labour cabinet should be facing gaol for treachery.

  2. Malcolm Edward says:

    Meant to say in second para above,
    To achieve the return of the large range of powers we need in order to regain our sovereignty, and to protect our freedom of speech, …

  3. Roger, what are your thoughts on grassroots campaigns trying to utilise Lisbon’s provision for citizens initiatives? Don’t campaigns like right2bet – – represent a good opportunity to make Europe freer, fairer, and more responsive to EU citizens?

  4. Chris says:

    An honourable decision Mr Helmer. Honesty should not be compromised

  5. Fausty says:

    You have my admiration for making a stand.

    I notice that you’re also opposing the Orwellian over-45s’ “mid-life crisis” test – one of many sinister EU initiatives which are churned out daily and which largely go unnoticed.

    Did you know that Lansley is actively encouraging the government to roll out swine flu vaccinations to pregnant women and children? How soon before it becomes mandatory for all, should people wish to keep their jobs, travel, apply for jobs, etc?

  6. Rob S says:

    Roger, once again you have captured the way I feel about it perfectly. I see it as an abandonment of the spirit of what was a cast-iron guarantee. At this moment I am thinking that in the upcoming election, for the first time since I started voting in the mid-70’s, I will not be able to vote Conservative and can find no enthusiasm for a Cameron government. However, you can rest assured that you would have my vote in any future contest.

  7. David Hearnshaw says:

    Roger – well done on your stand! Cameron seems to have forgotten that no parliament can bind its successor. This is a terrible decision and a great betrayal whilst the new `policy’ is incoherent. This could loose the Tories an overall majority.

  8. richard says:

    Hi Roger.
    Surely there must be others in the other political parties who are sick to the back teeth of this monstrosity that is the lisbon treaty.
    Why is there no appetite for cross party co-operation to sort this out?
    Come on guys and girls…….sod the whips….. Save YOUR Country before it really is too late. We can unratify anything we want, it just takes people in common co-operation to do it and if that means going ‘cap in hand’ to Liebour, Lib Dems, UKIP, Greens………. wash my mouth out with soap…..EVEN BNP if needs be.

    The turkeys in the Liebour party really are voting for Christmas due to their ‘scorched Earth’ policy on just about everything they do now!! so they will want to start helping now or face a minimum of 5 years in the wilderness

  9. Simon Clarke says:

    Roger, It is always a breath of democratic fresh air when decent folk like yourself put their heads above the pulpit and speak out for your consitutents, and indeed most of the UK population for that matter. You are an example of that which most people wish their local MPs would be.

    I fear that come the election the Torys will have lost further votes to the BNP because of Cameron’s blatant lie. Let’s be honest, we can dress it up and term it “backtracking”, “policy shift”, “U-turn”, “re-think”, but when all is said and done Mr Cameron is now thought of as a bare-faced liar and has done the whole party a severe injustice.

    In my local pub, a civilised one without sounding pretentious, I have heard, and been parly to, quite a few conversations on this matter. Many a decent folk, for whom conservativism has been the status quo, are now looking towards the unthinkable and are considering their vote being cast in favour of the BNP. The over-ridding anger at being ignored, walked-over and now blatantly lied to by their own party far outweighs the perception people may hold about them if they carry out their threat of a BNP vote.

    I reluctantly have to either join these folk, or find a suitable independant in the forthcoming election; I cannot vote for a party that refuses to listen to the public and merely swats them aside like flies around a horses rear. Mr Cameron’s attitude is no different to Mr Brown’s et all.

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