New Tory wheeze: the “Mandate Referendum”


Tory MP Bernard Jenkin is a good guy, and genuinely wants to do the right thing.  It’s just a shame that he’s in the wrong party.

Of course the Tories post-last-Thursday are terrified of the rise and rise of UKIP (we’re on a roll, guys!)   And Bernard genuinely wants to claw back powers from Brussels (he still thinks we can).  So he’s come up with the idea of a “Mandate Referendum” in this parliament, perhaps as early as next May (Geddit?  Alongside the euro-elections!) — and he’s got twenty of his mates to sign up.

The idea is that the question would be, broadly speaking, “Do you agree that the government should negotiate with the EU for the repatriation of powers?”

How should we in UKIP respond?  My first instinct is to say NO!  We want an In/Out referendum.  We don’t want a renegotiation at all, and we don’t believe it can work.  It’s just a delaying tactic. The last thing we want to do is to vote to endorse the Tory renegotiation policy, which we know is doomed to failure.  So we should call for a boycott, or a NO vote.

But on mature reflection, I think that would be a mistake.  First, because we’ve been calling for an EU referendum, and we’ve been castigating Cameron for promising a referendum and failing to deliver.  The voters would simply not understand it if, after all that, we should oppose an EU referendum on what they would see, wrongly perhaps, as a technicality or a weasel.

Second, because I would expect such a referendum to be passed by a substantial majority, whatever we do.  At a time when we’re in the ascendant, we don’t want to position ourselves as losers on the wrong side of history.

So I think we should do a number of things.  First of all, we should make it clear that that we think the government is on the wrong course, and should offer an In/Out referendum.  Secondly, we should press for the government (or the Tory Party) to tell us what they will be demanding, and what their red lines are.  How can we vote for repatriation of powers if we don’t know which powers?  In this way, we raise the bar as high as possible — confident that any concessions Brussels may offer will be nugatory, and the renegotiation will fail

But third, and most important, we want to send a very strong, unified British message to Brussels: “Membership of the EU on today’s terms is just plain unacceptable to the British people”.  So we should call for a Yes vote, while making it clear that it’s the wrong question.

Then, when 80% vote yes, we may have negotiated Cameron into a position where a future Conservative government, after a failed renegotiation, is forced to hold an In/Out vote with a NO recommendation.  We will have helped to convince the Brussels institutions and politicians that Britain will have to leave, and cannot accept membership on any terms they would agree to.  And we will have put huge pressure on any in-coming Labour government not to go along with business-as-usual in the EU.

We know that the average voter doesn’t have too much patience with the small print.  It’s an EU referendum, and we’ll have voted against the status quo.  That will turn out to be a victory for UKIP, not a victory for the Tories.

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14 Responses to New Tory wheeze: the “Mandate Referendum”

  1. Linda Hudson says:

    The Tory party will not be in government after 2015!

    • Indeed, Linda. And the real danger is that an incoming Labour-led government would simply ignore any “Draft Bill” published by the Tories in the previous parliament. But if we’d had a Mandate referendum (which I suspect would get a big majority), it would be difficult for any future government to ignore it.

  2. tallbloke says:

    This is tactically correct thinking. The Tories cannot get a straight in/out referendum bill passed against Libdem opposition while in coalition in any event, so a step along the way during this parliament is better than nothing.

    BUT. Harking back to the original 1973 entry under the Tory Heath Government (and let’s not forget that Labour opposed it), you can be sure that Cameron will not hold a debate about what is to be renegotiated. Nor will he properly inform the British People in any advance literature what it is he proposes. We will be as incompletely informed as we were in 1973, unless UKIP assiduously utilise the FOIA to extract information. However, the Tories are currently turning their think tank into a limited company in order to evade FOI requests, so this may be problematic.

    My support for UKIP is contingent on not entering any kind of electoral pact with the Tories, and I know the majority of UKIP supporters in the north of Britain feel similarly. I sincerely hope UKIP will avoid becoming a home counties only organisation by taking note of the strength of feeling on that issue.

    “Vote UKIP, get UKIP” – Nigel Farage May 3rd 2013.

    • Linda Hudson says:

      Do not be lulled into a false sense of security.
      Both Tory and Liberal holds the view that being in the E.U. is paramount to Britain.
      The E.U. cannot, and will not change it’s very nature, therefore it is impossible for the regime to re-negotiate it’s powers, rules, laws, and regulations. in any significant way for any country!

  3. JMR says:

    The “Mandate Referendum” must include details of what is to be negotiated and what would be regarded as a satisfactory outcome which would be put to an in/out referendum.

  4. Agree with your thinking but note Tallbloke’s reservations. Need to get this right, only have until 2015/2016 to get this right and regain UK freedom via political negotiation. If fail, then comes bloody revolution! Personally, the idea of lamp posts decorated with politicians is not unattractive!

  5. David Gunn says:

    In 1973 we were taken in to the EEC, (when most people thought it was still the “Common Market”) without any consultation. The referendum came 2 years later and it was to stay in. We were lied to then, we’re being lied to now and make no mistake, we’ll be lied to in the future.
    In recent years the ruling parties have taken to making eye catching announcements, pronouncements and statements which have a considerable amount of “small print” attached. We don’t get to find out what this means till much further down the road. A Gordon Brown budget was a shining example of this but it’s not alone. This is why people do not trust their government.

  6. Wilfred Aspinall. Former Member European Economic and Social Committeel says:

    The tactics you set out in your Blog are right. We do not want to be wrong footed.

    The slippery strategy announced by David Cameron to hold a referendum in 2017 and after the election in 2015 to start repatriation negotiations provides for a majority Conservative Government. That on last weeks vote is not going to happen. The promise was to try and prevent the surge to UKIP but as we know it has not worked. It was a non existent promise.

    DC has also made it quite clear that he does not envisage leaving the EU so you are quite right in demanding what subjects / policies currently set by the EU Treaties should be repatriated. A Treaty change would be required.

    What is important is that we do not allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that repatriation is the same as an opt out. Why? Because a future government could, without Treaty change, decide to opt back in again. Hence my comment for a Treaty change.

    As one who has actually read the various Treaties let us not fall into the trap of allowing PR experts to woo the British people again on false promises and misleading statements.

    Although it is our clear objective to have an in / out referendum – demanding a clear OUT vote – in the meantime we should set up an internal strategy to make sure that we can demonstrate which policies under the competence of the EU are a serious threat to our sovereignty and pose economic problems for economic growth in the UK.

    We need to make sure that the people of the UK are not given misleading information by the UK government, any political party and certainly not by the European Commission. Indeed also not by any other EU member state government

    We should also maintain the pressure to have an in / out referendum well before 2017 – let’s go for 2015 without any compromise. That would mean the drafting of a Bill to enable your strategy – well Bernard Jenkins thinking – to come about and either another referendum on the result or a straight conclusive mandate that the repatriation has failed resulting in an immediate withdrawal from the EU.

    I could be tempted to say that the Bill would provide for the UK financial contributions to the EU to be suspended during this period to ensure that the deadlines set in the Bill are met.

    Lawyers paradise.

  7. B Hough says:

    How deoes the `promised` referendum fit in with the Scottish opt out of the UK referendum?
    If it is after, then our referendum, if we do get one, will not be the UK as it is now.
    I have seen no mention as to what happens to the Scottish share of the 50+ Million Pounds per day we pay to Europe I hope we are not expected to pay it! Have the Scottish population been given any info.

  8. matthu says:

    The wording of a potential referendum this side of an election that John Redwood proposed on his blog was “Do you want the UK government to negotiate a new relationship with the EU based on free trade and political co-operation?”

    I tried to get out of him the essential difference between political co-operation and ordinary co-operation (as we might be expected to have with, say, the USA) but he would not be drawn.

    I would hazard that ordinary co-operation is open and transparent, scrutinised and debated on the floor of the House and above all something that UK members of parliament can be held accountable for. Political co-operation is the other sort, which is why I would have preferred omitting the word “political” from the question as posed.

    I think it is essential that the UK government be given an opportunity to negotiate a new relationship, within the previously stated time-frame, if only to demonstrate that this is not possible to achieve. Without affording them this opportunity, part of the IN-vote would always include those people who might otherwise think that such a renegotiation would have been possible within such a time-frame.

    We need to get to a situation where more people in government and more and more mainstream journalists are prepared to talk seriously about UKIP’s propositions and concede that while Cameron has been prepared to attempt a negotiation this appears to be failing for whatever reason.

    Their journey might also be encouraged by shriller noises of panic emanating from the EU as the Euro comes under more strain (I am already enjoying seeing more particularly unflattering photos of Merkel looking strained), by louder unrest in countries coming under more severe austerity measures as recession in the EU tightens its grip, by further cold winters and brown-outs in our own country and by spectacular successes of UKIP in the forthcoming EU elections.

    No need to hurry then.

    • rfhmep says:

      The clever bit is that if Redwood’s formulation is approved, we can no longer remain within the EU treaties. It’s just a more user-friendly way of saying OUT.

  9. Richard111 says:

    I agree with Tallbloke above. I left the UK after the ‘pound in your pocket’ fiasco. Maggie’s third term encouraged me to return with my family. Now I’m long retired I wonder if I made a mistake. The UK is not the country I grew up in during the 1950s and 60s. There seems to be a serious lack of moral fibre in every facet of the government. I still have a newspaper copy of the Maastricht Treaty to remind me what could go wrong with current EU negotiations.

  10. Catalpa says:

    I start from the standpoint that I do not want an In/Out referendum on leaving the EU in 2017. This is because I do not believe that such a referendum can be won by the ‘OUTs’. In order to win such a referendum we need the government to campaign for OUT, for three-quarters of the media to campaign for OUT and for at least 75% of the population to want OUT. Until then the IN forces of the BBC, the rest of the media, the LibLabCon, Big Business and the EU will overwhelm us.

    So I do not want Cameron to renegotiate our relationship with the EU. We all know he will come back with bits and pieces and proclaim a great success and then campaign to stay in.

    If there is a Referendum for a Mandate to Renegotiate, I shall definitely be voting NO.

    • rfhmep says:

      You should vote YES, because by doing so you are setting Cameron up to fail. The only way we’d get the Tory Party (and the government, if the Tories happened to be in power) to support OUT is if Cameron came back from Brussels saying “They wouldn’t give me what I asked for, so the only alternative is to quit”. What is your alternative plan? We can wait for UKIP to form a government, but that may take a little longer.

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