Sunday, November 01, 2009

It is official

The Tories will NOT hold a referendum on Lisbon but seek a 'manifesto mandate' to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU - so says Conservative Home in a shock announcement. And I am shocked, shocked, I tell you.

So where do we go from here? Or to be quite precise, where does the Conservative Party go? According to Tim Montgomerie, there is no point in holding David Cameron to his "cast-iron guarantee" as it was nothing of the kind. Once again, I am shocked, nay, stunned. A politician's cast-iron guarantee means nothing of the kind? Quick, somebody bring my smelling salts.

As it happens, I never believed that guarantee and have always assumed that Cameron would find some way of wriggling out of it. It was, Mr Montgomerie informs us, merely a promise to hold a referendum if the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty had not been ratified. As they did their best to make sure that the ratification went ahead their hoity-toity attitude now is unimpressive.

Nor am I terribly impressed by the implication that it was all the fault of the u-turning Czech President. He withstood a great deal of pressure with very little support from the Conservatives. I don't think he got much in that funny little agreement but that's another story. What happens in Britain does not depend on what the Czech President does or says. Blaming Klaus for Cameron's prevarications is low. I am surprised at Mr Montgomerie who is an honourable man.

What is it the Conservatives will be offering? What is it that makes Mr Montgomerie say that "DAVID CAMERON DESERVES THE CONTINUING SUPPORT OF EUROSCEPTICS"? Well, he took the Conservative Party out of the EPP and withstood the childish taunts produced by David Miliband, which were of no significance whatsoever. That's it. There is nothing else anyone can point to that would make us the people think that this man actually understands either the EU or Britain's role in it or, for that matter, what should be the next step.

Let us not forget that one of his first moves as leader was to drop the carefully worked out fishing policy that would have taken Britain's fisheries out of the devastating CFP and rebuilt the industry.

What they want to do is to get a mandate to repatriate certain powers. This would mean unravelling the Consolidated Treaties, as amended by the Constitutional Lisbon one, rewriting the whole lot and getting all the members to agree. Child's play for people who do not think they can unravel the Lisbon Treaty on its own. Particularly as the ultimate threat is not on the cards.

There is, of course, no need for a referendum about whether to renegotiate the treaties or not. It can be simply put into the manifesto, as one remarkably intelligent (I have low expectations) Tory backbencher told Mr Montgomerie. But simply saying that we shall go to Brussels and negotiate something or other gets us no further forward.

What will be renegotiated? Key powers, apparently. What are they, when at home? Well, errrm, the Social Chapter. That no longer exists, the various articles having been integrated into the treaty. What of the most important issue, the superiority of European over British legislation? So far, Parliament, who made that law can unmake it. What happens after Lisbon? More to the point, what is the Conservative Party's intention over that? Is that one of the key powers to be negotiated?

With whom is Mr Cameron going to negotiate? Does he even know? What he has in mind requires an IGC and unanimous agreement? Does he know that? Do any of them know how an IGC is called and how the negotiations are set up? More importantly, what will the Conservatives do if the colleagues do not want an IGC or, having gathered for one, refuse to accept British ideas? Will they start running around, negotiating, offering deals to the other member states?

So many questions, so few answers. Well, only one, really: you must trust the leader and his wisdom.