Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Europe - The New Special Relationship?

The Conservative position regarding Europe is a difficult one now that Ireland has said Yes and the Eastern European countries, yet to ratify the Lisbon treaty, have indicated that they will do so before a General Election in the UK.

An incoming Conservative Govt would not be in a position to hold a referendum to decide if we should sign up to the Lisbon Treaty. Instead, it would be a government that, if it wanted to call a referendum, would have to call one to ask people if we should withdraw from participation in some or all of the (by then) enacted treaty commitments.

If this referendum were to be won by a Yes vote (to withdraw UK participation) then the UK would effectively be asking for special circumstances for the UK within Europe and it would then (I guess) be down to the EU to decide if they were prepared to accept this new kind of 'special relationship' with the UK.

Would all 27 countries agree to an amendment of the Treaty or would one or more countries refuse? - seems very likely. So, in order to deliver against the referendum result, the Conservatives would have to take the UK out of Europe, or more widely negotiate a new kind of 'special relationship' with Europe - one that encompasses our independent control of our own currency, our desire for independent control of laws and borders and our deeply rooted need (illustrated by the public reaction to the expenses scandal this year) for democratically accountable politicians.

But will the Conservative party air this debate before the next General Election or will they be fearful that in so doing they would, to some extent, turn the next GE into a referendum on Europe and risk losing a lot of their vote to UKIP, the Lib Dems and possibly to Labour, if it takes the focus off the economy?


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