There’s only one small problem with that narrative of course. It’s total bollocks.
The reality is that the European e-petition and subsequent ‘debate’ was a potential headache. It was on-the-face-of-it highly undesirable to crush the notion of e-petitions being a way for people to engage with the democratic process by having a whipped vote. But actually, far from suppressing the debate, the overall impact was to promote it more widely.
Instead of suppressing the debate as Nigel Farage claimed on Questiontime last night, the rebellion of the 81 Tories guaranteed that the issue got the media’s undivided attention and therefore, the central issues got a lot more consideration, debate and discussion than they otherwise would have. It also, very helpfully, reminded our European ‘partners’ that anti Federalism runs very, very deep in the UK and our political leaders reluctance to ‘integrate’ is not simply them being bolshie – they are just dealing with a political reality.
On balance, I accept the argument that to have timetabled an In/Out referendum at this point would be foolish. It seems that Europe is going to be substantially re-cast shortly anyway, so until that happens we wouldn’t know what we were voting for anyway..
And more so, unless the direction of travel changes radically, it would seem that there will be a central EU with France and Germany at it’s core, the Euro and a far greater integration between member states – essentially a far more federal Europe. And Britain will be outside.
So, the result will be that we wind up with a Federal European Union and a European Free Trade area with knobs on.
I guess the question now is what kind of knobs we want..