Press Release from www.brugesgroup.com
Comment on Jack Straw's Referendum statement
A referendum is still urgently needed
The British people still need to be consulted on the EU Constitution
At 3.30 pm, foreign secretary Jack Straw made a statement to the House of Commons on "why we have decided to postpone the 2nd Reading of the European Union Bill".
"Until the consequences [of the French and Dutch referendums] are clarified," he said, "it would not in our judgement be sensible to set a date for the 2nd Reading [of the European Union Bill]." He went on:
There is also the need for further discussions with EU partners and further decisions from EU governments. The first opportunity for collective discussion within the EU will take place at the end of next week when Heads of State and Government meet in the European Council.
But he cannot be said to have ditched the referendum. "We shall of course keep the situation under review," he said, adding: "I should emphasise that it is not for the UK alone to decide the future of the Treaty," before telling the House, "We reserve completely the right to bring back the Bill providing for a UK referendum should circumstances change. But we see no point in proceeding at this moment."
As to the UK government's position at the European Council on 16th and 17th June, on that said Straw in answer to a question from Liam Fox: "We'll make judgements much nearer the time".
Given that no date had actually been set for the 2nd Reading, and there are no indications that it would have been scheduled for before the 16th/17th June, what in effect the Foreign Secretary has done is… precisely nothing. He had already reserved the government's position for the European Council, whence a collective decision will be made as to whether to continue with the ratification, and. In his statement, he merely reaffirmed this position.
For all the media hype, the constitution is not dead. The UK government has not "killed it" and we are not one step further forward. The key event remains the Council and the game goes on.
The British people still need to be consulted on the EU Constitution. Aspects of the Constitutional Treaty have already been adopted. No one under the age of 48 has been asked for their views on the EU. The French and the Dutch have been allowed to deliver their verdict on the Constitution, the British people should be allowed to deliver theirs. We should be allowed to pass judgement on the best that Tony Blair can win for Britain in Europe, and have our national debate as to how the EU develops. To fail to deliver a referendum would be to breach another pledge.
The consequences of failing to allow a national debate on the EU Constitution will mean that in time the pressure will grow for a referendum on whether Britain should remain part of the EU.
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