Wednesday, 13 July 2011

The numbers would not be on our side!

With the news this week of two opinion polls, one by Angus Reid and the other by PoliticsHome/YouGov@Cambridge, showing a clear majority would vote to leave the European Union, given the choice; there has been observed repeated calls for a referendum on the subject - of which this is one.

Richard North, EUReferendum, pours cold water on the idea of a referendum and I warned, on 13th May, of an unlevel playing field upon which a referendum might be held in this post, from which:
"To fix wholly and solely on an “in/out” referendum is to declare the chosen means of fighting to an enemy who will have the advantage of making the dispositions of his far superior forces of money, influence and persuasion well in advance and of fixing the time of the engagement to his best advantage. It will not be a fair fight. Most of it will take place long before the immediate campaign before the poll – without rules and with all the advantage to big money and entrenched influence."
 Were there to be an "In/Out" referendum I would not want it held until:

1. An independent cost/benefit analysis had been published, one having been agreed by both sides;
2. An agreed budget had been fixed and accepted by both sides;
3. That all politicians removed themselves from the debate arena, thereby negating their writing or speaking on either side;
4. If the result were to be "Out", then it must be made mandatory that this question is immediately decided in another referendum.
5. The EU has no input into the campaign.

Just saying (again)!


A K Haart said...

Well at least my MP wasn't there. Strangely enough, your slippery MP wasn't there either WfW!

Edward Spalton said...

There is the question of how binding a referendum result can be made. In Malta, where they recently had a referendum on divorce, a number of MPs (including some from the Labour side) have said they will vote against implementing the popular vote in favour. It is likely still to be passed into law but, if there were more refusers, it would not.

Then, if we were to have a Parliament and government basically still in favour of staying in the EU, they could deliberately or even inadvertently make such a catastrophic hash of the intricate process of unpicking the work of forty years, that it became a disaster. They could then say "We've done our best but, now that there are XXXXX millions unemployed/ the pound has fallen so far in value,we must reapply for membership.We are therefore putting this matter to a new referendum.
Britain cannot stand on its own in this day and age".

WitteringsfromWitney said...

AKH: Sorry you lost me - "wasn't there", where?

ES: Understand your point Edward,however refer back to condition 4. As part of 4 it would entail a complete rejig of our political system along the lines of the Swiss/US method. Less MPs, total devolution of any matter other than defence, foreign affairs, immigration and possibly 'general law' -all of those subject to referenda. National and local representatives would be there solely to implement what the majority of the electorate wanted.

An alternative system simply put due space constraints.

Quiet_Man said...

A referendum might not work for the reasons you stated, we should simply just leave.

Sue said...

For a FAIR & JUST referendum, the rules and regulations would have to be very strict (no postal voting) and overseen by a completely independent body made up of people without a seedy past.

The left would almost certainly attempt to "fix" the vote and the EU would pull out all the stops to ensure they scared the British public to death.

We know how powerful some of these propaganda machines are, look at smoking and all the other political correctness garbage.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

QM: True, it only needs one vote out of sixfifty to swing it.....

Sue: Of course EU should have no input and have amended my post!

Sue said...

another thought... the longer we actually leave it, the better.

1) The EU may come to an end without us having to intervene.

2) The longer they are allowed to take advantage of the British Public, the less likely it is that they will be swayed by any propaganda.

Edward Spalton said...

I think it is very unlikely that anybody will be able to magic a new system (such as the Swiss model) into being. To do so would require an Act of Parliament!

Even if the EU does eventually collapse, we will require a tough government with a strong sense of British national interests to guide us through very turbulent times. To have such a government, you have first to elect a Parliament which is prepared to support it.

In the more likely event of a moderately pro EU parliament and government having to go through the motions of carrying out the will of a referendum to leave, there are endless pitfalls and traps.

The procedure for leaving the EU, laid down in the Lisbon treaty, is deliberately so penal and humiliating that going through it could tie us up in knots for at least two years - having to pay all our EU contributions but with no say except to wait to hear the terms on which the EU will allow us to leave.

However, the ECB pointed out in a paper last Autumn (where they were thinking of how they could expel a delinquent member, defaulting on its euro commitments) that there was absolutely NOTHING that the EU could do if a member state had the political determination to leave. The EU had no means of coercion to prevent that.
For a government (and it needs a government not just a referendum majority) to have the nerve to do that requires that the right sort are elected to Parliament. Short of a military coup (in which case they'd kick us out anyway or suspend EU membership) there is no way but a majority in Parliament.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

ES: I'm no constitutional expert - as is immediately obvious, however it only takes a one-vote majority in the HoC to leave and we are out. As you said there isn't much the EU can do about that.

I accept the point you make about having had a referendum and with a moderately pro-EU govt, the latter could make thinks very difficult to continue out.

What follows contains a load of 'ifs', however:

If we can get a party to stand on a small govt, local autonomy ticket, explaining the benefits of, let me call it a Swiss system, I do believe it possible that those candidates would succeed beyond anyone's expectations - you then have a 'government' with the will to succeed in unravelling the mess that has been created, that can pass the necessary Acts of Parliament etc. The Fabians won't like it, but so what?

Now there's nowt wrong with the theory, the problem I admit is putting it into practise, ie getting such a party together and making it's case to the public, especially with the press we have at present. I had hopes of Ukip but feel they have lost their way and have no credible plan, and in any event are on the wrong track in their presentation.

The present system of political democracy, if I can call it that, has to be replaced with a true representative democracy, the latter no more than administrators to see that the peoples will is enacted.

It may seem inconceivable but I feel unless the politicians change their ways by their own choice, what will result will either be a bloody revolution or, yes, a military coup - which is basically a repitition of the last para of my post: "Where is democracy".

John Page said...

It was an odd post by the owner of a blog titled "eureferendum". He seems not to want to join battle, but rather to continue to complain from the sidelines.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Sue: Apols missed your second comment - but quite possible!

JP: I suppose there is more than one way to drown a cat......... (not saying your wrong......)

Edward Spalton said...

Dear John Page,

With respect, you don't know the background. The Eureferendum blog was set up to campaign for the referendum on the Lisbon treaty, promised by all the main parties. Although events have moved on from those days, the blog decided to keep its name because of its wide readership, resulting from its excellent research. It is interested in substance not spin. I recommend it for daily reading.

To campaign for the People's Pledge or any "in/out" referendum today, without first being assured of the means to win it, is reckless in the extreme. Details are available of how the government and others manipulated public opinion in the Seventies. They worked on it for years. Without similar resources, scaled up for modern media, the "out" campaign would look like Polish lancers against German panzers if push came to shove.

Do not imagine for a minute that it will be a fair fight. Keith Vaz supports the People's Pledge!

The pro referendum campaigners did not even bother to consult with the Irish National Platform to find out what wins and what loses referendum campaigns.

The referendum promotion is excellent, raising the temperature of public opinion, but that's all. Without staff work in depth, it's an invitation to join in the Charge of the Light Brigade at a time of the enemy's choosing.

kenomeat said...

Is UKIP in favour of a referendum on membership or simply withdrawing from the EU? I've just looked through their manifesto for last year's GE but can't find reference to it. Of course, a UKIP government would feel it had the people's support to pull out without a referendum but what about the more likely event of them holding the balance of power? Would they negotiate with the largest party to have powers repatriated or for an in/out referendum?
Sue - I actually believe the longer we leave it the worse for our case. I have commented previously that once Croatia, Serbia and the rest join the EU then the British people might feel reluctant to leave a club to which virtually everyone else belongs.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

k: The official position (when I last looked - spoke to NF) is that they want the first as they see that the way to get the second. Unfortunately, in my opinion, they haven't looked beyond the end of their noses - as I have commented in previous posts.

Were they to hold the balance of power (highly unlikely) it is my opinion they would want an in/out referendum. However the lure of power may just tempt them to the other course - they are after all politicians! (Only my own view as the choice has not been discussed, at least in my hearing)

I believe your fear expressed to Sue may not even enter the equation. Were Spain and Italy to 'go under', coupled with the present state of Greece and Ireland being downgraded to CCC - the latter two then 'going under' totally, the eurozone would collapse and if that happens the admin side of the EU will follow - so goes the theory, anyway.

james Harp said...

It would be wonderful if a level field were possible, but I fear that we are battling Lord Voldemort here and face an impossible task, but I am unfortunately no 'Harry Potter.'
I have emailed my MP, not that I can expect any sensible reply, only the regular B/S , but must except that as a member of the government he is in a bit of a pickle .

WitteringsfromWitney said...

jH: If your MP is a Sec of State, Minister or even just a PPS then he/she not only has to support the government in any division in the HoC, he/she must also publicly stick to the government line - otherwise lose their job. They cannot 'represent' their constituent's views which is one the democratic deficits the present system encapsulates.

Whilst the electorate are denied information such as that, whilst they are denied information about the EU and the effects it has on their lives, people will continue to vote like sheep!

Cameron talks about transparency, as do they all, yet none of them have any idea what transparency should be, let alone practise it!

James Higham said...

As Edward Spalton said, what if they just refused to accept it, as in Ireland? What actually could be done?

WitteringsfromWitney said...

JH: Sorry if being a tad thick, but you have lost me..........

Voyager said...

Referendum is irrelevant now. We did not join the EU, UNO, NATO, WTO, EFTA, Commonwealth, etc by Referendum and nor do we need a Referendum to reverse any of this.

What it needs is a Kelsen Discontinuity or Break in the continuity. That sets a new path. It is simply force majeure. The Greeks are posing a big problem for the EU but cannot be expelled nor controlled.

They have ruptured every treaty and destroyed the credibility of the ECB and Stability Pact etc. A country like Britain could destroy every major economy in Europe if things went pear-shaped.

Britain simply needs to purge the Foreign Office and withhold payments to the EU. If Denmark can impose border controls and Netherlands expel unemployed Poles, even the supine British could do something

Keith Valen said...


SECONDLY: Everytime polls come out showing the argument in increasingly in our favour, were a referendum to be held tomorrow, blog posts like these from hardeneded Eurosceptics pop up everywhere! No wonder the Europhiles rightly accuse us of being splintered and fractured! How can people be so blind to the bleeding obvious: referendum movement & the campaign for one aren't stupid...they know Cameron's not going to be clever enough (fortunately or unfortunately) to hold a PR trick by staging a referendum on an issue of this importance anytime soon! But people also know that UKIP jsut ain't appealing to those outside the hardened Eurosceptic camp and everytime they lose at the polls (increasingly), Europhiles point to it and say "see, nobody reallly is that Eurosceptic enough to want to leave". Well of course, a lot of us are determined Come-Outers but we aren't really willing to give up a vote on everything else in elections just to a single-issue party! Whereas with a campaign movement, you don't have to give up that vote, but you can get behind it, and this seems to be a better way of capitalising on the current anti-EU sentiment and making politicians sit up and listen than throwing away your vote! Referendum campaign, pledge, whatever probably exist just to be another, more credible tool for exerting pressure on Europhiles & the Front Bench! How people can not see that is beyond me...

WitteringsfromWitney said...

V: It is not just the FO that needs purging, but the entire civil service. Your suggestion that we withold payments is no good as that would just place us in default of a legally signed treaty.

The point of a referendum is that were it to result in an 'out' result, the politicians would then have to bow to the people's wishes. Problems then arise if as ES stated we had a europhile government. That is why if an out result was obtained there needs to be a complete radical overhaul of ur democracy along the lines I have suggested.

KV: First I am well aware that what you state in your first paragraph is true and is fact.

Second, if you read what I wrote, I was not calling for a referendum, I was making the point that were one to be granted, then it must be fairly managed and on a level playing field otherwise it would be lost - something that too many people don't seem to have considered or realised.

Your comments about Ukip are, to a certain extent, true - however they are not a single issue party if you take the trouble to read their manifesto. The reason why they are held as such is because of the infantie manner in which they keep banging on about leaving the EU, instead of gaining support for their policies, getting the majority on board - and then and only then telling the people that they could not implement any of it until we did leave the EU.

As to 'giving up a vote', sorry but I have to disagree and say that that idea is utter tosh!

TomTom said...

Your suggestion that we withold payments is no good as that would just place us in default of a legally signed treaty.

Ah the old comment from Karl Marx about the British buying a platform ticket before storming the train !

Legally-signed treaties are immutable and bind us unto death....that intellectual rigidity is enslaving

WitteringsfromWitney said...

TT: Accept your point but it is a fact you sign a contract then you are bound by the conditions.

Which is why I say we just tell them Byee, We're off! And what can or would they do? They need us trade wise more than we do!

TomTom said...

No contracts are not binding. They are always renegotiated in business terms as circumstances change or defaulted. Greece is currently preparing default. Britain reneged on War Loan @5% unilaterally cutting it to 3% in 1937.

Contracts with Public Sector Workers on Pensions re being torn up. Pay Agreements were imposed under the Conservative Government.

Britain has a reputation for reneging on agreements - look at Eurofighter contracts; contracts with Post Office for terminals;

You lash yourself to the mast in a futile gesture, but in reality you do not undo an agreement signed by Geoffrey Rippon with a referendum voted on by Wittering in Witney.....since Rippon is dead and Wittering was not a party to negotiation

Edward Spalton said...

Tom Tom,

You are following the Teddy Taylor line which is that we cannot leave the EU because it would "break the law". In these circumstances, we have to ask "whose law?" , certainly not ours!

The European Central Bank summed it up very nicely in a position paper last Autumn. They were mostly considering ways in which they might discipline or expel a eurozone state which did not keep to its treaty commitments. Amongst a great deal of verbiage, they came to two conclusions
(1) to leave the euro currency would be to leave the EU

(2) treaty commitments notwithstanding, there was no way in which the EU could restrain a state which was politically determined to leave BECAUSE THE EU DID NOT HAVE THE MEANS OF COERCION to stop it.

Of all the treaties ever made, only a tiny few remain in effective force. If we are determined, we can make the Treaty of Rome into a document of mere antiquarian interest - along with other arrangements, such as the Delian League between Greek city states.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

TT: sorry but this one is binding as far as it is written.

The only reason for having a referendum is to force Parliament to acknowledge the will of the people. In any event it would be lost if held at the moment as the Out side have not the faintest idea of what they would be up against.

I can but refer you to the comments of ES which followed yours.

TomTom said...

Tom Tom,

You are following the Teddy Taylor line which is that we cannot leave the EU because it would "break the law

Is there any combination of letters in anything I have written to support your odd assertion ?