For research purposes I’m currently having a read through Hansard regarding the passing of the Lisbon Treaty. As a result I came across this question by Labour MP Gisela Stuart during the debate:
The right hon. Gentleman is a genuinely committed European, and I believe that he would like to take the people with him in his vision of Europe. Does he not think that a referendum would provide a much better opportunity to extol the benefits of, and to make the case for, the European Union, rather than blackmailing people by simply asking, “In or out?”?
Malcolm Bruce Lib Dem MP responded:
No. Perhaps I should not be surprised by the way in which the hon. Lady’s relationship with, and attitude to, Europe has changed because of her experience of the negotiating process.
This refers to a pamphlet by Gisela Stuart titled; The Making Of Europe’s Constitution which was heavily critical of the process involved drafting the original EU Constitution – which then became the Lisbon Treaty.
It’s worth reading if only for the chapter on page 23 called, Consensus? What Consensus? The architect of the original draft Valéry Giscard d’Estaing told Alojs Peterle, ’the invitee’ from Slovenia, that “his vote did not count” when he had a casting vote that would affect the consensus.
Malcolm Bruce continues (my emphasis):
I would have thought, however, that she would understand that if the United Kingdom decided now, in the present circumstances, to hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty, and if we failed to ratify the treaty as a result, we would be faced with an internal dilemma, in that two thirds of Parliament would have voted one way, while the people would have voted the other way. That would be a domestic problem, as the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe has articulated.
In a properly functioning democracy of course it would not be ‘an internal dilemma’; the people have voted no and that is it. Not to Mr Bruce though, the people voting differently to MPs in Parliament – who are supposed to represent those very people – presents a problem. Not only that he continues:
Also, we would certainly have created a degree of resentment among our European colleagues for having held up a difficult process at a crucial moment. I think that the hon. Lady knows perfectly well that those would be the consequences of such a decision.
Oh dear what a shame we upset our European colleagues. We can’t have democracy getting in the way of that. In light of this ‘dilemma’ he of course knows best:
I am articulating my party’s view, which is that after 35 years, it is appropriate to say to people, “The European Union has been modified by treaties. This is actually a good reforming treaty, which will leave it in better shape than most of the previous ones—certainly Nice and Amsterdam—did,” and to ask them, “Will you vote for Britain to be in Europe, but as a package, on the understanding that that is with the Lisbon treaty?” The Lisbon treaty is not optional. We cannot be in Europe and not ratify the Lisbon treaty.
Not much illustrates our broken democracy more than this arrogant shower.