Monday, February 25, 2008

Lib Dems and EU Referendum

Interesting Op-Ed in today's Guardian by Nick Clegg (leader of the UK Liberal Democrats). Clegg argues that there should be an EU referendum, but not over the relatively minor Lisbon Treaty. Instead the question should be whether Britain want to be in or out of the EU!

Clegg is, in my opinion, both right and wrong his argumentation.

I agree that the Lisbon Treaty is a relative minor reform treaty (compared to the Single European Act (1987), Maastrict Treaty (1992) and Amsterdam Treaty (1998)), and that a referendum would be an opportunity for euro-sceptics to misrepresent the treaty and the EU. I also agree that the Lisbon Treaty is a positive reform of the EU, as it will strengthen the democratic decision making process in the EU (by creating a larger role for national parliaments in the EC legislative process, double majority voting in the Council and by giving the European Parliament greater powers through increased used of the 'co-decision' procedure).

However, the Lisbon Treaty is a reform of the EU constitution and should therefore be subject to a referendum in all EU states. The real argument against a referendum is that under the British constitution, where Parliament is supreme, constitutional acts and treaties have not, and need not, be passed by a popular vote (The Acts of Union 1707, Act of Union 1800, European Communities Act 1973 and EC/EU treaties mentioned above, were all passed without referendums).

It is also counterproductive for pro-europeans to revert back to the 'in or out' question. This does not further the cause. Pro-europeans will not be able to address and gain support for democratic reforms of the EU by framing the debate over European integration as a question of 'in or out". Rather we should argue why the Council and Parliament should be equal, why Council decisions should be passed by a 'double majority' and why the national parliaments should play a larger rule in the legislative process. Then we will win the debate!


At 26 February, 2008 19:15, Blogger karlund said...

As you know, I'm more inclined towards the skeptic side than you, although being paid indirectly by the EU gives me para-abnormal tendencies towards the idea ;-)

Here is my take p.t.:
I agree, the EU should, in order to gain more believability, work towards more direct democratic leadership, thus giving more power to parliament, and getting democratic elected leaders. Granted this is an area where the EU has been working hard the last couple of years, and I can only salute the effort, although it seems close to impossible to get to a satisfactory level.

That said, the whole idea of talking democratic reforms in the EU without giving the public a say in whether they want to be part of it or not, seems like a paradoxic statement. IMHO there is no doubt that the people who live in the UK have a say (as should the rest of the nationalities), whether they want the EU process to go in the direction it is or not, otherwise the whole institution of EU will be even further removed from the people than it is already...

I grant you that lunatics and borderline nazis probably would start screwing the debate, but isn't that what a democratic say is all about?

Woops! I think that was more than I intended to write ;-) but I have to say that I know the UK "constitution" or "precedence" is different from this statement, but I sincerely believe in distributed power...


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