After the Irish 2009 Lisbon referendum all 27 EU member states have accomplished the democratic stages of approval of the Treaty of Lisbon. (Only what should have been ratification formalities remain, somewhat complicated by a new legal challenge by defeated Czech Senators.)
Under the Ratification heading Wikipedia’s Treaty of Lisbon article has already been updated with regard to the positive outcome of the 2 November 2009 referendum in Ireland.
Yesterday this blog asked notable opponents of the Lisbon Treaty to respect the democratic decisions of Ireland and 26 other EU member states.
It is time to look at how these antagonists, knowing the last approval, have expressed their respect for democratic decision making, for their European partners and for fair play.
The Irish public broadcaster RTE.ie quotes the UK Conservative Party leader David Cameron saying:
“I have said repeatedly that I want us to have a referendum. If the treaty is not ratified in all member states and not in force when the election is held, and if we are elected, then we will hold a referendum on it.”
Anything goes as far as the Tory leader is concerned.
The United Kingdom has ratified the Lisbon Treaty 16 July 2008 after approval by both Houses of Parliament. – Cameron’s message is: Tear it up, without regard for the relations with the rest of the EU member states and the damage it would do to Britain’s international reputation and its interests, if the Conservatives win the general election 2010.
The democratic stages have been accomplished in all 27 member states. – Cameron’s message: Show no regard for the democratic decisions of other EU members.
Two formalities are missing, the signatures by Poland’s President Lech Kaczynski and Czech President Vaclav Klaus (the latter now offered a reprieve by the Czech Constitutional Court). – Cameron communicates: Use any pretext, without concern for fair play or democratic principles.
From a European perspective David Cameron’s attitude is callous and irresponsible. He has already sent the Tory members of the European Parliament into the wilderness of the anti-integrationist European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) political group, and the party level relations with the German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) are on ice.
Cameron has promised a referendum if the Lisbon Treaty is not in force. Many party activists clamour for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty even if it is in force.
Formally in force or not, when the UK Conservative Party forms the next government, a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is an absurdity.
Even if Britain retracts, the democratic will of the other EU member states has been clearly expressed. They want the European Union to progress, and they are squarely behind the modest improvements of the Lisbon Treaty.
If some formality has led to the postponement of the entry into force, revoking British ratification would be a hostile act against all member states. Even contemplating revocation is highly irresponsible. Britain’s role in European integration has been bad enough. Wrecking the Lisbon Treaty and frustrating the other EU members would damage the UK’s relations beyond repair.
The cost for Europe of keeping the United Kingdom inside the European Union is simply too high. The other member states should establish a new union, without Britain.
The combined forces of anti-European tabloids, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), the British National Party (BNP), an uneducated and more or less hostile public, as well as virulently anti-EU campaigning among Conservative grassroots and MPs are festering sores. They are British problems and they should be resolved within the UK, without damaging the rest of Europe.
David Cameron’s unprincipled and disastrous balancing act must come to an end. If he is unwilling or unable to lead the Conservatives to a constructive relationship in Europe, he should use next week’s Conservative Party Conference to get a clear mandate to leave the European Union.
The only sensible referendum is the one on membership: In or Out?
My suggestion to David Cameron is: Promise the Conservative Party an In of Out referendum and lead the United Kingdom quietly into the night, while letting the rest of Europe get on with the business of finding common solutions to the challenges of the 21st century.