Don't Stop People Voting for Fear of What They Might Say; ANALYSIS

Article excerpt


TODAY Europe's leaders are meeting to thrash out the latest 'solution' to the eurozone problem, a solution that is likely to be as futile as all the previous ones.

Tomorrow, a heavily whipped Commons will almost certainly reject an attempt by some brave new MPs to give the people a vote on how they want Britain's relationship with Europe to stand, despite promises by both parts of the Coalition to give the people a referendum. Why is this?

This week a journalist described David Cameron as Euro-fearful. If this is true, it is understandable. Two decades ago the Tory Party tore itself apart over Europe.

But the analysis that says we should run away from this debate is old politics for several reasons.

First, Europe is likely to be the cause of huge economic problems in the immediate future. Second, the Tory Party is far more uniformly Eurosceptic now. Third, the British people's attitude to Europe is far more sceptical than ever.

When Britain joined the Common Market in 1973 it signed up to a free trade agreement. Since then, the power of European institutions has transformed beyond recognition. The Common Market has become the European Union and the trading bloc is a superstate in all but name. It has its own parliament, president, flag, foreign minister, diplomatic service, police force, bank and an everincreasing multi-billion-euro budget.

A series of polls within the past year shows that, given an 'in' or 'out' referendum, half of Britons would vote to leave the EU, while only a quarter would vote to stay in.

The Government admits that half of British laws with a significant economic impact come from the EU - from home affairs to health and safety, from tourism to tax and from national security to social security.

UK citizens can be extradited to other EU countries without prima facie evidence, the Commission can tell us how many hours a week to work - and the European Court of Justice can overrule British judges.

The EU dictates how fruit and vegetables are packaged, the maximum length of bus routes and how dry soil has to be for farmers to use combine harvesters. Every year Parliament is forced to implement 3,000 regulations which originated in Brussels.

The Lisbon Treaty removed 40 important national vetoes on issues from asylum and migration to sports. On the eve of the recent Tory conference, the Commission denounced Britain over its rules on paying unemployment benefit to migrants. …