120 Labour MPs, one third of the Parliamentary Labour Party, are now known to want the following 12 changes to the EU Constitreaty as the price of dropping their campaign for a referendum:
Keep policing and criminal justice away from the European Court of Justice;
Prevent the court using EU competition law to undermine public services;
Scrap the new post of EU foreign policy chief and the EU diplomatic service;
Member states to regain international aid budgets;
Scrap rules that allow EU leaders to introduce majority voting into new areas without the need for treaty changes;
Drop plans for further extension of majority voting and stick with the provisions agreed in talks on the Nice Treaty in 2000;
Drop plans for a list of areas where the EU “shares competence” over policy with member states;
Return powers over regional spending to national governments;
Enable the Government to deport foreign criminals automatically;
Scrap plans to deprive states of national voting rights if they breach EU economic rules;
Abandon plans to give Brussels the power to determine the composition of the European Commission; and
Retain the national veto over trade agreements relating to public services.
All good stuff, but they should be demanding these things anyway, entirely without reference to any call for a referendum. Such a referendum would deliver a Yes vote. In 1975, the federalists managed to convince two thirds of the electorate that they were merely voting for “a free trade area” called “the Common Market”, even though the first clause of the European Communities Act was, and is, a textbook definition of a federal state.
This was achieved by persistently putting up Tony Benn and Enoch Powell to state the case for a No vote. Most people voted instead for the position espoused by politicians with whom they felt more comfortable. The same thing would happen again. Powell’s place would be filled by that nasty fringe which holds his economic views untempered by his romantic Toryism. Such would be the sole No campaigners on at least two out of every three, and quite possibly three out of every four, programmes. The rest of the time, Benn would be back. No Ian Davidson. No Frank Field. No Kate Hoey. Just Wedgie occasionally, and the Genghis Khan Institute the rest of the time.
Even fewer people would identify with Benn now than in 1975. And do even tribal Tories, never mind anybody else, believe in unrestricted immigration to feed unbridled capitalism? Or the total deregulation of alcohol, gambling and pornography? Or the legalisation of drugs and prostitution? Or the wholesale privatisation of health, education and pensions? Or the abolition of farm subsidies?
“Well, then,” the federalists would say, “what makes you think that you agree with these people about this, and this alone? Their position is coherent. It all fits together. And your views don’t fit into it at all. Vote Yes, if only because they want you to Vote No.” And people would.
Instead, Parliament should do its duty by throwing out the Constitreaty without any need for a referendum. Not least, the unions should be refusing to fund any MP who does not vote in Parliament both against the Constitreaty and in favour of securing workers’ rights (among other things) through the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and should instead be undertaking to fund alternative parliamentary candidates who will do both of those things.
For we don’t need the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, we need a proper party like Labour of old, dedicated to just that: securing workers’ rights (among other things) through the Parliament of the United Kingdom.