Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Lisbon Treaty ratified: what happens now?

The best thing the Conservatives could do, after coming to power, would be to unilaterally withdraw Britain from the EU, refusing any claims for financial compensation. The EU we now find ourselves in is not the EU that we joined, and at no stage along the way has the public been given a choice about the freedom we have surrendered. Successive governments have quietly but steadily devolved power to Brussels, reneging on their promises, and neglecting their duty to protect British interests.

Only outside the EU does Britain stand a chance of reversing the tide of bureaucracy and quangocracy, giving power back to the people. Once out of the EU, we would have a clean slate to decide what sort of relationship this country wants with Europe. The most we ever signed up for was free trade.

Withdrawal would not go unpunished — the EU would make an example of Britain, and impose harsh duties on British products — but we would survive, and a truly free Britain would easily out-compete a continent burdened by bureaucracy and regulation. We should not forget that even in our current over-managed state, Britain, unlike Ireland, has long made a net contribution to EU coffers.

Unfortunately, it is vanishingly unlikely that our next government will withdraw from the EU. The Conservatives won't do it, and the parties that would do it are unelectable. In the worst-case scenario, UKIP and the BNP will succeed in sapping enough votes away from the Conservatives that Labour stays in power.

The best we can hope for is what James Bartholomew has proposed:
Now that the Lisbon Treaty has been ratified, the referendum that should be offered would ask three questions:

1. Do you wish the British government to withdraw from the European Union?

2. If Britain remains in the European Union, do you wish there to be a referendum on any future European Union treaty?

3. If Britain remains in the European Union, do you wish the British government to negotiate a reduction in the control of the European Union over British government?

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