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Well the results are in, and the motion calling for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU was defeated by 413 votes to 111 – courtesy of all the major political parties. The political classes have, in other words, lifted two fingers to those whom they are supposed to represent. It has been clear for years now that if Britain’s EU membership was put to a referendum, the no-camp would win hands down. Meanwhile 70% of people want a referendum. And yet this majority opinion finds no expression amongst any of the major parties.
The powers that, every 5 years we lend to parliament are not theirs to give away at will . And yet give them away they have. In 2008, none other than Nick Clegg remarked that nobody under 51 had been asked their opinion on Britain’s relationship with Europe. In the meantime we have reached a situation in which 15-50% of our laws (depending on who you believe) are handed down from the only faintly democratic institutions of Brussels.
It is often said by demos- fearing Europhiles, that referenda are “not a part”of the British constitution, and that our relationship with Europe therefore need not require one. According to one commentator, a referendumon the EU “could potentially undermine the very foundations of how our political system works”. Things are in fact not so black and white. Before the Liberals curtailed the power of the Lords in 1910 they were compelled to hold another election – the second in the year – precisely on that issue. THe principle here was that when it comes making “organic change”, that when it comes to actually changing the rules of the game a simple parliamentary majority does not suffice (in the same way tht it would be constitutionally legitimate for a government to assume power and then vote through 50 year electoral terms).
Since Britain was last asked to join the EU the rules of the game have changed and changed again – as Economic integration morphed into partial political union. When various European publics delivered their negative verdict on the European constitution, it was repackaged as the Lisbon Treaty. We now have an EU president upon who we were not merely denied a vote, but denied even the opportunity to express an opinion – since his candidacy was not even announced to the public. It is a tremendous understatement to say that it is high time that the British given a say in how, and from where , they are governed.
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