Not only would the negotations necessary in order to leave the EU drag on for years and years, but calling the referendum “a device of demagogues and dictators” was Thatcher’s only ever favourable quotation of a Labour Prime Minister. Yet to those who worship at Thatcher’s altar while wholly ignoring her record on this and so much else, the demand for that deeply flawed and wholly foreign device has become a nervous tick. They honestly cannot see how Pythonesque it is to demand a referendum in the cause of defending parliamentary sovereignty. The Lisbon Treaty is self-amending, so there can never be another treaty. What is needed is legislation with five simple clauses.
First, the restoration of the supremacy of British over EU law, and its use to repatriate agricultural policy and to restore our historic fishing rights in accordance with international law. Secondly, the requirement that, in order to have any effect in the United Kingdom, all EU law pass through both Houses of Parliament as if it had originated in one or other of them. Thirdly, the requirement that British Ministers adopt the show-stopping Empty Chair Policy until such time as the Council of Ministers meets in public and publishes an Official Report akin to Hansard. Fourthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of any ruling of the European Court of Justice or of the European Court of Human Rights (or of the “Supreme Court”) unless confirmed by a resolution of the House of Commons.
And fifthly, the disapplication in the United Kingdom of anything passed by the European Parliament but not by the majority of those MEPs certified as politically acceptable by one or more seat-taking members of the House of Commons, so that we were no longer subject to the legislative will of Stalinists and Trotskyists, neo-Fascists and neo-Nazis, members of Eastern Europe’s kleptomaniac nomenklatura, neoconservatives such as now run France and Germany, or people who believe the Provisional Army Council to be the sovereign body throughout Ireland. Soon to be joined by Turkish Islamists, secular ultranationalists, and violent Kurdish Marxist separatists.
This calls for a Labour three-line whip in favour, with the public warning that the Whip would be withdrawn from any remaining Blairite ultra who failed to comply. The Liberal Democrats set great store by decentralisation, transparency and democracy, and represent many areas badly affected by the Common Fisheries Policy. The Liberals were staunch free traders who were as opposed to the Soviet Bloc as they were to Far Right regimes in Latin America and Southern Africa. The SDP’s reasons for secession from Labour included both calls for protectionism and the rise of antidemocratic extremism. (Both the Liberal Party and, on a much smaller scale, the SDP still exist, and both are now highly critical of the EU.)
The SDLP takes the Labour Whip, the Alliance Party is allied to the Lib Dems, the Greens are staunchly anti-EU, so is the DUP, and the one other Unionist is close to Labour. The SNP and Plaid Cymru can hardly believe in independence for Scotland, greater autonomy for Wales, yet vote against the return to Westminster of the powers that they wish to transfer thence to Edinburgh or Cardiff; the SNP also has the fishing issue to consider. Even any remaining Conservatives who wanted to certify the European People’s Party as politically acceptable might be brought on board.
Leaving those fabled creatures, backbench Tory Eurosceptics. It is high time that their bluff was called. This is how to do it.