David Cameron began his much publicised European tour of capitals and leaders this week in a vain attempt to prove to both his own party and the nation at large that he is serious about EU reform and that he is willing to take the UK out of Europe if his marginal majority government do not get their own way over a yet to be published set of reforms probably centered around immigration control, and a loser union. Meanwhile the Queen in her address to both Houses confirmed that the referendum within the UK will take place before the end of 2017.
Despite the lack of detail, despite the uncertainty surrounding how he will be received firstly on his 36 hour mini hand shake tour and then in the coming months, it is staggering to discover at such an early stage in the negotiations that we therefore actually have an agreed and published question! “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?” YES or NO. But is that yes or no depending on the substance of the reform? Is that a yes or no depending on whether there is any guarantee that any discussed reform will ever be ratified? Is that a yes or no subject to the other 27 states or territories also saying yes or no in subsequent referendums? Will our yes or no be subject to treaty change? If so how long will that take after the referendum? I guess to some degree any NO vote despite it being disastrous for the UK is the easier outcome for the government to deal with, as we just withdraw. But how will a yes vote ever hold any true validity if set against such a sea of uncertainty and visible only through such a misty cloud of confusion.
I am now personally so confused that I am forced into thinking the unthinkable, and saying that I actually agree for once with Nigel Farage, not on where we both individually stand on our preferred outcome of the referendum, but on the premise that the whole EU referendum is now little more than a fudge, a trick of smoke and mirrors, a sleight of hand, the referendum is a dead referendum, it is deceased, bereft of life, shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir.
It is an Ex referendum where your X won’t be worth the lead in your polling station pencil.
But don’t expect the mainstream UK media to take such a dismissive attitude to the bill, don’t expectout MP’s and Lords in the chamber to worry themselves about the niceties of meaningful reform over manifesto delivery of the mechanism for a referendum, and prepare yourself for a poll fest of opinion and counter opinion linking that yes or no question to every conceivable variation of the subject matter imaginable. The Sun will no doubt run a “Would you vote Yes or No if the new EU deal bans page 3 Girls?” The Mail and Express will ask the nation “Should Benefit claimants get the vote?” and The Observer and IoS will no doubt sell endless Pre Referendum EU city tours.
But the real poll, the actual vote, in my humble opinion will be a complete non event, no opportunity for real reform which wrestles control away from the EU corporate giants or gives power back to the people of Europe, no challenge to TTIP, the EU Ministers would never let us have a say, let alone a vote on anything as important as signing away our rights as a democracy to place nation state law over the commercial interests of world capitalism.
My own party, The Green Party have a simple YES, YES, YES policy on Europe, YES to Reform, YES to a referendum and YES to Europe. But this already discredited new Tory government have their own less attractive option on offer for UK voters. NO meaningful reform, NO voice on the decisions that really matter and NO limit to the spin and political posturing to be deployed in convincing us all that Dave won the day for the Union, all of course in Churchillian fashion!