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On a pedestal: Anti-EU campaigners like Nigel Farage can be heard 

It was just another Paris lunch. The editor of the Nouvel Observateur, and other media grandes fromages, at their local eatery opposite the Paris Bourse. David Cameron had just made his speech looking us all in the eye and promising an In/Out referendum. Prime ministers have ruminated about Europe in the past but this was the first time one had used In/Out language. In addition he gave a precise date for the referendum (by the end of 2017) to follow very imprecise negotiations to recast Britain's relationship with the EU in a way Mr Cameron and his Eurosceptic party could endorse.

Unlike the wriggle room Tony Blair and then David Cameron left themselves over the Constitutional and Lisbon treaties it is hard to see how such a solemnly delivered promise of a plebiscite can be swerved around. The Liberal Democrats have endorsed it — just as Charles Kennedy's announcement that he would vote with Tories in favour of a referendum on the EU Constitution forced Tony Blair's hand in 2004. Then I was the last minister to hold out in the Foreign Office where Jack Straw, Mike O'Brien and even Bill Rammell, more Europhile even than me but with a highly marginal seat to defend, had been moaning about doorstep demands for a referendum at our ministerial meetings for months before Blair caved in. By spring 2004, the combination of Tories, Lib Dems and Labour MPs unable to face down the clamour for a referendum in the Eurosceptic press, meant that Blair had no choice but to concede one.

The referendum appetite grows with feeding. David Cameron and his Foreign Secretary William Hague thought they could pacify the referendistas with the offer of an eccentric Bill that promised a referendum if ever there was a "significant transfer" of sovereignty to Brussels. Note the FCO bill drafters' weasel word "significant". It would be up to ministers to decide if any future treaty meant a significant shift in power to Europe. If they decided it wasn't significant then no referendum would be necessary. (Calls for this referendum Bill to cover a future treaty allowing Turkey to join were dismissed. The EU and Britain would change out of all recognition if 80 million Anatolian Muslims were allowed to come and live in Britain, but William Hague clings to the one British bit of EU policy which sounds progressive — the admission of Turkey to full EU membership.)

But far from the referendum Bill disposing of the problem all it did was whet the appetite of UKIP and anti-EU Conservatives as they demanded the real thing.  Mr Cameron duly conceded in January. His decision has fundamentally altered the terms of trade about Britain's membership of Europe and made UK withdrawal, if not quite certain, extremely probable. The pro-European Ed Miliband sensibly refuses to reveal his hand on a referendum and told a gathering of pro-EU London elites (though to be fair Andrew Neil was there) at the German Embassy on June 10 that Labour was not in favour of an In/Out referendum now.

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Andrew P
September 15th, 2013
4:09 AM
It is not sustainable to have a federation where some parts are fully in and others are only half-in. The Eurozone portion is fully committed to complete federal union whether they realize it or not. As William Hague once said, "the Euro is a burning building with no exits". When the Eurozone becomes fully federated, as it is slowly doing right now, the rest of the EU will either have to join the Euro, or leave.

September 9th, 2013
8:09 PM
When even Denis MacShane recognizes that the game is up, it probably is. But like every other Europhile, he still thinks the EU is simply a single market. It went beyond that years ago. It is on course to be a full-fledged federation. Fact is, however, the overwhelming majority of Britons are opposed to membership in a United States of Europe, making exit inevitable. The EU should have stuck to being the EEC. That worked fine.

August 18th, 2013
8:08 PM
I am sanguine about leaving the EU. If we are out then we would be in the EEA and single market and obey single market rules. So no real difference. I would not be bothered either way and this is something both pro and anti for different reasons care not to mention. the EU is not going away and we would have to deal with it. The downside would not having any say in its operations. the issue which will probably lead to the UK becoming semi detached in some form is that of closer fiscal union which basically means a closer political union. If the Eurozone leads to a closer fiscal EU we will probably want to and be better off in some sort of new relationship.

Dr David Hill
July 27th, 2013
8:07 PM
If you want to destroy a nation and its people in the long-term, just keep voting for either the Labour or Conservative parties. For the UK’s membership of the European Union is just one fine example of how both these parties when in government have destroyed the nation’s long term economic outlook and our living standards per se. There are too many undermining things that have happened to the UK through disastrous political decision-making over the years with regard to the EU to list them all in a reply/letter. But just one fact is that officially under Labour and Tory governments around 500,000 UK social housing units for approximately 1.2 million immigrants over the last 10-years alone, who have never paid a penny into the system, have been given preference over the 1.8 million households on the waiting list, estimated to be over 5 million people that are mainly UK descendants by birth. Add the vast increased demands on the NHS and education system etc, etc that is ‘free’ for all (one of the main reasons why the NHS will not last a further 25 years under all this pressure brought about by the inept decision making of our leading political parties), we see why we are in the dire state of affairs that we are. But add to this the vast payments that the UK shells out to the EU 24/7 on the back of the constantly failing EU political project, we must be absolutely mad to stay in the EU and continue to accept their ruinous laws and rulings. For it was a trade ‘pact’ that we in this country entering into, not a political nightmare and where the EU nations buy far more from us than we buy from them. Therefore never in a million years will the EU not trade with us if we pulled out and that is using that most lacking commodity in politics today of pure old ‘common sense’. For overall I believe in the basis of the EU concept when it was first introduced as the EEC, but where the EU project should have kept individual nations’ people to their own borders and where EU money should be used solely to build those economies from within, without exporting their people to others. This is where it falls down and will eventually become a nightmare for the UK and its indigenous people as we add huge debt upon debt year-on-year. Therefore when the ‘Vote’ comes we must for our own long-term sanity and good, vote ‘Yes’ to come out of this constantly damaging political pact. Dr David Hill Chief Executive World Innovation Foundation

July 22nd, 2013
3:07 PM
"Brexit will take place. What happens after no one knows." If we manage to knock our local statists on the head as well as I think we'll do with the European ones, the UK will face a new dawn, where our ingenuity, enterprise and respect for the law will take us as far as we aspire.

Count Jacqula
July 8th, 2013
10:07 PM
Abulhaq - what a load rot you are talking - 'Scotland in England'? The only chance of the UK (or any part of it) having sovereignty is to leave the EU. This is because it isn't possible to repatriate powers from within the EU. Fuller explanation on:

June 29th, 2013
3:06 PM
and then there is Scotland. the EU is popular there. even if independence were rejected next year the little Englander character of Westminster government would grate on Scottish nerves leading to a rethink.A sovereign Scotland in an England out is something Europe might see in the coming years. Very interesting indeed.

June 28th, 2013
3:06 PM
If the Euro holds, the Euro countries will effectively form a new United States; the EU members outside that group will be forced to either opt out or negotiate a radically new relationship with the new entity. That this article doesn't mention this is puzzling.

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