Coffee House

Will peers decide to #LetBritainDecide?

10 January 2014

The first week back in January is always a miserable one. Commuters stare miserably out of rain-streaked train windows contemplating the end of the festive season. More couples turn to divorce or relationship counselling than at any other time of the year. George Osborne did try his best to cheer us all up on Monday by merrily announcing that he’ll need to cut a further £25bn from public spending in the next parliament, but we need something more than that in the worst week of the year.

Which is why it is so cheering that #LetBritainDecide is back in Parliament today. Yes, now it’s the chance of peers to discuss that wonderful Wharton Bill, the private members’ bill for an EU referendum in 2017. Unfortunately, if you were nourishing genuine hopes of seeing this bill make it onto the statute book, you might sink back into that January depression. Over 70 peers are signed up to speak, and the slew of amendments planned make its chances of survival very slim indeed.

But, of course, that’s not really the point of this Bill: it was rushed out during a febrile period in Tory relations and was designed as much to unite the party and calm everyone down as it was to offer a legislative guarantee of a referendum (smart alecs will point out that a legislative guarantee between parliaments is impossible, but a new government would have had to repeal the bill introducing the 2017 referendum, which would be a political nightmare). The Bill has done that, and now it can serve another purpose of giving peers something to feast on for a few weeks.


But those still wanting to wring the last drops of political benefit from this legislation before it descends into the Lords quagmire are making sure that they point out this morning that Labour is still not offering a referendum at all. Lord Mandelson was out putting the ‘No’ case against holding one on the Today programme this morning, saying:

‘Our priority this year should be to put our people in the most important posts, reflecting the policy priorities which are most important for British interests. That is what we should be doing in 2014, and not, as I say, standing on the periphery bellowing our demands and grandstanding to that UKIP gallery, which preoccupies so many in the Conservative party.’

But if Labour doesn’t offer a referendum before the European elections, what can it offer voters? In the Spectator politics column this week, I wrote that Labour is currently mulling its own plans for reform to freedom of movement focusing on the right to work in Britain, not the right to live here. Last night on Question Time, Chuka Umunna dropped this into the discussion about immigration, saying:

‘I think there is one important thing about the European Union. The founders of the European Union had in mind free movement of workers, not free movement of jobseekers and undoubtedly we do have to work with our European partners to deal with that.’

I’ve heard that this could be a serious offer from Labour to voters in lieu of an EU referendum offer. It’s a big deal: freedom of movement is a cornerstone of the European Union. But there are many in Labour who think that it still isn’t enough when one party is offering to #LetBritainDecide.

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  • Timmy2much

    Some of the comments coming from the lords over this issue are a goldmine for UKIP.

    I give you a selection of next years UKIP election bill boards.

    “Parliament makes decisions, not the people,” Lord Thomas of Swynnerton

    “We should be very wary of putting our {EU} membership in the hands of a lottery in which we have no idea what factors, completely unrelated to Europe, will affect the outcome,” said Lord Mandelson who is in line for a £31,000-a-year European Commission pension

    Lord Oakeshott, a Liberal Democrat – there is “no need” for the Bill because voters can have their say in the 2015 General Election. Referenda are a “cowards way out”

  • Timmy2much

    “We should be very wary of putting our membership in the hands of a lottery in which we have no idea what factors, completely unrelated to Europe, will affect the outcome,” Lord Mandelsonwho will recieve a £31,000-a-year European Commission pension!

    Impartial !!!

  • atticus1900

    The political elite denying the British populace a say on such important issues as EU membership will lead to civil strife. It seems our politicians believe they are born to rule. I would remind them that power rests with the electorate, who merely lend it to politicians. Our current crop are playing with fire.

  • bwims

    I certainly hope not. Then the issue for whether or not to vote UKIP becomes a lot clearer for traditional Tory voters.

    • Timmy2much

      Lord Oakeshott, a Liberal Democrat ally of Vince Cable, the business secretary, said there is “no need” for the Bill because voters can have their say in the 2015 General Election. Referenda are a “cowards way out” for politicians who don’t want to make decisions, he claimed.

      “If you want to come out of Europe, you vote UKIP. If you want to stay in, you vote Liberal Democrat or Labour. If you do not know or do not care, you vote Conservative,”

  • Alexsandr

    who was the idiot peer on Today. First he got his facts wrong saying you had to be 60 today to have voted in the 1975 referendum. It was on 5th june1975, so that means people born before 5th June 1957 had a vote then. People born then will be 56 today.
    and he failed to answer the simple fact that the new government in 2015 could repeal the legislation. So what is the point? (He didn’t even know the word ‘repeal,and he is in the legislature)

    • HookesLaw

      Voting Conservative will give us the referendum anyway.

      • Alexsandr

        Is that like the cast iron guarantee before the last election? (Yes I know there were caveats but they were not meant to be heard)
        They will dream up some excuse as to why we cant have one.

        • Holly

          I reckon we will get one, and we will be ‘encouraged’ to stay in, under re-negotiated terms, of course.

          Then in twenty years time, we will be where we are today, due to the slow creep of tying up ‘loose ends’ in various treaties, previously signed by democratically elected governments, of course.

          I read/heard somewhere, this guy asked his wife if he could re-build an engine in the living room. She said absolutely not.
          Anyway, over time this guy had collected most of the bits for this engine,and kept them all in the house. He then argued that ‘most of it is here now’ anyway, so I might as well build it.
          That is what has happened with Europe…and as sure as night follows day, little by little, we will get sucked in again.

          IF I ever get the opportunity, I will be voting ‘OUT’.

          • Alexsandr

            find the ‘yes prime minister’ one where they are discussing replacement of trident – the grand design
            his chief scientific advisor describes ‘salami tactics’ only too well -slice by slice.

    • rob232

      I voted ‘no’ in the referendum when I was 21 and I now am 59.

  • asalord

    Thankfully members of the house of lords will not have the power to decide anything in a Scotland which has regained its independence.

    • HookesLaw

      No you will be stuck with a labour dominated single chamber assembly.

      • Alexsandr

        the lord sows so shall ye reap..

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …so, sorta like you LibLabCon socialists have done now then.

  • Wessex Man

    The Lords now full of expenses cheating Tory/Lab/Lib/dum placemen should be done away with along with the EU!

    • HookesLaw

      We cannot do away with the EU. It is there and will continue to exist.

  • Tony_E

    ‘I think there is one important thing about the European Union. The
    founders of the European Union had in mind free movement of workers, not
    free movement of jobseekers and undoubtedly we do have to work with our
    European partners to deal with that.’

    Absolute rubbish, every word of it. The EU Labour market is a large part of the initial idea – and it was designed to control inflation, create a stable environment for large corporations and enable the gradual dissolution of borders and democratic national sovereignty. You can not do that by only moving employed people – you have to encourage people to move to seek work.

    Once you remove sovereignty, you remove the ability to wage war between nations. And that was the overriding purpose that Monet sought. He also believed that democracy was unworkable, and that by removing power to a multinational elite, it would create a benign dictatorship no longer driven by narrow national interests. Unfortunately, it is driven by narrow corporate interests, and the people are of secondary importance to corporate greed and crony capitalism.

    The EU. (through excessive regulation), are the largest block on free markets and small business competition to the larger interests in the world. And as Adam Smith described, the best way for a people to become wealthy and prosperous is the free market.

    • AnotherDave

      Not completely.

      “European Directive 2004/38/EC deals with the right of the citizens of the Union and their family members to move freely within the territory of the member states and live where they like. This directive maintains the requirement that EU citizens need to ‘exercise an economic activity or dispose of sufficient resources in order to take up residence in another Member State’.”

      So EU nationals need to be able to support themselves to be legal residents in another EU state.

    • HookesLaw

      The rules for movement of labour do not mean that people are entitled to benefits if they do not find work. So in effect Mandelson is wrong in what he says. The rules are indeed framed to allow people to move for work but not simply live.

      As the Sun Columnist said on ThisWeek when she hammered Abbott, the problem we have is our own people being too lazy to gt out of bed and look for work.

      I had not seen the comment from Another Dave when I wrote this and he makes the same point better. So this supposed labour policy is a non policy – we can hardly expect an experienced Spectator joiurnalist to point it out, it just take us dim readers.

  • toco10

    Although Labour and its leftist affiliate the BBC may not like it, given the enormous increase in the size of the EU and its grasping of additional powers unjustly it would be wholly undemocratic to disallow the British people a vote on whether they wish to remain and if they do on what changed terms.

    • Holly

      And if more by elections results go the same way as the one in Haverhill, it might not be any of the three main parties having a say on whether we get our referendum.

      Hate to say this, but very well done UKIP.
      Now all you have to do is hold onto it the next time round…Not as easy as winning.

    • telemachus

      “leftist affiliate the BBC ”
      Chair = Chair of Conservative Party
      Political Editor = Chair of Oxford University Conservative Association and Chair of Young Conservatives

      • Simon M

        the bbc doesn’t blast the ‘go home immigrants’ campaign every 5 minutes so it’s flung in the communist/gulag tv category

      • Hexhamgeezer

        .and your point is?

        • telemachus

          Died in the wool Tory activist Robinson with the active connivance of Tory Patten sets the tone for 74% of all the News Consumption in the UK

      • Andy

        Still peddling the Fascist Left line.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Continue p***ing into wind, tele, the evidence of BBC bias is plain to see. Fat Pang is hardly a model conservative and he is “chair” of the trust.

        • dalai guevara

          Fat Pang not a conservative
          Yeo, not a conservative.
          Boles, not a conservative.
          Cameron is not a conservative.
          and so on ad nauseam

          Breaking newsflash
          Tory party not conservative shocker
          Who would have thunk no one shocked shocker

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …how about we hook you socialist nutters up to a few million greenie renewable megawatts? Maybe you’ll even start to thunk then.

          • JackyTreehorn

            That’s the reason why more and more people are voting UKIP
            Who would have thunk it?

    • Rossspeak

      Democracy and EU grasping of powers – surely a contradiction in terms?

    • foxoles

      “[There’s no way Britain could accept that] the most vital economic forces of this country should be handed over to an authority that is utterly undemocratic and is responsible to nobody”

      (British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, 1950, in response to the Schuman Plan, which led to the first of a series of European supranational bodies which would eventually become the EU).

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