British people must have a real choice on Europe: in or out

Ahead of his Party Conference, which begins tomorrow, Liberal Democrat Leader Ming Campbell, has called for the public to be given a real choice on the European Union.

Ming said:

“It’s time for the political parties to end the shadow boxing on Europe and enter into an honest debate about the European Union.

“We will not know the final shape of the European Reform Treaty until later this year and that is the right time to make the judgement as to whether the changes it proposes necessitate a referendum. My own view is that in its present form the substantial differences between the draft Treaty and the old constitution mean that a referendum is not required.

“But I am not prepared to allow David Cameron to lead the Europhobes and their allies in sections of the media, to distort the debate on Europe without challenge.

“Fifteen years ago Liberal Democrats demanded a referendum on the Maastricht treaty which established the European Union, but the Conservative government refused it.

“Today David Cameron tries to pose as a champion of the people but in truth he wishes to restrict the British people to a choice on a narrow question about a treaty of far less significance.

“I don’t intend to let him get away with offering us such a false debate and such a false choice.

“If there is to be a referendum it shouldn’t be restricted to a comparatively minor treaty. It must be a decision about the EU as a whole.

“Let’s have an honest debate on the European Union followed by a real choice for the British people. That means a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. We would ask the British people the big question – whether to remain in the European Union or not.

“I will lead the Liberal Democrats at the forefront of that debate.

“We will make the overwhelming case for Europe and trust the people to make the right choice.”

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9 Responses to British people must have a real choice on Europe: in or out

  1. Mike Hanlon says:

    So you don’t want to side with Cameron and the “europhobes” on a treaty referendum.
    But you *do* want to side with UKIP on the need for an EU ‘in or out’ referendum?

    How bizarre.

    You say the revised Constitution Treaty is “comparitively minor”. But even the Foreign Secretary admitted in Parliament that the Maastricht Treaty (on which you supported a referendum) was “smaller”.

    This posturing is a blatant political calculation to try to preserve your ‘democratic’ credentials while refusing to honour your election commitment to a referendum on the Constitution.

    It won’t fool anyone. All that will be enhanced is the impression of never knowing what your party will do from one minute to the next.

  2. -Stuart- says:

    “Substantial differences” between the revised treaty and the original Constitution?

    Oh come on.

    So why have many other European governments said the substance of the Constitution has been preserved, and put the similarity between the two documents at 90% or more?

    You know better than them, do you … the prime ministers and foreign ministers at the heart of negotiating the revised treaty?

    Or are you just letting your out-dated dogma for a centralised EU State over-ride common sense?

    Stop yet more flip-flopping, for which your party already has a terrible reputation, and stick to your referendum pledge. That’s what a party that wishes to be taken seriously would do.

  3. Kevin T says:

    I would like to congratulate Sir Menzies on his principled stand. This debate and vote are long overdue. I think it speaks very highly of the LibDems that they’re prepared to take their case to the country and let the people decide. It shows up the disgracefully undemocratic attitude of the Labour Party and the cowardice of the Tories.

    I’ll be honest, I don’t agree with a lot of LibDem policies, although I strongly support them on some issues like ID cards. However if this is part of the manifesto at the next general election – and providing Sir Menzies rules out any coaltion with Labour – I will vote Liberal Democrat.

  4. Chandila Fernando says:

    Btitish political culture is devoid of real opinion and debate therefore, a referendum on the treaty will force leaders of all parties to the answer the question. However, the danger is not that of its creation but the outcome.If the public do not share the pro european stance then where would we be ? I believe that we would have differentiated ourselves to the point where our position is distinctive but critically Sir Menzies, the presentation of our argument is the single biggest political challenge of our time. The brand, the message and the messenger are of equal weighting.How do you intend to do this ?

  5. Dave Manuel says:

    Below is the promise in the Lib-Dem 2005 Manifesto that I voted for. Please read the last line. So why are you breaking this promise on the Reform Treaty which is 95% the same as the Constitution?!

    MAKE EUROPE MORE
    EFFECTIVE AND DEMOCRATIC
    Membership of the EU has been
    hugely important for British jobs,
    environmental protection, equality
    rights, and Britain’s place in the
    world. But with enlargement to
    twenty-five member states, the
    EU needs reform to become more
    efficient and more accountable.
    The new constitution helps to
    achieve this by improving EU
    coherence, strengthening the
    powers of the elected European
    Parliament compared with the
    Council of Ministers, allowing
    proper oversight of the unelected
    Commission, and enhancing the
    role of national parliaments. It
    also more clearly defines and limits
    the powers of the EU, reflecting
    diversity and preventing overcentralisation.
    We are therefore
    clear in our support for the
    constitution, which we believe is in
    Britain’s interest – but ratification
    must be subject to a referendum of
    the British people.

  6. Martin Budden says:

    I am so disappointed that Ming Campbell is going back on his word. A real choice is the one that was promised.

  7. Lib Dem member says:

    Mr Manuel:- saying something is 95% the same as something else misses the point. Your DNA is 95% the same as that of a monkey. Should I therefore conclude that you a monkey, or possibly a baboon?

    Mr Budden:- the real choice IS in or out of Europe. The Euro-sceptics in the Conservative Party are too scared of actually asking the question and so they want to hide behind the treaty. They are the ones who want to rig things to avoid a real choice. I am surprised you are so keen to let them get away with it.

  8. Olly Kendall says:

    A good speech by Ming. Empassioned, personal and on the offensive. i thought bits of the delivery still looked a little awkward and Ming should fine tune some of his body language but this is all peripheral stuff: on the substance of what he said he was as critical of cameron as he was of brown. there was no repeat of the bungle last time round with confused messages over whether PR was a red-line in any coalition and Ming has made it unambiguous that the Lid Dems are forging a radical maifesto that has social justice and fairness at its core. I still don’t feel there was enough of a theme at conference. most voters will remmeber only a handful of LD policies so they need to be sold bigger picture ideas as well as striking policy initiatives. I thought breaking the ‘cosy consensus’ is a great theme and i only wish that it had been repeated endlessly thorughout the past four days at conference. still, all in all ming answered his detractors and i’d be surprised we didn’t see a lot of the ‘angry ming’ coverage in toimorrow’s broadsheets. good stuff.

  9. -Stuart- says:

    The DNA response is a cheap shot ‘Lib Dem member’. The issue of this EU Constitution Treaty is a serious one … the debate deserves better.

    Clearly all the key features of the original Constitution are still there. The opt-outs are all the same as on the original Constitution.

    They’ve just dropped a couple of EU symbols from the text (which won’t be dropped in reality, so that change is meaningless) and done a bit of renaming.

    I’m surprised you’re so keen to let Gordon Brown get away with such an obvious subterfuge. Another case of dogma over democracy?

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