» Friday, April 30, 2004


Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with Neil Kinnock’s call for a second referendum should there be a no vote, the PMOS said that the position on this issue had not changed. A no vote would mean entering into unknown territory, the only guarantee being that the Government would be facing a serious situation. As the Prime Minister had underlined from the outset, the Government would go into the referendum intending to win it.

Asked for a reaction to President Chirac’s proposal for a two year period for the UK to sort itself out were there to be a no vote, the PMOS said he did not think it would be helpful to engage in a speculative discussion about this issue. People should wait and see what happened. The Government wanted to remain at the heart of Europe and continue influencing Europe’s future, especially at a time when we were welcoming the entry of the new accession states who, as we had pointed out, held very similar views to our own. We believed that was possible. He emphasised that the Government would only agree to the Treaty this summer if it believed it was in the interests of this country. Only then would we go into a referendum arguing our case.

Asked to comment on the suggestion that the measures the Government was taking, including new restrictions on benefits for immigrants from Eastern Europe, was a panic measure the day before enlargement was due to take effect, the PMOS said that David Blunkett had first spoken about these matters in February, which would indicate that the Government was working in a pragmatic and systematic way, rather than panicking.

Asked about the difference in view between the Prime Minister and President Chirac about the future EU membership of Turkey, the PMOS said that it was in the interests of the EU as a whole, as well as the UK, that Turkey, as a major Islamic country, was brought into the fold if it met the required standards.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news


  1. When are the Government going to wake up to the fact that the majority of the country want the opportunity to take a vote on both the constitution and our presence in Europe generally. What was initially proposed in 1957 has subsequently turned into a European super state. The Government are surely obligated to ask the people of this country its views on this. It is bad enough when they start trying to mess about with our legal system, and abolish the house of lords without a clear remit from us the voters, let alone try to sign us up to this farcical constitution. People of the country unite and rid us of these clowns before they do something really stupid !

    Comment by An Angry Man — 4 May 2004 on 1:37 pm | Link
  2. If the public were of a mind to withdraw from the EU entirely they would vote that way in a general election.

    PS When was this proposal to abolish the House of Lords? I must have missed it.

    Comment by David Boothroyd — 4 May 2004 on 2:38 pm | Link
  3. That’s a fairly ingenious way of disguising the truth though David. If none of the 3 main parties made withdrawal from Europe a manifesto pledge, then the public would have no choice but to stay in Europe – even if 100% of the electorate were against it.

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 4 May 2004 on 2:47 pm | Link
  4. That’s a fairly silly way of looking at it. If large proportions of the electorate were against it then one or other of the large parties would change their policies to be against it. However, the electorate does not vote for parties advocating withdrawal from the EU.

    Comment by David Boothroyd — 4 May 2004 on 4:52 pm | Link
  5. "However, the electorate does not vote for parties advocating withdrawal from the EU"; Really? And your proof of this statement is what exactly? I thought that was the point of having a referendum, or at least it is in Tony Blair’s eyes. (Which is another distortion – because the question is not and was never "should we remain in the EU, originally the Common Market". The question is actually "should we accept an EU constitution; ie, basically accept the EU as one big country", and the answer to that will be a huge big resounding NO.

    But once again you talk like a weaselly politician – you pick apart semantics to hide the fact that you have actually said nothing – or the little you do say is a distortion. You are implying then that all party election manifestos are based on subjects which are, if you’ll pardon the expression, popular at the time. Strange then, how much of Tony’s last manifesto remains unfulfilled – shows just how much attention parties actually pay to their manifestos. And therefore WHY exactly is it so blindingly obvious that, were it not already, ONE of the main parties would make this an issue for election? I mean, it wasn’t exactly on Joe Publics lips, was it? "Hey Jim, how about joining all of the EU together into one big country?" People didn’t WANT an EU constitution in the first place, it was only when the government tried to shove it down our throat that people stepped back and said "hang on…" Most of the public would LOVE to see St. Georges day recognised as a national holiday, but the government does not have the courage to entertain even this tiny bit of public independence of thought; so please don’t insult all our intelligence with statements such as "if large proportions of the electorate were against it then one or other of the large parties would change their policies to be against it". Political parties care not one iota about the wishes of the masses; all they care about is scoring enough political points to secure a job of power for another 5 years. End of.

    Comment by PapaLazzzaru — 4 May 2004 on 5:51 pm | Link
  6. Okay.

    First: If you’re going to argue about the EU, it would be good if you acted like you knew something about it.

    – None of these policies, nor the constitution, create a Federated Europe in the way that the U.S. is federated. Fundamentally: In the U.S., states own all powers not explicitly listed as owned by the federal government. In the E.U., states own all powers except those that they explicitly hand to the E.U.; moreover, they withhold veto and exclusion rights. There is no comparison on anything except the kind of superficial knee-jerk level that only a Sun reader can truly appreciate.

    – "Withdrawing" from the E.U. means a lot of things – it could mean withdrawing from trade agreements, for example – which everyone in economics can pretty much tell you is a bad idea. In return, you could join NAFTA, and become America’s 52nd state, alongside Mexico. Or, it could be withdrawing from EU politics – which includes things like the standardisation of digital radio and digital broadcasting – you know, that same awful business that gave us Freeview. Those same EU politics ensured that there was a single, harmonized frequency band for GSM, and that you can take your 3G phone with you anywhere in Europe, because frequency spectrum management is also done through policy frameworks. Or maybe you meant withdrawing from the Council of Europe, and thereby losing UK coverage under the European Council of Human Rights.

    – EU policy is *generally* done through policy frameworks – laboriously worded and politically fought over policy documents that provide skeletal requirements which individual nations implement. Privacy’s a great example – privacy laws here are several orders of magnitude stronger than those needed by the current privacy framework requirements. As are many, many others – most EU policies are pretty lax, quite frankly. They shore up the bottom end – but most of us wouldn’t want the EU framework requirements to be our *only* legal protection.

    – EU policy is only allowed to cover specific subjects, granted those powers by the member states; even then, it may not see the light, as it has to make it through an EU parliamentary process before even the vaguest of framework documents gets to become requisite for implementation by member nations.

    If they called that "Constitution" a bill of rights, everyone here should and would be positive about it. Becuase the UK hasn’t bloody got one.

    But because it *also* describes hard and permanent limits to the powers of the EU, people think it’s some kind of monolithic bugblatter beast of traal – when in reality, we’re not talking about a huge number of powers anyways, and putting even semi-permanent limits on that power is in the interests of everyone, whether they’re pro or anti europe.

    So I just don’t see the point, quite frankly, of having a discussion about Europe unless everyone involved is willing to improve their level of knowledge beyond that of the "beer, foamy, good" level of comprehension one usually gets out of the papers.

    Oh, yeah, and how’s this: EU government is made of two kinds of people: Experts in their field, and politicians. Having been witness to the processes of the EU as one of the former, I have a lot more appreciation for the EU than I did when I went into those buildings the first time. People need to understand the purpose and goals of the EU before they so willingly slag it off – because our lives here would quite frankly suck if it weren’t for at least the *basic* cooperation we get through EU framework and policy harmonization. The UK would have its own digital tv, it’s own 3G standard, you’d need a dual-band phone to go to the continent, you’d have no european court of human rights to take your arguments to, nor would you be able to use the weight of the EU in trade agreements against the U.S. when your steel industry gets screwed by American policy.

    Those things are all a part of the purpose of the European Union. It’s not all about money, and it’s not all about politics – it’s about market harmonisation and standardisation. It ensures that products built for the UK can also be sold to the rest of Europe, provides for funding of research projects that can benefit the whole, and ensures that companies don’t end up lost at sea trying to become competitive in more than one member nation due to any enormous differences between laws of various countries. It levels the playing field.

    If you’d prefer to be insular, and damned be your companies, and damned be your economy, you can go set up your own little government on the Isle of Parrots and piss off, quite frankly – there’s no way I’m letting my home slide 50 years into the past for the sake of people who don’t have the balls to actually take the time to educate themselves.

    Comment by Gregory Block — 5 May 2004 on 5:52 pm | Link

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