Monday, October 07, 2013

It is not those of us who argue against an EU Referendum who are anti-democratic. It is those who argue for!

The charge is made all the time by our opponents that those of us who are against an EU referendum are being anti-democratic. The reverse is the case!

We live in a "Parliamentary Democracy" - indeed arguably we invented this idea. The underlying premise of this system is that we entrust our leaders with decision-making powers. Governments govern, subject to the will of Parliament. Parliament is elected by we the people. The present government has a majority in the House of Commons and does things. Some of those things it said it would do in a manifesto, some not. They are no different from their predecessors in that! That's how it works. And in 2015 we'll have another Election and the sequence will start again. That's our democracy for you.

The noisy (an often noisome)  Europhobics  understand all the above, at least the more thoughtful do. And they know, what is self-evidently the case, that no British Government is going to try and legislate us out of the EU with a vote in Parliament. And no sane political party is going to put withdrawal in a manifesto. So if our proper Democratic processes are followed we are in the EU to stay. So the Europhobics have to find a way around this.Thus the call for a referendum.

A referendum  is a thoroughly unBritish idea and one that has never been part of our Governance system. "Yes it is," The Europhobics will cry, where constitutional matters are concerned. Well actually no. The vast majority of our (unwritten) constitutional changes over the last two hundred years have come from democratic processes as described here above. As far as the EU is concerned the same applies, with the exception of that one referendum in 1975. There was a manifesto commitment for that from the party that held it and the House of Commons approved it. And it was about the principle of membership not of course the detail. It was a good debate (I took part in it) and there was never the slightest doubt at the time that the vote was final and exceptional.

The EU has changed since 1975 - of course it has. And democratically elected British governments have been party to these changes and have approved them. Further democratically elected British Members of the European Parliament take part in debates and vote. Is it fully democratic ? No. Is it "getting there"? I believe so.

We decided back in 1975 that we would be a full member of a European union. Since then our leaders have managed that membership. Opt-outs included. Where we haven't opted out-we've acquiesced. And we've played a full part, democratically, in creating the EU we now have and our part in it. Including, as it happens, a decision not to join the single currency. No absence of democracy in THAT key decision. And no referendum either!

So the cry that those of us should oppose a referendum are in some way undemocratic is nonsense. The reverse is the case. It is not us but those who argue for a referendum who seek to undermine our democracy by trying to bypass Parliament and appeal to the people over its head. You can't change the democratic rules just because you don't like the outcomes I'm afraid!


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