Peter Hoskin

Clarke clarifies and muddies the Tory position on Europe

Clarke clarifies and muddies the Tory position on Europe
Text settings
Comments

One of the questions that - understandably - just won't go away is what the Tories intend to do about the Lisbon Treaty.  Their constant refrain has been that if it's not ratified by the time they're in government, then they'll hold a referendum on it and campaign for a "No" vote.  But what if it has been ratified?  William Hague recently hinted that they'd hold a referendum anyway, but we've heard nothing certain. 

Until now.  Speaking on the Politics Show, Ken Clarke has said that a Tory Government won't "re-open" Lisbon if it's ratified by Ireland.  Here's how ConHome report his comments: 

"Interviewed by Jon Sopel on BBC1's Politics Show, Ken Clarke MP has admitted that the Tories will not seek to reopen Lisbon if, as polls predict, the Treaty is ratified by Ireland.  Up until now Conservative spokesmen, including William Hague and David Cameron, have replied with 'we will not let matters rest there'.  Mr Clarke suggests that those seven words mean 'discussing the division of competences between member states and the European Union.'"

I guess that means that there won't be a referendum on a ratified treaty.  But depsite that one bit of clarification, questions abound.  What does "discussing the division of competences between member states and the European Union" actually mean in practice?  Can it achieve anything substantive within the pre-existing framework of the Lisbon Treaty?  Why have the Tories waited until now to be clearer over the referendum issue?  Hm.  And so it gets muddier and muddier.