Peter Hoskin

Hague talks referenda

The headline-grabber from William Hague’s interview with the Times seems to be his admission that “it is likely that [the Tories] are going to be able to win the next election”.  But this section rather caught my eye:

“And for the first time he hinted that a referendum could still be promised in the Tory manifesto, even if the treaty had been ratified. Previously the Tories have said that they would not let matters rest in the event of the treaty being ratified but have declined to expand on what they might do.

Mr Hague said that, if it were not ratified by the time of a Tory victory, there would be a referendum ‘in the opening months’ and a Bill preparing for the vote would be ready. If the treaty had been ratified, the party would, nevertheless, spell out in its manifesto what action it would take to reverse European integration. Pressed on whether in those circumstances a referendum could still be promised in a Tory manifesto, he said: ‘We would not rule anything in or out.'”

Coupled with their latest poster campaign, the Tories are showing a renewed determination to tackle the Lisbon Treaty.  If they are thinking about a post-ratification referendum, then I think the key thing is that their manifesto makes it clear whether the result will be binding on the government.  Sure, it will be politically more difficult to pull out of a ratified Lisbon Treaty than to pull out of the ratification process itself.  But the British public deserves to know whether “No,” really does mean “No”.

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