Peter Hoskin

In or out?

In or out?
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You've got to hand it to Dan Hannan – he knows how to make a splash. His latest initiative is a cross-party campaign for an "in or out" referendum on Britain's EU membership. You can find details in his article for the Telegraph today or, indeed, on the campaign's actual website. But the basic argument runs thus: with the AV vote next year, referendums are now hardwired into the political mainstream – so why not give us a vote on one of the biggest questions of national sovereignty that we face today? And if you agree with him on that, you can sign up here.

Hannan is, of course, making a serious point. Europe is almost certainly one of those areas where the Westminster consensus is divorced from public opinion – and a reckoning could well be overdue. But his campaign also promises to serve up a healthy dollop of political entertainment. Here, after all, is a Eurosceptic Conservative pushing for a referendum that the Europhilic Lib Dems promised in their manifesto, but which the coalition has now made an improbability. Stir in the Tories who will be sympathetic to Hannan's cause, and it could turn into quite a raucous affair.

The question is whether Hannan will get anywhere with this. Putting aside the views of the public and of the government for now, his campaign faces two particular disadvantages. First, it could get submerged by the No and Yes campaigns circling around the AV vote. And, second, it is sometimes unclear, reading the website, whether it is just a campaign for a In/Out referendum, or whether it is a campaign to take us out of Europe altogether. This confusion may be understandable – but it could alienate those who would like a referendum but would vote for us to stay in the union. I mean, things could get really confusing should a pro-Europe, pro-referendum campaign decide to tap-dance onto the stage.

In the meantime, though, I leave CoffeeHousers with two questions. Referendum: yes or no? And Europe: in or out? The comments section awaits.