How would a referendum U-turn go down in Manchester?
Tomorrow the Irish vote in their second referendum on the EU Lisbon treaty with the results being known the following day – just as delegates to the Conservative conference begin arriving in Manchester.
The story featured above from the Daily Express gives a sense of the minefield Cameron might have to negotiate should, as expected the Irish vote YES. With the Czech government said to be on the point of signing up as well we could be very close to it coming into force.
The Tory leader’s comment that if Lisbon came into force before he took power that there would be a “new set of circumstances” has set a whole lot of hares running.
Gabriel Milland’s report sets out the dilemma: “..if Mr Cameron refuses to hold a referendum on junking Lisbon, he will anger a vast section of his own supporters. Eurosceptic Tory MP Bill Cash last night demanded a referendum be held whether or not all the 27 EU members have ratified it. He said: “We need a referendum in any event because it is the right thing to do to give the British people a say, which they have not had since 1975. The Irish are being bullied and the Czechs have not yet ratified and the German people have never been given an opportunity…”
With his party apparently so close to power the last thing that they want is to open up the rift that dominated the final period of the last Tory government in the mid-90s.
For if the treaty is in force then a UK referendum would open up all sorts of questions about what Cameron would do if it produced a NO vote. From his quoted comments overnight it seems that he’s ready to risk upsetting the vast bulk of his own party.
How dangerous a strategy is that going to be? Who knows?