"Not all the details are clear or finalised but we now know the basis of the new EU Treaty and it is clear that large parts of the EU Constitution are repackaged but back.

Blair and Brown have signed up to major shifts of power from Britain to the EU and major changes in the way the EU works.  The EU would now be able to sign treaties in its own right and, despite any ‘opt- ins’, the European Commission and Court of Justice would now have new powers over criminal law. The EU Treaty would also set up a new EU president and diplomatic service. These are just some of the fundamental changes that were in the Constitution and are now set to be in this new Treaty.

Given their manifesto commitment to a referendum on the EU Constitution, the Government have absolutely no democratic mandate to introduce these major changes without letting the British people have the final decision in a referendum."

– William Hague MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary

William Hague’s statement that large parts of the EU Constitution are repackaged but back" is something of an understatement as Open Europe’s analysis of the new Treaty makes clear.  Where Mr Hague is right, of course, is that we are seeing more transfers of power to Europe and that Tony Blair has reneged on his 2005 manifesto promise to give the British people a referendum on the EU Constitution.  Open Europe’s Neil O’Brien said that the detail of what Blair et al have signed up to "is just the old EU Constitution in everything but name.”  There is something darkly appropriate that Tony Blair’s last serious act as Prime Minister (his 47th EU summit!) was what Neil describes as "an exercise in massive spin and deception":

"The Government has tried to whip up totally non-existent row about tax policy.  Its red lines have been so vague that it is literally impossible for them not to be met.  Meanwhile the UK Government is signing up to a whole raft of proposals it previously opposed. Blair and Brown will claim victory, but it rings utterly hollow.  The Government promised again and again that the Charter would not be legally binding.  Now they say it will be. To save face they have agreed a fudge which they hope will stop EU judges from changing our national laws.  But EU judges have already said that it will change our laws despite this.”

David Cameron, who has recently experienced some difficulties in his relationship with large sections of his grassroots, should seize this opportunity to reassert his leadership and regain some much-needed affection.  He needs to adopt the attitude of The Sun and The Mail on this agenda.  Today’s Sun describes the proposed loss of British vetoes on "energy, agriculture and fisheries, transport, culture, tourism and even immigration policy" as a "shabby surrender of British power."  The Mail’s Ben Brogan notes that British powers are being lost in fifty-two areas.  52! 

This is not a time for William Hague to be (however ably) leading the Conservative attack on this "shabby surrender".  Forget Michael Portillo’s advice that this issue will only encourage the Tory party’s "wild-eyed" Eurosceptics.  This is a great opportunity for Mr Cameron to champion the vast majority of British people who have had enough of the relentless drive towards a European superstate and the way the EU’s politicians ignore referendum results.

3pm: John Redwood explains why we deserve a referendum

89 comments for: The EU Treaty presents David Cameron with a great opportunity

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