Speaking in the Commons this afternoon (where the number of Tory MPs appeared to significantly exceed the number of Labour MPs), the Conservative leader David Cameron said that the issue at stake in discussion of the Constitution/ EU draft Treaty was whether this Government was serious about listening to people or not.
Addressing The Prime Minister, Mr Cameron said the failure to agree to a referendum would "be remembered as one of the most flagrant breaches of any of the promises you have ever made." He said that the Treaty was largely the same as the Constitution and quoted remarks from Bertie Ahern and Angela Merkel in support (Open Europe have a full list of Constitution-friendly EU leaders telling their electorates the same). Mr Cameron went on to say that there were sixty areas where Britain would lose its veto – including energy, transport, the EU diplomatic service and employment law.
The EU was lacking the political will, he concluded, to tackle the real issues of climate change and economic competition.
Mr Brown, the Conservative leader concluded, had promised to be humble, a servant of the people and to listen. Voters would only take these words seriously if he let the people decide on this Treaty.
Tony Blair, with his successor alongside him, rejected David Cameron’s arguments and quoted the Czech
Prime Minister (one of David Cameron’s allies in Europe) who said a
referendum was not necessary and also Ken Clarke who, yesterday, said
that some Eurosceptics would demand a referendum if the EU changed the
date. The Prime Minister said that Cameron appeared to be going
through the motions in calling for a referendum. If he really thought
it was a big deal he would have raised the issue at last week’s PMQs
and would have attended last week’s meeting of EPP leaders.
To cheers from Labour MPs Ken Clarke spoke from the Tory backbenches in favour of Tony Blair.
Frank Field spoke from Labour’s benches – warning that a failure to
grant a referendum would make the Labour Party vulnerable to Tory
attacks of not listening to voters. Austin Mitchell and Gisela Stuart
also called for a referendum from the Labour benches.
David Heathcoat Amory summed up the position perfectly near the end
of the statement. Tony Blair, he said, had given away powers of the
British people that had only been lent to him and without seeking their