In his online Q&A with Telegraph readers yesterday, David Cameron promised a parliamentary ambush of Gordon Brown on the EU Treaty. Over the summer a growing number of Labour MPs have voiced doubts about not allowing a public vote and the TUC is today expected to back one of two motions urging a referendum.
Mr Cameron told The Telegraph:
"This new treaty is the constitution in all but name according to the Spanish, Irish and French prime ministers. They have all said this is either 93, 95 or 98 per cent the same. It is absolutely clear the treaty is pretty much the same as the constitution. So that referendum should happen. Labour MPs should stick to what they promised. They should vote for our motion when we bring it forward in the House of Commons."
Chances of defeating rather than just embarrassing Gordon Brown receded overnight, however, when it emerged that the Liberal Democrat leadership is minded to support the Government’s position despite the doubts of many individual LibDem MPs. Interviewed by the Financial Times, the LibDem leader and pro-EU Menzies Campbell said that a vote was "not necessary" because the new Treaty was "sufficiently different" from the old Constitution:
“My judgment is a referendum is not necessary on this document.. But if we were to have a referendum, then it is worth considering a more fundamental referendum, in a sense of being in or out.”
This is not the first nor even the second time that Ming has shown pro-Brown tendencies. Voters in LibDem-Tory marginals need to know that Ming’s heart is on the left and every inclination of a LibDem party that he leads will be to support Gordon Brown’s agenda.
4.45pm press release from Open Europe: "The cross-party I Want a Referendum campaign today welcomed the TUC’s decision to back a referendum on the EU’s Constitutional Treaty. Derek Scott, Chairman of I Want a Referendum, said: “This is great news. The Government are going to come under increasing pressure to keep their promise to hold a referendum. Trade unions are in tune with their members and the overwhelming majority of voters. The Government should listen to them.” Labour MP Ian Davidson said: “This is a wonderful result which could not have been anticipated last week. We have won the arguments at the TUC over the last few days. Trade unions have listened to their members, and the Government should listen to its voters.”
5pm statement from William Hague: "People from all walks of life and from across the political spectrum are now calling on Gordon Brown to honour the commitment he made to a referendum of the British people. He has no democratic mandate to introduce a EU treaty which is essentially the same as the EU Constitution without such a referendum. This deeply embarrassing defeat at the TUC is a result of the Government’s arrogance and its intention to disregard both its own promises and the views of the British public. I hope it will strengthen the determination of many Labour MPs to stand by their own promises to vote for a referendum and to tell Gordon Brown he should do so as well." Good stuff from Mr Hague – much, much better than his response to the Petraeus report.