By Tim Montgomerie
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One naughty tactic of the Government is to argue, as William Hague did this morning, that the motion for an EU referendum proposed by David Nuttall MP would precipitate an immediate referendum. "A referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU," wrote the Foreign Secretary, "especially at this time of profound economic uncertainty, is not the answer".
Mr Hague was shooting at a straw man. Nothing in the Nuttall motion (see text here) calls for an immediate referendum. It calls, as Peter Bone MP has just told the People's Pledge conference, for a process to get underway that would ensure parliament legislated for a referendum at some point in the next three-and-a-half years. Some would like it earlier in the parliament and some later. No referendum could he held until an EU Referendum Bill was drafted, debated and voted on by both Houses of Parliament.
What would happen if the motion passes (which it won't because of the whipped vote by all three main parties) is that it would give our Government enormously enhanced negotiating power. As the arrangements are discussed for the Eurozone, as future EU budget commitments are settled and other possible changes to the EU are made, they would be able to tell other European leaders that if they don't get a much better deal for Britain there would be a greater chances that the people might vote to leave.