Tory referendum on EU membership in 2014?

Serendipity is a wonderful thing.

Tatler must be beside themselves in coincidentally mentioning two names which appeared in the news within a few days of their November 2013 issue hitting the shelves.

The magazine has an in-depth profile of Geordie Greig, former editor of the magazine as well as the Evening Standard. He currently edits the Mail on Sunday and has been mooted as the successor to Paul Dacre. Although Dacre has had his contract renewed as Daily Mail editor for another year, with the Miliband controversy, the equally well-connected Greig appears to be a natural choice to take the helm after his retirement.

The other person profiled in Tatler was Adam Afriyie, who appeared on the Sunday Politics to discuss his proposal for a 2014 referendum on membership in the EU.

Quentin Letts’s Parliamentary sketch of the Conservative MP for Windsor (p. 99) tells us that the 48-year old is a self-made multi-millionaire. He might be worth as much as £100m. As such, Letts suggests that the MP might not be claiming expenses because he doesn’t need to.

Self-made man

Afriyie, whose father is Ghanaian and mother is English, grew up in Peckham and read Agricultural Economics at Imperial College. After earning his degree, he joined the Conservative Party in 1989. He then made a fortune in publishing and IT. He won election as Windsor’s MP in 2010.

Since then, Afriyie has made friends with several of David Cameron’s detractors, leading some to believe that he is positioning himself as the next Tory leader. Who knows? For the moment, it isn’t important.

Right now, it’s his proposed EU referendum in October 2014 which has politicians and newshounds talking. He explained his position in the Mail on Sunday (October 6); there’s more at the link:

First, the public clearly want an EU referendum. According to a Populus poll, more than eight in ten people want a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU; half of the population want it immediately and a further 33 per cent want it within the ‘next few years’.

This is no great surprise. People have had no say on our continued membership of Europe since 1975.

Anyone under the age of 56 has not had a chance to voice an opinion through the ballot box. That’s about 33 million people between the ages of 18 and 56 – not far off the size of Canada’s population.

Secondly, I believe it’s vital to set a date before the next Election. An early referendum will kick-start the renegotiation process today.

It will strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand in those negotiations. Right now, EU officials are stalling that process and waiting for the result of the 2015 Election.

It’s such a marvellous idea for those of us who remember Cast Iron Dave’s ‘guarantee’ on the issue.

So it comes as no surprise that everyone except Afriyie and half of Britain thinks it’s an absurd idea. That tells us we should have it next year, as the MP says. He assured Andrew Neil on Sunday Politics that he also has an unspecified number of Labour MPs on board with the idea.

‘Panic’ in Parliament

On October 5, the Mail reported ‘panic’ in Westminster at the very idea of an Afriyie-sponsored referendum on October 23, 2014.

Although Afriyie hasn’t said as much — at least where I’ve read or heard — on November 1, 2014, EU Qualified Majority voting will disappear in favour of a double or triple majority result. Eurosceptics point to that day as the one when national sovereignty also disappears. The EU will be making our big decisions for us.

All three party leaders — pro-EU — are opposed to Afriyie’s bill. So are party faithful, not just MPs but media pundits, too. From the reader comments I’ve seen, UKIP also opposes a 2014 referendum — not surprising, if true, because it would scupper their main party position.

Afriyie says:

It seems to me that if we don’t hold the referendum before 2015, large numbers of people will continue to vote UKIP whatever happens – and if they do, there is a distinct danger that Labour will gain a majority and we will never see a referendum at all.

Protest votes are understandable mid-term, but mainstream politicians continue to underestimate and dismiss the power and significance of populism – currently expressed in the form of UKIP votes. Because at the heart of a populist movement is a legitimate concern unacknowledged by the political establishment.

By holding an early EU referendum, we would have recognised, embraced and addressed those concerns.

An early EU referendum would resolve the issue for all political parties as well as the British people. And for my party, I believe it will reunite the wider Conservative family so that we can win convincingly in 2015.

The referendum is one of the main reasons that many voted for Cast Iron’s party in 2010. Since then, Tories have proffered various excuses, one being ‘We can’t because we’re in coalition.’

Afriyie’s proposed bill is a great idea. Bring it on!

What say you?

10 comments for “Tory referendum on EU membership in 2014?

  1. Mudplugger
    October 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    The proposed timing is the key. It presumes that UKIP will do very well in the Euro Elections earlier in 2014, thus giving them huge electoral credibility ahead of the UK’s 2015 General Election – which would cost the Tories many dozens of seats, though few if any to UKIP, mostly going to Labour.

    If a 2014 Referendum votes OUT, then that shoots UKIP’s fox, and the Tories can go into the 2015 General Election without worrying about losing all those seats – they can then squirm around the referendum result at their leisure.
    If a 2014 Referendum votes IN, that puts the issue to bed for yet another generation, UKIP will ossify, business as usual will return, the 2015 General Election reverts to type.

    There’s no downside to the Tories from an October 2014 Referendum, unless, like Cameron, you’re a full-time toady of the EU Club, are desperate to stay in and dare not risk listening to the voters because you know what they’ll say. And therein lies the sad truth.

    • October 8, 2013 at 10:31 pm

      I agree. However, even Cameron can spin this to the EU and world elites if he wishes.

      He can point to the Parliamentary vote on Syria and again say that he held to his promises, as a man of integrity would (ahem). The outcome for him still appears to be a win-win.

  2. October 8, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    I dread to think what’ll happen. I fear all kinds of electoral fraud.
    But most of all I fear a genuine ‘in ‘ result.

    • October 8, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      Electoral fraud — yes, the postal vote.

      I am interested in seeing the arguments each side puts forth in this one. It would be marvellous to see Afriyie and his people (cross-party) put forth the view that it will be the British who suffer if people vote to stay in.

  3. adams
    October 8, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    UKIP does not oppose a referendum in 2014 as far as I am aware .Your conclusion based on a few comments are not correct . It is the LibLabCon (EU) alliance that will not give us a say at any price or at any time . If enough people vote UKIP we will not need a referendum.
    By the way . Who gives a toss about what media pundits think ?

    • October 8, 2013 at 10:45 pm

      I asked because I genuinely do not know where UKIP stand on this question. Therefore, thank you for saying that they would not oppose one.

      However, I doubt enough people will vote UKIP within the next two cycles (2014 and 2015) to give the party enough seats. Even France’s FN only won two and they were a ‘spoiler’ vote in 2012.

      As for media pundits, I found it interesting that Tatler had their finger on the pulse with these two names in the same issue which appeared, coincidentally, so close to their both being in the news. Hence the notion of serendipity.

      As for everyone else in the Westminster/media circle opposing it, sorry if I didn’t make it clear, but I disagree with their opposition to a 2014 referendum. It is necessary. We were given the ‘cast iron guarantee’ and we have nothing to date. We need the referendum well in advance of the 2015 election.

      Media pundits have a lot of sway with the general public and community leaders. I know of people who rely heavily on mainstream media output and ‘information’. There is much at stake here that they can play with and obfuscate: job losses (no one with whom to trade), absence of human rights (twaddle — we were the first EU nation to come up with those), fewer welfare benefits and so on. MSM viewers, readers and listeners will not care about loss of sovereignty.

  4. October 9, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Time to round up all the ex-pats. There must be at least a million Brits entitled to vote despite living overseas.

    I am surprised that UKIP hasn’t made the effort through all the ex-pat associations. They would get a huge majority of ex-pat votes especially if they promised to un-freeze the pensions.

    As an ex-pat m’self I am aware that I can place a vote for any MP I choose, even while not having put a foot on UK soil (Holy as it was once) for a many years, and can vote in referenda too. I would happily vote for the party that restored my pension, WOT I PAID FOR !!

    • October 9, 2013 at 11:21 pm

      Interesting point, Amfortas. (Although, deep down, I still believe a UKIP vote in 2015 will let Labour in. Think France, last year. This is why I hope Adam Afriyie is successful in getting us the referendum next year.)

      On YouTube recently, I watched a long talk of Nigel’s — with a shorter one from one of his MPs, Paul Nuttell. They didn’t once mention ex-pats. Or, interestingly, repealing the smoking ban.

      So, any OoL readers and UKIP supporters: how does the party feel about ex-pats and their votes?

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