I endorse this wholeheartedly. It is no use blaming the Tories. They have gone for the rejection of the Treaty with vigour. BUT the people have not backed them with the same degree of wholeheartedness.
The time has come to realise that the whole eurosceptic movement has failed to awaken any determined opposition to the EU project and for this we must all be prepared to search our individual consciences - especially those who have tarnished the whole anti-EU movement with the descriptions of “swivel-eyed loonies “ and fanatics.
SUNDAY TELEGRAPH 9.12.07
A victory for Gordon Brown
By Iain Martin
Let us call it what it is: a defeat. Those of us who wanted a referendum on the EU constitution have to accept that the cross-party campaign failed. The Reform Treaty, so called after a shameless piece of rebranding, will be signed this week in Lisbon and it would appear that the usual cocktail of European Union fudge and downright lies worked their depressingly familiar magic again.
There will be a cursory debate in the Commons this week, the Government conceded. The Foreign Secretary may even honour MPs by leading the charge for Labour. So total is the collapse in the Government's morale that ministers rarely have the opportunity to be cocky about anything much at the moment. They know that on Europe they have won.
Many people have showed how much they care. Labour MPs risked the wrath of their whips to organise a rebellion, the Conservative front bench spoke well on the matter and in excess of 100,000 Telegraph readers [a piffling number -cs] signed a petition demanding a vote on this latest erosion of our sovereignty. Yet, even though the wider public told pollsters that they disliked the whole business, such feelings at no point coalesced into an outpouring that might have altered the Government's determination to press ahead. Why did this happen?
This is Gordon Brown's victory first. It is fashionable to conclude that he does not have any of the skills required for the top job. That may well prove true, but his aptitude for the patient, grinding, stubborn work of seeing off opponents should never be overlooked.
For a leader now described as risk-averse, he took quite a gamble on Europe when he walked into Number 10. He is broadly agnostic on the grand European project and his mistaken reputation as a mild Eurosceptic is based on his blocking Britain's membership of the single currency. That was different. The economy was his preserve, he resented Tony Blair playing on that territory and through his experience of fellow EU finance ministers he had become, rightly, distrustful of the economic instincts of his counterparts.
By this summer he had bigger concerns. The threat to the smooth passage of the treaty was the attitude of the British. The EU establishment, and the Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in particular, were keen to persuade Brown not to cause trouble and he agreed. Brown's priority was to establish himself as a serious player on the world stage and he knew he was getting ready to distance himself from the Bush White House. He did not need war breaking out in Brussels as well as Washington.
He presumed that while a majority of voters say they care about the erosion of British sovereignty, only a minority do so with passion. Stick this out and it will go away, he thought.
And who is to say he was wrong? By the autumn, even as his domestic troubles worsened, he was in a position to be very relaxed on the subject in private. With a smile he talked of the "winding down" of the campaign for a referendum.
So much for short-term calculations and the shameful wheeler-dealing with our institutions and history behind this sell-out. Is there anything more Eurosceptics can do?
It would appear that while the British do not much like being sucked into a European super-state, there is no expectation that the process can be stopped. That attitude might have its origins in the rise of a shallow, consumerist society in which matters of substance are simply shrugged away: or is there more to it than that? Is it not that voters know they have been lied to in the past about Europe so many times that they have concluded reluctantly that resistance is futile?
Time, surely, for a period of calm reflection by Eurosceptics of all persuasions. The answer is not a turning up of the volume; impotent rage failed in the past and there is no sign it will work in the future.
The Conservatives have much thinking to do on how to reverse the drain on sovereignty without looking obsessive. Some of the party's MPs want to tie David Cameron into promising a simple referendum on this treaty after the next election. That is kamikaze politics. Look forward two and a half years: should the Tories really have in their manifesto a pledge to hold a referendum on a treaty most voters will have forgotten and were insufficiently angry about when it was approved? The next election will be about Brown's and Cameron's fitness for office, not old treaties.
Brown blew his chance to alter Britain's direction of travel in the EU and it will fall eventually to someone else to change our course. As the think-tank Open Europe showed recently, we are set to contribute £71 billion in the next seven years, enough to take 3p off income tax overnight. This process must be halted, reversed even.
It is not enough for the Tories to say Cameron's instincts on this are sound. Perhaps they are. Those closest to him, his advisers and shadow cabinet big beasts, certainly share a moderate Euroscepticism. If they win the next election they will have to find a way to do more than talk a good game on Europe. They cannot delay a plan forever.