We're fed up with Europe, so give us a voteIt naturally smacks of; 'it's conference season so we need to shore up our Tory eurosceptic vote'. But on re-reading the article it appears also to reveal rampant confusion in Tory ranks on what to do with the 'EU question', a question that has been made more urgent by the Euro crisis.
Unlike other Tory eurosceptic claims Mark Pritchard - secretary of the 1922 committee - goes further than many of his Tory colleagues:
Those who suggest the Lisbon Treaty should be ripped up and replaced with a new EU constitution, or that the eurozone's move towards "fiscal union" provides a major opportunity for Britain to re-negotiate her relationship with Europe, are well-meaning; but these measures would only change things at the margins and do little to arrest the EU's democratic illegitimacy.That passage in essence is an acknowledgement that re-negotiating our 'relationship' is a pointless exercise. Quite right too. However it's pretty strong stuff coming from a Tory - and it goes against the recent claims of the new 'growing group of Tory so-called Eurosceptics led by George EUstice:
Then, quite amazingly after ruling out "re-negotiating her relationship" Pritchard then contradicts himself quite blatantly (my emphasis):
Although Monday's meeting is open to all Conservatives, the initiative is being driven by MPs elected for the first time in 2010.
They are regarded as being more eurosceptic than their predecessors and keener to take back powers from Brussels, initially focusing or social and employment legislation, rather than just resisting further economic and political integration.
One of the group's leaders, George Eustice, David Cameron's former press secretary, said it would promote a "sensible discussion about how we can radically overhaul the EU and make it fit for purpose in the 21st Century".
That is why the Coalition should agree to a referendum on Europe asking whether Britain should be part of a political union or of the trade-only relationship we thought we had signed up to.Er? Erm? Make your mind up. Then Pritchard argues that should this not work, as it won't, an in or out referendum must be put forward in 2015:
The referendum should be held next year, and a successful "No to political union" result would immediately strengthen the Prime Minister's negotiating hand in Brussels to commence serious and meaningful negotiations with our partners on Britain's new relationship. The process of returning political sovereignty to Westminster would then take place over the proceeding two years.
But, if Brussels refused to repatriate specified powers within a designated 24-month period, then a second referendum – this time an "in or out" vote – would be triggered in 2015 and held on the day of the next general election. This stepping-stone approach would give voters, the British Government and Brussels Eurocrats an action list and a timetable. Having been served notice by the British people, Brussels would need to act. If specified powers were not returned within the defined timetable,Unwittingly or otherwise, Pritchard is actually advocating an 'in or out' referendum - an exit by timetable. His proposals of re-negotiation will fail, as he acknowledges, so the logical outcome by his reckoning, is a referendum ultimately on our membership - the "nuclear option".
Clearly mixed messages are now emanating from the Tory party as again Pritchard contradicts other so-called eurosceptic Tories;
A lack of strategy coherence born out of a desire to remain EU members but a desperate pretence otherwise. Increasingly they're looking like schizophrenics who keep forgetting to take their Fluphenazine medication.
Mr Eustice, a former UKIP election candidate and anti-euro campaigner, said "now was not the time to be calling for referendums".
And we know Pritchard is not serious, nor are many of his colleagues, about following through with the nuclear option (the only real bargaining chip the UK has in negotiations) and we know this because of one revealing line:
Brussels would have only themselves to blame if Britons voted to leave the EU.See what he did there? He would blame someone else for our exit. If someone achieves something they genuinely strive for and believe in, they don't blame others, they would want to take the credit.
Update: Just seen this from the Telegraph's Will Heaven:
That's the trouble though, isn't it? The 1922 committee promises brave rebellion to the public, but in Parliament pro-Cameron, pro-Europe "realpolitik" is the order of the day.