However, [William Hague] declares that a referendum now on leaving the EU is the “wrong question at the wrong timeWrong time for whom? And who is he to say when it's wrong?
Clearly then as the conditions for a referendum will be rigged then one should be avoided at all costs - we will lose - for reasons which are illustrated by a commentator on Richard North's blog which I reproduce here:
- It’s unnecessary
We went into the EEC in 1973 without a referendum, so we should come out without one (none of the party manifestos at the 1970 general election promised entry).
- It won’t go the way you might think
Not long before the 1975 referendum on continued EEC membership, opinion polls showed – as they do now – that people were 2-1 in favour of leaving. But when it came down to it only 21 per cent of the electorate voted to leave and, out of all those who actually voted, over 66 per cent voted to stay in. The result today would be the same and we'd again be cemented into the EU for the foreseeable future.
- You cannot hope to win without at least some mainstream political support
In 1975, Harold Wilson, the PM, and Margaret Thatcher, the new Tory leader, as well as the four surviving Tory ex-PMs campaigned for us to stay in. All party leaders would do so again today.
- Unlike in 1975, no one in Cabinet supports withdrawal
Before that vote, several Cabinet ministers campaigned for Britain to be independent – and it still didn’t help. Today, none of them would.
- And you won’t get support from much of the press
On the day of the 1975 poll, one newspaper’s headline warned of the aftermath of voting to leave the EEC: “A day in the life of Siege Britain: no coffee, wine, beans or bananas till further notice.” Perhaps surprisingly, that was the Daily Mail. It hasn’t changed its tune as much as you might hope. Its leader column on 14 March 2011 said: “The Mail doesn’t support a wholesale withdrawal from the EU.” Nor does the Telegraph. Only the much less influential Express does. If you can’t count on the Mail, your campaign is missing a key ally, one that would be as important as any of the three oldest parties – and none of those is on your side.
- … or the BBC
Do you trust “Auntie” to cover both sides of the debate equally and fairly on all three of its media platforms?
- Big business would support the other side
It long ago understood that it needs the EU’s permission for various activities and it also twigged that it can more easily absorb all the absurd regulations, which destroy smaller rivals. The electronics firm Intel, for example, gave hundreds of thousands of euros to the Irish “yes to Lisbon” campaign. Ryanair even flew an EU commissioner around the republic to campaign before the vote. After the 1975 referendum – when the yes side outspent the no side nine times over, as it would today – the yes side’s treasurer said: “Money rolled in. The banks and the big industrial companies put in very large sums of money.” They would do so again.
- Propaganda from the EU would be torrential
In the unlikely event of a vote, the EU would pump out one-sided bumf. Buckets of shiny pamphlets from Commission president Mr Barroso would spill through everyone’s door. A 16-page “information” supplement prepared by the Commission accompanied every Irish newspaper five days before the country’s 2009 Lisbon poll. (It had been funded by the very people it sought to influence and the EU was anyway acting illegally. Then under the Nice Treaty, the EU was a child of its signatory nations and it could not tell them or their peoples what to do regarding international treaties. It was illegal pester power, but the EU is above rules.)
Recently, MEPs voted to grant themselves the “right to participate in such campaigns as long as the subject of the referendum has a direct link with issues concerning the European Union”. So people might also receive communications from the president of the European Parliament as well as hundreds of MEPs.
Perhaps even the EU’s (and your) overall president, Herman Van Rompuy, might send you one of his haikus urging you to do the right thing.
When voters have been lied to by people and organisations that they fund – the BBC, the European Commission, hordes of rent-seeking MEPs, the Church (an unholy number of bishops in the House of Lords voted for Lisbon), Her Majesty’s Government and Loyal Opposition, their newspaper, famous charities – no one should be surprised when the impressionable opt for EU membership. It’s happened before.
- If the Lib Dems have ever offered it, you should be suspicious of it
Between 2007 and 2009, the Lib Dems were touting an in-out referendum. Nick Clegg even walked out of the Commons when the Speaker wouldn’t grant him one. But when Labour MP Ian Davidson proposed a two-question referendum – one on Lisbon, the other in-out – Clegg realised that his bluff had been called and whipped his MPs to abstain. He calculated that people would probably vote to remain in the EU out of fear – but certainly would not endorse Lisbon, which he, a former Commission official and MEP, wanted to be passed.
Later, the House of Lords rejected a proposal for an in-out vote tabled by Ukip’s Lord Pearson. The Lib Dem peers abstained. They said that they did not want to “give succour” to eurosceptics and that they wanted an in-out referendum only from a “pro-European stance”.
- If pro-EU MPs such as Keith Vaz want it, you should be suspicious of it
The ferociously europhile former “Europe” minister, who was once suspended from the Commons, supports an in-out referendum.
- Referendums tend to reinforce the status quo and so people vote to carry on as they are
People opt for the known over the unknown, “to keep a-hold of nurse/ for fear of finding something worse” in Belloc’s poem. The result in 1975 declared that we should remain in the EEC. It was a “passive” vote; the country was not voting to join – nor, unfortunately, to leave – which would have been an “active” vote. The Danish no to Maastricht in 1992, the Irish no to Nice in 2001, the Danish and Swedish no to adopting the euro, the French and Dutch no to the Constitution in 2005, and the Irish no to Lisbon were votes against change. A vote on UK membership would probably result in yet another vote against change, as in 1975 (and in 2011 regarding AV).
- Even if Britain voted out, it might be made to vote again
Remember the countries that were forced to go back to the polling booth after their bouts of false consciousness: Denmark (1993 for Maastricht) and Ireland (2002 for Nice; 2009 for Lisbon)? Can you be certain that you wouldn’t be made to vote again until you came up with the right answer?
- The turkeys will not let us vote for Christmas
For us to get a referendum, our MPs would first have to vote to give us one, as they did in 1975 (and for the AV vote). If they’re prepared to do that, they might as well vote to repeal the European Communities Act; they know that that’s the wish of most of those calling for a poll. But they won’t do either. David Cameron has often said he wouldn’t introduce the legislation necessary to activate a poll. On that you can trust him.
- The good news: there is a kind of referendum coming up
You can vote to leave the EU. There will soon be a general election (long before there’s ever a referendum). If you want to leave the EU, don’t vote for anyone who wants to keep you in. If over half the MPs elected want the UK to be free, we will be free.
It’s tempting – for reasons of tribalism or because “the others haven’t got a chance” – to vote for the three oldest parties. But doing so means that the most important questions – the economy, the health service, immigration, our energy supply, how we treat the environment and how we trade with the developing world – will more and more be answered by people in Belgium whom one cannot elect or eject. A vote for any of the "Big 3" is ultimately a vote to disenfranchise oneself, even if it feels seemingly rational to vote to remove the villain of the day (Major/Brown/Cameron etc).