June 1975, the British people endorsed overwhelmingly the country's
continuing membership of the Common Market in a referendum vote called by
Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
Essex, the result was 67.5% in favour with 32.5% against, while Suffolk
voted 72.2% yes and 27.8% no. The population recognised that the country's
long term future was to play a full and active role in the economic future
then, the Common Market has expanded from nine countries - Denmark and the
Republic of Ireland had signed the Treaty of Rome in 1973 along with the
United Kingdom to join the original six nations - to the current 15
members of the European Union. In just a few weeks another 10 nations,
many freed from the yoke of Communist oppression.
should welcome this expansion of the EU. Through the Single Market,
businesses throughout the East of England will be able to benefit from
enhanced trading with what are soon
to become vibrant economies.
what we don't need is a Constitution to "tidy up" the existing
Treaties which currently regulate the way the European Union operates. The
EU is not a nation state and therefore it does not require a Constitution.
To claim, as the Prime Minister does, that the Constitution is a necessity
if the expanded EU is to work is spurious.
true aim of the architects of the proposed Constitution, due to be
approved by European heads of Government in June, is to create the
framework for a federal political entity which is alien to everything the
British people stand for. Indeed, the Belgian Prime Minister has admitted
the Constitution to be the "capstone" of a "federal
least Tony Blair has finally recognised that he must put this
"constitutional treaty" to a referendum although he couldn't
actually bring himself to utter the word referendum in his statement to
the House of Commons on Tuesday.
of us who have been campaigning for this moment for years consider it a
major victory. But victory belongs also to those from all political
parties - and from no parties - who have written letters, who have signed
petitions, who have raised the noise level progressively over recent
months. It is a victory for the people themselves that the people will
finally have their say.
newspapers say the Prime Minister has been pushed into this out of
weakness. He was actually pushed into it because he was wrong. He tried to
maintain that the proposals from Brussels were merely "a tidying-up
exercise" rather than a fundamental shift in the way the UK might be
governed. The people simply did not believe him. Blair's sudden change of
heart shows either that the constitution is a major issue and will involve
significant changes, in which case we should reject it, or that this is a
crafty attempt by the Government to win over the voters in the lead up to
this year's European Elections.
countries have already committed to holding referendums within the coming
12 months: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Luxembourg, Ireland, the
Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. Their timing is not yet clear, but
several have indicated they want it sooner rather than later. Some are
certainly looking at a date in summer this year, given that the proposals
are due to be signed off by the Council of Ministers in June. This would
certainly make sense.
Blair should note this well: the people will not be impressed by a
deliberate delay until late 2005.
European issues are now certain to be headlines in the run-up to the
European Parliamentary elections. If this encourages more people to vote
in June, it would be good news indeed. There are important issues at