At the G7 conference in Germany a couple of days ago, David Cameron hinted at an early referendum over Britain’s membership of the European Union and insisted that any deal he gets from EU leaders will have to be “legally binding”.
One cannot help but wonder what such a phrase means to someone like Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, given some of the cynical comments he has made in the past, e.g.:
(Commenting on Greece’s economic meltdown in 2011) “When it becomes serious, you have to lie.”
(Commenting on EU monetary policy in 2011) “I’m ready to be insulted as being insufficiently democratic, but I want to be serious … I am for secret, dark debates.”
(Commenting on British calls for a referendum over the Lisbon Treaty in 2007) “Of course there will be transfers of sovereignty. But would I be intelligent to draw the attention of public opinion to this fact?”
(Commenting on the 2005 French referendum on the Lisbon Treaty) “If it’s a Yes, we will say ‘on we go’, and if it’s a No we will say ‘we continue’.”
(Commenting on his work in the European Council in 2012) “We decide on something, leave it lying around, and wait and see what happens. If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don’t understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back.”
Mr Cameron must avoid fudging the issue of diminished national sovereignty by making it abundantly clear to the British public that EU membership is about more than improved trading opportunities. It must be a precondition of any negotiations that he is implacably opposed to “ever closer union” as part of any federalist agenda. You can be sure that Juncker will know exactly how to proceed if the British people fail to ‘kick up a fuss’.