PUBLIC VOTE ON EU RESCUE IS RULED OUT
A Government statement to MPs yesterday made clear that no national poll will be held in Britain over plans for a ￡380billion emergency fund designed to support Greece and other debt-laden eurozone nations.
Some MPs believe the establishment of the European Financial Stability Mechanism, which requires changes to the EU constitution, should trigger a vote in the UK under the Coalition’s so-called “referendum lock” law.
But Tory Europe Minister David Lidington said the proposals did not need to be ratified by a referendum in Britain because only nations in the euro currency system were affected.
The decision enraged critics, who warned that the treaty changes threatened to create a powerful bloc of 17 euro nations that will be able to crush any British opposition to Brussels rule.
Tory backbencher Douglas Carswell said: “When they broke their promise to give us a referendum, ministers promised us a referendum lock; now that referendum lock has proved to be as useless as we expected.
“This proves we cannot trust Westminster on Europe – they never keep their word.”
UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said: “The Government has set its own referendum rules, so of course ministers have decided there is no need for a referendum.
“But this treaty change will mean a fundamental change to the EU. It will create a bloc of 17 countries that can overturn anything Britain wants.”
MPs are now pinning their hopes on a crucial Commons vote expected next month on whether to hold a national in-or-out referendum on Britain’s EU membership.
The debate is being lined up by the Commons Backbench Business Committee in response to a series of petitions on the issue including one backed by 373,000 Daily Express readers as part of this newspaper’s crusade for Britain to quit the EU.
The Government introduced the so-called “referendum-lock” law earlier this year in a bid to stop the long-term drift of political power to Brussels.
Under the law, any future EU constitutional change is supposed to be put to voters in a referendum before the Government can ratify it.
However, the treaty changes needed to establish the European Financial Stability Mechanism will not trigger a referendum because ministers believe the move is only a matter for the eurozone. Instead, MPs will be given a chance to approve the changes in a Commons vote.
A senior Whitehall source yesterday insisted the move would benefit Britain and would hasten the UK’s exit from the European Financial Stability Facility, a separate ￡50billion fund that, unlike the EFSM, includes British taxpayers’ cash.
Ministers are not expecting the EFSM to be a “panacea” for the eurozone crisis but hope it will bring stability that will also help the British economy.
Mr Lidington said: “This statement is the first stage in the enhanced public and Parliamentary scrutiny of EU Treaty changes introduced under the provisions of the EU Act 2011.
“As this Treaty-change decision relates to a provision that only applies to euro area member states, it does not fall within section four of the Act and there is no requirement for a referendum.
“The UK supports the euro area’s stated commitment to do what it takes to ensure the financial stability of the euro area as a whole.”
He added that if the changes were ratified by all 27 EU member states the permanent stability mechanism could be established as planned.