Ming says EU reform treaty referendum “not necessary”

by Stephen Tall on September 12, 2007

In a pre-conference interview in today’s Financial Times, Lib Dem leader Ming Campbell has dismissed calls for the party to back a referendum on the EU reform treaty – but has kept open the possibility of a re-run of 1975’s ‘in or out’ poll:

… Sir Menzies, a “pro-European”, told the Financial Times the new EU reform treaty was “sufficiently different” from the original constitution to avoid the need for a plebiscite. He said the only case for a public vote would be on a much broader “in or out” question about Britain’s membership of the EU, to prompt a serious national debate on Europe.

However, such a question is unlikely to be put by any government in the near future. “My judgment is a referendum is not necessary on this document,” he said in an interview ahead of next week’s Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton. “But if we were to have a referendum, then it is worth considering a more fundamental referendum, in a sense of being in or out.”

A formal decision on the party’s position will be taken after Mr Brown signs a final treaty text at an EU summit in Lisbon next month, but few believe it will differ greatly from the draft agreed in Brussels in June.

Three Lib Dem MPs – John Hemming, Mike Hancock and David Heath – have publicly called for the party to repeat its Maastricht pledge, and to let the public decide. A recent poll of Lib Dem Voice readers found a majority (54%-37%) in favour of the party supporting the campaign for a referendum.