Is the party in a fix over its Euro referendum tactics?

by Stephen Tall on January 17, 2008

The Spectator’s Coffee House blog is reporting that the House of Commons clerks have kaiboshed Lib Dem plans to call for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union when Parliament debates the Lisbon (European reform) treaty:

They have apparently told the Lib Dems that they can not put down an amendment to the European Union (Ammendment) [sic] Bill demanding a referendum on EU membership because it is nothing to do with the Lisbon Treaty. This blows apart the Lib Dem plan to have it both ways and spend the debate demanding a referendum but not on the Treaty itself.

If true, this will indeed make for some tricky decisions in Nick Clegg’s first weeks as leader. The compromise of a referendum on ‘the only question that matters’ was designed to bridge the gulf between those in the party who believe a referendum cannot possibly deal with the intricacies of a Treaty; and those who think a party which advocates ‘people not politicians in charge’, which voted in favour of a referendum on Maastricht (unlike either the Tories or Labour), and which promised a debate on the now-defunct European Constitution cannot possibly line up with the Government to deny the British electorate their say.

When LDV polled readers back in September, a majority agreed that the Lib Dems should back calls for a referendum on the Treaty.