Are the Parliamentary Lib Dems split on the Lisbon Treaty referendum?

by Stephen Tall on February 13, 2008

Yes they are, at least if you believe this morning’s Telegraph report, Nick Clegg faces EU treaty rebellion:

Mr Clegg signalled last month that he would help Labour block a Tory amendment to force a referendum [on Lisbon], saying: “We would vote against a referendum on the treaty.”

But members of Mr Clegg’s shadow cabinet are among a significant number of MPs who are understood to be unhappy with the decision. David Heath, the constitutional affairs spokesman, and Nick Harvey, the defence spokesman, are both understood to have told their constituency parties that they want to see a popular vote.

Neither man has been disciplined for their stance by party whips, which other MPs have seen as a green light to rebel. Of the Lib Dems’ 63 MPs, as many as 16 may be prepared to defy Mr Clegg, either by voting directly for the Tory amendment or by abstaining.

I can’t help finding it sad that the Lib Dems – for a long time the only party pretty much united in favour of a reformed and improved European Union – now face the prospect of being split on a key vote.

One thing’s for sure. The party cannot continue to oppose a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on the grounds that it would be no more than a proxy for a referendum on EU membership – and then argue in favour of a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.