Do wishes of the British people count for nothing?
CURRENTLY there is a bill going through Westminster committing parliament to an in/out referendum on EU membership in 2017, but only if David Cameron wins the next General Election and has negotiated different EU membership terms for Britain.
Yesterday, Adam Afriyie, a backbench Conservative MP, tabled an amendment to that legislation asking for the referendum to be held on October 23, 2014.
Uproar! The PM's allies are reported as describing Mr Afriyie's plan as "fantasy politics" and "absurd". Here's a sample.
Nick de Bois, secretary to the Conservative 1922 Committee, has said: "No government can hope to influence and reach agreement with EU members on a re-negotiated, less intrusive but more pro-single market EU within a year."
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Lord Heseltine reckons Mr Afriye's amendment will 'disappear in the mists of autumn' whilst Neil Kinnock emphatically asserts Ed Miliband must 'absolutely not support an EU referendum' because it poses 'massive dangers for British business'.
There are many others in the Conservative camp who similarly oppose this.
Consider the following: polls show 80% of the British public want an early referendum so why not give it to them. Do the wishes of the British people count for nothing? What happens to a 2017 referendum if the Tories lose the 2015 election? No one is saying.
Cameron knows full well he cannot re-negotiate any of the terms of membership. To do that he will need to unpick the treaties (not possible) plus obtain the backing of all the other twenty seven EU countries (it won't happen). And anyway, what are the changes Mr.Cameron allegedly wishes to achieve? He has never told us. Are they the changes the British people wish to see? Who knows?
Cameron has an unreliable past concerning assurance on EU referendums. Twice before he has assured us he will give us a referendum and on each occasion he has reneged.
On only one aspect of all this is Cameron unequivocal: his total opposition to it. It is reported he will refuse point blank to accelerate the referendum date. A government spokesman states: "We will not allow this amendment to be passed under any circumstances. The PM will not let it stand", adding that Cameron is prepared to defy the parliamentary vote and withdraw the entire legislation if Mr Afriyie wins.
So much for democracy.
Amazingly we are faced with a Prime Minister who wants to keep us at arm's length away from being able to make any decision on the future of Britain.
This amendment was in my views the most important piece of legislation to appear since Britain was deceitfully corralled into the EU back in 1973. It would have given the British people a realistic and meaningful say in the future of Britain. It is to the eternal shame of our politicians that it was destroyed.
Trevor Colman is UKIP MEP for the South West, which covers Bristol