SP perplexed by Labour U-turn on EU Referendum

25 September 2007

SP perplexed by Labour U-turn on EU Referendum

The SP is "absolutely astonished" by Labour's refusal to give its support to a referendum on the new EU treaty. Until very recently numerous prominent PvdA (Labour Party) personalities had spoken in favour of such a referendum, while the party's manifesto for last November's general election promised that no constitutional treaty would be ratified without a popular vote. “The Labour Party has betrayed its own voters with this unbelievable about-face," said SP Member of Parliament and European affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel. Van Bommel is preparing the parliamentary resolution which would make such a referendum formally possible.

“If we were once again faced with something that also looked rather like what might be called a Constitutional Treaty," said Labour leader Wouter Bos a year ago, "then we'd have to have another referendum" In the SP's view the new EU treaty is to a great extent the same as the rejected Constitution. The British thinktank ‘Open Europe’ calculated that as much as 96% of the text recurs in the new document. The Council of State, the government's most important advisory body, considers that the new treaty is for the most part simply a change of emphasis and style and that in the main it is symbolic matters such as the European flag and anthem that have been scrapped. The SP therefore sees every reason for a new referendum and was sure that the Labour Party would line up behind the proposal for such a vote.

PvdA parliamentary group chair Jacques Tichelaar was still saying, as recently as this summer, that "The result (of the European Council's deliberations on a revised text) is so good that we shouldn't be frightened of laying it before the people. I see no reason whatsoever why a referendum should not be held." Other prominent Labour Party members, including the party's most likely leadership candidates, have also spoken in favour of a referendum. Noting that this was not the first electoral commitment on which the PvdA had reneged, Van Bommel said that “Labour voters are now, following the bargaining away of the promised enquiry into Dutch involvement in Iraq, confronted with what is once again at the very least a reprehensible decision. I hope that PvdA supporters will make their voices heard and exercise the strongest possible pressure. I am going to put our plan to introduce a resolution meeting the legal requirements for a referendum before Labour's MPs. The party says that no official decision has been taken and that no more specific commitments have been entered into as to what supporters of a referendum should do when our proposal comes to a vote. The race is therefore far from over.”

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