Richard North, 05/01/2005  

Hardly any attention has been given to the necessity, in the event of a "no" vote to the EU constitution, to renegotiating the existing EU treaties embedded in the constitution.

So says Bill Cash in the Times today, who argues correctly that, already, the boundaries of these treaties are being pushed further forward and EU laws are being made, going far beyond what was anticipated.

From thereon, Cash maintains, the Conservative Party is the only party with any realistic means of reversing the march of integration but it needs to clarify and explain its position on the existing treaties.

Michael Howard, he says, has rightly called for renegotiation on the Common Fisheries Policy and publicly stated that if the other member states will not accept renegotiation, we will legislate at Westminster unilaterally.

But, as he points out, this policy of renegotiation is, however, limited to fisheries, foreign aid and the social chapter, but does not tackle the key question of the wide range of matters that need to be renegotiated, including the political structure of Europe.

And if the "colleagues" won't listen, then it is Bill Cash to the rescue with something in line with his Sovereignty of Parliament Bill which would require judges to give precedence to new British laws over the European Communities Act 1972.

Where, he then asks, does this place the Conservative Party? Well. According to Cash, the Conservatives have been faced with at least five similar situations over the past 150 years, which led to splits.

These included the Corn Laws, Home Rule, tariff reform, appeasement and the Thatcher trade union reforms. In every case, those who had been in the minority before reality set in have won the day.

Good stuff as far as it goes, and Cash goes further, saying the Conservative Party must address the EU issue. The results of the first litmus test, however, have yet to appear. We await with bated breath to see if the Party really will go ahead with its overdue Fisheries policy.

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