James Duddridge, MP for Rochford and Southend East, and Geoffrey Van Orden, Conservative MEP for Essex, are pressing the Government to hold a referendum on the EU Lisbon Treaty, which they say would introduce a European Constitution by the back door.

In an important vote in the House of Commons tonight James will vote against the European Union (Amendment) Bill, which would bring the Lisbon Treaty into UK law. Today’s vote is the first stage of the Bill as it passes through the Commons, and throughout all of the stages James and his colleagues will be pressing for a requirement that the decision be put before the UK public in a full referendum.
The Lisbon Treaty was signed by European leaders in December, and follows the failed ‘Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe’ which collapsed after the people of France and Holland voted ‘no’ in national referenda in 2005. During the 2005 General Election, Labour pledged that it would put the EU Constitution to the British people in a referendum – and although that first treaty fell, the current Lisbon Treaty is almost exactly the same.

James said:

“The Government promised a vote on the constitution, and there is no question in my mind that they should keep that promise. The Treaty of Lisbon would basically introduce an EU-wide constitution by the back door.

“One think tank found, after going through the two treaties in detail, that only 10 out of 250 proposals – just 4% – are different in the new one. Many other European heads are actually applauding how similar the Lisbon Treaty is to the original constitution.
Geoffrey Van Orden commented:

""At a time when people are demanding more control over their own lives, I am astonished that the Government is prepared to hand more powers to Brussels. If the Constitution comes into force it will be a major step in the creation of a European State. We do not believe the people of Essex want this and Conservatives are leading the opposition to it.

""Now that Gordon Brown has signed the Treaty, it has to be ratified - given legal status. We believe this should be through a vote of the people - a referendum.""

James continued:

“It’s not just about broken promises – there are real issues of legitimacy at stake here. Without a referendum, it would be Parliament that decides on giving up substantial powers to another body. It cannot be right that Parliament could to give up the powers it has been granted by the British people, without the British people’s consent. It should be the people who decide on this, not MPs.
“Many people in Southend have told me that they want a referendum, and hundreds of them have signed up to a campaign that I have been running locally with our MEP Geoffrey Van Orden which calls for a nationwide vote. Local people’s voices should be heard.”

And seeking to prevent this confusion from happening in the future, James said:

“Not only should we get a referendum this time, but I firmly believe that the rules should be changed to ensure that any new EU treaty transferring powers from the UK to the EU would be subject to a national vote.”

21 January 2008