From time to time I dipped into the online press and rarely has anything given me so much amusement as the jostling for position by EU luminaries as they vied to grab the most ridiculous headline. "If Britain leaves the EU... wolves will eat your children; chickens will poop on you from a great height; the seas will rise and engulf you all; your men will become pox-ridden and your women gin-soaked..." Yes, we get the message.
Two days before Christmas Wolfgang Schauble gave us his thoughts and then, on the 27th, Haiku Herman popped up swiftly followed by Jacques Delors and Vivian Reding. I've been disappointed today to see there's no follow-up by Verhofstadt or Barroso on the basis that one can never have too much merriment.
A couple of hours ago, whilst having nothing better to do I thought I'd stick my nose in where it wasn't wanted and I wrote this comment under the Reding article:
If there is a UK-wide referendum on EU membership, specific legislation will have to be enacted by Parliament. This legislation will also determine who is enfranchised, ie whether to extend the vote to 16/17yr olds or to all EU foreign nationals currently resident in the UK. We shall have to keep an eye on it. For the avoidance of doubt, current legislation regarding the enfranchisement of EU nationals only extends to local elections or devolved parliaments/assemblies and not to UK General Elections, nor to referenda.My! Has that stirred up a mini-storm. I hadn't taken account of The Political Parties, Elections & Referendums Act 2000 - I have to say that piece of political fineigling passed me by. However, I'm not the only one to be confused:
Lord Wallace, a fellow Liberal Democrat, replied that it was his party's policy to extend the franchise to this age group, but it was not part of the coalition's plans. He also told peers that each UK-wide referendum had to be individually approved by Parliament.BBC
On each occasion, that meant setting out specific criteria for those able to take part, he added. Lord Wallace, a former Deputy First Minister of Scotland, added: "If there was a referendum on the European Union, it would be a matter for Parliament to determine what that franchise is."
I rest my case. 16/17yr olds voting in an in/out EU referendum? EU foreign nationals voting in a British in/out EU referendum? Sounds more like loading the dice to me. We need to keep a very careful watch on the specific legislation that will be introduced with any referendum. Scrub that: we just need to keep a very careful watch on ANY legislation this government introduces. For example, something so apparently simple as enabling the first-born royal to inherit the throne is fraught with anomalies and means that more than one piece of legislation must be amended. Who knows what advantage these snakes-in-the-grass will take to tinker with our Constitution while we're looking the other way?
I listened to a radio phone-in this morning. Ken Livingstone and Stanley Johnson were the hosts of the show and their guest was someone whose name I missed, a British Civil Servant who had been 'influential within the EU'. These three patted each other on their backs, congratulated themselves for their common sense and all agreed with each other that disaster would lie ahead for a Great Britain outside of the EU. They trotted out the same old lies about trade, about jobs, about law and order - I tire of tweeting them the truth because they never correct themselves. I was beside myself. Two of the three are in receipt of an EU pension providing they toe the line and support the project - talk about vested interests - except they didn't. The callers were overwhelmingly anti-EU but were dismissed as idiots for 'not understanding' the real issues and in some instances were lied to.
There will be much more to come and if we think this is bad wait until, if, Cameron declares an in/out referendum. We ain't seen nothing yet.
As for Hegel, the well-publicised conversations between David Cameron, our Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the institutions of the EU as reported in our national media are a classic example. Inch by inch, increment by increment, two steps forward, one step back.
And a Happy New Year to us all!