After weeks of wrangling, it now transpires that the Lisbon Treaty is going to have to be put before Parliament for approval again.
As you’d expect from the EU, the reason is complex.
In order to rush the Treaty through in the first place, the current draft failed to sort out the vexed issue of the distribution of seats in the European Parliament. As a result, there are various imbalances in the number of MEPs held by each country – and there are several “ghost” MEPs who currently work in Brussels but don’t actually have any voting powers. To sort this out, the European Parliament is expected to vote this Thursday in favour of holding a new Inter Governmental Conference on 17th and 18th June. At that conference, part of the Lisbon Treaty will be rewritten – requiring full ratification again by the Parliament of each and every EU member state.
As Elliott rightly identifies, this is a potential game-changer for David Cameron:
As well as being the right thing to do, a referendum pledge now could be dynamite in the last few days of the election. Clegg and Brown would be put on the spot, challenged to make such a pledge themselves. If they did, then it would be good for Britain, we’d get the Lisbon referendum we were all promised and Cameron would have shown himself to be a leader. If they did not, then Cameron would be able to head into the election as only man willing to trust the people by holding the long-desired referendum.
This is a golden opportunity for the Conservatives to do the right thing by Britain and to do themselves a favour. David Cameron should grab it with both hands.