The Tories, the Trades Union Congress, and now the Lib Dems favour a referendum on the EU constitution/treaty.
The Liberals want a referendum on the treaty, right? But wait! No…
Party leader Sir Menzies Campbell earlier this week refused to back calls for a referendum on the EU treaty.
But he said the public deserved an “honest debate” on Europe – and “that means a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU”.
His call comes as the Lib Dems head for their annual conference, which gets under way on Sunday.
Sir Menzies told BBC News 24: “I want to argue the case for Europe. I am a pro-European.
“That case has gone by default too often in the past 10 years of this Labour government”.
He said he wanted an “out and out debate” to flush out Eurosceptics on the Conservative benches
who had “taken comfort” in that party’s call for a vote on the EU treaty.
So the issue for Campbell has been widened to the question of Britain’s membership of the European Union – rather than just the consti-treaty.
Sir Menzies said he agrees with the prime minister – but as an ardent pro-European he is “not prepared to allow [Conservative leader] David Cameron to lead the Europhobes and their allies in sections of the media, to distort the debate on Europe without challenge”.
The Lib Dem leader, who was expected to face calls to back a treaty vote from some of his own MPs at his party’s conference, said voters should be given a “real choice”.
“If there is to be a referendum it shouldn’t be restricted to a comparatively minor treaty. It must be a decision about the EU as a whole.
“Let’s have an honest debate on the European Union followed by a real choice for the British people. That means a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.
“We would ask the British people the big question – whether to remain in the European Union or not.
“I will lead the Liberal Democrats at the forefront of that debate.
“We will make the overwhelming case for Europe and trust the people to make the right choice.”
It seems like this is an attempt to muddy the waters, with Campbell hoping that the argument for staying in the EU will win over rejecting the constitution, but I suppose this helps build momentum for a referendum on the constitution.
Will Brown capitulate? I think it’s possible – better for the EU and the British ruling class that the debate is limited to the question of the constitution.