David Miliband’s statement in the Commons yesterday was quite revealing, and confirms the accuracy of the story leaked to the Sunday Times suggesting that, privately, the government believes Lisbon is dead. Most of the statement and reactions to it was predictable; the one thing that stood out was David Miliband’s clear statement that he’s opposed to renegotiating the Treaty. Here was his answer to former agriculture minister Douglas Hogg, for instance:
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): Just a few answers ago, the Foreign Secretary said that renegotiation was not an option. If that is true, in reality the treaty is dead, and if that is the case why on earth is the House of Lords debating the Bill’s Third Reading on Wednesday?
David Miliband: I repeat that I do not support renegotiation, I do not support a two-tier Europe, and I do not support the new Convention that is being proposed. That does not seem to me to negate the fact that, 95 per cent. of the way through the process, it is right for us to complete the passage of the legislation so that the British Parliament can express a clear view that we can take into European discussions. That has been urged on us throughout Europe, and the Irish have made it clear that they would respect countries that took such action.
Opposing renegotiation can only mean the government rejects any attempt to tweak the Lisbon Treaty and put it to the Irish again; and since Miliband also made it clear he opposes another long period of institutional discussions, it seems clear the government’s real view is the same as mine – that a considerable period of silence on all this would now be welcome.
I hope he and Gordon Brown will be arguing that position strongly at the coming European Council.
Opinion are OK, but predictions hard.
Perhaps it would be good to take a close look at the conclusions of the European Council 20 June 2008 and the various statements following the discussions.
Right now, I mainly hear a signal to the House of Lords to vote on ratification.
Yes, Ralf – it’ll be interesting to see which of the various possible approaches wins the argument later this week.
Look at it this way: at this stage what else could Miliband actually say? Strikes me there’s still a reasonable amount of solidarity among Foreign Ministers (and indeed Heads of State and Government) to just be hard headed about all of this until the autumn by which time 25 or 26 countries will have ratified, and then the real deal-making will take place.