Thus it is helpful to have a reminder from the Daily Telegraph of its presence in the Parliamentary timetable:
Ministers are facing a Commons clash with Eurosceptic MPs and Labour rebels on the eve of signing up Britain to the new European Union treaty next week.
“Commons clash”, eh? Sounds exciting! Or it would be, if there was any real prospect of a vote of any kind, for such might give us an early indication of the strength of genuine opposition to the EU Constitution within the ranks of backbench Labour MPs with whom now lies the only realistic hope of securing the referendum that all three main parties promised at the last election.
Instead this is to be a debate on the eve of the formal signing of the Treaty by David Miliband at which neither he nor Gordon Brown will be present, the task of leading the debate having been delegated to their tame parrot Jim Murphy, the Europe Minister. There will be no vote, however, and the debate will, apparently, not be exclusively about the Treaty. So, a non-event really.
What will be interesting is to see how many Labour backbenchers turn up, speak and express real concern at the nature of this Treaty which may give some clue as to how the wind is blowing. Certainly there is dissent. Thus Ian Davidson, a leading Labour opponent of the treaty:
“We will have a good number of people there to speak against it – in previous debates, we’ve had the majority of speakers in the Commons, and we could see that again. Gordon Brown is in a very difficult position on this – he inherited much of the treaty from Tony Blair and now he’s saddled with defending it.”
We shall see just how much opposition there is come Tuesday.
This thought occurs: might Labour rebels take the chance at some stage to defeat Brown on this issue? After all they would not be losing anything which touched on Labour shibboleths in matters of domestic policy and, given the British people’s clear desire to have a referendum, they could ease the electoral damage to their marginals by voting for a referendum. In that case watch Gisela Stuart and what she has to say, for in Birmingham Edgbaston she holds the sort of marginal that the Tories must win in order to form a majority government.
In the meantime we must still await a clear policy from the Tories as to what they will do in the event of ratification. For that moment may yet come and they will have to decide what to do in those circumstances. We shall then see if they are actually serious about opposing the fundamental changes to our relationship with the EU that this Treaty imports. If the Treaty is objectionable now, it remains objectionable when it comes into force. It will be a test of just how serious the Tories are about opposing this Treaty or whether its leadership is simply using the issue to score a few cheap party points.
If it is the latter, many Eurosceptics in the Conservative party may be forced to draw the conclusion that there is no honourable future in its ranks and move elsewhere, a final irony for a party which has managed to recover its unity on an issue which rent it in two in the 1990s.
Meanwhile, under the aegis of the sinister Margot Wallström, your views on the EU are being presented to the real decision makers in Brussels this very weekend. If you want to know more, read this for a flavour of how the EU really does democracy. This is the future, if you are not very careful.