There is a remarkable, nay a most singular fact about the Messages of the leaders of the two main parties issued in anticipation of 2008. How has each avoided mentioning the United Kingdom’s principal source of law and the Treaty which will complete the process of turning us into a mere Suzerainty of the EU?

We now receive 80% of our law from the hands of unelected and unaccountable officials in Brussels. This year Brown plans, without your say-so or mine, to hand over to those same unelected officials Britain’s power of veto in another huge tranche of nearly sixty areas of policy and law making. MPs and the public are becoming increasingly aware that when things go wrong, as for example with Brown’s aspirations to deport foreigners who have been convicted of crime, we are unable to remedy the problem ourselves because the law in question emanates from a Brussels’ Directive (does not that last word convey so much of the nature of the process?) which we are incapable of changing unilaterally.

Given those strictures, the remarkable fact is that neither Brown nor Cameron troubles themselves to mention the EU, Europe or the Treaty of Lisbon.

Cameron, at least, has made up for that somewhat, in that he has apparently spoken to The Telegraph on the thorny subject of the Treaty of Lisbon and his attitude to it should it come be ratified or come into force without the British people being allowed a chance to give or to withhold their whole-hearted consent to it:

David Cameron has given the strongest signal yet that the Conservatives would consider holding a post-ratification referendum on the controversial EU Reform Treaty.

The Conservative leader said that the treaty – which critics claim is a revamped version of the defunct EU Constitution – is “wrong” and that his party would “address the issue”.

Hmm. To describe the Treaty as ‘wrong’ and to say that the party would ‘address the issue’ rather belies the Telegraph headline:

David Cameron in strong signal on EU Treaty

Some might think that a genuinely ‘strong message’ would be along the lines of ‘this treaty is inimical to the interests of the UK and we will fight it either before or after ratification’.

Still, one is pleased to see that Cameron is being inched, snail-like, along the path to a position of consistency without which his policy can be neither honest nor coherent nor, most importantly, credible.

Cameron goes on:

“While this Treaty is still being debated and other countries are having referendums or whatever, it is still open for Britain to have a referendum.

“If we reach circumstances where the whole Treaty has been not only ratified but implemented, that is not a situation we would be content with. We wouldn’t let matters rest there.”

This seems to suggest that he thinks that a referendum is only possible pre-ratification. Nonetheless he seems to be promising that the Conservative Party will not simply roll over and die if they come to power faced with a Treaty that is in force. That is a very modest improvement but an improvement nonetheless. The problem is that he does not spell out precisely what his party’s attitude would be in such circumstances.

The position of the Treaty as it now stands seems to be that the Tories would offer us a referendum on it and campaign for a rejection of it.

If, however, he will not spell out what “that is not a situation we would be content with. We wouldn’t let matters rest there” actually means, it is impossible for us properly to evaluate what his policy is if he comes to power post-ratification.

On the face of it, once the Treaty is in force he has four options

  • To do nothing, which would be politically suicidal and is unthinkable;
  • To renegotiate the treaty;
  • To proclaim our derogation from some of its terms; or
  • To make a complete denunciation of the Treaty.

As to the last three, none, surely, would be possible to bring to fruition unless a referendum had been held on the result of negotiations with the EU.

Thus the only logical position is that, one way or another, a referendum must be promised as the result of his commitment that “We wouldn’t let matters rest there”. So why not spell it out? There would, at the very least be clarity and brownie points for a consistent and logical position being adopted early on and policy not therefore being seen to be the product of devious party political manoeuvring at the last minute.

Surely the issue is important enough to merit the former approach? This would also have the merit of placing the Tories on the high moral ground on the matter and helping to emphasise both the difficulties that Brown is creating for Britain by not having a referendum now and the latter’s clear abandonment of the high moral ground.

One grumble: why does the Telegraph see fit to spoil this piece with a regurgitation of the views of the maverick, has-been and isolated backbencher Kenneth Clarke whose opposition to the party’s policy on a referendum is well-known but surely insignificant? His is the view of a totally tiny minority in the party and hardly worth rehearsing, not least because it simply allows Labour and its propaganda arm, The BBC, to repeat it at every turn.