The Democracy Movement has a letter in today's Times about Lord (David) Owen's widely-publicised proposal for a referendum on Britain's participation in a restructured "European Community".
The former Labour foreign secretary yesterday set out his vision of Britain's membership of a separate organisation from an increasingly integrated EU, which would encompass a new, wider single market plus co-operation on foreign, environment and security policies.
Such a Community, he says in a new book Europe Restructured, could also include other non-EU countries like Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Turkey and the Balkans.
The Times, Friday 8 June 2012
Lord Owen's support for an EU referendum and for fundamentally altering Britain's relationship with the EU is welcome, but his mechanism for achieving his plan is flawed.
A core eurozone appears increasingly likely, but none among the 26 other EU member countries shows any sign of wanting to restructure the EU to establish a wider and looser "European Community", handing wide-ranging powers back to national parliaments.
A referendum on Britain's participation in such a Community would ask voters to endorse a concept that is not on offer and so change nothing.
Lord Owen's plan is an important contribution to a growing debate about Britain's future relationship with the EU. But any prospect of engagement with EU structures on his, or any fundamentally different, terms can only be achieved through first holding an in/out vote and voting for Britain to approach the EU afresh.
Alongside, a letter from Roland Rudd, chairman of the think tank Business for New Europe (and a former board member of the failed pro-euro campaign Britain in Europe) criticises calls for an EU referendum on the grounds that they increase business uncertainty.
If Mr Rudd favours business certainty above all else, perhaps he could tell us whether he supports Greece, together with other financially unstable countries, leaving the euro as soon as possible?
Rather than the perpetual EU indecision and the uncertainty about whether resources can be found to continue the bailouts that has characterised the euro crisis so far, surely business will at least know where they stand?
In reality, successful companies are always changing and looking for opportunities in change - better deals, expanded markets and lower costs - and they no doubt understand that successful countries must do the same.
Along with his colleague, BNE director Phillip Souta - also a former Britain in Europe campaigner and co-founder of Young Federal Union - it appears that Mr Rudd and Business for New Europe are too ideologically encumbered with support for the EU project to take such a pragmatic and truly outward-looking business view.