Barroso’s attempt to put the entrenched interests of Member States above the will of their peoples attracted a withering response from John Palmer in the (London) Guardian, one that concluded: “The EU is currently waging a desperate struggle in Ukraine and elsewhere with Moscow to demonstrate the superiority of its democratic values. The idea that the Scottish people could be ejected or indefinitely suspended from the EU for opting for national independence is laughable."
That’s not the best quote though. The prize must go to Jordi Solé of the Catalan republican party, ERC, responding to Madrid’s view that a proposed Catalan referendum on independence would be unconstitutional and therefore against the law: "What is not normal is to ban voting, not anywhere. There is no excuse to stop people from voting. The law comes from the people, not the other way round."
In London, not so long ago, in October 2011 to be precise, the House of Lords removed the flagship 'local referendum' provision from the Localism Bill. This was a provision that would have allowed communities to launch a referendum on any local issue, including those tricky planning issues where communities might actually not want what developers are determined to offer. Watered down by amendment after amendment, it was still deemed too dangerous to be allowed to live.
The one part of Europe where referenda are taken really seriously as a tool of government is Switzerland, which this month voted to tear up its free-movement agreement with the EU. The proposition had been fiercely condemned by Swiss business groups and opposed by the federal Parliament, President and Government. Voters made up their own minds. Good for them. Whether you agree or disagree with the outcome, the process is beyond reproach.
The London parties distrust referenda. They distrust anything that will commit them to implementing the ‘wrong’ decision, in their infallible Olympian judgment. We can change that. We can do it by never voting them into office ever again.