Cameron’s new Lisbon promise: ‘Never again’

By Ian Dunt

David Cameron has tried to counter criticism of his European policy by promising no future British powers would ever be handed over to the EU without a referendum.

An amendment to the European Communities Act 1972 will secure the promise and make sure “this never, ever happens again”.

The Tory leader also pledged to instigate a United Kingdom sovereignty bill, which would establish that British law overrules European law.

At a speech given to journalists this afternoon, Mr Cameron struggled to answer whether that would mean the British supreme court overruled its European counterparts – a move many constitutional experts suggest would entail a dramatically new relationship with the EU.

The Conservative leader also pledged to secure an opt-out from the charter of fundamental rights, as well as on social and employment legislation.

The pledges came as Conservative HQ was forced to bat away savage criticism of the Tory leader, who came under unprecedented pressure on the European issue today following the ratification of the Lisbon treaty across Europe.

The Tory leader faced accusations of cowardice since the Czech Republic signed off on the treaty yesterday, as his previous “cast iron” commitment to a referendum on the treaty changed to suggestions that a referendum was no longer possible.

He was mercilessly mocked by the prime minister and Labour MPs during PMQs earlier today. Gordon Brown said he wouldn’t use the phrase ‘iron cast guarantee’ because “it has become so devalued”, to laughs and jeers from the Conservative benches.

Former home secretary David Blunkett suggested Mr Cameron’s cast iron was made of plywood.

The final ratification of the Lisbon treaty had instantly undermined Mr Cameron’s authority. This morning, former Tory leadership rival David Davis called on Mr Cameron to hold a referendum on Europe within three months of coming to power.

“We should have a referendum, not on the treaty, but on the negotiating mandate that the British government takes to the European Union,” he wrote in the Daily Mail.

Mr Cameron rejected that suggestion during his speech today.

“A made-up referendum might make people feel better for five minutes but my job is to put together a plan that lasts five years, and I don’t think a phoney referendum should play any part in that,” he said.

The Lisbon treaty will be signed into law on December 1st.