Mindboggling scenes at the Foreign Affairs Committee where Margaret Beckett has been speaking.
She is still claiming that there have been no real negotiations so far.
“You say there have been negotiations between other countries – I don’t believe that is so. What there has been is a dialogue.”
“To my mind the process of actual negotiation begins when you are invited to set out your core demands with a partner with whom you are negotiating…”
When put to her that she had said last week there had been no discussions, and therefore perhaps she had lied, she said, “Very unlikely, if I may say so.”
She insisted: “there still haven’t been discussions around the Council table” on the treaty, and explained, more than once, that “perhaps we were at cross purposes” – insisting that what she had meant was that there had been no negotiations in Council.
Asked what exactly it was in the original treaty that made the Government promise a referendum in the first place, she said, “…symbolic gestures – the flag, the anthem… there was a belief that this, as a whole, did perhaps represent quite a transfer of responsibilities – but that package is no longer in front of us.”
The idea that it was the inclusion of the (existing) EU flag or (existing) EU anthem that triggered the referendum promise is obviously nuts. And the Government did not go around at the time fessing up to anyone who would listen that it was "did perhaps represent quite a transfer of responsibilities." In fact they said it was a "tidying up excercise".
Beckett claimed: “Not one of us have said that there will not be a referendum.” However, she did say that if there is agreement at the summit then the Government should be able to say by Monday whether or not it thinks we need a referendum.
We say - bring it on. At least once the Government officially tries to rule out a referendum we will have clarity - rather than endless, ludicrous nonsense about how "no negotiations are going on." They will try to take away our right to a vote. But hopefully at least they'll stop taking the mickey.