Labour's Maastricht timebomb primed to detonate next week: Anthony Bevins looks at the parliamentary amendment that may yet wreck the treaty

THE CONCEPT of the ticking timebomb, a killer Labour amendment that could be planted at the heart of the Maastricht legislation, was the creation of George Robertson, the Opposition frontbench spokesman on Europe.

As the Independent reported yesterday, the timebomb is now set to detonate next Thursday night, when the Commons and Lords vote on an amazingly bland Government motion on John Major's Social Chapter opt-out, simply noting 'the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the adoption of the Protocol on Social Policy'.

The Labour-inspired timebomb, now Clause 7 of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, says: 'This Act shall come into force only when each House of Parliament has come to a resolution on a motion tabled by a Minister of the Crown considering the question of adopting the Protocol on Social Policy.'

The explosive content of the clause centres on the relationship between the motion and the resolution. The Commons clerks have advised MPs that the motion can only become a resolution if it is passed.

If the motion is defeated, there is no resolution; if there is no resolution, the Act shall not come into force; if the Act does not come into force, Mr Major cannot ratify the treaty, and is blown up a gum tree.

Before they come to the main motion, however, MPs and peers are expected to be given the chance to vote for a more positive Labour amendment. This will say that the Government should not ratify the Maastricht treaty 'until such time as it has given notification to the European Community that it intends to adopt the Agreement attached to the Protocol on Social Policy'.

Given the complex nature of political forces at work - the Prime Minister and his government; the 40-strong band of Tory rebels; Labour; the Liberal Democrats; Nationalists; and Ulstermen - the next week could yet be one of the most fraught and frenetic since Margaret Thatcher's demise.

With those complexities in mind, Mr Robertson was up until the early hours of yesterday morning working out the possible permutations of what could happen in the Commons next Thursday - and their possible consequences. His scenarios, with implications in his italics are:

'Scenario 1. Labour amendment carried. Amended motion put to the House. Government votes against, along with Tory rebels. Motion lost. Treaty cannot be ratified unless new motion is tabled. Government tables new motion for 27/28 July OR Government accepts decision and refuses to ratify Maastricht.

'Scenario 2. Labour amendment carried. Government abstains on amended motion. Motion carried. Government says it will accept the Social Chapter, OR Government refuses to ratify and treaty falls, OR Government says it has legal authority . . . ratifies the treaty and ignores the vote of the Commons.

'Scenario 3. Labour amendment is lost. Government, with Labour against, but with possible Ulster Unionist, Liberal and even Welsh Nationalist support, will win the main question even if more Tory rebels vote this time. Treaty is ratified.

'Scenario 4. Labour amendment is lost. Main question is lost as Opposition coalition stays firm and more Tory anti-Social Chapter rebels join us. Treaty cannot be ratified because Act cannot come into force. Government comes back the following week with a new motion and wins. Treaty ratified. OR Government comes back the following week with a new motion, the Opposition coalition on our amendment holds and we return to scenarios 1, 2, and 3. OR Government accepts defeat and refuses to ratify. Treaty dead.'

News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Worldwide ticket sales for The Lion King musical surpassed $6.2bn ($3.8bn) this summer
tvMusical is biggest grossing show or film in history
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits