Labour's Maastricht timebomb primed to detonate next week: Anthony Bevins looks at the parliamentary amendment that may yet wreck the treaty
Friday 16 July 1993
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.'
- 1 Britain First 'acting like Ukip henchmen' by invading meeting of activists in revenge for pub protest against Nigel Farage
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Tidal: Jay Z's Spotify rival streaming service criticised for making wealthy artists even richer
- 4 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
- 5 A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Costa Concordia: Shipment of Mob drugs was hidden aboard cruise liner when it hit rocks off Italian coast, investigators say
Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Germanwings plane crash: Transcript reveals passengers 'screamed for over five minutes' before plane crashed into mountain
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...
£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...