Letter: Rally for Maastricht referendum

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Maastricht treaty, if implemented, will pass a significant portion of Parliament's power to EC institutions. All the evidence suggests that a very large proportion of popular opinion throughout the EC is apprehensive about what is being proposed. Against this background, it is of deep concern that ratification of the treaty was not at issue at the general election. Consequently, it is proposed to implement Maastricht without first consulting the British people.

Politicians are elected to exercise power on behalf of the people. That power is merely held in trust and is handed back whole to the people at the end of a Parliament. Parliament has the right to exercise it, or surrender it back to the people, but not to transfer it away so that what is handed back is diminished. Only the people can decide to do that. This principle is crucial to the functioning of Parliamentary democracy. The governments of Denmark, France and Ireland have recognised this. Only if the peoples of Europe are consulted and support European co-operation will it succeed in the longer term.

The Government is proposing to force the ratification of the treaty through Parliament on a three-line whip. This can hardly be accepted as democratic on such an important issue. We believe that the Government is setting a very dangerous precedent for the erosion of the democratic rights of the people. Ratification must have the direct endorsement of the people through a referendum. When democracy itself is at stake, party allegiances cease to be relevant. This is not only about Maastricht, it is about democracy.

The Campaign for a British Referendum is organising a 'Day for Democracy' on Sunday 17 January. The highlight will be a mass demonstration convening from 11.30am at Hyde Park corner and setting off at 12.30pm to Trafalgar Square, where MPs from all parties will address a rally.

Yours faithfully,

BLAKE (President, Campaign for a British Referendum), WILLIAM CASH MP (Con), NICK HARVEY MP (Lib Dem), McALPINE of West Green, AUSTIN MITCHELL MP (Lab), RIDLEY of Liddesdale, RICHARD SHEPHERD MP (Con), PETER SHORE MP (Lab), TEDDY TAYLOR MP (Con), PAUL TYLER MP (Lib Dem)

Richmond, London

14 January