British government stifles EU debate. Frit?

The reasons the government is giving for blanking out debate on the EU in the run-up to the general election are frankly absurd. Why are they running away from this huge issue? Maggie had a word: Frit....

You can take the Yorkshireman out of the Foreign Office. But...
Alan Murad
On 22 February 2015 12:18

Is Britain’s democracy broken? If you witnessed the European Scrutiny Committee questioning of William Hague last week, you could be forgiven for thinking so.

Get Britain Out was invited to watch Hague being grilled by Eurosceptic MPs about why EU topics are not getting time for debate in the House of Commons. Hague neither confirmed nor denied that the government wilfully ignores requests to debate EU issues. The sheer effort of his evasion left little room for doubt: there is policy within the Cabinet to stifle EU debate.

Hague confessed nothing, and clearly stated EU debates “will happen...” - without revealing which debates might get through and when. But what motivates the government to stifle EU debates was unveiled by the Committee’s fierce grilling of Hague.

Kelvin Hopkins MP pointed out EU debates are ‘hot potatoes’. They are too controversial to be held so close to the General Election and are liable to embarrass the government.

Hague also admitted the members of the Committee make a good case for the importance of debates about the EU and free movement of people across EU borders. But he insisted there are many other issues the public is far more interested in.

So, what does Hague believe is more interesting than the pressing issue of border controls and our EU membership? He cites ‘women bishops’ as being one of the more important pressing issues!

Actually, according to a recent report in The Times, more than half of the country doesn’t believe in any deity at all, so the idea the government believes the internal affairs of the Church of England interests the public in any way is just plain ridiculous.

Even Ed Miliband, while touring a BAE factory, bumped into a disgruntled worker who told him the working class are abandoning Labour in favour of UKIP. Why? Because Miliband is not offering an EU referendum, an issue the British public are yearning to have their say on.

It was suggested debates are only allowed based on ‘popularity’ rather than importance. Hague dismissed the fundamental importance of debates about the EU, which are often about issues like immigration -- a major concern of the British public.

He clearly hasn't taken notice of the recent Sunday Times WIN/Gallup International poll, showing 51 percent of British respondents would vote to leave the EU, were a referendum held tomorrow.

Instead, Hague implied such debates are ‘boring’ to the public because the debates are either not well attended by MPs and some of them don’t use all the allotted time. The MPs might not be interested in getting out of the EU, but it’s clearly a priority in the minds of the Great British Public.

When it was put to the former foreign secretary that the government seems to allow only EU debates about ‘boring’ subjects, he had little to say.

Bill Cash was visibly outraged. He rightfully condemned Hague’s lamentable performance at this European Scrutiny Committee meeting, and the government’s attitude to EU debates in general.

Cash said the whole thing “doesn’t say much” about the government’s commitment to upholding democracy and better transparency.

After witnessing this deplorable scene -- the ugly side of British democracy -- Get Britain Out can’t help but agree. If the government wilfully cracks down on EU debates, our democracy is indeed broken.

Alan Murad is a Research Executive at Get Britain Out

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