Open Europe Blog

UK Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has just been on the BBC’s Today Programme, taking a major swipe at those calling for an in/out referendum. Asked if he accepted that voters were deeply eurosceptic, he said “The nation is a bit eurosceptic” (no kiddin’). But he went on to say,

“The idea that they are all demanding a referendum on the European Union would be regarded as ridiculous, it would be out of sight as a public priority. It is the demand of a few right-wing journalists and a few extreme nationalist politicians.”  

He said a referendum would create “absolute confusion” and that he couldn’t “think of anything sillier to do…it would settle nothing. Particularly it would settle nothing with the more frenzied eurosceptics who keep believing that European bogies are under the bed.” 

Hmmm. Looks like Ken is continuing arguments from ten years ago – and he comes across as very patronising. But he does have a point though: an in / out referendum would actually settle very little – and probably raise more questions than answers. In the next two weeks, we’ll publish a briefing looking at these very issues. In particular, we’ll look at the tiny issue of what actually happens on Day 2 if Britain did choose to withdraw (i.e. the in / out debate beyond the ‘don’t bother me with the details’ approach that too often comes with this question).

And it ain’t easy. This is one you don’t want to miss…

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