Friday, April 18, 2014

Baroness Thatcher on the EU referendum

... perhaps Lord Attlee was right, that there [is] a place for a referendum when that is the only way of putting an important single constitutional issue to the people. Otherwise, having two main parties, we vote on a general manifesto, and there is no way of putting an important constitutional issue to the people, except by a referendum. That is why we have had referenda on Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They were constitutional issues. [...]

No elector in this country has been able to vote against Maastricht—none. It has been impossible to do so. I think that when one looks at the extent of the powers which are being handed over, it would be disgraceful if we denied them that opportunity. Yes, we waited with bated breath for both Danish referenda. They thought that people were bullied out of their first decision. So much for the unanimity rule.

Further, in the other place less than half the honourable Members voted for the treaty. The electorate has not been able to vote and half the honourable Members in the other place—less than half; 292 out of some 650—voted for the treaty. We are in the Rome Treaty and in the Single European Act and we stay there. I believe that to hand over the people's parliamentary rights on the scale of the Maastricht Treaty without the consent of the people in a referendum would be to betray the trust—as guardians of the parliamentary institutions, of the courts and of the constitution—that they have placed in us.

House of Lords, 7 June 1993


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