Sunday Express - - Inside Politics -

SE­CRET Cabi­net doc­u­ments re­leased from White­hall this week gave a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into the way vot­ers were duped in the run-up to the 1975 ref­er­en­dum on Bri­tain’s links with Europe.

The For­eign Of­fice pa­pers were de­clas­si­fied fol­low­ing a year-long free­dom of in­for­ma­tion bat­tle by the Euroscep­tic pres­sure group Bri­tain for Busi­ness.

And they re­veal that of­fi­cial ad­vice given to min­is­ters in Harold Wil­son’s Labour gov­ern­ment about the full im­pact on the coun­try of join­ing the Euro­pean Economic Com­mu­nity, the fore­run­ner to to­day’s Euro­pean Union, was not dis­closed to the public.

Min­is­ters were warned that the law­mak­ing pow­ers of the Brus­sels bu­reau­cracy would lead to “a gross infringement of the sovereignty” of the West­min­ster Par­lia­ment.

And a se­nior of­fi­cial told Mr Wil­son, who was then prime min­is­ter, that trans­fer­ring pow­ers to the Brus­sels-based Euro­pean Com­mis­sion threat­ened the “most se­ri­ous at­tack on Par­lia­men­tary democ­racy with which this coun­try was faced”.

Th­ese dis­turb­ing rev­e­la­tions raise fresh ques­tions about the 1975 vote in favour of re­main­ing in the EEC. They also add to the ur­gent case for a new na­tional poll on whether Bri­tain should quit the EU. The pa­pers are bound to be raised in the Com­mons in the com­ing weeks when MPs de­bate the Tory bill at­tempt­ing to pave the way for an In/Out ref­er­en­dum on the UK’s EU mem­ber­ship by the end of 2017.

But some Tories are al­ready con­cerned that an at­tempt to dis­creetly wreck the bill with par­lia­men­tary pro­ce­dure is al­ready be­ing plot­ted by EU en­thu­si­asts.

It is ex­pected that many MPs will try to use up Com­mons time with lengthy dis­cus­sions about two Lib Dem pri­vate mem­bers bills sched­uled to be de­bated ahead of the ref­er­en­dum mea­sure.

One Tory MP said: “We need to kill the two Lib Dem bills that are in the way. The dan­ger is we are run­ning out of time to pass the Ref­er­en­dum Bill.”

MPs have a his­toric chance to al­low vot­ers a real de­ci­sion about Bri­tain’s future in Europe af­ter the dis­cred­ited poll that took place nearly 40 years ago. It would be un­for­give­able if West­min­ster dirty tricks nob­bled the process again.

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