And then we get the punch line: "He left open the door to the possibility of the Tories promising a referendum in their election manifesto even if the treaty had been ratified by then."
In other words, nothing is different. Nothing has changed. One seriously wonders why this was published, or have we missed something?
It all depends how seriously Hague meant this. Perhaps he, & the Tory high command, have at last realized that if they want to offer a refererendum before the Lisbon Treaty is finalized, then why should that prevent them from having one afterwards instead - if need be? Similarly, if theTories are so against Lisbon before the other 26 have finally ratified the treaty, then why will they not continue to be against it afterwards?
The Tories have said that if the treaty is ratified before they gain government, they "will not leave it there". But what will they in fact do - or be able to do? Anything at all? And does the EU really need to care? Presumably the Tories have been so challenged about this issue by their more euro-opposing Tory supporters, that at last they are reacting. Or have they had EU officials trying to frighten them into submission by saying once Lisbon is signed, then it's "game over"? Or maybe Hague & Co. have finally worked it out for themselves that the EU could effectively ignore them, despite their being the UK government, unless they had a really convincing weapon to threaten the EU with - ie a UK referendum rejecting Lisbon even if it had already been ratified by then.
Even with a post-Lisbon ratification referendum under the Tories' belt, the EU (backed presumably by the ECJ) could ignore them on the grounds that the treaty now had legal legitimacy, & just because the UK wanted to effectively withdraw from the treaty would not invalidate other countries' acceptance of it. Indeed, I'd say that would be fair enough in law.
So what does this suggest? It suggests that at last the Tories have come to realize that only by being prepared to play hardball with the EU that they, the Tories, will have any chance of getting any concessions from Brussels. The EU will not want to make any concessions at all, because if Britain begins to get some worthwhile changes out of the EU, then some countries will object strongly to this - & other countries will want to jump on the reformist bandwagon too, putting all the EU's centrist aims in jeopardy.
So there's a lot at stake here. And it seems that at last the Tories may have realized that following the Lisbon Treaty referendum road to its logical conclusion may lead to a long battle with the EU, even though it's one that the UK can not keep on putting off for much longer - & that what is inevitable has at last to be faced, however fearsome that might at first seem to be! Watchet