After a few hot chocolates and perhaps a sharp Brandy or two - voilà - here it is: the Referendum Lock.
Sell the story that the Government will introduce an Act, which will state that any new piece of proposed European legislation entailing a change in an EU treaty, will require a referendum. If of course both the Minister agrees, and a judge so rules. What could be wrong with that? The MPs get their referendum and the rest of us can all go back to allowing the EU to run our country.
Hello? Now call me the lawyer in the room, but even on the basis of the above I can see that this "Referendum Lock" is about as safe as a paper umbrella!
Firstly, it only deals with new EU legislation. This blatantly ignores all the measures in the Lisbon Treaty which allow the EU to create all the powers it needs for an EU State, without bothering to ask national parliaments. In the case of the EU rescue fund for example, the Commission simply altered the terms of a pre-existing Agreement without effecting a treaty change (when arguably one was required).
Secondly, everything is predicated on the Minister making the decision. Once again, call me old fashioned, but I have seen enough episodes of Yes Minister and footage from Parliament to know that one can hardly rely upon a Minister not to change his mind. His position, the views of his civil servants, and simple obfuscation can all conspire to ensure that a Minister doesn't safeguard the national interest; as they have many times before.
Thirdly, the Minister can defer his decision by palming the whole thing off on a judge.
Fourthly, it assumes the EU will be stupid enough to phrase any proposal in terms that require a potential change to a Treaty. And we know them well enough, to know better.
I could go on, but the Minister for Europe must have seen the whole of the Yes Minister series and learnt it by rote. Happily, so have we and we are not amused, Minister.