A European Parliament press release issued on Wednesday 7th April starts with the sentence “The Constitutional Affairs Committee gave its support on Wednesday to a modification of the Lisbon Treaty that would allow 18 new Members of the European Parliament to take their seats during the ongoing legislature.” The essence of the release is revealed in the next paragraph where it state “The number of MEPs needs to be increased because the June European Parliament elections were held under the rules of the Nice Treaty, which sets the number of MEPs at 736, while the new Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on 1st December 2009, allows 751 seats.”
Those of you that are good at mathematics will have noticed 18 MEPs in addition to the existing 736 MEPs will result in 754 MEPs not 751. The reason for this apparent discrepancy is because Germany is to lose 3 of its MEPs. However, there are strict rules governing the curtailment of a mandate so Germany will retain its 99 MEPs until the end of this parliament meaning that there will be 754 MEPs after all. This is the nub of the problem, the Lisbon treaty does not allow for a parliament to have 754 MEPs which means the treaty will have to be amended. It the amendment is approved by parliament it will then have to be ratified by the 27 Member states.
As pointed out by Daniel Hannan in his blog, the Conservative party has committed itself to a referendum on treaty changes thus, it would seem, that we have the prospect of a referendum far sooner than one might have anticipated. Inspecting the online Conservative manifesto one finds that it says “A Conservative Government would change the law so that never again would a government be able to agree to a Treaty that hands over areas of power from Britain to the EU without a referendum.” Since we are one of the countries that will see an increase in the number of its MEPs, we are to have one more, I hardly think that this comes under the heading of handing over power from Britain to the EU. I suspect that, delightful as the prospect might be, we will not be granted a referendum on this particular matter.