The task for the Tory leadership, the euro-sceptics, the "Better Off Out" supporters and Ukip is to crystalise the vision of Mrs Thatcher's Bruges speech into the architecture of a new European treaty, one that would constitute a framework within which sovereign states would co-operate with a European Republic formed of those nations willing to enter a complete political union of their own - what we might call their 1707 moment.It'll be a good trick if we can pull it off. The reality is that a Euro republic will rapidly become a gigantic Belgium; the reason 1707 worked in the UK was because England was a large powerful nation that had just bailed Scotland out from a financial crash caused by their own greed and speculative imprudence (ahem HBOS and RBS) and that English was already a common language. If a handful of Flems and Walloons can't co-exist in Belgium, imagine the far greater challenges in Corsicans and Prussians pretending they're one nation.
However, Norman is right on one point; a broad alliance of all British anti-federalists, across party boundaries, needs to design something positive to replace Maastricht and the new Constitution rather than just carping about it all. Fear over 'Party split over Europe' headlines is stifling debate, but the parties must realise that Europe, like the death penalty or abortion, is an area in which MPs must be allowed to act without being whipped into obedience.