‘No government dependent on a democratic vote could possibly agree in advance to the sacrifices which any adequate plan for European Union must involve. The people must be led slowly and unconsciously into the abandonment of their traditional economic defences, not asked…’

So wrote Peter Thorneycroft, Edward Heath’s Tory colleague and friend.

French PM Raymond Barre was still more explicit in his contempt. “I have never understood why public opinion about European ideas should be taken into account at all,” he said.

Such autocracy in the face of democratic will has characterised the European project from the outset. The Commission, from which 75% of our laws emanate, is unelected. The Parliament is an impotent charade.

In 1975, our parents were asked if they fancied being members of a common market. We have never been asked whether we wanted to surrender the power of the people in Parliament, the supremacy of our own Courts or a huge proportion of our GDP and natural resources.

It is a tenet of natural law that there can be no constitutional change without plebiscite. Our constitution has been bulldozed without permission.

Our politicians kill and require people to die in the name of democracy, yet no one seems in a hurry to define it.

In 1830s, with the mail-coach, macadamisation and the railways suddenly bringing news and standard time to the isolated provinces, the mob demanded an increased say in its governance. Politicians sneered and drew up the drawbridge. Only a few wise Whigs and, at the last, the monarch saved us from bloody revolution by broadening the democratic base.

Today, in the wake of a similar communications revolution and with the people able to vote in real time for an X Factor or Big Brother contestant, there is justifiable bewilderment at seeing control of our lives taken further and further from us, and foreign politicians becoming unrepresentative and unaccountable as Tudor monarchs.

I deplore the EU. It is corrupt, smug and wasteful. It costs the British taxpayer £48m a day and yet seems to me to yield no discernible benefits. It is not for these reasons, however, that I launched the first public petition to have brought the prime minister to the despatch box and to trigger a parliamentary debate in which 81 Tory MPs rebelled against a cowardly, undemocratic three-line whip. It was rather my conviction that Britons, no less than Tibetans or Kashmiris, must enjoy self-determination.

All three principal political parties are aware that the electorate has this right. That is why all pledged a referendum – until in power. David Cameron gave ‘a cast-iron’ pledge that turned to butter in the heat of office. He blamed coalition, but Nick Clegg had also declared a desire to see the matter settled by plebiscite, so in fact Cameron has a clear mandate. He has ignored it.

He vowed that instead he would ‘negotiate’ the return of sovereign powers from within the EU. This is gibberish, as was demonstrated when he postured on fiscal autonomy. The EU is run by qualified majority. A single member cannot ‘negotiate’ with 26 others for special treatment.
So now, as EU rulers meet to debate the merits of deficit-spending vis-a-vis austerity, we will maintain the pressure.

There will be another petition (www.haveyoursay.eu) and another. You owe your job to the people, Mr Cameron. They ask only to be heeded and to have a say as to who governs them. Deny them that, and you deny democracy – and so your own position.

Nikki Sinclaire is an independent MEP for the West Midlands