Are the Tories now planning a staged and inelegant climbdown over Lisbon?

Danny Finklestein lays out what Dave is likely to do over Lisbon. And he doesn’t think, if William Hague is formulating the party’s response to Ireland’s emphatic yes to Lisbon, that Lisbon will figure until the changes have been made (and it looks like the much hoped for resistance from his political ally and Polish president Lech Kaczy´nski is collapsing) we will hear anything much about it in Manchester this week:

Once bits of the Lisbon treaty have been implemented, it will be much easier to win the debate about accepting it as a reality (albeit an annoying one) and moving on. And I bet that is what they decide to do.

I’ve worked with William Hague on the Europe issue and I think I understand how he thinks. He moves when he has to and can shift straight to a new robust position. He doesn’t want a continually updated discussion. But if this is the view they take, they cannot object to the media noting that they have been required to put party management ahead of a clear Prime Ministerial course of action.

As Conall notes even the Czech President has just kicked David Cameron’s last viable eurosceptic stick away

Of course foreign policy has never been a priority for Cameron, but by prioritising the management of his party’s internal conflicts over Europe – note the impetuous promise during his party’s leadership campaign to leave the EPP – may indicate that whilst Cameron has nerve aplenty, his longer term problem may lie the quality of his judgement.

After all, as Ireland has discovered to its cost, it is no longer the case that a country can deal with any single great issue on the purely domestic plane…

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  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Any muddling by Cameron on this will open the door to a significant attack by UKIP in the Westminsters.

    As usual the Tories will trip over their Little-Englanders-we-are-better-than-everyone-else-ideology.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yet for all the hand rubbing on the left, this is a medium to long term problem; the short term only requires adept news management with some ‘well-behaved witnesses’ in the MSM.

  • fair_deal

    The left won’t be Cameron’s probllem it’ll be the right. Also Cameron looking weak/empty suit can be played with here as NI stage as on the national stage ie he’ll only promises to fight battles but slinks away at the crunch.

  • DC

    Andew Marr ask Cameron if he’s worth £30 mil, brilliant:

  • igor

    What, you mean he will do politics on this …….. what a terrible shock

  • Mick Fealty


    ‘move along now, nothing to see here…’


    That’s a pretty sharp interview from Marr. Less on the personal wealth issue (which was a fair line of questioning, but hey, there is no rule against being wealthy and a PM), so much as the spotlight on the Tory on financial regulation pre crash.

    It’s an important detail when the thrust of Cameron’s attack on Brown is his handling of the debt incurred in saving the very banks whose profligacy he seemed previously to think was nothing to do with regulation:

    Now, it would be fair enough if Cam was to come out and say the banks should have been let go to the wall, but we are seeing the same eagerness to avoid damage that drove him into the arms of the eurosceptic right.

    The danger is that it takes him to places he simply does not want to be…

  • Thereyouarenow

    Your house could be on fire, your water cut off, your sewage backing up.
    The Tories would still be arguing about Europe.
    Would tories arguing about Europe help in any of the above dilemas

  • Only Asking.

    That’s a pretty sharp interview from Marr

    You’ve got to be kidding, the whole interview was dominated by Marr, who isn’t exactly a pauper, and who tried but failed to say, you are a toff so how can you understand the difficulties of ordinary people. He failed, because he would not allow Cameron to actually speak more than one sentence without interuption, but then again considering Marr’s background and it was the BBC…

    The Tories would still be arguing about Europe.
    The tories are NOT arguing about Europe, the media want the tories to argue about Europe, but like any good political party it is they who set the agenda for their conference, and not their opponents or the bbc.

    Thursday should be interesting.

  • Mick Fealty @ 12:23 PM:

    The danger is that [playing to the europhobes] takes [Cameron] to places he simply does not want to be…


    The pressure to get out of Europe, by fair means or foul, comes from two sources, both based in London:

    hedge-fund moguls and similar snake-oil billionaires, who dream of Britain as an off-shore haven, free of regulation from Kaiserstrasse;


    non-dom press barons (Murdoch, the Barclay brothers, Rothermere … )

    The core financial, commercial and industrial interests are somewhat more leery of the Europhobic tendency.

    One lot sees megabucks for the fortunate few, to hell with the little people. The other lot make their money by the sweat of the brows of white- and blue-collar workers: they know that money comes harder if it has to operate over trade barriers.

    There is, of course, another sound reason why Cameron is unlikely to go for a referendum. Either way he loses.

    British public opinion is mildly eurosceptic, partly because that is what they have been told to be (see above), and largely because the consequences of withdrawal have not been spelled out to them. Were Cameron to fire the gun for a race to a vote, the City institutions and business would open wallets for a campaign against withdrawal. As in 1975, and in Ireland these last few weeks, the vote follows informed opinion: give the people the information, not the froth, fibs and fallacies, and they come round.

    Which is why I find Boris Johnson’s irruption intriguing. From Blasted Boris’s angle, it serves three purposes at least:

    it keeps Boris in the spotlight, a constant requirement for our blond bombshell fizzing squib;
    it reminds one-and-all that there is an alternative power centre in the Tory Party;
    it puts pressure on Cameron (with whom relations have never been totally fine-and-dandy);
    it keeps sweet both sides in the City (again see above) who bank-roll Boris.

  • Only Asking.

    Boris should stick to soaps to keep him in the spotlight.

  • Dave

    The problem with Cameron is that he made his support for the Lisbon Treaty conditional on the action of other states. This is an inherently weak position to adopt, politically, morally and pragmatically.

    If the applicable principle is that a people have an inalienable right to self-government and that they should not give away the freedom to determine their own affairs in their common good, then it follows that he would be opposed to the Lisbon Treaty irrespective of the position of other states. In making his support for the principle of freedom conditional, he concedes the principle. Therefore, in his opinion, this fundamental freedom of self-determination is not inalienable but is in fact negotiable and may be curtailed by other considerations.

    On the pragmatic level, membership of the EU is not in the UK’s national interest, costing it circa £118 billion a year, so he makes the UK’s national interest conditional on the political processes of other states. This again shows a morally weak individual who does not value the freedom or the national interest of those who are to elect him.

    In regard to ratification, as the UK has already ratified the treaty, it will come into force when the remaining states ratify it. It should be circa two months before the Czech president signs the treaty, but it is circa seven months before a UK election will be held. That means simply that Cameron will have a legally binding obligation under the treaty, so he cannot seek to ‘unratify’ it or abrogate it.

    At that point, his referendum issue is either dead or it will transmogrify into a referendum on EU membership. The only way he can void the treaty now is if he exits from the EU. The Lisbon Treaty makes renegotiation into an ‘all or nothing’ exercise since it consolidates all of the other treaties.

    How successfully the EU has perverted British democracy is shown in how these media hacks turn the debate on the merits of EU membership or the merits of the treaty into a question of how wise or otherwise a political party is to allow such democratic debate. The debate is to be censored because political hacks are to be judged as foolish for allowing such debate at all.

  • There are bad arguments, deceitful arguments and there is the kind of raving nutcase stuff peddled by Europhobes.

    One searing example has to be from Dave @ 07:52 PM, above:

    membership of the EU is not in the UK’s national interest, costing it circa £118 billion a year

    I wonder if Dave @ 07:52 PM knows the source of that figure; and, if so, would he defend it.

    It comes from our old friends (see previous Slugger threads), the Taxpayers Alliance. To help Dave @ 07:52 PM and others taken in by this guff, it appeared in the Daily Telegraph last 18th March:

    The UK-based lobby group says that, annually, the total cost of British membership of the 27-member club is £118 billion.
    This contrasts sharply with Commission statistics which show that in 2007, the most recent year for which figures are available, Britain’s net contribution to the EU totalled some £3.8 billion.

    How did David Craig and Matthew Elliott achieve this convenient mega-inflation? Well:

    The Taxpayers’ Alliance bases its figures on what it considers the “real, underestimated and hidden” costs of EU membership.
    These include Britain’s direct contributions to the EU, the cost to UK business of complying with and administering EU regulations, EU administration costs and also higher food prices, said to result from implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy.

    Even the polemic’s authors do not endorse Dave @ 07:52 PM‘s reading:

    “The book tries to find a total cost of the EU but does not suggest that it is all waste or that it could be eliminated overnight.
    “However, an estimate of the total cost provides an important guide to the burden placed on member countries’ economies and their citizens due to EU membership.”

    So: €4.1 Bn in real life = circa £118 billion a year in TPA money. And Declan Ganley’s financial accountancy is said to be opaque!

    But — hey! — if a lie is big enough, and repeated often enough, someone will be daft enough to believe it.

  • Dave

    I wonder if Malcolm could produce a set of figures to show that the UK gains financially by being in the EU rather than membership costing it circa £118 billion a year?

    Whenever you find a set, Malcolm, feel free to post them.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Is Malcolm allowed to invent them too?

  • Dave

    He’ll have to, since absolutely no one claims that the UK benefits financially from its membership of the EU.

    It is simply a case of establishing how much the UK loses by membership. And that is circa £118 billion a year.

    So, rather than trying to pretend that the UK does not lose money by EU membership, why don’t you try to establish how ‘little’ you estimate the loss to be? I think most europhiles have the good sense not to go there. 😉

  • A cheap argument, when you’ve just been trounced in debate, is to swivel round and demand, “Well, what do you think?”

    The issue here was the gross misrepresentation by the Europhobes. To help Dave @ 11:37 PM‘s intellectual development, here goes.

    First, there is a valid discussion to be had about the present direction and future rôle of individual states in the Union. Reducing that to a bank statement is like judging any other relationship in cash terms. When she might enquire of him: “Do you really love me?”, his very last reply should be to whip out a bank statement, point to the bottom line and say, “This much.”

    So, to work. The earlier estimate was that the net UK contribution to the Union was £3.3 Bn. That has been revised upwards to £4.1 Bn. Recent enlargement of the EU means that will further increase to £6.4 Bn in 2010-11.

    That net contribution is rising because of changes agreed at the time of the 2005 enlargement. The UK is not receiving the same rebate because it is mad to expect the poorer, less developed, former Eastern bloc 2004-accession states to contribute to a richer, more developed one.

    Every time I pass through Doncaster on the main East Coast Line I note the sign telling me that the improvements were made, in part, with EU monies. When one looks, there are quite a few similar signs around the UK, largely centred in those regions blighted by Thatcher’s de-industrialisation. Go figure. Similarly EU monies are rightly being directed to developing the poorer EU regions. As a result, British exports are growing in just those areas.

    Linked to that is the elimination of tariff barriers within the market of 500 million customers. There are three direct consequences there: wider consumer choice, lower prices, and 3½ million UK jobs in whole or in part dependent on exports to and trade with the other EU countries.

    Then there is the “insurance policy” factor. I recall when East Anglia was occupied by the US Air Force. Sculthorpe, Bentwaters, Mildenhall, Lakenheath and many more had USAAF aircraft ready, at a moment’s notice, to deliver nukes to east Europe and the Soviet Union. Further back, I am still here because the V1 that took out the street didn’t get my mother and me in the private shelter of that “nice Solomons family next door”. No, I’m not a great believer in aggressive nation states: the experiment didn’t improve Europe greatly throughout my bit of the Twentieth Century. Grandad buried on the Somme might agree. So might my cousin Jean, whose ATS searchlight battery were taken out by the Luftwaffe. A cost of 70 pence a day for family insurance against my children and grandchildren having a European re-enactment seems cheap at the price.

    The “stability” argument is particularly strong in respect of the Balkan applicant countries.

    David Cameron has made a lot of running with the lie about “fixing the roof while the sun was shining” (incidentally, of all sources, the Sunday Times‘s David Smith demolished that one this weekend). Hmmm: Iceland suddenly feels the need to huddle under the EU tarpaulin. Wonder why.

    Finally, to play Dave @ 11:37 PM at his own game, what are the alternatives?

    [More to come]

  • Let me add a little grist to Dave @ 11:37 PM‘s mill.

    Were Europhobes to get their way, and the UK to be excluded from EU membership, the assumption is the UK would become an EEA nation (like Norway, or Iceland as of now). That means accepting all EU regulations relating to the single market (and bearing the cost thereof). The trade-off is that an EEA nation is “consulted” but has no vote on future regulations.

    Then there’s EFTA: this is even more pick-and-mix; and works particularly well for the Swiss. The Swiss government has estimated comparatiove costs for 2007-10:

    Full EU membership: ChF4940 M gross, ChF3400M net;
    EEA affiliation: ChF737 M;
    EFTA association: ChF557 M.

    On the other hand, one might wonder whether Switzerland always plays strictly to the rules: the arrest of Polanski (according to the conspiracy theorists) may not be unrelated to the Swiss government’s wish to curry favour in Washington over UBS. Strange how a country where surveillance of foreigners is one national sport suddenly noticed that Polanski had a villa at Gstaad, where he has been spending months every year. Oops: sorry, off topic.

    Those previous two paragraphs provide lines for Dave @ 11:37 PM to exploit. They are, at least, a bit more factual than previous blatherings.

    What they do not cover is the growing economic world balance. The FT published an article by David Miliband for its weekend edition.

    It might come as a shock to realise that such pieces are rarely the unaided efforts of a senior minister: they represent the view of his mandarins. So, here’s the view from Whitehall, whoever sits in Downing Street:

    The passage of the Lisbon treaty is a massive opportunity for Europe. In the coming decades, as economic and political power shifts eastwards, there is a danger that we could see the emergence of what some call a “G2 world” in which the US and China shape the major decisions on financial regulation, climate change and nuclear proliferation.

    … We should strive to create a world in which Europe, with a strong Britain at its heart, is a leading actor. With the world’s biggest single market and largest aid budget, the EU should be a force for peace and stability in foreign policy as well as for dynamism and openness in economic policy.

    In the last two years the EU has launched a naval force against piracy off Somalia, sent police and judges to keep the peace in Kosovo, imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe when the United Nations failed, and led the fight against climate change.

    The article then identifies three areas of future concern:

    First, the EU’s reputation abroad rests on engaging countries on its borders. If we cannot take responsibility for stability in the Balkans, why should we be trusted further afield? If we cannot forge a serious relationship with north Africa, how can we be credible in preventing conflict, terrorism and illegal migration?

    Second, we need to build the EU capacity to intervene in crises, particularly in areas that impact on our security such as south Asia and the Middle East. It is a damning indictment that we can still only deploy 5 per cent of our soldiers at one time, or that we spend only about half a euro per head in a country so strategically important as Pakistan.

    Third, the EU needs to develop a new relationship with other great powers: the US, Russia, China, India and Brazil. The EU is the biggest global economic power, but it does not translate this into wider influence on security, human rights or climate change.

    No, Dave @ 11:37 PM, it’s not merely the money, however you divvy it up. As Willie Yeats sardonically satirised:

    What need you, being come to sense,
    But fumble in a greasy till
    And add the halfpence to the pence
    And prayer to shivering prayer, until
    You have dried the marrow from the bone?
    For men were born to pray and save:
    Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,
    It’s with O’Leary in the grave.

  • Dave

    You up early and in fine fettle, Malcolm.

    As it happens, I already dismissed Mr Milliband’s ‘argument’ for the tosh it is on another thread.

  • No, Dave @ 05:46 AM, you didn’t. You launched into a series of rhetorical excesses, predicated to that loony bugaboo of:

    Jean Monnet’s vision of a United States of Europe [which] could be realised (never mind that it was Napoleon who first used the term).

    Hmm: never knew the little Corsican’s English was that good. I believe, too, the prime source for that is Felix Markham’s early-1960s biography. Perhaps, if any kind soul has a copy, they can supply a citation for Markham’s reference.

    Victor Hugo, in 1849, actually did refer to les États-Unis d’Europe. More to the point, the phrase was used at Zurich, by Churchill, quite favourably, in 1946:

    The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important. Small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honour by their contribution to -the common cause. The ancient states and principalities of Germany, freely joined together for mutual convenience in a federal system, might take their individual places among the United States of Europe. I shall not try to make a detailed programme for hundreds of millions of people who want to be happy and free, prosperous and safe, who wish to enjoy the four freedoms of which the great President Roosevelt spoke, and live in accordance with the principles embodied in the Atlantic Charter.

    Seems to me that Churchill was more in line with Monnet than some might wish.

    After that, your piece was all down-hill, mainly concerned with

    the EU’s fetish for red-tape adding 600 billion euro a year to the costs of European Business;

    and such like.

    This, of course, is a variant on the Taxpayers’ Alliance nonsense, already dealt with. Somehow the “cost to business” of EU regulation is totalled up; and conceived to be an enormous figure.

    Again, as I could read and understand, even the authors of the TPA pamphlet do not claim that all the regulatory cost is avoidable. That whimper of commonsense does not prevent weirdos demanding a bonfires of all controls in the name of “freedoms”, for example:

    the sacred freedom of British urbanites to inhale toxic fumes and diesel particulates;
    the freedom to have lower or no standards of hygiene, quantity and quality in food-retailing;
    the freedom of British construction-workers to fall off British fifty-foot, unsupported ladders;
    the freedom of British children to gorge on unregulated food additives, while cavorting on British beaches bestrewn with British sewage;
    the inalienable right of British power-plants to spew carbonic- and sulphuric-acids across Nordic forests;
    the right of British householders to be incinerated and electrocuted by substandard appliances;
    the right of road-users to know that vehicles on British roads might not pass EU crash-tests.

    Now, are the Europhobes saying such EU regulatory regimes, and all the others, should be abolished in toto? Or do they wish for uniquely British, and lower standard, to apply? Only a certain amount of food adulteration, of shit on the beach, an acceptable number of avoidable deaths? Because, you know, there’s always a cost — one way or the other.