Lisbon strategy betokens short termism Cameron must leave behind…

I’ve already written a couple of speculative pieces mulling over what the Irish approval of Lisbon might mean for the Conservatives in Britain. David Milliband’s op ed in today’s FT is clearly up to making mischief for the Tories. His main line of argument is that Cameron’s apparent capture by his Eurosceptic wing will shift the focus from pursuing larger goals, to more narrow, ‘what’s in it for us’ back and forth exchange with Brussels? According to Miliband trying to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the new post Lisbon EU would involve Europe getting:

…sucked back into arcane discussions about rewriting the EU rulebook – and all 27 countries would need to agree to any change. It is not serious. Any country with something it wants from Britain would have us over a barrel. Our ability to argue for open trade, European enlargement and reform of the common agricultural policy would be compromised. [emphasis added]

And, although Tim Montgomerie may be right that Cameron’s got his eurosceptics covered regarding his expected standing down over the Referendum, here’s the real kicker for the Tories:

We have seen how quickly Mr Cameron’s bold plans on Europe disintegrate into farce. He promised to reconfigure the European parliament, yet only managed to surrender his party’s influence, swapping the respected European mainstream for the wilder fringes of far-right European politics.

Britain will not be able to tackle the economic challenges if faces unless we work with European allies. We cannot tackle climate change, international crime or energy if we refuse to deal seriously with Europe. Nor can the Tories hope to offer responsible government until they are straight with the British public.

Labour’s problem is that, as Mr Milliband concedes at the beginning of his piece, whatever internal discomfort Europe gives the party, it is not going to be a great vote loser Tories… With a 12 point deficit after his party’s conference he’s hardly speaking from a position of strength either. The FT itself though wants to see intimations of much bigger things from Mr Cameron:

He uses European Union policy as a bribe with which to buy docility from the party’s backwoodsmen who are otherwise suspicious of his metropolitan liberalism. Earlier this year, he withdrew his MEPs from the mainstream European People’s party to keep party members acquiescent.

The Tory leader also eased their fears with a rash promise that he would hold a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. But following last week’s vote in Ireland, and notwithstanding the posturing of Vaclav Klaus, the Czech president, the treaty is likely to be in force before the UK election.

Mr Cameron has not yet set out what this means for his European policy. He should do so this week. He should explain that once the treaty has passed, a Tory government will live with it. With that simple stroke, he would show that he is unafraid of the swivel-eyed euro-frothing on the fringes of his party.

At the same time, he would show prime ministerial pragmatism, refusing to raise needless obstacles to engagement with Europe. Mr Cameron must use this conference to show that he will stand up for Britain’s interests, even against his own party’s destructive instincts.

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  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Dont see how Cameron has the Euro sceptics covered – unless he can give an unequivocal committment to having a referendum EVEN if the treaty is already fully ratified – which every one of his party who are interviewed are trying to wriggle out of.

    They are in the ridiculous situation of saying they can only deal in the here-and-now (ie pre full ratification) but at the same time saying what they will do in the hypothetical situation on many other issues if they are elected.

    They are in a muddle – and perhaps a glimmer of hope for the beleagured El Gordo – who, in case Slugger has missed it, has just arrived in Stromo.

  • Dave

    A cursory glance at the EU’s history should make Mr Cameron sceptical about the quality of the outlandish claims that Europhiles make for its glorious future. These Europhiles have convinced themselves that all of the world’s problems could be solved if only Jean Monnet’s vision of a United States of Europe could be realised (never mind that it was Napoleon who first used the term).

    So here we see the British foreign secretary, Mr Milliband, imploring Mr Cameron to further undermine British peoples’ respect for their democracy by insisting that Mr Cameron break his promise to allow the British people the right to vote on whether or not their sovereignty is to transferred to an undemocratic regime in exactly the same manner that Mr Milliband’s party broke its promise to allow the British people a referendum on the creation of a United States of Europe.

    What pragmatic consideration merits should contempt for democracy? Why exactly should British people agree that their state should become a subordinate region of another state? There are no arguments offered other than some dreamy vision whereby a United States of Europe will act as a force for all that is good in the world.

    Mr Milliband, presumably, is of the opinion that the west of Europe has its own eco system that is independent of the global eco system, and that if 27 of the world’s 206 states merge into one state, then this little region of the world will be able to control climate change by, presumably, issuing copious quantities of its infamous red-tape.

    Why is Mr Milliband advocating local solutions to global problems? Merging 27 of the world’s 206 states into one state will not in any way act as a global solution to a global problem, so it is clearly utter nonsense to proffer this as a reason why those 27 states should merge.

    Yes, there are global problems that require global solutions, but it not in any way necessary for 27 states – or even all of the world’s 206 states – to merge into one larger state before they address these global problems. This is just a cheap trick to deprive the gullible of their national sovereignty.

    So, about the EU’s history and this promise of Nirvana: the EU’s share of global GDP is set to fall from 27% in 2000 to 15% in 2018 – a fall of 45% in less than two decades. The USA’s share will not fall, so why will the USA hold its share of global GDP while the EU’s share will fall by 45%? Could that be related to the EU’s fetish for red-tape adding 600 billion euro a year to the costs of European Business while the Single Market only adds 160 billion a year, with the disadvantages of the EU outweighing its advantages by a factor of 4 to 1?

    The former Vice-president of the European Commission, Gunther Verheugen, thinks so. He argued that if could cut EU red-tape by 25% that European business would save €150 billion a year in unnecessary costs, making them more competitive in the global marketplace. That is true. However, if you cut the EU and allowed those states to trade freely with each other, then European business would save €600 billion a year. Can Europe afford the EU? No, it cannot, and the figures speak for themselves. The EU has led its Member States into economic backwardness, and the Lisbon Treaty is merely a distraction from the failure of the EU to increase the prosperity of Europe. Those states that are outside of the EU are thriving while those who are locked into it will find their share of global GDP fall disastrously.

    Lastly, Mr Milliband accuses Mr Cameron of “losing influence” in the EU. Influence over what exactly? That would be influence over the UK’s internal affairs, since the UK must cajole the the EU to determine the UK’s affairs in a manner that is beneficial to the UK. Does it not occur to Mr Milliband that the UK would have 100% influence over its internal affairs if it did not transfer sovereignty over them to the EU? Therefore, to follow Mr Milliband’s lgic (something he is unwilling as a Europhile to do), the UK should withdraw from the EU and thereby increase its influence over its affairs.

    Mr Cameron should listen to the people – as all democrats should do. They want an end to backward EU rule, and they want the freedom to make Britain great once again.

  • Somebody take Dave out of the CD player and give him a wipe…