Cameron’s Dunkirk?


So at last David Cameron delivered his long awaited speech on Europe. Arguably the most important speech, by a British Prime Minister, since Tony Blair’s speech proposing the case for war in Iraq.
British politics, it seems, has entered the era of the referendum arguably started with the referendum on the voting system in 2011 with a vote on the Scottish Independence and an In/Out vote on the EU. Here in Northern Ireland, we have Sinn Fein calling for a referendum on our position in the UK.

Getting back to Cameron’s speech, it contained a lot of ifs and qualifications on when and how this EU referendum will happen. For one the Conservatives have to win the next general election for the chance to vote on EU membership, this seems to be a political judgement to kill off UKIP who are largely a protest party on the EU. The main element of Cameron’s plan is a renegotiation which will prove to be the toughest challenge he faces as PM. However, the EU model is undergoing massive change with discussions already ongoing about the Eurozone.

This speech however, reflects on the difficult relationship that the Conservative Party has with the EU. It also creates more questions than answers for Tories. Also, it will most likely disappoint a number of Tories as Cameron will most probably campaign to stay in the EU but as he highlighted he wants reform.

The pro and cons of EU membership for the UK is complicated with a number of figures being put out by both sides. It can only be hoped that when the referendum comes along that the electorate will be well informed by both sides on the issue. This speech aimed to calm down the anti European feeling and avert a row within the Tory party, however, it has only delayed it and more than likely the proposed referendum will cause more damage than heal any wounds.

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  • aquifer

    Awfully decent of him to throw the Irish Republic an economic lifeline at this time. Inward investors won’t understand David’s need to box off the UK Independence Party or his uberbrit bankbenchers, and may now think to locate in the English speaking part of the Eurozone.

  • Even at the minimum level of “ask”, Cameron is looking to revise EU treaties (else he’s cat’s meat for the Europhobes in his backbencher). Which would trigger referenda in some four EU nations, including Ireland. Oh, happy days!

    Now factor in that nothing can happen until that hypothetical 2015 Tory landslide, along with the electoral cycles of the other EU nations. Then comes the sheer hellish difficulty of getting all 27 little ducks, all patrolling their own separate pond, lined up for a single shot — Lisbon took some seven years, and three (four, if one counts the Czech president having his arms twisted) national rejections, to codify.

    And all this is going to happen in time for a 2017-18 UK referendum? Yer ‘avin’ a laff!

    The insanity of all this was, for me, marked when watching BBC World News, as marketed in Germany. The discussion of Cameron’s suicide note was between a senior figure in German stock-markets (lucid, thoughtful) and the ineffable Stuart Wheeler. The essence of Wheeler’s main argument seemed to involve plucking out of the thinnest of air the figure of £150 billion a year as the cost of UK membership, and neatly finesse this to pay off the UK deficit — “at a stroke”, as the expression once went.

  • Tomas Gorman

    “Cameron is looking to revise EU treaties”

    I suspect that this is the heart of the matter. This isn”t really about Britain’s membership of the EU but rather its obligations to EU rights based legislation.

  • What? No great enthusiasm across Sluggerdom for this important thread? Too busy fretting about your #flegs?

    I missed it in the flesh, for good reasons, but the ever-excellent John Rentoul supplies the transcript. And it’s the Euro-minister, David Lidlington in the tumbril.

    Second broadside:

    AN: Now less than two years ago junior Tories in the government, including your own parliamentary secretary had to resign because they voted for a referendum. What changed?
    DL: What that debate and that vote was about, in October 2011, was over whether there should be a referendum when the future of Europe was very far from clear. What the prime minister is talking about is having a referendum in the UK to settle matters to get the consent of the British people at the end of a process of European negotiation and reform. It’s two completely different questions.
    AN: Well is it really? I mean in 2011 your – let’s just look at what you said. You said, ‘When I go round the constituency at political and non-political events, this is the last thing on their minds a referendum.’ You said, ‘they’re more concerned about jobs.’ I ask you again, what’s changed?
    DL: It’s still the case that whether you look anecdotally in my constituency or whether you look at the opinion polls that Europe ranks below issues like jobs and the economy in people’s minds, but what has change –
    AN: I understand that, but these people were fired because they wanted a referendum and you’re now giving them a referendum.

    They’re only the ranging-shots for the hard-pounding on the terms of the negotiation:

    AN: Well let me see if I can help you. This is what the last Conservative manifesto said. ‘A Conservative government will negotiate on three specific guarantees. On the Charter of Fundamental Rights, on criminal justice and on social and employment legislation.’ You wanted these to come back to Westminster. Let’s say you add in protection for the City of London from new regulations from Brussels. Is that the bare minimum?
    DL: You’ll have to wait and see for our manifesto exactly what is going to be in there.

    Which is an unqualified “yes”: anything else and the Baloobas go AWOL.

    As Tomas Gorman @ 9:07 am says, the essence is this:

    AN: Let me show you another thing the Prime Minister said. He wants the EU to think again about its aspirations to ever-closer union. Now, this is what the Treaty of Rome in ’57 said. It’s the founding document. ‘Determined to lay the foundations of an ever-closer union among the peoples of Europe.’ Now, it beggars belief, doesn’t it, that the rest of Europe is going to overturn that founding principle?

    On which note, the blade falls on the innocent’s neck.

  • Sorry about the format issue. Go to the original: it’s a hoot (any bets Miliband is studying it for PMQs?), and an education in the ungentle art of screwing the interviewee.

  • Jimmy Sands

    That interview really is quite extraordinary.

  • Greenflag

    @ JS

    Indeed it was .

    Reading between the lines heres a translation of one paragraph

    ‘What the Prime Minister is about is trying to get reforms for Europe that enable Europe to respond to the challenges it faces together and get us to a situation where the British people are comfortable as members of an EU that is more competitive and more flexible than it is now.

    We British Tories want to see lower wage costs and less health and welfare benefits for the Germans , French , Irish etc as well as for the British people . We also want ‘protection ‘ for the bankster gangsters of the City of London so that we can continue to hold power in our society where the income and opportunity gap continues to grow .

    Does the EU need reform – Most certainly . But not the kind of reform that Mr Cameron envisages .