Cameron paints himself into a corner


Cameron’s contortions — and indeed the Conservative Party’s contortions — over the EU issue would be funny, if the matter weren’t so serious.  Beset by UKIP, Cameron knows he has to offer a tough line on Europe.  He’s declared his intention to do so.  He’s promised the 22 that the Tories will go into the next General Election with a strong European policy, and he’s been rewarded with much desk-banging.  Downing Street has been briefing loudly — and for rather a long time — that Cameron is about to unburden himself of a great speech on Europe, soon.  But the great speech, promised for autumn, has slipped back into next year.

It’s not hard to see why.  First of all there’s the implacable opposition from the minority party in the coalition — the Lib-Dems.  Then there has been the dawning realisation that Cameron’s glib talk of major concessions from Brussels is going to be rather more difficult to deliver than he assumed.  European leaders have been queuing up to quash the idea.  François Hollande insisted that there could be no cherry-picking.  Then Hermann Van Rompuy and German Finance Minister Wolfgfang Schauble rushed to ram home the point.

So Tory policy is blowing in the wind.  The Prime Minister will be hanged by his MPs, his party and the electorate if he softens, but savaged by his coalition partners, and most of the EU, if he does not.

Meantime Europe Minister David Lidington has cautioned his colleagues not to be “emotional” about the EU.  What’s this, David?  Are you not emotional about freedom and democracy?  And if not, why are you in politics in the first place?  The trouble with Lidington is that he’s a “safe pair of hands” (unlike his predecessor Mark François, who was if nothing else a conviction politician).  Too often a safe pair of hands means simply a defender of the status quo.  Lidington might have been more comfortable in the Foreign Office, presiding over orderly decline.

We’ve heard more sense (astonishingly) from our old bête noire Jacques Delors, who seems to have seen the light.  He has called for the UK to be allowed to leave the EU (as if the EU could stop us), and to have a new relationship with Brussels, based on trade.  I agree.

But I don’t agree with the European Federalists, who suggest that Britain should have “Associate Membership”. Under this proposal, we would lose our place in the institutions (our commissioner, our place on the European Council, and our MEPs), but remain in the Single Market.  No, No, No! (As Maggie Thatcher would have said).

As Nigel Farage made clear on The World at One (BBC, 1:00 p.m. Dec 31st), that would be the worst of all possible worlds.  The three vital economic benefits of leaving the EU would be (1) We’d stop paying into the EU Budget; (2) We’d get out from under the EU’s suffocating regulatory régime; (3) We’d be free to strike our own trade deals with the rest of the world.  None of these objectives could be attained within the Single Market.  We’d be constrained by EU regulation and the EU’s Common External Tariff, and we’d still be expected to contribute.  And we’d lose what (very little) influence we have in the Brussels institutions.

Yes, we want (and we will ensure we get) market access in the EU.  But the Single Market is the problem, not the solution.  We want out.

Far too many people who speak up in the European debate simply don’t understand the difference between the Single Market and free trade.  The Single Market carries most of the baggage that we’re trying to ditch.  It’s what we want to get out of — not what we want to retain.

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13 Responses to Cameron paints himself into a corner

  1. Linda Hudson says:

    Nigel Farage tells the truth, plain and simple!

  2. Scaredypants says:

    Yes I see that the Times is scaremongering on this issue today.The fight is on

  3. matthu says:

    The comments in The Telegraph following Grant Shapps’ plea to unite the Tory faithful must make pretty dismal reading for him.

    “Blah, blah, blah. Cast Iron Dave has gone. ”

    “Perfect example of how out of touch the Tory party is. I will predict that there isn’t a snowball in Hades chance that Mr Shapps will keep his seat in Hatfield. Not a dickey bird.”

    “Labour won’t win the next election, David Cameron and his inner circle will lose it, because they have ignored the views and opinions of the British people, and have actively worked against the best interests of the BRITISH people. So good riddance to the Tories and serve them right.”

    “The most absolute rubbish I have ever read,in keeping with an inept,incompetent government.”

    “you do know, don’t you shapps, that with the internet, lying isn’t as easy as it used to be.”

    “People have had enough of the lies from the coalition and labour,they are fed up with being taxed,fed up with their money being given to foreigners,fed up with immigrants,fed up with being poor, they are going to vote UKIP,its the only party that knows what is going on.”

    And many, many more comments in similar vein. Which is either indicative of a massive swing away from CP i.e. far more than even the latest polls would indicate – or increased organisation amongst UKIP supporters. Which is it?

  4. Mike Spilligan says:

    Happy New Year, Mr H. – or perhaps, optimistic New Year! I saw the Shapps article and wondered where he’s been for the last couple of years. Has he not been reading ConHome and Speccie blogs, as well as the comments on other Telegraph regular postings and articles? I told myself after the formation of the coalition that six months would be the needed limit to assess whether we might have – against the logic, admittedly – “Home Rule for the British”. It’s not to be under the present regime, but there seems to be some momentum among the public at large and I hope that Nigel Farage and his team can pounce on the increasing number of scare tactics that we’re bound to get.

  5. Linda Hudson says:

    We are ready for the scare tatics, dirty deeds etc, etc. Truth out sooner or later!

  6. DougS says:

    Roger, as a new reader of your blog I am impressed by your straight talking (as the blog title suggests) style and will be a regular from now on.

    Having viewed the videos of your speeches in the European Parliament it is pleasing to see that your writing style is equally forthright and ‘to the point’, in contrast to many.

    I think that CallMeDave will eventually be dragged to the conclusion that he will have to offer a referendum on EU membership – though who will believe that he will actually fulfill his promise?

    When the debate starts we need to be ready for the ridiculous name-calling that will be the Europhile’s first line of attack – ‘Little Englanders’, ‘Isolationists’ and ‘Xenophobes’ will be common currency, as it is for all those that have no cohesive argument to offer.

    There are many sound reasons for leaving the EU but for me the overriding one is to escape from the anti-democratic shackles of the EU, where our laws are made by unelected bureaucrats that we didn’t elect and can’t remove.

    That day can’t come soon enough for me.

  7. cosmic says:

    The Conservatives’ problem is that the question of EU membership is binary, you are either a member or you are not. If they declared clearly what their position was they would have split, so they’ve long sold a fiction of an impossible half-way position, while drifting with integration, which is getting increasingly hard to maintain.

    Cameron’s problems are:

    The difficulty of declaring an honest position given the split it would cause.
    He can’t do anything decisive in the current circumstances of parliament even if he wanted to.
    He’s alienated a lot of support and unreformed boundaries and postal voting add to his problems.
    He’s left with offering a promise to be fulfilled after the next election and a promise from David Cameron would be treated as a joke.

    So, he went on shift when the floor was already half painted so as to deny access to the door and he’s continued painting. I think he’s just painting until the end of the shift. In other words, he’s talking to keep the question of the EU at bay until the next GE and maybe hoping that something will turn up, such as significant events in the Eurozone, which make the decision for the UK.

    • Scaredypants says:

      “which make the decision for the UK.” This is exactly what has concerned me for a while. I genuinely worry that he is waiting for a crisis in which the UK itself will require a bailout and then persuade the electorate ( just as the Irish and Greeks) that we cannot survive without an EU bailout. I keep hoping am I being too cynical

      • cosmic says:

        Maybe that, or maybe mayhem caused by Greece or Spain having to leave the Euro, and the realisation that the Euro Project has to be abandoned or restricted to a handful of nations with similar economies.

        Because the Euro has been less in the news this last few months doesn’t mean its problems have been solved, more like the last sticking plaster hasn’t fallen off yet.

      • Scaredypants says:

        Yes very true. Maybe he can save face with the Eurpohiles then and say he wasn’t to blame.

  8. Jane Davies says:

    I have voted on this epetition…you may want to do the same. Time to go David Cameron.

  9. Pingback: Cameron’s dilemma | Roger Helmer MEP

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