The Tories have their tails up. Their Prime Minister has promised an In-Out referendum. They’re up in the opinion polls, and UKIP, against a strong recent trend, is down. Tory back-benchers and Party members and activists feel that at last there’s some movement on the vexed question of Europe.
But maybe it’s time for a reality check. This Prime Minister, in whom so many are now investing so much hope, has promised a referendum. OK. He’s also promised to “fight heart and soul” to keep Britain in the EU. Strange that the hopes of eurosceptics could be pinned on such a man, and such a promise.
Bear in mind also that in 2007 Cameron gave a “cast-iron guarantee” of a referendum on Lisbon — only to wriggle out of his commitment on the grounds that he’d meant “if we can do it before Lisbon is ratified” — though he’d conveniently forgotten that caveat when he made the promise. He also seems to have forgotten that the only EU referendum we’ve ever had, in 1975, was itself a post-ratification, post-facto referendum. It’s not just we could have had a post-facto referendum — we’d actually had one already!
This new referendum depends on his having a working majority after 2015, which is not looking likely. It also (presumably) depends on the result of a renegotiation, the outcome of which is uncertain, to say the least. I rarely agree with German MEP Elmar Brock, but I just heard him on the BBC news saying that EU employment regulation is an essential part of the Single Market, and therefore not negotiable. He’s right. Cameron insists on the importance of keeping the Single Market, and he just doesn’t seem to understand that the regulation he wants to repatriate is an essential part of that Single Market. You can’t expect to be in the Single Market and not subject to the rules.
(A reminder: our UKIP position is that we should be out of the EU, and out of the Single Market, but that we should ensure market access by means of a Free Trade Agreement).
And it’s not just the employment regulation. There is a whole list of areas where we need change. Will Cameron be addressing:
- Free movement of labour into the UK?
- Parity of benefits between UK citizens and EU immigrants?
- Our subservience to the European Court of Human Rights?
- The European Arrest Warrant?
- Return of the UK’s fishing grounds?
- Reducing/eliminating the UK’s £10 billion net contribution to the EU?
- The Common Agricultural Policy?
- The EU’s lunatic energy policies and renewables targets?
- The right of the UK to negotiate its own trade deals?
- The Working Time and Temporary Workers Directives?
- The regulation of our financial services from Europe?
I’d welcome an opportunity to talk with David Cameron about his passionate, visceral, instinctive commitment to EU membership. Why, David, why? What benefit do you see from EU membership which could not be achieved by a simple Free Trade Agreement? You apparently take it for granted that there are benefits of membership, and costs of leaving. No, Dave. Start to worry about the costs of staying in. You ask if foreign investors would find an independent UK attractive. But outside the EU, we’ll have market access, flexible labour markets, and potentially lower costs, lower taxes, cheaper energy. What’s not to like?
(Additional material by Tony Brown).