At least the tie is the right colour, Dave
One of the great weaknesses of Cameron’s position on his much-vaunted EU referendum has been his failure to set out what he wanted from his “renegotiation”, and indeed his lack of clarity on what circumstances (if any) might cause him to call for an “OUT” vote. (I suspect that he cannot conceive of any circumstances in which he would campaign for Out).
In a sense he’s on a hiding to nothing. Any significant concessions would require treaty change, which could not conceivably be delivered within his 2017 timetable – still less by 2016, which appears to be his new target date. So at best he’ll have to “do a Harold Wilson” and talk up trivial and nugatory concessions as a basis for an “IN” vote. Quite literally he will be offering us little (trivial non-treaty concessions) or nothing.
But today – on the Today programme – a suggestion emerged. If he could agree a deal with European leaders limiting welfare and tax credit payments to EU immigrants, they suggested, then he would campaign for a Yes vote. I expected he’d settle for not very much, but I must admit that I am gob-smacked by his poverty of ambition, if he thinks that’s enough to change minds. He’s dealing with one narrow aspect of one policy area (admittedly an important one), but leaving the whole range of other EU costs and grievances in place.
On immigration, we should still fail to control our borders. We don’t know exactly what the impact of his proposed measures would be. The ONS says 214,000 (non-Brit) EU migrants came to the UK in 2014. Maybe Cameron’s measure would cut that by 10%. He’s fiddling at the margin. After his great renegotiation, we should still be unable to control our borders.
We should still be unable to do our own trade deals. Little countries like Switzerland and even Iceland have negotiated their own trade deals with China, for example — but we cannot.
On employment regulation, we should still be stuck with the Working Time Directive, which was blamed earlier today (May 25th) by John Black, former President of the Royal College of Surgeons, for “a significant proportion of the £3.3 billion wasted in the NHS on agency staff last year.” Cameron’s concession would leave the Agency Workers Directive and a mountain of other damaging red tape in place.
On energy costs, we should be left with the EU’s ruinous energy policies and emissions targets, which do nothing for the planet but (as former Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani put it) “are creating an industrial massacre in Europe”, closing plants and costing jobs.
The hugely damaging plans for financial markets regulation, including the lunatic Financial Transaction Tax, would remain, undermining the future of the City of London.
Our EU membership would continue to cost the British economy an estimated 10 to 11% of GDP (including regulatory costs)
Our farmers would still be subject to a subsidy policy designed in Brussels for French farmers, rather than a policy designed in Britain for British farmers. Our fisheries would still be an EU “common resource”, to be raped and plundered at will by the Spanish and others.
And worst of all, most of our laws would continue to be made in unaccountable, unrepresentative, unresponsive foreign institutions which have demonstrated a towering contempt for the democratic will of the people.
Not good enough, Prime Minister. Must try harder. All you need to do is to deliver a new relationship with Europe based solely on free trade and voluntary intergovernmental cooperation, and I for one will be happy to vote “YES”.