Cameron fails to practise what he preaches over Europe

David Cameron - Some rights reserved by The Prime Minister's OfficeThere will be lots of fascinating analysis of the prime minister’s speech on Europe. However, this response from the deputy director of the Centre for European Reform, Katinka Barysch, over at Comment is Free caught my eye (emphasis added):

Germany, France and other EU countries have indicated that they want to accommodate Cameron to help Britain to stay in the union. What they simply cannot do is to allow Britain a pick-and-choose membership in response to the threat of withdrawal. Why should Britain be allowed to flout some club rules but not Poland, Denmark or Ireland?

Of course Cameron’s EU strategy is driven by domestic constraints. To some extent this is true for all European leaders. However, Cameron and his cabinet colleagues have time and again called for other EU leaders, most importantly the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, to overrule domestic public opinion and lead in the euro crisis. This would have been the opportunity for Cameron to show leadership by telling his party and his people where Britain’s real interests lie and what a smart EU strategy looks like.

Cameron is right to defend the sanctity of the single market as the eurozone countries move towards fiscal union and more stringent economic rules. He is also right to object to financial market regulation that would substantially harm the City of London. It is these things that Cameron should spend his political firepower on. Not on trying to get an opt-out from the working time directive or fisheries policy or other parts of a “new deal”. By adopting a strategy of blackmail he is in fact undermining his ability to fight for Britain’s interests.

It is another demonstration of the way in which the prime minister has put the interests of easy party management above those of the country. That, of course, is the very opposite of what leadership should be about.

* Nick Thornsby is a day editor at Lib Dem Voice.

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  • It is simply a case of ‘Blackmail’ in my opinion. Vote for me next time, cos if I’m PM you can have a referendum. A wide section of the British public want a vote about Europe, and some of them are daft enough to believe his promises again!

  • Helen Dudden 24th Jan '13 - 10:07am

    Does that mean vote for the Lib Dems too?

  • I thought Nick wanted a straight in/out vote on the UK’s membership of the European Union?

    Isn’t that in the Lib Dem manifesto? And now that such a referendum is actually a possibility you’re now telling me that you won’t support it? More insincerity perhaps?

  • Helen Dudden, by all means vote for the Lib Dems, but teh Lib Dems are not promising a referendum; certainly not at this stage.

    The referendum promise is to staunch an implosion in the Conservative Party. It is really an internal Tory Party affair that Cameron wants to externalise to his advantage. We all know that there are Tory MPs whose view points and behaviour mean that they could easily defect to UKIP. The promise of a referendum makes this less likely.

    However, if the substance of the referendum, Cameron’s vaunted renegotiation were made explicit fesh fissions would open up amongst Conservatives.

    It would be very foolish of any other Party to come to the aid of the fractured Tories by promising a referendum at a specified time when there are no renegotiation points to respond to and when external events are very likely to intervene.

    In 2017 the EU could easily be involved in international trade, finance or intellectual property negotiations and treaties, which could easily overtake the issues at stake. What if a new EU treaty is in the process odiscussion?

    Why would any other party (that does not have such a split to patch up) make such a time specific pledge, when it is obvious that that it may well be totally impratical to sustain the promise?

    The recession was predicted to last to 2015; this has slipped to 2017 and maybe longer. Whatever governkent is inplace at that time could well be highly unpopular.

    This move by Cameron is above all a measure of his desperation.

  • Matthew Huntbach 24th Jan '13 - 11:56am

    Maggie Gee

    A wide section of the British public want a vote about Europe, and some of them are daft enough to believe his promises again!

    Yes, but why?

    Why do they want a “vote about Europe”?

    What are these things they think “Europe” is doing that they want a vote about to stop?

    I think most people haven’t a clue, but they’ve been whipped up into thinking “Europe” is some bad thing by political right-wingers who have found this an excellent distraction, and an excellent way to get support from the naive for policies which will actually have the OPPOSITE effect to what the naive want. What the naive THINK being against “Europe” means is some sort of nostalgic return to a little Britain past. What the real anti-EU fanatics want is ever more of the extreme free market policies that have been the biggest destructive force on traditional values and ways of doing things in this country. The anti-EU fanatics go on about loss of UK independence, but they are silent on the way global big money is buying up Britain, and taking control of us. Look at all those big projects funded by Middle East oil money. Look at the way London house price are being pushed up by it becoming a bolt-hole for the world’s shady people. Look at the way so much of our vital infrastructure and energy supply is now in the hands of foreign companies. Do you hear UKIP say ANYTHING about this? No. So what’s all this “independence” stuff? A way of distracting attention, placing the blame elsewhere, making people think about other things.

    What are the things about the EU that most concern Cameron? Well, the things that are always mentioned, in fact almost the only things that are mentioned, are the working time directive and control over the finance industry. So is that the great tyranny of “Europe”? Forcing on us decent working conditions, and stopping the fat cats from diddling us out of tax income by playing one country against another?

    If Europe really was the tyranny people suppose it is by this call for a vote in getting out of it, wouldn’t they be able to say just what it does that is so tyrannical? I think if I were ground down by a tyrant, I’d be able to say in detail just what it is the tyrant was doing that was grinding me down. So, how many of these people, this “wide section of the British public” can say in detail just WHAT it is that “Europe” is doing that they want a vote on? No, not just vague hand-waving, not “friend of a friend” accounts of something “Europe” has supposedly stopped (when most of the time an investigation into the facts shows if there is anything it’s not an EU issue), not a repetition of what they read in yesterday’s right-wing newspaper, no, instead let;s have some actual facts on something THEY personally have experienced.

  • I have to hand it to you Matthew, you can come out with some really good stuff! Well structured rant – I hope it gets picked up by some of the big wigs.

  • Peter Hayes 24th Jan '13 - 5:36pm

    Thanks Matthew, exactly what I think but much better expressed.

  • Matthew Huntbach you are absolutely spot on !!

  • Matthew H

    Great post! Agree strongly

  • David Allen 24th Jan '13 - 6:43pm

    Matthew, I’ll start by echoing all your fan mail. I think many of your points will eventually gain traction with the public, and if a referendum does happen, In will win. Farage keeps on ranting about the EU costing us £50M a day, but he is just playing scare with numbers: it needs to be rammed home that it is just 1% of our total government budget. So even if some of that 1% is wasted by bad bureaucracy in Brussels (as opposed, of course, to the totally perfect bureaucracy we have in Whitehall!), it’s still pretty small beer. It’s nothing compared with 50% of our trade and livelihood, to say nothing of war and peace, which depends on maintaining effective relationships with Europe, and not just throwing over the applecart because Farage feels like having a pop at the foreigners.

    The one “Europe” issue that is not quite so trivial, however, is immigration. Like it or don’t like it, the influx of half a million Poles made a real difference to life in Britain. And it’s a class issue. To the comfortable middle class, it’s interesting Polish delis with nice food. To others, it’s competition for scarce jobs. Tricky.

    “29 million Romanians” will not, despite the right-wing press scare stories, land on us any time soon. However, the accession of Turkey would be a different matter.

    If we must have a renegotiation process, free movement across EU borders would be a good issue to throw into the pot. If we want to see Turkey ultimately join the EU – which has long been the UK view – then we need first to put in place some regulations which would make that practicable.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Jan '13 - 10:28am

    Thanks all. Is this really so bloody difficult that those at the top of our party can’t say these things? To me, it’s just obvious.

    Anyway, if we do get a referendum, I propose the people who were in charge of the “Yes” campaign on AV be given charge of the “Pull out of Europe” campaign.

  • Matthew Huntbach 25th Jan '13 - 10:30am

    By the way, I did once apply to be approved as a Liberal Democrat PPC, and was turned down because they said I had “poor communication skills”. I think what they meant was “too working class”.

  • Paul McKeown 25th Jan '13 - 12:58pm

    @Matthew Huntbach

    Great post.

    Your conclusion that rage against the European Union by right-wingers is an attempt at political misdirection ought to be shouted out loud and clear.

    A similar – and related – practice of populist/nationalist political movements is that of blaming minority groups or populations (which are often poorly placed to defend themselves) for the ills of our society. Ills which we, the British people, have inflicted on ourselves, of course. Not others.

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