LibLink: Edward McMillan-Scott: Major adds new ingredient to Europe debate

edward mcmillan-scottFormer Liberal Democrat MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber has written about John Major’s intervention on Europe last week.

But Sir John’s intervention shows how desperate David Cameron is to shore up his dwindling store of continental goodwill, to appease the 100-or-so Tory MPs who want out of Europe and are holding their tongues until after the Rochester and Strood By-election this coming Thursday.

Although the headlines have focused on Ed Miliband’s leadership crisis, both he and Mr Cameron are now on notice. And bang on cue Nigel Farage – on target to win the by-election handsomely – positions himself between them with a demand to be included in TV debates.

How often have foreign leaders heard a British Conservative say “I really need your help: my backbenchers want to see real change?” and usually they have delivered. It is not weakness on their part but a strategic calculation that Britain must be part of the process, whether it is the EU or, say, Nato.

John Major’s speech was often equivocal about Mr Cameron’s tactics towards the EU, but he introduced a new note, massively upping the ante, by saying “for the first time, there is a serious possibility that our electorate could vote to leave the EU. I put the chance of exit at just under 50 per cent”.

He also talked about how Cameron has been playing both ends against the middle:

When David Cameron told his party not to ‘bang on’ about Europe, it was wishful thinking. Now, he is forced by his own manoeuvres to do exactly that.

Talking around Westminster about these matters, and the possibility of a referendum on Europe in 2017, I understand that Mr Cameron has been assuring both side of the argument of his good intentions. On the one hand he can say to Euro-sceptics ‘this time I really mean it about the referendum, and I’ll campaign to get out if I don’t achieve reforms in the EU’ and to the pro-Europeans ‘I am all that stands between a sensible approach to Brussels and a populist Tory leader who won’t equivocate or pander to UKIP, just call for a withdrawal’.

With that in mind, it has been a testing period for the Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders, who stand on the same ground, that only if there is a substantial change in our relationship with the EU arises will they support a referendum.

All three spoke to the CBI Congress recently in the knowledge that its membership of larger UK businesses overwhelmingly wants to remain firmly with the EU’s Single Market.

He also adds that Whitehall has been looking at British interests in the context of the debate:

One of the lesser-known aspects of the Europe debate has been the painstaking examination of every facet of our relationship by Whitehall departments, who in turn have been consulting British interests widely.

As the results have emerged month by month in almost all areas, the findings are that there is little appetite, or indeed little need, for change in our relationship with the EU.

You can read the whole article here.

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This entry was posted in Europe / International and LibLink.


  • I have appetite for change with Europe as our one Westminster parliment are not keeping safe its own lower paid electorate, if Sir John was correct that it’s close on 50/50 anyone who fails taking notice seems to be undermining their own political career and has no regard for a significant part of the native population.

    It will be fascinating seeing how low the Goverment that forms the 2015 parliment has in percentage terms of the total electorate and claim it has a mandate

  • This is just another reminder that it’s vital that the disaster that is the remnants of the conservative party are got out of government next May and kept out of government.

  • Tsar Nicolas 19th Nov '14 - 11:05am

    Firefighters were refused a proper wage rise a few years back on the grounds that there were too many applicants for each job, an implicit admission by the powers-that-be that supply of labour influences the price of labour ie more workers mean lower wages.

    Those who protest most loudly for more immigration, the free flow of labour etc are on the side of the corporations who want cheap labour and minimum wage levels. This is the very opposite of what I have always understood to be progressive politics.

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