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Monday, October 08, 2012

Birmingham: Three things Cameron should say on Europe and three he should not

Over on Conservative Home, we argue,
Conservative Party conferences are too often overshadowed by Europe. This has, in the recent past, led the leadership to attempts to avoid discussion, clamp down on debate and hope nobody notices. Given the changes currently going on in the eurozone I think it would be a mistake to try that again this year. If the Conservative leadership does not set out a strong narrative it will be in danger of again being held hostage by those who do. So here are three things David Cameron should do to take the initiative and set out a distinctive Conservative position on Europe and three he should not. 
Firstly, and most importantly, David Cameron should set out an overall vision of the UK in the EU post-eurozone crisis. This should be based on being in the single market but not in the Euro, with new membership terms that recognise the UK is not headed towards further integration, whatever the speed may be. He should be honest about the need for re-negotiation, the chances of success and the timescale, but set out that as the EU is changing there is no other option - the UK cannot cling to the status quo. 
Secondly, he can build credibility for his renegotiations by re-emphasising that the UK will use its right to opt out of 130 crime and policing measures and will not opt back in to any of them while the threat of ECJ jurisdiction remains. He should explain that as the UK is not on route to becoming a part of a unified EU political entity it cannot allow the European Court of Justice to have a role in this sensitive area. He can be open to further cooperation, but given recent history not within the current EU legal structure. 
Thirdly, David Cameron should set out the case for a new EU budget that recognises the need for fiscal responsibility and shares the tough decisions being made in some parts of Europe. We have argued before that this should involve the repatriation of regional policy, saving the UK billions, an idea other donor states like Germany would also appreciate. If no reform is initially forthcoming David Cameron should say he will use the UK veto to force the pace. 
There are also three things that David Cameron should avoid doing. 
Firstly, David Cameron should neither promise an in/out referendum nor rule one out. Promising one will, split the Conservative Party, close down all sensible discussion of reform and potentially lock the UK into an unreformed EU if it votes to stay in. Ruling one out would equally be wrong; we cannot prejudge the UK’s renegotiation of its membership terms nor know the future direction of the EU. 
Secondly, David Cameron should avoid talk of Coalitions beyond 2015. On this more than any other subject the Coalition agreement has already been overtaken by events. When the time comes for an election the Conservatives will need their own distinctive policies based on renegotiation and giving people a say. If discussed in the context of a ‘continuity coalition’ they will lack all credibility. 
Lastly, he should avoid the pitfalls of insulting those who have strong view on the EU. Terms such as “bastards”, “nutters, fruitcakes and racists”, “head bangers” or simply “nasty” (or as Nick Clegg would have it "insular", "chauvinistic" and "short-sighted") are not only deeply unfair to those who have often been proven right, but will further polarise the debate, acting as a recruiting sergeant for UKIP.
David Cameron should instead reach for the middle ground, and say something like, "I want an EU that concentrates on trade, fiscal responsibility and structural economic reform and want it to stop doing everything else. You want it to stop the EU doing everything else but will need to come to an agreement on trade, so we share a similar end point, the difference being I wish to use this opportunity to see if the EU is capable of reform." 


Anonymous said...

Cameron's biggest bargaining tool is that the UK buy more from the EU than they buy from us. I don't recall this being mentioned in recent renegotiation terms.

jebk said...

"he can build credibility for his renegotiations by re-emphasising that the UK will use its right to opt out of 130 crime and policing measures"

...How does shooting yourself in the foot build credibility?

Rik said...

Great summary.
To add:
-Should show that he is working on it and working hard on it (from basically now, like with the budget).
-Fully agree that what sort of referendum is still in the stars (change/in/out, direct or indirect (via elections). Direct in one form or another looks preferable at this stage. If the UKs people support say a change the discussion should not come up again after a year or so.
Stress time and time again the people will have a real choice (he simply lacks credibility on that now).
Furthermore to the EU he should present it as well as an open question (Like: 'I would prefer a continuation, but it is not only my call, better come with a decent package with changes to avoid that the UK's population says exit and you can explane to markets and people in other EU countries the thing is not falling apart'.

A large part of the EU-opposition looks very similar to the the populist vote in Europe (although their one topic is more sympathetic).
Overthere several lessons can be learned.
-not taking it serious makes people more determined. Wilders started losing voters when the media and other parties started to adress his voters more as normal voters and not directly started by calling them names (racist and idiots and varieties thereof). As you mentioned.
-parties that donot realise what is happening can lose a lot of support. The Dutch Christian Democrats didnot realise that the majority of their voters moved to Wilders (being arrogant, 'our voters are not racist' kind of stuff) and kept presenting themselves in their selfcreated social image and lost 2/3 of their votes.
-it can attract a lot of non-voters that lateron remain voting (not become non-voters again). Simply the UKIP might indirectly increase the Conservatives electorate (if played right).
-voters realise things donot change from one day to another so they (a majority) very likely will accept compromises. But they want real action and no tricks.

The Conservatives cannot afford with the UKs electoral system a protest party developing at their side of the spectrum. Look at Germany. The Greens came up and now the SPD is basically standard the second party while pre-Green they were competing with CDU/CSU for being no 1. In the UK this means that a loss of 10% of the vote might result in double /triple or more loss in seats (and basically permanent opposition iso in government). A protest party should be allowed to develop on the left but never on the right.

Avoid Mr Hague presenting things like: you can vote in 2015 so I donot see why there should be a referendum and the EU looks like a jolly good club to me so I really donot see what al this fuzz is about.
'I cannot see much wrong' is next to a PR disaster on this issue also pretty stupid re the economic issue. One way or another someone or something has to be blaimed (recovery seems extremely unlikely) the EU looks like a pretty good candidate (as the messed things up completely) unless you want to take the flak yourself of course.

Anonymous said...

Oh Dear.

And the Faux Euro-sceptic Open Europe Blog rolls on, trying to get the UK under total EUSSR control via the back door.

What Cameron shoud really say, and soon, is two things:

1. "I want to repeal any Act that keeps the UK in the EUSSR volker kirker."

2. "I resign."

That way, we all win.

Idris Francis said...

Yet again, the proposition that Britain could still be "in" the EU, but on completelydifferent terms involving trade but no politics, is a fantasy, or as Ruth Lea said recently "delusional".

Accordingly here is a short list of things Cameron should say to the EU:


Not for us - we prefer freedom.

We cannot afford the £150bn pa cost of being in the EU.

EU incomnpetence and pig-headedness is well on the way to razing European economies to the ground - we do not intend to let that happen here.

We have repealed the ECA 1972, we are no longer members, we have had enough of the lies, the cheating, the fraund and the politics.

That way, Cameron could walk the next election. Without it, he's a dead man walking

Rollo said...

It really does not matter what Cameron says: you cannot believe one word of it. Someone who signs a CAST IRON PLEDGE in order to get votes, then worms out of it, is beyond contempt.
He reminds me of a party leader who took all his party out of the commons because he was not allowed an IN-OUT referendum; then when offered it in the Lords, declined. Who was that slimy creep?

maxus said...

Under article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty renegotiation of competences handed to Brussels can only be triggered if we notify the EU that we wish to leave it. If this is correct then as Cameron has specifically stated that he wants to remain in the EU there is no hope of any renegotiation.

Bugsy said...

@ Maxus - If you are right, why are we even discussing renegotiation?