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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Do Ed Miliband and David Cameron actually agree on Europe?

An emerging cross-party consensus on EU reform?
On Europe, Labour doesn't exactly shy away from turning the debate into a discussion of "Tory splits". Ed Miliband had another go in Wednesday's PMQs, perhaps a vintage attack inspired by a folk memory of the advantage Labour gained from the Maastricht rebellions twenty years ago. He said: "When it comes to Europe, it is the same old Tories: a divided party, and a weak Prime Minister."

It has been less clear, though, what Labour would actually do differently - to put it mildly. In the past, Ed M has also attacked the Conservatives for endangering the single market and jobs. In one such attack:

"Can he confirm that what he actually proposed was to unpick the existing rules of Lady Thatcher’s Single European Act as regards the internal market? Given that those proposals would have changed 25 years of the single market, why did he make them in the final hours of the summit?"

But this morning on the BBC's Today Programme, behind the bluster, the big news is that he actually agrees with David Cameron (and a laterday Clegg) on more than anyone perhaps would like to admit: 

Miliband said he wanted "change Europe" to "better reflect our interests." Who could object to that? He also said:
“I think we are moving to a more flexible Europe, a more flexible EU. Why do I say that? Because we will have some countries in the euro, Britain’s not going to be joining the euro, won’t be joining the euro if I’m Prime Minister, and therefore by the nature of it, we’re going to have some countries that are in the euro and some countries that are out. That makes, what I would call, a more flexible European Union.
"It’s a more flexible European Union. That needs to be reformed urgently to work in Britain’s interests." 
This is almost exactly what Cameron says. Zero difference. But absolutely right. 

He also supports the Government's "referendum lock";
"Clearly there is legislation on the books which we don’t propose repealing, which says if there is a transfer of powers to the EU then there would be a referendum. If there is a transfer of powers, there’s legislation on the books that says there would be a referendum."

Like Cameron, he also thinks that the UK needs to repatriate powers:
"Other areas, let me give you other areas. Regional policy, the way that a national government can have an industrial policy. I think there are areas where Britain actually needs some powers back."
Reforming regional policy is a great area to target, so well done Ed. Bringing 'powers back' in order to have an "industrial policy" would, as he has accused the Tories of doing, clearly mean unpicking the single market - and is an open invitation to the French to let the state aid flow - so perhaps not the greatest idea. But let's not split hairs...
Disagreements? Well:
“The debate here is between essentially those who say reform Europe and the European Union to change it to work in our interests, and I fear the Prime Minister’s strategy which is leading us towards exit, which would cause real damage to our economy.”
"I think in some areas, and this is a difference from this government - I say, for example, the European Arrest Warrant, which is something where Europe cooperates with the European Union, that helps our country... "
But he is only able to cite one policy example - the EAW - where he takes a different view to the government. And even here, from the Government's point of view, the real question is reform of the EAW and the jurisdiction of the ECJ post 2014, and whether to opt back into this particular measure.

Leave aside the current shouting match - and look at the bigger picture of Britain's role in the world and Europe - and this a country far more united on the need for anew relationship within the EU than the politicians would dare to admit.


Corin Vestey said...

Utter nonsense. The politicians have been united for years. The country has disagreed with them for years. What's changed is the ability of the Conservative leadership and MPs to face both ways. Thank God they are finally running out of road. As is Open Europe and its Europhilia.

Rik said...

The communicationstrategy of Mr Ed is even a bigger joke than that of Cameron. The fist thing you have to learn if you want to sell a product, any product be it a political party or soap is be consistemt in the message you send out.

There is hardly anything that is even remotely consistent in what we see here. It is really moving all over the place. Today's message looks to be designed to give exactly the opposite impression of the one from yesterday. As the one that is selling something or better tries to do that you look like a complete idiot.

How do you want to bring a very complicated and long negotiation process to a good end with people in charge that are simply not able to say the same thing 2 days (better communicate the same message) in a row?

Mr Ed wants change but is not willing to create the conditions that might enforce change. Going hat in hand with nothing to offer in return. That is not going to work any 3rd class carsalesman can tell you.
You have to make the product, the EU partners have to buy (a change of treaty to get powers back tot he UK) attractive for them. Attractive in the way that they are willing to buy it. Not that they really like it could as well be as here for damage limitation. You donot like sandbags but when you have a flood they come really handy.
The only things possible are a possible UK exit and possible obstruction of a treaty change for other reasons EZ problems mainly. The moment you take that of the table you can forget it. Why would they buy something you just delivered for free.

Same for the homemarket (UK voter). Will anybody believe that there is a realistic chance for a change that make the majority of the UK voters want to stay in the UK. Totally unrealistic, not with the unconditional outs and a lot of the media on their side having 2 1/2 year to bring the message across of which this comment is a rather complicated version:"
The strategy followed is uncredible and the guys that should execute the strategy seem nowhere up to the job".
Likely to be backed up by a complete lack of visible results.

Mr Ed being in a considerable worse position than Cameron. As he first would have to get into the government to be able to deliver anyway. And that is largely not his call. Under normal circumstances that will happen when the right moment to sell the thing (while the other side needs a treatychange) is possibly long gone.

jon livesey said...

I think that this is a really important development. Ed Milliband isn't a fool, so obviously he hasn't missed the point that he is saying very much the same thing as Cameron.

In fact, I would say that the very fact that he proposed only the EAW as an area of difference is a pretty shrill dog whistle.

In a Parliamentary system, it is the job of the Opposition to oppose and critique Government policy. Only in wartime and in other critical periods is this rule dropped.

If Ed is sending out rather distinct messages that he doesn't actively oppose Cameron's position, it has to be because he has decided that Cameron's stance is correct, important and actionable.

And of course that is nothing but the truth. If the euro 17 want to open up the Treaties, they *have* to negotiate. They have no alternative because Treaty changes are subject to veto. It's not a matter of the,m being will to negotiate, or buying a story. They just have to, or the Single Market breaks up and everyone suffers.

All they can do is delay things by reforming the euro-area with private agreements, but private agreements among the euro 17 cannot ensnare the UK.

Anonymous said...

Simple referendum question "Should Article 50 be invoked and a new relationship agreed with the EU?"
We run a £48 billion a year deficit with the rest of the EU and the vast majority of trade agreement,even those between Norway and the EU, are agreed at "World" level first.Even our political class and the FCO should manage a very good deal with those cards.

Rik said...

But on the other hand if you want results from a reneg or any negotiation, saying Sunday this and yesterday or the day before that roughly the exact opposite will not be very helpful.
Not very helpful as well will be this show of ultra-unprofessionalism. The way it is presented to the world by basically the whole political class in the UK is simply a complete joke. You simply show that you (as that political class) are not on top of things. Hardly helpful if you want a result as well. And hardly helpful again and a likely partykiller when you have to sell a long complicated process to a very 'unhappy' electorate, while your credibility on the issue is around zero. And substantial parts of that electorate already moved to other parties.

If you have to do a very complicated negotiation you need to have the oversight. You get much better results. Especially here where the other EU-side likely hasnot, as there are simply too many parties involved.
And this is the easy part, furtheron up the road you end up in parallel mixed negotiations on
fishery, agriculture, legislation in several fields which is several times more difficult to oversee.

Well anyway the way this is going government (especially when rumours are true that no in-out will be promised other than in the same vague term as previously already didnot work) as well as opposition will not do the reneg job. Cameron is simply, unless Mr Ed appears to be Mr Saville's bad ugly brother, not going to be reelected. And what is worse people will know that within a few weeks or at best months from now and start to react on that.
Meaning that the actually will likely vote as the polls show (iso more strategic). Because Cameron is not going to make it anyway.
Mr Ed is not in the position to reneg as he is opposition.

Likely missing the best chance they will ever get that way to have chance in Europe and sustainable UK-EU relations.

Cameron is in the process of making himself a quantite negliciable as if he will not be reelected just deferring till he is gone will do the job (from the otherside of the table's perspective that is).
There simply has to be a proper chance he comes back after the election to make it work. The otherside can defer for 2 years but not for 5 or 8. Certainly not when when a referendum puts the thing under pressure.

In a nutshell this is not going well. It simply gives the impression that a bunch of amateurs are at work. You cannot change dates 3 times and communicate on the most important issue different things, while your credibility is zero to start with. Things donot work that way.

Rollo said...

As Nigel would say, you cannot slide a fag paper between them. The same deliberate deception of "vote for me I will renegotiate terms and repatriate powers" has been shared by every lying cheating party leader for the last 20 years. They all know the meaning of the Acquis Communautaire ratchet; and they all lie about it.

christina speight said...

Rollo - the touchstone is Article 50. That route is the only one that can be applied NOW. We cannot wait till 2018 for a referendum based upon highly doubtful treaty changes then. That is just kicking the whole issue into the long grass which is exactly Cameron is trying to do.

I think you credit Cameron with more brain than he possesses by suggesting that he has any concept of the Acquis Communautaire. He is a "a bear of very little brain". He just wants to change the subject and found an excuse tro do so today.


Most people here will have seen the Henry Fonda film "12 Angry Men" in which Fonda finds himself in a minority of one in the jury room, and over a couple of hours of film time persuades the other eleven to agree with him.

Many here will still be unaware that our Jury system scarcely exists on the Continent and that their politicians would not recognise such a concept if reasoned argument winning the day. Instead its all QMV and the determination of the majority to prevail.

Unfortunately Cameron appears to think (unless of course he is merely trying to deceive us, and not for the first time) that he is going to go into that meeting of 27, bend them to his will, and emerge with a new deal that will satisfy the people of this country.

Deaam on, Dave! It ain't going to happen.

And don't take my word for it, Michael Portillo said last night in the late night Politics Show that he simply does not believe that Cameron will ever hold a Referendum, because he will not get terms thar we would agree too, and to hold a Referendum advocating Yes would destroy him.

Absolutely right, and although for those reaosons it will not happen I can only wish that it did. On both counts and the sooner the better.

To quote Ruth Lea again, anyone who things we can renegotiate acceptable terms within the EU is "delusional".

Andrew Smith said...

Europhiles in all parties have been selling their product consistently for years. You heard their case on Question Time last evening, and what dishonesty and weakness they betrayed.

Of course Cameron and Miliband agree - like all the political class they want us to be ruled by the EU-elite and not by a democratically accountable UK government.

BTW, can anyone tell me exactly why Cameron has to travel to Holland to make a speech to the British people. He was in the HoC today so why did he not take the opportunity of telling us what he has evidently leaked to the press and media?

Gosporttory said...

As usual, the political elite are looking after their futures by eventually getting a very lucrative job in the EU Gravy Train after leaving Westminster e.g. Lord and Lady Kinnock, Mandelson, etc, etc all coining in a fortune without any receipted expenses being required, they are also all good socialists by the way!!!

It is no wonder none of them want to give us our long overdue referendum on whether we are happy to continue to subsidise same.

It is also sickening that people representing Open Europe are also prepared to give 2 fingers to the British people!

jon livesey said...

There is a meme that pops up here and elsewhere rather often, and it's the "They won't negotiate" meme.

There is little evidence behind this. In fact, the historical record is replete with occasions when the EU negotiated over this and that, granting opt-outs and exceptions, and cutting deals between a sub-set of members, such as Schengen or the fiscal integration deal.

Yet people remain convinced that Cameron can never "get" anything from Brussels, so what remains is to bring down the pillars of the Temple and storm out of the EU.

Well here is a news item. Gazprom supplies gas to several European countries, and they collectively just announced that they have negotiated a rebate of $4.4bn from Gazprom, because Gazprom's prices were too high.

Now think about that. Gazprom and Russia and essential energy supplies. Does that sound like a situation where you could ask for a rebate and get it?

And the answer is yes, because Gazprom has skin in the game too, since it wants to keep its customers for the long haul.

And what is true for Gazprom is true for the EU. If it really wants to keep its current membership, and even increase it, it has to behave reasonably and responsibly.

If the UK actually does leave the EU, someone will be responsible, and I doubt the EU wants the finger pointing at them.

So bring on the sensible adults and start the negotiation. We don't have anything to lose by being patient.