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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jumping from headline to headline isn't a Europe strategy

Our #EUwargames exercise has already received extensive coverage, but today we'll publish our own, widely anticipated, analysis of the simulation (within the next hour or so).

In the Times, Open Europe's Director Mats Persson trails the analysis. Bringing the simulation back to reality, he argues:
David Cameron heads to another EU summit today. The focus will be on the eurozone’s stuttering “banking union” but the PM will be stalking the corridors seeking support for EU reform. The good news is the appetite for change across Europe is growing. The bad news: Mr Cameron risks wasting the opportunity.  
In a unique exercise, Open Europe has just “war-gamed” UK-EU negotiations and the results were instructive. Once the posturing is over, there’s scope for a range of reforms, including cutting the cost of Brussels and veto rights for national parliaments. Mr Cameron has achieved an EU budget cut and financial services safeguards but the exceptional statesmanship required forsweeping reform is lacking.  
First, he’s fallen behind the curve. In January, he gave a good Europe speech but there was no follow-up plan. Mr Cameron had years to change the rules on benefit entitlements prior to Romanians and Bulgarians gaining full free movement rights but only now are changes being rushed through. Last-minute panic action will never deliver substantial reform.  
Second, there are government malfunctions. On EU migration the Home Office, the Department for Work and Pensions and No10 have pulled in different directions. All governments suffer from internal tensions, but multi-party coalitions such as the Dutch or Finnish are far more joined up on Europe.  
Finally, there’s a failure to understand EU partners’ interests. In our simulation, presented with evidence that France has the most to gain from limiting EU regional spending, Paris was open to budget reform. The UK must identify the reforms that could allow others to buy anygrand bargain. The deals are there to be done.  
Mr Cameron should appoint a lead negotiator or an EU reform task force to co-ordinate work across all departments and tour national capitals testing ideas. France has successfully defended agricultural subsidies for decades using this technique. Jumping from headline to headline may work for domestic issues but on Europe, it’s a sure way to end up pleasing no one.


Average Englishman said...

Dear O.E. Team.
It seems to me your saying that our great leader Dave's approach to Europe is pretty incompetent at present and that he needs to get his act together pretty damn quick.

This is unlikely to happen because Dave's rather disorganised approach is because he is being forced into action by his own back benchers and pressure from others (notably UKIP) rather than because he has a properly thought out policy of his own that he is whole heartedly pursuing. Add to that a UK administration stuffed full of Europhiles who tell him all the time that he cannot possibly do what he now reluctantly feels he has to do (because of this that or the other piece of EU legislation) and you have a recipe for the current mess.

Dave is not going to get anywhere with any meaningful changes because:-

a) He doesn't want to really anyway (I didn't see any real proposals in the last Conservative manifesto worth talking about and the smile on Angela Merkel's face when they meet tells its own story) and,

b) No one in Europe is going to listen a jot to Dave anyway until the UK presses the nuclear button of Section 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to commence EU withdrawal.

More smoke and mirrors once again, as per Tony Blair. The British public deserve better from their political leaders, far better and in particular, more honesty. In the meantime, the EUSSR machine rumbles on, unconcerned.

Anonymous said...

The missing main actor in your article is US, the electorate.

We don't want any more of this rubbish. Europe has just drifted sideways since 2008 and in some cases (the Mananazone) most have drifted downstream. There are no common sense and viable solutions in place for anything (witness the hilarious Banking Union).

The UK needs drastic action and being on the same doomed Titanic as the Eurozone is not going to improve things here in the UK. The risk and the cost of their inaction is slowly being passed to us.

There will be no reform only fudge.

I call for an immediate IN/OUT referendum NOW based on free trade and absolutely nothing else.

The May elections will make it clear to our politicians as to what we demand they do.


christina speight said...

Both Average Englishman and Anonymous immediately after have got it right. Open Europe put up Leadsom's wishy-washy group to represent Britain whereas they are, in fact, part of the "sell-out" . Cameron is not interested in a new relationship with Europe, he just wants to win the election and then fudge the whole issue.

There is no way this core Conservative voter can vote for a party led by Cameron with his idiot HS2 with multiple financial objections . single sex marriage, betrayal over Europe, a dodgy growth based on unsupportable borrowing, lack of courage over airport expansion, etc etc etc. So UKIP it must be and lets ALL do it!

Jesper said...

Yet another example of what happens when using the strategy of triangulation - no long term planning.

I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised that the wargame will (might?) actually be used as a learning opportunity :-)

A bit ironic that an organisation already exists that could do the prep work to get a successful outcome but that organisation is dead set against the initiative. The organisation is the EU and its institutions. They are not likely to put the common good ahead of their own personal good.

Rik said...

Fully agree with most of OEs conclusions.
However the immigrationfile remains a huge problem, Cameron simply has inherited a complete disaster from especially the Blair administration.
The legal situation is basically clear you need to a new agreement with the Balkans with nothing to give in return (so totally unlikely to happen), or change the treaty with roughly the same problem and even more practical complications.
What you need is damage limitation and make sure that the blame can be put with Brussels.

As damage limitation likely requires some (EU) legally dubious measures better do it as late as possible, makes eg a legal challenge much more difficult.
On the PR front however Cameron is doing a very poor job. He can learn a lesson from Obozo in this respect. Who basically says even when he has to take a P, 'Bush did it'.
Same that the EU (esp. Commission) is hardly working constructively in solving this platform-eroding issue or at least mitigates that. At best it will only work partially but a but is better than getting all the flak yourself.

Most important is that is coordinated looks a mess now and that a rough strategy is developed.
And as OE states he has to get the initiative back. A lot of countries have very similar problems/issues with electorate and populist. Basically every Northern traditional party will have to make some noise especially in pre-election time simply for electoral reasons.
And the South needs the UK aboard as it simply will move into a direction that at one point the UK will start blocking any Treaty change simply as a fall back plan B. The South simply can not take that risk as the treaty change is likely to safe them from getting with their lips below manure level. But somebody has to make that clear to them. Probably indirectly, looks much nicer and has the same effect.

Rik said...

This is just phase 1 of the reneg (we might have 10 or so of these before a deal is done).

Cameron should get the facts in the open so the other side will have to start to take notice of it.
And it is a game with many stakeholders so there is a lot to be communicated especially as it is rather complicated stuff. It took half a year before the electorate properly understood that there is a third way seen the polls.
You got the businesssector that has to understand that keeping a freetradezone and go for markets in growth areas iso Zombie-economies might not be such a bad alternative.

Same with the Commission and Co. Now they see it a those bloody Poms not listening to their brilliant ideas. While they should think:
Find a solution that works in the UK or:
-my own pension get underfunded;
-we will have to stop some pet projects because of the decreased revenue;
-Merky will be angry;
-'Dave' might f up one of the treatychanges we might need ourselves to keep our own kindergarten open;
and stuff like that. Simply it is not a great deal for you but the alternatibes are worse.

And as OE states you should start with that and create a lot of media noise. When you do very likely in a lot of countries locals will pick it up as well.
EU issue in the media and Wilders is twitting. For Germany every EU issue reminds people of the AfD and get their Professor interviewed.

Anyway Cameron will have to get the initiative back and determine the agenda not walk after every incident that happens between now and 2017.
He can however use these as a starter for proposing stuff or bringing issues to the attention of the general public that the EU rather would have kept quiet (and there are alot of them). And just let them every time publicly more or less state why they want something that is clearly not having an electoral platform in several countries. Often the reasons simply suck. Create Catch22s for them. Bad press or unpopular PR when defending it and there are issues galore on which this is possible.
Works probably in the UK as well re his credibility. The Parliament Act thingy looks a very good start.
Also shows that he has collones that are substantially larger than those of the other side. At the end of the day the other side is manned with folks that are easily scared as they are afraid for their jobs and these people always lose when you play your cards right.

Jabba the Cat said...

As usual, you have to go to Dr Richard North's EUReferendum blog to get the real world lowdown on the EUSSR...

christina speight said...

Jabba is spot on. The only analytical Eurosceptic (with a big 'E') commentator around.

I had a call from UKIP's last real leader - and its first MEP - today and we agree that disaster faces the country. We also looked in our mirrors and said that it can't go on for us much longer.

Anonymous said...

In January, Mail journalist described any potential renegotiation as a "pantomime".

Haven't looked at the war-gaming yet but I'm amazed at the disregard that exists for EU Case Law. For a start, it is NOT possible to remain in the EU and repatriate powers. That is explicitly forbidden by the ECJ ruling that says the loss of national sovereignty is permanent.

Then there's the commitment to economic and political union, mainstreamed at Maastricht, with a requirement to respect this as a Treaty goal (standard practice in international law). There is also a commitment to do nothing that undermines it.

Collectively they supply a ratchet known as the 'acquis communautaire'. The only way to get powers back is to leave the EU, and fall back on mutual commitments to free trade and non-erection of trade barriers.

There are none so blind as those who will not see!