Sunday, 29 June 2014

EU Exit Has Become Closer

Not unsurprisingly across most of the Sunday papers today are reflections on the fallout of Juncker's election as EU Commission President. While humiliating for Cameron, Juncker's election is great news for those wishing EU exit. The exit door as a result has become somewhat closer. As this Mail on Sunday article highlights with their latest poll:
[Britons] believe Mr Juncker’s victory has probably killed off Mr Cameron’s hopes of persuading people to vote to stay in the EU by grabbing back powers from Brussels before a referendum.
Had Cameron had his way and the European Council blocked Juncker, it would have greatly enhanced his 'reform rhetoric' and his claims of infleunce within the EU. This particularly so when coupled with his untrue claim that he vetoed a Treaty. But with Cameron so publicly humiliated by the EU, his ambition to reform the EU, as Christopher Booker observes, is the casualty of the vote. Any claim that Cameron could somehow negotiate a new relationship for Britain with the EU, then lead a " yes" campaign for us to remain a member, lies in ruins.

This even more so given that Juncker has spent his entire career advocating further EU integration an appointment which is a clear message to Cameron regarding his reform agenda.

Also as Booker notes Juncker's appointment is not good news for the EU either. Not only have they antagonised a major member state but they have landed themselves with a candidate who no-one wanted, including Juncker himself, and who is utterly unsuited to the job:
What is even clearer, however, is that Friday’s debacle has left the EU itself in an even sorrier state than Mr Cameron. It was the Prime Minister who was, forlornly, trying to uphold the rules of that same treaty, by insisting that it is not the right of the European Parliament to nominate a candidate for the presidency. And we are now left with the astonishing spectacle of his colleagues having landed themselves with a man who many of them privately agree is hopelessly unfitted for such a taxing job: a chain-smoking boozer, a bad-tempered loner who hates paperwork... 
Normally initial candidates for the EU top jobs don't end up in the position...the rule of thumb being if you don't want the job put yourself forward. Initial candidates are used as stalking horses which then allows a compromise candidate to emerge - in line with the EU's desire for consensus.

To give an example we can go back to the President of the European Council in 2009. Four candidates were put forward; obviously Tony Blair (who was never going to get the job), Dutch Prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, Felipe Gonzalez and Jean-Claude Juncker (he sounds familiar). As we now know Van Rompuy emerged and was chosen - a chap most people had never heard of. Van Rompuy noted at the time confirming EU consensus:
"I will consider everyone's interests and sensitivities. Even if our unity is our strength, our diversity remains our wealth. Every country should emerge victorious from negotiations. A negotiation that ends with a defeated party is never a good negotiation."
What a stark contrast with nomination of Juncker now, there's certainly no consensus, a major member state has been insulted and the EU has chosen an initial candidate against form. And as Richard North argues they did so by breaking Article 17 (7) of the Lisbon Treaty:
In reality, though, the Council would not, by preference, have nominated Juncker. In accepting the Parliament's nomination, they have ceded the power to the Parliament.
That, in my view, breaches the rules at two levels. The Council has not fulfilled its duty, in making the nomination. Secondly, it has allowed another institution to take over its power.
The treaty is very specific in splitting the two functions - nomination on the one hand, and approval on the other. If the intention had been for the Parliament to take over the entire process, it would have said so.
To cede the power entirely to the Parliament is a clear break of the treaty.
Thus the EU is in a mess, Cameron has been shown up publicly that he cannot deliver on reform or influence and he almost certainly cannot recommend an "in" vote in 2017. Add to that his general incompetence and it's difficult to envisage a better framework for the 'outers' to win a referendum. The chances of winning a referendum has improved significantly.


  1. Well after the events of the last few days it makes things a bit clearer regarding the referendum we have been promised.

    Having killed of the option of renegotiation we are left with the stark choice of more Europe or no Europe. After 41 years of Europe are we really going to vote more Europe?

    Having been rejected by his European partners can Cameron credibly campaign for more unreformed Europe at the referendum?

    1. Absolutely, it becomes a straight in/out with none of the reform to split the out vote. A referendum under Cameron becomes much more winnable.

      Cameron can't possibly campaign for an unreformed EU, it will be a marked difference with 1975 - here we would have the government unable to back the in vote.

    2. A referendum under Cameron becomes winnable only if he wins the election and has a referendum.

      I don't trust Cameron but if he were to promise to support the out campaign I would vote Conservative in 2015 as I suspect would a lot of voters who have migrated to UKIP.

      I see this promise as the only way Cameron can win in 2015. He is just the sort of man to ditch whatever principals he says he has to maintain his position in power.

      How desperate is he to keep his hands on the levers of power?

    3. Yes, and that posses a dilemma for UKIP voters, do they continue voting UKIP thus probably keeping Cameron out (and thus no referendum) or do they vote Tory? Trust is a big issue and it would certainly be a gamble...

    4. All the same I find it unthinkable that Cameron would campaign to withdraw from an unreformed EU.

      If you follow the current trains of thought, it's likely Cameron won't get a majority Government even if the Conservatives end up as the largest Parliamentary party. If the 2017 Referendum ends up as one that a coalition partner must accept, it doesn't take long to conclude that the quid pro quo for that is that Cameron campaigns to remain in. Then the detail of 'reform' becomes critical. Right now, there's every sign that the reform agenda will be offered to the public only as a blank cheque, with no meaningful detail on the label.

      In spite of the protests of some senior Tories with regard to the consequences of an 'out' vote, I see no evidence that Parliament would be willing to respect a withdrawal vote by the electorate with legislation leading to actual withdrawal. Given the choice, the Conservative DNA is a default internal civil war mode, in preference to saying 'no' to the EU.

  2. It'd pretty obvious that the 2017 referendum will go the way of the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, knowing cast-iron Dave's previous form.

  3. I'm afraid that I think that until the current batch of politicians, journalists,frontmen in tv and radio and those in organisations such as Common Purpose have died off, then nothing is going to change. Lying has become so ingrained that I don't think any of them even realise they are doing it. Patriotism is a dirty word and being white and English is something to be ashamed of. One day these communists will be gone and normal people will take up where they have left off. Unfortunately, they (not me because it won't happen in my lifetime) will have to spend their lives rebuilding the civilisation that the communists in our midst have destroyed. So, for the time being, I'm afraid I don't think it matters who we vote for, the die is cast and the path is chosen.

  4. I agree with JiC – I believe that this charade will be played out to its end.

    I can not see a referendum being offered, or won if it is – my only hope is that apathy increases to deny the EU its credibility.

    There could be a few flash points – direct EU taxes or more draconian AGW fighting measures (and boy, are they itching to get into our homes)

    Apathy seems to be our best weapon – but we can’t use it whilst we are sending anti-EU parties to the EU parliament.

    That, and Flexcit, of course.

  5. It is absolutely clear that the Tories don't want to leave the EU. I don't believe a referendum would be offered were there a serious prospect of it producing an out vote. They'd rather renege and wreck the Conservative Party.

    I also think we are getting a bit too wrapped up with the Juncker business and Cameron going off to Brussels to negotiate, with it becoming increasingly obvious that he's unlikely to be given even a figleaf.

    A time back there was talk of the Spinelli Plan and a two tier EU with the Eurozone in the first tier. If this was being fleshed out by 2017, it could be made to sound like the Tories had triumphed and brought the EU around to the idea of reform. In the UK, it could be presented as all their own work and genuine reform. This would happen with or without the Tories' contribution and the same process would be going on whichever UK government.

    I have no time for the idea of the UK being an Associate Member of the EU.

    I'm not inclined to the idea that the Conservatives should be supported on the basis that Cameron has over-committed to a referendum which is increasingly likely to result in out.

    The consequences of a referendum producing an in result would basically be game over.

  6. If Cameron can't win a referendum to stay in the EU then Cameron won't be 'allowed' to run said referendum - the next election will go to Labour. Failure is not an option.

  7. Reform was never going to happen anyway. It's all just rhetoric. The Referendum will probably never happen because the Conservatives are just too scared of losing, If it were held, it would probably be rigged and a "no" result would be ignored - as in Ireland and France when they voted on Lisbon.
    For the time being we in the UK have the astonishing humiliation of being directed by the president of a postage-stamp sized country, and a man with a reputation for tax evasion.

  8. I wouldn't raise your hopes. The EU is known for a readiness to adjust its words to get around any obstacles to its destination. Look at how swiftly it scrubbed out 'EU Constitution' and renamed what was virtually the same document as 'Lisbon Treaty' to overcome democratic rejection.

    If Cameron wins the next GE on his promise of a referendum in 2017, he most likely will go to the EU and say "Look, I can deliver you a British lock-in and silence dissent for a generation - IF you change the words 'Ever Closer Union' to something like 'Towards Full Alliance'... deckchair shuffling, I know, but I can sell this as a major negotiation victory at home - and you lose nothing in the bargain.

  9. What a horrible xenophobic blog.