Wednesday, 2 September 2015

EU Referendum: The Cameron Ploy

We have noted before the advantages the leavers have over the 1975 referendum campaign. One of course is the internet, another is the Electoral Commission, which has gone some way to ensure that the ballot paper and the question will be relatively neutral which is in contrast to 1975. 

Crucially another advantage we have is a weak opposition general in the form of Cameron. It's clear he did not want a referendum nor does he want to leave the EU. That he has offered a referendum against his wishes was more a reflection of his political weakness at the time not his view that he thinks he's confident that he can win it.

We know this because he has made a serious of political mistakes. His referendum offer was made due to pressure from backbenchers in the belief that such a promise would win help him the 2015 election - and it was an offer made regardless of what concessions Cameron thought he could agree from Brussels. It is very likely he chose 2017 as the UK takes over the Presidency of the Council of the EU rather than any other consideration.

Cameron's fundamentally weak position is exposed by his change of strategy three times since promising a referendum, changes made necessary by the EU not wishing to bend over backwards to accommodate UK demands:

Initially Cameron attempted to hijack a new EU treaty - Fundamental Law - a treaty which was, and still is, necessary to try to resolve the Eurozone crisis. Confident in 2013 that a new treaty was imminently forthcoming, and all the indications at the time suggested it was, Cameron attempted to hijack it with the threat of a UK veto unless demands for reform and repatriation of powers were met. His Bloomberg speech in 2013 made this clear. In response the EU 'parked' the treaty temporarily to nullify the threat.

Rebuffed by the EU on this Cameron had to change tack and attempted to try somewhat limited reform via Article 48. Here he narrowed down "reform" to cover one subject, and one subject only – immigration. The idea being that against all the odds Cameron could pull off a quick treaty and come home in triumph, waving a piece of paper while at the same time shooting UKIP's immigrant fox.

Yet realistically all he could achieve would be minor treaty changes, he knew though that upon bringing his "deal" back from Brussels, we would be waiting to dissect it and tell everyone that it doesn't match his "promise".  Thus the need to remove the purdah period which would give Cameron the opportunity to spring the so-called "deal" on us at the last minute, leaving us little time to scrutinise it.

It's interesting therefore to note the eagerness in recent days with which Cameron has conceded the Electoral Commission's advice on the question and particularly on purdah. This suggests strongly that any kind of Article 48 renegotiation, or indeed any other, before a referendum is no longer a central part of Mr Cameron's strategy. The outcome has become irrelevant:
David Cameron is backing down on his refusal to impose a period of “purdah” in the runup to the EU referendum in a concession to his Eurosceptic backbenchers. It is understood the changes will impose purdah with a few exceptions to allow ministers to carry on with essential business.
This then leaves only Associate Membership, via a new Treaty, which amounts to nothing more than a re-branding of what we already have. Here we have clear indication from Cameron that it will be sold to us as a "looser" relationship:
"I want the European Union to be a success. And I want a relationship between Britain and the EU that keeps us in it"
A "looser relationship" that would mean a two tier arrangement as noted by the Times without the term Associate Membership being used:
[David] Owen [author of Europe Restructured] argues — surely correctly — that David Cameron’s idea of removing ourselves from a commitment to “ever closer union” should be a much more ambitious proposal. The prime minister should argue for a community restructured into two parts: the eurozone and the single market. Or to put it another way, the Union and the Community.

The eurozone — the Union — would acquire, in addition to the powers the EU already has, much greater fiscal control. And it would gradually develop the democratic institutions necessary to exercise that control with consent.

Owen’s idea of a Community would bring together EU members outside the eurozone, including the UK, with countries such as Norway, Iceland and, he argues, Turkey, in a looser free trade area clearly based on independent nation states.
The ground is being laid therefore for Cameron to pass off Associate Membership as his own idea despite that it's been part of a draft EU Treaty since October 2013. And within in this looser relationship - which would seek to bring in Norway, Iceland and Switzerland thus abolishing EFTA and the EEA - the UK will be seen as a leader in the outer ring, while the inner ring, or inner core, form the eurozone.

In reality this new arrangement will be the B-road rather than the Autobahn to "ever closer union". Yet despite that the journey maybe slower the destination is still the same. And it will be a reality Cameron seeks to hide behind curtains, rather like the Wizard of Oz, pictured above. It may seek to be impressive but Cameron has an extremely weak hand. Pull back the curtains and we're left seeing clearly a little man pretending.

All we need to do is pull back the curtains.
EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum EU Referendum 

No comments:

Post a Comment