David Cameron’s speech on Europe

Flag_of_Europe.svgLong anticipated and it did not disappoint. It takes a lot to be criticised by former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, but Cameron has elicited a damning response.

“I think it’s a huge worry in circumstances where you put on the agenda the prospect of Britain leaving. Why would we do that? We don’t yet know what we are proposing, or what we can get negotiated. We don’t yet know what the rest of Europe is going to propose. This referendum will happen in four or five years time, if the Conservatives were re-elected. Why not wait and see what we actually get out of this, play our part in shaping the new Europe, but why be in the situation where now you are putting on the table the prospect, four or five years time, of Britain leaving so that we can no longer answer the question, when we are negotiating, is Britain going to stay a member of the European Union or not? We can’t answer that question any more.” (drawn from Andrew Sparrow’s Guardian blog).

Let us unpick that. We – and anyone who trades with us or invests in the country – no longer know if the UK will stay in the European Union. Should the Conservatives win the next election, that will represent at least 5 years or so of uncertainty. It will precipitate the end of the Union between England and Scotland, putting back on track the campaign north of the border to break free, even though an independent Scotland would need to reapply for membership to the EU (until now a disincentive to break free).

Why is David Cameron such a poor strategist? Even though many in his party – and many outside – loathe the EU, the EU remains the largest trading bloc for the UK. That is strategically significant.It is also the case, that a lot of what these people dislike are good things like the working time directive; 48 hours per day is long enough for anyone to work per week. There is a lot that is wrong, but Cameron has now dug in even deeper and diminished the UK’s influence over what is wrong. Not only will the UK not support efforts in Europe to support the Euro (see post: https://weiterzugehen.net/2011/12/10/26-to-1/), but now we are effectively leaving. On that basis, why negotiate with the UK? Moreover, as Blair said in his response, threaten to leave and someone will say “go on then”.

I had to laugh (though it was a painful speech to listen to) when he said that transport metaphors should be dispensed with – cast into some waste bin, only to serve up a platter full of them himself as he ‘progressed’. Astonishing.

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