The problem with the European Union cannot be solved through a renegotiation, because the renegotiation is just another symptom of the problem
If you hadn’t already worked out that David Cameron’s EU renegotiation is a sham, a PR exercise from a PR prime minister designed to make it look as though Britain is leading real change in Europe when in fact we are merely haggling over a few cosmetic and inconsequential concessions, then your remaining doubts should now be answered.
Yesterday, the government released the wheedling, subservient letter that David Cameron has written to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, begging his permission to reclaim a few minor and superficial aspects of British sovereignty. The fact that half of the prime minister’s demands – such as the call for the European Union to respect the principle of subsidiarity – are things which the EU has long been committed to doing on paper, but shown zero interest in following in practice – gives zero hope that whatever Cameron takes home from Brussels will be honoured.
But Britain’s fundamental problem with the European Union cannot be solved through a renegotiation, because the renegotiation itself is just another symptom of the problem. For as long as any British prime minister must flatter and beg countries like Portugal or Malta and seek their permission before acting in our own national interest, we have no true sovereignty and the European Union will remain an unwanted, antidemocratic millstone around our necks.
No possible outcome of David Cameron’s EU renegotiation will come close to touching this fundamental issue, because the EU is determined to remain a supranational political union, sitting above national governments and gradually acquiring more and more of their power. That’s just a fact, and those europhiles still in denial need to stop deluding themselves that an organisation with its own parliament, executive and judiciary is somehow just there to promote love and understanding between the peoples of Europe, with no designs on our democracy. Such a view is childishly naive.
Even if Cameron’s plea for Britain to be somehow exempted from the Treaty of Rome commitment to ever-closer union is heard, this will simply relegate us to a form of “associate membership” which would leave us – as Leave HQ put it so succinctly – “out on the edges and still on the leash”.
And so we are left with a cosmetic list of demands based not on any attempt to reflect the concerns of the British people, but based instead on what limited concessions David Cameron thinks he might be able to cajole from his European friends. He is essentially starting at his desired outcome (Britain voting to “remain” in the EU) and then working backward, rather than starting with Britain’s national interest at the forefront of his mind, and then letting the chips fall where they may when it comes to the renegotiation.
The whole exercise is a sham, and I refuse to be a part of it. I will not report the ups and downs of the coming “renegotiation” effort, with the inevitable carefully choreographed table-banging rows between Britain and France or the back-and-forth with Poland on migrant benefits access, because the whole thing is a PR exercise designed to make it look like our Conservative In Name Only government are looking out for our national interest when in reality they are only looking for a way out of an unwanted political problem.
Or as my Conservatives for Liberty colleague Ben Kelly puts it in his must-read piece:
There are no negotiations because the outcome of this act of political theatre has been decided for some time, the great deception is already in play. Osborne and Cameron will go through the ridiculous charade of demanding “associate membership” and their EU colleagues will play along and agree to their “demands”.
They will then return declaring a great victory for Britain and ask the public to endorse it in the referendum and give them a mandate to create our “new deal” in a “reformed EU”, which may very well include promises of minor concessions of reduced contributions and some leeway on the “four demands”.
On the surface, this two tier structure will seem enticing, in reality not only will we retain all the major disadvantages we currently suffer – from our trade policy being an ‘exclusive policy of the EU’, to the union’s redundancy in a globalised world, to its essentially anti-democratic nature – but once the eurozone integrates further we will be truly isolated within the union as a second class member.
What matters most now is not whatever choreographed stunt George Osborne or David Cameron cook up every day to make it look like they are going to battle for Britain. What matters most is honing our arguments in favour of Brexit to reach out to the undecided middle. And this means coalescing around a viable plan for a phased British exit from the EU, one which reassures wavering voters that stepping away from the EU is a prudent move, and not a leap into the unknown.
That plan is called Flexcit – I have seen no others that come close to Flexcit’s level of detail and rigour. All eurosceptics, Brexiteers and “Leave” campaigners now have a duty to read it, improve it where possible and then either champion it or propose a better plan of their own.
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