Didn’t he do well?
As our victorious prime minister returns to London to chair the fateful cabinet meeting which will now likely set the wheels in motion for a June referendum, it’s worth taking a brief survey of how David Cameron’s deal – essentially an embossed, artfully decorated statement of the status quo – is being received.
The division between those who are angry or depressed and those who are buoyantly cheerful really tells you all that you need to know.
Toby Young bristles at being asked to greet the status quo like a shiny new present, but recognises that such a devoutly europhile prime minister could scarcely be expected to to any better:
The attempt to spin this deal as a great victory, which grants Britain a “special status” within the EU, is unlikely to win the Prime Minister many friends. On the contrary, it may end up alienating people who haven’t yet made up their minds who will feel they’re being taken for fools.
[..] Crucially, the EU leaders made it clear that there won’t be any further reforms, at least none that will mean a transfer of powers away from the centre. So Downing Street won’t be able to spin this agreement as the beginning of a reform process rather than the EU’s best and final offer.
Many of the “wins” Cameron boasted about in his speech were just assurances that the EU isn’t going to take away the protections for Britain already won by Margaret Thatcher and John Major. We won’t be forced to join the euro! Whoopee doo.
Tim Stanley channels his inner Tony Blair and declares Cameron’s pitiful outcome to be “weak, weak, weak”:
David Cameron’s deal with Europe is weak, weak, weak. It could never be anything but. Why? Partly because the Prime Minister is an inveterate Europhile.
He approached these negotiations from the stance of someone who ultimately wanted to stay in – and how could he negotiate from strength when everyone around the table knew that he was bluffing? More importantly, the idea that Britain can build for itself a “special status” within Europe is pure fantasy.
The EU cannot be decentralised; the UK cannot prosper on its fringes. The only real choice is between the status quo and Brexit.
[..] The Europeans made it clear from the outset that there would be no rewriting of the fundemantal principles. Rightly so: one country cannot determine the direction of travel for the entire continent. And if one country gets to pick and choose its own rate of integration into the new super state – why, everyone else will want to do the same.
So Cameron could never have been given substantial reforms because just putting them on the table would have jeopardised the grand European project. We have reached a point in the history of the EU when what Britain needs and what Europe wants are no longer compatible. The only logical thing left to do is to leave.
Paul Goodman compares David Cameron’s loftily declared original list of renegotiation objectives with the limp and shrunken prize he now holds in his hand – and he makes the choice facing Conservative MPs crystal clear:
Many Conservative MPs told their voters and Associations at the last election that Britain’s relationship with the EU cannot go on as it is. They are fully entitled to say now that they have changed their minds. That they have been persuaded that Britain’s future is brighter as an EU member state. That they will swallow any misgivings they have about the deal, and back their Party leader – who, after all, is on some measures the most successful Conservative leader of modern times bar Margaret Thatcher. That this is no time to campaign for a referendum result that would turn an election-winning Prime Minister out of office, and destroy the reforming work of the first majority Tory Government in over 20 years.
What they cannot say, if they have declared that Britain’s relationship with the EU must see real reform, is that this deal makes a difference. And if they want to see such change, the lesson of this summit is that it isn’t on offer. Which leaves only one option open to them, and to Party members of the same mind – to back Brexit.
Meanwhile, the Guardian is priming its core audience of nodding-dog virtue-signallers with key arguments to use against Brexiteers, and confirms what any thinking person knows – that the ultimate decision has nothing to do with David Cameron’s non-existent concessions from Brussels:
First of all, the details of the deal are not the crucial issue. Months ago, when David Cameron revealed his renegotiation agenda, it was already clear that this was not going to be a fundamental redefinition of Britain’s relationship with the EU. Nor would we suddenly find ourselves in “a reformed Europe”. On this, Eurosceptics are right: Cameron’s demands were less than he pumped them up to be, and inevitably, given that 27 other European countries had to be satisfied, what he achieved is even more modest. But it would be madness to let a decision about the economic and political future of Britain for decades ahead hinge on the detail of an“emergency brake” on in-work benefits for migrants.
New Europeans – that pressure group of proto-EU citizens waiting impatiently for the new European that they crave to finally hatch – are happy too:
The Prime Minister has secured his so-called “emergency brake” on in-work benefits paid to mobile EU citizens coming to Britain. However, it will not be his hand that is on the brake, despite his announcement to the contrary.
The brake is in the hand of the Council. The Council may be ready to pull the brake for the UK already – but it is still the Council’s hand on the brake. The European Parliament would need to pass the necessary legislation. So the earliest the legislation could be in place is 2017.
The emergency brake will operate like the transitional arrangements – after 7 years it will drop away. In the meantime, very few people will be affected because mobile EU citizens rarely apply for in-work benefits in the first four years. There is very little evidence to show that EU citizens are claiming in-work benefits on arrival in Britain.
[..] The potential savings from David Cameron’s “clamp down” on other benefits for mobile EU citizens are trivial and petty in the context of the national accounts. They amount to about £30m on some estimates. This is less than what it costs to run the Royal Opera House.
And they are right – the main “headline concession” that David Cameron managed to secure from Brussels remains entirely in the hands of the EU rather than Britain, and would make absolutely zero tangible difference to anything whether it is ultimately pulled or not.
These people have no reason to lie. They are the people who were potentially most affected by any major changes that David Cameron might have negotiated, so their relief (bordering in crowing) is absolutely genuine – and utterly damning of Cameron’s claim to have fundamentally changed our relationship with the EU.
Back to Tim Stanley for another eloquent denunciation of this brazen establishment stitch-up:
There are a million reasons to hate politics: the groupthink of the establishment is one of them. Cowardice is another. It’s like being governed by jellyfish: spineless synchronised swimming in one terminal direction.
For years Tories have used the issue of Europe to win votes, promising us either serious reform or a campaign to leave.
But not only was David Cameron’s renegotiation effort a paper tiger (Francois Hollande: “Just because it lasted a long time doesn’t mean that much happened”) but now the Cabinet has largely decided to follow its leader and back the In campaign.
[..] The entire weight of the state, media and big business will fall behind a campaign saying that Europe is good for us even if, from a distance, it appears to be a giant ball of flame hurtling into an abyss of despair.
Against this confederacy of dunces stands a small number of politicians brave enough to risk friendships and careers to tell us the truth – that this deal is a sham, the EU is dying and Britain is better off out.
I myself have nothing to add at this time. Others have already encapsulated what I feel, and said it better than I could – most notably Dr. Richard North at eureferendum.com, who echoes my reference last night to Neville Chamberlain:
Mr Cameron may have in his mind’s eye the image of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returning from Munich in 1938, triumphantly waving his “piece of paper” at Heston Airport (where the M4 service station now stands), but at least Mr Chamberlain’s “deal” bought us critical time, allowing us to re-arm sufficiently against the Nazi menace.
But this piece of paper is nothing but a fraud – a pretence. This Prime Minister has brought nothing back, nothing of substance, and is now intent on using is as the basis for a referendum where he is intent on selling his snake-oil “special status”.
Yet, all the time, Mr Cameron’s efforts have been a sideshow besides the main event – the real renegotiation under way to transform the 19 members of the Eurozone into a single state. That is the EU real agenda not the stage-managed drama of the Prime Minister emerging blinking into the light and announcing he has secured our future for a generation.
Nor should we assume that the Brussels barons will treat us kindly if we vote to remain in the EU. They will brush aside future British protests, telling us that we have had our chance to do things our way and rejected it. Our prospects sitting uneasily on the margins of the emerging superstate will not be promising. Unloved, ignored and marginalised, we face an uncertain, even risky future, on the outskirts of the new European empire.
But I, and this blog, will have much to say as we now fight onward to the 23 June referendum date. And those politicians who built their jealously-guarded careers and reputations on what turns out to be paper-thin euroscepticism should expect no understanding and no mercy.
The divided Leave camp has been caught napping – Cameron is going to the country with a desultory deal, entirely based on the belief that we are so divided that we will not be able to mount an effective Remain campaign – and by publicly embracing people like George Galloway, it seems that some of us are determined to prove him correct.
If you haven’t been paying attention so far, or have only half tuned in, then now is the time to perk up and fulfil your duty as an engaged citizen. We have just four months to win our freedom from the European Union and, if we succeed, potentially spark a renaissance of real democracy through Europe.
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