Leadsom vs May – Two Risky Options

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The very qualities which make Theresa May an awful Conservative leadership candidate on domestic policy mean that she is best equipped to handle our tough secession negotiations with the EU in Brussels. But the future leadership of the United Kingdom cannot be viewed solely through the lens of Brexit…

Dr. Richard North perfectly captures this blog’s dilemma in trying to choose between two highly sub-optimal candidates for Conservative Party leader and the next prime minister:

With a final contest between May and Leadsom, [if] Leadsom wins, we are faced with the great danger of having a woman as prime minister who has little understanding of what it takes to negotiate a successful withdrawal from the EU, and no capacity to develop that understanding.

On the other hand, if May is elected, we are faced with a danger just as great, in having a prime minister who brokers an exit plan which is so successful that we end up stuck with it, and in a position far worse than we are at present.

If this sounds perverse, it is. What we are seeing from the “remains” is a sudden enthusiasm for the Efta/EEA or “Norway option”, an option which, prior to the referendum, they had all been falling over themselves to demolish.

This, as readers here well know, we support as an interim option, acknowledging that it would be completely untenable for the United Kingdom in the longer term. We thus look for a different end game, which then takes us out of the EEA – with other Efta members – leaving the Agreement to collapse.

Unfortunately, the opposition is wise to the flaws of the EEA option and, from the Robert Schuman Foundation, the intellectual heart of the EU, we see proposals to modify the EEA to such an extent that it will soften some of the worst features of the EEA, and thus weaken the pressure to move on.

Dr. North goes on to describe the chicanery by which this might be accomplished – basically by making the EEA Council rather than the Council of the European Union the lead body in approving single market legislation, tackling the (already disingenuous) complaint that being in the EEA means accepting all of the rules while “having no say”.

While superficially appealing, this could lead to Britain being permanently parked in a significantly sub-optimal position on the edge of a still-integrating Core EU in which the eurozone would inevitably be dominant. It would certainly undermine one of the key benefits of Brexit to an interim EFTA/EEA access “departure lounge”, namely the restoration of Britain’s right of reservation which we could apply to new regulation which threatened to inflict significant or unacceptable harm on our key industries or vital national interests.

But while a Theresa May premiership increases the risk that Britain is sucked into a sub-optimal “associate member” status on the EU’s margins, Andrea Leadsom would do almost the exact opposite – invoke Article 50 almost immediately and then effectively let Jesus take the wheel, hoping that something satisfactory is miraculously negotiated within two years. Having recently started to appreciate the true complexity of the global trading and regulatory environment, largely thanks to my involvement with The Leave Alliance, it is immediately apparent that Leadsom’s cavalier approach to our EU secession negotiations is fundamentally unserious, no matter how genuine her euroscepticism.

Leaving aside issues of personality, experience and gravitas – for few could seriously deny that May would be the more formidable negotiator to fight Britain’s corner – it is hard to see how a Leadsom negotiation could succeed when the candidate seems sure of little besides her impulse to take Britain out of the EEA, making our trade subject to the EU’s common external tariff in the far from certain hope that doing so dramatically cuts immigration.

Therefore, from a purely Brexit-related perspective, Theresa May seems (counter-intuitively) to be the better choice if we want to maximise our chances of escaping from the EU’s always-tightening political union while disrupting trade as little as possible – even if this means that we have to remain permanently vigilant to ensure that May does not backslide from her commitment that Brexit means Brexit.

But of course this Tory leadership election is not only about Brexit – though our secession from the European Union is by far the most important issue on our national plate, and will be for some time. Still, other issues cannot be overlooked entirely. Foreign policy, civil liberties, economic freedom, education, healthcare and the role of government matter enormously too. And in many of these areas, Theresa May is extraordinarily deficient.

This is why I cannot simply swallow my distaste and endorse Theresa May outright. All of these other policy considerations must also be factored into the mix – which is what I shall attempt to do in my next blog post.

 

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Cameron’s EU Deal – Reaction

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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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Deal Or No Deal?

Deal.

So, to summarise our prime minister’s magisterial achievement at the European Council summit in Brussels:

  • We won’t become part of something (a European superstate) which can only come about through a new treaty which Britain already has the right not to ratify, making this renegotiation “win” utterly superfluous
  • We have supposedly won a unique exemption from “ever closer union”, though curiously the treaty which firmly commits us to this goal will go unamended
  • We won’t join the euro – an obvious extension of the status quo which any British prime minister could have achieved simply by staying home in Downing Street and binge-watching Netflix
  • Same for Schengen and “open borders”
  • There will be new restrictions on migrant benefits, now apparently a burning issue yet something which wasn’t even on most people’s list of EU grievances until David Cameron suddenly started talking about it just prior to his European shuttle diplomacy

Peace for our time.

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David Cameron And Martin Schulz – Bad Cop / Bad Cop Anti-Brexit Strategy

Martin SCHULZ - EP President , David Cameron - British Prime minister

After David Cameron and Donald Tusk’s arrogant two-finger salute to the British public comes Martin Schulz’s risible Bad Cop routine

It has been a couple of days now, and the anger about the government’s unchanging approach to the EU has started to dissipate – only to be replaced by a dull sense of abandonment and cynicism.

Of course David Cameron was not going to announce any kind of meaningful deal with the European Union – expecting Dave to represent our interests in a negotiation with Brussels is like being on trial, spilling your guts to the chief prosecutor and still expecting him to bend over backward to get you acquitted. That is, it’s implausible because of a flawed assumption about whose side they are on.

This was not a renegotiation between Britain and the other member states of the European Union; rather, it was a game of wits with the prime minister and his fellow EU leaders on one side, and the British people on the other side. The objective was not to present British demands to Brussels and seek to win as many concessions as possible; on the contrary, the aim from Day One was to identify how little the British people could be persuaded to accept as crumbs from the EU’s table while still doing what they were told.

When you realise that democracy and the restoration of national sovereignty were never on the table, everything makes a lot more sense. And yet David Cameron is clearly stretching his luck. The few meagre statements of intent in Donald Tusks’s formal response to the British letter are completely irrelevant, and certainly will do nothing to address the concerns of most people. And the press has realised, and duly given the prime minister a roasting for his feeble negotiating skills.

Thus there is still a possibility – however slight – that if the referendum goes ahead on the accelerated timescale in June this year, the Leave side may be able to squeak a victory by painting David Cameron’s half-hearted renegotiation as part of a bipartisan establishment conspiracy of the political elites against the British people, to keep us in the European Union come hell or high water.

Or as this blog noted yesterday:

With nearly every authoritative voice in Britain about to begin earnestly intoning the many benefits of Brussels, our most potent weapon may be the British people’s strong sense of fair play, and their likely discomfort at seeing the Leave campaign being outspent, outmanoeuvred, outgunned and shouted down. We have been weak and ineffectual enough thus far – so we may as well ham it up for the cameras and work to build the narrative that this referendum is in fact The Establishment vs The People.

Bearing all this in mind, what the Remain campaign could really do with to twist the knife would be for a senior EU politician to come out swinging and playing Bad Cop to David Cameron’s Useless Cop. What they really need is for one of the EU’s big beasts – preferably someone with a suitably scary Teutonic name – to barge onto the scene and warn Britain that we are testing his patience with our pesky demands for sovereignty and self-determination, and that unless we soon shut up and accept what we are being offered, he and his chums can make no guarantees for our safety.

Step forward president of the EU Parliament Martin Schulz, who used a speech in London today to do just that. Schulz said:

Europe needs the UK with its foreign policy experience and clout, its open market policies and its trade track record if we want to have hope of solving any of these crises – and even more so, if we want to maintain the global security architecture and shape the future world order.

This is why personally I am a strong supporter of the UK remaining in EU. And this, despite the fact – and I admit this quite frankly – that the British often test our patience and good will with their continuous demands.

They are demanding. They push hard. They insist. They just don’t let go. Many of my colleagues say behind closed doors: ‘Don’t stop a rolling stone. If the Brits want to leave, let them leave.’

I do not support this line that just because the UK can be frustrating it would be in our interest to let it go. I believe we need the UK to make the EU stronger and better. And to make something stronger and better sometimes it’s necessary to push hard and be critical.

In other words: “Hey, you know I love you, Britain. You’re great, I would do anything for you. But some of my friends have had enough; they think you are getting ideas above your station. In fact, they think that you are itching to be taught a lesson in humility. Not me, of course. I think you’re just swell. But what say we put this whole silly euroscepticism business behind us and carry on as normal? I think that would be much better that way. And I wouldn’t want anything bad to happen to you…”

Basically, this is a threat dressed up as friendly concern.

My first thought on reading this was: is Martin Schulz confusing the UK with another country – one which is actually assertive in standing up for its national interest and kicking up a fuss when it doesn’t get its way? Because this description doesn’t sound anything like the Britain I recognise.

What “continual demands” has Britain been making of the European Union? And which demands have been conceded by a reluctant Brussels which supposedly feels bullied and taken advantage of by our selfish stance? You would think that if Britain had such a notable track record of standing in the way of EU goals and projects, that a nominally eurosceptic government like David Cameron’s would be busy talking up all of these filibustering victories to buy some credibility from a sceptical public. You would think that David Cameron’s stump speech would be littered with Brussels pet projects which he thwarted for the good of the taxpayer and in defence of Britain’s national interest.

So where are those success stories? Where are the examples of Britain “pushing”, “insisting” and “not letting go”? Does Martin Schulz mean the time that Britain was presented with a £1.7 billion supplementary bill from the EU as a penalty for economically outperforming the Eurozone? Because if my recollection serves me correctly, our prime minister gave a red-faced, foot-stamping press conference in which he insisted that Britain would not pay a further penny, before quietly authorising George Osborne to pay the entire sum as soon as the general election is out of the way. Is this the kind of obstructionism that Martin Schulz means? The totally illusory kind?

But what of France and its angry insistence on violating the EU stability and growth pact, for reasons both real and confected? If the rules were put in place for the benefit of all, what does it say about France that they rage against the European Commission for daring to point out their lack of compliance? Is this not being “demanding” and “pushing hard” to get their own way?

And what about Germany’s constant, selfish running of a current account surplus in excess of the maximum 6 per cent allowed under the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure (MIP)? Where is the European solidarity there? And what might Martin Schulz have to say about the stubborn behaviour of his own compatriots? Don’t expect an answer any time soon.

The truth is that by most measures, you could not find a more pliable, easy-going and constructive member of the European Union than Britain. We pay our dues, enforce and abide by the rules and laws a lot more rigorously than many other countries, and while the public may complain a lot, our elected representatives hardly ever filter that dissatisfaction upward to disturb the smooth running of EU summits.

The only way that your average EU leader or bureaucrat could possibly be troubled by British euroscepticism is if they were to spend their days clicking through the comments sections of the Daily Mail website – which presumably they have no time to do, what with being such busy and efficient people. They certainly have not encountered any euroscepticism from Downing Street for thirteen years of New Labour or five subsequent years of rootless Cameronism.

But how well it aids the Remain campaign for a prominent EU leader to come to London with the message that Brussels is getting sick and tired of our irritating demands for national sovereignty, that the world is a scary and unpredictable place, and that we wouldn’t want to find ourselves in their bad books just in time for a big Chinese economic slowdown. What absolutely marvellous timing. Really, you couldn’t have co-ordinated it any better if you wanted to orchestrate an event to distract attention from the fact that Cameron and the EU are standing before the British electorate absolutely stark naked.

But we should see this for what it is – a cheap and tawdry act of scaremongering from a political establishment (and assorted allies such as Schulz) who are utterly incapable of making a bold, unabashed and unambiguous argument in favour of the EU as a good model for future human governance and the preservation of democracy.

In place of any attempt (however foolhardy) at real, tangible reform of the European Union, taking into account some of the actual concerns of the British people, instead we have David Cameron’s big bag of nothing followed by Martin Schulz issuing sinister threats wrapped in faint praise.

Having the prime minister announce a renegotiation “outcome” so pitifully short of addressing even his own original and desperately unambitious areas for discussion is bad enough. But to then be on the receiving end of passive-aggressive threats from the EU aristocracy, chiding us for being “demanding” – really the pot calling the kettle black with this supranational group of obstinate prima donnas – is an insult too far.

As always, we are denied the big picture and forced to operate in the blind because the leader of our country does not view us as fellow citizens with a right to have a say on Britain’s future based on full and complete information, but rather as a potentially dangerous mob whose every thought and sentiment must be carefully curated by our betters, to guide us toward the “correct” decision.

We never had any reason to believe that it would be otherwise. But it is still galling to experience this intellectual, emotional and psychological manipulation strategy unfolding in real time.

 

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Time To Get Angry About David Cameron’s Brexit Negotiation Trickery

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Whether you are staunchly pro-EU or eager for Brexit, the prime minister is playing the British people for fools with his manufactured last-minute crunch talks with Donald Tusk. Do we really want to reward this kind of behaviour from our politicians?

If the conventional media narrative is to be believed (and it isn’t), David Cameron has secured a “major breakthrough” in his talks with EU leaders on our suddenly-central concern about migrants claiming benefits.

Of course, this “win” consists solely of a so-called “emergency brake” on immigration which could only be applied with the consent of other EU members. And migrants coming to Britain to supposedly claim benefits is so far down the list of things which are egregiously offensive and wrong with the European Union that the whole pantomime is laughable. But this is all that David Cameron has, and much of the media is gamely writing it up as a meaningful event.

From the Telegraph:

[European Council President] Mr Tusk had been due to publish his final offer to the UK today, but has now agreed to hold another 24 hours of talks after Mr Cameron told him that the deal on the table was “not good enough”. The Prime Minister warned Mr Tusk that Britain could vote to leave the EU unless Brussels does more to ensure that the number of foreigners coming to the UK is reduced.

[..] Last week the EU offered Mr Cameron a watered-down version of the “emergency brake” that would allow him to temporarily limit access to benefits – but only if Brussels agrees that UK public services are being strained. It was described by Eurosceptic Tories as a “bad joke” and “an insult to Britain”.

On Sunday night Mr Tusk accepted Mr Cameron’s demand that any “emergency brake” comes into force immediately. It allows Mr Cameron to reject claims that his “emergency brake” will be subject to a veto by Brussels.

Of course, this is being breathlessly talked up by Downing Street:

“It is very significant that they have conceded this,” a Downing Street source said. “They are saying that in the current circumstances, levels of migration into the UK meets the requirement for an emergency brake. It shows that this is not a theoretical brake and that it is something that will definitely happen.”

So because Donald Tusk has generously granted that the “emergency brake” may come into force straight away, we are supposed to gratefully take our crumbs from the table and forget about the fact that as with every other area that David Cameron once airily promised to reassert British sovereignty, the critical decision ultimately rests with Brussels.

What a transparently false and cosmetic exercise this all is. If Donald Tusk was prepared to release his “final offer” to the UK today and is now only delaying publication until tomorrow, no significant changes can possibly be made in that short span of time.

David Cameron may have huffed and puffed and made a great show of telling journalists that the current deal is not “good enough”, but he will secure no more from Donald Tusk. 24 hours is insufficient time for Tusk to hammer out a new deal and get sign-off from the twenty-seven other EU member states, so if anything radically different does appear tomorrow it will have been pre-agreed by the other twenty-seven and almost certainly shared with Cameron too as part of a cosmetic, scripted act of political theatre.

At this stage in the game, Donald Tusk knows what the other EU leaders are willing to concede and David Cameron knows exactly how much he can demand if he wants an agreement to be signed off in order to ram the referendum through by June (and this still seems very improbable to me). The only ones in the dark are the British public, who were never meaningfully consulted before the prime minister jetted off to air our concerns to Brussels – concerns which he never took the time to consult over or understand before embarking on his mission.

As I and many other Brexit bloggers have pointed out for some time, there is no “renegotiation” taking place, nor has there been. But if we must persist in talking in terms of a renegotiation then we should recognise that David Cameron is sitting at the same end of the bargaining table as the other EU leaders, sharing as they do a common goal of keeping Britain within the political union. We, the British people, are at the other end of the table, on our own. Nobody is arguing our case. Meanwhile, our prime minister colludes with his European colleagues to determine precisely how little they can get away with offering while still buying our acquiescence.

Of course, all of this is quite immaterial, depressing though it may be. For there is no change or concession possible which will change the European Union from being an explicitly political, tightening union whose every act and function serves to drain sovereignty and autonomy from its constituent member states and pool it in Brussels, where it can be wielded by politicians who make the Westminster political establishment look like the model of transparency and accountability.

On this point at least, Daniel Hannan is absolutely right when he writes in CapX:

Either way, the ‘row’ between David Cameron and Donald Tusk, which journalists are reporting so breathlessly, is non-existent. There is nothing to have a row about. Either Westminster is still in charge of welfare policy, in which case the PM doesn’t need anyone’s permission to change the rules; or Brussels is, in which case any alteration requires a treaty change which, as all sides now accept, won’t happen for many years.

I realise that reporters have to write something. I’m sure someone somewhere will have been interested to read that the Downing Street menu involved apple and pear crumble. But, please, guys: the whole thing is such an utter, obvious, confection. You can be pro-EU or anti-EU. There are sincere arguments both ways. But let’s not pretend that anything is changing.

But while the back-and-forth with Donald Tusk and the eventual reveal of whatever package they have already cooked up is hardly news, it is still worth reminding ourselves of the lengths to which the British prime minister will go in order to trick the British people into believing that he has radically changed the terms of our EU membership.

And it should rightly make one wonder: if David Cameron can be so manipulative when it comes to the European Union, how can we trust him on any other matter?

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