Wednesday, January 23, 2013

EU politics: gathering of the euro-clans

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That speech, it seems, is to be delivered at eight this morning – hit and run, one assumes, so that Mr Cameron can get back to preparing for PMQs. It should be an interesting session if there is a "Europe" question on the list.

Meanwhile, the euro-luvvies in the Conservative party are breaking ranks. Led by a modern-day Edwina Currie, by the name of Laura Sandys, 30 or so MPs are to push for an in-out referendum in the belief that they can win it. 

Interestingly, to make her case, Sandys calls in aid UKIP, telling us that the party "misleadingly" provides "simple, but false choices". To leave Europe is presented as a zero-sum game, she claims, then having UKIP say:
In the EU we are dominated by the iron grip of an authoritarian construct run by foreign-tongued bureaucrats. But, if we break free, we will be a liberated nation whose GDP will gallop ahead of those stagnant Europeans, as our former empire embraces our products and services ...
Thus presented, it is branded as unrealistic, but it would be hard to argue that UKIP is being seriously misrepresented. 

Witterings tries to get to grips with the issue, but we're talking to a brick wall – aphenomenon about which we have commented before. But whether you agree with his recent poll or believe it could be fixed the trouble is that Kellner articulates a basic truth when he says:
… if a referendum is held at some point in the next few years, then Europe will become a headline issue once again; and our latest results confirm the pattern of the past four decades – that when Europe lurks at the backs of peoples' minds, we would rather keep our distance; but when the talk turns to a decision to withdraw, we start to contemplate the prospects of life outside the EU and fear that this might not be so attractive after all.
Hence we are seeing a torrent of euro-FUD - the latest in a letter in the low-circulationGuardian from Charles Kennedy and 58 others. "Casting doubt on the UK's future membership while reforms continue will weaken our hand in influencing those reforms before anyone knows what the benefits and responsibilities of future membership might be", they argue. 

At least, we're getting some sense from one UKIP MEP who tells us to use Article 50 in order to extract from the EU. "As far as I can see, trade would be unaffected", he says. 

And just maybe, we will be getting a chance to use Article 50, if UKIP doesn't blow the campaign. According to the Financial Times, David Cameron is to promise a straight in-out referendum by 2017, in what has been described as a "high-risk strategy" which "will test the willingness of Paris and Berlin to cut the UK a better membership deal".

Cameron's strategy, says the FT is based on a belief that the EU will negotiate a new treaty some time after the 2015 British election to reinforce political and fiscal union in the eurozone – throwing open a wider debate about Europe's future. 

Well, it's only a few hours before the suspense is over and we know exactly what he has in mind. But, to judge from the gathering of the euro-clans, we're in for a fight.