Sunday, January 20, 2013

EU politics: in for the long-haul

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It seems as if we are going to see "that speech" some time this coming week, with Wednesday currently the favourite. It would appear that we are most definitely going to get a referendum, although my original prediction of 2018 stands – should the Conservatives get elected to government.

The biggest joke of the day though comes from Conservative MP Tracey Crouch, who says: "People need clarity about what it is that the government is saying because there are so many mixed messages", then adding: "One of the advantages of having a referendum is that we can have an informed debate on our future relationship".

The joke is that the last thing we are going to see is an "informed debate", as this piece (headline above) illustrates.

With the assistance of the legacy media – which will side with those who want to stay in the European Union – we will see torrents of such corporate propaganda, with agenda-seekers allowed free rein to peddle their wares.

"The UK not only has to be part of Europe. It has to be a fundamentally active part of Europe," says Ian Robertson, global head of sales at BMW and a member of the board of the German company. "To think about the UK being outside of Europe doesn't make sense".

This is not, as Kipling might have said, "fair dealing", as there is no possible justification for a claim that leaving the EU could possibly harm the economic interests of this corporate giants. If anything, for a purely nationalistic point of view, we would be far better off outside the EU and within the EFTA/EEA, re-engaging in discussions at global level.

There will be plenty of other players in this game, but the one thing they will all have in common is a determination to avoid an informed debate. Mr Cameron and the part of the Party that remains under his control will be seeking to sell his "vision" of the new deal. Others will be seeking to gain what advantage they can, and none will have either the capacity or intent to tell the truth.

To an extent, that is understandable. The truth is a moveable feast, the reality complex, difficult to understand, full of nuances and completely devoid of black and white. Modern, soundbite discourse does not lend itself to the exploration of complex issues, and the entertainment industry (aka media) has no feel for the subject.

Another certainty is that the independent players will be ruthlessly excluded. The last thing the establishment wants is well-researched, accurate material raining on its parade, so that will be ignored.

However, with five years to go before a referendum, if at all, it can't be said often enough that the long campaign has its own peculiarities. The short-lived FUD (fear-uncertainty-doubt) tactics of the europhiles will soon run out of steam, and one can tolerate only so many self-interested corporates before tedium sets in.

In the longer term, we will see the renegotiation meme lose its attraction, as it drains away into the sands of reality. Mr Cameron will do his best to convince people that the renegotiation is real, but even his powers of persuasion will founder on the indifference of the "colleagues".

That, above all, gives us hope. If the next referendum is to be a re-run of 1975, with a five year lead-in, we have the benefit of experience and have developed a few tricks, while the opposition seems to have learned nothing. So far, they are playing the same predictable games as last time.

When it becomes obvious that Mr Cameron's renegotiation has failed, and he has nothing realistic on offer, it will be relatively easy to convince a cynical population that membership of the EU is going nowhere. As long as there is an "out" option and we have five long years to prepare, we should be confident of a victory.