Cameron and Hague are being dishonest on Europe

Labour Party

The excellent David Aaronovitch of the Times now joins the FT’s Janan Ganesh in the ranks of national political commentators who are getting to grips with the European Union.

Aaronovitch’s colourful metaphor in yesterday’s Times summed up current Government’s position and showed just how flawed their line on the EU really is.

David had a childhood friend called Denny with whom he played toy soldier games re-enacting the Napoleonic Wars. Denny, the French commander, was, according to Aaronovitch, “dashing, ingenious and fatally elaborate. His plans were complex and daring, involving clever feints and diversions. But to come to fruition they relied on the other players behaving in ways that they simply didn’t. So usually he lost.”

The brutal fact of the matter is that the while Cameron-Hague “route map” may appeal to Eurosceptics, and maybe even those who are lukewarm on the subject, these are not the people Messrs C&H will have to convince.

In order to achieve the holy grail of treaty renegotiation and repatriation of powers from Brussels to London, the British Government will have to convince all 26 other EU member states that this is in their interest, the interest of the EU as a whole. Aside from some justice and home affairs matters where the UK can opt out, the idea that powers will come back to Britain is utter pie in the sky.

I would ask all of you reading this to seriously ask yourself why would the 26 other EU member states agree to the UK taking back powers? EU treaties are exhaustively negotiated and eventually agreed by all the countries. In most instances change can therefore only happen if all member states, or at the very least a substantial majority, agree.

The feral Tory Eurosceptics claim to love the EU single market. In order for trade to be fair across the single market with no country having an unfair advantage or disadvantage, the market is regulated and laws put in place to secure the same treatment for employees across the EU. Membership of the single market therefore confers responsibilities as well as rights.

It is these rights the Tories want to repatriate, to destroy in other words. Employment and social legislation would go as would the equalities agenda. This Conservative-led Government wants the UK to enjoy the privileges of the EU single market without its responsibilities.

I ask you again, why would the other 26 member states confer this special status on the UK? Why would 26 countries who accept the responsibilities as well as the rights of the single market allow one country, who, to be honest they don’t really like, to opt out of the difficult stuff?

The rest of the EU is simply not going to behave as Cameron and Hague want them to. David Aaronovitch’s analysis is far more realistic: In his piece yesterday he puts forward this scenario:

“In the run up to the European elections the Conservatives will announce their commitment to a referendum on Europe based on their negotiations about powers. A year later they’ll go to the country on a manifesto based on negotiating the new balance and promising a referendum based on the results. [Assuming they win the 2015 election which I don’t think they will] they’ll then negotiate – their hand supposedly strengthened by having won an election on those terms – and a referendum will finally be held in 2017 or 2018. In their imaginations the referendum will endorse the newly negotiated position and Britain and possibly a few other countries will take their places, um, somewhere in an imagined optimal adjacent European space, where you get all the advantages of European association and few of the downsides.”

Dream on Messrs Cameron and Hague. I assure you your dishonesty will be found out.