Plans are afoot for the most spectacular piece of political theatre of our lifetimes. There are those who would like the programme to remain a secret until the curtain rises on opening night, but—courtesy of EUReferendum.com—we here at Independent Britain have been fortunate enough to acquire a back-stage pass during the vital preparatory stages, and we think it only right that the British public, who will, after all, be footing the bill for this extravaganza, be allowed a special sneak preview.
First, allow me to introduce you to the dramatis personæ. In the lead role of Pinocchio is our very own Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron. He longs to be a real national leader, but before the Blue Fairy will grant him his wish, she says that he must first learn to listen to his conscience and stop telling lies. Pulling Cameron’s strings is European Commission President, Jean-Claude Junker, who—playing the part of the power-hungry Stromboli—daily threatens to chop his captive into firewood should Cameron put a foot wrong during his trademark rendition of ‘I’ve Got No Strings’.
As is clear from the preceding description, Cameron is not in control of events. He is dancing to another man’s tune, but he knows that it is essential for his political survival that he successfully convince the British public that he is setting his own agenda. Should the British public suspect otherwise, the elaborate illusion, he has so painstakingly sought to maintain, will be broken. To that end, Cameron will be aided by the legacy media, who double as The Chorus, which, even though they are not up on stage with the main players, are nevertheless an important part of the show.
To understand the intricate plotting, we must look to the Fundamental Law of the European Union, published in January 2013, and the Five Presidents Report, published in June 2015. Cameron’s strings are, in fact, being pulled by the supranational (“above the nation”) EU institutions that produced these documents.
One of the key phrases from the Five Presidents Report, echoed in Jean-Claude Junker’s State of the Union address is as follows:
“To prepare the transition from Stage 1 to Stage 2, the Commission will present a White Paper in spring 2017 assessing progress made in Stage 1 and outlining the next steps needed, including measures of a legal nature to complete EMU in Stage 2”.
The contents of this White Paper will determine the nature of Cameron’s ploy. Once he knows the plan, he can pretend that, contrary to all of the naysayers who said that ‘it couldn’t be done’, he, David Cameron, First Lord of the Treasury, has only gone and bloody well reformed the entire EU, forging a “special relationship” for Britain in a marvellous, all-singing, all-dancing “two-tier” (nobody say “two-speed”) EU. This new relationship, Cameron will announce, will not only benefit Britain, but also the EU Member States who are part of the eurozone, as well as the rest of the non-eurozone outer-core, which will now be “protected” from decisions taken by Kerneuropa or the ‘inner core’.
This is when we will see Cameron’s nose begin to grow. But, strange as it may seem, not everybody will notice, such is the power of the office of Prime Minister and the “prestige” of the legacy media Chorus. The details that are now emerging from the “renegotiation”—Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, says that “serious talks” will not begin (what have they been doing to date?) until after the Polish general elections later this year—indicate that Cameron embarked upon this entire EU “reform” process without the faintest idea of how he was going to achieve his stated aims. He has changed his strategy at least twice—initially hoping to “handbag” a European Council Convention, then, when Mrs Merkel put a stop to that, changing tack to focus on Freedom of Movement, with the aim of agreeing a “mini treaty” via the “simplified procedure” outlined in Article 48 of the Treaty of Lisbon, only to be rebuffed once again when the “colleages” decided that it was time to fire the starting gun on “full-on” treaty change.
After following a long and winding path, Cameron’s referendum playbook now looks something like the following:
- Spring 2017 – European Commission White Paper
- 1st July 2017 – UK European Council presidency begins
- late August 2017 – Informal Council (called by the UK)
- early October 2017 – Conservative Party Conference
- mid October 2017 – Autumn Council
- late October 2017 – referendum
So, just as we are getting worked up for the referendum, scheduled for the later part of 2017, the Commission comes out with what is essentially a template for a new treaty. Given that the UK presidency of the European Council begins in July 2017, it is logical to speculate that Cameron will choose to hold an Informal Council—an “extravaganza” that can be turned into a kind of “pagent” during which Cameron puts his demands for a “new relationship” to the “colleagues”. The other EU Member States will then be sent back to their respective capitals to think about what Cameron has “proposed”, while Cameron proceeds to the Conservative Party Conference where he performs his Hard Man of Europe routinue, saying that he has laid down his conditions and now we must wait to receive the answer at the Autumn Council.
Except that the “answer” is pre-arranged. Britain will be offered a “looser” form of EU membership that keeps us in, while also allowing the members of the eurozone to take the next steps on the road to political union.
Cameron will pretend that this was all his idea—or, at the very least, that it was inspired by his “renegotiation”—when, the fact of the matter is that any attempts that there might have been at renegotiation have been a complete failure, as leading EU federalist and Lib Dem former MEP, Andrew Duff, indicates in this report. The treaty that finally emerges will look a lot like the Fundamental Law of the European Union, partly authored by Andrew Duff, albeit with a few superficial changes (the Germans are apparently not keen on the idea of a “common treasury”, so maybe that will be renamed…). But the essentials will remain the same: more power for the Commission and the other supranational EU institutions, less power for the national governments of the Member States. The people, who theoretically lend their power to the nation-state governments, completely excluded.
Kerneuropa, from which Britain is and always will be excluded, want the “British problem” parked, and their favoured bay is “associate membership”. Cameron will have his work cut out trying to sell this to the British people because it is almost identical to a proposal that several previous British governments have rejected, on the basis that Britain must be “at the heart of Europe” in order to have “influence” at the “top table”. Seeing as being at the the heart of “Europe” (actually, the EU) now means joining the euro, those who wish to remain in the EU have a choice: either we accept “second-class country” status in a “two-speed Europe”, where the destination is still “ever closer union” and we are in the slow lane, or we submerge our nation-state democracy into the new supranational political state and we join the euro. Voting to remain in the EU means that inertia will eventually drag us into the euro, regardless of whether we agree to accept “second-class country” status in the interim.
Fortunately, for us, there is another way—we can vote to leave—and that opens up fantastic opportunities for enhancing our national democracy and engaging with international partners through intergovernmental agreements that confer mutual benefit. What that ‘grand vision’ looks like and how it can be achieved will be the subject of subsequent posts.