The political theatre continues, with the Vote Leave group playing its designated role without deviating one word from the expected script. Indeed, the latest Vote Leave newsletter prompted pro-EU membership think tank (Open Europe) associate, Pawel Swidlicki, to comment: “Clever by @vote_leave to say Cameron will get all renegotiation demands, that way if he doesn’t (benefit restrictions tricky) looks very bad”.
As ever with Vote Leave, this stance does have a certain superficial “cleverness” but Dominic Cummings is missing the schwerpunkt (missing the point). David Cameron has been entirely consistent in telling us that he is working towards a “new relationship” for Britain with the EU—and that is precisely what he is going to deliver. To defeat Mr Cameron, the “leave” campaign will need to propose a better alternative that is both credible and safe.
To that end, the “negotiations” are an increasingly tedious piece of puppet theatre. The “new relationship” that the Prime Minister will offer to the British public, outlined nearly three years ago in the Bertelsmann/Spinelli, A Fundamental Law for the European Union, is third-class country status in a two-speed/two-tier European Union in which Britain is further excluded from the “table”—about which British politicians like to talk—as a consequence of the British public’s refusal to accept participation in the euro currency and the borderless Schengen zone. The absense of internal borders and a common currency are, of course, two hallmarks of a country. No “trade relationship” demands this level of uniformity from its member nations.
The role of the Pinocchio Prime Minister therefore is to lie his way to a “remain” vote by dressing up what The Sceptic Isle correctly identifies as the “third-rate offer” of “associate membership” as something new and exciting. The precise form that the propaganda will take is not yet clear, but it does not demand a great deal of imagination to envisage a credible scenario.
Last week, David Cameron travelled to Iceland, where he criticised the relationship that Iceland and Norway have with the EU—active participation in the Single Market via EFTA/EAA but outside of supranational political union—commonly referred to as the Norway Option or, more precisely, the Norway (Interim) Option. This, it should be remembered, is a man who, in his Bloomberg speech, said:
We need a structure that can accommodate the diversity of its members – North, South, East, West, large, small, old and new. Some of whom are contemplating much closer economic and political integration. And many others, including Britain, who would never embrace that goal.
In other words, the Norway (Interim) Option offers almost precisely the “relationship” that Mr Cameron claims to favour, as the first part of a phased withdrawal that will necessarily involve flexible response and continuous development.
Given that nobody outside of the Westminster “bubble” expects the Prime Minister to campaign for a “leave” outcome in the coming referendum, what then is the alternative that the Prime Minister has in mind? Just as it is infeasible to imagine that Mr Cameron travelled to Iceland simply to insult his host, it is credible to suppose that he was making representations to the Prime Ministers of Norway and Iceland, on behalf of the EU, to join Britain in the second-tier of a “two-tier Europe”. Picture the Telegraph “exclusive” that awaits us in circa September 2017:
The British Prime Minister has been touring European capitals to sell the idea of “associate membership” not only to Angela Merkel and
Francois HollandeNicolas Sarkozy but to the Prime Ministers of Norway and Iceland. First proposed to the two largest EFTA/EEA states during a visit to Iceland in October 2015, Mr Cameron’s radical proposal would see Britain leading a new EU grouping, comprised of countries that share the fundamental values of the EU core, but which do not wish to pursue “ever closer union” or participate in the euro project.
No “leave” campaign that accepts the possibility of EU “reform” can convincingly oppose what will be seen as quite an appealing “compromise” and, crucially, safe option, once Mr Cameron and his PR people have packaged the “associate membership” offer for domestic consumption. This is part of the reason why the “leave” campaign must centre on the main point: Who governs Britain? All the while emphasising the fact that supranational subordination is fundamentally unacceptable for Britain—and always will be.
We need a “new relationship” based on intergovernmental co-operation that recognises the right of the British people to have the definitive and deciding say in how and by whom we consent to be governed and which also enables Britain to play a positive and constructive role in shaping the processes of economic globalisation to suit our interests and those of other free trading nations around the world.