I doubt that I will find much support for this point of view amongst my blogging colleagues, but I am beginning to feel a grudging respect for David Cameron. The way in which he has so far outmanoeuvred the crass leave.EU and the boorish Vote Leave groupings demonstrates that he is a more capable politician than many had thought. Indeed, his “play” is a good enough case study that Dr Richard North has made it a feature of what EUReferendum.com is calling “Strategy Week”.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the Prime Minister has been entirely consistent in telling us that he is working towards a “new relationship” for Britain with the European Union—and that is precisely what he is going to deliver. The broad overview for what that new relationship will comprise is sketched out in the Bertelsmann/Spinelli report, A Fundamental Law for the European Union, co-authored by Liberal Democrat former MEP and “EU federalist”, Andrew Duff, in which the more “flexible” settlement that Mr Cameron talked about today is referred to as “associate membership”.
Contrary to the story that almost all of the legacy pundits are telling, there are major changes coming and there is going to be what politicians will refer to as a “reformed EU”. Contrary to the story that Mr Cameron is telling, however, these changes are not the result of his “renegotiation”. The “reform” that the British Prime Minister wishes to pass off as his own is borne of the need for the eurozone to integrate still further and much faster than even a europhile politician like Mr Cameron is willing to accept for Britain. Leave HQ reports in full.
Today, what EUReferendum.com and related bloggers have long said would be a heavily disguised proposal for Britain to embrace “associate membership” broke cover. While the legacy press pack focused on the specific proposals contained in Mr Cameron’s letter to European Council President, Donald Tusk, the key sentence in the Prime Minister’s speech was either neglected or, where reported, not understood:
We need a British model of membership that works for Britain and for any other non-euro members.
As befits a PR man, David Cameron’s plan to keep Britain in the EU is to rebrand “associate membership” as the “British model”, thereby implying that Britain will take a leading role in the second-tier of a two-tier treaty union in which the British political and judicial system remains subordinate to supranational EU institutions. Mr Cameron’s third-rate vision for Britain’s future will not appeal to anybody who understands that intergovernmental co-operation is a more flexible and secure means for projecting British influence than acceptance of the compromise position of the EU28 and representation by EU middle-men who speak on behalf of “Europe”.
The question that referendum voters need to ask themselves and then discuss with their peers concerns whether Britain is better governed as an independent nation-state, in which the British people have the final say on policy, or as one of a group of EU Member States, in which national governments agree to accept the majority decision of the most powerful players and national electorates have no say in the matter.
If Canada and Australia are capable of full self-representation at the global level, Britain can certainly do the same. Not to say that co-operation or trade with our European neighbours should be taken for granted. Far from it. The fact that EU membership is not suited to Britain is no reason for animosity or antagonism. The nations of Europe are amongst the most economically and culturally advanced on the planet and will remain so. However, our historical ties and future joint endeavours should not be defined by British participation in a political union that does not match our style of governance or our desire for global engagement.
The Prime Minister has started to set out his stall, far earlier than some of us were expecting, and, perhaps owing to the paucity of opposition from the “high-noise” leavers, far sooner than he may have intended. The role of Brexiteers now is not to whinge about the EU or the paucity of Mr Cameron’s “demands”—he has outlined a credible scenario for Britain’s future inside the EU—what we must do is to present an appealing vision for what Britain’s future could be outside the EU, with an equally credible plan for achieving our vastly superior outcome.