The narrative is locked and, unless something remarkable happens, the likelihood is that we can look forward to two more years of legacy journalism telling us that David Cameron will return from his EU “renegotiation” empty-handed.
This framework suits Mr Cameron and the “remains” very well indeed. Story after story trailing the Prime Minister’s near certain humiliation gives the Prime Minister the opportunity to brand whatever package of “reforms” he can agree with the “colleagues” as a victory.
Contrary to the recieved wisdom among the legacy press pack, it is my view that not only will the Tory Party leader achieve all of his stated “reforms”, accepting second-rate “associate membership” for Britain—Cameron’s so-called “British model of membership”—may well enable the Tory Party leader to deliver the “reformed EU” that has been his stated aim ever since the start of this process.
To be clear, a “two-tier Europe”, of the kind supported for years by Vote Leave Ltd. CEO, Matthew Elliott, would be a genuinely “reformed EU”. The changes that David Cameron proposed in his letter to European Council President, Donald Tusk, do not “amount to nothing”, as Vote Leave affiliate, Daniel Hannan asserts.
As committed supranationalist, Andrew Duff, with a degree of clarity and candour that is so often absent from the British EU debate, stresses (my emphasis):
Faced with the British demand that the treaties be amended to reflect this divergence, lazy commentators have suggested that ‘ever closer union’ is merely of rhetorical or preambular importance. Not so. The phrase indeed has appeared in the preamble of the treaties since earliest days, but the Treaty of Maastricht (1992) upgraded the term by installing it in the very first article of the new Treaty on European Union. Article 1 describes the historic purpose of the Union from which flow the provisions on its values, principles and objectives. The phrase signals towards the finalité politique of the Union: even if the definition of the ultimate goal is still contested (as it will be), the removal of those words from the treaty would undermine the constitutional foundation of the Union as well as begging basic political and jurisprudential questions about the nature of the enterprise. If the UK were to choose another destination, such as partial or associate membership, so be it: but it has no right to subvert the European project for everyone else.
In other words, a two-tier EU in which Britain is (superfically) absolved from the requirement to participate in “ever closer union” and in which it is officially recognised that not all of the Member States participate in the euro currency would represent a significant change for the EU. Moreover, for the vast majority of people who are vaguely concerned about deeper EU integration and the threat of Britain being dragged into the euro currency through its continued EU membership, such a package could be presented (quite credibly) as a reasonable compromise.
Talking down these changes as “insignificant” or even as “nothing”, as I have observed some Brexiteers doing, is strategically and factually mistaken.
A new relationship based upon active engagement with our continental friends and allies through intergovernmental forums at the European (EFTA/EEA) and the global level (UNECE, Codex, etc.) is clearly preferable to continued EU membership. The “leave” option provides British voters with the means to enhance our country’s international influence and national democratic accountability, placing political power where it belongs—in the hands of the people of this country.
However, in order to convince a majority of the electorate that it is necessary, preferable and feasible to correct this historic error, it is my contention that campaigners need to first recognise the significance of what Mr Cameron proposes. These “reforms” will be made to sound an awful lot like the pragmatic compromise that is the default position of a large percentage of the British electorate. In recognising the “reforms” as such, we should be able to position ourselves in the political centre, with a proposal that is truly founded on trade and friendly co-operation rather than supranational subordination, thereby countering and bettering the superficial security of Mr Cameron’s third-rate offer.