There are undoubtedly lessons to be learned from the recent Danish referendum. In his report, Dr Richard North alights on the crucial matter of trust, which is likely to play a significant role in the British EU referendum.
I would like to focus instead on whether this result helps or hinders the Brexit cause. A superficial analysis might say that such a question scarcely needs asking. Of course, the Danes deciding to reject further EU integration favours our side of the argument. My response is this: only if we are smart.
For those who have been paying attention, it is readily apparent that there is no status quo option in the British EU referendum. There is a divergence of paths and the British people will be faced with a choice. On the one side will be the Prime Minster, the legacy media and big business, offering second-class EU membership or “associate status”, and on the other will be those members of the British public who are convinced that independent self-government and intergovernmental co-operation offer a better way forward.
In other words, barring a slip in the Commission timetable, which could still happen—these suppositions are based only on the balance of probabilities—the likelihood is that Cameron will succeed in his “renegotiation” and deliver a “new relationship” that he hopes will be sufficient to keep Britain in a “reformed EU”. I cannot really stress that point enough, and with so many Brexiteers arguing the opposite, I feel justified in repeating myself—there is a very strong likelihood that Cameron’s “reforms” will be successful and it is not correct to say that his proposals amount to “nothing”.
The reason I can state this with such confidence is that, for the most part, the result is prearranged. The supposed drama concerning when the deal will be agreed and therefore when the referendum will be held is theatre for the easily distracted legacy journos. David Cameron and the Tory Party will play out that particular string for as long as the public and the press allow, which, based upon current performance, could be a very long time indeed.
Once that “play” is exhausted, Cameron will have to start to set out what “associate membership” means for Britain. To that end, the one time PR man has strongly hinted at the idea that “associate membership” will be presented to the British public as “a British model of membership”—outside of the eurozone and “ever closer union” but, crucially, still subordinate to EU institutions.
The presentation will be tailored to suit the tastes of the British public, but, if “associate membership” is the play, there will be other EU Member States who will join Britain in the “outer zone” and one of those countries—the only other country in the EU that is not explicitly committed to joining the euro at some future date—will be Denmark.
The various “crises” that the EU cannot address, including what to do about this latest anti-EU vote, can all be (potentially) co-opted into the two-tier/two-speed membership idea. Brexiteers are understandably keen to point out, whenever the opportunity arises, that it is not only in Britain that there is increasing discontent with the EU project and, while this is true, the “reformed EU” that is described in the Bertelsmann/Spinelli, A Fundamental Law for the European Union, could become the euro-elite’s panegyric for addressing all of these issues—a new structure with the “flexibility” (a term that was repeated several times by Cameron during his Chatham House speech) to accomodate the differing interests and differing levels of involvement among different EU Member States.
Of course, this two-tier/two-speed EU would not address the EU’s supranational character and EU institutions would still have authority over the member governments of the nation-states, but I think that even this brief description provides a clue as to what may be coming down the pipe and, hopefully, begins to illustrate just how significant Cameron will be able to make these “reforms” appear, if we do not get out ahead of him.
In order to do that, people need to stop playing into Cameron’s hands by saying just how insignificant they believe his “reforms” to be. These are major reforms that will be sold to us by an extremely committed europhile Prime Minister. The stakes are not small, they are very, very large and David Cameron should not be underestimated.