The Hated Peter Hitchens today ventured “below the line” to engage with your humble host on Twitter. His comments are well worth reproducing here as they allow me the opportunity to clarify several points.
David Cameron is “negotiating” very little. The Prime Minister’s proposals for “reform” conform to pre-existing EU plans to create a “two-tier Europe”. These changes—most clearly defined in the Bertelsmann/Spinelli Group, A Fundamental Law of the European Union—have been obliquely referenced by multiple sources (See: here and here) over recent weeks. Indeed, these changes are effectively “baked into the cake” and are likely to be part of Jean-Claude Junker’s Spring 2017 White Paper, which will signal the start of the next treaty revision procedure.
Second-class EU membership is what Mr Cameron will accept because that is what the EU is willing to offer.
With respect to what Mr Cameron has “claimed”, Brexiteers should be extremely careful. Prompted by Mr Hitchens’ comment, I have just re-read both Mr Cameron’s Bloomberg speech and his Chatham House speech and nowhere in either does the Prime Minister say that his aim is “to get a reduction of EU powers over us”. The closest that David Cameron comes to such a sentiment is in his Bloomberg speech (the earlier of the two), during which he said:
My third principle is that power must be able to flow back to Member States, not just away from them. This was promised by European Leaders at Laeken a decade ago.
This statement says more about Mr Cameron’s ignorance regarding the method of engrenage (or “gearing”) through which the European Union pursues “ever closer union” than anything else. Regardless, this aim could all too easily be fulfilled via concessions in the area of fisheries or agriculture or employment policy.
To the best of my knowledge, this point has not been mentioned since.
On the contrary, Mr Cameron has repeatedly emphasised the aim of agreeing a “new relationship” intended to keep Britain in a “reformed EU”.
To that end, Mr Hitchens demonstrates a clear view of what “associate membership” would mean for Britain—“second-class membership”—but it is not Mr Hitchens nor myself that Mr Cameron nor the Brexiteers need to convince in order to win a national referendum.
Mr Cameron will not present this “new relationship” as “associate membership”. In his Chatham House speech, Mr Cameron talked about “British model” membership—a role that would affirm Britain’s committment to the EU’s “values” while absolving the country from “ever closer union” and euro involvement. Unless the Brexiteers can get ahead of the game and acknowledge that Mr Cameron is quite likely to achieve “fundamental change”—albeit not of the kind that we support—it is all too possible that enough of the electorate, egged on by an almost uniformly conformist press pack, will be so surprised that Mr Cameron has achieved anything that the deal will be regarded as “good enough”.
I think that the “stay in” case is less about the “influence” that we supposedly get and more about the “risk” associated with leaving. The existence of hundreds of intergovernmental bodies “above” the EU, in which Britain has to accept the compromise position of the EU28, rather than enjoying independent self-representation, means that the “influence” case is practically non-existent.
This is why Brexiteers need to focus on demonstrating that not only is giving a mandate to further supranational governance extremely risky, but leaving the EU offers a better alternative that is both achievable and safe.