The deal that David Cameron brought back from Brussels is a testament to the intractability of the EU institutions. The entire world was witness to the abject spectacle of the British Prime Minister taking his begging bowl around various European capitals and the outcome was not something that anybody—other than David Cameron himself it seems—would call “reform”. If the phoney “renegotiation” process was not enough to convince you that “EU reform”, along the lines that British politicians discuss, is not feasible, then I really don’t know what would. This is a fact that even the Remainers recognise.
To that end, no sooner had I dismissed Prospect Magazine on the grounds that its editor is apparently unable to read than up pops an article written by a legacy journo, published in none other than Prospect Magazine, which is worth a look.
Broadly, associate editor, Philip Collins, says that in order to win victory for the Remainers the Prime Minister must bury the “deal” on which so much publicity and political capital was expended. Mr Cameron must move the argument away from the particular towards the general, he reflects, if he is to convince the British people that democracy and accountable governance are matters for loser nations like the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and India, not a confident, assertive United Kingdom, with all of the “clout” that comes from being subordinate to a supranational treaty organisation.
Collins states that there are two problems with the deal that Mr Cameron secured from Brussels. “The first”, he observes, “is that the details fall a long way short of the exaggerated expectations he foolishly raised. The second is that, dealing as it does with matters of no great relevance to anyone other than obsessed Tory MPs, the deal will be irrelevant to the final outcome of the referendum”.
First of all, while it is certainly true to say that the deal falls a long way short of expectations, it was not part of Mr Cameron’s strategy to raise expectations. Indeed, it was an important part of his strategy to lower expectations to rock bottom, so as to portray any kind of a deal as a win. This was when Mr Cameron thought that he would be able “piggyback” on the new treaty that most people anticipated, calling for still further fiscal and political integration between the members of eurozone, leaving Britain with some kind of a nebulous and uncertain “associate status”.
Second-class EU membership would never have addressed the concerns of genuine Brexiteers, but a two-tier EU would have fulfilled the promise of a “reformed EU” that Mr Cameron foolishly insists that he has achieved, in spite of the fact that Britain’s relationship with the EU has not changed one iota, and no powers whatsoever have been repatriated to Britain.
Indeed, Mr Cameron’s claim to have won a “special status” for Britain on the basis of the deal that was reluctantly agreed is absurd. Given that the Prime Minister has long claimed that he favours a new relationship with the EU based upon trade and co-operation but not political integration, his inability to negotiate anything of substance would have been the perfect opportunity to pursue a mandate to leave the European Union.
By his own lights, what makes Britain’s relationship with the EU “special” is the fact that we are not part of the euro, not part of Schengen and, as per his (unenforceable) agreement, not part of “ever closer union”.
The logic of claiming that Britain benefits from being less integrated than any other EU Member State would lead any rational actor to conclude that, with the rest of the EU still committed to “ever closer union”, now would be an appropriate time to negotiate an amicable exit and work with the remaining EU Member States from outside. Mr Cameron though, contra his claim to have “rule[d] nothing out” prior to his scanty “deal”, now affirms that EU withdrawal would be an unmitigated disaster for Britain, Europe and the World.
As such, whatever credibility the man might have once have had has long since vanished. Very little of what the Prime Minister is now arguing is sensible. The British people do not take well to being bullied and the threats of a serial deceiver will fall upon deaf ears.
Democracy and accountable government may not suit Mr Cameron, who has defied previous Electoral Commission recommendations for a much longer period between passage of the final regulations and the deciding referendum vote, in favour of a rapid fear and lies campaign, but the British have an ineffable sense of fairness.
As Mr Collins says, the deal has done “nothing at all on the big question”. Even if it is ever enacted (not guaranteed), Mr Cameron’s dodgy deal is not worth the paper on which it is printed, and even the people on his side of the debate know it.