Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Cameron's EU demands - much ado about very little
David Cameron has today sent his letter to the President of the European Council with details of the demands which he says must be satisfied if he and his party are to campaign for the UK to remain in the EU. I certainly haven't read all the letter, and don't intend to, but from the BBC's summary of the contents, though embarrassingly mean and petty, they don't seem to amount to much.
1. Britain to "opt out" of "ever closer union." Britain seems to be the EU member specialising in opting out, but "ever closer union" us an aspiration from a more optimistic age. At the moment it isn't fashionable but I believe it should remain and, when the time is ripe, we should move in that direction, just as, when the time is even riper, we should move to "ever closer union" in the UN. The politically independent nation state is a dangerous anachronism which has caused insufferable misery in the past, and the sooner we have politicians with the vision to move away from it the better.
2."Cutting red tape." This is an easy target which sounds great until you ask which regulations the proposer would like to be rid of. I suspect what Cameron has largely in mind are those regulations which protect workers and families from exploitation. Personally I'm anxious to keep these, and rather pleased that the EU's regulations have, for example, forced us to clean up our beaches and are setting targets for such desirables as renewable energy sources.
3. No special privileges to Eurozone members above those available to those too chicken to join. Well, the way to get round that is to join the Euro. Yes, I know Gordon Brown is much praised, even by the Tories, for keeping us out, but it is my belief that it and we would be stronger and have fewer problems if we were in. And I'm pretty certain that, if it survives, which I hope it will, we shall one day be begging to join. It's worth remembering that, although the £ is said to be currently "strong" against the Euro, it is not yet back to the price we had to pay for one at the beginning (70.58 p. - we have to pay 71.11p today and for most of the past 15 years, despite all the Euro's troubles, we've had to pay more.) My guess is that when the value of the £ falls so that we have to pay £1 for every €1 we'll come round to joining.
4. Migrant workers form the EU can't claim "in work" benefits until they've lived here for four years. This is ridiculous special pleading. Cameron and much of the business community want to have their cake and eat it.. For them the "single market" seems to mean that British manufacturers and financial operators should be free to trade with the rest of the EU on the same terms as everyone else, including the domestic traders. but when it comes to labour, oh no, the free market shouldn't operate. What nonsense. If it's a free market for goods, capital, and services, especially financial services, then it should be a free market for labour, so EU workers in the UK should enjoy the same conditions as British workers If Britain wishes to dispense with "in-work benefits" then we should force employers to genuinely living wages.
David Cameron is a superficially nice man who is good at presenting his party's policies in a favourable light. But it takes more than that to be a successful prime minister. In particular he seems to lack judgement, or is it backbone? By his mishandling of the Scottish quest for independence (making an unnecessary "vow" of further substantial devolution to avoid a "Yes" vote, then the morning after turning the issue to one of "English votes for English laws,"and now, according to the SNP, reneging on his devolution promises) he is in danger of being the prime minister who presided over the break-up of the UK. And by caving in to his Eurosceptic back-benchers and in fear of UKIP he has made his silly promise of a referendum, he is in danger of removing us from on of the most exciting and progressive political ventures of modern times.
Britain has real problems: distressingly low productivity; sluggish and unbalanced growth; rising inequality; a desperate housing crisis; a staggeringly high balance of payments deficit; a health service teetering on the brink of financial collapse It is disgraceful that, rather than focusing on solving these problems our attention for the next eighteen months or so will be distracted by nonsensical posturing about Europe.